Many people think newsletters are dead, but I disagree.
They’re evolving. The one-size-fits-all news dump about your business that gets sent to everyone on your subscriber list is definitely gone (RIP).
Now newsletters are thoughtfully curated emails designed to educate and delight readers (the goods one anyway, and I’ll share a few examples in a moment).
Don’t call it “a newsletter”
A compelling newsletter starts with a compelling name. A name that defines its content, brand, voice, and value.
For example, “The Green Thumb,” is more interesting than “Steve’s Nursery Newsletter,” because it establishes clear expectations for content and it’s goal-oriented (be a better gardener). The latter name, meanwhile, suggests you’re going to get bombarded with a smorgasbord of self-centered info about a business.
Focus on your reader
A successful newsletter is conscious of its audience, and tailored accordingly.
Your newsletter should not be a dumping ground of information that you send to everyone in one fell swoop. This forces readers to dig for the content that is valuable to them, and guess what? They won’t bother digging. Unless they see immediate value, they will move on without giving you a second look.
Don’t make it all about you
This is an extension of my previous point, but it is worth calling out.
The best newsletters keep self-promotion to a minimum, and instead, share educational or entertaining content that is valuable to readers.
For example, for customers of Steve’s Nursery, a comparison of plant shears is more useful than a story about Steve getting honored by the local Chamber of Commerce for 20 years of exceptional business and community engagement.
Next time you’re putting your newsletter together, ask yourself, “why should readers care about this?” And if the answer is something like “because it’s cool” or “it’s important to me,” reconsider including it.
I’m not saying to never include such content. I’m just saying that it should not dominate your newsletter. Newsletters that fail usually do so because the content is all about the business, not the customer.
Don’t hard sell stuff
It’s probably apparent by now, but newsletters are not direct sales tools. They’re not really even for starting conversations with customers. Newsletters are for sharing information, establishing credibility, and raising awareness of a brand. These components heavily influence purchasing intent, but the actual sale happens elsewhere.
I know. You’re a business. You gotta sell stuff. I get it. But a newsletter is for building leads over time, not hard-selling strangers.
Have a voice
People like to read things written by people, not companies. Make your newsletter sound human, or at least like your brand. Give it style, personality, a point of view. Make it something people can’t read anywhere else because it’s unique. If a reader feels like he or she is communicating with a person, he or she is more likely to have an emotional (read: connected and engaged) response.
Newsletters that work
Ok, now let’s put all of the above together and let it marinate by examining a few newsletters that work.
I’ll start with my favorite. theSkimm is a daily digest of news with a voice, style, and valuable information. Its voice is smart but conversational, which makes the content easy to digest. The clean, cohesive design, extra white space and font hierarchy also make this an easy read. theSkimm also makes me laugh, so even if I have news fatigue, I cruise through this newsletter for the great one-liners.
Brain Food is a newsletter sent by Farnam Street, a blog dedicated to the, “pursuit of worldly wisdom.” The newsletter, like the blog, shares articles on everything from science, philosophy, education, literature and more. Some of the reads take a minute, so it makes sense that this newsletter arrives on Sunday. I can curl up on the couch with a mug of tea, a cozy blanket and read away.
La Lettre d’Ines
I don’t speak French and I still read La Lettre d’Ines. Ok, I mostly just look at the pictures. But really, this newsletter has so much personality and when I read it, I feel like the sender, Ines de la Fressange, and I, are besties having a one-on-one convo. She’s like that friend that always finds the cutest stuff, knows all the best restaurants and knows all the great brands you’ve never heard of.
Now, you might balk and say, “But she’s selling things!” To which I say: yeeeeeah, kinda, but no. She doesn’t include prices, and she uses a blog-like narrative to explain how she found the products, why she likes them, and what they mean to her. My point: it doesn’t feel like a sales pitch, it feels like a blog.
It’s informal, but still professional. It’s cleanly designed and easy to read, and not overly promotional. The call-to-action for his book comes way at the end, after he’s given away a bunch of free content.
Whew! I was a bit long winded today. I get pretty excited about newsletters. I hope this info helps. Thoughts? Questions? Leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you.