In today’s climate of social distancing, it is more important than ever to keep your customer base updated with your activities. They want to know what is going on with you and your business.
Expectations have to change to accommodate for social changes and the fact that this year has been different than any other and next year could be too.
To keep up with all of this, there is no better time than the present to develop an email newsletter as part of your garden center or greenhouse marketing. Some of you are probably thinking,
“I have done this for years, moving on.”
However, the media and the way it is presented is constantly evolving. Have a read through the process and our tips to get started or to optimize the branding you have already established.
What is an Email Newsletter?
Understanding what an email newsletter is and the overarching goal for it will help you to keep each message on track with the aim.
An email newsletter is a cost-effective messaging system that many brands and companies use to communicate with their consistent customer base.
On average, email generates $38 on each $1 spent. That results in 2,800% ROI, keeping it one of the most effective marketing communications options available. (Hubspot, 2020)
As an example, let’s say that instead of a greenhouse or garden center, you were the popular athletic brand, Nike.
Their newsletter contains helpful information regarding athletics and fitness in the form of factoids or links to articles. They will also display some of their new products or give you sneak peeks at new ones. Often, a new deal or coupon is available inside as well, giving their customer base a feeling of belonging to an elite group.
The Purpose of an Email Newsletter
As a greenhouse or another garden-related business, you can take a similar approach to Nike, although your messages can be more personal.
Most of these businesses are family-owned. You have the opportunity to identify with your customer base on a familial level, which not only feels good but also increases brand loyalty.
A good newsletter shouldn’t read like a Christmas card.
It doesn’t need to be a business update, or at least not every time. Instead, use it to let people know the products you have on hand, get people to take action by coming in or ordering online, and establish yourself as a solid knowledge base.
That is important in a field like gardening since most customers will have extensive questions and they want to know you know what you are talking about when you answer.
Design Your Email Newsletter
Let’s start at the very beginning, designing your email newsletter. If you have already got a basis for this, skim through the headings to see if there are any methods of optimization you haven’t used yet. Continue reading if you want tips for how to write and structure individual newsletters after the design is complete.
1. Choose a Design Program
There are plenty of design options available on the internet. Some of the basic ones, or their basic plans, will let you use them for free. If you want to go the whole nine yards right away or feel proficient with graphic design, try setting something up in Adobe Photoshop.
Some other online tools for developing newsletters include:
There are more if none of these is offering what you are looking for in a design program. Each of them will offer different packages from free to premium depending on the kind of support you want and the design elements you can incorporate.
2. Set the Size and Dimensions
Remember that whatever program you choose to design your email newsletter with, it won’t automatically set it to the size that it needs to be. Instead, you might send out a perfect looking email that is incredibly blown out of proportion on someone’s email preview screen.
You need to accommodate for this, primarily in width since the height of an email can be unlimited without distorting the overall design. You should adjust the width so that it is between 550 to 600 pixels. The average preview pane extends between 300 and 500 pixels vertically, so try to put your most interesting or important information here.
If you don’t adjust for this width, the email provider will often do it for you, resulting in an extended horizontal scrolling bar or significant distortion.
Additionally, keep in mind that people don’t have incredibly long attention spans. Often, they scan through an email to evaluate its interest before reading, and if it goes on forever, they are more likely to delete it before reading anything.
As a rule, you shouldn’t make an email that extends longer than it takes for someone to scroll for one second.
So although you can make it as long as you want and keep your design intact, you shouldn’t for optimization’s sake.
3. Match It to Previous Branding
From here, you will be able to select from the available templates and design orientations they provide. You can also start from scratch on most of these if you want the chance to completely customize it yourself.
Whether you decide on a template or select a color scheme individually, you need to match it with the previous branding that you have done. If you have specific colors you use on your website or other correspondence, try to incorporate them into your email design.
Using a similar branding design keeps it clear to your audience who you are if they have associated you with specific symbols or colors in the past. You want to be recognizable.
4. Give It a Name
Developing a name for your newsletter is often one of the most fun aspects. You can be as creative as you like, keeping in mind that it should still make sense when applied to your niche. It confuses people if you call a newsletter for a gardening center something like “Jeweled Digest” unless it is already directly associated with your brand.
Experiment with how they look at the top of your newsletter. If you already have a blog, consider keeping it named along with the same tone.
For example, if your blog is named “Garden Treasures,” then you might want your email newsletter to be something like “Garden Tidbits” or “Tiny Green Treasures.”
5. Enhance Viewability and Test It Out
Use a standard font, such as Myriad Pro or Times New Roman, to add a message at the very top of the newsletter. It should say something like: “Email not displaying correctly? View it in your browser.”
You need to allow people plenty of options for how they can view your email newsletter. That way, if their email provider doesn’t support your images or template, they are easily encouraged to go another route with it.
To ensure that it will turn out correctly, test your first couple of emails out in a variety of browsers. If possible, try them by sending them to email addresses from several common providers to see exactly how they will turn out for your recipients.
