NewsletterThere are two ways to look at newsletters – whether they arrive in the post or, more likely, in your inbox – as the sender or as the receiver!

It’s interesting that people who complain about the amount of spam email and post they get still send out newsletters to their contact list without due consideration of whether the recipient will find it useful.  If you suspect that you may be guilty of this (even a little bit) it’s time to step back and see things from the receiver’s perspective.

Ask yourself some leading questions:

Does the subject line or main headline encourage people to open it?

‘Acme Widgets Newsletter August 2014’  isn’t exactly exciting – or enlightening; any people will delete this unopened.  To get attention and improve your chance of people opening your email or starting to read your publication you need something intriguing, engaging or something that people want to know about.  To make your newsletter successful and be consistently opened issue after issue you’ll want to develop the art of writing brilliant ‘Open me’ statements.

The one that just landed in my inbox – and made me open it had a subject line that said:

44% of businesses do NOT have a Social Media Policy or Guidelines

That was something I wanted to know more about, so I opened it!

NewslettersDoes it look fresh, attractive and interesting?

If, when people open your email or the envelope your newsletter has arrived in, it looks boring people make the assumption that the content is boring too.  Whilst I’m not suggesting a rebrand, even if you have a fairly conservative brand image, the layout or template you use can lift the look and feel of your publication.  Most of us are influenced by visual perceptions so how it looks it really important.

That doesn’t mean it should have every colour of the rainbow and feature lots of coloured boxes with information in, but it does, at least, need to look fresh and modern, not tired and old-fashioned.

Magnifying valueDoes it lead with value?

If your first article is all about you (or your business) and what you’ve been doing, then don’t expect to keep your reader’s attention for long.  Most of us are too busy to invest time in anything that doesn’t add value – so ensure that you open with your main article and give the reader what you’ve led them to expect in the subject line/headline.

Once you’ve delivered value people are usually open to other information such as promotions or offers.

Something to think about …

If people have signed up to your list voluntarily they’ve done so for a reason.  These days this is usually because you’ve offered them an ethical bribe – a document that provides them with information they’ve identified as useful.  You need to continue that if you are sending these same people a newsletter.  It’s likely that they’ll be interested in the same kind of information around allied subjects.  Your newsletter is about relationship management, and you’ll only build a strong relationship with your reader if you keep delivering what they want.

If you’ve put people on your list because you’ve met them networking, you should really get their permission first.  Giving you a business card does not constitute permission!  The problem with creating a list from random contacts is that their interest spectrum is likely to be vast.  If, for instance, you are an outsourced HR service, many of the contacts you may have met are sole traders and don’t have staff.  That means they are probably not going to be interested in your areas of expertise so your general newsletter is likely to be seen as spam.

However, if you create a specific newsletter for networking connections to share useful information that is a very different situation and can be a really valuable resource.

Is your newsletter short and punchy or long and tedious?

Long blogs are fine – in fact, the latest research indicates that people like longer blogs – but long newsletters are unlikely to get the same level of attention.  When we’re opening the post or checking our email most of us are in ‘skimming’ mode.  If we see something that interests or intrigues us, we’ll give it a quick once over, but it has to be good and easy to consume to keep our attention.  What’s your reaction when you receive something that looks lengthy?  At best – maybe ‘I’ll read this later’.  How often does it then disappear into the heap of things that might be vaguely interesting – to be completely forgotten?

If you’ve got lots of valuable information to share write a blog and then share the opening paragraph and link to it.  If your opener is good enough people will click through to read.

… and don’t forget …

You do need to provide a means for people to unsubscribe – and a way for you to ensure you don’t add them back to the list yourself when they’ve already taken themselves off it.

When you’ve created your newsletter – take a step out of your own shoes and ask yourself ‘if this landed in my inbox (or on my doormat) – would it attract me enough to open it and how would the content really add value for me?’

You know what the answer should be!