20 Newsletter Tips to Make Your eNewsletter Great (Part 1)

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As a part of our Newsletter Month theme at OurChurch.Com, last week’s article “The Best Target Demographic Ever” focused on why eNewsletters are so important – because your last visitor is your best prospect to become your next visitor.  Today we’re going to talk about newsletter tips – how you can make your eNewsletter interesting and useful to your readers and truly effective at bringing people back to your website.

There’s so much good advice, that I had to break it into two articles.  Here are the first 10 tips:

1) Write out its purpose. There are many different kinds of newsletters each with its own purpose.  For one organization the newsletter might be like a magazine where the goal is to get the most subscribers possible and sell advertising within the publication. For another organization the purpose of the eNewsletter may be to increase sales.  For another it may be to increase involvement in activities.  For another it might be to drive subscribers back to the website.  For another it might be to provide spiritual nourishment.  Write out the purpose before you write your first issue.

2) Write out your vision. What do you want the newsletter to look like a year from now?  What kind of content do you want to see in it?  How many subscribers?  Post your vision for the newsletter online, on or near the subscribe page.

3) Publish like clockwork. Decide how often you’re going to publish the newsletter and try to stick to a predictable schedule.  Readers will get into the habit of reading your newsletter on a particular day of the week or month.  For most organizations a monthly newsletter is good.  For churches or schools with a lot going on a weekly newsletter might be appropriate.

4) Use compelling subject lines. “Christ Church Newsletter Volume 8, Issue 3” is not going to cause many people to click away from whatever it is they’re doing when your newsletter arrives in their inbox.  Try something more intriguing like “[Christ Church News] Flaming Bananas Coming Sunday.”  I have no idea what that means, by the way, but I would probably click to find out.

5) Show some personality. It’s important to develop a personal connection with your readers.  That’s why I recently began including my name in the closing (as opposed to just OurChurch.Com) and my picture.  I want people to feel like I’m talking to them directly.  Start with an off-topic intro before getting down to business.  Use humor.  Just be yourself.

6) Serve your readers. Instead of asking them to serve you.  A lot of people write newsletters from a completely self-centered perspective.  They’re all about trying to get subscribers to do what they want.  Some give away phrases are things like “We need… (volunteers, money, etc),” “Help us out…”  “Buy this…”   If people feel like your newsletter is just one ask/beg after another, they won’t read it.  When determining newsletter content, ask yourself if I was a subscriber what would I want to read about.  Or better yet…

7) Ask your readers what they want. Survey your subscribers.  Include a poll in the newsletter.  Ask for feedback.

8) Make it fun. Even if your organization has a serious mission and your newsletter covers serious topics, consider including some lighter content like a puzzle, cartoon, or joke.  One of the features of our newly redesigned Webmaster Newsletter due to be published tomorrow is a funny video.

9) Use the same layout and features each issue. Most people won’t read an entire newsletter, but they will have specific features that they look forward each time.  Maybe it’s something light-hearted, maybe it’s a personal story, maybe it’s a tip that can help them with something.  Of course, it’s good to continue to innovate by introducing new features or redesigning the layout periodically, but the point is that people continue to subscribe when they like what they’re reading so there needs to be some consistency.

10) Look back and plan ahead. This is especially beneficial if you’re writing original articles for your newsletters.  You can write a series of related articles, link to past articles, and then preview future articles.  “Last issue we touched on…”  “Next issue we’ll discuss…”  Additionally, if you plan an issue (or more) ahead you can create anticipation for the next issue by mentioning the theme, feature article, featured author, etc.

By the way, #10 works good for blogs too…  Tune in next time for newsletter tips 11-20. 😉

What are your thoughts on these tips?  Got any newsletter tips of your own?

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    About the author

    Paul Steinbrueck

    Paul Steinbrueck is co-founder and CEO of OurChurch.Com, husband, father of 3, blogger. You can follow him on Twitter at @PaulSteinbrueck.