Newsletter Design, or no design?

The word ‘newsletter’ is charged with many preconceptions: Highly-designed (hopefully, “well-designed”) templates, graphical & “boxy” as my partner, Mark puts it, i.e., with tables and sections, creatively arranged, with sidebars, call-outs, icons, and other buttons. But does all this help with results? E.g., open rates, click-through rates, and forwards? The numbers cause concern & debate.

Headers, logos, colors, fonts, headshots, and signatures (aka, brand assets) help to unify & integrate emails (newsletters, blasts, etc.) with the websites (and other marketing collaterals). But much of it quickly becomes too much of it, clogging the tiny screens of iPhones, Androids, and Blackberrys. It’s quite frankly annoying to not only have to scroll down, but scroll all around, zooming in and/or zooming out to get to the relevant parts of the email. Many of our clients enjoy this design, but we are looking to change their minds.

A few bells & whistles are needed: To be recognizable (and to brand), we want some of the above brand assets. While I can’t find any specific studies, we have anecdotal evidence that headshots help us remember contacts, and even endear us to the newsletter (or business card, for that matter). We also want to keep it short, with links back to the full article. This helps readers quickly skim the email (and get to other ones), and helps us track click-through rates (CTR). By tracking who clicks, we enable our clients to follow-up only with those interested in the articles.

We are slowly moving our clients to appreciating the value of linear simplicity & white space. Soon we may even publish actual statistics: Emails that are more personal, natural, linear, clean, and simple tend to be clicked through and even forward to others.

Why then have elaborate template designs flourished?
I look forward to your opinions.

Do you prefer to get a magazine-like newsletters from contacts, or do you prefer a simple, natural-looking emails highlighting blog & event updates?
I look forward to your comments.

Content is NOT King.

I don’t know who first coined the phrase, “Content is King,” but it is quite bandied about in blogging circles. Perhaps it’s the Internet’s version of  “Publish or Perish.” Publishing regular content is vital for the health of your website SEO (all hints of Google’s secret sauce algorithm point to fresh, relevant content).

Publishing interesting content also helps grease the gears of your word-of-mouth marketing. It’s a heck of a lot easier for someone to forward your blog article (or its link) than it is to simply introduce you for some nebulous reason. A referral source may forward your article in direct response to an inquiry made. Or, your referral source may use your blog article as a kind TicTac, a hint of what his or her friend ought to be asking/doing. Your blog article provides a breath of fresh air.

But how do we know there’s new content on your website? Perhaps you have avid RSS or email followers? Maybe your topic is distinguished enough to be found via search results. Or hopefully, you pro-actively promote your blog articles via your social media networks (G+ included) and through an e-newsletter. Without such ways, your new blog article is yet another best kept secret. It may think it’s king, but it’s nonetheless impotent.

Rather, I contend, those marketing channels (RSS, SEO indexing, social media, email!) are the real Kings. To stretch the metaphor, perhaps content is the Queen. They can make beautiful babies together (or at least prospective ones).

SO, when writing your blog articles, keep the kings in mind: Why, when, and how can someone easily forward this article to someone else?

Do you know someone obsessed with writing the perfect article? They need to stop perseverating over every word, or trying to footnote every point made. Tell them to get on with it. Content is NOT their King. Tell them they are quite figuratively putting the cart before the horse. Or allow me to banish their foul breath: share this little TicTac with them (click the Envelope icon right below the title).