How to Increase Newsletter Engagement (According to the Experts!)

Amy Brueckman    By under Email Funnels.

Our inboxes are bombarded every day with sales announcements, social media updates, and company newsletters. The first hurdle to jump over is to get your readers to open the email, let alone getting them to click through and respond to the content you're putting out.

So how can you make sure your newsletters are being opened? And how can you find out if what you're sending is what your subscribers want to read? This month we asked the experts:

What are your best strategies to increase engagement through newsletters?

How to Increase Newsletter Engagement (According to the Experts!) 1

Newsletter engagement is driven by providing content that the audience is eager to read rather than what your brand wants to say. But engagement is not just about content, it's also about the experience. Apply User Experience (UX) principles when designing your content delivery format (print, email, digital). Create a clear content hierarchy, providing the most critical information at the top. Use a simple pathway for readers to progress through the information. Limit your use of colors to three. Use only one color for all calls to action.

If you are selling a product or service, highlight the top reason that your offering meets their needs or solves a problem. In today's content-rich world, to stand out you still need to be personal. Give readers what they want to absorb versus what you want to say and you're halfway to the finish line.

Jennifer Simpson Peterson, Wavelength

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One of the best strategies I've ever found for increasing engagement through newsletters is to share personal stories and then asking the readers to share their own version of that story.

For example, this morning I sent out an email talking about the first day of autumn and how I was excited about it. I then asked my readers to tell me their favorite holiday, as well as their likes/dislikes about autumn.

I've applied this strategy in almost every holiday, as well as my birthday, when I take vacations, when I feel overwhelmed, etc. People appreciate it when you share with them and want to share back.

James Pollard, TheAdvisorCoach

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Encourage newsletter readers to fill out a form to view your best content.

Whitepapers and reports take a lot of time, resources, and research to create, so make sure you're getting the most out of them by using them as a form of lead generation. We often include the same reports and whitepapers time and time again in our newsletters if the content hasn't outdated, as we know our readers continue to find them useful.

Fiona Kay, NigelWright

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Avoid making your newsletter copy-heavy and overstuffed. They should be easy to digest and more importantly, mobile-friendly. With busy schedules, consumers are less likely going to spend time reading into text-heavy newsletters that are flooded information. Keep it simple and straightforward. The simpler the newsletter is, the more likely your readers will spend the time to read it.

Subject lines are usually the deciding factor on whether or not recipients are going to open an email. Ensure that your subject lines stay true to the content within them. If it has too much 'wow' factor but doesn't deliver on promises then the chances of them opening future emails are minimal.

Garret Seevers, Azuga 

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These are some hints about how to do a newsletter well:

  • Assume the reader will skim it:  highlight, manually, whatever points that are most important.  Those points will get read even if nothing else does. Different recipients should get different highlights.
  • Don't waste people's time.  Use only enough words. White space on the page is inviting and appreciated.
  • I use 14point font to make reading it easier; on goldenrod or beige paper so it stands out from the detritus on the desk; folded over to letter size and secured with a small piece of tape (save having to open an envelope); at least sign it and a personal note will be appreciated and help get it past the admin assistant.
  • My business is technical and sometimes it takes a few paragraphs to get an idea across.  The newsletter is not a point of sale: its purpose is to generate interest, to call you or to take your call.

Dave Koger, Koger 

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It may seem like a no brainer but do not underestimate the power of design as a part of an engaging successful newsletter. Yes, of course, the content is the top priority but before the content is digested, it has to be noticed.

There needs to be great consideration given to layout, imagery and blank space. The idea is to set a clean backdrop with lots of white space to frame the text so that the copy can be taken in easily. The human brain can figure out the message within the first second, therefore there is no need to divulge the entire message to them. Keywords, imagery that conveys the overall message and clear bold headings within a clean design will help to set the tone instant and encourage your audience to be engaged enough to want to take the time t read the rest.

Crissy Bogusz, 

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First and foremost, make sure your subject line is clear and catchy. If it's unclear, you may miss out on readers who would have been interested in your newsletter but didn't realize it. At the same time, you may get readers who are expecting one thing and receive another--to their disappointment--leading to a poor user experience.

Don't give everything away, but be clear about what readers can expect to gain from your newsletter. When your subject line is catchy and unique, you can draw more people in. An atypical subject line can make an even bigger impact, though use them intentionally and sparingly. For instance, pose a question that will resonate with your target audience or include a relevant quote in your subject line.

No matter what your subject line is, be sure to A/B test and track your results. This allows you to see what's working best and learn from each newsletter, so you can keep increasing engagement in the future.

Lauren Walter, Online Optimism 

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My best strategy to drive engagement through newsletters is to treat your newsletter as a relationship with a friend. This means sending newsletters consistently, meaning at least a few times a month, so people will know and remember your brand. It also means crafting newsletters that have an eye-catching headline and are fun to read. You can start each newsletter with a story and then lead into your sales pitch or where you want the audience to click. Treating the newsletter like you're talking to a friend is the best way to keep your audience engaged and coming back for more.

Stacy Caprio, Growth Marketing

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The best way to increase engagement through a newsletter is to deliver content that is engaging for each unique subscriber. However, the majority of today's businesses do not personalize their newsletter, making it their most common downfall.

It takes a tremendous amount of resources to create a newsletter, and the content is often only used once and then thrown away. By making content live longer, and building up a library of evergreen and fresh content in the process, machine-learning personalization software can select from a wide variety of options and determine the optimal content for each individual. That means every subscriber on your list will get a newsletter that feels curated just for them and one they're most likely to respond to -- all without any additional investment of time or resources on your part.

James Glover, Coherent Path 

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There are two strategies that we have implemented to drive more engagement through our newsletters:

  1. Personalization: After a ton of trial and error, we discovered that users respond to personable content. Addressing them by their name in the email or subject line is ignored because every company does it. We try to inject a little bit of our personality into our emails so that our subscribers do not feel like they are being subjected to automated emails.
  2. Segmentation: We send out our newsletter in the last week of every month to two different segments. One is our most active users who have opened our emails in the past 6 months and the other segment consists of inactive users. By implementing split A/B testing, we experiment with various subject lines to see what gets our users to open the emails.

Sneh Ratna Choudhary, Beaconstac 

For even more great email marketing tips, check out Referral Rock's roundup here.