Top 5 mistakes when writing a newsletter

Economy Jun 24, 2011

In a world where the buzz is all about social media, you could be tempted to forget about the good old newsletter. That would be a mistake, especially if your client base has yet to jump on the latest tech craze. Indeed, a well-designed and targeted newsletter is still one of the most potent tools to grow your business. And used in conjunction with the new social media tools, it will undoubtedly deliver impressive results. There are some pitfalls, however. Here are the 5 most frequent mistakes that are easy to avoid:

1. Spam people

Spamming is the easiest thing to do. There is delicate balance between keeping your company on the radar of potential clients and spamming them. To avoid being backlisted, these are the few things you need to do:

  • Have people subscribe by themselves from your web site. If they request the newsletter in the first place, they will not perceive it as spam. You can use incentives like discounts or freebies to have people subscribe but make it clear that by providing an email address they will subscribe to a newsletter as well.
  • If you are adding people yourself to the mailing list, make sure you asked before. It is a legal requirement. At the very least, ensure that you have met and established rapport.
  • Always remind the recipient of the newsletter why they receive the newsletter and how they were subscribed. Also give an option to unsubscribe in every newsletter.
  • Refrain from sending the newsletter more frequently than once a month.

2. Send it manually

You can send a newsletter to people manually, i.e. using Outlook or your favourite email client. This is always a recipe for disaster. It's so easy to put the recipients in the To: or Cc: field rather than the Bcc: field and disclose your client list to the whole world! Using proper tools like Mailchimp or ConstantContact not only prevents such mistakes but also provides many benefits, such as:

  • Forced compliance and protection from ISP blocking
  • Useful statistics about failed deliveries, open rate, popular links etc...
  • Automation of subscriptions and un-subscriptions
  • Availability of sophisticated auto-responder newsletters (birthdays, multiple tips etc...)
  • And most importantly impossibility to disclose your mailing list by mistake

And it won't cost much more. Mailchimp is actually free for up to 12,000 messages a month!

3. Use the wrong format

Content is important but look and feel too. Remember that people will spend just a few seconds before deciding to click on the delete button:

  • The newsletter should therefore never be too long (that's what hyperlinks are made for) nor enclosed in a PDF file.
  • It should be personal (people buy from people).
  • If you use images, make sure the newsletter still looks good even with images turned off or when it's viewed from a mobile device.
  • But it should also be interesting -- either thanks to great content, or attractive promotions

4. Forget about segmentation

Not everyone requires the same information. A prospect might warrant different content than an existing client. If you can segment your audience and deliver information targeted to their specific needs, they’ll be more likely to engage. And if you can afford to send just one newsletter, strive to categorize the information so your readers can zero in on what’s helpful to them.

5. Rely on email only

Using the stats provided by your email package, you can tell who is interested by what. It's a wonderful opportunity for you to follow up. You can also use the newsletter as an opportunity to tweet or update your LinkedIn status. Conversely, your newsletter should always expose the different ways you can be reached: email, web, phone, social media...

Yes, it's easy to describe newsletters as yesterday's technology, but they work if used properly. A lot of people swear by social media. But most people only pay lip services to those technologies. They rely on their inbox, however. It will never replace direct contact, but it's still a great way to reach out to those people that you would not talk to on a regular basis and to remind them about yourself or your products.


Franck Sidon

With over 15 years of experience as a Managing Director at TaxAssist Accountants, I have helped thousands of businesses and individuals achieve their financial goals and optimize their tax efficiency.