Once you’ve settled on some concrete goals, now it’s time for the fun part: content creation! If you’re scratching your head thinking, “Content? That’s a very broad term…” you are correct. If this really is your first foray into the internet world, you better familiarize yourself with content, because it will absolutely be referred to time and time again.
Content, in a web sense, is essentially the stuff that fills up every website page, from text and imagery, to video and sound, in order to engage web users. Whatever kind of email newsletter you’re aiming to create, it needs content.
Exciting! But what kind of content? Again, this will depend on your end goal. Chances are, you came up with some neat ideas during your brainstorming session. If you’re still unsure, here are some typical newsletters businesses send to their customers:
The consumer newsletter
If you have an ecommerce store, it’s easy to keep your customers abreast of what’s happening in your store and even things that are relevant to their interests. For instance, if you sell makeup, your newsletter could include links to new releases, special offers, trends, and beauty news.
This ASOS newsletter incorporates current trends and has a clear CTA in the form of the “Shop Now” button in the top center.
This Domino’s Pizza newsletter showcases its current offer and ties it into the winter season for an added personal touch.
The roundup newsletter
If your business has a blog (or is a blog!) or you run an online magazine, a content roundup of your best and most important pieces that were published lately. This could be weekly, biweekly, monthly -- whatever makes sense in terms of how much you publish.
The New Yorker’s culture newsletter uses it as an opportunity to present (very!) old content in a single column.
The monetized newsletter
Maybe you’re planning on your newsletter being your product. Successful examples of a monetized newsletter include: daily bitesize news newsletter, The Skimm; and NextDraft, which promises the most fascinating news stories of the day delivered straight to your inbox. These kinds of newsletters tend to make money through advertising and sponsorship.
Creating a content calendar
When starting anything, you need to plan ahead. With an email newsletter that means being organized and keeping on top of things. For your campaign to be effective this newsletter needs to be sent regularly. Your unmissable content needs to be gracing your customers’ eyes as much as possible, otherwise they’re apt to forget who you even are.
Planning in advance is a good way of ensuring you stick to a schedule. Sticking to a schedule is made easy when you implement an editorial calendar.
The term “editorial calendar” can sound a little frightening, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. All you need is a simple calendar where you can organize and monitor the content you’re planning to include in your newsletter and when you’re going to send it. What you use is up to you. Google calendar is a handy, free option. You could even use Excel, or free online software like Zoho.
If you will be sending more than one type of newsletter, color coding different kinds of content will help you differentiate things quickly. For instance, blue could be for promotional newsletters, while red could for your blog roundup.
Writing compelling copy
If writing isn’t your bag, adding a copywriting wizard to your marketing team isn’t a bad idea. If this isn’t possible, chances are you’re a better writer than you think. The key is not be intimidated; you’re writing an email newsletter, not the next Pulitzer Prize winner. If you follow a few simple rules, you’ll be on your way to writing effective email copy if you bear a few things in mind.
Keep it personal
Everyone likes to feel special. Making a subscriber feel like you care isn’t hard!
Use your name
This is something you can play around with a bit to see what your subscribers are receptive to. You could use the sales person’s name as sender. For example, “Cindy from X Company” or it could simply be “Cindy”. If this is a little too personal you can change it to “X Company Newsletter” so they know exactly what to expect.
User their name
This is so easy to do! Opening an email and reading “Dear Steve” (assuming your name is Steve) is far more pleasant than a generic, “Dear Customer”
Write in the second person, using “you” and “yours” pronouns throughout. Try make it about them, and not about you.
Talk about how you can help your customer
You can wax lyrical about how your product is the best product ever until the cows come home, but if you don’t mention how exactly it will benefit your customer, chances are they’ll bounce out of your email pretty soon. As you’re drafting your email copy, a good question you should keep asking yourself throughout is, “what’s in it for them?”
If it’s short, it’s sweet
This is in regards to:
And overall length
You may love Tolkien-esque, five-page long descriptions of a single tree, but it’s unlikely your subscribers do (at least when it comes to emails). The stats are in, and they confirm that the majority of online content is scanned and skimmed at best.
In a study, Dejan Marketing found that one in five people read web content word for word, while the majority scan, skip, and only read key items of interest. This is why short scannable copy is key. Make it easy for your reader to find what you promised in the subject line of your email and bring it all together with a nice prominent CTA button.
Proofread, proofread, proofread
While typos getting through to content published on your website or blog is never ideal, at least you have the option of editing it later. With email newsletters there is no such option; once it’s out there, it’s out there. So make sure to read through it carefully, and get another pair of eyes on it if you can.
You want your newsletters to me memorable, and imagery and video can play a large part in that. However, using too many can make your newsletter look cluttered and also render it unopenable. Try only to go for images that are relevant and will enhance your message. Be sure to compress them as much as possible.
If you want to include video, rather than embedding it in a email itself, include a thumbnail from the video with a link it to where the video is hosted. Not all email clients support video, so this is a good compromise: you’ll be able to provide video content without sacrificing the look of your newsletter.
If you aren’t extending your now-stellar copywriting skills to your subject line, you’re missing an opportunity. The first thing your subscriber is going to see of your email is the subject line. Sure, it’s what’s inside that counts, but if your subscriber isn’t engaged enough to bother opening your email, then what’s the point? Here are some essential tips for composing an openable subject line.
Like with body copy, it’s best to err on the side of shorter… but not too short. Stats on this tend to be contentious, but do point towards shorter (but not too short!) being better:
According to Mail Chimp there is no statistical link between length and email opens
According to Return Path, subject lines between 61-70 characters have the highest read rates
According to Yes Lifecycle Marketing shorter subject lines (between 1 and 20 characters) had the highest average open rates, while longer subject lines (61+ characters) had higher open rates than medium-length subject lines (21-60 characters)
What this basically suggests is that length is just one of the factors that will encourage a subscriber to open an email. When it comes to mobile optimization concerns, subject lines tend to cut off on smartphone email inboxes if they’re too long, so that’s also something you should bear in mind.
Intrigue and engage
The question, “What makes a subject line clickable?” is not all that different to “How long is a piece of string?” This will be dependent on your audience, ultimately. You’ll probably go through a lot of trial and error before happening upon the kind of subject line that gets your emails opened.
We’ll talk more about testing a little later, but for now, here are some tips that could help make your subject line more interesting:
How you use any of these will be dependent on your main audience. Certain kinds jokes and pop culture references won’t elicit the same response from Millennials as an older demographic, so the group you are targeting inside out really is key. And remember to always keep the subject line relevant to what’s in your email! Clickable ≠ clickbait.
Sometimes keeping it straightforward is key. Sometimes all you might need is one word. Just make sure that in trying to make your subject line witty and unique, it doesn’t become too obscure.
Keep keeping it personal
What we said earlier applies here, too. Hopefully your name is in there as the sender. Also use your customer’s name in the subject line, just like friends would. You could also include something about their location, if it’s relevant. But try to show a little restraint when getting personal, you definitely don’t want to come across as creepy.