Newsletters are dead. Or are they?

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I’m writing this article soon after the Independent newspaper closed its print version.

Postage, print and paper are expensive, and people are reading online instead.

It’s sad news for the journalism world.

But what does this mean to you and your business?

Well, we are constantly being told that one of the main objectives of your website is to capture email addresses, and the most common way to do this is by offering a newsletter to your site visitors.

If you want to stand out from the rest, a printed newsletter works even better than a brochure, because it appears more personal, topical and unique to your business. But, to save money like the Independent, most people send theirs by email rather than traditional post.

However, fewer and fewer people are signing up for email newsletters these days. Our inboxes are too full, we are always too busy, and we just don’t have time to read them – no matter how interesting the content may be.

Your target customers are the same as the rest of us. So how can you tempt them to give you their precious email address?

Here are my top seven suggestions:

First, don’t call it a ‘newsletter’. For example, I call mine the Writing Without Waffle ‘tipsheet’. At least that shows it contains useful tips. (You can get it at jackiebarrie.com). You might call yours ‘offers and deals’ or whatever title suggests a benefit to your readers.

  1. Offer an incentive for subscribers; something that is low cost to you but high perceived value to them. Perhaps a free e-book, white paper, or report.
  1. People like engaging with websites by clicking buttons and filling in online forms. When people want to join your mailing list, getting them to type their data into boxes works better than providing a text link to email you.
  1. The more information you request, the less likely it is that people will give it to you. So don’t ask for mother’s maiden name, inside leg measurement, and name of first pet! First name and email address is all you really need.
  1. Don’t add a button that says ‘subscribe’ or ‘sign up’, as those words sound too ‘newslettery’ (sorry, I know that’s not a real word). Buttons are good, but use more creative wording, such as ‘yes please’ or ‘grab my free report now’.
  1. Make the button a stand-out colour. Your objective is to get people to give you their data so you can stay in touch with them, so the button needs to be seen at a glance. It might even deliberately clash with your brand colours.
  1. All the research shows that you will get more subscribers if you have a pop-up data capture window. I certainly found that when I tested it for myself. Mind you, there is no guarantee that those people will go on to buy from you. Some people might fill in their information just because they can’t easily find the X to close the box!

As for the content, I suggest you make your newsletter add value, not an advert.

One of the objectives is to drive traffic back to your website where you do your selling, so include links to further information. For more clickthroughs, call the links ‘continue reading’ (a bottom-up invitation), not ‘read more’ (a top-down order).

Either way, you will notice that video links get more clicks than image or text links.

Ironically, it’s best that your newsletter doesn’t contain company news, because that fails the ‘who cares’ test.

You could include industry news if it’s information your readers can’t get elsewhere, staff profiles, customer case studies, testimonials, personality and humour.

It makes sense to reuse your blog content, because different people will read your newsletter (which is sent actively to their inbox) than the blog (which is sitting passively on your website). You could collate a digest of teasers to each month’s blog posts, or handpick your favourite post and reproduce it in full.

Open rates are dropping fast for all newsletters, but don’t worry if it seems that not many people open yours. As long as it has appeared in their inbox, they know you are thinking of them, are reminded what you do, and there’s a better chance you will be at the top of their mind when they need what you sell.

Good luck with your newsletter (whatever you call it) – and please contact me if you need any further help.

I wrote this article for the Corporate Escape Club

To receive advice like this direct to your inbox, sign up to my Writing Without Waffle tipsheet (top right)

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