Do NOT send your newsletter via your email

Are you thinking of starting a newsletter and sending it via your firm’s email? Stop. Sending newsletters using your firm’s email client—whether it’s Microsoft Outlook or some other program—is a bad idea. It can anger people, and handicap the delivery of your newsletter. But, don’t worry. There’s an easy solution.

An easy way to annoy newsletter recipients

I’m thinking about this because I just received a mass email from someone who’s launching a new business. This person emailed me—and maybe 20 other people—in a message that displayed our emails in the CC line.

It’s not a good idea to expose other people’s email addresses if they don’t already work at the same company or correspond via email for other purposes. People like their privacy. In the case that I’m thinking of, the other recipients were all people who had taken a class together, so many of them may have welcomed the chance to stay in touch. But some might not.

Another problem: When you send a mass email using the CC line, inevitably some people will “respond all.” That’s true even when their message is of no interest to the other recipients. This is annoying.

A way to handicap your newsletter delivery

You might think that using the BCC line to blind-copy recipients would solve your problems. Sure, it’ll solve the problems listed above. But there are other issues with sending newsletters via your firm’s email software.

Internet service providers (ISPs) are suspicious of emails that have many addressees. They fear that you might be sending spam. Your email address could get blacklisted.

As e-mail marketing application MailChimp says in its explanation of blacklists, “If your emails get marked as spam, or ISPs see a sudden increase in email volume coming from your domain, you could get blacklisted.” Campaign Monitor, another email marketing app, notes that “Just a few spam complaints can land an IP address on a blacklist, even if the ratio of complaints to the volume of email sent is very low.” 

That could hurt the delivery of your regular emails as well as your newsletters. That’s a high price to pay.

Solution: use an email marketing application

An email marketing application—I use Constant Contact—solves the problem of exposing recipient’s email addresses. It also gives your newsletter the chance to be viewed more favorably by ISPs than emails sent to many recipients via your firm’s email software.

For one thing, an email marketing app will make sure that you comply with certain standards set by the CAN-SPAM Act, an anti-spam law. It’ll force you to provide an unsubscribe link and to put your address in the email, as pointed out in “7 Reasons You Should Use An Email Marketing Service to Send Your Newsletters.” The same article asserts that “Email service providers such as Constant Contact and MailChimp are trusted within the email community and they keep a good eye on their account holders to make sure there is no funny business going on.” As Liz Lockard says in “5 Reasons Why Email Marketing Service Providers are a MUST,” “They keep a record of the opt-in when your subscriber signs up and also have things like spam filter checks to help you avoid the junk folder and being reported as spam.”

Other advantages of email marketing service providers:

  • They give you the option to automate sign-ups to your newsletter with a link in your emails, on your website, or in other locations.
  • They provide templates to help you format your newsletters attractively—and in a mobile-friendly way.
  • They usually offer some sort of support, which can be invaluable when you run into problems with your newsletter.

You may still have problems

I wish I could say that email marketing service providers are the solution to all of your problems. They’re not.

Some companies block communications sent via such providers. I’ve run into this with subscribers to my Investment Writing newsletter. Some of my subscribers end up re-subscribing from their home email addresses, rather than battling their company information technology folks to get the newsletter whitelisted.

Still, if you follow my advice, you’re likely to have fewer problems than if you send newsletters via your regular email software.


My newsletter experiment with confirmation requests

I suspect that a significant percentage of my newsletters don’t make it into my subscribers’ email in-boxes. Every month I get a list of email addresses that “bounce,” not reaching their destination. An even larger number of subscribers fail to open any emails—possibly because my emails aren’t reaching them. The data is provided by Constant Contact, the provider I use for sending my newsletters.

Newsletter confirmations

Wondering if the disappointing numbers are partly because new subscribers input bad email addresses, I experimented with Constant Contact’s feature that requires new subscribers to confirm their interest before they join my list.

I didn’t like the results. My weekly list of new subscribers shrank. Also, the list of names in an “Awaiting confirmation” category grew. Looking at the email addresses on the “Awaiting confirmation” list, I saw many email addresses that appeared legitimate.

My assistant suggested that the confirmation-request email went into the individuals’ spam folders. That’s what happened when she tested the feature by subscribing to my newsletter. (Of course, it’s possible that’s where anything sent via Constant Contact goes for those individuals unless they’ve whitelisted Constant Contact.)

