A good friend of mine recently sold her business. She’d built it up, run it successfully, and then let it go so that she could travel the world and spend time with her family. She’s living the dream!
What does this have to do with writing a newsletter, you ask?
Well, it’s like this: almost all of her initial success came from being in the business every day, working hours on end, and building a customer base.
What created long-term success, however, was her marketing strategy.
Wanna know her most successful marketing piece?
You’re way ahead of me: her newsletter.
Now, she built her business years ago, so this newsletter was snail mail at its finest. But I remember it. I used to get it in my mailbox every month, like clockwork.
Her newsletter wasn’t particularly “designed”: It was one or two colors of ink on white paper. (Sometimes she’d switch to cream paper for special occasions—oooh, fancy!)
It was pretty simple, covering new trends in her industry, the latest news from her business, and answers to the most common customer questions.
But that’s not what I remember about it.
I remember the story about the crazy time when they sent an order to the wrong person, then ran around like maniacs to make sure everyone ended up getting what they wanted.
I remember the one about the regular customer who never said much, and always seemed pretty grumpy. One day, she came into the store with a huge container of homemade cookies. She wanted to apologize, explaining that she’d been dealing with her mother’s illness, and wanted to thank the staff for always being so kind to her.
There were many similar stories, but these are the two that came to mind. And this is about 30 years later!
I always picked that newsletter out of my pile of mail and read it.
Why? It was personal, friendly, and fun to read.
These days, email newsletters are everywhere. So how do you create a newsletter that your customers will read every time instead of just hitting the “delete” key?
By not making these seven mistakes:
1. YOU HAVEN'T WORKED OUT A STRATEGY.
Before putting one word on the computer screen, it’s vital to work out your overall strategy.
Ask yourself these questions:
Who is my target audience?
What am I an expert in?
What makes me different?
What’s the “voice” of my newsletter?
What topics will I write about?
How often should I publish my newsletter?
What tools will I use to get people to subscribe?
How will I develop and grow my mailing list?
See? We haven’t even gotten into what you’re going to name your newsletter or what the different sections will be, much less worrying about all those great ideas you’ve got for content.
There’s a LOT to do before you start to write—but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming.
Try this: Take a few minutes with the questions above, and try to answer them as thoughtfully as possible. Pretty soon, you’ll have a clearer idea of what you’re trying to achieve with your newsletter and how you’re going to do it.
2. YOU'RE INFORMATIONAL BUT NOT AUTHENTIC.
There’s nothing more boring than a newsletter filled with dry information. Yes, you need to inform, but more importantly, you need to share what makes you different and unique.
My favorite definition of “authentic” is “true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character.”
That’s what I mean when I say you need to be authentic in your newsletter. It may be hard to write that way at first, and it will take practice (believe me, I know).
Your newsletter has one significant advantage over every other newsletter in your industry: YOU. So use that advantage. Write in a conversational, smooth tone, just like you’re speaking to a customer in front of you.
Try this: Turn on a recording device, or if you have the ability, enable dictation on your computer. Then talk about your subject as if you’re telling your best friend about it. Read back what you “wrote” and see how it sounds.
3. YOU HAVEN'T CLEARLY DEFINED YOUR IDEAL CUSTOMER.
One essential task before writing any communication to a potential customer is working out the qualities of your ideal customer.
Remember, you’re writing to ONE PERSON, not a vague “group” of people.
Who is this person?
How much do they already know about my business?
What do they do for a living?
How else would I describe them?
What are their “pain points”—what keeps them up at night?
You may already have the answers—fantastic! Note them down and refer to them every time you write your newsletter.
But if you haven’t defined your ideal customer, work it out now, before you put one finger on that keyboard.
Try this: Close your eyes and imagine your ideal customer in all his or her glory. Think about everything you want that customer to be. Think about how that customer feels. Really paint that picture in your head, then write it all down. Give that customer a name. There’s nothing more valuable than a “3D” image of your ideal customer.
4. YOU'RE TRYING TO SAY EVERYTHING IN ONE NEWSLETTER.
When you start your first newsletter, you’ll be tempted to write about a lot of different things. After all, how will you know which idea a customer will respond to? If you have a lot of different subjects in one newsletter, you’ll catch everyone in your net, right?
