Newsletters have been around for a very long time — building relationships with readers since the 16th century. In the 1990s, the rise of email started the modern eNewsletter and delivery of curated content to inboxes. While email newsletters have been around a long time, they are still as effective as ever. In fact, eNewsletters have experienced a resurgence in recent years as customers increasingly look to personalized communications and relevant information from the brands they trust.
In Questline’s Plugged In webinar, “The Resurgence of eNewsletters and What It Means for Your Utility,” Bethany Farchione and Ashley Guttuso shared best practices to help your energy utility’s eNewsletter stand out from the rest.
eNewsletters: The No.-1 customer engagement tool
In recent years, there has been a resurgence in eNewsletter popularity. Today’s digital landscape has transformed into a “creator economy” with over 50 million independent content creators, curators and community builders (i.e. social media influencers). With this shift, consumers are looking for useful information and a little bit of personality from the brands they know and love.
A powerful customer engagement tool, eNewsletters help turn one-time or prospective customers into repeat buyers or clients. For energy utilities in particular, eNewsletters are a consistent touchpoint that builds loyalty and stronger customer relationships over time.
“eNewsletters provide energy utilities with the ability to send information directly to a particular audience and deliver value over time to make a good impression,” said Ashley Guttuso, Director of Marketing at Simple Focus. “Through regular eNewsletter touchpoints, customers begin to trust your brand when they want to make a purchasing decision.”
Your customers want curated content
Customers appreciate that eNewsletter content is delivered directly to them based on their unique needs and interests — compared to being bombarded with content on social media that isn’t relevant. In fact, eNewsletters have 40 times the effectiveness of social media.
A successful eNewsletter can also help your energy utility achieve greater engagement with other types of communications. According to Questline’s Energy Utility Benchmarks Report, eNewsletter subscribers open promotional emails at a 16% higher rate. “If your newsletter content continually helps your readers, they’ll be more receptive to future promotional content,” noted Bethany Farchione, Marketing Director of Questline. “Quality editorial content earns brands the right to be promotional.”
While eNewsletters are a welcomed and popular form of customer communications, not all eNewsletters are created equal. To be successful and benefit from this resurgence in popularity, energy utility marketers need to think of their eNewsletters as editorial products or publications.
Here are 7 best practices to create a great eNewsletter for your energy utility customers:
- Position your newsletter like a product: Inbox attention is hard to get and keep. Think about what content would be most valuable to your audience and what your competitive advantage will be. Farchione and Guttuso recommend creating an experience for your readers that becomes a part of their routine. Figure out how to differentiate your eNewsletter from the competition — perhaps it will have a different voice or a unique format such as a top 10 list.
- Create an opt-in experience that works for your customers: An important aspect of your eNewsletter is deciding if a double or single opt-in is best. For example, in a double opt-in approach, after a customer signs up for an eNewsletter they receive another email asking them to confirm that they want to subscribe. According to Guttuso, your energy utility may want to consider mixing both opt-ins, which the experts at Litmus do.
- Stop focusing on the ideal length and readability: There is varying data on the best format and length — that’s why you should focus on readability, not word count. Your eNewsletter should have short sentences and paragraphs for easy reading on mobile devices. Use bulleted lists, bold headlines and line breaks to make your content skimmable. Your customers are accustomed to scrolling on their phones, so they are willing to go deeper in your emails, Guttuso noted.
- Use a combination of curated and original content: Content development is a time-intensive task. In fact, blog articles can take an average of three weeks to write. Consider working with partners to curate quality content for you, and don’t be afraid to share links to credible sources. Think of your energy utility as a curator of the best industry news and advice for your subscribers.
- Talk like this isn’t the first time you two have met: Think about the inbox experience and what your energy utility can do to make it feel more like a message from a friend, not a company. This might include using an individual’s name as the sender (versus just your company name). For example, your key accounts eNewsletter could include a personalized message from an account manager that works with these business customers. This approach is refreshing for customers, as they want the companies they interact with to show personality.
- Make the content engaging: Your eNewsletter content should include a mix of imagery, articles, infographics and videos. Quality visuals increase engagement, and videos always perform well compared to other types of content. According to Questline Benchmarks data, there were 90,000+ video views from eNewsletters in 2020 and customers spend an average of 96.3 seconds on each video. Questline’s research has found that residential and small business customers prefer quick-hitting, skimmable content, while key accounts customers gravitate to more technical, in-depth articles.
- Use a simplistic design: Design is more important than ever before. More than 40% of emails are opened on mobile devices, so readability on small screens is key. Keep the number of sections in your eNewsletter to under five with one main idea. Your eNewsletter should feature high-quality images and a simple design that is great for scrolling.
eNewsletter sends and segmentation
To maximize engagement, it’s important to be consistent with your eNewsletter by sending on a regular cadence (weekly, monthly, etc.). Remember, if you’re delivering valuable content to your customers, frequency is not a nuisance. For a majority of energy utilities, a monthly send is both effective and manageable.
Farchione and Guttuso also suggested segmenting your eNewsletter based on audience interests. For example, AEP Ohio increased their business eNewsletter engagement by 84% through segmentation. The energy utility segmented their general eNewsletter by multiple industries, including healthcare, education and manufacturing, to achieve success.
Every successful eNewsletter has a mix of these best practices. Think of your energy utility’s eNewsletter in an editorial approach to serve your audience. Perhaps you’re providing helpful advice that customers can use in their daily lives, or you’re curating the best industry news they need to know.
According to Guttuso, eNewsletters that fail have one thing in common — they are focused on the company, not the people receiving them. For your eNewsletter to be a success, focus on creating high-quality content that customers can’t wait to receive in their inboxes.