The art of writing great newsletters
Cecelia Haddad provides some valuable tips on how to write a newsletter that cuts through the inbox clutter and earns new customers
Let’s start with a question. How many newsletters have you unsubscribed to in the past 12 months and why? How many have you subscribed to and continue to diligently read?
Newsletters are one of the most difficult pieces of communication to write. You just need to miss the mark once and an un-subscription becomes a lost contact.
Newsletters, whether produced in print or online are everywhere. Despite complaints they proliferate needlessly, every organisation seems to have one. The fact they are so common, means careful consideration must be given to every aspect of content and production to ensure the end result is worth the effort and the cost.
As with any marketing activity we need to look at the objectives first. What are the benefits of producing a newsletter?
– It is an efficient and effective way of staying in touch with new, former and potential clients.
– It can be used to establish you/your company as an expert in your field.
– It is a very good way of communicating your company’s service offering especially if you operate in more than one area, for example, new home building and major alterations and additions.
– It provides an opportunity for clients to get to know you and your team through personal profiling.
The bottom line is that newsletters are simply special purpose newspapers. They can be used to present arguments, give information, entertain and provoke action.
Like all good marketing activities – fail to plan, plan to fail. So make a plan that is workable for you and it will deliver the result you need.
Who is the newsletter for?
In most cases your newsletter will be distributed to existing, potential and new clients. They may know you or your company, having some interaction in the past, but they won’t be builders so will not have the knowledge you do. Working out who the newsletter is for is your foundation work. Now we start to build it.
What do you want your recipients to know and what do you want them to do when they get that information? For example: you might want to tell them about the range of services you offer, showcase your latest building project or introduce them to a new trend to incite them to use your services in the future. The content must be informative and interesting, not a sales pitch. Start by preparing a content calendar and listing the possible themes then stories that spin off those themes which can be included in your content.
How much content is enough?
Most newsletters are sent via email as an electronic direct mail which means it is likely to be read on a screen. This could be as large as a big desktop monitor or as small as an iphone. Content that really works is usually featured in one of two ways. The first option is to make your newsletter a five minute read. Promise your reader that in five minutes or less they will be able to read your newsletter and get value from the content. This is much more likely to be read than long, scrolling content on a device. The second option is to make your point in a paragraph or two that is in the body of the email but one that clicks through to a slightly longer piece that sits on your website should they want to read more detail. Even if they don’t read the entire newsletter you have still communicated your key message and if they do click through, then you have driven them to your website.
Make it a compelling read
If you don’t grab their attention in the first 30 seconds of opening your email it is likely to get deleted or go unread. Use the WIIFIM principle – What’s In It For Me. Talk to the reader in your opener and tease them into reading and wanting more. For example, “Want to know how to add $100,000 to the sale price of your home?” or “Moving on or moving up. Is adding a storey a better option than moving house?” An alternative is to use an impactful photo or visual that first captures their attention with some copy underneath. People are more likely to notice and click on a photo they like than text.
Frequency Newsletters are much more effective if they are issued regularly but I don’t mean every week. Once a month is enough but it does depend on how much content you have. Every two months or even quarterly is fine but no less frequently. Make sure your schedule doesn’t run into other major holidays like Christmas but early in the new year is the perfect time when people think of home improvements.
Always invite feedback and commentary. Ask readers if there is any particular topic they want to hear about. If your newsletter sits on your website you could offer a “Comments” or Q&A section for readers.
Grow Your Database
Surprisingly, most people won’t send your newsletter on to someone else unless they are prompted. Include something along the lines of Refer a Friend or Distribute to colleagues or others who might be interested in receiving this information.
Don’t forget your website address and company contact information. You will also need to include an Unsubscribe facility as recipients must have the option of opting out if they no longer want to receive information from you/your company.
Writing great copy for a newsletter is a distinct skill and many organisations hire the services of a professional copywriter to both help them in their editorial decision-making, and to produce copy which is the right length for the space available, which strikes the right note, and which retains a consistency of style throughout the publication. If you decide to do the copy yourself then at the very least have someone proofread and correct it before it is distributed. It will be worth the extra time and spend.