13 TIPS TO WRITING A KILLER NEWSLETTER
BY Dana Kessler
Did you know that by sending an email newsletter to customers, you could earn an average of $38 for each $1 spent? In fact, one in five companies reports almost twice that much. You might think that creating an email newsletter for your business is a thing of the past. But a study shows that nearly 68% of teens and 73% of Millennials, prefer to communicate with a business by email. And more than 50% rely on emails for their online shopping. This is why writing a newsletter can yield a great return on investment for small businesses.
Another reason to create a newsletter is that social media profiles just aren't enough, even if they are successful. They're great for brand awareness — i.e. getting noticed by people who don’t already know you. But not effective for ongoing communication with your customers. You know why? Because on Instagram, for example, only 10% of your followers see your posts and on Facebook the numbers are pretty similar.
So if you want to get customers to book you or buy from you more often, you should start sending out an email newsletter. Here’s everything you need to know:
What is a business newsletter?
It is called a newsletter but that’s not actually what it is. Sure, you can, and you should, send out news about your business and keep your clients updated. However, a good newsletter does so much more than that. It engages, it entertains, it gives out useful information for free and interesting content. And above all, writing a newsletter for your business means creating a personal and ongoing relationship between you and your subscribers.
Why do I need to write a newsletter?
You might think that in the age of social media, you don’t need to create a newsletter for your business. Well, communicating with your customers and potential customers on social media is great, and you should definitely do it — but it’s not enough. Here’s why:
1. With email — you’re the boss! On social media channels, you do all the work: create the content, build a big list of followers, answer questions and reply to comments. And who owns the email addresses and makes money off advertising? That’s right, the Facebooks, the TikToks, the Instagrams (also owned by Facebook) and so on. And, they change the rules as often as they like. They decide who sees your posts and who doesn’t, how often they see your posts and how much you’ll need to pay to get your own customers to see your posts. But with email marketing, YOU own your email list — not some social media platform — and you run the show.
“In email marketing, YOU own your email list — not some social media platform — and you run the show.”
2. With email, you control the content. When you post on social media, you have to play by their rules. The platform decides which content you’re allowed to post, which photos, how much text. The platform decides if you can add links or not. In email marketing, YOU decide what your email contains
3. Email gets you higher return on every dollar spent, and more repeat business. Even today, email marketing is more effective than social media marketing. 60% of consumers subscribe to a brand’s email list to receive deals, compared to only 20% who will follow a brand on social media for deals. And if social media’s conversion rate is 1.9%, email conversion rate is much higher: 6.05%.
Now that you know exactly what a newsletter is why you need it, let's see how you can write a killer newsletter. Here are 13 tips:
1. Write content that gives value
The content of your emails should be something your readers really want to read. What makes content great? That it gives real value. This can mean being helpful, or entertaining or being informative. We’ll get much deeper into that later.
2. Style your emails to look like your brand
Great content is the basis of any newsletter, but it’s not enough: it has to look great too. Choose fonts and colors that look good, but more importantly, that match your visual branding. This means that they need to look very much like your website, your social media profiles, your packaging materials, your brick and mortar, your brochures etc.
3. Use good quality photos
80% of people remember what they see. That’s a much higher number than people who remember what they hear or read. This means you need great images for your newsletter.
You can use your own photos — ones you took in your business and of your customers (with their consent to publish of course). For instance, if you own a hair or beauty salon you can take pictures of your customers with their new haircut, makeup or manicure. If you’re a landscaper, you can take a photo of your clients in their new garden. If you’re a tattoo artist — take photos of your clients’ new ink. Obviously, some businesses are more visual than others. If your business is visual — take advantage of that.
You can also use stock photos, as long as you find good ones, that don’t look too boring and generic. There are many free stock image services with beautiful photos. Here is a list of great sites with free stock photos you can use. If you don’t find what you want there, you can check out the major image banks as well. Choose photos you love and that make you feel good. Others will share that feeling.
Pro tip: We like this guide on how to use images in email newsletters.
4. Send your emails from a name people will recognize
Do you know how people (including you) decide whether or not to open an email? They look at the subject line and the name of the sender. This means you need to think about your sender name before you write your email newsletter. Your readers need to recognize it and understand it’s you (your business), and it needs to always be the same. So basically — recognizable and consistent. And a personal name is better than just the business’s name. Research has shown that using a specific personal name can increase open rates by up to 35%.
Pro tip: Use both your first name and your business name. Example: “Jenny from 12handz”.
5. Write subject lines that will get your emails opened
As we said above, people decide whether or not to open an email based on the subject line too. So it can’t just be something off the top of your head. First, you need to know which words in the subject line can get your emails sent to the spam folder, and avoid those. Here’s a full list. Second, try to tell readers what’s the best thing they will get from opening and reading your email. Here’s another tip: Go over your own inbox, see which emails you opened, and ask yourself why. That will help you come up with effective subject lines.
6. Send the right emails to the right people
If you’re, let’s say, divorced, and your bank sends you an email titled “A loan to make your special day perfect”, you’re not going to open it. And you might even think less of your bank for doing so. That’s why it’s important to send the right emails to the right people. One way to do that is by segmenting your email list. That means breaking it down into groups that have something in common.
A group can be everyone who has a birthday in the same month. That type of group will enable you to send birthday-offers every month to the right people. Or a group could be all the people who bought the same product. That type of group will enable you to send them news of similar products. Everyone on your list can be in more than one group.