6. Keep Yourself Accessible
Somewhere highly viewable within your email newsletter you need to put in obvious links to your social media accounts and common points of contact. The more ways that someone is interacting with your business, the higher likelihood they will see your updates and make more purchases or visits.
Some of the best places to put your social media widgets and phone numbers are right at the beginning of an email newsletter, slightly to the left or right, or at the end.
Put it in the end only if it is shorter. A long email newsletter gives you less likelihood that a visitor scanning quickly will see the widgets and even select them.
7. Create an Email Popup
The final task in your initial design phase is to put in an email popup box when someone visits your website. Look at your analytics to figure out how long the average time is that someone spends on your website and then cue the popup to register at about 50-60% of this time.
Keep the popup to the point, giving it a clear call to action that invites people in. Do not overload it with information, words, or images. That quickly overwhelms someone in an already semi-surprising moment as something pops into the screen in front of you.
Writing Each Email Newsletter
Now that you have got the email newsletter designed, you are ready to start plugging in content. Develop a schedule for how often you want to send out your newsletter. For most businesses in the greenhouse industry, once a month throughout most of the year will probably cut it.
You can also increase your frequency during the prime season for your business, starting to pick it up about a month before to get people excited for the opening or to get into their gardens again. For some larger businesses, that will not be as applicable.
Otherwise, how do you develop a unique newsletter each time? Where do you put content in and how can you make it cohesive? Follow these steps to get a solid start each time you sit down at the desk.
1. Define the Goal of Your Next Newsletter
Although you have an overarching goal for what your newsletter should accomplish, each newsletter should have its own goal. It could be:
- Communicate a specific idea
- Focus on a new tidbit of knowledge or a piece of content
- Highlight a distinct product
Before you begin with the body of the content, set this goal. It will keep all of the material you include to follow each other cohesively. Otherwise, it can seem like a jumble of information and product choices, more like spam than something that can enrich their experience of your business.
2. Find or Create Content that Fits
Once the goal is developed, figure out what content you can use that will fit. The amount and depth of content you curate for each email will depend on the template. Some people will only need a paragraph of interesting or applicable information. Others might want to base the newsletter around a specific blog post.
3. Personalize It
Don’t forget to make it personally applicable. There are many family-owned businesses in the greenhouse market. You want to bring them in, inviting them into the folds of the family. It will help to continuously establish brand loyalty, even outside of the prime season.
4. Add Different Products
If you have online sales, then put in some of your more exciting products. Create a specific section for this so that people can see them easily and click on the link if interested.
If you don’t do online sales, you can still highlight products that you have recently gotten into the shop or those that you plan on having next season. Feature beautiful plants or tools with high-resolution photos as a simplistic way to approach it.
5. Write a Catchy Subject Line
One of the most significant aspects of the entire email is the subject line. You need to take the time to think of something catchy and significant. Some people even use emojis to catch someone’s eye, although they can also look spammy so be careful.
Catchy subject lines lead 33% of email recipients to open emails. (OptinMonster, 2020)
If you don’t have a catchy subject line, your emails could even be marked as spam. Ensure that it looks clear cut, fun, and professional, or some mix of these, so that the emails ever after don’t go into a spam folder.
6. Check the Plain Text Version
Now that your template is ready and you have inserted all of the appropriate information and images, your email newsletter is almost ready to go.
However, you need to acquaint yourself with the alt text and plain text versions your email could display if not loaded correctly.
Alt text: The text that appears when one of your pictures hasn’t loaded properly, primarily due to not being supported by the email provider.
Plain text: Some email providers do not display HTML and will only show the email in plain text. Ensure that it still looks great like this and that your links are still accessible.
7. Ensure Your Legal Compliance
Finally, there are the legalities of all of this, inescapable considerations on any medium. The two that you need to be the most attentive to are CAN-SPAM and GDPR.
CAN-SPAM: A requirement that needs you to include a footer with your address and an easy way to unsubscribe from your emails.
GDPR: Applicable in Europe and means that you can only send newsletters to people who have opted in for them.
For the most part, these are easily done, especially since you won’t typically want to force yourself on anyone anyway.
After you send that first email, you aren’t done. Now you need to analyze it and those that come after. Wait for it to be received and for most people to get the chance to look at it before beginning. To measure the effectiveness, you can look at: which part received the most clicks and what aspects led to the most interaction with your business.
These metrics give you a better idea of what you can improve on in the future. Are there parts that you need to make more appealing to encourage more clicks? Is there information you include that your customer base simply isn’t resonating with?
Although you can follow each one of these steps yourself, a company like Bloom can make it more streamlined to develop and grow your email newsletter. As a team of experienced digital marketers, they are ready to use their abilities and grow interested in your brand and its following. For more garden center marketing ideas, view our article of 19 creative ideas,
Amanda Williams is a freelance writer that specializes in topics on gardening and online marketing. As a graduate with an honors degree in Horticulture and experience working in greenhouses, she understands the marketing challenges within the plant production industry. She has a background in content marketing, which she uses to help small businesses and enterprises enhance their advertising schemes. Find her work at clearvoice.com/cv/AmandaWilliams3.