How to write a newsletter that people want to read
12 months ago, I all but given up on my newsletter. I remember talking to a friend about one that I’d just written for my business, and was holding back on sending it to my subscribers.
“I’m scared it’s not good enough. What if people think it’s rubbish? What if they unsubscribe?” I told her.
Looking back now, a year on, I realise that although all of those things were true (if you were on my mailing list back then, I’m so, so sorry…), it really didn’t matter. Not one bit.
Yeah, I get a fair few unsubs. And sometimes, what I write in my newsletter might not resonate with everyone who receives it. But that’s just the nature of it. And the more newsletters I write (both mine, and for my clients), the more I learn, and the better they become.
So, what exactly does make a good newsletter? How do you get people to open them, and keep opening them? Here’s my take on it.
Start with your subscribers
No matter what the content of your newsletter is, it’s only going to appeal to certain people, and it’s very likely that there are people on your email list who are not your ideal client/audience. Maybe those people joined your list off the back of a lead magnet you sent, but are never going to be interested in actually buying anything from you.
Here’s something I learned. Way back when, my business was different to what it is now. The people who joined my list back then wanted something that I offered then, but don’t now. Yet they remained on my list, and ended up on the ‘never open’ database.
Because of this, my statistics showed that my open rate was pretty low. So, I simply culled them. I took them off my subscriber list altogether. They were never going to be interested in what I had to say, so off they went.
That act in itself improved my open rate, because now, all of the people on my list are genuine readers, and for the most part have some interest in what I do now.
I also think very hard about how I’ll attract those ideal readers. Apart from my website, the majority of my sign-ups come from lead magnets. And the easiest way to make sure they’re my kind of people is to tailor my lead magnets to attract the right ones.
For example, a lot of my current business is writing blogs for creative businesses. That’s just the way my business has grown, and it’s something I really enjoy doing. So I make sure that any lead magnets that I create attract that particular audience (my latest lead magnet was a list of ideas/prompts for blogs, written for graphic designers). And who is likely to download that? Yep, graphic designers who are interested in writing blogs for their websites!
Design and consistency
If you’ve got your branding sorted, then you’ll already have a solid idea of how your newsletter should look. Yes, it should absolutely use your brand colours and fonts. It’s up to you whether you choose to use your logo – some people don’t, but personally, I would do. It gives a professional look, and your audience will recognise it.
Beyond that, the newsletter platform you use (mine is Mailchimp, there are others) will allow you to create a template, so that your newsletter always has the same elements – it’s vital that you use it.
Make it look attractive, and set it out in a logical order. If your newsletter is text-heavy, break it up with headers so it’s easier to read. Use images to pretty it up, and give it some interest, and use the same layout every time you create a new newsletter.
How to write headlines
Before people read your newsletter, they have to open it. They’re not going to see any of that beautiful design, those amazing images, or be dazzled by what you have to say… because all they’re going to see in the inbox is your name and the title of your email. You have to think really hard about what you can say to make them stop scrolling and think, “What in the hell is this? I need to open it right now!”
Your headline is the first most important part of your newsletter. It needs to work hard to tell people what they’re gonna get when they click on it. If it doesn’t resonate with them, it won’t get opened – simple as that.
2 pieces of advice I can give when writing your headline:
Know your audience, and;
Use your voice.
You need to know who you’re talking to in order to know how to speak to them effectively. Think about the language they use (is it formal, a bit stuffy, or youthful and vibrant?). Would they find funny titles, a play on words, or a jokey subject attractive? Or are they more straight to the point, and just want to know what the contents of the email are?
How to write content
What message do you want to get across to your readers? OK, so you might say that the whole point of your newsletter is to get people to buy from you – and that is of course valid. But it’s not really what you should be focussing on – the real purpose of a newsletter is to a) keep in touch with your audience, and b) give them something of value which will grow the all-coveted ‘know-like-trust’ factor.
I like to use a little formula – it’s not mine, but I’ve found it to be pretty accurate for the majority of my content. And that is…
80% Value + 20% Promotion/Sales
People don’t want to be sold to all the time, and it will give them no reason to want to open your emails if that’s all you’re doing. So instead, entertain them. Give them relevant news and information. Give them links to stuff that will interest them (even if it’s not your content).
So you’ve sent out your newsletter? Great! But it doesn’t stop there. How do you know it’s working? Well, it’s always a great idea to keep tabs on how things are going. You can view who’s opening your emails, what they’re clicking on, and how many people are not opening them at all. Over time, you’ll be able to tweak things, so that you’re giving more of what’s popular with your audience.
You could also consider asking for feedback sometimes. Put a quick CTA at the bottom asking what people liked about your newsletter, and asking is they’d like something different.
Keep an eye on those stats – and keep improving and building on your work.
Tereasa Hedges, freelance copywriter for creatives, designers and makers.
I’m a freelance copywriter who specialises in writing content for creative people, helping you to reach larger audiences through blogging, web content, email marketing, and a little bit of social media for good measure.
Want to work with me? Contact me for a chat via firstname.lastname@example.org