How to Create a Newsletter People Actually Read
Most websites have a newsletter option, which allows the owner of that site to collect emails from visitors and stay in contact down the road. For a lot of us, this is an "everyone else does, so I do too" practice. But if we're collecting emails with no clear goal, we're going to end up with a list of contacts and a big question. What now?
Subscribing to a newsletter indicates a user has interest in receiving more of the information you provide and the company your page represents, and that's what you should aim to do. Don't blast your email list with repeated pleas to buy your product or give something to you - we want to focus instead on providing something engaging and useful to them.
That statement is a little confusing to some. If a newsletter list isn't meant for selling, what's it for? And what the heck should we include in the newsletter in order to get some return for our business?
To answer these questions, let's take a look at some key tips and best practices for engaging and growing your newsletter list. As a bonus, these practices foster the building of strong relationships along the way:
Determine the goal for your list
A newsletter can be an informative monthly update about your site/company, it can be a weekly blog digest, and it can be anything else that gets sent out on a semi-regular basis for informative purposes.
But beyond the usual "Check out our latest post" message, you can further leverage your newsletter list to transform it into an additional source of traffic and/or revenue for your site.
In order to do so, you need to clearly outline what you want to accomplish in the big picture. Do you want to drive more visits to your page? Are you interested in gathering more information from them in order to make informed website changes? Or do you just want subscribers to open the email and be reminded of your company?
Defining that goal in the initial stages is essential for achieving it later on.
To be clear: selling can be a goal for your newsletter, but only on seldom occasions. More on that in point #3.
When was the last time you opened an email with the subject line "[Website Name] Monthly Newsletter"? If you're like me then you can't remember, because there's nothing about that subject that grabs your attention.
Personal experiences like this are key to keep in mind when sending out your own newsletter. Write or style something that you yourself would objectively want to open open, read, and click through. This could be an intriguing subject, an eye-popping body design, a cool call-to-action, or even a monthly joke. Just make it something distinct and memorable.
But always bear in mind that objectivity is key. It's one thing to assess whether a newsletter is seemingly interesting overall, it's another to create only the type of content you enjoy. This goes back to the always essential practice of knowing your audience. If possible, you'd be wise invite a peer or unbiased party to review the content for you.
If you want to take it to the next level, try segmenting your newsletter list and sending out two different versions. See which one gets a better conversion rate, and emulate those features moving forward. Or, if your company has distinct products or buyers, make it a standard practice to send out different versions with different messaging applying to those individuals.
Start providing value
Failing to send valuable content accompanied by engaging descriptions is a quick way to get unsubscribes. It's not enough to send links to your newest blog articles or a run down of standard internal happenings at your company - your newsletter needs to give people something to connect to and engage with. This all goes back to a question we'd all be well off asking ourselves after making statements in any context: So What?
Ask yourself this question every time you add an update to your newsletter, create a call to action, write a subject line, etc. For example, let's say you published a Top 100 Joomla Extensions list, and want to link to it in your email. You might write something like: "Here's a list of our Top 100 Joomla Extensions". Here comes the question... So what?
What will your reader get for clicking? Why should they care about the list? What makes it relevant and interesting for them?
Let's try to reword with a little more pizzaz: "Check out our new list of the Top 100 Joomla Extensions! Our Joomla experts have taken the time to evaluate thousands of Joomla extensions and compile the best to help save time, money, and energy when selecting extensions for your Joomla Project."
See how far a little persuasive copy can go? After every draft of your newsletter, ask yourself "So what?" to ensure you're providing and positioning something that readers will care about.
Promote and sell tactfully
You're writing a newsletter to keep in touch with people who visited your site. You want people who visited your site to become customers. It's important to make a connection between these two concepts.
A newsletter should not be an exclusively sales-focused medium of communication, but it's also not a crime to promote your business endeavors within. If you have a truly valuable offer or promotion you think your email recipients might benefit from, it's a great idea to include it in your email update.
But proceed with caution! People subscribe to newsletters to get new information and content, not to be on the receiving end of a never-ending sales pitch. Abide by the 80/20 rule and never allow more than 20% of your yearly newsletters to fall into the sales category. And when they do, remember to follow rule #2 and provide real value as a reason to convert.
If your other newsletters and communication leading up to that point have led them to percieve you as credible and useful, the pitch won't be so difficult or ill received as it might be when made in a hard-sell style.
Now that you know what you want to do with your subscriber list and how you'll go about communicating with them, start thinking about how you can grow that list. A good starting place is to check and make sure your opt-in module is prominently featured across your website, so it's easy for users to find. This means selecting color and fonts which stand out on the page and draw in readers' eyes.
While you're at it, clearly outline what they can expect by subscribing. Again, we're seeking to answer that "So What?" question and prove to readers that opting into your list will make their life or job easier.
Here's Social Media Examiner doing a great job of making their opt-in stand out and providing a solid reason to subscribe (including a free content download):
What are you currently doing with your newsletter?
Have you tried any methods to successfully grow your list? I invite you to discuss in the comments below, and wish you the best of luck!