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4 must-haves for a successful email newsletter

Tips from the founder of an email validation tool

By Liviu Tanase · April 15, 2021
Hero image with an icon of an envelope representing email

When I started my email validation business, ZeroBounce, launching a newsletter was one of my priorities. I was subscribed to several business newsletters and felt the effect those messages had on me. When I was looking to buy a certain product or service, I was more inclined to choose a familiar brand—and what's more familiar than the one that's in my inbox every week?

But just having an email newsletter isn't enough—even if you have a lot of subscribers. You need the content and tech to back it up. 

When we first started, our newsletter flopped. Although our email list was fairly large, engagement was on the low side, and we never got any feedback from our subscribers. Here I'll talk about how we turned that around and how you can avoid some of our mistakes to make your email newsletter a success.

As you start to collect more emails, here are 4 ways to automate your email marketing for better communication.

Verify the accuracy of your email list

A bounce rate of 19%. A lousy sending reputation. Low open and click rates. These were the most stringent email marketing challenges Image Source was facing last year. "We knew we needed to do something," their marketing director, Bruce Herwig, told us. "I just didn't know where to start." 

Their email service provider suggested using a database cleaning service and recommended ZeroBounce. Bruce validated Image Source's list that same week, and as it turns out, more than 21,000 invalid emails were causing the high bounce rate. A few thousand more were highly likely to bounce in the near future. 

ZeroBounce removed those addresses, and with fresh data in hand, Bruce went on to send another campaign. This time, the bounce rate was almost zero.  

If your newsletter isn't seeing much engagement, your email list is one of the first places to check. Ignoring risky addresses can cost you precious resources. When your emails bounce, you're not just failing to reach those invalid contacts (but still paying to have them on your list). As your sender reputation degrades, inbox providers will also begin to think you may be sending spam.  

The same happens when you get more than one spam complaint for every thousand emails. Inbox providers treat them as a signal that your content is irritating people, so they'll start directing your newsletters to the spam folder. 

The most effective way to repair and prevent data decay is to validate your list regularly. Emailing real human beings ensures you reach the inbox—and gives your content a chance to engage. 

Have a smart content strategy

Engaging content is another cornerstone of successful email newsletters. If cleaning your list is the first step to landing in the inbox, once you're there, give people something worth reading.

But how do you know what makes for a worthwhile read? Give yourself time. Time to test different types of content and notice what your audience reacts to. You don't get to know a person overnight, and the same goes for the people on your list.

At ZeroBounce, it took us more than six months to figure out what our subscribers expected from us. It turns out that the more we stuck to our niche, the better results we saw. But sticking to your niche doesn't mean you have to talk about your business in every email. On the contrary: too many self-promotional newsletters can turn people off. 

We tend to follow the well-known Pareto principle or 80/20 rule: 80 percent of the content we send is informative and educational. The rest spotlights a new feature or reminds subscribers about a service they haven't used in a while. But even when we do the latter, those emails still read like the others, meaning:

  • they address a common pain point and its consequences,

  • then we lead the readers to ways of solving that challenge,

  • and we close with a call-to-action for them to visit a specific landing page.

Here's an example of a promotional newsletter we sent recently:

An example of an email newsletter from ZeroBounce

We knew many of our customers were wondering how to treat catch-all emails, and this email reminded them that they have a way to further validate them. And in the spirit of not just promoting our own content, here's a great example from Nassau Paradise Island making the most of user-generated content:

This email probably took quite a while to design, build, and test, and you may not have the resources to get to this level quite yet. But it's worth taking the time to know your subscribers, understand what they want, and involve them in your content. Their engagement is great for your business, of course, and it also boosts your email deliverability. If spam complaints or bounces tell inbox providers you may be an unlawful sender, high open and click rates tell that story in reverse. 

Bottom line: the more your audience engages with your newsletters, the better your inbox placement will be.  

Spark conversations—and reply to every email

Replies and forwards also improve your newsletters' deliverability. They're critical signals that inbox providers receive about your content. When people write back or share your emails with others, it's an indicator you belong where they can see you.

Before you can reap these benefits, though, make sure you use an email address people can write back to. Sending newsletters from a "no-reply" address is like posting on social media and turning the comments off. You can't hope for engagement if you don't allow it in the first place.

More than once, I've wanted to write back to a business and share an idea or ask a question, and I had no way to do it. This practice sabotages your engagement and your brand's reputation. Coming across as a company that doesn't care about customer feedback isn't the best way to build trust.

Once you've set up your sending email address, be sure to write back to every single customer. At ZeroBounce, newsletter replies arrive in several inboxes, to make sure one of us gets back to our customers promptly. 

Bonus tip: thank people for being on your list. With inboxes so crowded, it's a privilege when someone shares their email address with you. Let them know you appreciate it.

Follow your sending schedule

Consistency is what got me to enjoy certain newsletters that didn't convince me from the start. I admired their discipline and ended up getting content that was precisely what I was expecting. Not every email you send will appeal to everybody, but that's why it's important to stick to a schedule. 

  • You'll create anticipation among your subscribers because they know when you send.

  • It gives you a chance to try different topics and present them in fresh ways to see what performs best.

  • It allows you to stay top of mind, build trust and familiarity, and avoid spam complaints.

  • It will keep your sending IP warm, which supports your inbox placement.

Finding the ideal cadence depends on your business and industry, your resources, and your goals. But your subscribers' engagement is a reliable guide. At ZeroBounce, we've been sending one newsletter a week for more than three years. When we have special offers, we send up to four emails a week, and still see good engagement.  

Some companies send their newsletters bi-monthly or once a month. Retailers send one promotional email—or more—every day. While more emails can result in more sales, there's a fine line between being persistent and annoying your subscribers.

Your content will generate different levels of engagement, and so will your sending frequency. Watch your metrics and see how they fluctuate: they're the best indicator of what your subscribers want. Once you've found your rhythm, don't break it. In time, your subscribers will come to expect you in their inboxes, so don't miss a chance to connect with them.

Read more: How to grow your newsletter without paid ads

This was a blog post from Liviu Tanase, the founder and CEO of ZeroBounce, an email validation and deliverability company, no. 40 on the Inc. 5000 list. ZeroBounce verifies and scores email lists in bulk and in real time, and provides several data appending and email testing services to boost inbox placement. You can connect ZeroBounce via Zapier to thousands of apps. Want to see your work on the Zapier blog? Read our guidelines, and get in touch.

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