Newsletters: Reeling in the Readers
When it comes to building your brand reinforcing customer loyalty, few options work as well for the marketer as a newsletter. Whether developed for print or email, your newsletter has the potential to establish a long-lasting relationship between you and your audience. This is especially true during trying times, where maintaining that loyalty is more important than ever. With this issue, we tackle the question of what makes a better newsletter, and how can you use it to attract, retain and strengthen customer relationships.
What makes for good newsletter topics? Of course, it depends somewhat on the industry and focus, but there are some universal truths. In our experience, we find that stories that are relevant to the reader and that fall into the following broad categories may get the best readership. To make it easy to remember, these categories even form an acronym: CREATIVE.
Checklists. Help them track opportunities, get a handle on processes, understand what it takes to get something done.
Reference. Provide them with a place to reference key information they require from time to time, but may not have memorized.
Education. Whether technology, marketing, management, or whatever, chances are there are topics that the reader may want to understand better. By being the educator, you position yourself as both expert and leader.
Analysis. Provide the expert insight into market trends, developments, etc. Help them get a handle on how it all fits together.
Timely. Think newsworthy. What's going on? One way to add value that's relatively easy is the digest: Scour the Web for important trend articles. Provide summaries and links to the original content. You become the customer's filter, in a world where it can be hard to know where to find the must-read material.
Insight. If analysis is more left-brain, think of insight as more right-brain. How do trends fit together? What's the bigger picture the reader may yet to grasp?
Visionary. Help them understand not just things as they are, but predict how they will be. This is hard to pull off, but can build strong loyalty if you can figure it out.
Examples. Finally, use the power of examples to bring it all home for the reader. This may be in the form of case studies, less-formal anecdotes, or relevant examples that are built into the narrative. Stories make it more interesting.
Regardless of the type of article, your newsletter will be more successful if you keep these thoughts in mind as you write and edit the stories themselves.
- Make sure your headlines and sub-heads are short, direct and benefit-oriented
- Keep your paragraphs succinct and to the point
- Use bulleted or numbered lists whenever you can
- Reinforce the message with a good visual that drives the point home
Let's face it: Compelling designs engage readers and make the experience of interacting with information more memorable. To wit, consider the following:
- Come up with a standard look-and-feel for your newsletter including the "name plate", grid, colour scheme and outline of content categories.
- Use style sheets to enforce consistency from issue to to issue
- Use repeating elements such as footers, headers and topical sections or sidebars
- Keep the visuals strong: Illustrations, photographic images and cartoons are more compelling than clip-art, which can come across as cheesy and a little cheap
- Break through the clutter: Remember that colour can make the difference between a piece that gets noticed, more so than black text on white paper, which may not stand out on the reader's desk, in-box or mailbox
Once you start your newsletter, you will create expections in your customers' minds. Keep to the intended schedule - it is a critical measure of your own ability to deliver what you promise
- Don't launch a weekly newsletter if you can really only handle a monthly cycle
- Don't embark on a monthly if a quarterly is more realistic for you
- Try to create a stand-out column, theme, area of focus that will consistently draw your readers into your editorial
The over-arching goal of both email and print newsletters is to build and maintain customer loyalty. Some notable differences between how users interact with both media:
Email newsletters are skimmed more than read, with less time devoted by the reader and hence a lower level of retention. This suggests that email newsletters need to be even more succinct, while you can delve into a topic in more detail with print.
Email newsletters are easier to share. Since it is trivially easy to forward an email, people do. Compare that to sending a great 4-page printed newsletter around the office. Might happen, but less likely. To make it easier to share print articles, consider promoting the location of a Web form on your site to sign-up for the print newsletter, as well as a URL where readers can refer colleagues to read an on-line version of a given story that appears in print.
Print newsletters are more substantial. A well-designed, engaging print newsletter probably is more impressive to most readers than en email newsletter, and offers the benefit of a longer shelf life and better retention of the information.