Let’s put our customer hat on for a minute. As a customer, we’re bombarded by emails from businesses trying to get our attention. Somehow our email address has found its way onto mailing lists for everything from cookers to holidays, life insurance to movie tickets. We’ve no idea when we signed up for them and, for the most part, have little interest in buying, so the first thing we do is hit delete, probably before we’ve even opened the email.
Now let’s imagine we’re the seller. And we have a targeted database of customers who have genuinely given us their details because at some point we had something they were interested in buying…
How can we reach these customers electronically? How do we create cut through in a world full of spam mail?
There is a better way
As counter intuitive as it may seem, I’m still an advocate for a good customer newsletter. But only if it’s done properly.
Too many businesses think that if they create a newsletter, they’re ticking the ‘regular communication to customers’ box. And arguably they can tick that box. They’ve sent something, made contact with customers, and told the customer something they think is important about their business.
But it’s exactly here that it’s going wrong.
Too often businesses create a newsletter for the wrong reasons.
- Maybe they’re trying to fulfil a compliance obligation by passing on important information without having to write to every individual customer.
- Perhaps they’re worried they don’t have enough contact with customers, so a mass newsletter is a quick win.
- Or even worse, they fall into the trap of telling customers something they think is new and existing about their business, but actually makes no different to the customer.
All these things are missing one crucial thing – what’s in it for the customer? Why do they care? And more importantly, what will make them open the email before they simply press delete?
There are a few key steps to developing a successful customer newsletter. While they don’t guarantee customer engagement and they certainly don’t guarantee a sale…they do improve your chances and help you build a long-term relationship with your customers.
1. ‘Hook’ the customer with an interesting subject line
If you can’t get the reader to open your email, then it doesn’t matter how good the content is inside because they’ll never get to it. Use the subject line to create intrigue or pose a question you think your customers might want an answer to, so at least they think twice before just deleting your email.
Which are you more likely to read?
Latest property market news vs House prices record a staggering 15% increase
New addition to our Balanced Fund vs Would you like to retire at 50?
2. Be consistent
Let’s assume that your first newsletter was a hit. Great news! You had some readers and they even interacted with you, provided some feedback or asked a question. So, don’t lose them.
If they liked what they saw, then keep to the format. Each newsletter should follow the same structure, so the customer knows what to expect each time, and if they don’t want to read everything, they can just skip to the sections they like.
- Choose a manageable number of sections or articles (3 to 5 works well).
- Give each section a functional but catchy heading.
- Make sure you include these sections in every newsletter.
- Create easy navigation between sections so readers don’t have to scroll through all the content to find what they’re looking for.
- Include imagery to break up the text and provide context.
Here’s a couple of examples of newsletters I work on for clients.
Real estate newsletter
- Market news (latest statistics and insights)
- Out and About (where the agent has recently travelled to and what they observed about the local property market there)
- Client Comments (a recent testimonial)
- Keeping it local (community involvement)
- Ask Kate (answers a topical question from a customer)
- Industry news (latest developments and insights)
- Our business (wins, claims, useful statistics)
- Working together (update on joint initiatives with the customer)
- Getting involved (community/charity activities)
- Meet the team (feature a team member, short Q&A)
- Digging deeper (topical article showcasing specialist industry knowledge)
3. Add some personality
Don’t make your newsletter too formal. As with every customer touchpoint, it represents your brand – who you are and how you want to be perceived. It offers an opportunity to share a little about yourself and build rapport.
If you’re writing as a company, you should have a tone of voice and brand guidelines that you follow.
If you’re writing as an individual, give the reader some insight into who you are, what makes you tick, and use language that represents how you would interact in a face-to-face situation.
4. Don’t be late
When you’re thinking about starting a customer newsletter, be realistic about how often you will send it.
- How much time do you have to dedicate to it?
- How easy is it to source content?
- Will you write it yourself or get a copywriter to help?
- Who will build the html email and what are their turnaround times?
A successful newsletter is one that’s regular. Over time you effectively ‘train’ the customer to expect your email.
If you’ve got the balance right, they should almost be looking forward to it, eager to read their favourite section of your latest news.
But if you start sending it monthly, then skip a few months, then it’s another 6 months before they hear from you, you’ve probably lost the customer and they’re getting their insights from elsewhere.
Don’t over commit at the start. Know your limits.
5. Measure and refine
The only way to know if your newsletter is resonating with your customers is to measure it.
There’s no right measure, it will depend on what you want it to achieve.
- You could measure success simply by the open rate.
- Maybe you want people to click through to different articles, so you might track this.
- Or you could have a goal completion target where you want people to fill in a form or send back feedback.
Whatever you choose, it’s important to use the measure(s) to continually refine and improve your newsletter. Find out what people like to read about, which sections are popular, what sort of headlines get the best open rate and so on.
Never assume that your click through rates will always increase. Customers will get newsletter fatigue and your challenge is to keep the content fresh and interesting, so your customers crave more.
If you’ve had great success with a newsletter, or you’ve had a newsletter disaster, why not share your story.