Crafting a Newsletter That Doesn't Suck

By: Kate McDonnell Oct 07, 2016

Our top five tips on how to write emails that people will actually read.

Newsletters are a great way to build and maintain relationships with clients. They help establish a connection and keep you front of mind. While the benefits of a regular newsletter are clear, a poorly performing newsletter is one you may as well have scrapped. We all have that special place in our junk mail folder for newsletters we’re too lazy to unsubscribe to (I’m looking at you online craft retailer). If no one is opening your e-newsletter or biting at those tantalizing offers, it may be working against you. If you have the bounce rate blues, we can help. Writing an effective newsletter is an art, so don’t feel bad if you haven’t quite found the balance between quality content, sleek layout and snappy headlines. We’ve put together a few pointers to make your next newsletter your most clickable one yet.

Newsletter Tip, No. 1: Know Your Goal

Don’t write a newsletter just for the fun of it. Before you sit down and get started, outline the message and desired result of your newsletter. Consider who you are writing to and why they would be interested in the information you have to share. Knowing your goal, whether it's generating leads or boost sales, lets you assess who should be on your send list and how to approach writing your copy. If possible, try to stick to a theme or break up your copy into organized sections.

Newsletter Tip, No. 2: Try your best not to write long and obnoxious titles and subject lines that no one wants to read.

See what I did there?

No one wants to read a poorly-worded, long-winded subject line—let alone click on it. The trick to a clickable headline is to bait your reader with an offer. Your offer should hint at what’s inside and leave the reader wanting more. This piece of advice goes for email subject lines as well as in-text headlines. Avoid repeating yourself with recurring headlines such as “October Offers and Newsletter”. Your subject line should tell the reader why they shouldn’t let that email sit there for another second.

Newsletter Tip, No. 3: Less is More

Don’t crowd your beautiful newsletter with lots of text. Online marketing tools such as email are made to establish a connection and lead your reader to your other online resources. You don’t need to give it all upfront; simply outline your latest deal or relevant news event with a brief-but-clear Call to Action (CTA) and link them to a relevant page on your site. If such a page does not exist, I recommend fixing that or at the very least make your newsletter copy brief and to the point. The tone and message of your newsletter offer should match with the reader's final online destination and reward their click with more information. Even on-site, keep your message front and centre. No one is going to scroll through dense text to collect on your offer.

Newsletter Tip, No. 4: Make it Look Clean

We are visual creatures. If your e-newsletter looks sloppy like something I did in my seventh grade HTML coding class, no one is going to take you seriously. White space and crisp images are your best friends when it comes to web copy. We suggest only one large image for your main offer or upcoming event and small graphics to accompany any other headings. There are many FREE online tools available to help you create memorable, visually-pleasing emails. Companies, such as MailChimp, have dedicated their business to well-designed email templates. Use them.

Oh, and please use a legible and properly sized font. No Comic Sans, okay?

Newsletter Tip, No. 5: Be Yourself

This is a great opportunity to showcase your brand’s personality. Don’t be scared to ease up on that corporate speak a little bit. Your online communications don’t always have to be formal and should tastefully reflect the message and attitude of the people behind the logo. While this certainly is a place to share promotions and offers you can also use your newsletter to share a personal and relevant piece of news or an upcoming event for the company.

If you aren’t used to writing newsletters or other forms of mass communication, getting a handle on it can be tricky. Take a minute to go through your personal email and take a critical look at some of the companies you subscribe to. Do you click on those emails? Why or why not? Use these insights as you move forward with your own email marketing campaign. If you find you're consistently getting stuck on your strategy and need a helping hand, digital marketing experts like us are here to help. It takes time to test and hone the right message for your audience but by following the tips above, you’ll be one step closer to some high-flying click and open rates. And what could be better than that?

Kate McDonnell is a fervently resourceful content writer at FlexDealer. Known for her quick-wit and affinity for two-wheeled travels, Kate whiles away the week in her Toronto home office with a cat called Wanda.

CASL Checklist for Email Marketing

By: Briar Latam Sep 09, 2016

Since July 1, 2014, small business owners and email marketers alike have been following the Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) implementation timeline. As the July 1, 2017 deadline approaches, many are wondering if they have taken the necessary steps to become compliant. 

