I’m constantly told by clients and attendees at my email marketing workshops that the creation of engaging content is the one thing that many marketers and business owners worry about more than anything else when promoting their businesses.
I have to admit, this fear surprises me. As a marketer or business owner, you have unrivaled access to an impressive degree of expertise in your business. You are best placed to pull together a comprehensive list of useful content that not only informs and educates but also helps you position your business favorably. So why all the worry?
More often than not, these concerns are based on very human emotions. People are worried about making mistakes, looking foolish or being criticized by their peers. If this sounds familiar, I say: Look to your experience and believe in yourself a little more.
For those of you who still worry, we’ve created these 10 simple rules to ensure that your next newsletter is opened, read and acted upon successfully — and profitably.
10 Simple Rules for Creating an Engaging Newsletter
- It’s Your Job — Do It! As a marketer, you bear the responsibility for writing your email marketing newsletter. Yes, you can involve colleagues, clients and other business partners when looking for ideas to run with, but it remains your job to actually write the content. Individuals from other departments may not have the time, skill or motivation to craft newsletter copy. Relying on other people to write your content may result in late or hastily delivered copy that will have little impact on your subscribers.
If you do find yourself outsourcing content production to an agency or an individual in your organization, make sure the writer is fully briefed and all copy is thoroughly checked for accuracy and quality. As a marketer, regardless of where your content is sourced, you are ultimately responsible for its quality.
- Great Copy Solves a Problem. Focus on solving customer problems and you won’t go far wrong. Write about how your product or service can help save clients time and money or resolve a particular issue, and you can virtually guarantee successful engagement. If you don’t know what your clients worry about, pick up the phone and speak to one of them — they’ll probably give you a list of items you can work on. Remember, if you can solve a problem for just one client and write about it in your newsletter, there is a very good chance you will be helping many others.
- Get to the Point. Your subject line and opening paragraph should tell the full story in much the same way as a newspaper headline and opening paragraph position a piece of breaking news. If your subscribers are in any doubt about what is contained in your newsletter, they will not open it. Think of your newsletter text as the bait to attract your subscribers toward your website or blog, where they can be successfully hooked.
- What Is the Point? Unless your content has a solid call to action (CTA), your newsletter will do little to entice further engagement. A good CTA will help transform engaged subscribers into active customers. Remember, in the online environment, people have short attention spans and are easily distracted. A good CTA will ensure that you don’t lose subscribers in the jump from your newsletter to your website.
- Flexible Publishing Schedules. Stop thinking like a traditional print publication with regular (weekly or monthly) deadlines. Publish only when you have something interesting to share. Nothing will kill engagement quicker than dull or irrelevant copy. Once subscribers stop reading your newsletter, you’ll find it very hard to win them back again. I always like to remind clients, “What’s so special about the second Tuesday of the month anyway?”
And, by the way, don’t sit on copy. If you’ve got something interesting to say, get it out there and start seeing results before your competitors jump on the opportunity.
- Less Is More. It is much better to include three interesting articles in your newsletter than five mediocre ones. If you find yourself flooded with good copy to share — why not increase the frequency of your sends? In an age where an increasing number of emails are consumed on mobile devices, it is essential to give some thought to how your newsletter will be consumed on a smaller screen.
- Get Social. Maximize your investment in content production by sharing across multiple channels. Social media is the perfect partner for your email campaigns. Great newsletter content can also provide much-needed collateral for your corporate blog and other content-led strategies. Smart marketers always look to recycle, re-appropriate and re-deploy content whenever possible.
- One Size Doesn’t Fit All. Tailor your newsletters to suit the needs of your clients via careful segmentation. Segmenting your lists will help you deliver the right message to the right people at the right time and maximize your opportunities from each send.
- Pulling It Together — Content Curation. Because good ideas are like gold dust (meaning they can easily slip through your fingers), you should try to capture ideas at their source. As a content producer, I use a variety of mechanisms for doing this. A shared whiteboard or online document (using a service like Google Docs) is a great starting point. However, because great ideas rarely come to you when you are at your desk or even in a workplace environment, I often use my smartphone to send myself a quick email or text message as soon as an idea comes to mind.
When compiling ideas, there really is no such thing as a bad idea. Having a long list of content ideas will ensure that you’re never short of high-quality copy when it comes to building your newsletter. New ideas can come from colleagues, customers and business partners or be inspired by competitors or general/industry news — but remember №1: ultimately you are responsible for turning those ideas into actual content.
- Keep Testing New Ideas. Testing the various components of your newsletter will help you reach new heights of success. You can (and should) test everything from subject lines to CTAs. Remember, even the smallest change can yield significant results. One of the most dangerous things you can say in business is “We’ve always done it this way,” so test and learn.
Too many marketers build self-imposed roadblocks that prevent them from reaching their potential. Yes, occasionally mistakes do happen, but inactivity presents a far bigger risk to your success. Stop worrying — we’re here to help. The team at iContact has helped companies and organizations send millions of email marketing newsletters to subscribers all around the world. We know what works and what doesn’t work, and are always available to answer any questions you might have via email, chat or telephone.
Is it time you took another look at your email marketing newsletter? Share your comments below.
This post first appeared on the iContact Email Marketing Blog.