The Art of Writing a successful Newsletter
For most webmasters, a newsletter is nothing more than a way to advertise. It is used as incessant spam, sent again and again to non-consenting mailboxes. But a newsletter is much more than this - it is a powerful link between a website and its visitor, and it really is an art to know how to make use of it.
A newsletter is not a common advertisement which can be sent to everyone. It has been accepted and requested by customers who expect a certain level of quality. The newsletter should therefore meet three essential criteria:
In other words, the newsletter needs to directly meet the criteria of distribution, form and substance.
A newsletter is like a magazine: your readers are impatiently waiting for it to arrive in their mailbox. Once again, it is not an advertisement. It cannot be sent every time you need new customers or when you need to get rid of some stock. You should clearly differentiate your newsletter from your promotional campaigns. People who subscribe to your newsletter expect news, not ads.
A newsletter must be distributed on a regular basis, and this regularity should be stated at the subscription time. You will not get the same kind of readers with a weekly newsletter and a semi-annual one! Once you’ve defined the time-table, stick to it. Your customers will be impatient waiting for the next issue. If, on the other hand, you plan on a monthly newsletter, yet you bombard your customers’ mailboxes twice a week, they will soon regret trusting you and unsubscribe, or even worse, ignore you.
A newsletter is like a gift. Whatever the value of the content, you should not neglect the packaging! Be serious about your newsletter’s design; it should make the receiver want to read it. Once again, the design of the newsletter needs to meet the following three major criteria:
The design should be nice - you cannot expect your customers to read a newsletter with an awful design.
It should also be suggestive. When reading your newsletter, the reader should immediately think of your website. A newsletter on horseracing for a website about classical dance would divert your visitors’ attention. (The above example is somewhat exaggerated, but many newsletters try to create an original style to attract the reader, but in the process of doing so, get so far away from their own style that they only end up confusing their visitors even more).
Finally, your design should be followed. You should differentiate “followed” from “identical”. Your newsletter doesn’t need to be absolutely identical to the previous one. However, it should retain the main points and the spirit of the previous newsletters in order not to send confusing signals to your reader. He should, at first glance, know that he is reading your newsletter.
A newsletter is like a newspaper. The content should be much more developed than what you would find in an advertisement. I could never repeat it enough - a newsletter is not an advertisement. It should have real content and bring value to your readers. Nobody subscribes to a newsletter and takes the time to read it regularly only for the advertisements.
Your newsletter should be clear, well structured and interesting. (As with any article or website, your newsletter should be structured, in order for the visitor to get the information he wants in a matter of seconds. A newsletter written in a rough and disorderly manner will make the visitor want to stop reading). As previously stated, the newsletter should bring a certain value to your reader. Do not simply make the entire thing your own promotion! You could suggest news, tips, ideas, good shots, and information that the reader would find useful. Only when you’ve developed the above can you start to promote your own product. Remember to always make use of empathy: if you want your visitor to read and to buy your products, he needs to first get something out of your newsletter.
As with any mail, your newsletter could potentially arrive in the spam box of your reader. As a sender, you would probably think this unfortunate turn of events would have no influence on you - you are wrong. First of all, you should avoid sending emails from a “banal” address. Yahoo!, Hotmail, Gmail, etc… are all are powerful tools, but they do not give a professional facet to your Newsletter. Instead, you should consider instead using PHP or another similar program. Why? First, it would allow you to get a professional aspect and then, it enables you to personalize your distribution. Indeed, the most important part in the email reception is its “header”. Depending on its content, the mail may or may not be considered as spam. By using a “preconceived” box, you would not have any power over what the header says. By using your own system, you could write your own header. Finally, mailboxes such as “Yahoo!” limit the number of possible emails sent at once and does not give you much freedom when it comes to building HTML emails. You should therefore consider a newsletter that is 100% “home-made”; it would be more efficient and more professional.
Now that you are aware of all the required criteria to create a successful newsletter, you are probably thinking, “What would I get from spending hours and hours creating an interesting content and beautiful design, if I can’t even input my promotion as I want?” Indeed, it would seem pointless to spend such a long time on an email which, from the start, will not be read by many people. Therefore, let me give you three excellent reasons why you should treat the presentation well.
First of all, your Newsletter is your business card. It represents you and reminds your customers, on a regular basis, that you are here. To treat it well means to treat your image well, as well as respecting your customers.
Then, a well written newsletter is a newsletter which involves word of mouth. At the beginning, you would probably write a newsletter for only five subscribers, and four of them would not even open it. But, if it is well written and interesting, this person, after reading it once, would surely read it next time, and would probably recommend it to his contacts. In other words, do not spare your efforts, because a good newsletter is a guarantee of future success.
Finally, your Newsletter could become, for you, a source of income! If it is well written and attracts many readers, it would surely become a preferred target for marketing campaigns. You could insert some targeted articles or promotions for remuneration. But, once again, be careful: do not waste your whole effort by transforming a great newsletter into a bad advertisement! Carefully select which ads correspond to your theme and subjects, and insert it intelligently in your articles.
If you successfully follow the above concepts, you will be a master in the Art of the Newsletter.
The animation above gives you the milestones you will want to follow in your Quest for a successful Newsletter. You can freely use this animation on your blog.
Now that you have a good understanding of all the elements implied in the creation of a Newsletter, it is time to start.
Before anything else, before starting with the code or the design of your Newsletter, you must make sure you will be able to work with such system. Start with creating a redaction planning. Put on paper all your content ideas for the coming 6 months. There is no need for developing each article completely but you must know in advance what will be the topics of each edition of your Newsletter. If you manage to develop your redaction planning for the coming 6 months without any problem, you will not only have a better overview of what will be done with your Newsletter but you will also save precious time when writing your articles. Always update your redaction planning when you send your Newsletter: you should always be able to see six months ahead what will be coming.
If you can’t complete this step for any reason, it might be time to wonder whether having a Newsletter is a good idea for your business. It is still time to give up if you find out that you don’t really have much to say.
If you would like to push further your relationship with your customers, I invite you to read my article "Which Social Media is adapted to my business?".
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