May 9, 2018 (Updated: May 4, 2023)
Often, crafting email newsletter content feels like a pointless chore — something you do because you feel like you should, not because you think it will make a difference. Unfortunately, this approach is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you treat your email newsletters like they don’t matter, they won’t.
Break the cycle by following the guidelines below for developing email newsletter content that drives leads.
Start by identifying your audience. If someone asked you about your intended audience, what would you say? If your answer is “everyone” or a long, awkward pause, you’re in trouble. The most effective email newsletters have one element in common: They have a limited audience. Note that “limited” here does not mean “small.” Rather, it means that successful newsletters typically have a niche. They aren’t designed to appeal to everyone, but only to those people who are most likely to appreciate and act on them.
You should have a clear target audience in mind so that you can better cater to them. Sticking to a niche audience will make it easier to connect with your readers. You won’t be doing yourself any favors by writing for an audience that is too vague or broad. If you can’t narrow down your audience to a single niche, at least sort your subscribers into different categories and send out several versions of each newsletter. Carefully customizing your newsletter for each segment of your audience will be more effective than writing one newsletter for a mass market.
Image via Flickr by MattHurst
Email newsletters have been experiencing a revival lately, but you shouldn’t think you can put one together in 10 minutes and expect it to generate leads.
Pass on the generic templates and cookie-cutter formulas, and don’t rush the work. Take the time to write high-quality content that your audience — your specific, well-defined audience — will care about. Give them something of value rather than another email to clutter their inboxes.
Remember one fact that seems obvious but is easy to forget: Your readers are real people. Fortunately, even if you’re writing on behalf of a large company, you’re a real person, too. You probably know something about what works and doesn’t work in an email newsletter — even if you don’t realize it. Take a look at the newsletters in your inbox. What makes you open one and delete another? Which newsletters do you actually read and why?
When developing newsletter content, put yourself in your readers’ shoes. Write to your subscribers the way you want to be written to when receiving a newsletter. Ideally, you’ll be writing to people like you about topics that are important to you. Failing that idea, though, you have to at least know your audience well. You need to understand their tastes and interests, including their sense of humor and the type of content they find helpful.
Make sure your newsletter sounds like a real person wrote it. If your tone is too upbeat, it can ring false, like the written equivalent of a fake smile. On the other hand, writing that is too stiff and formal can sound as though you’re talking down to your audience or you outsourced your job to a robot.
According to best practices for email newsletters, you should include the following:
A single, strong call to action (CTA).
An attention-grabbing subject line.
Informative in-house content, such as company blog posts, news, and updates.
Curated content from other websites that your readers will appreciate.
A casual tone that resonates with your readers.
Avoid the following practices:
Don’t try to pretend that you spent hours curating a newsletter that you put together in a matter of minutes. Your audience will know if you’re faking it.
Don’t stuff your newsletter with sales pitches and blatant self-promotion. If subscribers see your newsletter as one big advertisement, they aren’t likely to open it — let alone read it.
Don’t rely on surface-level personalization. Your readers are used to seeing their name in the greeting of an email, so a simple “Hi, Johnny” won’t be enough to make your newsletter stand out.
Don’t use a tone that’s too formal or too chipper to sound natural. Either extreme can negatively impact your readership and conversion numbers.
The signature piece of an email newsletter designed to drive leads is the call to action, or CTA. The CTA is how your convert readers into customers. To increase conversions, your CTA should meet two criteria:
It relates to the newsletter content.
It’s relevant to your readers.
Your CTA will be most effective in the context of related email newsletter content. If you want to include a CTA prompting readers to download your app, for example, key benefits or features of your app should be highlighted elsewhere in your newsletter.
Choose a CTA that will be relevant to your audience. Of all the products or services your business has to offer, what will be most helpful for your readers right now? It won’t do you much good, for example, to suggest that readers check out your selection of winter coats in the middle of summer. Similarly, you won’t see many conversions from a CTA that encourages readers to attend an event if tickets are sold out or not on sale yet. Timing is important.
Finally, if you want email newsletter content that drives leads, you have to be ready to experiment. A/B testing will help you identify what works and what doesn’t so you can fine-tune your approach. Test everything from your layout and color scheme to your subject line and CTA to figure out what your readers respond to best.
You may find that your audience prefers eye-catching visual content over undiluted text, or readers may favor a simple list format over a segmented newspaper layout. If your readers like visual content, you can easily repurpose social media infographics for your email newsletter. If they prefer a no-frills approach, make sure you include plenty of white space and avoid fluff.
When thinking about email newsletter content, remember that “Anything worth doing is worth doing right.” Don’t churn out sub-par newsletters week after week when, with more thought and effort, you can craft an effective newsletter that drives leads.
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