As you may remember from my previous post, my first attempt at email marketing was a complete disaster. I made several mistakes that meant my newsletter wasn’t, and simply couldn’t be engaging – meaning I couldn’t make people open it, let alone read it. Here are a few cardinal errors I made and how to avoid them to write really engaging newsletters.
I know everybody is writing about it, and you don’t have time to read so instead of reinventing the wheel and writing another looooong blog post, I summarised the advice on how to write engaging newsletters offered by top marketing coaches such as Joe Pulizzi of Content Marketing Institute, Neil Patel of Quick Sprout or Dan Norris of Content Machine.
1. Send it only to people who *really* want it
In my first attempt at email marketing I confused cold mailing (sending spammy messages to poor souls whose emails I found online) with newsletters (providing value to people who want to listen to you in the form of an email). I sent mail to people who didn’t ask for it. How often do you open emails you didn’t anticipate or ask for? Now, can you guess what my open rate was?
What’s the answer to this? Obviously, send your newsletters only to people who have signed up for them. Not to people that provided their email address at checkout, to get a freebie, survey results, or for any other reason. I know that may sound harsh when you are only collecting your first subscriber list and are strapped for these emails, but trust me – the people who don’t want to get your newsletter won’t read it, and the ‘dead souls’ on your mailing list may adversely affect your spam score (see below).
An option that will nearly double your newsletter open rates from 16 to nearly 30% is a double opt-in process.
Double opt-in means the subscriber needs to form another action (e.g. click on ‘confirm your subscription’ in the welcome email) after first providing their email address to you in order to be enrolled in your subscribers’ list.
If you want to read more about successful double opt-ins and how to create them, read this post by Neil Patel about it.
2. Have a clear plan and state it before people subscribe
Before you write your first newsletter, you have to have a *clear* agenda of what the whole newsletter is going to be about – think in a series of 6 or 12. No, you don’t actually need to have the whole series *written* before you send the first email, just know what you are going to write about and communicate it clearly with your readers *before* they subscribe:
This ensures that the subscribers really know what they are (proverbially) signing up for. Making an informed choice means they will be literally waiting to read your next newsletter because they know what they will learn from it:
Newsletters are also an excellent way to both promote and deliver an online course – read more about how to use them for this purpose if you are in the education business.
3. Have a compelling subject line
HubSpot has written a pretty exhaustive post on subject lines (that may be a tad *too exhaustive* if you are anything like me, aka have the attention span of a goldfish)…here are some ‘golden tips’ I squeezed out of it especially for fellow-fish (wink wink):
- Keep it short.
- Tell them what’s inside.
- Make it actionable.
- Tell them it’s urgent.
- Make it personal.
- Be funny.
Good news: your subject line doesn’t need to meet *all* of these criteria at the same time.
Emilia, your free e-book is inside.
Grab 20% off your next course before 31 March, Emilia
4. Write things you *yourself* would like to read
Hopefully, you know your target audience well and you are ‘one of them’. You understand their needs, problems, and what they want to read about. I recently interviewed a wildly successful doctor-turned-online marketer empowering female entrepreneurs in their marketing efforts, who grew a 12,000 audience in just a year. Asked how she writes her newsletters so that people actually want to read them (and even pay for them!), she replied simply:
Would you like to read salesy offers from unknown businesses? Of course not. So, what do people usually like to read?
- Authentic stories from your personal experience that teach (e.g. case studies)
- Valuable content that gives them something for free
- Perfectly curated content that saves their time
Also, people like to read things that are written in simple and clear language that’s easy to follow. Your newsletter is not a who-can-write-the-longest-sentence competition.
Check out Dan Noris’ free book ‘Content Machine’ here for more tips on excellent writing (i.a. How to make your texts more actionable, engaging, interesting, and valuable.)
5. KISS and…Don’t overdo text and images
‘Keep it simple, stupid!’ applies to newsletters as well (or rather *especially* to newsletters).
People don’t want to read 2000-word blog posts when checking their emails – no matter how interesting they are – because when someone is checking their email, they simply usually don’t have the time to stop at one for longer than a few seconds. According to a marketing research institute Marketing Sherpa, an average person spends only around 20 seconds reading an email.
So: if you want them to read your blog post, give them a short but powerful teaser and take them there by a clear call-to-action (CTA) – e.g. read more on: [link to your blog post]
Make sure your copy looks clean and that the sentences are well-separated rather than clustered into long paragraphs.
Like this one:
Don’t overdo pictures – most email vendors will block displaying them, so your readers will need to jump another hurdle (‘click to display pictures’) before they see them – which may be too much for someone who has only 20 seconds to skim through your text.
You may also need to use alternate text (text that describes the content of the picture if it cannot be displayed) if your pictures are essential to your CTA or email marketing funnel.