How To Improve A Newsletter

Dear Email Diva,

We are redesigning our email newsletters and I am wondering if you could provide necessary changes that all successful emails should have. I am looking to revise the look and feel of our layout and improve the content. Do you have any suggestions?


Dear Anonymous,

Yes, of course the Email Diva has suggestions. Thank you for asking.

To improve your content, find out what is most important to your audience. Yes, you think you know, but do you? Most execs think their customers are dying to find out about their latest products and services and it is difficult to disabuse them of this notion. Here are a few ways to find out what your customers really want:

1. Aggregate the data from all your campaigns thus far and sort by response rate (or conversion rate, if that is a better measure). Which emails were the most or least successful? What do they have in common?



2. Capture screen shots of your emails and overlay the link click rate on them: All Clicks on Link A / Total Clicks on the Email. (Some ESPs provide this view, but you can do it "by hand" as well. Snag-It is particularly useful for this.) What can you learn from the placement, graphic treatment, link copy and link content of the most popular links?

3. Survey your readers. (Survey tools are easy to implement and low cost. I've worked with companies large and small that swear by Survey Monkey.) Beware of one thing, however: what people say they value and what they'll click on is not always the same thing. The Email Diva surveyed consumers who rated sweepstakes and giveaways very low, yet emails containing such promos were among the most successful every year. Another caution: don't go overboard; ask only for information that can be used to improve your email program.

4. Survey your opt-outs. Ask those who are leaving you the reason why. Include space for free-form text as well as specific answers.

5. Talk to the people closest to the customer: salespeople, customer service reps, etc., to see what customers want to talk about, in addition to your latest products and services.

To improve the layout and look and feel:

1. Optimize for the Preview Pane. Put the most compelling reason(s) for reading your email in HTML text in the top left corner. A white box with an X in it, which represents your logo/masthead, is not a compelling reason. The Email Diva sees this mistake over and over again.

2. Make your email scan-able. When you glance at the composition, what draws your eye? The most prominent things on the page should promote reader benefits. Don't be clever, don't be descriptive; be irresistible.

3. Choose an experienced designer who knows how to work within the limitations of email, has learned from testing different approaches, and understands that the role of graphics is to guide the eye through the copy.

4. Consider investing in an eye tracking study to determine whether your new layout draws readers to the most important elements of the email.

5. Test your new format in a variety of environments (Web-based email programs, Outlook, Mac, PC, etc.) Work with an HTML programmer that understands the difference between coding an email and coding a Web page.

6. Test all theories that arise in the development of your newsletter. Is X better than Y? Split your list and test it.

Good Luck!

The Email Diva

Send your questions or submit your email for critique to Melinda Krueger, the Email Diva, at All submissions may be published; please indicate if you would like your name or company name withheld.

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