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What’s News?

Many businesses have incorporated sending out newsletters as part of their marketing efforts. Unfortunately, many of them do it poorly and may be doing more harm than good. While it has become an almost obligatory part of how companies go-to-market, if not done correctly, it can amount to a lot of wasted effort; with minimal or even negative return.

Newspaper boy

Before sending newsletters out, review the decisions required for success.

First Decision

The first decision a business has to make before they embark on choosing; formats, colors, fonts, layout, or content, is answering the question, WHY?  Why are you sending the newsletter out? Is it to promote a product or service?  Announce new customers or clients?  Inform prospects or current customers about an industry initiative that might impact them?  Without a clear focus or rationale for the newsletter, it will be untargeted in messaging and have reduced impact.

Think of your own emailbox and how many emails you receive that are immediately deleted without even being opened.  We are all time-impoverished and make quick assessments on the worthiness of any communication to be opened and explored or delved into more deeply.  Therefore, be clear on what you are hoping to communicate and what action you are expecting to occur as a result of the newsletter.

Second Decision

Answer WIIFM (what’s in it for me) for the reader.  Be clear what the value or incentive is for the reader to want to engage with your newsletter.  Whether it is informational, an offer to be part of a VIP club, a coupon or discount on a future purchase, or other inducement; provide some reason for the person receiving the newsletter to want to explore further.  Business relationships need to be nurtured and just like you maintain communication with those close to you by sharing information or opportunities that you know will be of interest to the other person, so too must we do that with business contacts. If your newsletter is all about YOU and YOUR achievements, without any context back to how the reader or recipient benefits from your experience, thinking, or achievement; you become that person at the party that everyone ignores or avoids.

Third Decision

Be compelling or interesting through a subject line that invites the reader to want to know more.  People skim the subject lines of their emails looking for those things that are of immediate interest.  While we have all been told not to judge a book by its cover – that is exactly what is happening.  If your subject line is not understood and relevant in the quick scan of the emails stacking up, it will not be opened, it will not be read and the relationship opportunity will be squandered.  Offering “tips to…” or, “things to avoid…” are tried and true ways to generate interest.

Fourth Decision

Frequency of communication is essential.  Strive for consistency.  If you commit to monthly, be sure you have it sent out monthly and not “close to” monthly. If you are ready to send out content weekly or more often than that, be certain that your cadence matches the desired frequency of the recipient.  How much is too much and how much is too little are questions without one good answer.  It will depend on the quality of your messages, the industry, and expectations.  Asking customers how often they want to receive newsletters is reasonable and can help you determine what is the best rhythm for scheduling newsletter creation.

Fifth Decision

Less and less people will commit the time to read long articles.  Offering videos, images, infographics, photos,  or other visual representations of concepts will aid in making your content more accessible.  However; be sure to test it before a mass distribution as some email servers will catch videos or images in SPAM filters.  One way service to use to test if an email will likely pass filters is  Keep in mind that many people access their email from tablets or smartphones. The way your email appears on the recipient’s screen may not always be exactly as you THINK it will if you create the newsletter on a laptop.  Be sure to test how the email is received and how easily it can be navigated once received.

Sixth Decision

Keeping in mind your reason for sending the newsletter, choose the appropriate metrics or evaluative criteria to assess performance or success. Common measures used are (though, not exhaustive or comprehensive):

  • Bounce rates – how many emails never get delivered because the email address is no longer working
  • Click-through rates – does the recipient take an action and click on something within the newsletter (your website, a free download, or other)
  • Forwards – does the newsletter get passed on to others for them to read
  • Open rates – what number of recipients actually open the email (can be deceiving as some people may read the newsletter from their email preview function and never open it)
  • Unsubscribes – how many people choose to discontinue their communication with the company and do not want to be contacted.

Seventh Decision

To compel people to take action, it is often advisable to create urgency through scarcity (only the first 25 people to respond will receive…) or urgency (offer ends at end of week).  Many of us INTEND to re-read or return to emails, newsletters, or other communication later on – but rarely ever get back to it before it is forgotten. Adding some call to action that forces people to take action now is a common technique that plays on people’s Fear of Missing Out (FOMO).

Newsletters are a very prominent way for companies to reach their current customers and prospects to maintain a dialogue with them.  However; it must be done strategically and with forethought.  Otherwise, you risk losing the opportunity to strengthen the relationship and may see sales start to slide to competitors.

David Zahn