Why Most Newsletters Fail (and how to fix it!)

Mar 3, 2017

Why Most Newsletters Fail (and how to fix it!)Does anyone remember that fantastic 90s movie starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan? You’ve Got Mail is still one of my favorite movies. It’s one of those films that I’ll see on TV whilst flipping through channels and be forced to stop and watch the rest of movie, no matter what scene it’s in. You’ve Got Mail is certainly dated (how long has it been since you’ve fired up America Online?), but there’s a message in the movie that still holds true: people get excited about mail.

Of course, it helps to receive mail from a flirty yet wise mentor. But businesses can tap into this premise, too. The key to maintaining a healthy, vibrant email list is to send emails that people want to read. Is that simplifying the issue too much? Perhaps. Newsletters fail for a number of reasons. Today, we’re breaking down many of the issues riddling newsletters these days. We’ll talk you through why most newsletters fail and then we’ll teach you how to fix it.

Why Most Newsletters Fail (and how to fix it!)

Measuring Success

Before jumping in to reasons for newsletter fails, let’s discuss how to measure the success (or lack thereof) of newsletters. We marketers generally look at three key metrics to determine whether or not the newsletter was successful: open rate, click rate and bounce rate. Let’s go through each of those now.

Open Rate

Your “open rate” refers to how many of your subscribers opened the email. Here’s a slightly more dense explanation from MailChimp:

The open rate is a percentage that tells you how many successfully delivered campaigns were opened by subscribers.

If you have a strong open rate, it usually means that your email subject line resonated with your subscribers, enough to get them to open the email at least. Of course, even if you have a strong open rate, it doesn’t mean that your subscribers actually read the email. A better measurement of that (and overall engagement) is click rate.

Click Rate

Your “click rate” is the number of emails that had at least one click. The click could have happened on an in-line link, an image linked to Facebook, a button underneath a block of text or even the little graphics at the very bottom of your email linking to your website, social platforms, etc.

Notice that click rate is not the total number of clicks that happened in your campaign. Some readers might click more than one time in a single email. So, if you sent out a newsletter to 100 subscribers, the number of clicks required to have a 100% click rate is 100. Makes sense? I’ll let MailChimp explain one more time:

The click rate is a percentage that tells you how many successfully delivered campaigns registered at least one click. 

If you have a strong click rate, it generally means you had engaging content: your readers clicked to learn and read more. It’s certifiable proof that your subscriber opened the email and read it (at least to that link).

Bounce Rate

There’s two different kinds of bounce rates: hard bounces and soft bounces.

Hard Bounces

A hard bounce means the email could not be delivered. It’s as cut-and-dry as that. Perhaps the email couldn’t be delivered because the domain doesn’t exist. Did you perhaps type the email wrong? Or, perhaps the receiver’s email server block the delivery. After a hard bounce, the email is removed from your subscriber list (AKA “cleaned”).

Soft Bounces

A soft bounces means that there was a temporary delivery issue. A temporary issue might be that the mailbox of the recipient is full. Or, maybe the receiver’s email server is offline or completely down. Sometimes a temporary delivery issue happens because your email is too large.

You’ll almost always have a couple hard and/or soft bounces in your email campaigns, especially when you have a new batch of subscribers. The important thing is to keep the rate low. What makes a low rate? Well, it depends on your industry. Consult this reference on MailChimp for help.

The same is true for your open and click rate – a “good” rate depends on a number of factors, including industry. That same link above reveals industry standards for open and click rates, too.

cxyhfbkc0vs-calum-macaulayAnalyzing Effectiveness 

You’re probably already sending out email newsletters. It’s likely that you have been for years now. So, before showing you how to fix your failing email newsletters, let’s discuss what makes emails effective (and, conversely, what makes them fail). When you’ve been sending out emails for months and months or years and years, it’s easy to keep doing the same thing, over and over, no matter whether it’s effective or not. Use the following as a checklist of sorts for the effectiveness of your current emails.

