How to Write A Newsletter: 3 Common Writing Mistakes (are you making them too?)

When you are writing a newsletter, there are lots of things that can go wrong. In my time writing newsletters I see three very common mistakes over and over again. All three are very costly to the long term success of your newsletter.

Not writing regularly.

The best newsletters are published to a schedule. If you are doing a print newsletter the best frequency is monthly.

If you don’t make time to write then you are going to be rushing to meet your deadline or you will miss an issue. The Single Most Important factor to creating ongoing success with a newsletter is actually consistency.

Writing for most people is a task that is considered important but not urgent until the day before the deadline. This is asking for you to get writers block or to procrastinate. Make the time to write regularly. Even if it is once a week. Know that you are going to write for a couple of hours once a week.

It is the first thing I do every day for an hour before I start on anything else. I write for at least an hour.

Writing only about your Business Topic.

Newsletters are meant to be about news and information your clients will find interesting. They are not where you talk about technical dross.

You have flyers and brochures, sales letters, the telephone if you want to sell to them or tell them about your widget. Imagine trying to start a sales call without some pleasantries.

Most people over estimate how interesting their business specialty is, 4 page news letter from an insurance broker = 4 pages of stuff about insurance. Nobody is

When I was at Uni I read a lot of newspapers in lectures… Anyway the first things I looked at were the quiz, the comics and then I tried to do the crossword after that I’d read the news… Your newsletter is more likely to be read if it is entertaining and interesting and not just about what-ever business you are in.

Not Writing Clearly.

According to the 1993 National Assessment of Adult Literacy, most adults read at an 8th Grade level. So run everything you write through a readability checker. MS Word has one. Look up ‘readability’ in its help function. And use it. And try and hit that eighth grade level.

Just because your readability score is high doesn’t mean that you can’t express complex ideas. Or that more educated people won’t read it. In fact, simple, easy to read, clear communication is just as welcomed by the super educated as it is by everyone else.

Keep your words short, your sentences short and stick to one paragraph per idea. It will make your writing far easier to read.

By the way, this article has a readability of 67.8 (higher is better) and a grade level of 7.0. How do feel about it now that I’ve told you?

Looking for a way to build your business on the back of a newsletter? Go to and download The Business Owner’s Guide To Getting More Repeat Business and Referrals. As a bonus you’ll receive the newsletter on newsletters – a comprehensive guide to writing and designing your own customer newsletter.

Creating a Great Newsletter: 17 Newsletter Ideas.

The hardest thing about creating a newsletter is twofold: Keeping the balance of general interest content and content specific to your business right and coming up with ideas for articles. You need lots of newsletter ideas in order for you to have good content in there every month. So, here are 17 newsletter ideas for your next issue.

  1. Problem / solution Articles
  2. How-to’s
  3. Top tips
  4. Opinion / analysis
  5. Look into the future
  6. Horror/disaster story
  7. Case study
  8. Reviews
  9. Best of the past issues article
  10. Surveys / feedback request
  11. Resource links
  12. Amusing or inspirational anecdotes, stories and quotes
  13. Answering feedback
  14. Interviews
  15. News
  16. Statistics and lists
  17. Quizzes

You can use these as newsletter ideas to create your newsletter. If you can’t fill your newsletter for a year using each of these ideas, plus plenty of strong relationship building content, then you really ought to consider getting some professional help.

This is only part of the list that we give to our clients to help them brainstorm article ideas for their newsletter. It is easy to get some great articles from these newsletter ideas and when creating a newsletter.

Newsletter Design & Newsletter Names

Designing a newsletter for the first time.

The first thing you need when you designing a newsletter is to come up with a good newsletter name.

Generally, the best newsletter names are benefit driven – as in what do your customers get from doing business with you. Take our newsletter – More Repeat Business and Referrals. It promises our customers what they get from doing business with us.

The next thing you need is to create a tagline to be underneath the newsletter name. This should be an elaboration of the benefit you promise in the name, if you feel you need to further elaborate.

I receive a fantastic customer newsletter from Ron Sheetz {link name to} – he does video recordings of events and produces marketing videos for his clients. I met him at a Dan Kennedy seminar, where he took a photo of me and Dan. He has sent me his newsletter religiously for nearly 2 years now, despite being located in Cleveland Ohio.

Ron’s newsletter is called ‘Spellbound.’ His tagline is ‘Taking the mystery out of video and putting it in your business profitably, guaranteed.

His newsletter has a great name and the newsletter design is pretty good too.

The best newsletter designs have the following 9 things in Common.

  1. Choose the right margins and column layout
  2. Make headlines easy to locate and read
  3. Insert frequent subheads
  4. Make body copy as easy to read as possible
  5. Choose the right punctuation and spacing
  6. Align visuals with column boundaries
  7. Provide meaningful and readable captions
  8. Use color with restraint
  9. Simplify your design

A great newsletter name and good newsletter design are the foundations for creating a successful newsletter design and coming up with a name for your newsletter.