I asked Constant Contact if I could re-send the confirmation-request email. No, there’s no way to do that.

Asking people to re-enter subscriptions

The only way I can get those subscribers on my Constant Contact list is to send them an email asking them to re-enter their subscription request. I sent 25 requests in early January. It’ll be interesting to see how many of those people re-subscribe by the time I publish this article.

In the meantime, I’ve turned off Constant Contact’s confirmation request.

Canned newsletters can hurt your marketing

It takes time to write, format, and distribute newsletters. That’s why many of you turn to providers of canned newsletter content. It saves time when you must do nothing more than drop in your name, contact information, logo, and maybe your photo and some disclosures. Canned newsletters like this can save you time. But they undercut your reputation if readers realize that your content is prepared by someone else (and you haven’t acknowledged it).

Duplication of canned newsletters

For awhile, I’ve been receiving duplicate newsletters from two financial advisors. You can see the evidence in the screen shot from my email inbox. The email subject lines and the text previews are identical. Only the names of the senders, which I’ve blocked out, differ.

duplicate copies of canned newsletters

The text inside the newsletter is identical, too, except for the firm’s name, logo, and disclosures.

Both newsletters also share this clunky sentence: To help you enjoy the moment, consider delegating away as many worries to people you trust. What the heck does that mean? I suspect the writer meant to say “To help you enjoy the moment, consider delegating away as many worries as possible to people you trust.” If you’re going to use canned content, try to pick a provider who uses strong writers.

Initially, I only received newsletters from __ Advisory Group, not __ Management Group. Back then, I was impressed by the sender’s creativity in curating content from diverse sources.  But then duplicate newsletters started turning up. As you can see from the screen shot, the second newsletter arrived within two minutes of the first, making it easy to spot the duplication. The newsletter was no less clever, but its lack of originality became apparent.

If you must use a canned newsletter…

…customize it.

Some simple tweaks might have prevented me from noticing the duplication. For example:

    • Changing the email subject line
    • Sending your newsletter at a different time than your competitors—I imagine that the content provider suggests a default send time. If I’d received one of these newsletters on a Tuesday and another on a Friday, I might not have noticed the duplication. In fact, I might not have noticed it if one newsletter arrived at 8 a.m. and other at 4 p.m. on the same day.
    • Changing the message inside to show a bit of your personality—Of course, you should check that your licensing agreement with your provider allows you to edit their content. Need tips for showing some personality? Read “How to add personality and warmth to your financial writing–Part one.”

Looking for a provider of ready-to-use content? You’ll find some in “Ready-to-use content for financial advisors.”

Catch e-newsletter non-openers with this technique

Do you feel disappointed when some of your e-newsletter subscribers fail to open your newsletters? It happens to everybody. The average “open” rate for financial e-newsletters is about 18%, according to Constant Contact.

I’ve learned a technique that has boosted my open rates significantly in two tests. First, I increased the open rate on one of my monthly e-newsletters from 20.4% to 29.1%. Second, I increased the open rate on one of my Weekly Tips from 20.7% to 27.2%. Since then, I’ve achieved open rates greater than 30% on some newsletters.

The secret of my higher open rates

I achieved this improvement by re-sending those emails to people who hadn’t opened them within about a week following their original sending. It’s big win to boost the open rate this easily.

How did I do it? I had my virtual assistant use the QuickSend feature in Constant Contact. I imagine that other forms of e-newsletter software offer similar features. For example, Mailchimp has an option to resend an unopened campaign.

I use QuickSend on every issue of my monthly newsletter. I use it on just one of my Weekly Tips because I don’t want to overwhelm my subscribers’ email in-boxes. I time the Weekly Tip re-send so it doesn’t overlap with the re-send of my monthly newsletter.

How about YOUR newsletters?

Look at your newsletters. Think about how you can use this feature. If your newsletter is monthly, it’s a no-brainer to use this QuickSend approach. If you publish more frequently, be careful that you don’t overwhelm your readers’ in-boxes.

Please tell me if it boosts your open rate and, more importantly, if it helps you to improve your relationships with clients and prospects.

Another tip for your e-newsletter

In addition to using QuickSend, I have another tip for boosting the open rate for your monthly newsletter.

