Email newsletters are great, but spending too much time on them is not.
If you’re a small business, there’s a good chance that you should be writing some form of regular email newsletter. Many of our customers do, but a common mistake that I see being made is to try to create the perfect email. I have witnessed small business owners literally spend hours tweaking the exact look and feel of a newsletter and then doing it all over again the next month.
Generally speaking, I think it’s a mistake to spend too much time perfecting email newsletters. That doesn’t mean you should be sloppy and things like spelling errors are never a good idea, but spending too much time on a newsletter can be a bad idea.
Below are 4 reasons why you should consider dialing back the perfectionism knob for your email newsletters:
1. Your email newsletters will look different for everyone
Many people don’t realize that if you’re creating an html email (any email that isn’t just plain text), that every email program is going to display that email differently. Not only will Outlook users see the email differently from Gmail users and Apple Mail users, but people using different versions of the same email program will also get different results. Outlook 2007 users are going to see an email rendered differently than Outlook 2010 users and heaven forbid someone open your email on an iPad or Android phone because those will be different too.
There are programs that can help you get a handle on how the email will be rendered differently across all of the email platforms out there. However, for a typical small business owner there’s a good chance that you’re not managing your time wisely if you’re starting to optimize for all of these platforms.
2. Many recipients never see the images
Most email programs are set to hide images automatically. In these situations the email recipient needs to explicitly allow images to be displayed before your images will appear. Before doing that, the first impression those emails give is one of large blank spaces and completely broken formatting in the place of images.
When you’re formatting your email you’re typically doing so while wearing your “perfect world” glasses. The images are all displayed for you while you’re editing and you’re looking at the email with a large window open that is not representative of the smaller window without images that many people will see when first opening your email.
If you think you might be going overboard with formatting you can do a sanity check by sending yourself a test email and then looking at that email on your cell phone without images displayed.
3. If you take too long you’re less likely to write consistently
Most small business owners don’t make their goals when it comes to sending out newsletters. Owners get overwhelmed running their businesses; they go on vacation, or just plain procrastinate. The longer you take to write your newsletters, the bigger the mental hurdle when it comes time to sit down and write your next installment. If you make it a half day project to get your email newsletter out it, it’s pretty likely that you won’t write that newsletter consistently. Few small business owners can afford to take a half day out of their busy schedules on a regular basis.
4. Small business marketing is a zero sum game
Every minute you spend making an email newsletter is a minute you’re not spending doing something else for your business or your marketing. You need to remember to ask yourself what other marketing initiatives you are not getting done when you start perfecting your newsletter. Is your Facebook posting going to fall off the radar for this week? Are you going to slip on your blogging schedule?
The loss to other areas of your marketing may not outweigh the benefits of spending an hour getting the margin just right on that image that many people won’t even see anyway.
When you are passionate about what you do, it’s easy to think that anything less than perfection is unacceptable in every area of your business. However, when it comes to digital formatting and email, it may be an area where it makes sense to relax your standards a little bit. Make a couple email templates that you are happy with and that are flexible enough to be reused on a regular basis. Try to get your next email newsletter out quickly and then monitor the results. Did the click through rate or the number of phone calls you got go down (make sure you have the ability to track phone calls generated by your emails)? If not, you just got back a little time in your busy schedule to help take your business to the next level.
Image credit: Sybren A. Stuvel