You've seen them all the time and you've probably sent them as well if you've found this post. The infamous "look at what we released to you" email. The only problem is, 90% of these probably never get read. This is how you get your users to actually read them. This post targets a financial enterprise user base (supporting Front Office users especially), but most tips can be applied anywhere.
1. Make the announcement appear to be the farthest thing from a form letter as humanely possible.
Users are busy people. The minute an email comes across looking like a form letter with multiple product updates or announcements from the company, it's generally deleted immediately. It doesn't have to be this way. If you craft your letter to appear more personal in nature, and leave the logos, other news, etc. behind, your success rate increases dramatically. Sure, you may have to send five emails instead of one announcing your product updates to different user bases, but at least they will read them. (WIIFM all the way)
2. Keep it short! (Brevity is your friend)
Describe exactly what your enhancement or fix is, and how it impacts your specific user base directly. Afterwards, re-read the announcement and cut it in half, maybe in 1/3. Then, bold the sentence that answers the questions of "What is the greatest benefit to me here", or highlight the answer to the one question that your users may ask after your email such as "Did you just delete all of my contacts?" Answer "No contacts were deleted from the system". Offering that pre-emptive security blanket helps stop an influx of nervous user emails.
3. Pictures! (Who doesn't love a good screenshot)
Nothing gets users hooked in like a nice screenshot. Don't be afraid to mark it up, highlight where buttons / features are. Keep it brief, clear, and try to keep it to just one screenshot.
4. Gratitude! Always thank the users for their continuous feedback (good and bad).
It's important to keep that open channel of communication going to help drive adoption, continued usage, and a trusted feedback loop. I always receive emails back on my product announcements asking about this or that functionality. It's just another way to maintain a friendly and open dialogue.
How do you choose to communicate to your users?
Please feel free to share your experiences below!