Don’t wait until your regular monthly date to send a newsletter to a new subscriber. I try to send weekly to new subscribers. I hope to attract more attention by contacting them while they still remember signing up for my newsletter.

Keep on clicking links, or make unhappy discoveries later

Do you ever get tired of clicking links in your online and emailed publications to make sure they go to the right place? I do.

It’s frustrating to click, click, click because 999 times out of 1,000 the link goes to the right place, and I see what I expect to see there. But what about the 1,000th time?

My shock from clicking a link

As I worked with my virtual assistant on my marketing emails for my upcoming investment commentary webinar, I thought, “I don’t need to continue clicking links to my registration page on EventBrite. We’ve used these emails and links forever. What could go wrong?”

After all, my assistants and I have used EventBrite since 2012. Over the years, each assistant has quickly gotten the hang of updating the dates and fees on the registration page, while repeating the same formatting.

I clicked anyhow, expecting to see the usual formatting with my logo at the top. Instead, I saw something similar (I didn’t think to save a screen shot) to the following:

My surprising result from clicking lniks

My logo and some of the usual text had been stripped out of my event registration page, apparently due to an “upgrade” in EventBrite’s software.

I tweeted to EventBrite to learn about the changes, and emailed my VA for help. Luckily, both responded quickly. Now I have a new registration page with my logo and some color, as you’ll see below.

new webinar registration page


What a difference clicking links makes! As a result of clicking the links, I found a problem that would have embarrassed me if I’d waited for my readers to discover it.

Clicking links lesson for you

What’s the lesson for you? Keep on clicking links to check that they meet your expectations.

After this experience, I think I’ll check more links than I used to. I must resist the urge to assume that everything is OK.

To learn more about my investment commentary webinar

Want to learn more about writing investment commentary? You’ll find the details of my webinar on my website and you can register for the webinar.

Not sure if you’ll be available at the time of the webinar? Don’t worry, you can watch a recording.

Print newsletter vs. e-newsletter for financial marketers

Should you send a print newsletter or an e-newsletter? I’m asking this question because I just added a 28-page paper newsletter to my “to read” pile. This newsletter wouldn’t have commanded my attention if it had come via email. While newsletters printed on paper and sent via the postal service are becoming dinosaurs, you may find them worthwhile.

The case for a print newsletter

The big reason to send a print newsletter is to break through the clutter encountered by e-newsletters. I have e-mail inbox rules that move most e-newsletters into a folder called “newsletter.” I rarely read them. I even skip newsletters that would interest or help me because there are too many of them.

Marketing via mail generally achieves higher response rates. According to “2015 DMA Response Rate Report: Direct Mail Outperforms All Digital Channels Combined By Nearly 600%“:

Direct mail achieves a 3.7% response rate with a house list, and a 1.0% response rate with a prospect list. All digital channels combined only achieve a 0.62% response rate (Mobile 0.2%; Email 0.1% for a Prospect list and 0.1% for House/Total list; Social Media 0.1%; Paid Search 0.1%; Display Advertising 0.02%).

Direct mail’s 3.7% and 1.0% response rates for house lists and prospect lists respectively look attractive compared with the 0.1% response rates for email. Of course, your experience may differ from the DMA’s results.

Another plus of print is your control of what readers see in front of their eyes. This contrasts with e-newsletters, where readers’ email programs or browsers may distort your layout or blank out images.

The case against a print newsletter

stamps for print newsletter

Stamps on the envelope of the 28-page newsletter that inspired this post

I see three main drawbacks to print newsletters: cost, timeliness, and lack of analytics.

It’s relatively expensive to send a print newsletter via the U.S. mail. A $1.57 worth of stamps adorned the newsletter I just opened. Other costs may include envelopes, paper (fancy stock is pricey), ink, and design work. Only design work might apply to an e-newsletter, though you may also need to pay for an e-mail marketing provider, such as Constant Contact or MailChimp.

Taking a contrary view on cost, “2015 DMA Response Rate Report: Direct Mail Outperforms All Digital Channels Combined By Nearly 600%” argues that direct mail’s costs are competitive with other media, perhaps partly because of print’s higher response rates. Here’s the article’s take on costs:

Cost-per-acquisition for direct mail is very competitive. Direct mail stands at $19, which fares favorably with Mobile and Social Media (both at $16-18), Paid Search ($21-30), Internet Display ($41-50) and even email ($11-15).

