I’ve recently culled the email newsletters I subscribe to; mainly because over the years I have subscribed to numerous direct marketing emails for research into the good, the bad and the ugly, and there is a finite number of times you can look at a full inbox every morning without wondering if life is worth living. But even so, those email newsletters that were too useful to bin numbered 13. If I were superstitious I probably would have included another rather than try and decide which to unsubscribe from.

The email newsletters that were easy to ditch were those which were little more than a list of the latest offers. Common to all the 13 is that they include information, rumours or surprises and are eagerly anticipated. The most frequent came weekly and many encouraged a visit to the company website. Indeed one is little more than a series of links with explanatory headings.

Email newsletters are labour intensive and, as describe previously, are essentially a gift so do not start one half-heartedly as if you suddenly abandon it, all you will cause is resentment. Ever taken a half-eaten ice cream from a toddler?

It is no good just transposing the layout of your last advertising email, as email newsletters are different in kind. Corporate identity should be in the forefront of your mind, but perhaps take a banner from the website, maybe the page where they signed up for it?

Email newsletters are supreme at customer retention so content is king. Consider your customers’ needs and, just as importantly, where they might go themselves to satisfy it. Discover the resources they would have searched for and, without directly copying the content, supply them with the information with additional original matter.

Do not be definitive with legal advice or else you might have to seek some yourself at a later date.

Episodic is good but do not frustrate your email recipients by only giving them half the story. Each email newsletter of itself must be complete, but the following one can develop the theme in more depth. Give them a hint as to what comes next but never cheat them.

Sales and email newsletters are not mutually exclusive. If you have an email campaign in full flood then the only sensible thing to do is to support it, albeit subtly. Overt marketing can be off-putting, especially as the recipient might well be a subscriber to your advertising emails as well. But if you are pushing bulk wine for personal consumption then why not a discussion on how to store it. If you describe various styles of racks, rather than a ‘Buy Now!’ why not provide a link to your stylish range of reasonably priced period and modern storage solutions.

Static adverts in a column parallel to the text cannot be seen as overhyping. A hot-link graphic of your current offer is hardly pushy. If you offered something for free, like a competition, then who could complain of having to click through to a landing page to take part?

Measuring the value of an email marketing campaign can be tricky. Customer retention is difficult to quantify, and a high click-through rate is perhaps not its main purpose. If the unsubscribes increase then the conclusion must be that recipients are not finding it useful so changes must be made. If it decreases then don’t just smile smugly, work out if you could get a little more advertising from it.

But in trying to show that you consider the needs of your clients, the best thing to consider is the needs of your clients.

How to reduce email unsubscribes
1. Don’t just list reams of offers
2. Think about frequency vs. valuable content
3. Stick to your frequency
4. Content is king – which resources do your customers use?
5. Got a surprise in the next instalment?
6. Develop themes increasing in detail over time
7. Sales content is okay – but overt editorial is off-putting
8. Try linking sales images to the side of your content
9. Measure your unsubscribes and act upon the results
10. Consider the needs of your clients