By the time you have finished reading this sentence, I will only have 3 more seconds to keep you engaged and wanting to read more than these 30 words. 3. 2. 1…

The average email is read only for 11 seconds. Within the span of 30-100 words, the reader has generally disengaged and moved on to the next one. With the average adult receiving well over 120 emails per day, it is hard not to imagine someone losing interest quickly before continuing on to the rest of their endless inbox. “333.2 billion emails are sent and received daily,” says Ian Blagojevic of 99Firms. “The daily volume of sent and received emails has been steadily rising over the years, and in 2022, the figure exceeded the 333-billion mark. Along with the rise of the number of email users worldwide, it's poised to reach 376.4 billion in 2025.”

With all of the noise of hundreds of emails piling in your inbox daily, how is any relevant information able to be shared? And, with projections trending towards even more flooded inboxes, will we no longer want information emailed from even our most favorite companies? In his book, The Marketing Rebellion, Mark Shaefer discusses the concept of the “cycle of annoyance,” which is the never-ending inundation of emails and calls from a company that someone has interacted with previously. He worries that a reactionary response to the deluge of email has already begun, warning marketers that “the world is far too competitive to embrace marketing technology that forces people into rebellion.”

Since spam is cluttering our digital mailboxes, it is no wonder that marketers spanning all industries are wondering if the emailed newsletter is a dying communication form.

The fascinating history of the newsletter can be traced back to ancient cultures, from the Roman Empire to China’s Tang Dynasty. In Mesopotamian Babylon, merchants used clay tablets to advertise their wares. In the United States, the paper newsletter can be traced back to April 24, 1704, when The Boston News Letter, a single-sheet weekly publication, was delivered around the American Colonies with news from England. Over the millenia, as technology advanced, newsletters became digitized. In 1977, the first spam message was sent by Gary Thuerk of Digital Equipment Corporation to 400 recipients – an action that predated the internet!

Since then, the email newsletter has become an essential part of marketing, but a variety of factors may mean that this form of communication is becoming increasingly difficult to sustain.

To understand how to use e-newsletters to your company’s advantage, let’s start with the concept of an email marketing campaign. MailChimp describes it as “a series of marketing efforts that are sent via email to multiple people at once. The goal of an email campaign is to entice the recipients to purchase a product or service or to learn more about the business. An email campaign will contain valuable information that is intended specifically for the recipient.” A newsletter can be an important strategy in this campaign. “An email newsletter is basically an email used in a marketing campaign. It contains important news and updates to make your audience aware of your brand or products and other significant information. It's a cost-effective medium used to boost business,” shares Forbes Councils member Karan Sharma.

As a thought experiment, let’s say you are the marketing director at a small, local theatre company who is nearly ready to open an upcoming production. Your email marketing campaign may have several strategies in order to sell tickets, like a promotional 2-for-1 deal, or playing to audience engagement by teasing that the production will be working with the local philharmonic. You might want to send out a newsletter as another strategy in the campaign. E-newsletters can  target specific customers who will likely be interested in more information about the production. In creating an e-newsletter, there are two metrics to understand pertaining to engagement:

●      The open rate, which currently averages 21.33% across all markets.

●      The click-through rate or CTR, which averages 2.62% across all markets.

These rates of engagement may seem low but, as of September 29, 2021, Litmus found that for every $1 a company spent on email marketing, they can expect to see a $36 return on investment (ROI), or a ratio of 36:1.

To compare, a standard goal for businesses concerning ROI, is a 5:1 ratio. Other avenues of marketing are not as effective as an e-newsletter. Search engine optimization has an ROI ratio of 22:1, pay-per-click marketing stands at 2:1 ROI, and social media marketing has an ROI ratio of only 19:20. This data shows that while newsletters have low open rates and CTRs, they are far more effective than other mediums at turning a click into a sale. If you can raise the CTR for your theatre company’s e-newsletters, your ROI will grow in direct correlation; but, how do you grow your CTR rate?

The key to increasing ROI lies in growing the subscription numbers to your newsletter. “People who join your email list are expressing their interest in your brand simply by subscribing,” shares Dave from The MailBakery blog. “They’ve made it clear with an opt-in that they would love to receive information on sales, blog posts, and any other new developments for your brand.”

Updating your e-newsletter strategies will help ensure a growing subscriber base, creating higher CTR engagement. Here are some points to consider:

Consistency equals growth

“If your goal is to capture ongoing attention from an audience, it will be infinitely more difficult if you publish on a sporadic basis. There’s a reason TV series stick to a schedule and don’t randomly broadcast episodes.” Josh Spector shares with Medium. “People can’t develop habits without consistency. The ultimate key to growing your newsletter audience comes when you can turn its consumption into a habit for readers.”

In a poll by MarketingSherpa, over 2,000 people were asked the question: how often, if ever, would you like to receive emails (e.g. coupons, sales notifications) from companies that you do business with? 61% of the people responded that they would like a weekly marketing email.

Invest in online tools to help with marketing time management

In a 2017 study done by Econsultancy, the average marketing newsletter takes 10 hours to craft from scratch. You can cut down your active marketing work time substantially by using apps with high deliverability rates, such as ConstantContact or MailChimp.

Link your social media in the newsletter

There are over 4.26 billion people with a social media account, and there are 4.26 billion people with email addresses, so linking your social media and your emailed newsletter creates cross-platform exchanges of information.

Jerren Gan, a writer for Medium, says, “by mastering the use of social media, you’re effectively creating a super highway where your content is able to go. With a piece of quality content, one quick 5-min post can reach thousands of people easily (even if they are not directly following you). At the same time, you get to receive feedback instantaneously.”

Cross-promote your e-newsletter with other newsletters from similar organizations

To illustrate this key point, let’s return to the thought experiment earlier: your theatre company is partnering with the local philharmonic for your upcoming show. Perhaps the orchestra has its own following of art lovers who would be interested in learning more about your theatre company!

The promotion I’ve given other newsletter creators has led many of them to return the favor and promote my newsletter to their audiences, which has been a great way to get free exposure and attract new subscribers,” Josh Spector shares in a different Medium article.

Be brief

Dave Charest contributes the following from ConstantContact:

“You should follow a simple, persuasive formula for the content you’re writing by answering the following questions:

  1. What are you offering? – This is your headline.
  2. How will it help the reader? – This is your body copy.
  3. What should they do next? – This is your call to action.”

Remember, if your audience is likely to lose engagement with your e-newsletter after 11 seconds, editing your content down to the necessary information is imperative.

By updating these e-newsletter methods in your email marketing campaign, you will likely see your subscriber base grow. The bigger your subscriber base, the higher CTR you will experience. The higher CTR, the more engagement with ticketing sales occurs. The more tickets you sell, the more income you will generate to support your organization.

Liz Gray is a graduate student in the MFA in Theatre in Arts Leadership program at Virginia Tech.