Print newsletters take longer than e-newsletters to reach your readers. That’s partly a function of the creation process, especially if an outside designer or printer is involved. Plus, you must give your newsletters to the post office and wait for their delivery.

Unlike e-newsletters, print newsletters don’t give you detailed analytics. You can’t see who opened your newsletter or which content attracted the most attention.

Use both instead of only a print newsletter

Enjoy some of the benefits of both printed and electronic communications by using both formats, if your budget permits.

For example, like the person who sent me the 28-page newsletter, you can email your list about with teaser copy about your printed newsletter. You can also include a link to an online version of your paper newsletter.

Another possibility: use print for your regular newsletters and use e-newsletters for more time-sensitive communications.

What are your results?

If you’ve used both a print newsletter and an e-newsletter, how do your results compare? Would you recommend one over the other? I enjoy learning from you.


Dinosaur image courtesy of Geerati/

Financial e-newsletters, kill your annoying, weak clickbait!

Some financial e-newsletters drive me crazy. I click to open them and find nothing there. Well, not nothing, but just enough to annoy the heck out of me.

If you’re doing what these newsletters do, please stop.

The most annoying habit of financial e-newsletters that I actually open

If I actually open a financial e-newsletter, I expect it to have some content. The body of the newsletter shouldn’t simply consists of links leading elsewhere.

Below is an example of a newsletter that failed the test. The first two blacked-out lines are the title of a blog post formatted as a clickable link. I’m concealing the firm’s identity because I assume this is an innocent mistake on their part. It’s the kind of thing that happens when non-professional writers create content.

annoying financial e-newsletters: an example

This is the only text that appeared in the main body of a financial e-newsletter that I received.


I think that the e-newsletter senders hoped that their links would serve as clickbait—provocative content that drives readers to a web page. However, the title of a blog post written by financial professional rarely has the flair to do that.

The senders could have achieved better results by adding a brief summary or introduction to their article on MarketWatch. That would have let me assess whether their topic interested me.

I understand that the authors probably are limited in how much they can copy from their MarketWatch article. However, that shouldn’t prevent them from writing teaser copy or saying “If you’re a ___ type of investor, this article can help you to ____.”

The second offense by this financial e-newsletter

clickbaitWhen I clicked on the two blacked-out lines, which are clearly meant to be clickable links, they took me to a post on the company’s blog. The content on the page? Exactly what you see in the image above.

Oops! I had to click again to reach the article on MarketWatch. What casual reader is going to take all of these steps with so little indication in the e-newsletter of what benefit they’ll gain from their clicks?

I understand that people want to drive traffic to their websites. But balance that against the risk that along the way you’ll annoy and lose readers for your financial e-newsletters.

I think the newsletter senders in this case should have linked directly to their post on MarketWatch. They would have avoided annoying me by sending me to their blog post that didn’t add anything new. Also, even without the link to their website, they would have learned whether their title was strong enough to interest me. Most newsletter programs allow you to measure your readers’ click. Although their measurements aren’t 100 percent accurate, they’ll tell you if one title attracts more readers than another.

Mistakes by other financial e-newsletters

What else do financial e-newsletters do to annoy or drive away readers? They:

  1. Add people to their newsletter distribution lists without asking permission, as I’ve discussed in “no, No, NO: My business card shouldn’t add me to your e-newsletter list” and “Our LinkedIn connection isn’t an invitation to spam.”
  2. Use weak subject lines in their emails. For an analysis of a weak title and how to spice it up, read “Stop! Get a better title, or forget winning readers.”
  3. Send newsletters that aren’t mobile-friendly. Today people are often read emails on their phones and other mobile devices that fail to display traditional e-newsletter formats effectively. For tips on how to be mobile-friendly, see “3 ways to make your emails mobile-friendly.”

They may also suffer from “4 reasons your emails don’t get results.”

Image courtesy of adamr/

Reader question: How do we get people to read to the end?

“How do we get people to read to the end of our newsletter articles and blog posts?” This question came up in one of my writing workshops.

