Nothing in email marketing is static because ESP technology, inbox providers, and—most important—people's behaviors are constantly changing. That change extends to the email newsletter, a mainstay of B2B marketing.
To get a read on the latest newsletter trends, I spoke with our creative services and B2B teams here at Oracle Marketing Consulting about what they were doing when they overhauled our clients' newsletters.
Here are their top recommendations. Consider these your guide to the new best-practices for email newsletters.
1. Use single-column layouts
Although a two-column layout allows you to get more content on a page, those emails are hard to read, especially on mobile. Content in a single column is easier on the eyes, easier to scroll through, and easier to make mobile-friendly.
2. Adopt modular email architecture
Using a flexible modular build system rather than a rigid template for every kind of email you send typically reduces email-build times for our clients 25-40%. But a modular system also makes A/B testing, template maintenance, and personalization easier.
3. Personalize newsletter content
B2B marketers are hopping on the personalization bandwagon. "Newsletter senders are either using what their subscribers click on to determine what content they serve in the next newsletter, or they're allowing recipients to subscribe to various topics in a preference center, giving them full control over what they see in each issue," says Jessica Stamer, consulting technical manager at Oracle Marketing Consulting.
4. Tease newsletter content
In addition to forcing marketers to adopt alternatives to open-triggered journeys, Apple's Mail Privacy Protection is putting a premium on driving clicks, because it has made opens an unreliable signal of engagement. That has strengthened the trend of teasing website content and hastened the end of including the full content of a piece in the newsletter itself.
Test functional CTA text such as "Read more" and "Read full article" against benefit-oriented CTAs such as "Optimize your landing pages" and "Protect your company" to see what your audience prefers.
5. Create read magnets (AKA scroll magnets)
Brands are determining what their most popular content is and then placing it near the bottom of their newsletters. By promoting that content in their subject line and perhaps also in a table of contents, it drives subscribers to scroll, which exposes them to all of the other content in the newsletter.
6. Make your designs inclusive and accessible
Brands are making their messages more user-friendly for subscribers with a wider range of abilities, as well as subscribers in a wider range of circumstances and environments.
"I'm seeing more emphasis on accessibility, like ensuring all images have alt tags and doing things like bolding and underlining links," says Deanna Ogle, senior B2B consultant at Oracle Marketing Consulting. "As far as styling, a good line height, larger font sizes, and clear call-to-action buttons also positively contribute."
7. Differentiate your sender names
If you send different newsletters or different kinds of emails as part of your subscriptions, make those differences clear in the sender name. MarketingProfs does a fantastic job of this; it uses sender names such as MarketingProfs Today, MarketingProfs Events, MarketingProfs Resources, and MarketingProfs Update—that last one for sponsored messages.
8. Write descriptive subject lines
Issue numbers and lists of topics are now common in newsletter subject lines. Straightforward subject lines are user-friendly, helping subscribers identify your newsletter and understand what to expect when they open it.
9. Borrow from B2C email designs
Newsletters are shaking off their long tradition of text-heavy content blocks. "For newsletters, as well as other B2B emails, we're seeing bolder uses of color, more Google and hosted fonts, streamlined copy that's balanced with imagery and animation, and shapes that are more free-flowing within the layout to create less boxy and more interesting designs," says Nick Cantu, associate creative director for creative services at Oracle Marketing Consulting. "These are design elements that are well established among our B2C clients."
* * *
Taken together, these new best-practices make newsletters cleaner, more interesting, more subscriber-friendly, and ultimately more effective.
More Resources on Email Newsletter Best-Practices
How to Newsletter (PDF by Ann Handley)
How Email Newsletters Can Fix Marketers' Content and Trust Problems: Three Sets of Best-Practices
Building Your Email Newsletter Is a Marathon, Not a Sprint
How to Craft an Email Newsletter That Gets Marketing Results
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