3 Key Insights On E-newsletters

Farhad Chikhliwala 02 April 2015 0 comments

Our Membership Advisory Group sessions and our 1-On-1 interviews with Advisory Members, have been great forums to discuss common problems faced by organizations everywhere. In our past conversations, we’ve learned that many associations, clubs and non-profits use e-newsletters to communicate with their members with varying degrees of success. So we revisited the subject in a recent Advisory session.

Generally, we’d all agree that using a channel of communication like an e-newsletter is a cost-effective way to:

  • keep members, supporters and prospects informed about your organization

  • drive traffic to your website

  • maintain regular exposure for your organization with external audiences (e.g., media, government, other non-profits, etc.)

So, whether you have a newsletter in place or you’re just starting to develop one, it might be helpful to hear some valuable insight offered from the participants of our Membership Advisory Group sessions on e-newsletters.

3 Advisory Member Insights

1. Know your audience

It may sound obvious, but having a thorough understanding of what your members/readers want helps enormously when creating content for your newsletter. As our Advisory members noted, if your content isn’t immediately relevant and valuable to your members or prospects, you run the risk of not getting your message across.

Some practical thinking from your board and leaders should be able to generate some general ideas on what your readers would be interested in. Think about why they joined your organization, what they expect from you, and what they may find useful.

If you find difficulty in figuring out what your audience wants, just ask them! A simple survey passed around at an event, or sent out via an email can get you all the answers you need. Use the conclusions you arrive at to shape any piece of communication.

2. Content is still king

All of the Advisory community members agreed that your e-newsletter is a great vehicle for nurturing your relationship with your members, supporters, and volunteers.

While the subject matter will depend on your organization’s scope or mission as well as your communications objectives, here are some guidelines you might want to consider when developing your newsletter/email content:

  • Get their attention: First impressions DO COUNT when it comes to your email subject line and newsletter headlines. You’ve heard it all before – you need to offer interesting and intriguing subject lines to get your email opened. This doesn’t mean being too clever or controversial – since the title needs to be linked to your newsletter topic or lead story to let the reader know what to expect.

  • How much content?: The nature of an e-newsletter dictates brevity. Many e-newsletters (including Wild Apricot’s) offer three to five brief overview paragraphs with links to the rest of the article through a “read more” link back to your web site. This is an effective way to drive traffic to your web site. Alternately, you can include short articles and updates and refer readers to other areas of your website for more detail.

  • Be genuine: Your e-newsletter is not the Wall Street Journal! While you need to write tight and concise copy, your readers are subscribing to, and hopefully reading, this newsletter for a reason, so be sure your organization’s unique culture or voice isn’t sacrificed through attempts to sound professional. On the other hand, be sure you don’t lay the industry jargon on too thick. Try to find a balance – with a clean crisp writing style that also suits your organization’s style or persona.

  • Have a call to action: Every newsletter should have a call to action. To make the most of your newsletter, try getting across to your recipient a clear idea of what to do next. Whether you want them to click on a link, engage with you on social media or buy a ticket, keep your call to action brief and straightforward. An effective call to action is between two to five words. However, whatever the desired action, it is important you create some urgency around it. So try using some active language. For example if you want your recipient to donate money, “Donate Now” would be effective. If you want them to follow you on Twitter, “Follow us on Twitter” works.

3. Timing is everything

You may have established circulation timelines to suit your production schedule. But have you ever considered which day and time are best for sending your e-newsletter? The quick answer is –  it depends on your audience. For example, the majority of business-related emails are opened between 5 a.m. and 5 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday –  with 11 am being a suggested sweet spot. But your recipients may want to read your e-newsletter at home or on the weekend, depending on your content and their profile (e.g., men, women, students, type of career, etc.).

One Community Advisory Member added what worked for him:

“ Monday morning first thing? Not as good, because other things are going on. Tuesday morning, early in the morning all the way up to maybe 10 AM, for our group, a very good time for a high response rate.”

One of the strengths of electronic messaging is that it offers analytics. Most email platforms (including Wild Apricot)  automatically produce some or all of the following data:

  • Open rates

  • Reports on who clicked on links in your newsletter (e.g., links to your website)

  • Subscription information - e.g., unsubscribe and new subscriptions

Track this data when sending your newsletters at different times and days of the week to uncover what is the most effective day and time for your organization and audience.

Additional resources

Communications Planning Guide (Wild Apricot)
Refreshing Your Email Newsletter (Wild Apricot)

Image source: e mail vector icon - courtesy of BigStockPhoto.com

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Farhad Chikhliwala [Professor Apricot] Farhad Chikhliwala [Professor Apricot]

Posted by Farhad Chikhliwala [Professor Apricot]

Published Thursday, 02 April 2015 at 8:30 AM

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