The digital world is saturated with generic newsletters and un-engaging consumer emails. Yet even when companies do offer value to their subscribers, they often overlook one crucial thing: effective branding. For some, 'brand' just means having your corporate logo on your letterheads, email signatures and social media profiles. But branding means so much more than that.
Today's post is from guest author Andrew Tipp. Andrew writes on behalf of little green plane, an industry-leading company that provides award-winning email software, campaigns and services. He is a writer, blogger and editor, a director of youth media organisation IP1, and has previously worked in PR, communications and social media for travel social network gapyear.com.
The digital world is saturated with generic newsletters and un-engaging consumer emails. Yet even when companies do offer value to their subscribers, they often overlook one crucial thing: effective branding. In fact, many marketers have misconceptions about what the term brand actually means. For some, 'brand' just means having your corporate logo on your letterheads, email signatures and social media profiles. But branding means so much more than that.
Commercially or personally - your brand is your identity. It should communicate who you are and what you do. It's your ideals, ethos and values. And it needs to be more than just typography and logos; it needs to be demonstrated in the way you communicate with your customers.
Why is this related to newsletters? Because you can use your newsletters to effectively introduce subscribers to your brand and engage them. Here are some tips for building your brand through email marketing.
Email recipients are your audience, not just your customers
Even if your one goal is to turn email opens into conversions, you don't have to treat your subscribers as mere prospects. You don't have a subscription database; they've got an audience base. And if you hook these people in with your key brand messages - if they understand and believe in what you do - then they won't just be your audience; they'll be your fans.
If you really impress your audience, they'll become online 'word-of-mouth' ambassadors for your brand - leaving a trail of positive reviews and endorsements in their wake. Remember that all newsletter readers are potential advocates of your brand.
Use newsletters to engage, not just broadcast
For this strategy to be successful you need to really connect with your email audience, not just feed them offers and information. You need to engage rather than broadcast.
Take the time to plan out your newsletter content. This might be a combination of news, offers, graphics, imagery, competitions, social media activity and calls-to-action. Experiment with weighting the email differently. What mix is effective for your brand? What will help create an immediate impression of who you are?
There are no definite rules for how to communicate your brand through email, but some principles just work. Have a voice. Ask questions. Be interesting. Occasionally it might be appropriate to challenge your subscribers. Put yourself in your audience's shoes; what engages you when you receive a branded email? What creates a feeling of affiliation with the brand?
Create a design that reinforces your brand
Once you have developed your goals, established your brand and planned your email content then you need to create a newsletter design that works for your strategy. Obviously, the design you use needs to reflect the brand you've established; it doesn't have to necessarily look cutting edge - it just needs to be appropriate for your brand's tone, style and services.
So if you're a company that offers online design and marketing consultancy products, then your newsletter needs to look sharp and super slick. If you sell office cabinets you don't need to re-invent the wheel; something clean and functional will do.
While off-the-shelf templates can serve a purpose, working with a designer to create an original template that reinforces the messages of your brand is a good idea. Producing a custom newsletter using a bespoke design can help you align your branding across all your online platforms.
Track the progress of your brand-building
The purpose of building your brand, either in a newsletter or elsewhere, is to help grow your company. And any strategy or plan that attempts to boost your business needs a way of measuring success, so think about how you can do this.
You'll probably get a feel for how people are reacting to your brand-building through experience and anecdotal evidence, but you can also crunch some numbers to back up your brand exercise with data; track the email open, click-through and conversion rates. Are the numbers going up or down? What effect have your branding efforts had?
You can run surveys with your customers. What do they think your brand stands for? How do they feel towards your brand? Have their feelings changed? Are they more likely to buy what you're selling?
You could also track actual email subscriptions. Find a place for your newsletters on your company website or blog - give people a taster of what your newsletter approach is and what type of email they'll receive from you. Does the branding help? Are subscriptions going up?
Branding is a piece of the jigsaw
Finding the way to blend and maximise your branding and marketing isn't superficial; the thought behind your brand and how you demonstrate it across your online presence makes a difference, and can produce tangible - and positive - improvements to your bottom line. Obviously, well-done branding isn't as important as your actual products or services, but it's part of the puzzle. And doing it well is a step in right direction.