How to Write Email Newsletters That Work

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Image via Wikipedia

I signed up to a top, brand-name newsletter a few months ago.  The blogger’s posts were really helpful, and I thought that his newsletter would be too.

It turned out to be useless.  The newsletter was composed entirely of links back to that week’s posts.  There was no extra value to subscribing at all.  I could have just used an RSS feed and gotten the exact same content.

It felt as if he couldn’t be bothered to spend a few extra minutes to create something special (and incidentally nurture his email list).

Send  your readers fresh content

If you want people to read your newsletter, tell them something extra.  Give them articles you don’t post on your blog.  Or, add additional links or resources that they can’t find easily elsewhere.

If you don’t have fresh content, curate some useful tools or links (not necessarily your own). Group them together with a theme, such as “15 web design hacks” or “5 expense tracking tools.”

Give subscribers special treatment

For instance, when I publish a free ebook, I offer it to my newsletter subscribers first.  That gives them a chance to look it over before anyone else sees it. If you create a new course (paid or not), or schedule a webinar, tell your readers first.

This serves two purposes: first you have a chance to get feedback and update the course or product based on what your subscribers think; second, your subscribers will feel special because they’re first in line for new products.

Offer  your readers bonuses and  extra goodies

Another tactic is to put together special discounts or offers that aren’t available to the general public.  Send an email offering a deal on your ebook or services.  Or, arrange to offer them an extra bonus or discount on someone else’s product.

Five Essential Pieces Every Email Newsletter Needs

@ or at sign made of puzzle pieces on white ba...

Image by Horia Varlan via Flickr

Even in these days of RSS, Twitter, Facebook, and social media, the “old-fashioned” email newsletter is still a reliable way to connect with your readers, build your tribe, and sell your products.

In order to do that, you’ll need to follow these five essential steps.

1) Reflect your brand

Put your logo on it. Or your smiling face. Use the company colors. I like to keep mine fairly simple (so that it’s readable both on phones and computers), just my face, the copy, and some HTML links.  This also helps keep it out of spam filters.

2) Short copy

One or two “screen scrolls” should do it. Don’t write five printed out pages of text. It’s too hard to read. Keep it short, personal, and chatty.  My newsletters are about two paragraphs (plus links back to the blog and an occasional P.S.).  Quick, short, and easy-to-digest.

3) Minimal Images

Too many places to look gets confusing. Readers are drawn to images — too many and they don’t know where to look first. This can also be another spam trigger.  Keep the layout linear – don’t jump all over the place – it’s too hard to follow.

4) Consistent calls to action

Hold off on the call to action until you’ve explained the benefits of whatever you want the reader to do. Some need more information than others, but don’t make it the first or second sentence. Click here now (why? I don’t know what I’m getting into yet). Keep the call to action consistent – use the same wording and anchor text (the text that shows up in the link rather than the url).

5) Answer readers’ questions

Think about what concerns your readers may have. Are they worried about the price? The quality? Getting a refund if something goes wrong? That the product will be hard to use? If they worry about price, point out what a great value it is. If they’re concerned they won’t be happy, emphasize your great guarantee. If they think it’s hard, include testimonials from happy customers showing how easy it is to use.

Five Ways to Stop Your Email Subscribers From Leaving

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If you’re building an email list (and don’t forget to build your list and back it up regularly) you want to make sure that subscribers don’t leave. Email can be one of your most profitable marketing channels.  You worked hard to get those signups, and you definitely don’t want to lose them after all that effort.

How to reduce email unsbscribes

While you can’t prevent all email unsubscribes, and some email list churn is inevitable, there are a few things you can do to reduce the number of people who unsubscribe from your email list.

1) Be upfront about how often you will email them

If you promise to email once a week, but start sending twice a day, your subscribers will get frustrated, and annoyed, and leave. Don’t send long newsletters if you promised short ones (or vice versa).

2) Tailor your newsletters to your audience

If they signed up for information about yak shaving, send that. If they wanted gardening and landscaping tips, send information about caring for azaleas.

If you have different groups of people, or businesses, on your list, and it’s big enough, separate your messages. Send tips about the azaleas to the home gardening folks and information about new tree care tools to the arborists.

3)  Stick to one theme per newsletter

It can get confusing if you’re talking about flowers one minute, then going on to protecting your bird feeder from squirrels, and then on to lawn care.

4) Ask for feedback

Invite them to ask questions, give feedback, and talk to you. Include a note at the bottom inviting feedback, and promising that all replies go to your personal inbox.  Send out a survey every once in a while asking them what they like best (more azaleas!), and least (fewer squirrels – it’s hopeless!).

5) Get permission

Don’t sign people up because you met them at an event, exchanged business cards, or sent them some promotional material.  These are some of the worst ways to grow your newsletter.  Plus, people who got on your list without consent are more likely to leave (and leave quickly).

