What should be in the content of a newsletter?

For many small businesses, a regular e-mail newsletter is an ideal way to jump into content marketing. Services such as Constant Contact, MailChimp and Aweber have simplified the technological side of producing a newsletter, leaving you primarily with the task of deciding what you want to say.

Our take: The most successful e-mail newsletters include a mix of editorial and promotional content. We recommend a balance of about 80 percent editorial/20 percent promotional.

Here’s how that looks in practice, starting from the top of the newsletter:

Welcome/About

People receive so many messages in their inbox that it’s important that you remind them why they signed up in the first place. As you are designing your newsletter, incorporate a space where you can write a few sentences explaining who you are and what benefit people can expect from reading your publication.

Primary Editorial

Lead with your strongest editorial content. If you don’t hook your reader with that first headline, they aren’t likely to scan any further. This can be something you wrote especially for the newsletter, or it can be a summary that points back to your blog. Maybe a video? Just make it eye-catching.

Secondary Editorial

Before you jump into trying to sell your reader anything, give them another interesting bit of editorial content. This could be a another summary or bit of news. A round-up of related links pulled from blog archives is a relatively easy way to add more valuable content to the newsletter while driving traffic to your site.

Promotional Message

Now you can sell them. What are you offering your subscribers this issue? Create some rotating messages that promote your products or services. Consider giving your newsletter subscribers a special discount.

Tertiary Editorial

Keep people going to the bottom of the page with the promise of more editorial content. This could be a roundup of links to industry articles you liked, or something you just found amusing.

What are your favorite tips for picking the content of a newsletter? What are some examples of newsletters that you think really get it right?

Mary Ellen Slayter is managing director of Reputation Capital Media Services. Before creating her own content marketing firm, she served as director of content development and a senior general business and finance editor at SmartBrief, a leading publisher of e-mail newsletters. Before joining SmartBrief, she spent 8 years at The Washington Post, where she authored the Career Track column and worked as an editor in the business news department. You can find Mary Ellen on Twitter @MESlayter.

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