The important thing is to get the right offer to the right person. The chances that you, and anyone else, will open an email relevant to you, is much higher. More about that later.
7. Write your emails like you’re writing to a customer you know
It’s hard to figure out the right tone of voice for writing an email that goes out from your business, to so many people. So here is our advice: Imagine one of your customers. Someone you know pretty well. And write the email as if you’re writing to them. It will keep it real and will help the writing come natural.
8. Don’t be too salesy too often
Sure, your emails can include special offers. But it can’t be only special offers, and it can’t be all the time. If you’re too salesy, it feels like you’re not giving anything. You’re only thinking about yourself. People will stop opening your emails and even unsubscribe. So try to give something of value.
9. Include awesome content people will love. Here are a few ideas:
- Professional tips: Whatever your business is, you’re the expert. But customers don't necessarily know that. Especially the ones who joined your list, but never bought from you or booked you. Use the newsletter to give good professional advice that people can use. Giving advice is generous and people will be thankful. It’s also an opportunity to show how professional you are.
- Something personal: Like we said before, you should be writing with a customer you know in mind. So go ahead, and from time to time share something more personal, that you would tell that customer. It could be a holiday snap, a new professional course you’ve just completed, or a new album, movie or book you recommend. Something that will help your readers connect to you on a personal level.
- The latest news about your business: You can share news about new products, services or staff members in your business. And you should definitely share any information your customers must know, like changing opening hours etc.
- Milestones: If there’s something really special — like anniversaries, an important milestone, or maybe your business won a prize or got featured somewhere — share the news.
- How-to tutorials: You can add videos to your emails too. How-to videos might not be right for every business, but most businesses can come up with content that will work on video, and people love how-to videos.
- Before and After photos: Again, this doesn’t work for all businesses. But it’s super effective for those that it is right for. If you are an interior designer, a handyperson, a furniture restorer, a landscape architect, a car customizer etc., or if you own a hair or beauty salon, try taking Before and After photos and sharing them in your newsletter.
- Trends: Show your subscribers that you are on top of the latest trends in your field by mentioning them in your newsletter.
- Your pic of the month: If your business is a visual one and you have an active Instagram account, choose the best photo you posted each month and share it with your subscribers in your newsletter. Tell the story behind the photo in a few words.
- New blog posts: If you have a blog, tell your newsletter subscribers what your new blog post is about and link to it.
- Holiday greetings and holiday specials: Those are always fun to get.
- Invitations to events: If your business is hosting a special event — invite your newsletter subscribers.
- Curated content: Feel free to link to content you find online. Link only to content you like and you think will be interesting to your readers. Don’t steal content — always link to the source and give full credit. Just as long as you don’t link directly to your competition.
- Discounts and promotions: We’ve said this again and again, and we mean it, your newsletter shouldn't be a sales pitch. Having said that, if you have a sale or promotion, you should include it in your newsletter, it just shouldn’t be the main thing. As a rule of thumb, make sure offers and discounts make up of no more than 20% of your newsletter.
- Your product or service of the month: Again, keep the salesy part to a minimum.
- And don’t forget: Always include your contact information, address, phone number, email, opening hours and links to your website and social media.
Pro Tip: Before sending your newsletter out, run it through a grammar and spell check. Then send it to yourself and one other person first, to make sure it looks like it should and all the links open.
10. Add Calls to Action
When writing an email newsletter, you need to focus on giving value to your subscribers. However, you should add a clear CTA button to your newsletter. CTA stands for Call to Action and that’s exactly what those buttons are. Examples: Book Now, Refer a Friend, Contact Us. The tool you’re using to send out your newsletter will probably let you add CTAs too.
11. Send regularly, but not too often
You don’t want to send out your newsletter too often. You could send them out once a month, or even once a week. According to research, 49% of consumers said that they would like to receive promotional emails from their favorite brands on a weekly basis — meaning that it's not necessarily too often.
But this is an option only if you have the time to invest in great weekly newsletters and enough great content to justify shooting out an email to your customers every week. Remember: consistency is super important, so if you don’t think you can maintain a weekly emailing schedule, without compromising the quality of your newsletters, better stick to once a month.
If you’re new to this, commit to writing an email newsletter once a month (plus additional seasonal or holiday emails). You can always do more than that later on.
12. Make your newsletter mobile friendly
Of all emails opened, 46% of them are opened on mobile. This means your newsletter has to be mobile-friendly. In other words, it needs to look good when people open it on their mobile. The tool you’re using to send the email should do this automatically. But double-check by opening the test email you sent yourself on your own phone.
13. Clean Your Email List
If you’ve had your email list for a while you need to clean it up. This is important because you don’t want your emails to reach people’s spam folders, or to bounce back. So, you need to go over your email list and remove inactive subscribers, permanently bouncing emails, duplicates, fake emails, email addresses with typos and unsubscribed emails. If your email list isn’t very long, you just do it yourself manually. If it’s too long, find a good email cleaning service on Google and let it do the dirty work for you.
To sum up
A newsletter is a great marketing tool, and you shouldn’t miss out. To write an email newsletter, you don’t need to take all of these steps right from the beginning. Start small, with a short newsletter once a month, and grow from there. Just make sure your content and visuals look good, that you don’t have any spelling and grammar mistakes, and that your newsletter gives your reader real value.