Maintaining an email newsletter can be a challenge. Month after month, you have to come up with ideas for content, conduct the research, write the articles, paste them into the template, send them out to your list and monitor the results. It’s one reason that so many firms choose to outsource their newsletters. But the biggest challenge comes before you even begin writing – when you have to produce a structure for the newsletter that can function as the template. It has to be both flexible enough to work over the long term and simple enough to fit into an email’s restricted space.
One solution is to look at how other newsletters are laid out — even those in a different industry — and see what they have to offer you.
JDate, for example, is a niche dating site targeted towards the Jewish community. Each month the site issues an email newsletter that is both simple and effective.
The newsletter appears as a four-by-four grid of teasers with two important additions.
The first story is news about the company itself, such as the release of a new television commercial. That’s the first thing the reader sees and while it might not be a story that impacts the reader directly, it does make him feel that he’s part of a community — an important aspect for a site that depends on building relationships. As a story about the company itself, it’s also the easiest kind of article for any business to produce.
The second story is a column from a guest writer. There’s a reason that newspapers use these: because they’re opinionated, they engage and entertain readers. JDate’s writer can talk about dating, a subject that’s always interesting, but another business could broaden the subject of its industry to discuss issues that concern its readers. And the writer doesn’t have to be a celebrity. A member of staff, presented as a specialist, can do fine.
A newsletter published by a restaurant, for example, could include a short article carrying the chef’s byline that discussed food safety issues or recipes to try at home.
A Testimonial Disguised as Content
JDate’s third story is another guest piece, this time an advice column. Again, by focusing on an issue each month that forces readers to decide where they stand, the article is engaging and invites clicks. And again, it’s something that just about any business can emulate simply by drawing up a list of twelve issues to discuss over the course of a year and putting a company specialist’s byline on them.
And the last story is another article about the company — or rather it’s an article about the company’s users. It’s a success story about a couple who met using the site’s services that’s both upbeat and proves that the product delivers. It’s really a testimonial disguised as content. While that story will take a little while to research and write, the newsletter’s producers do have an entire month to spend on it.
Finally, beneath those four main articles are two deals — one of them presented as a banner ad — that can help to generate cash as well as the interaction that’s the main goal of the newsletter.
It’s a simple design that delivers engagement, relationships and clicks. And it’s also one that any business can emulate.