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Write Email Newsletters that Break Through the Noise

emailIf your inbox is anything like mine, there’s a lot of noise in it.

Emails on top of newsletters compounded by bill alerts intermingled with a three-times-a-day HARO subscription and Notes from the Universe. It feels like everyone wants your attention. Even if you dedicate half of your work day to reading/digesting/responding to all of it and making a significant dent in the pile, it would start all over again tomorrow. It’s endless. Because of this, the delete key becomes your best friend. Check. Delete. Ahhhh.

Here’s the problem though: as a business owner, you are working hard to build a solid email list and provide your contacts with valuable content on a regular basis and it can get frustrating when only a small percentage of people even open your email (and an even smaller percentage click on any of your links). It can feel like all your hard work is getting lost in the void of people’s inboxes without a fighting chance.

At the same time,Write Email Newsletters that Break Through the Noise The key is to make your newsletter stand out from the crowd—make it compelling enough that people actually want to open it and read it. Maybe even so good that your contacts look forward to receiving it.

Wouldn’t that be nice?

Here are 7 great tips for writing email newsletters that break through the noise…

#1: Write a Compelling Subject Line

This is the most important part of writing a great email newsletter in my opinion. Even if you send out the most amazing, ground-breaking, awe-inspiring content in the world, if no one opens your email in the first place (because your subject line is bland), your email is not going to be effective.

In order to prevent your newsletter from immediately being sent down the drain with all the other bulk email, you need to create a compelling, interesting and relevant subject line. Look at the examples below and decide which email you would rather open:

  • Subject Line A: Information about juice cleanses
  • Subject Line B: Quickest way to drop 20 pounds just in time for swimsuit season
  • Subject Line A: Blogs R’ Us Newsletter
  • Subject Line B: How you can get 10,000 people to visit your blog in 5 days…
  • Subject Line A: Latest dog toys
  • Subject Line B: The #1 dog toy that’s taking the pet community by storm

Hopefully, you’re getting the idea that example B in each case is a more compelling subject title for a newsletter email. These types of subject lines jog your curiosity and motivate you to learn more.

At the same time, I still receive email newsletters in my inbox that say “[Business name] Newsletter September 2013.” All I have to say about this is: DELETE.

Make sure that your subject lines invite the reader to learn more about something that’s timely and relevant to them. Try to hit on your customer’s emotional hot buttons. What are they struggling with right now? What do they need to know that could help them reach their goals?

#2: Stick to the DOT Rule

The next step is to follow the DOT Rule when you are writing the content of your email newsletter. DOT means Do One Thing. This has two meanings when you’re writing your content.

(1) First, it means stay focused on one topic per email. Don’t be all over the map by trying to share about your 10 latest and greatest blog post, your upcoming workshop, client testimonials, selling your ebook and giving out your favorite recipe of the week. This is too much information for the average person to absorb. Use each separate newsletter or email blast to relate 1 specific topic or idea to your contacts.

(2) Second, it means having only ONE call-to-action in each email. Once again, if you have 10 different topics and 10 different links pointing to 10 different places on your website, people are going to be overwhelmed. Narrow it down to one. Ask yourself: What is the #1 action that I want my contacts to take in this email?

#3: Act like You’re Writing to One Person

The 3rd step to create an effective email newsletter is to write it as if you’re speaking with one person. Your contacts want to feel like your email was intended just for them—not that they are just another faceless email contact that you’re trying to extract dollar bills from.

When you sit down to write your newsletter, pretend like you’re writing a personal email to your very favorite ideal customer or client. Speak to them like you would a close friend. Don’t use phrases like “Hey everyone” or “I hope that you all saw my last post” or “If any of you want more info” which are all indicated that you are speaking to a group of people. The truth is, your email is only going to one person’s inbox, so they don’t know who “everyone” is. Create connection with each one of your contacts by speaking in first person directly to them and only them.

