Top Five Tips for Killer E-Newsletter Content

What are the top five tips for killer e-newsletter content?

If you’re like me, you salivate at the direct marketing approach to solving a problem. You’re looking for an answer you can quickly absorb — in a neat, tidy package.

The fact is, there are probably six top tips. Or maybe nine. It doesn’t matter. Read on to find out why.

Tip 1: It’s OK to Repeat Yourself

Didn’t I write about e-newsletter content last week? Oops. Well, I’m repeating this theme on purpose, to make a point. If you’ve found a theme or topic that resonates with your readers, keep using it — but with a twist.

If one of your objectives is to become top of mind with the prospects and customers on your subscriber list, you’re more apt to succeed if your e-newsletter has an ongoing thread.

As Renee Menius of the InternetNewsBureau.com puts it, “Think like a soap opera writer. Write a series of articles that build one upon another. At the conclusion of each one, include a ’teaser’ promoting what comes next.”

In addition, part of repeating yourself is to use a consistent format (a point I made in an earlier article. Whether your e-newsletter is in text or HTML, your repeated content should include your unsubscribe instructions, your hint to pass it along to a colleague, and so forth. A consistent length gives your e-newsletter a rhythm your readers will come to expect.

Tip 2: Package Your Message

Yup, I wasn’t kidding about five versus six or nine top tips. Use a number that lets you package your message so that it is easily digestible — and lets you be a bit clever. You can’t do this every time, but it’s a great device.

“Five tips” or “ten tips” just sounds good. Responsys uses “Five Email Marketing Imperatives.” A recent ClickZ article was titled, “Ten Tips on Hiring a Media Buyer.”

Another way to package is to use “factoids” and snippets of information from expert sources to buttress your main topic. A great example is a new HTML e-newsletter from Sevista that focuses on retention email marketing. It was sent to approximately 1,200 marketing executives and drew a click-through rate (CTR) of close to 20 percent.

Susan Harman, Sevista’s vice president of marketing, plans to roll out a new marketing topic that’s relevant to her audience (customer retention, customer loyalty, etc.) each month. “I want people to associate Sevista as being knowledgeable about e-marketing so that ultimately, when they’re looking for an e-marketing solution, they’ll turn to us.”

Tip 3: Learn From Your Competition

Constantly scan other companies’ or organizations’ e-newsletters to get new ideas — for content, writing style, personality, voice, and so on.

Voice, as I wrote last week, is an essential part of e-newsletter content.

If you’ve got someone on your team with a strong stomach for email overload, get him or her to sign up for a bunch of the e-newsletters published by internet.com (he or she can always unsubscribe later). You’ll quickly be able to tell what’s an effective voice and what’s not.

Tip 4: Great Copy Is Key

Obvious. Or is it? Copywriting for email marketing, e-newsletters, and Web sites is a bit of an art. You’re writing for a global audience, but — this is key — you’re speaking to one person at a time. Throw in the business-to-business (B2B) focus, and you’ve got even more of a challenge.

How do you make your content or information “need to know,” and how do you get your e-newsletter to rise above the inbox din? One way to find out is to get a third-party perspective. Hire an outside copywriter and ask him or her to be ruthless when determining whether your e-pub is any good.

For great tips on copywriting and content, check out weekly discussion lists I-Copywriting and I-Content.

Tip 5: Plan Ahead and Look Back

This ties in with setting a business objective for your e-newsletter. If your goal is to convert more leads to sales (i.e., turn subscribers into buyers), you’ll need to think way ahead, at least 6 or 12 months, if you can.

Make up an editorial calendar. But be ready to switch gears based on what piques the interest of your readers. Whether text or HTML, your articles should frequently link back to pages on your Web site. It’s easy to track these click-throughs, and over time you will probably see a pattern.

Network Solutions Inc. (NSI), which I wrote about last week, has been sending out its quarterly e-newsletter for just over a year (in both HTML and text). After NSI tabulated what articles attracted the most clicks, it became clear that readers wanted success stories, special promotions, and tips on how to access their NSI domain name accounts.

Are there more e-newsletter tips than these five? You betcha. More another time (but not next week!)

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