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An effective newsletter should be easy to read, contain interesting and relevant information, and be visually engaging. When you send information to your customer’s inbox, you are asking them to invest their time in reading what you have to say. Make sure they finish feeling that their time was well spent.
Know who you are talking to. As with every other piece of marketing collateral, you must establish who you are trying to reach before you put your content together. Don’t make the mistake of assuming everyone will be interested in what you have to say. Who are your readers? Are they internal (employees) or external (customers) to your organization? What are their interests? Do they like to be entertained or do they just want information? How much time do they have to read your newsletters?
Use language that that they can easily read and understand. Are you talking to computer programmers or teenagers? Would you spend time reading a book that wasn’t interesting or was written in a language you didn’t understand? Speak to the readers using language and references that they will relate to.
Here are some helpful tips to consider when writing for your audience:
• Keep the tone informal and conversational
• Write in first person to establish a relationship
• Be direct – use as few words as possible and keep it simple
• Avoid flowery or overly descriptive language
• Stay away from salesy or advertising language
Provide Relevant and Interesting Content. The backbone of your newsletter is the content. Without solid, valuable content, even the most attractive and well-formatted newsletters are virtually ineffective.
With so many other things competing for your customer’s attention, it is crucial to make your newsletter interesting and relevant. How does it add value to their lives? Why does it deserve their attention?
Keep it purpose-focused. Like every other piece of your marketing collateral, your newsletter must serve a clear purpose, and stick to it. The content should all support this overarching purpose, which will ensure the newsletter is a strong communication tool. Is your goal to:
• Provide information?
• Recruit new staff?
• Maintain contact with customer base?
• Promote offers and services?
• Drive sales?
Entertain. Make use of a newsletter’s informal tone, and entertain your reader. Add content from external sources, including humorous stories and cartoons that are related to the purpose of your newsletter and the product or service you are offering. This will break up the more serious content.
Write well. If writing is not your strong point, hire a writer to draft your newsletter. This may also be a good idea for busy business owners that struggle to find the time to complete a monthly outreach piece. Make sure you avoid industry jargon, and if you have to use it, make sure to define it for your reader.
Deliver Information. It will be clear to the reader if you are sending a newsletter just for the sake of getting your log into their inbox. Make sure that your newsletter provides information that is relevant and useful to the reader. Have something to say that will benefit the reader, even if it is external content like media clips, events, or website links.
Keep it sweet. Short and sweet, that is. No one has time to read exhaustive amounts of copy, no matter how relevant it may seem. Keep the newsletter tight and limited to a few short news items and some information on your offering. Here are a few tips for managing content length:
• Include a summary of the newsletter content at the top
• Provide short summaries of each article, with a link to “read more”
• Make generous use of headlines and sub headlines
• Put concise information in bullet form
Ask them to act. Always provide a call to action, even if it is a subtle one. You are spending time and money to produce a newsletter in efforts to ultimately increase your business. Ask for the sale – just like you would in a brochure or sales letter. Get readers to visit your website, pick up the phone, fill out the registration form, or lend their support.
Let others speak for you. After you spent all that time gathering great testimonials, make sure you put them to use! If you choose not to dedicate an entire section of your newsletter to customer testimonials, make sure you include them in the header, footer, or margins of the page. They also work well to break up sections of text.
Give it a name. Just like a newspaper, give your newsletter a title that readers will remember and connect to your business.
Make it Attractive and Easy to Read
While content is the backbone of your newsletter, appearance has the ability to engage readers and attract new subscribers. It is also a key factor in the readability of your content, which can make or break a solid readership. Stick to these guidelines for success.
Avoid clutter. Keep the layout clean and free of clutter. Overuse of bright colors and images will distract the reader from your well-crafted content. Use design to enhance your words, not detract from them. Simple design also makes template creation easy.
Make use of headlines and bullets. Make your newsletter easy to scan. Give each column a headline, and use bullets to highlight important points. Use sub headlines for important paragraphs, and important testimonials to break up lengthy copy.
Maintain brand consistency. Your newsletter should follow your brand guidelines for elements like color, font, and logo placement. Even if your newsletter is electronic, it is important for each piece of marketing collateral to have a consistent look and feel.
Maintain overall consistency. Once you have designed a newsletter template, stick with it. Each issue should have the same overall look and feel, with only minor modifications if required for image placement, etc. This ensures the newsletter looks professional and readers will learn to recognize it when they receive it.
Use images generously. Images are a powerful way to communicate with an audience, and illustrate the words on the page. Pictures, graphs, sidebars or callouts, charts and other graphic elements should be used wherever possible in the newsletter.
Commit to a Timeframe You can Maintain
Choose a frequency you can maintain. Newsletters can be time consuming, so be realistic about how often you promise to distribute them. This depends on your resources, and the needs of your business, but generally once a month to once every three months is a good time frame. Sending out a newsletter too often can be just as detrimental as not sending them often enough.
When you determine the frequency of your newsletters establish a publishing schedule and stick to it. Work your way into your customer’s routine so they are expecting and looking forward to receiving your newsletter.
Develop a publication plan in advance, planning the general themes and giving yourself, so you have time to gather information and ideas
Newsletter Content Ideas
• Company News
You may not think so, but your clients and customers are interested in short bits of news about your company and its people. They want to hear about your accolades and successes, since they have helped your achieve them. They are equally interested in reading about the expansion and development of your business, as they have contributed to that growth.
• Feature Product
A feature product or service column is a great way to profile new products or shine a light on existing products that you sell. Use this space to provide an image of the product, and list both benefits and features. Ensure that your feature product is reduced in price to encourage customers to visit your store and purchase it.
• Employee Profile
Just as readers are interested in your company, they are equally interested in the people who work at your company. Profiles of new or recognized employees help to build relationships, and establish trust. Your customers will connect the face on the newsletter, to the face that is helping them find what they are looking for, and ultimately close the sale.
Cartoons in good humor that relate to your business or service can go a long way – literally. If readers find the image funny, there’s a good chance they’ll forward the newsletter to their friends and family, which means your message has a further reach. Using humor in your newsletter also helps to keep the tone light and informal, showing that you don’t take yourself too seriously.
• Testimonials / Stories
A box or column featuring testimonials of the month or a customer story can be an engaging element of your newsletter. People are naturally curious to read about others’ experiences and thoughts about consumer products and services. Testimonials are a great way for customers to hear the benefits and praises of your product from someone else.
If your business hosts regular customer events and seminars, include the pertinent information in your newsletter in a prominently featured events section. Alternately, if your business is an active community participant, consider featuring upcoming community events that you are either sponsoring or attending. Including this kind of information can encourage readers to hang on to the newsletter as a “save the date” piece. If you choose to feature community events, do so strategically. If you cannot include all community events, you may create a problem for yourself.
• Expert Corner (Internal or External)
This is one of the greatest added value components of your newsletter: your knowledge and expertise. If relevant to your business, include a column that provides information to your readers from an expert source: either you, or someone you have asked to contribute their knowledge. Doing so will position your company as an expert in your industry, and give your reader another reason to hang on to the newsletter. Keep the content relevant – both to your business and current events.
• Special Offers
A newsletter is a great way to inform your readers of special offers and sales. Always include the regular price, or total cost of a package, as well as a high quality image. If you do not regularly offer discounts, ensure the reader is aware that this is a rare event.