They go out every week or every month, and after a few months you may stop and think to yourself: shoot, I have no idea what kind of content people even enjoy in these.
You realize you’re doing your newsletter the way it’s always been done … because it’s always been done that way. And it’s time to hit refresh.
What Kind of Email Newsletter Content Do People Actually Read?
Recently we were wondering what kind of content got newsletters opened and read, so we did a survey of 1000 people, asking what kind of newsletter content they paid attention to.
The good news for email marketers: 99.2% of respondents indicated they subscribe to at least one email newsletter. Yet there was no consensus on what kind of newsletter content they looked forward to reading most. No one kind of newsletter content was favored by more than 49.4% of respondents.
What does that mean for you? Well, it might be worthwhile to test out some new newsletter content to see what your audience will appreciate most.
One of the biggest surprises in our survey was the relative unpopularity of link-roundup-style newsletters: only 12.8% of respondents said they paid attention to links to content on the site they subscribed to, while 9.9% said they pay attention to links to content around the web.
If you mostly send a newsletter of links to your blog posts, you might want to mix it up with some original content exclusively for the newsletter.
Where to start? Maybe with the obvious: our survey found that 49% of people who get email newsletters pay attention to news and updates. And don’t be afraid to sell: the next most-read type of newsletter content was sales, discounts and other product info (31%). Consider also offering free value by including, and helpful tips, enjoyed by (23% of respondents).
The one thing these results show is that you need to test what works for your newsletter subscribers.
I’ve got 5 ideas to help you mix up your newsletters for better clickthrough, open, and unsubscribe rates. And while you’re working hard on revamping your newsletter, I want to encourage you to take what you’re learning and improve your automated campaigns at the same time: If you’re creating killer content every week, you should be looking for ways to make that work go twice as far.
1. Pull Evergreen Tips from Old (But Highly Valuable) Posts
While your newsletter might currently focus on sharing your freshest blog content with readers, you’re probably sitting on a potential goldmine of older, but still helpful posts that new subscribers have never seen.
Try boiling down an older blog post to the most actionable points or a single attention-grabbing tip. Then, place your uber-helpful content at the top of your email newsletter.
To get even more mileage out of your older content, ask your readers to reply with any questions they have, to build upon the tips you shared—they might give you ideas for follow-up posts.
Double Duty: Use Older Blog Posts in Your Welcome Campaign
While you’re resurfacing your high-value blog posts in your newsletters, why not turn those older posts into a welcome sequence for all new subscribers? Let some of your best content that will help readers get to know you and see you as an authority in your field.
If I was a writing coach, for instance, I could include pieces of a personal post about my journey as a writer and top tips from a post with suggestions for fitting in writing daily. I would just edit them to about 500 words and insert them in my welcome campaign for new blog subscribers.
2. Offer a Look Behind the Scenes
You’ll recall that our survey found that the second most popular reason that people paid attention to email newsletters was sales, discounts, or other product info.
That makes sense—who doesn’t love a deal? But another part of why people like to be on this kind of list is because it makes them feel like they have the inside scoop.
If you don’t have a sale coming up, play up the sense of exclusivity by giving your email list a sneak peek behind the scenes.
This can be as simple as a picture of packing boxes in your warehouse, or as extensive as a retelling of your origin story. Whatever it is, it will make a reader feel invested in your business.
In this edition of his Be a Better Blogger newsletter, Kevin Duncan provides a very simple peek behind the scenes. He shares some feedback he received and how he changed his newsletter accordingly. Not only does this introduction make the reader feel like they got the inside scoop, but I bet it will make readers even more likely to share feedback with Kevin in the future.
Double Duty: Take New Customers Behind the Scenes in an Upsell Campaign
An automated upsell campaign is a great way to build on the momentum of a purchase and increase average customer value. Customers are already invested in your brand, and you can build on that trust by building a behind-the-scenes look into your upsell process.
To avoid selling to existing customers, I would build a workflow like this. It will check whether someone has already purchased my other product, and, if not, will send the upsell campaign.
Then, within the upsell campaign, I would send three emails.
- First, a thank you email for the first purchase.
- Then follow up and ask how they liked the ebook. I would provide a look behind the scenes, sharing the origin story of the business.
- Finally, I would send the email asking them to invest in my other product.
3. Show a Sneak Peek of New Products
Another kind of exclusive, product-focused content is a preview of what’s coming next.
Plus, giving them a sneak peek of your newest product will likely get them excited about making a purchase when they get a chance.
Give your list an exclusive first look at your next product release, to get them excited to buy it, and also remind them of the value of being on your list in the first place.
In one of Mailchimp’s What’s in Store emails, their team smartly included a sneak peek of what would be coming up, to build excitement and ensure that subscribers wanted to open their next email.
