If you're one of the people who think that email newsletters have had their day, because you receive too many poorly written ones, you're not alone. I think that badly done newsletters have definitely had their day! Unfortunately, there are still too many around, cluttering up our inboxes, giving the good ones a bad name. Done well, an email newsletter is one of the best ways of keeping in touch with your clients and prospects and of building up the reputation of your business.
This newsletter is now in its ninth year and I still get lovely comments from readers every month. So in this issue – how NOT to do a newsletter! What do you think makes a bad newsletter? Click here to answer this question on LinkedIn and share your thoughts.
How NOT to do Newsletters
To create a newsletter that will be read, every single time you send it out, there are three things you need to do. Carry out some planning before you get started, think carefully about what you're going to write and consider who to send it to. Simple!
Or, if you'd like that in a bit more detail ...
1. Planning to publish
Planning will save you a lot of time and make your newsletter work harder for you.
Start by having an objective. Why are you publishing a newsletter? If it's to generate sales, you'll never meet your objective. Good objectives include educating your readers, sharing advice or building your reputation as an expert in your field. When you know why you're writing a newsletter, make sure you focus on this in every issue, to ensure that you give your readers what they're expecting.
Next, choose your structure and format. What are you going to include in each issue? How many sections will your newsletter have? Knowing this helps you design the layout of your newsletter when you're starting out, helps your readers get to know their way around your newsletter and makes the writing more focused.
Then think about how you will send it. Will you use plain text from your desktop email system? Will you create attachments or will you invest in an email newsletter system? There are pros and cons of each and you need to weigh them all up.
2. What do you write about?
If you're passionate and enthusiastic about your business and you enjoy telling people about what you do, then you should have no problems here.
However, if you look at the whole of your industry, you may think there's too much information to share. Where do you start? How do you write a concise newsletter that doesn’t read like War and Peace?
Or you may think there's nothing to write about in your business or industry – that there's not enough to hold your readers' attention.
Either way, the trick is to divide your business, industry or experience into a number of sections and write about one in each issue. This month I'm only writing about email newsletters; next month it will be about Marketing Planning; in April it will probably be website performance.
How do I know what I'm writing about so far in advance? Because we've planned our main marketing activities for each of the next few months and our newsletters will focus on those topics, as will our blogs, networking and tweets.
3. Who do you send your newsletter to?
It's rude and inappropriate to send an email newsletter to just anyone you meet. (If you'd rather not receive any more issues of Scribbles, just click the unsubscribe link at the end of this one.)
Think about who you know. Make a list of the people you think will benefit from reading your newsletter. When you send the first issue explain why you’re sending it and what people will get from reading it.
Grow your list by promoting your newsletter – put past issues on your website with a sign up form; tell people about it when you go networking; encourage your readers to pass it on; put it in your email signature; tweet about it.
Bad newsletters are the ones that just try to sell you something. They are the ones that don’t give you, the reader, anything useful. They contain no helpful advice or information to help you with your business. They ramble on about all sorts of things, without focusing on a specific topic and are not integrated with any other marketing activities. Take some time to plan your email newsletter and it won't fall into those traps – or my spam folder!