#4: Infuse Your Personality Into It

Your customers and clients are more likely to spend money with you when they trust you. And to trust you, they need to feel like they know you. The problem is that in the digital age, there’s no possible way to get to know everyone on your email list, so you have to create that feeling of trust in another way.

That’s why the 4th step to creating an effective email newsletter is to infuse your personality into your writing.

When you put your personality into your newsletters, your contacts start to feel like they get to know you—like you’re their friend, ally and mentor. So if you have a happy and bubbly personality, don’t send out a dry, monotone email. Or if you’re witty and clever, don’t even think about hitting the “send” button until your email reflects that part of you. On this note, it can help to share short personal stories before you dive into the meaty part of the newsletter. Your goal is to create connection with the people on your contact list and you can’t do that by pretending to be someone else.

#5: Make It Easy On the Eyes

Have you ever opened an email that is just a wall of text? How fast did you hit the delete button or flag it in the faint hope that you could carve out a whole hour to attend to it later on?

The 5th step in effective newsletter writing is to make your email easy on the eyes. To do this, you can break up the text, add images or insert quotes. Even better, you could just write a shorter email. When your contacts can easily see that they only have to commit to reading a short email to get a great tip from you, they are more likely to dive right in. It’s kind of like creating a 1-minute YouTube video verses a 5-minute YouTube video – if it’s super amazing content, people will commit 5 minutes of their life to it, but if you can say it in 1 minute, you’re golden.

#6: Send Out Emails On a Regular Schedule

Another key tactic for breaking through the noise out there is to send out your emails on a regular schedule. Whether it’s once a month, twice a month or even once a day – be consistent.

There are two big reasons for this – (1) being consistent implies that your business is reliable and dependable, and (2) sending regular emails keeps your brand on the forefront of your customer’s minds.

We’ve all signed up for an email newsletter at some point where we didn’t hear from the business for long stretches. Then what happens when you do hear from them again? If you’re like me, you just go to the bottom of the email and unsubscribe.

Consistency is critical with email newsletters, but keep in mind that you don’t want to overdo it and bombard anyone’s inbox. Find a balance that works well for both you and your contacts.

#7: Follow the “Give Give Give Sell” Model

One of the worst things you can do is only reach out to your email contacts when you have something to sell them. This is a trap that I notice some business owners falling into, but it’s a habit that will result in a steady list of unsubscribers.

Your goal with your newsletter should be to provide value to your contacts—tips, tools, insights, and free stuff. Only when you’ve done this effectively and consistently should you try to sell something to them.

When planning out your email newsletters, follow the “Give Give Give Sell” Model. Basically, give away great free content at least 3 times as much as you try to sell to them. This allows for you to (1) build up trust with your contacts, (2) give them a “free taste” of what you have to offer before they buy, and (3) prove to them that the value of your content and products is more than worth the investment. Basically, you get your contact thinking, “Wow, if they gave me all these amazing tips for free, I can’t wait to see how much more I would get if I bought their product!”

In the end, the best email newsletters are designed to provide value, build trust and create lasting connections with your contacts. When you follow these steps, your email can break through all the noise out and help you successfully turn prospects into buyers and steadily grow your business.

About Laurel Staples

Laurel Staples runs a popular blog & podcast called Go Fire Yourself that gives you the insider secrets to successfully escape your day job, grow your own business and live life on your terms. Connect with Laurel and download her free ebook: Income Switch: How to Replace Your 9-to-5 Income by Building a Profitable (& Unstoppable) Online Platform.

24 thoughts on “Write Email Newsletters that Break Through the Noise

    • Thanks for the comment Douglas! This was a mistake I made when I was writing my first email newsletters years ago, so I wanted to be sure to include that tip in the article.

  1. Some great tips here! I think these could all be easily transferred to blog posts as well. I know I have been guilty of using the plural you while blogging — I’m going to try just the first person going forward and see how that works!

    • Thanks Jenn! I get caught up using plural sometimes too (especially when recording my podcast), so I have to constantly remind myself of my own advice. Glad you like the article!

