Nothing in email marketing is static, because ESP technology, inbox providers, and—most importantly—consumers are constantly changing. That change extends to the email newsletter, a mainstay of B2B marketing and a growing player in B2C marketing, too.
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. Consider this your guide to the new best practices for email newsletters. Here are their top 9 recommendations:
1. Use Single-Column Layouts
While a two-column layout allows you to get more content on a page, they 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 having a rigid template for every kind of email you send, typically reduces email build times for our clients by 25% to 40%. But a modular system also makes A/B testing, template maintenance, and personalization easier.
3. Personalize Content
Increasingly, 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,” says Jessica Stamer, Consulting Technical Manager for Oracle Marketing Consulting, “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.”
4. Tease 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, since it has made opens an unreliable signal of engagement. This 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 like “Read more” and “Read full article” against benefit-oriented CTAs like “Optimize your landing pages” and “Protect your company” to see what your audience prefers.
5. Create 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 your 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 by using a from name extension. MarketingProfs does a fantastic job of this. They use sender names like MarketingProfs Today, MarketingProfs Events, MarketingProfs Resources, and MarketingProfs Update, with that last one being for their sponsored messages.
8. Write Descriptive Subject Lines
Issue numbers and lists of topics are now common in newsletter subject lines. Straightforward subject lines like these are user-friendly, helping subscribers identify your newsletter and know 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.”
All together, these new best practices have the effect of making newsletters cleaner, more interesting, more subscriber-friendly, and ultimately more effective.
Need help redesigning or optimizing your email newsletters? Oracle Marketing Consulting has more than 500 of the leading marketing minds ready to help you to achieve more with the leading marketing cloud, including Creative Services teams that can help you refresh your designs and maximize the performance of your newsletters.
Talk to your Oracle account manager, visit us online, or reach out to us at CXMconsulting_ww@Oracle.com
Chad S. White is the Head of Research at Oracle Marketing Consulting and the author of four editions of Email Marketing Rules and nearly 4,000 posts about digital and email marketing. A former journalist, he’s been featured in more than 100 publications, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Advertising Age. Chad was named the ANA's 2018 Email Marketer Thought Leader of the Year. Follow him on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Mastodon.