Yesterday I covered some tips for building your list of email subscribers. DJ Waldow at Blue Sky Factory made a great point in the comments about setting realistic expectations by telling subscribers how often they’ll hear from you, showing them what your newsletter looks like, and sending a welcome email as soon as someone subscribes. All good ideas.
Today we’ll talk about writing content for your email newsletter. Here are some of the strategies I use as I’m writing for clients or my own newsletter.
- Build an idea repository. As you’re reading news sites and blogs, you probably stumble on some articles or stats that would interest your readers. I bookmark all of these links in Delicious so I can easily find them when I start writing that month’s newsletter. The same goes for any upcoming classes I’m teaching, articles I’ve written, quotes that have inspired me, or events I’m hosting that month. I should note that one of the drawbacks to the way I’ve grown my email list (primarily online) is that my subscribers are spread out geographically, so it doesn’t lend itself to promoting in-person events or classes. But it’s great for books or blog posts!
- Don’t try to tell the whole story. Email wasn’t meant to be epic, so don’t sweat it if yours is short and sweet. If fact, I’d recommend that approach. You can tease a few articles or links, but don’t include a 1,000-word article in the body of the email. Write enough to get someone interested so they’ll click the link and read the rest (this also keeps your email from getting too cluttered.) If you’re stumped for material, there’s no reason you can’t include links with attribution to other articles that relate to your industry. As the saying goes, “Cover what you do best. Link to the rest.”
- Include a clear call to action. What do you want your subscribers to do? Buy your ebook? Enter your t-shirt giveaway? Send you their feedback? Comment on your latest blog post? Make sure this directive is clear, and mention what they will get out of it. Also, “click here” screams old school e-commerce, so use specific actions as your anchor text. For instance, “You’re the expert! Tell us what think.” or “Enter to win a free t-shirt.”
- Craft an enticing subject line. I usually write my subject line at the very end to make sure that it relates to the content inside. I also focus on benefits like boosting your income, tracking your time, or winning something cool. Sometimes asking a question (like “Are you earning what you’re worth?”), keeping it short (“Surprise!”), or including the person’s first name in the subject line can be effective ways to spark subscriber interest. Nowadays people get so much email that cutting through the clutter is a real challenge. Be creative, and test out different ideas to see what works for your list.
- Before you hit send, ask “what’s in it for them?” It goes without saying (I hope) that you’ll proofread your newsletter and preview it in multiple email programs. But I also try to look at my newsletter through the eyes of my subscribers. Will they find something to help them grow their business that isn’t already on my blog? Or will they think it’s self-indulgent drivel? I include a monthly feature called “Rockin’ Freelance Resource” that highlights a website or other service in the hopes that readers discover something new from that.
KMN had asked about keeping newsletter content fresh in an earlier post. I’d say that in this regard newsletters are no different from magazines or other publications that publish regularly. Often special interest publications cover similar topics month after month and year after year. They keep it “fresh” by finding new experts who can give advice with a new spin (often similar advice just stated in a new way), citing new research or legislation that relates to the topic, or sometimes simply by packaging it with clever word play and artwork. In my opinion, it doesn’t have to be revolutionary to create value or help your subscribers learn something new.
What do you think? What makes you want to open a newsletter week after week or after month or month?
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