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Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2008 at 8:15 am

How to Write Newsletters That People Actually Read

By Holly Buchanan
November 25th, 2008

There’s a really interesting discussion going on in the comment section of Bryan’s post – The More You Post, The Better You Rank.  Technorati released a report that found the top blogs post multiple times a day.   Bryan asked if readers prefer blogs with multiple posts or a single daily posts   The reaction has been mixed.   Some prefer multiple posts, some prefer one meaty post.

There’s an important parallel here with newsletters.  If you’re going to go through the effort of creating a newsletter, you want it to get read.  And there has to be a strategic business purpose for publishing a newsletter.

Here’s a great email case study from Marketing Sherpa.  Drs. Foster and Smith ran an A/B test to see whether a straight product promotion, or education focused with a product promotion would result in more sales.

“The winning design in both tests was information more prominent, offer less prominent. Remember, the informational call to action translated to a 15% increase in sales over the promotional offer.

The all-important landing page used shorter copy with a top image hot-linked to a product page where readers could purchase products relevant to the information. In a sense, readers were being pre-sold on an item with expert advice which further motivated the purchase.

Marketing Sherpa summed up the key takeaway as “Their audience responds better to relevant content than to a heavy-duty sales pitch.”

I think much of this learning applies to newsletters as well.  So, Here are some strategies for writing newsletters that actually get read:

  1. If you have a large, more diverse audience, go with the multiple article format (like Grokdotcom).  Readers have the choice to read the whole thing, or cherry-pick the articles of most interest.   With multiple articles, there’s a greater chance a reader will find something of value for their particular situation.
  2. If you have a more focused subject of expertise, go with the single article approach.   There’s a greater chance that one article will resonate with your more focused audience.   And short and sweet is a true winning strategy for today’s time-starved reader with an overflowing inbox.   There may be a greater chance they’ll open it up and read it since they know it won’t take much time.
  3. Have a voice.    In our Soccer Mom Myth Newsletter, Michele and I are big believers in the use of humor.   Who doesn’t love a good laugh once in a while?   Roy Williams’ extremely popular Monday Morning Memo always has something profound to say and features Roy’s unique way of expressing his ideas.   Here are some tips on how to create a voice for your website or your newsletter.
  4. Use a mix of “how to” articles and “wow, that gets me thinking” articles.    We all love articles or blog posts that give us practical tips we can apply right away to our daily work activities.    But also throw in articles that are designed to get people thinking, to help change their perspective or touch on a universal truth.   These types of articles are an incredible way to create an emotional connection with your reader.   It’s a great “how to” logical and “get me thinking” emotional one-two punch.
  5. Use personal stories.   Yeah, I know, I’m a humanistic.  I’m a sucker for them.  But these stories help the reader to feel like he or she really knows you.  If you are in the services or consulting business, creating a relationship with your readers is the best way to promote yourself and your services.

What about you?  What techniques do you use to create successful newsletters that people actually read?

Add Your Comments

Comments (18)

  1. Drama.
    You write them like you were writing a screen play :)

  2. I’ve always believed in giving them some real info not just a sales pitch. It’s nice to see some actual testing to back it up.

  3. I read Marketing Sherpa’s study and the heavy-on-content, short-on-sales-messages just confirms my thinking.

    I’m writing a five-part series on marketing with e-letters on my blog right now.

    Finding your voice and personality is so important because there is so much stuff, so much raw information already out there. No one needs more of that. We are all craving opinions and personal takes on topics.

    Like Sean, I tend toward the “drama” kind of writing: telling personal stories, using imagery and metaphors.

    Bottom line: we all need to find our own voice.

    Great post, Holly!

  4. Hi, I post a newsletter almost daily (well it is called the daily dose :-) ) and have found that giving a varied length as well as subject matter throughout the week means less drop off. And the blog posts comments are interesting too. I find with that, content rich, useful and interesting posts will give you sticky content that will bring people back.
    Cheers
    Elle

  5. I couldn’t have said this better myself. It’s also nice to be somewhat vindicated in our aims to achieve the same things for our blog/newsletter – different articles for a diverse audience, unique voice, wow not just how, and personal stories.

  6. [...] Holly Buchanan over at FutureNow has some great tips on how to structure your newsletter so it gets read and has the pop you want it to. Here is what she has to say: [...]

  7. Getting in front of a reader base in the first place is usually the biggest challenge. After that, quality content will guarantee they stay and encourage new readers too.. that’s what I’ve learned over the years.

  8. Great info, I will be using this for my future newsletters.

  9. I would definitely like to know the secret of creating such newsletter. I will even sell my xbox for that.

  10. I’ve try some way to write newsletter for my subscribe but not almost of them reading it.

  11. If you want people reading what you say. You should focus and tell what they like. It’s way to tell those people must read your news.

  12. If you have a more focused subject of expertise, go with the single article approach. There’s a greater chance that one article will resonate with your more focused audience.

  13. I couldn’t have said this better myself. It’s also nice to be somewhat vindicated in our aims to achieve the same things for our blog/newsletter – different articles for a diverse audience, unique voice, wow not just how, and personal stories.

  14. Thanks for the post, really useful info there.

  15. Who has time to read newsletters? This is what I struggle with. What type of content do readers want? I welcome any feedback. Thanks

  16. Thanks for the helpful tips. I writing newslwetters, its one thing I always struggle with but will try some of your tips out. Thanks

  17. Great info, I will be using this for my future newsletters.

  18. Humor+personalizing the newsletter is what we do in our email marketing. And bold letter also helps.

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Holly Buchanan is a marketing to women consultant specializing in marketing to women online. You can read her blog at http://marketingtowomenonline.typepad.com She is the co-author, along with Michele Miller of The Soccer Mom Myth - Today's Female Consumer - Who She Really Is, Why She Really Buys.

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