September 18, 2009
The typical form of newsletter is a one-way communication where you provide information to customers, such as product updates and announcements. Creating a successful newsletter can be extremely rewarding. Subscribers and customers respond with glowing feedback, online sales jump and your customer relationships and brand loyalty deepens. Here are some useful tips that might help in creating a successful newsletter.
Ask yourself “What is the purpose of your newsletter?” A newsletter is a substantial investment of company resources in terms of time and energy, and you need to define in as tangible terms as possible the purpose of your Newsletter.
Voice and Personality
Establish a voice or editorial personality—whether newsy, serious, gossipy or funny—that is synergistic with the image you want to portray and connects with your audience. Remember that e-mail newsletters aren’t e-mail promotions designed to stimulate immediate action. Sales and promotional copy don’t suit e-newsletters. Nor does the traditional tone of broadcast corporate communications. Think of your newsletter as a one-on-one conversation. Just imagine sitting in a coffee shop talking informally with a customer. That’s the starting point for your approach—a more personable and appropriate “human” voice will come naturally. Drop the jargon, drop the sales pitch, be as honest as you can, and talk like a human being. You can have as much or as little personality as is appropriate. Consider adding a brief editorial, a comment or two, an editor’s note, a couple of lines of commentary, a touch of opinion; adding a little human element here and there. Sign editorials, give authors a byline, or list some names down in the administrative section of each issue to which your readers can relate to.
Whether it’s a person’s name, name of the newsletter or company name, determine what will resonate best with your readers and stay with it.
“Vol. 1, Issue #8” or “Company News” are not enticing subject lines. They are certainly consistent and simple, but they don’t tell your readers anything that will motivate them to open your e-mail. Your subject line is your calling card—entice your readers with the most interesting or intriguing information in your Newsletter. Use attractive headlines as a means to summarize a section of content.
Establish a format and layout of your Newsletter that is clean and simple, with elements of the Newsletter (table of contents, “Tips”, subscription information, etc. located in the same spot each issue).
Content and Relevancy
Figure out what your readers want and give it to them. Seek continuous improvement by obtaining reader feedback and monitoring click-through rates to determine what types of articles are most popular. Another dilemma that we all confront is too much information and too little time. The newsletter’s job is to keep readers on top of trends and the latest developments in the industry. Aim for articles and feature stories to meet one of the following criteria by including either: major industry occurrences, forward thinking industry ideas, education on issues or new techniques, or business opportunities.
Whether your customers work out of a corporate or home office, or employees need answers to questions and tips for improving business activities, e-newsletters provide you with an opportunity to point out work inefficiencies, and share relevant best practice. When you create a newsletter, try changing your focus from selling products and services to solving your customers’ problems. Think about what they need and give options they don’t know exist.
The greatest thing about the electronic medium is that you can quickly add new hyperlinks and include updates on old material should new information surface without incurring another round of cost for a new issue (that happens in the real world).
Don’t Wait Till the Last Minute
Begin compiling newsletter information in advance. Ask fellow marketers to contribute articles. One great source of information is none other than your inbox where you can quickly search for worthy nuggets from the past week and relay the same essence in your own words.
Where can you get quality content for your newsletter?
- Article directories like ezinearticles.com or findarticles.com. Also get articles from yahoogroups. The downside to this is that you need to include the author’s signature or resource box.
- Forums. One of the most dynamic and updated places on the Internet is where people write off the cuff and in real-time. Thread after thread, reply after reply of the latest information comes off the minds of forum participants. Combine interesting topics and reword them into an original article.
- Again, your own inbox right under your nose. Whatever other marketers are writing or selling about, use them to your own advantage and recreate them as your own.
- Your own insights are really your best resources. When you have passion, you will never stop talking about what you know. Be consistent at no. 4 and soon enough you will find a way to mold yourself into an expert. Continue to expand your knowledge database and add value to it.
Use graphics that print well on your printer. Using a good mix of photographs and art work makes for interesting copy. Too many graphics can leave the newsletter looking cluttered.
Determine how frequently your readers want to hear from you/receive your newsletter—and what you can commit to. As a rule, a weekly newsletter is ideal. However, don’t launch a weekly newsletter if you are not absolutely certain that you can distribute a quality Newsletter every week. A fortnightly newsletter is a good option too.
A newsletter should be a quick read. Readers expect to finish reading it in 4 to 5 minutes. Short articles increase the probability that your reader will find something of interest to them.
Test and pick a day and time that works best…and stick to it. Readers should almost be able to set their watches by the receipt time of your Newsletter.
You have the option of formatting your e-mail by including colorized text and a variety of fonts, but not all e-mail software supports HTML mail. Consider writing your newsletter in plain text or offer two mailing lists—one for plain text mailings and the other for HTML e-mail.
Make it Viral
Provide information readers can act on or that stimulates reaction—forwarding it to friends and peers, stimulating purchases or requests for additional information. Make it easy for readers to forward articles and information to peers and friends. Provide a “Tell a Friend” link that enables readers to forward the Newsletter with a personalized note.
Make it easy to find articles of interest and back issues. Provide a table of contents and links to articles within the newsletter and to resources and past articles on your site.
If you want to give readers an option to print, consider providing “printer-friendly formats” on your website. Make sure your newsletter is physically readable. Avoid anything less than 12 point fonts for the article text. Fancy fonts may look good but can be hard to read when printed. Heading and text fonts should be consistent throughout the newsletter.
If you lack experience in print media, seek out assistance if you know someone in the field. If not, don’t worry—the abovementioned basic principles apply. Plan to research your material thoroughly and avoid factual or editing errors, as they will make you seem less credible.
At the very least, address the reader by name. The most successful newsletters have a human being associated with them…and a personality. If possible, your Newsletter should be “written by a person” at your company…not the company.
Not everyone has the range and depth of vocabulary as teachers and linguists do. Use words that are easy to understand, and if you do use technical terms, provide a definition that people can relate to. There is nothing more frustrating then a definition that makes less sense than the word itself. Just write in layman terms and keep it short, simple and straightforward.
Spelling and Grammar Check
Sending out copy with numerous errors creates a negative image to your readers. Aside from using a spell checker, have an outsider edit your final copy for readability, grammar and content.
Test and Track
Test the Newsletter on few e-mail addresses to check for errors and other issues before sending to the entire distribution list. Keep track of results and reactions to your newsletter to come to an understanding for further tweaks and corrections.
Lastly, to summarize the key fundamental features of an e-newsletter, make sure you include:
- Table of Contents
- Hyperlinks for customers who want more information for a featured topic
- Exciting secrets or tips related to your product or service
- Contact information
E-newsletters can take up a good amount of time if not managed correctly. The use of a list server (a piece of software that runs on your Internet provider’s computer or on your own web server) is a good option. It will automatically manage a list of e-mail addresses. Once you send your newsletter to the list server, it distributes the letter to the stored addresses. For more information on list servers, contact your Internet service provider. If you opt to use another method, make sure you have a plan for handling incoming and outgoing mail when your customer base increases.
In conclusion, your newsletter can serve as an extension of your business that will reach out to your customers. It will allow you to maintain regular contact with them and serve as an effective and rewarding addition to your marketing arsenal. These tips should help you put it all together and help you create an exceptional newsletter.
Nelson Tan is the webmaster behind Internet Mastery Center. Download $347 worth of FREE Internet Marketing gifts at http://www.internetmasterycenter.com