I’m willing to bet that you’ve signed up for an e-newsletter or two in the past. I’m also willing to bet that you’ve unsubscribed from an e-newsletter or two. It’s probably not surprising to you, then, to find out that most people unsubscribe from e-newsletters for one of the following reasons:
- Too many emails!
- Too salesy!
- Boring content
- And the worst - all of the above
It’s pretty easy to figure out what we don’t like from company newsletters, but determining how to write a newsletter that people want to read can be a little trickier.
And if you’re guilty of sending newsletters that your recipients want to unsubscribe from, don’t worry. By the end of this post, you’ll know what to do to change your newsletter from awful to awesome.
Let’s start with the subject line of your email - you already know a good subject line is important. With a newsletter, there are two basic approaches to the email subject line:
- Use a similar subject each time - subscribers will know what it is and open it to get all of your fantastic content.
- Make it something intriguing, interesting, and informative - give subscribers enough to pique their curiosity and want to find out what's inside.
I recommend the second option. For starters, it’s more fun and enables you to give your newsletter (and brand) some personality before getting to the good stuff.
Build brand recognition
You want to quickly and clearly let your subscribers know who the newsletter is coming from. With the ability to check email on our phones, being recognized as something a subscriber wants to receive is important. Without instant recognition, your email could be deleted with a simple tap or swipe of the finger.
There are two important places you want to include your company’s branding:
- As the sender of the email.
- At the header or top of the email message.
As your newsletter’s reputation grows as a quality source of information, you’ll be able to rely on the branding information to get the subscriber’s attention, which is a good “back up” if you didn’t nail the subject line.
You’ve won the open - what’s next?
Your reputation and unique subject line caused the desired effect - the subscriber opened your email. What you do next can make or break the rest of their interaction with your newsletter.
Keep the momentum going and make the first thing they see not only grab their attention, but hold on to it.
What do people see first? Images and headlines.
Writing a headline
Headlines can be a challenge to write. While I’m mentioning them first in this article, you may find it works better for you if you write your newsletter article before choosing a headline.
Alternately, writing a headline first can help you maintain your focus when it comes to writing your article. Whether you craft your headline before, during, or after the article writing process is not as important as the wording of the headline.
Subscribers quickly decide whether they want to read an article based on the headline. So you want to provide enough information to let the reader know what the following article is about in an interesting way that makes them want to move on to the content.
A good headline can go hand-in-hand with the perfect image. Every newsletter needs an image or two to help break up content or the wall of text will drive readers away.
You’ve undoubtedly heard the phrase that a picture is worth a thousand words. So choose an image that is relevant to your main article and that works with the headline to encourage your readers to read on.
Another note about images - always remember to include alt text. This is the text that gets displayed when an email provider doesn’t automatically load images. It gives the reader a quick description of what the image should be, and can also be very important if your main call to action is an image.
Creating newsletter body content
Remember that catchy headline you just wrote? Keep your readers engaged by following up with interesting content.
Try to focus your newsletter on one main topic, theme or thread. If your newsletter is made up of multiple articles, a main topic can help tie them together, and gives the reader a more meaningful experience.
Rather than jumping around between different topics, a centralized theme can actually get your readers more engaged and more likely to follow through on any calls to action you have within the newsletter.
What should you write your articles about?
That depends on your business and your readers - but the one thing you don’t want to do is write exclusively about yourself and your products or services. Being overly sold to is one of the main reasons people unsubscribe from e-newsletters.
Instead, think like your subscribers. What would they want to read about? What questions might they have? Then write to provide those answers.
You should aim to make your newsletter content 90% educational and only 10% promotional. If you do it right, the 90% will set up the promotional 10% so perfectly that engaging with your business outside of reading your newsletter is the logical next step.
Think of your newsletter from this perspective - most likely, you are sending your newsletter to two broad groups of people: your existing customers and leads who have signed up because they want to learn more, but aren’t yet ready to buy.
When you focus your newsletter on educational content rather than what you have to offer, you can reach both groups.
Write like a human
Another important aspect of your newsletter and the content within is to “be human”. Whether your business is B2B or B2C, humans read newsletters. Humans make decisions to buy products or services. So write something that your human subscribers want to read. And write it in a way that enables them to connect with your business and brand on a personal level.
To write interesting content, borrow a tip from social media best practices. Most successful social media posts fall into one of three categories - inspirational, informative, or humorous. If you write content with these categories and methods of connecting with readers in mind, you’ll keep their attention through the end of your newsletter.
Where can you put the promotional content?
Keeping in mind that your newsletter may be reaching both leads and customers, you want to keep mentions about your offers minimal. Certainly, if you have a major update or new product, share it with your readers! But make sure to connect the dots - think about why they would want to know and frame your promotional content within the overall theme of your newsletter.
An unobtrusive way to promote your brand is through a call to action within your newsletter. A call to action makes it clear to the reader that you want them to take further action by clicking a link or customized button. The link or button can direct them back to your website, where they can see a wider variety of marketing messages and engage with more of your content offerings.
Don’t Close - Instead, Connect
You may have heard the term used in sales “ABC” or “Always Be Closing” from the film Glengarry Glen Ross, where Alec Baldwin uses the term to “motivate” a sales team. That is definitely not the approach you want to take with your company newsletter.
Instead, think of it as ABC - “Always Be Connecting." Your goal is to make meaningful connections with your readers by giving them content that they want to read.
In time, your awesome content will lead to subscribers anticipating your newsletter and opening right away based on the brand recognition. That brand recognition won’t just exist within their email. It could spread to liking you on Facebook, consuming your on-site content, purchasing your products, and/or telling their friends and colleagues about you.
That’s a lot better than getting another unsubscribe because you didn’t provide them with any value.
Nuts and bolts of a good newsletter
There are a few additional details you should include in your newsletter that will help you grow your reputation as a quality information source.
- Social sharing buttons so readers can share your content with their contacts.
- Your company's contact information. You can put this in the footer of the email. It's a minor detail, and many people don't consciously think about it, but it can help establish your brand's legitimacy.
- An unsubscribe link. Don't hold your subscribers hostage. Letting them go quietly is a lot easier than dealing with the fallout from complaints, especially when things can escalate very quickly in the public eye with the use of social media.
- A good newsletter starts with the sign-up page. Letting people know up front what kind of content to expect and how often they can expect to receive it will help cut down on the number of unsubscribes.
- Test, test, and test some more. In order to figure out what works best for your business, test as many variables within the newsletter as you can - subject lines, send day/time, fonts, colors, graphics, etc.
A newsletter, when done right, can be a great tool to help leads along on their buyer’s journey and keep existing customers engaged.