Because we know that you love your audience and want to keep your email marketing lists healthy and legal, we’ve come up with a handy checklist to ensure your subscribers stay happy and help you avoid hefty penalties

What is CASL Anyway?

CASL is the abbreviation for Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation, which is a law enforced by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission. Its purpose is to protect Canadians from unsolicited commercial electronic messages including text messages, emails, and instant messages. These email marketing laws won’t prevent you from using email as part of your marketing mix, but if your organization is based in Canada and/or you have Canadian subscribers on your list, you’ll need to make sure that you’re compliant.

CASL Timeline

The law was passed in late 2010, and was effective as of July 1, 2014, however, businesses were given a three-year window from that date to ensure compliance. On July 1, 2017, that window will be closed. As of the same date, the private right of action will be enforced, giving individuals and organizations the ability to file lawsuits and seek damages against businesses who are not CASL compliant. Lawyers and lawsuits and fees, oh my! Follow our checklist to avoid that noise:

CASL Compliance Checklist

There are 4 words you need to remember when confirming CASL compliance: Consent, Identity, Unsubscribe, and Truth. Use this checklist to make sure your business’s email marketing practices are CASL-approved.

Get Consent (And Document It)

If you have an email address, chances are you’ve received a spam or phishing email from a business or individual at some point (hello, Nigerian Prince scam). Obtaining consent in this context simply means that you get permission to send emails to your subscribers. Under CASL, there are two different types of consent: Express and Implied. 

Express Consent is when permission is explicitly requested, and the individual clearly agrees either verbally or in writing. An email marketing best practice is to have a “double opt-in” process, which sounds more complicated than it is. In practice, this means that when someone subscribes to your list, they then receive an automatic message following up to make sure they intended to subscribe. Replying to that email or clicking a confirmation link would demonstrate express consent. This consent is not time-limited unless the recipient explicitly withdraws it. As of July 1, 2017, express consent is required for all commercial electronic messages.

Implied Consent is less clear and explicit. One example of implied consent would be when someone makes a purchase from your business. They might not have specifically signed up for your email newsletter, but one might assume that since they chose to do business with you, they would be interested in joining your list. Implied consent is invalid after 2 years if the subscriber does not engage further with your business (for example, makes another purchase) from the date the business relationship was established. If you have subscribers on your list who you only have implied consent from, you will need to obtain express consent prior to July 1, 2017. It’s advisable to send an email to these subscribers and request that they confirm their opt-in status prior to that date.

In both cases, it is up to the organization sending the emails to be able to prove that consent exists. Because of this, it is extremely important for business owners and marketers to develop a plan to track consent. Though consent can be given verbally, it is more difficult to prove, so a best practice is to get things in writing.

When obtaining express consent online, it’s advisable to track the date, IP address, opt-in page URL and time that the individual joined your list. Email marketing services such as MailChimp and Constant Contact have double-opt-in capabilities that make this easier to track. Offline, you’ll need to implement comprehensive record keeping of your paper registrations, and ensure that the registration forms themselves include CASL-compliant language.

Identify Yourself

Now is not the time for mystery. Under CASL, you must ensure that your subscribers know who you are. Which we’re guessing you’ll want too, since you probably want them to do business with you again.

Must-haves include a physical mailing address, a functional email address (no-reply addresses need not apply) and a phone number or website address. If you’re using a third-party to send your emails, they must be clearly identified as well. 

Make Opting Out Easy

You want them to want you. And if they don’t want to hear from you anymore, you need to give them an easy exit. No one likes to be stalked. 

All communications must include a clear and accessible unsubscribe link that works for at least 60 days from the time the email was sent. Charging a fee to unsubscribe is not kosher, and all requests to unsubscribe must be processed within 10 calendar days. If you’re using an email marketing service to manage your list, this should be almost instant, which makes things much easier to stay on top of.

Tell The Truth

Finally, your communications can’t be false or misleading. That includes sender information, subject matter and more.

Simpler than you thought, right? The CASL guidelines are in-line with current email marketing best practices, and you may already have some if not all of your bases covered. Having permission to market to your subscribers ensures they’re receiving value and supports the development of long-term relationships, which we think is pretty important.

Where are you on your journey to becoming CASL compliant? Share your tips in the comments.

Briar Latam is the Senior Project Manager at FlexDealer. When she’s not juggling budgets and charting deadlines, you’ll find her touring Toronto's west-side with her fiancé and their pup, Millie.