Never Use A Stock Newsletter Template Or A Free Newsletter Template For that Matter

Stock Newsletter Templates and Free Newsletter Templates are the worst thing you can use to base your company newsletter on.

There is a reason they are being given away. They are not very good. Usually those templates are put together as samples for graphic designers. Those newsletter templates were not meant to be used. Nobody puts their best quality work in a free template.

It’s like the old saying goes – you get what you pay for.

So if you are happy using a free newsletter template that was thrown together to use in a portfolio, then so be it.

If you don’t value your customers enough to make an investment in sending them a well designed, well written, customer newsletter, then they probably aren’t worth having as customers in the first place.

It shows your attitude is a bit lax towards the most important asset in your business – your relationships with your customers. Your customer relationship is ultimately the most important asset because it determines your chances of gaining repeat business from existing customers, cross selling additional products and services and determines your referral rate.

Smart business owners will invest their money to get a high return at a relatively low risk. Your newsletter sent to existing customers is one of those places. I know of business getting up to 4:1 return on their newsletter budget.

If you are doing a newsletter then it certainly makes sense that you don’t use a free newsletter template. You’ll lose an obvious opportunity to differentiate yourself from the competition.

It is money well spent to take the time to develop a good quality newsletter template. Whatever you do, don’t use a free newsletter template it will could your business.

Why should you do a monthly newsletter

Monthly Newsletters allow you to stay in touch with your customers.

In a business there are two aspects of a relationship. The business side of the relationship – the mechanical: “I give you X, Y, Z for your $A.”

There is also an emotional aspect to the relationship. Any sales course will tell you that people buy for emotional reasons and then use logic to justify their reactions.

A monthly newsletter allows you to build the emotional component of the relationship.

Your emotional relationship is driven by:

  • Shared Values
  • Shared Background
  • Shared Interests
  • You being authentic
  • Your bringing things your customers value to the relationship

In light of increasing commoditisation you may be able to sell a ‘commoditised product’ entirely on the back of the strength of your relationship. The easiest way to build a strong relationship is by actually investing in the emotional aspect of the relationship.

With a strong emotional relationship, your customers will remain loyal to you as long as the ‘business side’ of the relationship makes sense.

A monthly newsletter is the bedrock of that emotional relationship. It shows your customers that you care about them enough to go and write, print and post them something physical. You are willing to spend real money on them.

If it shows up on time, month after month, your customers will see it as a periodical and not a piece of advertising.

Your relationship is a two way street. Your readers need to care enough about you to engage with you in the first place. In order to build that level of interest in you, in your customers – that means you need to actively invest to build that relationship – i.e. a printed monthly customer newsletter.

Email is free – and your customers know it.  Quarterly newsletters show you consider them an afterthought. I can forget a lot of things in 3 months. I bet you can too.

If you don’t work at building this emotional relationship then you face trying to retain customers purely on the strength of your business relationship. Then you are a commodity. Like for like. And your sources of repeat business and referrals – your customers, are going to defect.

You can prevent this by using your monthly newsletter to build a strong emotional relationship with your customers.  So that they are less inclined to shop around.

What Makes A Good Business Newsletter?

A good business newsletter has many of the same criteria as a consumer newsletter.

1) A Good Business Newsletter is Published Like a Periodical

Your business newsletter needs to be printed and in the mail on the same day, every month. So that it is perceived as an informative publication and not a solicitation for work.

Just like anybody’s favourite magazine a business newsletter needs to be treated like a regular publication for it to be perceived as one.

2) Content is king for a business newsletter.

You need good, well written content that is relevant to the reader. Ultimately, the goal of any business newsletter is readership. You need the active participation of your audience for your business newsletter to be read. If you don’t get that you might as well not do anything.

What a good business newsletter needs is content that your audience finds relevant. It is not all about your business. It is all about the reader.

You can put in any content they will find relevant to their job and their life.

Nobody finds your business as interesting and all consuming as you do. You need to give your readers some space, some room to breathe, especially as your business newsletter is a ‘stay in touch’ tool and not an out and out piece of marketing.

3) A design that suits your visual identity and is easy to read.

When you look at your business newsletter it should be easy-to-read and should suit your business. It doesn’t need to look super classy, unless your business is super classy. It can be simple, in fact it can even be in black and white, given that your market is open to receiving that. It should reflect your brand and identity.

The key with the design is consistency, pick a style and if you do need to modify or alter it, don’t completely change it each month, you want there to be some familiarity to it each time they read it.

You are allowed to and need to send additional marketing outside of your newsletter. Offers, promotions whatever other marketing you do, you can mention in your newsletter but they are not the focus.

But there needs to be some breathing room in your business newsletter. Your business newsletter is all about creating 12 ‘sales-free’ contacts a year so that it builds a relationship with your customers so that your other marketing materials are read.

Why newsletter printing is different from other printing jobs?

Newsletter Printing is actually a specialised form of printing. It needs to be treated as such.

Newsletters need to be in the mail at the same time every month. Just like a magazine or other periodical.

