How to Write
Effective Email Newsletters
have become ubiquitous. General news sites, industry-focused
publications, consultants, brokers, trade associations and
companies of all sizes and types produce newsletters. “Inbox
clutter” (a term that didn’t even exist a few years ago but
now generates thousands of hits when
Googled) is an increasing problem.
newsletters can still be a powerful marketing tool.
They enable companies to maintain a relationship with
customers, as well as to “nurture” prospects who aren’t yet
quite ready to buy. They position your company as an
industry expert, are far more cost-effective than printed
mail, and are easy to create: using a hosted email service
provider allows your team to concentrate on creating great
content rather than focusing on more mundane tasks such as
writing HTML code or managing subscriber lists. (Need more
reasons? Here are
another seven.) But they have to be well-crafted to stand
out from the crowd.
Writing effective newsletters is an essential part to any email marketing campaign. Here are a few tips for
creating newsletters that will attract and retain readers.
other hand, news about industry trends or statistics –
buying patterns, inventory levels, employment, products,
regulation – is generally of interest. The more
industry-focused, the better. Bookmark or
monitor RSS feeds from key sites, or use a newsfeed
service such as
Moreover to collect this type of data.
and advice. Business readers are naturally drawn to any
article with “How to” in the title (assuming it’s
actually something useful). Tap the knowledge within
your company – engineers, developers, field techs,
consultants – to develop these articles.
case studies. Stories about how real companies solved
real problems are always interesting (Marketing
Sherpa built an entire business around marketing
case studies). Try to let your customer’s words promote
your company rather than being too self-promotional.
Make sure the case study also makes your customer look
good, of course, and gain their approval by promoting
the case study in publications that target their
interactive. Include a quick poll relating to an
industry topic (e.g. “How effective is
podcasting at generating leads for your company?”).
People love to have their voice heard, even if only
through a quick vote, and to see how their peers view an
voice. Express an opinion about a industry topic of
interest, similar to what
bloggers do (if your company has a blog, this is a
great place to link to your latest post).
fun. Business is serious, but doesn’t always have to be
humorless. Include a cartoon, a link to an odd (but not
offensive) Web site, a trivia question about a
completely unrelated topic (e.g. one-hit wonders of the
music world, movies, TV, history, etc.), a
quote-of-the-day, or something else amusing or off base.
Formatting and Technical Tips
short. Keep the body of the newsletter short by
providing headlines and excerpts linking to longer
articles on your Web site or blog. This enables readers
to scan the content quickly, then link out to articles
both HTML and plain text versions. Most
services allow you to set this up automatically.
Some readers prefer the nicer HTML look, while others
won’t be able to view an HTML version due to firewalls
RSS feed of your newsletter content for readers who
prefer that option.
This site provides helpful instructions on creating
an RSS feed from a newsletter or any other content
displayed on your Web site, and
FeedBurner provides several free tools to help
promote your RSS feeds.
professional and relevant subject line – the more reader
interest-specific, the better. “Here's Your XYZ Company
Newsletter” is accurate but b-o-r-i-n-g. On the other
hand, subject lines that include phrases such as “How
to…,” “10 Signs It’s Time To…,” “Secrets of…,” “10
Successful…,” “_____ Challenges,” “Advice for…,” “Tips
for…,” “Trends in…,” “Mistakes To Avoid When…,” “_____
Demystified,” “What To Watch Out For When…,” and “Top
Tactics for” are effective at grabbing your readers’
attention. If you can include your recipient’s first
name in the email subject line, so much the better.
newsletter one owner. To maintain consistency in format,
tone, and delivery frequency, there needs to be one
person in charge of bringing the newsletter together,
even if there are multiple writers. This person may have
multiple responsibilities, but the newsletter has to be
a high priority.
hosted email service (here's
my favorite). Unless you have a very sophisticated
IT department with time on their hands (yeah, how common
is THAT?), its best to let a professional service handle
the nuts and bolts of subscribes, unsubscribes, bounces,
white-listing, CAN-SPAM compliance, and list management.
There are a number of reasonably-priced
services that provide all of the basic list
management functions, plus features such as allowing
subscribers to select plain text or HTML email options,
pre-built HTML templates, and detailed subscriber
The bottom line
is that email newsletters can still be an effective
marketing tool, as long as you use some creativity, and
focus on your readers’ needs.