How to write a consistently good email newsletter

I hope you found last week’s conversation about the perils of being a digital sharecropper useful. Relying on someone else’s platform to spread your content is a practice many of us follow without thinking about the economics or the consequences.

On to this week. What I wrote must have resonated because several people asked me how to start a new newsletter or improve their current newsletter. Perfect timing! Because Chris Brogan wrote a newsletter last Sunday that’s right on point.

And if you’re new here, welcome aboard. This is what we do!

One thing I found last week … from RainToday.
And the Winner Is Low Price. Wait – No …

Charles H. Green (of Trusted Adviser fame) leads you through a short exercise to get you thinking about how buyers of professional services think about price.

So, how do you write a consistently good email newsletter?

Well, when someone like Chris Brogan writes about the same topic, you unabashedly and unashamedly (but with attribution) repost what his experience has been. Here is what he had to say.

Prework – Become an idea machine

I talk about Claudia Altucher’s Become an Idea Machine book as often as I can. The idea is simple. Write out lists of ideas every day. Ten ideas a day. Every day. I use this to have an endless supply of what to write about. (This prework step helps fuel step 1 and 2).

Step 1 – Practice delivering one piece of simple value every week

First off, know that the more you practice something, the better you get at it. IF you practice the right things. In this case, your goal for practice is to deliver at least one piece of simple value every week. Let’s define “value” as “something that appeals to your potential buyers that they can do with or without your products or services.” That’s the practice.

Step 2 – Keep a list of what you’ve sent, keep a calendar of what you WILL send

The next way to get better is to keep track of what you’re writing. [I keep a] running list of newsletter subject lines week to week. I scan these every time I get ready to write my next newsletter. They follow a rough editorial theme per month so that I can try and hit different potential buyers in different ways. That way, no one ever goes more than a few weeks without feeling they aren’t seeing something they can use.

Step 3 – Practice brevity and cut out everything that doesn’t serve the main point

Brevity. That’s your third requirement. Kill everything that doesn’t deliver on the purpose of the letter. Edit to remove all the superfluous. When writing, especially when attempting the conversational tone, people tend to blather a bit. They tend to get all explainy. It’s not helpful. It clutters things up. Look for ways to cut the sentences short. (Ideal newsletter length is 300-600 words.)

Step 4 – Remove almost every sentence that is built to prove that you’re smart or worth it; let your service be your confidence

Check your ego. Here’s a tricky one, but not the way you might think. In this case, I mean “stop explaining yourself or defending yourself or writing so much to the tune of how great you are and why you’re worthy of your potential buyer’s time.” Yep. MOST newsletters have a healthy dose of “I’m really good. Honest! I’m worth your time. And I’m smart, too!”

Step 5 – Serve them and then you, but always both

This last one is technically the first step as well. It’s important that you know this is where a LOT of people get it wrong. They either send letters that help the community they serve but don’t help themselves grow their business, OR they send letters that help ONLY them and not the people they serve. You have to have something for both of you.

Check your newsletter before sending it to see if you match all five steps on this list. Work on it consistently (using that prework step to get yourself smarter and smarter). I promise you’ll see results.

Rod’s notes:

  1. Chris Brogan has 33,ooo subscribers to his email newsletter. Holy cow!
  2. As I am preparing this, the Kindle version of Claudia Altucher’s book is $0.99.
  3. I think weekly is the best frequency for an email newsletter … more, and you become an annoyance to your audience … less, and you never gain momentum/traction with them.





Action Items:

If you like what I write about, tell a colleague.

If something resonates and you want to reach out directly, email me.

If you think we share common interests, connect with me on LinkedIn.

If you want a sense of how well your practice is working for you, take this Practice Self Assessment.