What makes a great newsletter?

This is very subjective – everyone has a different view of what they want in a newsletter, but we all get so many these days that those that are read consistently have to offer real value, consistently and repeatedly.

If you’re like me, you’ve signed up to various reports or giveaways at various times or given your card to people at networking meetings and now you’ve on their list. This means that you almost certainly get the occasional (or frequent) newsletter. If you’re not too busy and in a generous frame of mind you’ll probably read the first one you receive – but after that they simply get deleted if that first issue didn’t impress you with the value it provided.

You have a choice, you can find the newsletter’s ‘unsubscribe’ link and get off the list or you can just delete them as they come in. Most people I know delete rather than unsubscribe.

So what would get you to keep reading the newsletter, week after week, or month after month? For most of us it’s one of three things:

  • Valuable information that helps me in some way or makes me think about things that will move me forwards
  • Offers that are targeted to my specific needs/wants and offer excellent value
  • Entertainment
  • A typical reader does not want to know about you or your business’ progress; they want to know something that will help them to do something they can’t, or something that provides a solution for a problem. Information of value to the reader is right at the top of the list of things that keep people opening your newsletter. This means that you really need to know your readers very well indeed.

    I read about ten newsletters reliably – these are some of my favourites:

    Expert Gold by Gihan Perera Expertise about marketing online
    The Media Coach by Alan Stevens Great entertainment and lots of useful tips on media interviews, speaking and social media.
    Corporate Soul Tips by Molly Harvey Short tips that make you think about how you do business
    Nigel Risner’s weekly newsletter Always manages to come up with an unusual spin on everyday ‘stuff’.
    Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox Tells you when Jakob has written another fascinating article
    TGI Monday by Peter Thomson A short web-based weekly newsletter with a really clever viewpoint on how we behave – and how we could do better.

    Whilst these are not the only newsletters I read, they’re a good selection of widely varying formats and styles. There is no magic formula, just great value issue after issue. Are you up to the challenge?
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    13 tips for successful newsletter

    Good newsletters are great; but very few newsletters are really good. Most are average and many are a not very well disguised sales pitch. Newsletters are marketing tools and writing for the reader is the key to success.

    Here are my thoughts on newsletters – check your own newsletter out against these and I guarantee it will get better.

  • If you’re expecting your newsletter to work as a sales tool you’ll be disappointed; they’re for relationship marketing.
  • Don’t expect people to sign up for a newsletter, we all get too many of them, offer them a free tips sheet or report to get sign ups.
  • People get lots of newsletters, to get yours read it must be consistently good value for the reader, the primary focus should be useful info, not a sales pitch.
  • The subject line of a newsletter must make your reader curious or interested enough to open it, ‘Acme Widgets newsletter August 2010′ won’t do the job!
  • Every issue must be good enough to get people to open the next one, so every issue needs to be consistently brilliant! The best newsletters share information that helps the reader.
  • ‘Read more’ items often don’t get clicked through; short, concise and great value is the key to success, unless you are very good at dangling an irresistible ‘carrot’ in each introductory paragraph.
  • One nugget of information is worth far more than lots of bits of trivia. A newsletter is an opportunity to demonstrate your expertise and knowledge. A single article with really useful information will get your newsletter opened and read next time too.
  • If your newsletter will be read online, stick to a single column presentation, two columns are hard work for the reader as they have to scroll up and down – however, a narrower right hand column with ‘News headlines’ or ‘Special offer’ buttons can work.
  • Tips style newsletters work. Share your knowledge in bullet point tips – this works well for busy and impatient readers.
  • Ask your readers what they want in a newsletter, don’t assume you know. Use their responses to create a newsletter that they will want to read.
  • Read other people’s newsletters and identify what it is that you like – and hate – about them. Ask other people which newsletters they read regularly and what they like about them.
  • Post the main article from your newsletter on your blog, split it into tips on Twitter, and save it for the book you’ll write!
  • Instead of sending a newsletter out every month, send a list of the blogs you’ve written with hyperlinks to each one.
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