Merrigan & Co. in Target Marketing Tipline (7.29.09)

5 Newsletter Design Tactics
By Joe Boland, assistant editor, Target Marketing

Time-crunched consumers typically prefer communications that are short, easy-to-read yet still compelling. Newsletters offer direct marketers a medium to satiate those desires. Merritt Engel, vice president of Kansas City, Mo.-based direct marketing firm Merrigan & Co., provides suggestions to get the most out of your customer newsletters, whether they're print or digital in format:

1. Avoid “chest-beating copy.” Engel says her firm often encounters newsletters that are seemingly obsessed with telling the customer or prospect exactly just how great the company and the product is. No one likes a braggart. Focus more on how your product or service can make the customer’s life easier or better with real stories of satisfied customers.

2. Use compelling photographs. People relate well to other people. Use photographs of humans interacting with your product or service, and provide emotional shots to grab the reader’s attention.

3. Don’t forget: You is one of the strongest words. “The word you is paramount,” says Engel. “You want the reader to feel this is all about them.”

4. Provide strong, informative headlines and bullets. “Make it scannable and a quick read. As much as it kills me as a copywriter that I want people to read it start to finish, I know that the reality is they’re likely to get it, read the headlines, read the 'what’s inside,' maybe an inset,” admits Engel. “So if I have one minute with them and they read the headlines, the takeaway is that they have the full story that they need to make an informed decision.”

5. Focus on the cover. It’s the first thing readers see, either compelling them to read on or toss it in the recycling bin. “We have rules about what we want on the front cover. We always want faces, an engaging person looking into the camera, usually the strongest, most heartfelt story,” shares Engel.