10 Tips For Creating Better Newsletters
A few small improvements can make your newsletters a lot more valuable.
Writing a newsletter is one of the most effective forms of marketing available, for one simple reason - you already have an audience who are interested in the subject you're talking about.
And that, right there, is half the battle.
Presuming, that is, that your audience list has been built organically, from a legitimate source? If you’ve bought a mailing list, then the following steps simply won't be as effective.
Either way, here are some easy wins for creating more valuable newsletters.
Step 1 - The power of routine
While technology may be changing around us at fiber-optic speed, people haven’t actually changed that much in the last few thousand years.
We are still creatures of habit. We still feel comfortable when we have a routine - and the goal of every digital newsletter is to become something that your audience makes part of their routine.
People may not actively look forward to your newsletter sliding into their inbox at 4pm on the 23rd of every month - but they will be happy when they see it there.
You might also want to consider weekly, bi-weekly, bi-monthly, quarterly or even an annual newsletter, depending on your business, your audience and how much time you have to spend on putting a newsletter together.
Generally speaking, quality is more important than quantity - so a few, really well-thought-out newsletters will always perform better than lots of less-interesting newsletters.
However often you choose to reach out to them, try to keep it regular. So that your message to them becomes part of their routine.
Tip 1 - Always try to be consistent, and resist the urge to reach out to your audience too often.
Step 2 - Think about how you approach your audience
It doesn’t matter if you have a mailing list of 10 people, or 10 thousand. The way you approach them should always be the same - as if you were speaking to them, and only them, directly.
That’s because everyone who reads your newsletter will be by themselves. They might be on their phone at the bus stop, or on a tablet in the bath, or on a laptop on the sofa - or even in a traffic jam in the car.
The point is that they have no idea how many other people are reading this newsletter - and frankly, they don’t care.
One technique for perfecting this approach is to pretend one of your readers is sitting in front of you. How would you talk to them? What would you say?
Try to write the way you speak. You’ll find it comes across as more human and natural than using a bunch of jargon-laced corporate speak.
Tip 2 - Always write to your newsletter audience directly. Don’t refer to them as a group. Connect with them as individuals by speaking to them as people.
Step 3 - Remember that they’ve signed up, because they’re interested
One of the stupidest pieces of advice you get from people telling you how to write newsletters is that your subject line needs to YELL to get attention.
According to this top-ranked guide - “Your newsletter literally needs to scream READ ME FIRST".
No. No it doesn’t. In fact, if it does, you can pretty much guarantee it won’t be read. Ever.
A far better approach is to consider why these people have signed up for your newsletter, because they’re interested in your business - or the industry your business operates in. That’s what you base your subject line on.
Here are some examples:
From: House of Terrariums
Subject: New Terrarium styles - fresh off the plane from Vietnam
From: Wellington Antique Auction House
Subject: This month’s most interesting antiques
From: Kippie Fried Chicken
Subject: New month. New fried chicken flavours
None of these subject lines are particularly witty, and with a little bit of effort, I’m sure you can do much better - however the important part here is be interesting, not desperate.
Tip 3 - People, generally speaking, read things that interest them. If they’re interested in what you’re writing about, they might read it. If they’re not, they won't. Yelling “READ ME FIRST” wont change that.
Step 4 - Think bigger
Now we’re getting into the actual content of the newsletter. The really important part. So what we need to do here is expand our horizons a little bit.
First of all, think about why your audience has signed up in the first place - because they are interested in a subject or topic. It could be subtropical orchids. It could be football. It could be building customer loyalty.
Whatever the subject is, as someone sending out a newsletter, you want to be seen as an authority - and the best way to do that is to demonstrate your knowledge.
Here are some easy subjects to include in your newsletter to demonstrate your knowledge:
- Relevant global news stories
- Relevant interviews with other authority figures
- Facts and details about the subject.
So, if we are going to use the subtropical orchid industry, we might include:
- News story about a new species of orchid discovered in Borneo
- An interview with renowned orchid expert, Priti Petal
- 5 signs that your orchids might need more nitrogen
The great thing about using this approach is that you don’t need to create any of this content - simply provide links to existing content.
Tip 4 - Portray yourself as an authority on your subject by providing links to other interesting news stories and interviews in your newsletter. Your audience will appreciate it.
Step 5 - You want it to feel like a Newsletter - not a Sales-letter
People inherently know when they are being sold to - and there is definitely a time and place for selling - however a newsletter is usually not the place.
Your newsletter is an opportunity to connect with people on a deeper level - forming a closer bond with them through the shared interest of a certain subject.
Obviously you’re running a business, and these are potential customers, so you’re going to want to mention products and special offers - but in a newsletter, you want to try and include this information as news, rather than ads.
If stocks are running low of a particular product, then tell people that if they don’t buy soon, they might miss out. But resist the urge to say things like ‘Last chance. Click here NOW’.
