The following excerpt is from Robert W. Bly’s The Content Marketing Handbook. Buy it now fromAmazon | Barnes & Nobleor click here to buy it directly from us and SAVE 60% on this book when you use code MARKET2021 through 4/24/21.
Whether you’re building brand awareness, generating leads or making direct sales, there are two ways to sell your products and services to your enewsletter subscribers. One is to place small online ads in the regular issues. These ads are usually a hundred words or so in length and include a link to a page on your site where the subscriber can read about and order the product. The other is to send stand-alone email messages to your subscribers, again promoting a specific product and a link to your site.
My enewsletter, The Direct Response Letter (www.bly.com/report), is not the most successful or widely read on the planet. But marketing results and comments from subscribers tell me my formula for creating the enewsletter — which, including copy and layout, takes me just an hour or two per issue — works. I want to share the formula with you, so you can produce an effective enewsletter of your own — by yourself, at your computer, in just a single morning or afternoon.
When reading a free enewsletter (as opposed to one they pay for), people spend just a little time on it before deleting it. Therefore, I use a quick-reading format designed to allow subscribers to read it online as soon as they open it.
In this format, my enewsletter always has five to seven short articles, each just a few paragraphs long. Every article can be read in less than a minute, so it never takes more than seven minutes to read the whole issue, though I doubt most people do. I advise against having just a headline and a one-line description of the article, with a link to the full text of the article. That forces your subscribers to click to read your articles. Make it easy for them.
How do you write these mini-articles for enewsletters? Here are some suggestions from marketing expert Ilise Benun of Marketing Mentor (www.marketing-mentor.com):
- Think of yourself as a conduit. Your job is to pass useful information along to those who can use it.
- Pay close attention to questions, problems and ideas that come up when you’re doing your work or interacting with customers.
- Distill the lesson (or lessons) into a tip that you can share with your network via email, snail mail or even in simple conversation.
- State the problem or situation as an introduction to your tip. Distill it down to its essence.
- Then give the solution. Make sure you give a couple of action steps to take. Readers especially love something they can use right away.
- Describe the result or benefit of using these solutions to provide some incentive to act. If there are tools they can use to measure the results, give them a link to websites offering these tools.
- Include tips the reader can use without doing any work: phrases they can use verbatim, boilerplate clauses, checklists, forms and so on.
- List websites and other resources where readers can go for more information.
Need more ideas about what and how to craft a newsletter readers love? Copywriter John Forde offers the following tips:
- Your reader is smarter than you think. Even while educating or informing, never talk down to them. And never think they won’t notice when you haven’t done your homework.
- Your reader prefers stories to lists of facts. You’ll find it a lot easier to hold on to their attention by putting plenty of human-interest angles into the articles you write.
- Your reader expects occasional profundity. The deeper you can take your reader, the greater your editor-reader relationship will be, the more they’ll recommend your enewsletter to friends, and the longer they’ll stay active on your mailing list.
- Trust encourages action. The more the reader trusts you, the more genuinely they regard your message, and the more likely they are to take the action you recommend.
- Your reader expects emotion. Getting personal means getting emotional. But be careful in two ways. First, be passionate about your position, but not crazed. Second, good writers express the full range of emotions over time (fear, greed, anger, desire, vanity and so on). You can’t fake this. But don’t suppress it in your enewsletter copy, either.
- Reinforce the old, introduce the new. When you’re writing an enewsletter, you’re almost always “preaching to the choir.” That means a lot of your copy will appeal to the opinions and principles you and your readers already share. But just as much, you have to make sure you introduce, amplify and illuminate a new direction for them to take. By repeating core ideas, you reinforce your readers’ good feelings about your enewsletter. By saying something new, however, you also provide understanding.
Article Ideas for Company Newsletters
Here’s a checklist of 20 article ideas to help you identify topics with high reader interest that can promote your company or educate prospects:
- Product stories. New products, improvements to existing products, new models, new accessories, new options and new applications.
- News. Joint ventures, mergers and acquisitions, new divisions, new departments and other company news. Also, industry news and analyses of events and trends.
- Tips. Tips on product selection, installation, maintenance, repair and troubleshooting.
- How-to articles. Similar to tips, but with more detailed instructions. Examples: how to use the product, how to design a system or how to select the right type or model.
- Case histories. Either in-depth or brief, reporting product application success stories, service successes, etc.
- People. Company promotions, new hires, transfers, awards, anniversaries, employee profiles, customer profiles, human interest stories (unusual jobs, hobbies, etc.).
- Milestones. “1,000th unit shipped,” “Sales reach $1 million mark,” “Division celebrates 10th anniversary,” etc.
- Sales news. New customers, bids accepted, contracts renewed and satisfied customer reports.
- R&D. New products, new technologies, new patents, technology awards, inventions, innovations and breakthroughs.
- Explanatory articles. How a product works, industry overviews and background information on applications and technologies.
- Customer stories. Interviews with customers, photos, customer news and profiles, guest articles by customers about their industries, applications and positive experiences with the vendor’s product or service.
- Photos with captions. People, facilities, products and events.
- Columns. President’s letter, letters to the editor, guest columns and regular features such as “Q&A” or “Tech Talk.”
- Manufacturing stories. New techniques, equipment, raw materials, production line successes, detailed explanations of manufacturing processes, etc.
- Community affairs. Fundraisers, special events, support for the arts, scholarship programs, social responsibility programs, environmental programs and employee and corporate participation in local/regional/national events.
- IT stories. New computer hardware and software systems, improved computing and its benefits to customers, new applications and explanations of how systems serve customers.
- Service. Background on company service facilities, case histories of outstanding service activities, new services for customers, new hotlines, etc.
- History. Articles about company, industry, product and community history.
- Interviews. With company key employees, engineers, service personnel, etc.; with customers; and with suppliers (to illustrate the quality of materials going into your products).
- Gimmicks. Contents, quizzes, puzzles, games and cartoons.
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