I share some ideas in this article. I also suggest that you complement your initial question by asking “How can we ensure that people who don’t read to the end—or who don’t read every paragraph—still grasp our main points?”

1. Write in a reader-friendly way

To attract and retain your readers throughout your articles, write in a reader-friendly way.

This starts with clearly identifying your topic and how it’ll help your reader. Do this in your introduction to snare readers.

Next, write headings that guide your reader through your article. These should show how your article will deliver on the promises made in your introduction.

Observe other good writing practices, such as strong topic sentences and clear, concise writing. Clunky writing discourages readers.

2. Use “gold coins”

Readers tend to bail out of reading online after less than two minutes. That’s the point where Poynter’s Eyetrack research suggests “establishing a ‘gold coin’ like a simple pullout quote or visual element that keeps the reader engaged about halfway through a long story.” This could be a provocative quote, graph, or photograph. Or it could be “a telling detail, a bit of description, an apt phrase, a moving anecdote,” as Dr. Ink says in “Dr. Ink Discovers the Sixth ‘W’.” As Dr. Ink says, “If these are spaced strategically in the story, the logic goes, the reader will have incentive to move down the path. As soon as the gold coins run out, the reader leaves the forest.”

Bonus: Capture readers who skim

It’s not realistic to get every reader to finish each of your articles. However, if you observe the tips listed above, you’ll get more mileage out of your articles. This is because you’ll communicate well with those who only skim. They can still grasp the gist of your articles.

Image courtesy of foto76 at

My big newsletter mistake’s lesson for you

When’s the best day and time to send your e-newsletters? My January mistake upset my beliefs about this topic.

My usual routine and its rationale

I usually send out my monthly newsletter around 8:15 a.m. on the first non-holiday Tuesday of the month. I send it early in the day because my Constant Contact statistics indicate that many people open it before 9 a.m. I figure they get to work early. I’m happy to make it easy for them to read before they’re distracted by work.

I picked Tuesday because I’ve read that people are distracted on Mondays and Fridays as they start and end their workweeks.

I publish on a consistent schedule because I’ve read that your audience values consistency. They want to rely on receiving your content regularly.

However, I skip holiday Tuesdays because I figure my audience reads me at work. I hope you’re not checking email on holidays.

My mistake: Sunday delivery

I made my mistake in haste after proofreading my letter the Sunday before my usual Tuesday in January 2013. I forgot to schedule my newsletter instead of letting it default to sending immediately.

Oh horror! I imagined my newsletter languishing unopened in hundreds of email inboxes. I was extra mad at myself because this newsletter was most of my subscribers’ last reminder about registering for my blogging class. I probably cursed out loud that afternoon.

The surprising results

But lo and behold! Over the following days, my newsletter hit its usual level of subscribers opening it. I didn’t suffer at all for sending it at the “wrong” time.

What a relief! I don’t need to freak out the next time my newsletter deviates from its usual schedule. However, I plan to return to my usual schedule because it’s good discipline for me.

What’s the point?

My experience convinced me that Scott Stratten, who tweets as @unmarketing, was right when he said in “The best time never to send email” that “The best time to never send email is when someone else told you to” because what matters is what recipients do when they receive your emails.

On the other hand, Michael Katz of Blue Penguin Development may be right that there are bad times, but no best times to send your emails, as he suggested in “Why Today is a Bad Day to Publish Your Newsletter.”

What works for you?

I’m curious about your results from sending e-newsletters at different times. Do some times work better than others for you?

Newsletters: Can you offer too much good stuff?

A newsletter can work with as little as one good article. While more articles may boost the number of clicks, my experience suggests that most people only sample longer newsletters. The bottom line? Don’t feel you need to push out a multi-article newsletter.

Highest ROI for one-article newsletters

You get the biggest bang for your buck by simply sending some sort of newsletter, even something with just a few lines of text. Why? Because the mere act of appearing in your subscribers’ inboxes is a powerful reminder of your existence.

The longer your newsletter, the more readership drops toward the bottom of the page

I find that the first article in my monthly newsletter typically gets the most clicks. Clicks drop dramatically as readers scan down the page. Still, overall, my newsletter has received way more clicks than average, even after I introduced a streamlined format in May.

What’s YOUR newsletter strategy?

I’m curious to learn about what number of newsletter articles works best for you. Please comment.