By providing your audience with news and information, instead of sales messages, you are creating a scenario where they will come to you when they are ready to buy. They are also more likely to respond to actual sales-letters that you send them.
Tip 5 - Resist the urge to include sales pitches in your newsletter. Keep the language conversational and when you do refer to products and services, do so in a matter-of-fact way, rather than using strong sales language.
Step 6 - Find an interesting angle for everyday items
As we’ve already established, your audience have subscribed to your newsletter because they find your store, your products or your industry interesting. They might not all be about to purchase something - but they do want to know more.
So the challenge for you here is to look at your products, your suppliers, your store, and all aspects of your business from a different angle - and then position them in an interesting light.
One technique for doing this is to look at a product or a service, and ask yourself why?
You might ask yourself why this particular cat food only suitable for kittens? It turns out that kittens have faster metabolisms, so they process certain minerals quicker, meaning they get more nutrition from this formula than adult cats.
Personally, I don’t find anything in that paragraph interesting - but if I was a vet, or an avid cat lover, I might find it fascinating.
Tip 6 - Question everything. Ask yourself why things are the way they are? Or what might happen if you do something unexpected? Or where a certain ingredient comes from. The answers are likely to lead to interesting content for your newsletter
Step 7 - Don’t be afraid to write longer entries. But not too long.
There is a particular mindset these days, that we all live incredibly busy lives, and nobody has any time to read anything.
Another version of this is that due to new media formats like Facebook and Twitter, combined with distractions like smart phones, people have incredibly short attention spans.
While these points-of-view aren’t necessarily wrong - they are gross misrepresentations.
A more realistic point-of-view would be that we have so many more communication channels open to us, the quality of content has been so diluted, that it’s harder for people to find things that genuinely interest them.
And that’s where your newsletter comes in. You want your newsletter to become something that your audience enjoys - and even looks forward to. So don't be afraid to explain certain subjects in-depth.
Tip 7 - Don’t be afraid to write longer entries for your newsletter. If people are interested in the subject and the content, not only will they read all of it, but they might genuinely enjoy it.
Step 8 - Give yourself time
The key to writing anything - especially something you want people to find interesting - is to give yourself time. That doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot of time on it, but more that you give yourself time while working on it.
Spending half-an-hour each day, for 5 days, will produce something much more interesting than a single 2-hour session the day before.
There are a few reasons for this. First of all, by starting it 5 days before you’re going to send it, you will be writing without the pressure of a deadline hanging over you.
Secondly, your subconscious will be thinking about the newsletter even while you are doing other things, so when you do sit down to write, you’ll find it much easier to produce interesting angles.
Finally, by spreading it out over a week, you can share what you’ve written with other people that you trust, and ask them for their feedback - and then apply it to what you’ve written. This step is very important, because even the world’s greatest writers need a second opinion and a different perspective.
Tip 8 - Give yourself time to write your newsletter. Start writing it 5-days before you want to send it, and spend 30-minutes to an hour on each day. You’ll find this technique means less pressure, better writing, and lets you get feedback from people you trust.
Step 9 - Give your audience a voice
Most people see newsletters as one-way communication. Something that is created and sent - with links to external sources and the company website or webshop.
Newsletters can also be used to generate responses from your audience, which can help build a deeper connection, or provide really valuable information for your business.
One simple technique you could try is to ask people questions and invite them to reply with an answer. For example, let’s say your business has adopted a new pet canary, who will live in the store. You could name it yourself, and introduce it to everyone in your newsletter.
Or, you could tell everyone you have a new canary, and ask them to suggest names by replying to the newsletter. By asking your audience for suggestions, you’re demonstrating that you see them as people, not just customers.
Another technique is to put together a quick survey, and ask your audience to fill it out. In the survey, you can ask questions about what products they like, and what products or styles they wish you stocked. This data can then guide your future purchasing decisions.
Tip 9 - Always look for different opportunities to interact with your audience. Ask them questions, and provide them with surveys, so that they feel part of your company, and that their opinions are valued.
Step 10 - Make it easy for people to unsubscribe
Sometimes people just don't want to pick up what you’re putting down. When this happens, make sure your ‘Unsubscribe’ button is obvious and as simple as possible. Ideally, just one click.
Who knows, they might change their minds later, and you want them to have a positive picture in their mind.
By making the ‘Unsubscribe’ button hard to find, and then demanding they fill in 20 fields of data to finish the process - you’re just going to annoy people, and ensure they never, ever think of your company again.
Tip 10 - Make unsubscribing to your newsletter as easy as possible. Making it difficult for people will have an even more negative effect.
So there you have it. Good luck with your newsletter writing.
To take your newsletters to the next level, you might want to consider looking at signing up to a digital loyalty platform. Ideally one that collects data automatically, allowing you to build a customer database, while also providing you with templates and email editors that help you create newsletters that perfectly represent your company.