What makes a good newsletter (part 1)

It’s often quoted that 68% of customers leave a business because of ‘perceived indifference’ (Ford Foundation Study, 2004). If you want repeat orders, you have to show your customers that you care. One way of doing that is to keep in touch by sending regular newsletters, whether printed or by email.

The trouble is, the word newsletter is a misnomer, as I don’t believe your newsletter should actually contain much news!

Your customer newsletter is not the place for your press releases. Readers don’t care that you’ve won a new contract, employed a new director, or moved to a new premises. They only care what’s in it for them.

Your newsletter objective should not be to tell them what’s new with you, it should be to share useful information that demonstrates your expertise.

I therefore recommend you fill your newsletter with handy hints, useful advice, inside information, humour (if that’s a good fit with your brand values), top ten lists, and even rants with a positive twist. It’s also good to include your unique brand personality and any industry comment that they can’t get elsewhere.

For e-newsletters, the subject line is the most important, as it determines whether people will open it or not. It’s best to write it last, and to avoid any words that will make your message look like spam.

And here’s a controversial thought. It almost doesn’t matter whether subscribers open and read it or not! As long as they see your newsletter in their inbox, it reminds them that you exist, what you do and that you’re thinking of them.

As for content, most newsletters I write for my clients include a client case study (to act as human interest, external endorsement and maybe even for sponsorship), or staff profile (meet the team biographies often prompt new conversations that can lead to work), or a competition (for interactivity).

My own newsletter has been going since 2003, and always follows the same template, topped-and-tailed with signup and social sharing links (to attract new subscribers when it’s forwarded), and of course, following my own visual brand identity. You might find inspiration from the structure I use:

COLUMN 1 (wide)

1. Introduction (something welcoming and topical)

2. Handy hint about marketing, networking, social media or business writing (showcasing my areas of expertise)

3. Wordy humour (as a copywriter, it’s a good fit that also ensures the newsletter gets forwarded around the world)

4. General message (brief — to show personality and uniqueness)

5. “In the next issue” (one-liner — to discourage unsubscribes and discipline me to collect the content in the meantime)

COLUMN 2 (narrow)

6. Testimonial/s x 3 (because what other people say about you ‘sells’ you more than anything you say yourself)

7. Useful links x 3 (to related informational or entertaining web pages I’ve found)

8. Contact details (including links to my social media profiles and blogs)

Remember, although a newsletter should be a ‘soft sell’, you are still hoping that people will get in touch to order your product or service. So, as with any marketing piece, you should include a call-to-action. That is, tell people what you want them to do as a result of reading it.

I originally wrote this article for Fresh Business Thinking

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