Brands can increase reader engagement, improve clickthrough rates and provide additional information-gathering opportunities by making their newsletter interactive. Unlike one-way static content that talks “at” customers or employees, an interactive online newsletter uses two-way communications. The keys to creating effective interactive email newsletter content lie in following best practice guidelines and focusing on relevance.

Getting Started on an Online Newsletter

Start by creating the main newsletter content. As with any email newsletter —interactive or not — the message is the most important element. Choose an e-mail newsletter template appropriate for your message and target audience. If you don’t have design and coding experience, choose a ready-made, customizable template available from your e-mail or autoresponder service. Look for a template with interactive email code options, such as a clickable table of contents for long newsletters. Also important are header, footer and sidebar widget areas for adding interactive content.

For most companies, the easiest way to create interactive newsletters is to use programs that make it easy to add HTML and CSS to emails. These programs and services include:

  • FreshInbox
  • MailChimp
  • Email Monks

Choose interactive content that links to specific newsletter goals. While an overall strategy might be to provide — or get — relevant information, establish trust and build strong relationships, not every email newsletter you send will focus on accomplishing each of these goals to the same degree.

The interactive content you include in each newsletter should help you achieve specific goals instead of distracting or annoying your readers. For example, include buttons or hyperlinks users can click to get more information, and incorporate polls, surveys or contests into newsletters focused on gathering information.

Choice and Placement of Newsletter Interactive Elements

Avoid confusing your readers by overloading a newsletter with too much interactive email code, which can make slower computers lag. Also, make sure the items you include relate to the topic.

For example, for a newsletter focusing on “how-to”, include an instructional video that pertains to the main newsletter content. Insert a clickable calendar of events in a left sidebar or right sidebar that readers can use for finding out about — and sign up for —other instructional webinars. Include a call-to-action, such as a link to a related promotional offer, in a sidebar or in the footer area of the newsletter.

Get and Provide Information

Use interactive email code to engage readers and satisfy their curiosity when requesting information from your customers by letting them see in real-time how others are answering questions. For example, add a button that readers can click to view survey results or find out how their peers are doing in answering sample test questions.

Consider offering a free prize, such as a money-saving coupon or a free e-book, that readers can get after answering consumer research questions. A common way to do this is to include a link that activates when the reader finishes a survey and clicks the “Submit” button.