Effective emails…

consider their audience,

Effective emails consider their audience and pay attention to what makes their content relevant to readers. Many newsletters fail because they do not establish a connection with the reader. Thus, the email lacks purpose. Those types of emails go unread.

are brief,

Effective emails get right to the point. Most failing newsletters don’t actively formulate the main messaging and, instead of getting to the point, beat around the bush. Don’t be indirect. You have a small window of time to engage your readers. Take advantage of it.

use powerful subject lines,

If your subject lines are soft and uninspiring, they could be why your newsletters are failing. The subject line is the very first piece of your newsletter that your subscribers read. It’s the #1 reason why they’ll open your email…or not. Use powerful subject lines. Be fun, be creative, be engaging. Try new techniques. Will you pose a question, offer a discount, make a bold statement? Always be trying new things. Play around to learn what works best for your target audience.

use imagery sparingly (but purposefully) and

Many people have images turned off within their email client. If your newsletter often consists entirely of images, that could be why your newsletter is failing. Make sure the most important information in your newsletter is text. Include images, but don’t make it the first row in your newsletter. Include images, but make sure your newsletter makes sense without them. The most pertinent information should be available to all readers, whether they have images enables or not.

connect readers to the brand.

What’s the point of sending out a newsletter? It’s to connect readers with your company brand. Don’t lose sight of that. Newsletters fail when they do not use every opportunity to gain the support of readers. Focus on the big picture, not just the tiny details that accompany newsletter campaigns.

11-18How to fix your newsletters

At last, we’ve made it to the advice section. Now that you know what mistakes not to make, here’s what you should be doing instead. Here’s how to fix your email newsletters.

Make your content educational and promotional

Sorry, but no one wants to hear you talk about your products and services all day, every day. Mix up the promotional content with educational content – content that makes readers want to open up and learn more. In fact, strive for a 90% educational/10% promotional ratio of content. If that number sounds a bit unrealistic, trust us: your subscribers will thank you for making the change.

Tell them what to expect

How are you getting new subscribers on your email list? If it’s through the “subscribe” button on your website, give your readers a heads up right away in the CTA. For instance, on our own site, we state exactly what our e-newsletters offer:

Is signing up for our newsletter worth it? Well, it depends on whether or not you want to stay aware of the current marketing trends in your industry. ‘Cause that’s what you’ll get, month after month.

Detail what kinds of content they can expect from you and at what frequency. Doing so takes out the fear of the unknown, and you might just see your subscriber rate go up because of it.

Make your subject lines more creative

Just when you think you have your subject lines figured out, change them up again. Make a different, creative and engaging subject line for every newsletter you send. Why? Because subject lines like “March Newsletter” don’t have any incentive! Convey something interesting in your newsletter’s subject line, and your readers are more likely to open it.

Want an example? One of our clients just launched a new app. The subject line we chose for that newsletter:

Join the Live Lager Club | Free beer for joining!

Much more exciting than “March Newsletter.”

Pick 1 CTA

Pick 1 primary call to action (CTA) to focus on. Of course, you’re going to have multiple links and buttons to different places, but one of those should stand out as the most important. Set if off by making it bigger or brighter on the page. Or, make it the first thing your readers see. Or, reference it multiple times throughout the email. Your subscribers should have no doubts in their minds that this is the CTA you want them to follow through on.

Include alt text

Remember how we discussed using imagery sparingly above? That’s why you should include alt text in your newsletter. In the case of a subscriber not downloading imagery automatically in your newsletters, the alt text will information him or her what the image is about. Bonus! With an appropriate description in the alt text, you might just convince them to download (or click on a CTA without downloading the image).

Simplify the design

When in doubt, take the simple route. Truly, you don’t want to overwhelm the reader. Keep design minimal. Instead, let the powerful verbiage and outstanding visuals do the talking. With simple, minimal design, you can direct your audience to quit reading the email and head to the website instead, where full copy and design are waiting.

So, what’s your open rate like these days? Are your subscribers engaged with your content? Are they clicking links? Perhaps even forwarding to their colleagues and friends? If not, it’s time you stopped reading this blog and started improving your newsletters instead. Use these tips and tricks to improve your newsletters; then, use your open and click rates to determine whether your improvements are making a difference.

Remember – you can always reach out to us for help. Give us a call at 262.303.4238! We’ll personalize our conversation for your situation and industry.