In part one of this two-part series, Why Your Company Needs an Email Newsletter, we covered the types of things you’ll get back from your customers if you provide them with a relevant, engaging and useful newsletter:

  • Trust
  • Rapport
  • Loyalty
  • Feedback
  • Word-of-mouth support
  • Great reviews
  • Social sharing
  • Repeat business
  • Upgraded purchasing

And we discussed the fact that you’ll get those things because you’re going to do more giving than taking in your newsletter. Depending on who you ask, your emails should contain 70%-90% value and 30%-10% promotion.

The point is, emails that are mostly geared toward education/entertainment show your subscribers you care.

The Avatar

It should go without saying that newsletters vary greatly by industry, but we’re going to let you worry about figuring out what your audience wants to hear. Did I say audience? I meant avatar: a living, breathing, individual member of your audience.

Once you’ve put some real thought into the kinds of things that might be appealing to your avatar, you can begin thinking about the types of content you’re going to create or curate.

Content

Although this is really a topic for another day, having a company blog really comes in handy at a time like this since linking to blogs that live on your website can be a great traffic driver. If you don’t have a blog or maybe just need some killer content ideas, click here.

Of course, the content you create doesn’t have to be limited to blogs. We include video in our own wildly successful newsletter, The Eight That Rate, and for that, we use an easy-to-install, fun-to-use, excellent little tool called Loom.

Don’t forget infographics! Most people love to have information presented in a visually stimulating, easy-to-digest format and there are several great websites that will help you create your own (some of them free).

If you’re starting to become overwhelmed at the thought of having to create all your own contact, don’t worry. A little skillful curating, or finding high-quality, high-value content on other websites and linking to them, can be a fantastic way to offer your avatar some variety, as well as build relationships with the owners of the sites you’re linking to.

The Template

Although some newsletter writers swear by having a cohesive theme throughout, Solutions 8’s newsletter is more of an eclectic collection of topics and points of interest. What works best for you will depend upon your industry, your avatar, and your personal style.

Either way, presenting your material in bulleted- or numbered- list form is definitely the ticket; it’s a proven fact that people love lists. The number of items in your list should depend upon how long you intend to expand upon each point. The more you’re going to say about each item, the shorter your list should be, and vice versa.

Our newsletter features eight categories that rarely change, including “1000 lb. Sentence” (a quote from a marketing or business sage followed by our thoughts and, sometimes, a link to a relevant blog), “Hot Tip” (useful advice or suggestions linked to a helpful blog) and “One of the Good Ones” (links to and information about nonprofit agencies we support).

When we write our weekly email, we just paste the template and fill it in. However, there’s no hard and fast rule that says you need set categories or any categories at all. There’s nothing wrong with changing things up every week (or month), as long as it’s well organized and visually appealing.

Formatting

Speaking of visual appeal, there are myriad design options out there, whether you’re using Microsoft’s Publisher or, like us, you’re all about automated marketing and love the ease, choice and tracking capabilities of Infusionsoft or MailChimp.

This may seem counterintuitive since we know how much folks like images and pretty colors, but when you’re trying to relate to people one-on-one and form a bond, keeping it simple tends to work best.

What’s visually appealing in an ad is only going to look pitchy in an email – in fact, your avatar will probably think you sent an ad and just delete it. In terms of a newsletter, when we say “visually appealing,” we mean well-organized, nice fonts with important points emboldened or italicized (but not lots of crazy, ever-changing fonts) and maybe a couple of images that support the material.

Overall, it should look more like something you’d send a friend, not someone who’s money you want right now.

Tone

Again, this depends on not only your industry, but on your personal style and the image you’d like to project. What’s appropriate in a newsletter for clients of a bar-and-grill chain would most likely not work for clients of a fitness center or a religious bookstore.

That being said, one powerful element that could be utilized in all three of these examples is humor, albeit completely different types. If you can find a way to be funny, and it fits, do it – few traits are more endearing.

Unless, of course, you’re a mechanical engineer looking at a newsletter from a company that manufactures torque-measuring devices. Or a doctor perusing the latest news from a drug company. Then, being professionally conversational will do.

And it’s important to be conversational; not dry, repetitive, stiff or, even worse, shrill, overbearing and obnoxious. Just put yourself in your avatars’ shoes and speak to them as you would be spoken to.

The Subject Line

Some newsletter pros like to take care of this detail first, but I like to come up with my subject line after I’ve finished writing my email – kind of like putting the cherry on top of my cake.

There is an art to writing a killer subject line, but some basics to remember are:

  • Keep it brief (not more than ten words)
  • Avoid sounding gimmicky, spammy, or desperate
  • Use first names once in awhile, when appropriate
  • Choose words carefully for maximum impact
  • Continually change up your approach and keep them guessing

I have to admit that, in sending out newsletters, I have tried many different subject line approaches with widely varying levels of success. Yep, I’ve bombed. And that’s OK, because there’s no better way of finding out what never to do again. My point is, don’t be afraid to experiment.

Feedback and Unsubscribing

Feedback you want, for obvious reasons. What your audience has to say about your email will help you decide what to change and what to keep. Not only that, your audience will appreciate being listened to and, best of all, you may be able to leverage feedback into a sales call.

Unsubscribing, though much less desirable, is something we must allow folks to do with ease. Nothing makes people angrier (in the email world) than not being able to unsubscribe easily. Remember the old saying that starts, “If you love something, set it free . . .?”

Newsletter Expertise

Whether you’re in need of content for your newsletter, someone spectacular to write it or both, let us know. As mentioned in the first email of this series, our weekly newsletter open rate is 40.7% and our click rate, 6.8%. (Our industry average is 17.81% open and 1.92% click.)

When it comes to email newsletters, we don’t mess around. And we’re unrivaled when it comes to discovering a client’s “voice” and artfully, clearly conveying it to the people who matter. Call anytime.