Although design and layout are important, don't get worked up about the overall aesthetic appeal of your newsletter. It is important to maintain consistency of your brand across all communication medium but higher priority should be given to the size of the e-mail. Most prospects will provide their work e-mail id, majority of which are run on Microsoft Outlook Client. To avoid getting infected with viruses, system administrators will set rules to filter your e-mails, mostly based on size.
Design can influence delivery of your message, so keep that in mind while creating templates. Use a minimalist template (maintaining your brand identity) and provide a link to view your newsletter on a browser (most E-Mail Newsletter clients have that feature by default). Layout is more important. The rules of web page engagement also apply to Newsletters. Your most important links and messages should be provided on the top half (‘Above the fold') of the mail.
Another factor that influence open rate is the time of delivery. There are no hard and fast rules your prospects are more likely to open the e-mail during three intervals:
a) Morning - Before they start their meetings or create their daily to do list
b) Afternoon - Before lunch and just after lunch
c) Evening - Coffee Breaks and On Reaching Home
When it comes to Open Rates on days of the week, Tuesdays and Thursdays tend to perform better.
I have tried to generalize the whole process but in actuality, you have to test a lot to find the time that gives you optimum open rate. E-Mail Newsletter Clients have split testing options to test e-mail open rate based on delivery day and time. There are a lot of testing involved and I would recommend tracking them judiciously.
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