If you do only one content marketing thing let it be this

Yes, that is a clickbait title. But you don’t have to signup for anything or click on more or first figure out how to block the popups to find out what that thing is. And, sorry to say, you probably won’t be blown away by the answer… One of the most effective content marketing tools is a newsletter.

Content marketing takes time, focus and commitment, all of which are in short supply when you’re also trying to run and grow your business. While the ideal is to have an integrated content marketing strategy that sees you publishing original content and being active on social media, it’s just not always possible.

Which is why you need to focus your energy where you can expect the highest returns, and a newsletter is likely to be that thing.

Inbound marketing – the umbrella term for email communication sent to a database – is one of the most effective ways to reach an audience. The statistics vary from industry to industry and across product and service ranges, but are anecdotally and statistically known to outperform the typical engagement garnered from social media. MailChimp has collated the average email campaign stats by industry, which is useful to consider.

But everybody gets so much junk mail already?

Yes, they do (mainly because they don’t seem to know how to click on the unsubscribe link) which is why you need to set your newsletter apart by offering useful, relevant and interesting content to an engaged database of high integrity.

A thoughtfully designed newsletter is a bespoke extension of your brand offering, giving readers additional insight and information about your product or service. It’s about curating the content in such a way that it serves to either inform, educate or entertain (if you can manage all three you’re really winning). The newsletter needs to make people feel like they’re getting access to something exclusive, something they want to know about that has been specially packaged for them.

Your offering fits into somebody’s interest somewhere. You have clients and fans, so why not reward their loyalty by giving them something more, with the added benefit of keeping them interested in your work.

Newsletter vs social media

On social media you’re competing with hundreds, if not thousands, of brands for a few seconds of your audiences’ attention. On the other hand, the way people interact with their email is a lot more focussed than social media. Think of your own habits. When you sit down to go through emails you’re typically more alert, in more of work mode, than when you’re (mindlessly) scrolling through Facebook or Instagram on your phone.

The right tone and style

There are a myriad approaches that can be taken to the style of the newsletter. It depends on the brand positioning and business goals at large, and it is definitely worth taking time to decide what it is that you’ll be offering in your newsletter. This ties into your brand positioning, which I wrote about here.

Getting started

Decide what the focus of your communication is going to be and how often you are going to be sending out your newsletter – and then stick to that.

Your newsletter is where you put your best foot forward, which means selecting the cream of the crop and presenting it in a creative way.

Use it as a showcase for your latest collection, industry insights, interesting business news, testimonials from happy clients or links to relevant content on the internet. Try place yourself in the position of the typical reader and think about what they would like, then offer that and more.

But what you’re ultimately aiming for is to get the reader so interested and intrigued by what you’re saying that they want to take an action – be that clicking a link to read more, to buy from you online, or to make contact with you in some other way to initiate more interaction and engagement.

Bear the following points in mind with your newsletter

Curate it tightly – your newsletter is not the place for everything and the kitchen sink. Think short, succinct and sweet.

Make it visually appealing – an emailer with beautiful images and formatted text (bold headings, paragraph breaks… the basics really) is easier on the eye, and thus stand a better chance of being looked at properly.

Don’t be spammy. Avoid clickbait titles (yes, I used a clickbait title but I am trying to make a point). Make it clear who the email is from and what the reader can expect from the content. Make sure you have an unsubscribe button (and that it works). Treat your newsletter, even if you take a casual tone, as a professional piece of communication that reflects your brand and business goals and ethos. Here are plenty of resources online about emailer best practices, which are worth consulting if you are unsure.

It’s easier than it sounds

Here’s the good news: You don’t need to be a designer or an IT developer to create a newsletter. If you can read and possess basic computer skills then you can create an emailer in a programme like MailChimp and voila! While there are many other mail client programmes, MailChimp in particular has been designed around the user experience, making it super easy and very intuitive to use.

You can’t manage what you don’t measure

Most mail client programmes offer comprehensive reporting and analytics tools, which are invaluable to understanding the behaviour of your audience. They typically track everything from who opened your newsletter to how much time people spent looking at it, to which links were clicked on the most. Look for trends over months and try draw some insights from that. If the first item is the most clicked on every time, but the item that you would like people to click on is always hidden at the bottom, move it to the top. The trick (well one of them anyway) is to play around and experiment. Nobody gets it right the first, or even the second, third, fourth or fifth, time. Like with all other forms of content marketing consistency is key – just keep on keeping on, albeit in a clever and considered way.

Finally, have fun!

I always end my content marketing talks with what I truly believe is at the heart of creative content marketing – have fun! Try not to think of it as a chore, but as a showcase of your finest work, as your brand’s bragging bulletin, and as a way to share what you’re passionate about with other people that have at least some appreciation for your product or service. Whimsical as this may sound, when you’re passionate about your work it shows. And yes, it can (and does!) come across in an emailer. Ever hear that telephone etiquette tip that suggests smiling when you answer the phone because the caller can hear the smile in your voice? This is exactly the same.

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