  2. Thanks for sharing these great tips — very helpful! I have made several of the blunders you discussed, so that’s not going to happen again. Sending gratitude galore to you! ^.^

  3. Great tips!

    Writing an eye-catching subject line is a must. If you ever get stuck, review some of the e-blasts and newsletters you receive. What made your click on them?

    *You may want to create a swipe file of e-blasts and newsletters.

  4. I’d love to be more consistent with my emails but, I have not yet figured out my template for what I want my emails to be. Danny has a consistent one where he answers a question and sends us to a post. I can’t seem to figure out what mine should be

    • Hi Faigie! That’s a problem that many biz owners have. I would recommend choosing 1 template/style, running with it for a while and then changing it up later on if it’s not working out. At least that way, you’ll be consistently strengthening your list as you figure it all out. Good luck!!

  5. Good stuff Laurel! I’m sometimes guilty of violating the DOT rule… will try and get better about that.

    And the sending regularly thing, totally screwed that one up too. Almost got my account banned from MailChimp because so many people forgot they opted-in and complained 🙁

    But learning more and getting better each week!

  6. Great tips and guidelines. For point number 3 what kind of structure or words or phrases can you use to personalize. You mention what words you should not use but short of having to mention their name specifically which would be so time consuming what words should we use to personalize the mailing?

  7. Pingback: Weekly News, Dec. 13th
  8. My favorite tip was “Act like You’re Writing to One Person.” You taught me to keep in mind that people want a personal connection with you as a blogger. Apparently, a lot of other people gained from that tip as well. What wonderful proof that your methods work, Laurel!

  9. Loved the article. Thought you did a great job listing out some MUST HAVES for a newsletter.

    I noticed though you didn’t say anything about testing. I bet doing some simple split testing on that email newsletter will help. I know some of the mailing services (mailchimp) provide ways to segment users and to do split testing which can help you focus and send the right emails to the right readers.

    Also, don’t oversell the subject line if the content inside isn’t up to the epic quality that is the subject line!

    My 2 cents.

    Good article. Keep rocking.

  10. I’m going to share this great post on all of my social medias in hopes of reaching more people who really need this advice.

    I subscribe to a LOT of newsletters and have them sent to a separate gmail acct so they don’t clog up my main inbox and I can read them when I’m in newsletter mode. Lately I haven’t had time to read newsletters so they were piling up at an alarming rate. Yesterday I had a 2 hour hair appointment and decided it was time to tackle those newsletters!

    It was an extremely interesting exercise for me to read subject lines and make that initial decision on whether to even open it or to hit delete. Next I’d skim the content and see if any links were really worth following. I could easily see who was doing it right and who were missing the mark completely for me. Incredible how long many of them were (yawn) and a few were so obscure I couldn’t remember why I’d signed up, who they were or what their business what even about.

    I put an incredible amount of thought into my weekly motivational newsletter for busy moms. They are planned weeks in advance and each one is designed to feel like a friend checking in to see how you’re doing and to offer a great tip and a link to a blog that’ll genuinely help them to find a happier balance and achieve their goals.

    I struggle the most with subject lines and spend far too long pondering various options each week. But I know how important they are!

    The biggest takeaway I got from my two hour newsletter cull yesterday was that if it was from someone I already knew offered me value on a regular basis and I trusted their brand – I never just hit delete without taking a look inside. I’m always afraid to delete a Firepole Marketing email in case I miss something really good – like this one 🙂

  11. I’ve been trying to build up my email list for quite a while now and I found this post to be very helpful, especially rules 2, 6, and 7.

    For awhile I did find my newsletters to be getting quite lengthy and, at times, all over the places. Really sticking to rules number 2 has helped me out a lot. That and number 7. Number 7 is so common sense but so many people still forget about it. How many of us have the friend who the only time they talk to you is when they need something? No one likes that. And newsletters are no different.

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