Debunking Some Newsletter Myths
Throughout my career I’ve had to find ways to do more with less, so along those lines, one very effective way to get your message out is to create your own company newsletter. I know, I can hear the objections already, you don’t have the time to write a newsletter, you don’t have the computer skills to email it to your customers, it takes a lot of effort to publish a newsletter, I don’t know what to write about, I’m not a writer, and the list just keeps going. Newsletters don’t have to be long in fact shorter is better. A one-page newsletter is perfect. In our “sound bite” world, people want to information in easily digestible chunks.
Today's Consumers Are Smarter
The most popular newsletters appear to be of the teaching or informational variety. Many people will subscribe to a newsletter to learn how to do something or to brush up on their skills. In our industry, we sell what is probably the most neglected system in the home, until it stops working, of course. Research has shown that customers that buy high-end systems tend to be more involved in the process and have more of an interest in the product after they have purchased it, making them ideal candidates for your newsletter.
Be Relevant and Timely
When you decide to write your newsletter, keep your audience in mind; think about what is relevant, and what is important to your audience. If you want to be effective, look at what industry publications do, they create an editorial calendar. Decide what you will write about each month in advance, so you can coordinate your messages. Be realistic about how many articles you can write each month, remember to be consistent in the length of your newsletter.
Be Brief, and Personalize It
A basic newsletter will have a lead story, shorter news items, and a personal message from you. Just remember to keep it simple. If it is easy to create, you will be more likely to create next month’s issue.
The most important thing, is to be consistent about when you send your newsletter out. If you plan to send it on the first Wednesday of the month, do so consistently. Over time, your subscribers will grow accustomed to receiving it on a regular and consistent basis.
Make the Message Visible to Readers
An important consideration is many people only read their email in the preview pane in Outlook, which means they only see a small portion of your message at a time. Optimize your newsletter for people who only read email in the preview pane. Do this by being aware of what you put on the top of your newsletter. For example don’t put a huge graphic at the top of your newsletter, or that is all your reader will see. It would be better to put a table of contents there so the reader will know topics for the newsletter.
Include Links to Your Website
If possible, use links to your articles, which you could host on your website. Publish the first paragraph in your newsletter with a link that says “read more…” that takes you to the full article further down the page. This way you have more room in your newsletter to include several articles or news briefs without taking up a lot of space.
Test Story Titles, Headlines
If you plan to use your newsletter as part of your marketing efforts, remember to use testing to determine the effectiveness of your titles and headlines. You do this by creating two different titles for your email. Send one newsletter to half of your subscribers and send the other to the other half. Monitor your results so you learn which titles produced the most opens and the most click throughs.
Educate, Don't Advertise
On what topic should you write? The very last thing you want to do is make it all about your company. “What do you mean, don’t write about my company?” If it sounds and looks like advertising, in the minds of your readers that’s all it is. So focus roughly 30% of it on your company and 70% on related topics. You can include information on some interesting aspect of your company or a new service that you offer, but don’t make the whole newsletter about your company. Educate your customer.
Provide HVAC Information
In our industry, there is a need for marketplace education, and it has been my experience that an email newsletter is one good way to address that need. When you consider the complexity of the systems we sell, and you consider how little the average homeowner really knows about heating and air conditioning systems, it makes sense to include information in your newsletter on the care and operation of an HVAC system. Your customers will appreciate the information. Tell your customers about the latest innovations in HVAC technology and tell them what’s in it for them. Talk about geothermal heat pumps or solar water heaters if you offer them. Tell them the greatest thing about indoor air quality.
Variety is the Spice
It is important to keep in mind that successful newsletters need external content. The problem with many newsletters is that they are boring; they focus on such a narrow subject range, that eventually the most dedicated reader will stop reading them. Successful newsletters have varied content. Your off-topic content does not have to relate to the actual purpose of your newsletter. Think of it this way, even the golf channel has room for the weather and the occasional unrelated story. Add good external content to your newsletter to keep your readership engaged.
Personal Interest Can Be Interesting
What other content should you include in your newsletter? Try some personal interest news. People like to hear or read stories about other people. You can create real interest by letting your readers know about you and your employees.