Tag Archives | newsletters

Newsletters are dead. Or are they?


photo credit: DSCF7294.jpg via photopin (license)

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:

Continue Reading →


Why you don’t need that glossy brochure you’ve always dreamed of

StarfishJust because everyone else in your sector gives out a glossy brochure to prospective customers, doesn’t mean you should do the same. In fact, it’s a good reason why not.

You’ve heard about USPs, you’ve heard about ‘being different’, you’ve heard about standing out from the competition…so why even think of doing exactly what the others do?

Some thinking points for you:

  • What have you done with every brochure you’ve ever been given? I bet it’s been put away somewhere safe, and never looked at again, or maybe even filed straight in the recycling bin.
  • Print, paper and postage cost money. Yet times change fast. Almost as soon as something is printed, it goes out of date, so you’re left with a useless brochure and wasted stock. Or you hurriedly pay more money to print stickers that correct your beautiful brochure, yet your prospect is left with an unfavourable impression of your professionalism.

Are you convinced yet?

Don’t worry, I’m not going to leave you dangling. I do have an alternative for you to consider.

Newsletters. Continue Reading →


7 ways to get more newsletter subscribers


Image courtesy of Mike Flanagan at flantoons.co.uk

Although e-newsletters may be past their peak, they are still a great way of keeping in touch, reminding people you exist and are thinking of them, and getting clickthroughs to your website or blog.

With that in mind, we all want to get more newsletter subscribers. Here are seven ways you might not have thought of:

1. Don’t call it a ‘newsletter’

Hardly anyone signs up for newsletters any more. Our inboxes are overloaded and we’re all too busy to read the newsletters we’ve already subscribed to. What’s more, your Continue Reading →


What makes a good newsletter (part 2)

With so many newsletters out there, their effectiveness does seem to be reducing. For example, my open rates this year have dropped slightly to 38.49% compared with 39.54% last year, but this is against an industry average of 14.9%. Meanwhile, my click rates have reduced to 11.46% from 19.4% last year against an industry average of 10.6%. But newsletters still work, which is the real measure of success.

My last issue went out at 2.15pm and I received an enquiry at 2.37pm. That’s just 22 minutes to win a new client! At practically no cost! When I asked the prospect how they heard of me, he said: “I just got your newsletter.”

So newsletters still have an important part to play in marketing your business.

E-newsletter tips (based on UK law as I understand it)

– Don’t be too sales-y. Nobody wants to open a so-called newsletter and see an advert

– Only send it to people who’ve opted in e.g. through a signup link on your website (for added take-up you can offer an ‘ethical bribe’ e.g. ‘Sign up for monthly hints and tips and get an exclusive free report on XYZ’)

– You can send relevant newsletters to all customers and prospects who’ve ever asked for a quote, without them opting in, but you can’t send unrelated information (so if you’re a builder it’s OK to write to them about bricks but not flowers)

– Always include an unsubscribe link (by law)

– Send at least once every 6 weeks for best results (people forget you if it’s any longer than that). If you have a highly seasonal business, then quarterly is OK. But if you can only send a newsletter once a year, even that is better than nothing.

– It can take 6-8 issues to get Return On Investment (just like building any relationship, you’re trying to turn a stranger into a friend, a subscriber into a customer)

Note that you can’t send bulk emails via Outlook (or similar). For one thing, the software restricts the number of addresses you can send to in one go, and for another, it will appear as spam to the recipients. If you do send via your ‘normal’ email system, be sure to use BCC not CC so you comply with the data protection act, protect your mailing list, and avoid the risk of anyone hitting ‘reply all’.

Note: CC stands for carbon copy, BCC stands for blind carbon copy, a hangover from the days of the typewriter. With CC everyone can see the email addresses you’ve sent the message to, with BCC they can’t.

When asked how long it takes to produce my own, I give three answers:

– A year to analyse other newsletters and decide what I wanted to do with mine

– A month to compile the content for each issue (I copy-and-paste links and ideas into a Word document as and when I find them)

– Half-a-day to write it, design it and send it

I use Constant Contact to distribute my newsletters (there are plenty of other bulk mail providers out there e.g. MailChimp, or your web provider might even include the facility with your website).

I originally wrote this article for Fresh Business Thinking


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


Writing News

When writing news, it can be useful to take a lesson from the newspapers and write in boxes of ever-decreasing importance.

Take a look at any newspaper, and you’ll see that the headline is probably the biggest thing on the page. There may be a sub-heading in a smaller font, and the introductory paragraph could be bigger or bolder than the rest of the text. The pattern will continue down the whole page, with smaller headlines towards the foot of the page.

Our readers are busy people, and if we don’t grab their attention and keep it, they will quickly turn the page.

So don’t bury your most important information at the end where it may never be seen!

The whole story needs to be summed up in the headline, with a bit more information added in the sub-heading, then the introduction, and then each subsequent paragraph.

Imagine that the person writing the content is not the same as the person who designs the page. If the copy doesn’t fit, it will be cut from the bottom up. It therefore needs to make sense even if the last paragraph is deleted, then the one before and the one before that.

To write a convincing headline, think of WWWWWH:


For example, a main headline at time of writing, on the BBC news site was:

‘Police swell ranks to stem riots’

Who = Police
What = swell ranks
Why = to stem riots

The next bit of copy read:

‘Some 16,000 officers will police London’s streets after three days of violence, with rioters warned they will feel the “full force of the law”.’

This adds more information.

Who = some 16000 officers
Where = London’s streets
When = after three days of violence
Why = so rioters will feel the full force of the law

Ideally, you should write your introductory sentence using less than 30 words.

There are two other lessons you may find useful.

One is to include (real) quotes.

For example, from the main news story at time of writing:

PM David Cameron has told rioters: “You will feel the full force of the law. And if you are old enough to commit these crimes, you are old enough to face the punishment.”

And finally, look at any picture and you’ll see it’s captioned underneath or to the right. This is because of the way we read (in English).

You may have missed this trick in your standard marketing material or business documents, but it’s well worth considering. Your reader’s eye can’t help going to the picture (and/or the headline) and they can’t help reading the caption to find out what it shows.

I originally wrote this article for Fresh Business Thinking