Take a minute to think about the last time you checked your email. Which emails did you open immediately? Which emails did you delete without even considering what was inside?
“The average professional spends 28% of the workday reading and answering email, according to a McKinsey analysis.” Conservative estimates from the Harvard Business Review translate that into most full-time workers receiving 120 emails per day.
So, what are some ways to make your email stand out in the inbox for the right reasons? It comes down to sending great content consistently.
The tricky part is knowing what great content looks like for your audience. For some industries, great content means relevant and valuable advice. For others, it might mean short, entertaining messages that provide a bit of relief during a workday.
Listening to your audience, asking for feedback, and testing different strategies is the most effective way to learn what works best for your specific audience.
However, if you’re just getting started, here are some other examples of great newsletter content to consider.
Create Predictable Patterns
We can convince ourselves that we love surprises or unpredictable turns, but predictability is a comfort for many. When we receive a highly personalized email with relevant information that we expected, our emotions are nearly all positive.
For example, suppose you’re about to shop online, and your favorite shoe store website delivers a pop-up that promises a coupon code to save $10 off your next purchase when you join the email list. In that case, the predictability of the situation rules the day.
You sign up, receive the email and the promo code, and return to the website to claim your deal. Good emotional feelings surround this predictable pattern. Because the company did what it promised to do, you’re more likely to return and shop again, even without the promo code.
As marketers, when you create predictable patterns in your email marketing, you immediately build trust with your audience. These patterns do not have to include promo codes, either.
The founder of Modern Mrs. Darcy, Anne Bogel, sends a weekly newsletter that includes three things she loves, one thing she doesn’t, and what she’s reading now. This pattern follows her podcast format, and email subscribers have come to know the pattern well.
By offering readers something familiar but in two different formats, Bogel manages to combine the predictability with enough curiosity to keep email subscribers opening up every week.
Patterns can also be a way to ease the burden of creating content.
For example, suppose you know your weekly newsletter will always include an industry-relevant tip or an affiliate link with a product summary. In that case, you can make that content in batches several weeks ahead of time.
In addition to helping your readers know what to expect, this method takes the stress out of brainstorming new content ideas every week.
Provide Exclusive Content
Who doesn’t love to feel like a special insider sometimes? Kendra Adachi, CEO of The Lazy Genius Collective, recently launched a campaign to fund a project. For $10, followers could access a private communications channel and receive behind-the-scenes footage of her work on a new book.
The promise of exclusive content, sneak peeks of the book and marketing campaigns, and general insider information has already garnered nearly 2,500 followers.
Kendra’s idea to give exclusive content is not a novel one, but it works well. Her email campaigns follow a similar trend, often revealing more personal (but appropriate) information that makes the reader feel like part of the team.
Email newsletters that lift the curtain and reveal something intimate or semi-private tell readers they are essential to the company.
This approach doesn’t mean you need to photograph your laundry piles or reveal personal secrets. Exclusive content can take a variety of forms:
- For product-based businesses, share how you use your products in your unique way.
- For service-based companies, let readers behind-the-scenes as you work on a project, revealing a bit of your design process along the way.
- Retail stores can send email newsletters that announce special offers or promotions before they are shared publicly.
- Businesses with teams can get staff involved and include short snippets of staff recommendations.
Teach Something New
When you scan your inbox, you likely see a lot of emails with sales pitches and requests for information. Teaching your consumers using your emails is a great way to set yourself apart from other emails and get your readers’ attention.
While we often focus on conversion rates for emails (as we should), another worthy goal is to encourage someone to save your email for reference later.
When readers consistently keep emails, this signals that the reader values the information, trusts your opinion, and is likely to purchase something from you in the future.
Teaching something new without requiring the subscriber to follow your links and open their browser is a great email marketing strategy to incorporate into your content plan.
Share a YouTube Tutorial Inside the Email
It’s easier than ever to embed a YouTube video right inside your email body content. This approach allows users to preview the content, watch it without leaving their email client, or choose to follow a link to complete the video on YouTube.
For product-based businesses, YouTube tutorials on using your product or hacks for the products perform very well.
Service-based businesses like website designers often use this strategy to teach readers how to use a particular feature of the website platform or offer tips related to website maintenance.
Feature Case Studies
If you’re a tech company and offer a product that requires a significant investment, using case studies of real clients who have found success with your solution can be an effective way to build authority.
When done correctly, case studies shared via email newsletters are often very effective ways to showcase your solution without being too aggressive or ‘salesy’. You can break more extended case studies into two parts with an introduction inside the email and a link to the complete study on your website.
Include Reviews or Feedback
The power of social proof is one of the most vital factors in decision-making today.
Consumers trust the word of other buyers more than they trust most companies, even if they do not know the person behind the review.
One great newsletter content idea is to feature honest reviews or feedback. By incorporating this content into your email marketing plan, you’re able to showcase the best of your products or services without sounding like it’s an ad or forced sales pitch.
When using this idea, be sure to let your customers know their review may be featured and ask for their permission. (You can accomplish this with a consent checkbox right inside your feedback form.)
Share Success Stories
For many, emails represent work to do, responses to write, and problems to solve. So, when an email arrives that is all about a success story, readers tend to pay more attention.
For nonprofits, this strategy is particularly effective. By sharing the ways clients have found success from services or how donors have impacted the outcome of others' lives, the feel-good emotions are sure to follow.
For businesses, this approach might be sharing a meaningful business anniversary, a long-time staff member’s birthday, or the opening of additional locations.
No matter what success means to you, sharing that success with your readers will help them identify with you and make them feel like part of your team.
Sell Your Solutions
There are thousands of opinions out there on how many sales emails are too many. Unfortunately, the key to success is not a magic number or formula to follow. It’s based on your industry, email subscribers, other marketing campaigns, and messaging.
However you determine the frequency, selling your solutions is a great newsletter content idea. Remember, the reason you’ve built an email list is to convert those subscribers into customers eventually. If you never tell them about your solutions, those conversions will never happen.
The most successful businesses have confidence in their solutions (product or services) and effectively communicate the benefits to people who need that exact solution.
A sales-based email essentially allows your audience to recognize their need for the solution, understand the benefits your solution offers, and capitalize on the opportunity to buy what you’re selling.
When you’ve created excellent email content like what we’ve mentioned above, the sales emails will feel natural and evolve organically at just the right time.
A successful email marketing strategy builds your authority and trust with your audience and results in the conversion rates that move your mission forward.
As you build your email list and work your way into the inboxes of potential customers or clients, keep in mind that your end goal is to deliver value in every message you send.
Whether you do that through creating predictable patterns for every newsletter, giving exclusive content, or teaching them something new, make it your goal to delight the reader and exceed their expectations.
That way, when extending the opportunity to buy your solution, the reader will be ready to say yes.