Newsletters can be a pivotal marketing element for any industry. They’re a direct line to your clients without the noise you’ll find in traditional advertising spots, social media, and street campaigns.

Today I’ve got tips for:

  1. Crafting your newsletter content—what to include, what to exclude, and how to provide value for your readers
  2. How to get people to subscribe to your newsletter
  3. And how to get people to actually open and read your newsletters

But first:

Why should you have a newsletter?

I have a degree in marketing, and during college, my professors would rag on and on about email marketing. As a freshman, I was like, “who gives a shit?” And you might be thinking the same thing—it’s 2020. Who reads emails? Who cares?

Actually, a lot of people. AND if someone has specifically subscribed to your newsletter, they’re already at LEAST partially committed to you, which means your marketing job is half done. You have their interest, and you have their ear.

Social media marketing can be tricky because there is So Much noise. With an email campaign, you’re directly in their inboxes. Most people at least skim every email they receive to decide if it’s worth their time.

This makes email marketing very important and potentially very impactful.

Now that we know WHY email campaigns are important, let’s talk about how to manage them.

Some of these tips might not apply for your work, or you might need to tweak them. Every industry is a little different and every audience is a little different. So take these tips, see how to apply them for your needs, then track the success of your campaigns to see what needs to be changed.

Here are seven tips for crafting the content of your newsletters.

Content of a newsletter.

When it comes to content and formatting, every industry will differ, but there are a few general rules you can usually apply to any newsletter.

Use clear headings.

You want your email to be “skim-friendly,” which means people can scroll through, read the headings, and get most of the information. Most people don’t read entire emails—they’ll skim, and maybe read the sections they find interesting—so make sure the sections are clearly labeled. Here’s an example from my own newsletter:

If someone isn’t having trouble with motivation, or they aren’t a writer, they’ll skip this heading. That’s all you want: Something quick and digestible to let your reader know if that section is interesting to them.

Using images in your emails.

Imagery can make your newsletter more interesting to look at and easier to skim. I try to use an image for every heading in my emails. For example, I included the graphic I used to announce this event on Instagram:

Having something visual gets a lot more attention than if I had just said, “We’re having a Twitch stream. Come over. 😉”

Offer value.

If your newsletter is exclusively self-promo or news about you and your personal life, you might not gain or maintain a very consistent open rate, so make sure you’re giving your readers something. Some things I have offered in the past are:

Exclusive discounts.

For example, 50% off of one of my marketing services—and I won’t offer that discount anywhere besides my newsletter.

A newsletter-exclusive giveaway.

For example, one month I gave away a 5,000-word writing critique to a person from my mailing list.

Downloadables.

The downloadable I include most frequently in my newsletter are my Twilight Rewrite PDFs. Every time I finish editing a chapter on my channel, I send it out as a PDF.

I’ve also created writing prompt lists, self-care checklists, mini-marketing plans, stuff like that. Something that takes me an hour or two to make can in turn get me 150 new followers who are INTERESTED in my content, and that’s a really valuable time investment.

Think about what you can offer that would make sense for your industry and your audience.

Link your sh*t.

As often as possible, each heading of your newsletter should have a Call To Action. That might be a PDF the reader can download, a link to click, a channel to subscribe to, etc.

If you’ve just updated your readership on your upcoming novel and include a character portrait, make that portrait a link to a place you posted it, like your Instagram account.

Every time you give a bit of information, have a CTA for interested readers to follow, like: check out my Instagram. There’s no reason to put something that might be interesting to your subscribers if you aren’t going to lead them elsewhere if they do find it interesting. You’ll typically want everything that you include in your newsletter to either be a funnel somewhere else, or something that provides value, like a download.

Keep it concise.

I usually keep the actual copy under each heading in my emails between two sentences to maybe a medium-sized paragraph. There are people with lengthy, wordy emails, but readers do typically skim. I think the briefer the better. Say what you gotta say in a clean, concise manner, then hop.

Create an “ideal reader,” then write to them.

Creating ideal readers is a practice you’ll see a lot in authors who write nonfiction, but it can be used for any genre, even emails.

