When newsletters work, they increase brand awareness, create engagement, promotion, leads nurture and offer transactional communications with a guaranteed reach. Done badly, you could make your IP dirty (not a euphemism) and lose subscribers. Either way, they're a ballache to pull together.
Here's some tips to make it work as smoothly as possible and get the best possible results.
Think and act like a newsroom. Find stories people will want to read and know about. In business, it doesn't need to be as fast paced to break news from a warzone, but it does need to be timely so it's more relevant and you avoid Hack's Ulcer.
Firstly, you need to figure out what and how you're going to talk to your readers.
We all know if you want bigoted nonsense, you buy The Daily Mail, if you want left-wing editorial, The Guardian and for unbiased journalism head to the BBC. Your newsletter isn't any different, be clear if you want it to be content led, fun and informative or a sales tool.
It might be worth getting some industry insight to find out what your customer base wants to know and how other brands do it, so it's not a stab in the dark and you're not giving people something they're not interested in.
Once you've pulled together all your insight and objectives, you can start to plan your roadmap of what you want to include in your newsletter for the next 6 months. You're not nailing your colours to the mast with this, it's just a guideline and a living document that can change should sexier stories come up or business priorities change.
Also, have a consistent timeline from month to month, so people know roughly when to submit stories and assets by. Send out a call for stories almost immediately after (if not before) sending out the previous month, being clear with deadlines.
For me, this is best bit, but it's also the most important part. My advice, write content people will want to read. Sounds like commonsense, right? You'd be amazed how many people write about stuff that's irrelevant just because it's something the business wants to push or it's so badly/boringly written, people gaze-read.
Keep in mind, it should be 90% educational to cut through and differentiate from all the other sales messages overloading your inbox. So write creative, different and sensationalist subject lines in order to stand out from the crowd and increase open rates.
Most people are deaf and blind to sales messages. We've been bombarded with them since the 80s. Things have moved on, as has consumer behaviour. This is the information age and people love to share the information they come across as it builds on their projected digital persona, FOMO (fear of missing out) and adds to their 'I saw it first' credibility.
TOP TIP: Write content people will share and talk about.
Just because I'm not in the target demographic for a particular news story, I'll more than likely have a friend, partner or family member who would be and I'll be clambering to share it with them; so by word of mouth or social media, I've become a brand advocate and captured a potential lead on your behalf. It's just like any news broadcast. It's Fox News/Donald Trump/Katie Hopkins modus operandi - tell it all, tell it sensationally and watch as the shares, likes, views and impressions soar. So don't be selective about what you're saying to who.
You need to vary content. Use blog posts, events and offers to mix it up and keep interest throughout the whole piece. Although ensure there's a common theme running through, so it doesn't leap from topic to topic making it difficult to read. You can create flow by tailoring your stories to public events like Christmas, World Cup or summer holidays or looking for an angle to link each article.
There's a lot of content in a newsletter, so try and keep to six stories maximum. To stop your newsletter looking like a jumbled tidal wave of stuff, keep copy succinct and design clean. Use descriptive titles and a standfirst only, just like the stories on The Guardian's homepage.
TOP TIP: Use a dynamic template. It looks great, offers personalisation and flexibility. More importantly, it'll save a lot of time and hassle.
With a lot of stories and signposting, it'll also be tempting to add in loads of call-to-actions. It's confusing and distracting, so have one main CTA and use inline links to webpages, blogs posts, videos, etc. therefore helping you keep copy to a minimum while making the content richer.
There's the standard stuff, like open rates and improved targeting. But there are bigger things to consider.
The average click-through rate is 4.3%, if your newsletter consistently falls below this then try optimising some of the aforementioned subject lines, content and CTAs.
Keep an eye on your subscriber rates, if it's increasing it means readers are engaging with it so much they're sharing it and talking about it. Also, think about where people can sign up to it; does it appear on other marketing collateral. On the flip side to this, how many people are unsubscribing - if it's a lot after every send, something is not landing with the end reader.
Although we may be doing this for love, the money is also important. How many readers are converting? You can up conversion by refining copy so it leads with the benefit and CTAs are clearer. If readers aren't converting, you'll need to ask some existential questions. Sometimes a newsletter isn't right for the audience or industry and if the ROI on something so laborious is low, then it could mean RIP.
Then there's the data, are you getting hard and/or soft bounces, are your newsletters hitting spam filters? There are blacklisted words to help with the latter. As for the former, you'll need to think about better data capture and validation.
Brands think it's easy to create and send a newsletter. It's initial objectives are nearly always a quick fix for a marketing problem. It's tricky and it'll make you want to open veins, but with a solid strategy, plan, vision and good ole fashioned tenaciousness, it'll be a cinch and massively rewarding.
In summary, become a hack. Sniff out stories and broadcast them to your entire opted in base in an easily digestible way... But don't become Piers Morgan, he's a cock.