“Fail” may be too strong a word — it’s not like a bad newsletter can bring down a whole company. But it can alienate customers, and waste time you can’t afford to lose. Now you can blame poor design or your software tool, but the real problem is often attitudinal, and it starts at the top. Here are the five real reasons that email newsletters tank.
1. Irregularity — You can’t do a newsletter only when the CEO feels like it, but companies do. Post daily, or every other day if you’ve got the bandwidth. And deliver your newsletter on a regular schedule. Monthlies are fine, and weeklies are even better. But don’t blow the date because you have multiple layers of copy approval. Get it out.
2 They’re Full of It — The next rule of email newsletters is: Cut the blather. Nobody wants to hear how great you are. And stop trying to sell. Instead, offer content of value to the reader, whether recipes or technical abstracts. Don’t let the CEO dictate the copy in a car to and from the airport. Keep this up, and you’ll have a surefire flop on your hands.
3. The Tired-Writer Syndrome — There’s nothing more tedious than a newsletter article filled with corporate-speak and clumsily inserted language. But it happens, and the excuses are always the same: The writer is overworked, or the author is a non-writer. Baloney. Usually, the reason is that someone with a tin ear likes it this way. Newsletter articles should have personality. And the copy has to move. Avoid buzzwords that may be obsolete by the time anyone reads them.
4. They’re Playing to an Empty House — Don’t start a newsletter unless you’ve done what magazine circulation types call audience development. You can’t expect people to find you (or to care even slightly that you exist). Use the newsletter to drive social media, and offer subscriptions to on your website. Optimize your copy to draw new readers via search.
5. Benign Neglect — Newsletters are started with great fanfare, then the novelty wears off, and they are starved and ignored. Worse, strategic concerns get overlooked. Ask yourself: Are you getting the right metrics, and are you using them to create content? Do you have versioned newsletters for dealers and individual customer segments? Can you determine the return on investment? And, finally, is your newsletter any good? Don’t only measure them — read them.