Getting your email newsletter opened and read is the name of the game, especially in this tight advertising market. One of the simplest, least expensive ways to increase your open rate is to give your newsletter a distinctive personality. A good first step is adding a brief opening at the top, a personal note from the editor that pulls your reader in and builds a relationship.
Why? It makes the newsletter more engaging because it is obviously from a real person. For example, "Dear Reader" (or even better: "Dear Jeanne," if you know the subscriber's name) adds a personal touch often missing from mass-mailed email newsletters, especially in the B2B arena. In this case, we saw that articles referenced in the opening garnered the highest CTRs - regardless of their location in the email newsletter. But just as a rising tide lifts all boats, this opening increased average click-through on all items in the email newsletter - not just the items mentioned in the opening.
Make it personal, but in a business sense. If your email newsletter is B2B, it's important to make it personal but not too cute. Think of your opening as an opening to a presentation you might give at a professional conference - you want to engage your audience members, maybe even make them smile, but you want to keep the tone professional.
Include a feature, a benefit, and an advantage in the opening. This needs to be used in a subtle way, but in the opening you're really doing a small marketing job for this issue of your email newsletter. Highlight an article or two that are important, explain what you're providing the readers that they won't get elsewhere, and tell them what the benefit will be. A great example is something like "Nokia and Sprint announced second quarter earnings today.
Put the email newsletter in the context of your readers' day. This goes hand in hand with the last point. Your readers are busy, and if you can make a compelling case for why they should stop what they are doing and take a few minutes now to read your email newsletter, you'll get them in. I recommend editors reference important events, upcoming trade shows, or other things that say to the reader "You will find it worthwhile to stop and read this email newsletter now, because the information in it will help you stay on top of your business."
Keep it fresh. Don't craft a "perfect paragraph" and use it issue after issue after issue. One of the keys to success is to keep the copy fresh and highlight items in that issue of the email newsletter. If you use the same generic language repeatedly, people will stop reading it and it'll be a waste of your time.
Keep it short. This is critical. I recommend no more than two to three sentences -- just enough to get them interested and pull them in to read the rest of your email newsletter.
Give it a shot and let me know your results! This is just one of the simple things you can do to engage your reader and optimize your CTR.
Jeanne Jennings is a consultant with over 10 years of experience in using e-mail and the Internet to generate revenue. Areas of expertise include customer acquisition/retention, new product development, and identifying and exploiting synergies between offline and online products/campaigns to increase revenue. Visit her website at JeanneJennings.com.