What the Best Email Newsletters Have in Common

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If a branded email newsletter is a big part of your content marketing strategy, the Awl published a great piece this week you’ll want to check out. “A Guide to Our Golden Age of Internet Newsletters,” written by Aleksander Chan, profiles the best, most entertaining and informative email newsletters.

“The email newsletter is the most special of all emails,” Chan writes. “At their best, they’re a miniature rush: This isn’t something I have to deal with. This is for me — to enjoy, to ignore, to save for later, and then to be completely done with.”

Chan cites Letters of Note, a weekly newsletter filled with vintage letters and postcards, as well as Now I Know, one which features “random knowledge that you didn’t even know you cared about.” Goodreads, McSweeney’s, Muck Rack Daily and Harper’s Weekly Review all made the list. While all of these are terrific reads, they couldn’t be any more different as far as style and actual content goes. Yet each of these noted newsletters contains that magical ingredient which makes for a superb newsletter: diverse content. Successful newsletters, whether they be from Amazon or the local church, need a variety of articles and tidbits to appeal to wider audiences.Don’t like the article about home decor? Here’s one about pet care! Bored with the new location remodel article? Read an interview with a stylist instead! Readers will subscribe if you come up with an assortment of articles they can enjoy and savor — and they’ll dump you as soon as they get newsletters filled with too many sales pushes or repeat articles.

Also, in the smartphone/tablet era, it’s important to keep the articles to a reasonable length. People will read the 3,500 in-depth New Yorker piece from the comfort of their own couch.We noticed each of the newsletters on the Awl’s list are all the delicious bite-size kind of thing you can enjoy anywhere. Email newsletters are ideal for retailers who sell lots of products, non-profits who need to profile their monthly achievements and any company generating a variety of news stories. 

What are some of your favorite email newsletters? Tell us in the comments section below.

Is the New Gmail Email Marketing Hell?

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Custom content creators whose online marketing plans include email marketing and digital newsletters rolled their eyes back in late May when Google announced new inbox tabs for Gmail. This organized inbox now features tabs for primary messages, social media-generated email alerts and promotions. Many worried the “promotions” tab was nothing more than a fancy-titled junk mailbox. We wondered if our fears about Google inbox limbo were true or if they actually ended  up being pretty helpful for email marketing.

Dela Quist of The Guardian believes we have nothing to be afraid of, given Google’s brilliant marketing moxie.

“Google gives people an email platform for free for a good reason — to tie people into its range of online products. This gives them access to valuable consumer data for its search and advertising business. It’s important to remember that Google wouldn’t make these changes if it thought it would damage its core business and if it didn’t think there are going to be additional business benefits,” Quist writes.

Quist also notes that the new inbox is simply replacing traditional banner ads and allowing marketers to get inside of Gmail inboxes instead.

But not everybody agrees that this is a good thing. Gap reportedly asked subscribers to move its messages into their primary inboxes. We happen to agree with AdAge’s Tim Peterson, who thinks these new inboxes could challenge brands to get more creative and less spammy when it comes to email marketing content.

“Message with relevance and maybe they’ll mark you with a ‘priority’ label or even let you into their primary inbox,” he writes. 

Amen, Tim. Great email newsletters and interesting content will get in front of the right eyes — and read — regardless of what box it ends up in. We also think that the “promotions” inbox could eventually turn into a jackpot for companies that market directly to deal hunters (like former Groupon addicts).

Readers, give it to us straight. Are you a fan of the Gmail redesign or has it left you wishing for your old AOL inbox? Holler at us in the comments section!

Extra Cheese: How Pizza Plays the Email Marketing Game

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A solid email plan is something companies large and small want as part of their online marketing strategies. Why? Simply, email marketing is still an incredibly powerful way to reach consumers and followers. Thanks to mobile devices like tablets and smartphones, email is even more effective and sought after. Think we’re lying? Just order a pizza.

The big pizza companies like Papa John’s, Pizza Hut and Dominos have transformed how they do business thanks to the Internet. Not only do we order, pay for and track our pizzas online, pizza companies now have more information about their customers than ever before. Everything from where we live to how often we order to what kind of toppings we like are now the kind of thing we willingly hand over to the pizza place each time we order online.

Pizza Hut, for example, takes this information a step further and uses email marketing to offer special deals to frequent customers while enticing them with tasty email subject lines like “A Secret Deal Just For You!” Pizza Hut wisely tags each email deal with an expiration date so subscribers feel inspired to place an order. Papa John’s also offers goodies for regular customers. Papa Points is the company’s rewards program and things like free pizzas or wings are customers’ for the taking, if they accumulate enough points, of course. Making it easy for customers to keep track of their points, Papa John’s sends emails every time customers have earned free stuff. As if this wasn’t enough, all of the big pizza companies have smartphone apps that make getting that big cheesy pizza to customers’ doors even easier than it already is.

What makes email marketing work for pizza companies is the same thing that can make it work for your company: convenience. Most of us check our email on our phones. And for avid deal hunters or online shoppers, this is doubly true. Email marketing is an easy way for us to offer discounts, show off new merchandise and talk about the latest happenings directly with our subscribers. The key, which the big pizza companies have certainly figured out, is to offer them a reason to open that email. Either a great deal, a funny subject line or an intriguing idea — some reason for them to keep reading your emails. Think of the kind of branded emails you read and are excited to open. Are they newsletters? Are they filled with discounts? Are they more like magazines? Do they feature a behind-the-scenes look at a favorite business? Figure out your favorite and create email marketing campaigns that you and your followers will both want to read.

Email Newsletters: Less is More

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Email newsletters, thanks largely in part to smartphones and popular subscription services like Constant Contact, have come back bigger than ever. Every brand wants an email newsletter of its own to play a vital part in its content marketing strategy. Yet our collective enthusiasm for email newsletters can be cause for excess. Packed with too much information and sent several times a week, email newsletter overkill is on the rise. Here are a few ways you can avoid it:

Save Some for the Next Issue: Problem numero uno with overdone email marketing begins with too many articles. Marketers tend to have a “more is more” attitude with nearly everything, but with email marketing, “less is more” is a better rule of thumb. Consider that when opening emails of your own, you want the sender, whether it be Barnes & Noble or your mother, to get to the point. With too many articles and blurbs in your newsletter, you run the risk of boring your reader and causing them to unsubscribe. We all just want easy-to-read newsletters that are informative and short. Pick out your ten best blogs, new product photos and videos and leave it at that.

Images in Focus: Snazzy, sharply-designed newsletters are sure to stand out in the inbox, and great images play a huge role. But don’t load your newsletter with images just because you can. Remember, depending on what email server your followers use, lots of images can make newsletters annoyingly hard to open. Instead, edit your images like you would your text — stick with the logos and great graphics that make sense for that particular issue and leave the rest.

Make it Worth Their While: Lastly, make your newsletter stand out by offering something you don’t offer on social media or on your website. Studies have shown that the most popular email newsletters are the ones that give readers something extra. Coupons, freebies, interviews and exclusive videos are just a few things to include to make your newsletter special and worth opening again and again.