There are many tools to use in the marketing toolbox, so many that it’s worth delving into what makes each one unique.
Is email marketing or newsletter marketing right for your organization?
Now hear this: Email marketing and newsletter marketing are not the same. When considering the direct-to-inbox channels available, it’s easy to confuse email marketing and newsletters. After all, both can appear in an email inbox and come together using the same tools. Your audience can choose to subscribe or unsubscribe, open or delete, click or forward. And digital marketers will be watching to see how each message performs, assessing the open and click rates.
With almost anyone able to send mass emails – from small nonprofits to intrepid thinkers to big businesses – it helps to understand which avenue is which. So, what’s the difference between email marketing and newsletter marketing? And is one better? Like most communications, there can be nuances to understand and products or services featured in both. Branding and logos may appear all over each one. However, an easy way to understand email marketing and newsletter marketing is to place them in basic categories. One avenue is about selling. The other avenue is about sharing.
Let’s start with selling. Simply put, email marketing is about selling. A communications that falls into this category will typically:
- Come from a brand. Imagine you’ve received an email marketing a specialty coffee. The sender name will be recognizable: Really Good Coffee Brand. And the sender email address will similarly represent the brand in an official capacity.
- Have an attention-grabbing subject line that also caters to filling a need or making a purchase. For example, Really Good Coffee Brand’s subject might be: “Out of Coffee? Shop Our Sale!”
- Have an image-forward design with a clear message. Email marketing tends to come often, and when it does will feature a primary headline-grabbing action. In other words, email marketing wants the opener to click here, buy now, or shop!
- Be part of an ongoing series. Remember the Lay’s slogan, “Betcha can’t eat just one!” Well, sellers using email marketing are hoping you can’t open just one. Brands will continue to push deals and offers, hoping to land a sale.
- Be relevant, but not personal. While a person opening a sales email may understand why they are receiving it – and even be treated to personalized subject that mentions their name or caters to their interest – it will still feel like it is coming from a brand and not a close friend.
Email marketing is a standard practice now, and most consumers are conditioned to expect an influx of marketing emails daily. Personalization, such as placing a contact’s name in the subject line, can help grab attention and increase open rates. And learning about discount codes, loyalty programs, and sales is almost expected. But email marketing can become tedious and overwhelming for consumers, especially with many brands trying to break into inboxes.
Sharing content, on the other hand, is a different way to grab attention. If email marketing is about selling, newsletter marketing is about sharing. A communication that falls into this category will typically:
- Come from an individual or an organization. Newsletter marketing is extremely personal and has a different voice than email marketing. There is the understanding someone wrote the content and expects the intended audience to find it meaningful and interesting.
- Have an attention-grabbing subject line. Yep, this one never goes out of style! Even though a newsletter might not be “selling” something, the author or distributor still wants to get their message out.
- Have a copy-forward design, or a design that is a mix of images and words. It’s a newsletter, remember? So, there may be a main article to read or click on, or there may be a few sections for the reader to choose from. The goal here is to inform, entertain, please, enlighten, etc. Readers should expect to spend more time with this content…although attention spans remain very short.
- Come regularly and at an expected time. Newsletters have a little more freedom with their schedules than the 11 o’clock news, but they still have a rhythm. They may come every morning, once a week, or once a month.
- Be relevant and personal. This is relationship-driven communication. Chances are, the recipient signed up for the communication and expects to see it in their inbox. They are used to clicking on links and anticipate the content will be worthwhile.
Newsletters can be a great way to connect with your audience, and your audience will expect to hear your voice. While you may not be selling a product or service in the traditional sense, your newsletter should offer something unique, creative, artistic, or informative.
What About Email Newsletter Marketing?
Okay, okay, no one said social media and digital marketing was easy or fit into tidy little boxes. So, perhaps you are sitting here thinking, “But what about this other email that doesn’t totally seem like email marketing or newsletter marketing?” And you would be right to do that because more and more businesses of all sizes are stepping up their communications game to blend these two.
It can be easy to differentiate a “sales” email from a “share” email. What about one that does both? Can you picture an email with newsletter-heavy content that acts to promote a service-based company and build audience engagement? Or a sales-forward email that also includes a link to a blog post or community forum? Today’s digital marketers are multitaskers, so it’s no surprise that sometimes emails are, too.
Which Avenue Is Best For Your Org
Of course, both email marketing and newsletter marketing must follow certain rules and expectations. There are differences in process and product, but also overlap. One of those overlaps has to do with ethical use of data and privacy laws. Before diving into any kind of email marketing or newsletter marketing, it is worth understanding this background and ensuring you are treating your audience’s data with respect and securing it.
The same principles are at play whether sending a “sales” or a “share” email – or a mix of both. Marketers can play around with what makes sense for their organization or brand. There is no top pick here, simply what makes sense for you. The deciding factor should be focused on your audience. What do they want to hear? What content is relevant to your product, mission, and audience? Ask those questions to determine your email or newsletter marketing strategy.