Digging Into E-newsletters
4. Relocate that tell-a-friend link. Unfortunately, it turns out that friends don’t tell friends about e-newsletters. The tell-a-friend links in the messages we reviewed generated extremely low clickthrough rates of less than .5 percent. It’s possible that this is partly a result of poor placement — the majority of the tell-a-friend links in the e-newsletters we reviewed were located at the very bottoms of the messages. It’s also possible that e-newsletters are simply not urgent enough to motivate many people to forward them to a friend. But if boosting viral marketing of your e-newsletter is a key priority for your organization, try placing the tell-a-friend link either at the top of the message or near an interesting article, instead of in the footer of the message.
5. Don’t skimp on the design. It’s important to have a clean, easy-to-navigate layout, as well as a consistent banner and a prominent sidebar. And of course don’t shy away from the fun stuff, like trivia questions, casual updates from the executive director or a staff member, or activist and staff spotlights — that’s where an online newsletter can really personalize your organization for your list members! However, given the possibility that the use of images may cause your message to be sent to a spam folder, display badly or take a long time to load for people on slower Internet connections, it would be wise to try to maximize the use of HTML to give your e-newsletter an exciting, interesting layout and rely less on the use of images.
6. Consider cultivation as a goal. Although it’s unlikely that your e-newsletter will ever come close to generating as many actions or donations as your stand-alone action alerts and fundraising appeals do, it can play an important role as a cultivation tool. By giving you a monthly forum through which to tell the full story about your work — as opposed to updates about just one campaign or issue — an e-newsletter can build and deepen your list members’ relationships to your organization.