Five Simple Tips for Better Email Marketing

email sign on a roll-down door

Image thanks to nickobec

Want better email marketing? Email can be a disaster (spam), or it can be a great marketing tool.

Use it correctly, and you can get great results, at a relatively low cost.

Use it poorly, and your name is mud. Here are five tips to improve your email marketing campaigns.

None of them are hard and none of them take a lot of time to set up. You can start using them today.

Include a forward to a friend link

Encourage the subscribers you have to pass your newsletter on to their friends and colleagues.  Since it comes from a friend, the email is more likely to be opened.  Links are OK, but avoid forms, as there’s a potential for spamming.

Add a personal touch to your newsletters

For instance, John Jantsch always includes a book and an album (is that still the right word when everything is digital?) he likes.

Multiple subscription options

If you have more than one newsletter, offer readers the option of selecting which newsletters they get.  Have a separate list for special discounts (and first notice of new products).

Don’t overdo the promotion

Your readers signed up to get information.  Keep everything in balance.  If your newsletter is about photography, have two or three articles about photography, and then a link to your new “better portrait photography” ebook.

Link to articles or posts on your blog

Your email newsletter readers may not see your blog. Send them a link to a relevant post. Or, offer the option to get a weekly blog digest by email.


B2B Email Marketing: How to Stay Out of the Spam Folder

evil lemon imageThis post is inspired by Bob Poole’s post yesterday (Did You Just Sucker Punch a Potential Customer?)

He compared spamming people (sending email to someone who didn’t ask for it, doesn’t want it, and doesn’t know you) to visiting a prospect and punching them in the nose when they open the door.

Not a good way to make a positive impression. And, when you’re a small business, you can’t afford that sort of mistake.

So, a few words about permission, list “rental,” list building, and how to stay out of the spam folder.

You need permission to email people

There are people (even marketing consultants) who think it’s OK to spam a big list “just once.” Or, to use a two-year-old list that they inherited from another company. I have even heard people say that it’s OK to send unsolicited emails as long as they’re text, but not HTML (huh?).

All bad ideas, and bad business email marketing.

Only use fresh email lists

Using names you got from a directory, a contact form, or a carbon copy is not permission. It’s also a waste of time and effort.   The people on that directory list didn’t ask for spam, they signed up to get more visibility for their companies. You can ask people you contact you if they’d like to sign up, but don’t add them yourself. Sending marketing emails to people who were carbon copied on a project will also make you look bad.

An out-of-the-blue email from a company they never heard of will go straight to the spam folder.

CAN-SPAM doesn’t help

Yes, it’s technically legal to send email to people in the United States (but not Canada) without specific permission (the irony about CAN-SPAM is that it inadvertently created more spam).

However, the people who get it will think it’s junk. They will bounce it, mark it spam, blacklist the company that sent it, and after a while your messages won’t get through.

What do YOU do when you get email like that? Do you smile happily? Or do you hit that unsubscribe button as fast as you can?

What’s more, many people don’t see (or know about) unsubscribe options, so they hit the spam button instead. That will just make your reputation even worse.

Is a sucker punch the best way to make a good first impression? Is that the best way for a small business to run an email marketing campaign?

The truth about buying lists

Most email lists for sale are garbage. They’re often opted-in without real permission, using little pre-checked boxes on other forms (such as account signups).  They offer to “send you offers from third parties.” What they really mean is that your email box will soon fill up with junk.

Plus, purchased lists are obsolete the minute you buy them.  The older they get, the more out of date they will be. You’ll get more bounces, a lower delivery rate and a higher risk of being labeled a spammer.

Lists are like fish. The older they are, the more they stink.

The rented ones are better, but they’re expensive. B to B lists can be up to $350 per thousand names (minimum order 5,000 names). If someone is offering to send the list directly to you, run away.

Reputable list owners have their emails delivered by a third party. If they’re offering to send three times in one month, run even faster. That list has been burned out.

There is no such thing as a legitimate opt-in email list of 1,000,000 names for $100. They’re all lemons.

How to get permission to email

If you want to reach people, there are better ways than a sucker punch to build your list.

Here are a few of them:

  • Write a helpful (not a sales pitch) article in a relevant magazine or newsletter (with a link to learn more about your services).
  • Send out a press release.
  • Offer a report of some kind (for free) to build up your list
  • Send personal invitations to your prospects, asking if they would like to sign up (don’t sign them up yourself)

Don’t use your desktop email software

Outlook, Gmail, and Apple Mail are fine, but not for business email marketing. Use a professional email service (like AWeber or Mail Chimp). They will manage the opt-ins, opt-outs, and the bounces. You can also get tracking data (showing how many people received your email, the number of people who opened it, and how many clicked through to your web site). Plus, the delivery rate will be higher, as they’re a recognized, legitimate mailer.
There are more tips in my free Email Made Easy ebook. Download it here. No opt-in needed. Feel free to share it.

Image thanks to :  pamah