Again, it comes down to writing to ONE customer. You don’t care if every customer wants what you write—just the one you’re actually writing to!
Mark Ford, a copywriting legend, talks about The Power of One: Focus on one idea, stir one emotion, create one captivating story, and of course, write to one person.
When you focus your newsletter around one key idea, it becomes MUCH stronger and clearer.
Remember, you can write the next newsletter based on your other idea, then the next, and the next… you get the picture.
Try this: List out all the ideas you have for your newsletter. Pick the one you think will really resonate with your ideal customer. Work out all the different ways you can write about that idea. Then keep the list handy, because everything you didn't use is a potential topic for a future newsletter!
5. YOU'RE SELLING.
You’re in business to sell things, so you’ll be tempted to add just a little bit at the end of the newsletter that sells something.
Don’t do it!
Newsletters have nothing to do with selling. They’re all about building trust.
Think of it this way: Have you ever read something that seemed really interesting and engaging, then got to the end of it and found out someone was trying to sell you something? How did that make you feel? Duped? Angry? That’s how your readers will feel.
Your reader doesn't want to be sold. He or she wants to know that you care, and that you want to help.
Think of your newsletter as a tool to prime the pump. The more you connect with readers and continue to entertain, enlighten, and inform, the more those readers will turn into customers.
Try this: Instead of wrapping up your newsletter with a sales pitch, make it easy for a reader to subscribe to future newsletters. Also, make sure to include your company contact information somewhere on your newsletter, for any reader who wants to find out more.
6. YOU PUBLISH YOUR NEWSLETTER ONCE. OKAY, MAYBE TWICE.
There you are, all ready and rarin’ to go on your newsletter. You’ve written it, you publish it—and then you forget about it. Why? You’re busy! That busy-ness can get in the way of the best-laid newsletter plans.
That’s why I placed Strategy as number one on this list. You need a well laid-out calendar of when you’ll research, write, edit, and publish each newsletter. You also need a procedure in place so you have time carved out to work on your newsletter. If you don’t, you’ll end up putting “newsletter” on the bottom of your To-Do list.
The key to any successful content marketing is consistency. When you write a newsletter and publish it regularly, in your authentic voice, to your ideal customer, you’ll get a response. It may not be today or tomorrow, but it will happen.
I’ve seen businesses send out a newsletter to their list month after month, with maybe a trickle of response. Then, "out of the blue", they get a bunch of requests and orders. That’s just the way it works.
Try this: Decide whether your newsletter will be monthly, bimonthly, or quarterly. Then work your timeline back, so you know when you need to start researching, writing and editing. Put it all in your calendar, and set firm appointments with yourself. Make the newsletter a priority, and you’ll get results.
7. YOU PUBLISH THE FIRST OR SECOND DRAFT OF YOUR NEWSLETTER.
THIS IS NEVER A GOOD IDEA! I REPEAT, THIS IS NEVER A GOOD IDEA!
When you’re writing something, you’re engrossed in it. It’s hard to see mistakes in your own work.
But send out a newsletter that contains typos, grammatical errors, or confusing sentences, and you sabotage all the hard work you’ve done.
Sabotage? Isn’t that too harsh?
Well, let me ask you this: How do you feel when you read something that’s sloppy, misspelled, and hard to understand? Does that give you a whole lot of confidence in the person who published it?
It’s well worth taking the time to read over your newsletter, again and again, before hitting the “publish” button. There are also some fantastic online tools—Grammarly, for example—that can help you polish your writing so that it’s clear and concise.
Try this: Once you’ve written your newsletter, walk away from the screen. Come back in a few hours, or even a day, and look at it again. Print it out and read it out loud. Rewrite the parts that seem confusing. Then leave it for a few more hours, and come back to it. Do this until you're completely, overwhelmingly proud to send it out.
Here’s the bottom line: Lots of people can put together a newsletter. There are templates and tools all over the internet to help you. But creating a newsletter that gets response takes quite a bit more planning and care.
I hope you’ll find this information helpful when putting your newsletter together! And if you want more tips like this, go ahead and subscribe to my blog. (You didn’t think I’d leave this part out, did you?)