Newsletters seem very 1990’s don’t they? They don’t have the flash of “new media” or the shimmer of a shiny new social media site just waiting to be discovered. What they do have, however, is visibility. In some cases, more visibility than you’re getting on all of your social media sites combined.
I speak at a lot of writer events and in the last year, the buzz has really increased around the need for a newsletter. Why? Well, Facebook has declined in reach; in some cases only 1% of your posts reach your fans. If you’re not paying for placement on Facebook, it’s very likely your stuff isn’t being seen. With everyone on sites like Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Twitter (which also will start monetizing posts) it’s really hard to get your audiences’ attention.
If used correctly, newsletters can be a great way to get your message out there, offer helpful advice, keep people in your marketing funnel, or simply remind them of who you are. We’ve had our newsletter for fourteen years, and it’s been a solid way to stay in front of our audience; educate them about their market; and what we do as a company. Candidly, I would consider getting rid of a lot of things, but never our newsletter. It’s often the single biggest business driver to our company. It’s not easy, it requires work, but the rewards are tremendous.
Here’s how you can make your newsletter work for you:
- Don’t have to be long: Some authors use their newsletter to “check-in” with their audience with a brief (500 word) update. Your market will dictate how long or short your newsletter should be.
- Are consistent, professional, and on point: If I see sloppy copy or newsletters that haven’t been edited, am I really going to buy from someone who doesn’t have the time to edit their newsletter or make it look nice? I also see newsletters that veer off topic so much that I instantly unsubscribe.
- Know your audience: Whether it’s a newsletter, a blog post, or a tweet, ask yourself: “Who cares?” If you can identify the person as your reader and the content as important enough to get them to care, then you have a good topic. Remember, it’s not about you – in fact when it comes to creating great content and newsletters that rock, you don’t matter at all. Speak to your readers’ pain, their needs and their hot buttons and most importantly, know exactly who they are before you start cranking out newsletter copy.
- Address one person: I don’t know about you, but writing “hello everyone” seems very impersonal and, kind of spammy. Personalize your email, but remember, not everyone enters their name into your email list when they sign up. If they don’t, you want to try and avoid emails addressed to a specific person, because they look a bit odd to the recipient.
Give them someone to write to: When it comes to the “from” line in your email, make sure it has your name, not your company name or book title; make sure that your readers know who to contact, and invite them to share their opinions, feedback or ideas for future newsletters.
- Appeal to the “skimmers:” Most people skim email these days, so appeal to that. Use short paragraphs, bullet points and strong headlines. That way your reader can glance through the newsletter without having to sift through endless copy and get to the heart of what they are looking for.
- Have a great subject line: This is probably the most important part of any newsletter. They need to grab the reader’s attention, and if you know what your audience wants, the subject lines shouldn’t be hard. Again, they must speak to the needs of your reader. Of all the things going on in their lives, as it relates to whatever you are selling, what’s their biggest need right now? Answer that and you’ve got a perfect subject line.
Don’t have a newsletter? Here are some quick ways to start one, and gain followers:
- Make sure the sign-up is on the home page and every page of your website. Typically the left hand side is preferred since it’s considered the “power side” of your website.
- Give a great offer to get folks to sign up. Keep your reader in mind, and offer something they’ll want. If you’re a fiction author you can give exclusive content from your book, a gift card (hold a monthly drawing for one gift card) or some other valuable content your readers will want.
- Have a mail system to manage it like Mail Chimp or Constant Contact. Both are free up to 1,000 subscribers so you can test this before you launch it.
- Create an auto-responder: An auto-responder is a great way to stay in touch with your reader/consumer and remind them of who you are. An auto-responder might go out weekly, or monthly, or it might just be a one-time “gift” you send readers for signing up. Our auto-responder is our 52 Ways to Sell More Books which is separated into 52 segments and delivered twice monthly into our readers’ inboxes.
- Other newsletters: It’s important to know what other folks are doing with their newsletters. This will help you learn what you like, what you don’t like, and what might work for your market. Also, you want to really understand your space and other experts who share your arena.
- Colors vs. text: I’m still a big fan of text-based newsletters. I know that folks will say that color works best but I still think that color newsletters can be harder to read on your phones and often wind up in spam filters. A lot of people will be reading your newsletter on their iPad or phones so keep it simple.
- Frequency & Consistency: How often you deliver your newsletter will generally depend on your consumer, but a good rule of thumb is once a month at a minimum and once a week at a maximum. I would not recommend sending your end-user too many announcements and newsletters. Also, it’s a lot of content to create, so keep that in mind. If you build a loyal following you can often create special blasts with more frequency and not lose readers, but remember that we’re all inundated with emails, so many times, less is more. Be consistent. Pick a day and time that works for you and deliver on that promise.
- Promote or not? I’m not a fan of a newsletter that’s all heavy promotion. You know the ones I mean. They scream “Look how fabulous I am” and then contain a lot of sales copy and special offers. Ideally you want to strike a balance. Clearly you are doing this to promote yourself, and you want your readers to know what you do, what your message, book, or product is, and how they can get it. You can and should talk about this in every issue, but a healthy balance is 95% information and 5% sales. You’ll build customer loyalty much faster this way.
Having a solid base and a consistent way to communicate with your audience can really help to optimize and increase your bottom line. A newsletter might seem like a lot of work, but in the end, if it’s done right, it will pay off in some pretty amazing ways.