When — and How — to Use Single-Subject Newsletters

Newsletters often come packed with a number of different kinds of content. By mixing up the articles — offering one section about a new product, giving a discount away in another, and discussing usage tips in a third before ending with a call to action — you increase the chances that a reader will find something interesting in at least one of the sections. You give them at least one reason to read and click.

Those sorts of newsletters can be very effective, and very standard, but they carry a risk. Because readers know that only a small part of the newsletter will be of interest to them, there’s always the chance that they’ll skim it instead of reading it. They may shoot right past the section they would have found interesting, or they could even ignore your newsletter entirely, believing that most of its content isn’t really aimed at them.

The alternative is to send a newsletter about just one subject. While there’s always a chance that the subscribers will see the headline and ignore it, in practice, single-subject newsletters tend to look important enough for subscribers not just to see them but to read them carefully. The impression is of a break from normal service, an announcement important enough to warrant extra attention.

Of course, that announcement doesn’t have to be something particularly vital. But it should look important. It could be a declaration of a new product release, or even an upgrade to an existing product. It could be an announcement that you’ll be attending an industry expo and that you’re really hoping to see subscribers there. And it could even be the kind of special offer that you’d usually include in a newsletter — provided you make it look special. So wrap a discount around a corporate anniversary celebration. Tell subscribers that the coupon code is limited because you’re in the process of cleaning out your store cupboard. Don’t just brag about winning an award, celebrate it by giving your readers a reason to be happy too.
Match the Single Topic to Simple Design

And don’t forget to match a single-subject newsletter to the design. When you’re issuing one topic, the impression is that you’ve sent it out in a hurry, that you didn’t want to wait until the next stage in your usual publication cycle. So the design should be simpler than usual with the emphasis on the text rather than on the graphics or on attractive pictures. Your logo should still be there — subscribers should know where the newsletter is coming from — but it should feel less like a piece of marketing and more like a personal letter from a trusted source.

There are lots of different ways of laying out a newsletter but focusing on one just one topic is one of the most powerful. It might not be something you want to do all the time (although there are plenty of marketers who use it exclusively) but even if you just save it for a special occasion, you should still find that it’s a very effective tool in your e-marketing toolbox.