Most of you know that having an email newsletter is a good thing. Many of you even have the intent to create an email newsletter every month.

Somehow, though, things go horribly wrong. It’s pretty rare for me to see a business where the email newsletter is a high priority…

…yet it should be!

If you create an email newsletter, you’ll have a much better chance of keeping in direct contact with people that matter to you.

Let’s be clear. We’re not interested in creating a newsletter list for the sake of having one. We want to keep in touch with our BEST customers and help them to continue to be customers or to increase their re-orders. If we have a newsletter list or a prospect list, the newsletter is a tool to help them convert to become customers.

Email Newsletter Content Choices

Generally you have 5 different content choices for your newsletter.  Here’s some of the pros and cons of each.

1. The whole message in the email copy

This is what you used to see frequently in the enewsletter space. I used to have a writing team that produced a newsletter every Friday and the copy worked out to be usually 18-20 pages long.

It was really good quality work and every issue was filled with useful, actionable information. There was only one problem.  When our readers go the newsletter, they didn’t have time to read it so they would set it aside to read later. And on the next Friday another issue would come. Pretty soon they were overwhelmed with info.

Often I was told by our readers they valued our content they set up a special folder to keep it in, so they could go back and read it later.  Which they never did.

If you do want to include all your information in the body copy, you run the risk of this happening to you and you miss out on the chance to track which articles are of most interest by virtue of the number of clicks on each link. (more on that later)

Generally speaking, these days, shorter emails are better.

2.  The single concept link to a blog post

Just because you call it a newsletter, it doesn’t have to be packed with epic content.  You might consider a weekly newsletter instead of monthly and in your weekly newsletter you could write a summary of ONE blog post you want your readers to read.

This works best if your content is helpful in nature or filled with how to information your audience would be interested in.  It won’t work very well if you just talk about yourself or your business.

What you’re trying to do is train your audience to expect a short, powerful, useful blog post each week. Your frequency of weekly will work in your favor.

Over time you’ll be able to build a list segment of readers who have clicked on something so you can target them specifically.  You’ll also be able to track which stories are the most popular by a weekly clickthrough report.

3.  Three blog posts or news items linked to your site

This style is becoming pretty common these days.  Basically you are selecting three blog posts and writing a short intro to each. If you’re short on your own blog posts or articles, you could send readers to other websites for good information, but I wouldn’t rely on this too much.  You’re not trying to build traffic for others.

These newsletters work the best if you group the info together in a theme or with some common story. Again, keep an eye on who clicks on what and how many clicks each article gets.

4. The informational message with a promo appended

Here’s what you think will happen. Create a long newsletter with good content and if you insert a promotion in a right hand column or in the footer of the message you’ll be leading your readers to your promotion… thereby getting sales or orders.

Here’s what happens.  People start to read your content (they can see it’s long). If it’s not very interesting to them right at that moment, they will leave the newsletter and move on to someone elses email. They won’t click on your promo. No sales for you. If your content is really interesting, they will be focused on it and won’t even see your beautiful promo banner. No sales for you.

The single best strategy you can use here is to split this type of informational email newsletter into two separate messages. One with the content and a separate one with the promo only. I’ve seen this single tip increase sales of the promo by 5X. Try it! It’s really simple.

5.  The everything but the kitchen sink message

I’ve included this as a strategy because you see it in many, many email newsletters. If you use an off-the-shelf template from your Email Service Provider you’re almost dared to fill it up. They have room for images, stories, banners, right-hand-columns, links to your social platforms, contact information and other stuff. It will often tempt you to make your newsletter look like your web page.

They look great and do a good job of supporting your branding strategy but if you compare this type of newsletter to a more focused, helpful, and basic style you’ll find it generates less clickthroughs.  Keep that in mind if you decide to go with this style.

Two Critical Design and Style Tips

If you’re going to do an email newsletter there are two things I’ve found to be the most important.

First. Use a single column design. Don’t use a two or three column layout. The simple reason for this is people will start reading from the top and work their way down. It promotes readership.

The other reason for a single column is more and more people are looking at your message on a mobile device to decide what to do with your message. Delete, save, or come back later.  Make sure yours is easy to read.

Second. Write the copy of the message in a personal voice. In fact, make sure the voice is you. Use whatever characteristics you have to make your copy sound less like a term paper and more like the way you would say it in person.

For some reason people like to write in as formal a style as possible.

There are many more best practices on how to make an email newsletter work but these basic building blocks will get you thinking about why you have a newsletter and the best way to structure it for your audience.