By Anita Brady
In our increasingly paperless world, disbursing information is becoming both easier and more difficult at the same time. It’s easier because email newsletter templates are becoming more and more user friendly and easy to distribute, but it’s also harder because of this ease-of-use; that is, because just about anyone can do it, just about everyone is. So the question is, how do you make your company stand out in your potential clients’ inbox and avoid the dreaded “delete” button?
When it comes down to it, successful email newsletters are based on five basic principles:
- Create a practical format
- Be interesting
- Be engaging
- Keep it simple
- Keep your deadlines
1) Create a practical format
If you’re creating this newsletter for your own small business, you already know that you’re a strong and ambitious person, but with newsletters it’s probably a good idea to set the strong ambitions aside. Shoot for a simple, easy-to-read, and engaging format that not only avoids overwhelming your readers, but avoids overwhelming you on deadline day.
Readers today generally like their information in quick bites, and a newsletter with between three and five stories is usually an achievable – and readable – length. For example, the website Beat the Wagon has some helpful tips on writing and building your email newsletter for your intended style and audience. The most important thing to remember, however, is to make sure your newsletter is an achievable length both for you and your readers.
2) Be interesting
Even though I love my cozy cottage home, I still find myself looking forward each week to an email newsletter from a local real estate company. It’s not the listings I’m anticipating, though I do flip through them, but rather the lead story. Each newsletter kicks off with a catchy headline leading into a story either about a famous celebrity house that’s for sale, or the spooky histories behind some of the most haunted houses on the market. While these homes are certainly not in their company portfolio, the stories are interesting enough to engage readers who aren’t even considering putting their homes on the market. If I ever do think about selling, I’m sure I’ll contact this company as I know their newsletters are being read.
What can you write about that will snag the attention of your reader? Remember, you don’t have to stick to stories within your company or even within your local industry. Broaden your horizons by thinking outside of the box and finding stories that pertain to your company but also engage your reader. Another great benefit of these types of stories is that it might even encourage your readers to re-post them – another plus in your marketing campaign.
3) Be engaging
Interesting stories aside, you can quickly lose your audience if your articles are poorly written, boring or choppy. Additionally, if your articles are written with selling in mind, with lots of loud marketing language, your newsletter is as good as deleted from your customers’ inbox. Instead, write to engage, as though you’re having a conversation with the reader. Include little tidbits about your business – share some fun stories.
If your company recently won an award, talk more about the experience rather than bragging about the honor. For example, say the company owner was on his way to the podium when his wife shouted “Way to go, John!” You could say how it took him almost a minute to stop blushing and give his acceptance speech. No matter what, you want to make sure your point comes across in a clear, concise, engaging, and conversational manner. Make your customers feel like they’re a part of the family!
4) Keep it simple
As a business person, this idiom is probably old hat for you, but it never hurts to get a reminder: whatever you do, keep it simple. Instead of making your readers slog through paragraphs of irrelevant and boring information to get to the gist of your article, try serving it to them in little bites of information. One good example comes from a local community newspaper. There’s one page that lists a handful of numbers in bold, like headlines, with a line of information beneath each. I remember those nuggets of facts far more than the information in the lengthy surrounding articles.
For example, the numeric headline might read “43,211” and the line of information beneath it states “The number of times the average person has looked at his or her email since the beginning of the year.” You can use this format in your own business by creating interesting snippets of information that stick with your readers long after they’ve forgotten the articles. A graphic design company, for instance, might create an “Eye Spy” section with hints on making logos more visually appealing, or a music store might have a “Pucker Up” section with tips on buying the right mouthpiece for brass instruments. Whatever your business, make sure you provide your readers with information that’s short, simple, and to the point.
5) Keep your deadlines
The author Douglas Adams once wrote, “I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” That mentality might work for authors, but not for business owners. If your customers are expecting to see a newsletter from you every Wednesday by noon, make sure you’ve worked out your schedule so that will always be possible. Once customers lose faith in your ability to keep deadlines, they start to lose faith in your company.
So the next time you’re working on your email newsletter, or considering starting one for your business, consider these five basic principles: Is it practical, interesting, engaging, and simple, and can you keep your deadlines? If so, you’re sure to have a loyal and rapidly growing readership in no time.