How to Get People to Give a Damn About Your E-Newsletter

Picture this: you just Googled “how to patch the hole in my jeans,” and find the most irresistible article with the top three ways to mend your favorite pair (number 2 will blow your mind!). While reading about the best practices for denim patching, you notice a little box to the right of the article that says “sign up for our e-newsletter.”

When was the last time you saw a passive form field on the sidebar of a touch-and-go website like the one about blue jeans (I know, we do it too), and thought, “Man, I’d really like to get another company’s email clouding my inbox every week.” My guess is never. While it’s good to have a form like this, you must do more than that. I’d be willing to bet the emails you opt into are the ones that add some sort of value to your life.  

No wants your damned e-newsletter.

E-newsletters are an awesome way to keep in touch with your constituents, prospective clients and advocates of your causes. But getting people to opt into a daily or weekly email is a major challenge—because guess what? No one cares about your damn e-newsletter.

Instant gratification and added value.

Providing instant gratification and added value are the name of the game (in just about everything in life) if you want to be successful. E-newsletter email captures are no different. If you implement an intrusive popup ad that has an embedded form, appearing only when a visitor is about to close the tab on your website—no doubt you’ll get some people to sign up. But create eye-catching creative showing off your new e-book or coupon code? Now we’re talking. Never stop adding instantly gratifying value, and you’ll get clicks and conversions.

Deliver on your promises and keep people around.

The quicker you can deliver on your promise of added value the better. If you’re able to do so without linking to a new page, you’ve got yourself a home run. While sending a follow-up email containing the download, coupon code, or whatever value-add you decide on is great, it forces visitors to leave your site—even if just for a short period of time.

Obviously, the long game is that they would return to use the coupon code or to see what fresh new content you’re pumping out, but the goal is to keep them on your site through the whole exchange—the less work you make them do the better. Each CMS will come with its own restrictions, but WordPress seems to have more plugins than the App Store has apps to make anything possible

Whether visitors have to link off to a new landing page to fill out the form or not, you’ve now got their email. And it’s all because you’ve given them something they didn’t know they wanted (or needed) until they stumbled on your site.

Give people what they need, not what they “want.”

Henry Ford once said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” In case you didn’t make the connection, that’s the dude who manufactured the first car and founded Ford Motor Company in 1903. You may ask yourself, “why would they want this e-book about textiles?” or “How do I know their board of directors needs help with fundraising?” I answer with Henry Ford’s quote. Once they see what you’re giving away, they’ll realize it’s exactly what they needed.

Also keep in mind that in the eyes of the subscriber, the value should still outweigh the cost—the only “payment” they’re giving is their email. The added value has to do just that, add value, but you don’t have to break your back. Your conversion rate won’t be 100% and some people still won’t join your newsletter—and that’s okay.

Follow up and bet on your own product.

Don’t just cover your bases and include the option to opt out like you’re required to. Instead, give your subscribers the explicit invitation to update their preferences. This will create a more engaged list because they know what they’ve gotten into, and if you’re confident in your product, seldomly will someone opt out. This is a perfect time to ask for more information; first and last name, position in the company, etc.

In the numbers…

Let’s say your list contains 30,000 people. For encouragement, 1% of 30,000 is 300. One email to this list might get 20 opt-outs. That’s only about .05% of that entire list. You’re going to get people opting out—that’s okay too.

A common misconception is that emails bother subscribers, but you have to get over it. Worst case scenario, they opt out or just never open the email and delete it right away. But guess what? Most industry standards on click through rates range between 1% and 5%. Open rates are usually in the ballpark of 20%. 

If you send five emails in one week—not saying you should—the majority of your list won’t even open one of those five. But if you assume a (very low) 5% open rate, theoretically you’re getting a new 5% sample of your list reading at least one of the emails you sent that week. That means you’re reaching almost 8,000 prospects over the span of five emails that week. Meanwhile, your list is still growing because they can’t help but claim that coupon code or download your new e-book by providing their email.

Email marketing is a finicky thing and it’s a necessary thing in business. Just as in life, the best way to be successful at email marketing is by adding instantly gratifying value to your prospects—and never stop.

If you would like more information about how to see if someone reads your email, check out this blog post.



Nick Small

With specialties in content strategy and creation, social media engagement and digital marketing optimization, Nick brings a depth of experience in nonprofit marketing. He’s also helped hundreds of nonprofits with their online presence to improve donor retention and attract new audiences, and he still has time for a good glass of whiskey, round of golf or new adventure.

February 17, 2017

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