Newsletters can be a great way to connect with your customers, build your brand and communicate your advice and expertise. Unfortunately, many newsletters get thrown away or deleted before they're ever read.
So how can you ensure that people will actually read your newsletters? Here are five tips for creating newsletters that hit the mark with readers every time:
1. Think About What People Need and Want
Our time is valuable, and we'll only read what we find interesting, useful or engaging. For this reason, your newsletter must be primarily focused on your audience and not on you or your company. This might seem counterintuitive, since, after all, you're publishing the newsletter, so why shouldn't it focus on you and your company?
Self-promotion, however, is the role of brochures and other marketing materials—not newsletters. If you want your newsletters to be read, you have to think of them as a kind of media, competing with work produced by professional journalists and publishing companies. They have to be interesting and grab your audience's attention by providing information they'll want to read.
Determining what your newsletter audience wants to read will involve some creative thinking and brainstorming on your part. Think, first of all, about the characteristics of your audience. Does it include businesspeople, vacationers, parents, college students, technophiles? What kind of stories and content might appeal to your various readers? What would help them in their daily lives? What types of stories would they be likely to read and use?
2. Write Headlines That Grab Readers' Attention
Headlines hook your readers—without enticing headlines, your newsletter will fall flat. Interesting headlines are often not full sentences, but a simple compelling word or phrase. And think beyond the straightforward banner headline—a single line of text across the top of a story. You might also want to include what people in the news business call a dek or subhead, another line of text in a smaller or italicized font beneath the headline that expands on the headline's topic. Or you might want to create a tripod headline, with a word or phrase followed by a colon and two lines of text. Whatever format your headlines take, remember that they need to both encapsulate the story's content and draw the reader in.
For headline-writing ideas, take a look at the cover of some of your favorite magazines. The editors have written these cover lines to appeal to their audience—to draw them in and make them want to read more. Keep that in mind when writing your newsletter.
3. Keep It Simple
In newsletter stories, it's tempting to go on and on about topics you know a lot about, including everything from detailed quotes to bibliographies. Such lengthiness, however, is counterproductive. Your readers want their information simple and easy-to-digest. That means condensing your text and being concise. It also means using bulleted lists, boxes, highlighted definitions, diagrams and other visually appealing elements to help break up the text.
4. Divide Content Into Sections
Newsletters, like newspapers, magazines and websites, work best when they have distinct sections for different kinds of content, such as news, entertainment and reviews. Think about what sections might make sense for your newsletter, and keep them consistent from issue to issue. People will come to rely on these sections for finding the content they want to read quickly and easily.
5. Proofread Your Work
Think of your newsletter as a publishing project. Your readers expect the same kind of attention to spelling, grammar and punctuation that they see in news sites and publications. The more care and professionalism you put into your newsletter's production, the more likely it is that people will read it, retain the information and think highly of your brand.
If you can, consider hiring an editor to review your work before it goes to press. If an editor is out of the question, you'll need to train yourself to read it with an editor's eye—preferably after letting it sit for a few days. You'll often catch mistakes or see changes you'd like to make after you've spent some time away from your newsletter.
Newsletters have a key place in your marketing strategy. They're your chance to create interesting and unique content, and a chance for your readers to get information they can truly use. If you put a little time and thought into creating your newsletter, your readers will look forward to it and maybe even pass it on.
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