How to Lure a Hermit to a Party: What the Heck Is a Newsletter?
This post is a part of our services overview series, “What the Heck Do We Do?”
You probably receive a dozen email newsletters a week from brands or businesses that you’ve connected with over the years. Depending on your newsletter sign-up habits, you might even receive a dozen every few days. But how long is it before you’re scrolling to the bottom of those emails looking for the “Unsubscribe” button?
People are particular about their personal space, and while we can sometimes have little control over what we see on social media, email is one online space that we can guard a little more carefully.
Rather than thinking of your business newsletter as another post on a community board of events and announcements, think of it like knocking on someone’s door or leaving them a message on their personal cell. The onus is on them to read/listen to it and answer — it’s their choice — and the medium is a lot more up-close-and-personal than a desperate scream into the Metaverse void.
Why do people sign up for newsletters in the first place? What content are they hoping to receive? Chances are, your clients aren’t your closest friends; they don’t want to know the details of your 3 AM thought spirals. When you send them an email newsletter, you’re probably not divulging shower thoughts about the dangers of reading spicy romance novels on public transit (unless you’re an especially quirky romance author). But they do want to hear from you about something. They might want to stay up-to-date on your latest product announcements, or keep tabs on business news like holiday hours, or maybe they’re just looking for a good deal or discount. It depends on what you offer.
“It depends” probably doesn’t excite you as an answer (we can see that eye roll). But in order to know what clients want from your newsletter, you need to know who they are. Much like the editor considering a press release for newsworthiness, newsletter content should be carefully curated for its audience. Relevance is important. Is the information essential enough to knock on an acquaintance’s door or send them a personal note to let them know right away?
STEP 1: KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
Relevance can be as elusive as your hermit Aunt Beatrice at Christmas. How do you decide if your message is worth it?
When a client approaches us with newsletter woes (or hopes and dreams!), the first thing we look at is their audience. Who are they talking to? What are their customers’ wants, problems, and needs? It’s crucial to know these details before deciding what to say. If you tell your Aunt Beatrice to come to a Christmas gathering to visit with extended family, you probably won’t hear from her again. But Aunt Beatrice is an expert pastry chef. Tell her about this year’s pie selection, and she might even bring one of her own famous pumpkin pies to contribute.
Only after getting a better understanding of your audience can we look at your content in a helpful way — especially by creating a content schedule. (Don’t have one? Don’t sweat it. We’ll start one for you.)
This is after sorting out how you’re distributing your newsletter, of course. A bulk-send from your Gmail inbox will get you dumped in a spam folder faster than you can say, “LOOKING FOR LOVE? ACT!! NOW! 50% OFF TODAY ONLY!!! ❤️🎉🔥”
There are a lot of options for newsletter distribution platforms that are fast, easy to use, and even (sometimes) free. Some of our favourites are Mailchimp, Sendinblue, MailerLite, and Flodesk. Maybe you’ve heard of a different platform you’d like to try — that’s great! Most best practices apply across platforms. We can help optimize your newsletter with keywords in tailored subject lines and preview text, branded design, and targeted copy, no matter which platform you use.
STEP 2: BRANDING & DESIGN
If you’ve gone through the Communications Consultation & Strategy process with us already, this part will be easy! But even if you haven’t, we can still help. As with any print or online publication, providing consistent, recognizable messaging will only help your customers (and future customers) identify your work in the wild.
At this point, we’ll want to consider your logo, colour palette, fonts, and the images you use. If your business or brand already has a brand style guide detailing those things, this is where you’d bust that out like a power dance move. (And if you don’t have one yet, a graphic designer like our talented collaborator Lindsay Anne can help you put one together.) Anytime your client opens one of your newsletters, they should know who it’s from at a glance — just like seeing a familiar name pop up on call display. But, that isn’t to say the content will be the same every time. That’s where you get to surprise them! But using the logo, colours, and fonts that your business may already be known for is one of the best ways to ensure that familiarity.
STEP 3: COPY OR CONTENT
Where branding and design focuses on your consistent looks, copy and content is the deep dive into who you are through what you have to say. But you don’t want to repeat the same few messages over and over.
What’s the purpose behind your messaging? Do you want to sell a product? Drive traffic to your website? Strengthen connections and keep your business top-of-mind? How do you want to come across? We’ll look at whether you’re trying to push your audience toward a desired action, or to educate, entice, and entertain them. (One of those is content and one of them is copy — do you know which is which?)
Once we know that, we can collaborate with you at any stage in the development of your ideas — from brainstorming and writing to editing and layout. If you’re just looking for an editor and a quick proofread, we’re happy to stick to that too. We’d love to jump in and help you create an engaging newsletter that gets your clients reading and clicking through.
STEP 4: REPORTING, ANALYSIS, AND CONSULTATION
We know this bit can be tough; how can you tell what’s working and what isn’t? How do you compare to others in your industry? We can work closely with you to figure this out, or we can take a less hands-on approach. Our team is well-versed in the art of consulting on best practices, offering suggestions for where to focus newsletter reporting, and discussing optimization options for your blend of platforms and communications methods. If research is intimidating and you just don’t know where to start, we’ll do the legwork and present our findings. That still leaves the decision-making to you, but at least you’ll feel confident that you’re making informed decisions about your newsletter (and you get to skip out on crunching the pesky numbers and putting together comprehensible spreadsheets).
Your newsletter may draw in your audience for a variety of reasons — product announcements; discounts, deals or freebies; or business, community or event news. The thing all subscribers will have in common is that they’ve heard about your brand and they value it enough that they want to be kept in the loop. They’re trusting you with their contact info with the expectation that your brand or business will send them information that’s relevant to them.
If you pay attention to what your clients want, your newsletter has the potential to become the most valuable piece of marketing real estate that you own. Social media algorithms choose what your followers see — what kinds of posts, how many, and how often. In email marketing, all of those settings are under your control. If your client respects you and wants to hear from you, and you respect them in turn — by listening to their wants and needs and providing news in a consistent, reliable way — they’ll stick around to hear what you have to say. Whether that’s product announcements or your shower thoughts about spicy romance novels.
You know your clients best, and we can help you speak to them no matter what state your newsletter is in — even if you’re not totally sure what you’re doing with it yet. Contact us and let us know what you’re looking for!
(And if email isn’t your thing, let us know that too. We appreciate irony. We’ll book a complimentary 15-minute call before subjecting you to too much reading.)