The gist is that you make up an imaginary person–how old they are, where they’re from, how and where they spend their time, what they look like, etc. You can even choose a real member of your audience that you feel represents the whole.

Then you write every newsletter as if you’re addressing that person. This can make your letters seem more personalized and less like you’re just newsflashing 800 people. It just makes your newsletters come off a lot more human.

Send a test email.

I send test emails to my roommate because he’s very good at spotting weird phrasing and formatting issues. Even if you just send the test email to yourself, make sure you’re previewing your newsletters before sending something out to your entire address book. Also make sure to check that all the links work and direct to the correct place.

How do you get people to sign up for your newsletter?

Now that we know about our email content, how do we get people to sign up and see them in the first place?

Ask them to.

I know that sounds basic, but I had so many friends who have newsletters, and maybe a mailing list sign-up on their website, but they never mentioned it to people, they never announced when their newsletters were going out, so they only had 15 or 20 people actually subscribed, because no one knew about it.

I like to announce my newsletters a couple of days before they go out, and I mention what will be included that might get new people interested in signing up, then I’ll announce after it’s been sent to tell people to check their spam folders, because it’ll go there until they add my email address to their contact list.

What’s funny is I usually get tons more subscribers with the announcement AFTER I’ve sent it out than I do when I give people the heads up BEFORE sending it out. There’s something about FOMO that gets people interested once they know other people already have it, so I announce before and after.

Bait people with incentive.

Like I said, if you’re providing value in every newsletter, you’ll keep a more consistent open rate, but also let people know exactly what you’re offering. For example, in my Twilight Rewrite videos, I mention, “Hey if you want to read my edited version, I send out every chapter in my newsletter.”

And every single person that signs up for my mailing list gets a list of ten writing exercises because I include the PDF in my welcome email. So there ARE people who might just want to hear about you, your life, your projects—whatever personal information you’re putting in your newsletters—but most people do not give a shit, so you need to provide value for them to open that accessible communication stream.

Make a pop-up on your website mentioning the incentive.

I hate newsletter pop-ups, so it actually took me a long time to decide to put one on my website. But I made it where it doesn’t pop up right away, it doesn’t block your view of anything—it’s just a little slide out at the bottom of my website, and it’s an offer for the ten writing exercises. There has been a SIGNIFICANT increase in new subscribers since I added that. It grabs attention, and it’s super quick for them to sign up.

Offer something in every email.

I keep coming back to this, but give your readers value. Exclusive discounts, downloadables, early access if you’re a content creator, excerpts from recent projects—try out different things and see what people respond to.

So we’ve got our content and formatting, and we’ve got subscribers—how do we get people to consistently open the emails?

How to get people to read your newsletter.

There are two main things that marketing research indicates make or break if your email will get opened or not: subject lines and from lines.

Use accurate from lines.

From lines are easy: people are more likely to open an email if it’s from someone they know.

If you’re, for example, an indie author. You might have your author name on all of your social media, maybe you have a following, maybe that’s how people are finding your newsletter. You might also have a business name for your publishing company—use your name in the from line. People are more likely to open an email from a person than from a business.

You also need good subject lines.

I have a few basic tips for writing your subject lines:

  1. Keep it concise. You can look up best practices on verbiage and length and whether or not you include emojis—it can depend heavily on your industry, so do a little research on what’s best for your audience, but default to conciseness.
  2. Make it compelling. Bring your A game to that subject line. It’s your hook.
  3. Be honest. Let the reader know what you’re providing in your email and why they should open it.

Build trust with your audience by providing good content.

If you send out a subpar, boring newsletter with no customer value, they’re not gonna open the next one. Stay consistent and offer incentive.

Send automated welcome emails.

One way to build trust straight off the bat is with an automated welcome email with some sort of gift. Like I said, everyone who subscribes to my newsletter gets a list of ten writing prompts. If they associate your newsletter with gifts, they will be more likely to open the next one.

The first sentence.

I already mentioned the subject line and from line, but don’t undervalue the first sentence of your email. It’s usually what shows in the preview, it’s the first thing they’ll read after they open it, so put some effort into writing a good opener.

Those are my best tips for organizing your newsletter and mailing list! Hope it was helpful. You can sign up for mine to get more ideas:

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