When they at the same time every month your printed newsletters are seen as information not advertising. This is exactly how you want it. When customers read your marketing materials they have their sales defences on. With a newsletter they don’t. This means that you can sell to your customer while their guard is down.

The most important aspect to achieve is to be sure that each month’s newsletter is printed and mailed on time – never missing a month.

This requires you to manage the writing, design, printing and fulfilment so that you always have your newsletter out the door at the same time of the month. Not that the task is that difficult but many businesses struggle to rhythmically put out a newsletter at the same time of the month, 12 times a year. It is all a matter of priorities.

Getting your newsletter printing done on time is really easy when you have a managed system in place that makes sure that you have your newsletter ready to print at the same time of the month.

We have a system to help you achieve exactly that. Our entire business is geared around the intricacies of printing newsletters and getting them in the mail on time.

Newsletter Marketing Made Simple

Effective newsletter marketing is really about getting a selling message into your newsletter and getting it read. It can’t read like an ad or a commercial. You need to keep your customer’s perception of your newsletter as news. Not advertising, otherwise most of the upside of doing a newsletter is wasted.

Thankfully, the advertising world has been on to this for years. To this end they have created a format that is used the world over in print and every other media to make a sales message look like editorial. Solving the problem of creating effective newsletter marketing without overtly advertising in your newsletter

(Re)Introducing the Advertorial:

The way to ‘sneak’ marketing into your newsletter

Advertorials is where you provide 90% content and then the final 10% of the piece is a subtle push towards taking action. The content part of an advertorial is about the problems or the benefits desired by your market.

Say you need to write an advertorial about car care. It is as simple as writing an article about how to do a great job cleaning your car. You talk about the common problems they’ll have, what tools they can buy to make the job faster and how good their car will look after it has had its regular cleaning.

Only at the very end do you mention that they can buy the car care products you mentioned in your article at your store and they happen to be on special…

It means you are effectively marketing without overtly marketing. Your customers will love the information.

Admittedly, it takes a little more skill to write an effective advertorial than a straight ‘hard sell’ message but it does keep the customer happy by providing useful information in your newsletter. Effective customer newsletters {link to ‘effective customer newsletters’ to post of same keyword} are about information not advertising. Especially not just a straight sales pitch.

That is the way to make newsletter marketing effective without turning your newsletter into another piece of junk mail.

Customer Newsletter

Creating an effective customer newsletters can be a real headache. Many times you start out with the best of intentions and all too quickly your customer newsletter falls by the wayside.

After a couple of issues you find yourself pressed for time and tempted to skip an issue and then you are on a slippery slope. The most important to remember about a newsletter is:

Frequency Trumps Everything

In the world of customer newsletters, being on time every time is more important than anything else. The odd typo, a little bit of content that you are unhappy with can be sent. Getting it right isn’t as important as getting out your newsletter on time.

You want your newsletter to be seen as

  1. A regular publication – Magazines don’t skip a month. Neither should you
  2. Information not advertising. Magazines come out every month and contain information. Your newsletter comes out every month with useful information (for the recipient) and isn’t just a shameless sales pitch

Make the Your Customer Newsletter About the reader

When deciding what to write about, you need to make your content relevant to the reader. This does not mean all your newsletter content should be about your company, your products and your services.

I interviewed Michael McLean recently about his Insurance Brokerage’s customer newsletter. He delightfully told me told me he had extended his customer’s loyalty to three times the industry average, and the main reason was his printed monthly customer newsletter and it contained almost nothing about insurance (less than 25% of the content was about insurance). It was all about what his readers might find interesting, relevant and useful.

Keep it short

Everybody is busy these days. Your newsletter should pass the 10 minute rule. If they can’t read it in less than 10 minutes it is too long. Go for either 2 or 4 pages for your customer newsletter and send it monthly rather than 8 or 12 pages quarterly or bimonthly.

Writing A Newsletter – What To Include?

Any content your audience will find useful or interesting you can use when writing a newsletter.

Consider your relationship with your customer when you send them a newsletter. If you run a local restaurant, then cookbook reviews, recipes, some trivia and some news about the restaurant is could easily fill a month’s newsletter. Then throw in a monthly special; ‘only for newsletter subscribers’ and you are done.

Keep your newsletter short. Write short articles, short sentences and short paragraphs. It is okay to produce a monthly 2 or 4 page newsletter and mail it monthly. It will do more good to you than an  8 page newsletter sent quarterly.  Your customers are busy and have no more than 10 minutes to sit down and read it. Otherwise your newsletter will end up on the later pile and never get read. Wasting all that good writing.

Finally, no more than 25% of a newsletter should be about your products and services. Nobody is as interested in your products as you are. If they are, create a Subscription Newsletter and charge them for all of that useful content. If you are going to divulge all your business secrets why not make money at it? And if nobody buys a subscription you’ve learnt a valuable lesson – nobody is as interested in your business as you think they are.

That is my quick advice on writing a newsletter and make it useful to your reader while building a relationship with them. That is my quick guide on how to write a newsletter.