Penny C. Sansevieri
Newsletters are a great way to stay in front of your audience, but I'm amazed by how many people still have no idea how to manage their own newsletter. I see sloppy copy or newsletters that haven't been edited (am I really going to buy from someone who doesn't have the time to edit their newsletter or make it look nice?). I also see newsletters that veer off topic so much that I instantly unsubscribe. And, my absolute favorite: how on earth did I ever end up with this newsletter in the first place?
If used correctly, newsletters can be a great way to get your message out there, offer helpful advice, and keep people in your marketing funnel. We've had our newsletter for ten years and it's been a solid way to stay in front of our audience and educate them about their market and what we do as a company. Candidly, I would consider getting rid of a lot of things, but never our newsletter. It's often the single biggest business driver to our company. It's not easy, it requires work, but the rewards are tremendous. Here are some ideas for enhancing your newsletter and growing your audience:
Know your audience: While this might sound trite and a bit "duh," it's actually more important than you might think and, ironically, quite overlooked. Many business owners who put out newsletters write more for themselves than for their audience. This is a huge mistake as you can imagine because most of the time, your consumer won't care about things the way you do. Speak to their pain, their needs and their hot buttons and most important, know exactly who they are before you start cranking out newsletter copy.
Other newsletters: It's important to know what other folks are putting out there in regards to newsletters. This will help you learn what you like, what you don't like, and what might work for your market. Also, you want to really understand your space and other experts who share your arena.
Subject lines: This is probably the most important part of any newsletter. They need to grab the reader's attention, and if you know what your audience wants, the subject lines shouldn't be hard. But they must speak to the needs of your reader. Of all the things going on in their lives, as it relates to whatever you are selling, what's their biggest need right now? Answer that and you've got a perfect subject line.
Who cares? Whether it's a newsletter, a blog post, or a tweet, ask yourself: "Who cares?" If you can identify the person as your reader and the content important enough to get them to care, then you have a good topic. Remember, it's not about you - in fact when it comes to creating great content and newsletters that rock, you don't matter at all. Keep that in mind, and understand that this is about putting together a message that 100% benefits the people you are writing to.
Personal notes: What prompted this article was an email note I got this morning. The subject line said "A personal request" which prompted me to open it. When I did the email started out with Dear... and a bunch of spaces after the word "dear" because I had not entered my name into their system. Be really careful of this. Not everyone enters their name into your email list when they sign up; if they don't, you want to try and avoid these types of emails because they look a bit odd to the recipient. A subject line that said "A personal request" along with an email that was anything but personal caused me to unsubscribe right away.
Length: A lot of people say that they prefer shorter emails to longer ones. I say it really depends on your market. Our newsletter is pretty long but it's packed with content and I hear from authors all the time that they keep these issues, often printing them off. Your market will dictate how long or short your newsletter should be and if you are following others in your market, this will tell you a lot.
Colors vs. text: I'm still a big fan of text-based newsletters. I know that folks will say that color works best but I still think that color newsletters can be harder to read on your phones and often wind up in spam filters.
Frequency: How often you deliver your newsletter will generally depend on your consumer, but a good rule of thumb is once a month at a minimum and once a week at a maximum. I would not recommend sending your end-user too many announcements and newsletters. Also, it's a lot of content to create, so keep that in mind. If you build a loyal following you can often create special blasts with more frequency and not lose readers, but keep in mind that we're all inundated with emails so many times, less is more.
Editing: Please make sure your newsletter is edited, this is so important. Remember that everything is your resume. I used to know a guy in publishing who put out a newsletter that said "this is not edited." I felt like it detracted from his message, especially when he backed up that statement with typos. Not good. Everything is your resume. If you don't have time to send out an edited newsletter, you should consider whether or not you have the time for it at all.
Appeal to the "skimmers": Most people skim email these days, so appeal to that. Use short paragraphs, bullet points and strong headlines. That way your reader can glance through the newsletter without having to sift through endless copy and get to the heart of what they are looking for.
Promote or not? I'm not a fan of a newsletter that's all heavy promotion. You know the ones I mean, they scream "Look how fabulous I am" and then contain a lot of sales copy and special offers. I unsubscribe from those pretty quickly. Ideally you want to strike a balance. Clearly you are doing this to promote yourself and you want your readers to know what you do, what your message, book, or product is about and how they can get it. You can and should talk about this in every issue but keep in mind that a healthy balance is 95% information and 5% sales. You'll build customer loyalty much faster this way.
Having a solid base and a consistent way to communicate with your audience can really help to optimize and increase your bottom line. A newsletter might seem like a lot of work, but in the end if it's done right it will pay off in some pretty amazing ways.
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