Double Duty: Add Ultra-Engaged Users to a Beta List
If you really want to get readers excited about your next project, you can use trigger links to build a list of your most motivated leads, and automatically send them your sales campaign once you’re ready to sell. You’ll give your most committed readers first access to something awesome, and you’ll get to test your sales campaign to a list of warm leads.
To do this, create a trigger link that tags users who click on it and adds them to your beta list.
Then, add the trigger link to a call to action in your email.
Now, when you go to send your new product campaign, you’ll have an ultra-engaged group of users who are excited to get into your beta program.
4. Encourage Dialogue by Asking Questions
It’s not how many followers you have, it’s how engaged those followers are. Your newsletter gives you an opportunity to build an engaged community by getting suggestions, product ideas, and feedback from the best source: your readers.
It’s easy to ignore generic requests for feedback, so make sure to draw as much attention to your feedback request as you would to your other newsletter content. Here are a few ideas.
Volunteer to solve their problems: Try adding a CTA to reply to your email. Ask a question you can probably help with, like the biggest struggle your readers are facing in their business, if you’re a business coach, or where they’re planning on traveling next if you’re a travel consultant. You can even follow up on what they say in future newsletters, answering their questions or highlighting interesting stories.
Ask them to help you make a decision: Having a tough time deciding on the name of a new product, or which feature your customers want to see next? Ask away in your newsletter. If you have a couple of options in mind, you can create a survey with trigger links. Not only will you get a sense of what your readers want to see next, but you’ll know individual subscribers’ interests.
Just ask for ideas for your newsletter: Even just asking for feedback on your newsletter can be a great way to get dialogue going. Just be sure to respond to the replies you do get, and help your readers where you can.
The Raise the Bar newsletter from Mattermark includes this short call for feedback. It doesn’t have to be complicated—just ask your readers to hit reply.
Double Duty: Add an FAQ Email to Your Webinar Follow-up Sequence
Don’t miss out on the opportunity to use the great information that your subscribers are giving you when they reply to your email.
Reader questions and concerns tell you important information that you can use when developing new blog posts or even new products. If you’re getting a lot of the same questions, consider adding an FAQ email to your post-webinar sales sequence.
In this example, the workflow would wait until a couple hours after the webinar and then check if the subscribers have become customers. If not, I would send a follow-up email with some of the frequently asked questions I’ve encountered, to provide another opportunity to address leads’ concerns.
5. Share a Newsletter-Exclusive Tip
In our survey, 23% of respondents said they paid attention to helpful tips in newsletters. Low? Maybe—or maybe it’s just that relatively few newsletters use this kind of content.
It’s worth trying for your audience. Including a newsletter-only tip in each edition is a great way to showcase your expertise to readers and get them excited about opening your newsletter each week. After all, it’s the only place they’ll find this particular kind of advice.
Hiten Shah sends a weekly tip in his SaaS Weekly newsletter. He uses this section as an opportunity to showcase some of his podcast content, boiling the show down to a couple of helpful bullet points. While the link is there for readers who want to learn more, the content stands on its own as a quick helpful tip.
Even a tip as simple and straightforward as this one can add variety to your newsletters.
Double Duty: Use a Collection of Quick Tips as a Starting Point for an Email Course
If you end up sending a weekly tip, you can build up quite a collection pretty quickly. Don’t let these nuggets of wisdom go to waste, though. Repurpose them into an email course.
Chances are, you’ve shared some of your best tips in your subject area, each of which you could probably expand upon and write an entire blog post about. Gather up your tips and find 5–7 that are related to the same subject area.
Then, expand upon each one (or combine a couple of related tips) until you have about 500 words on each tip.
Just build a Drip sequence with a 1-day delay between emails, drop in your helpful, actionable content, and you’ve got an email course. Install the Drip widget on your site to start collecting opt-ins and building your list.
6. Bonus: Automate Your Newsletter
If you’re crazy about automation, you can even automate your email newsletter with Drip’s RSS to Email feature. You can create an RSS to Email rule in the automation tab of your Drip account.
Fill in your RSS feed URL, and then decide how often you want emails sent, what time of the day, and what days of the week.
Drip will automatically pull the titles and descriptions from your RSS feed using Liquid. If you don’t want one of these elements, or you want to add something else, you can edit this field.
If you check the “Send emails automatically” box, Drip will either send emails automatically with your newest blog updates.
If you want a bit more control, leave the box unchecked and Drip will alert you when a new draft is ready, so you can fill it in with additional information and manually hit send. This gives you the automation to aggregate your blog posts, but you can still edit your content and add any additional elements to your newsletter before you hit send.
Click here for a step-by-step guide to setting up an RSS to Email rule in your account.
With a little creativity, your newsletter can become something that your subscribers look forward to reading each week. Plus, with each of these tips you can make your best newsletter content go even further and pull double duty in your automated campaigns. Now, you have no excuse not to give your email newsletter a facelift.
Let us know in the comments how you would answer our survey question. What kind of newsletter content do you pay attention to?