Keep Your Customers Reading 8 tips for developing e-newsletters that have interesting and relevant content for readers

By Gail Goodman

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

E-mail newsletters are one of the best ways to stay connected with your customers, clients and prospects. They allow you to showcase your expertise in a way that helps build awareness and confidence in your company. And great content will prompt your readers to take action--visit your website, make an inquiry, book an appointment, request a proposal or come in to shop.

Creating a successful newsletter program requires that you include interesting and relevant content in each issue. Sure, it's easy to write about your business--new clients, new products, recent awards--but a "me-newsletter" is not one that's going to get your readers to open, read and take action. Here are 8 content ideas that will help make your newsletters relevant and compelling:

  1. Share your expertise. You are an expert in your field, and a newsletter gives you the chance to show it by giving your readers valuable nuggets of information that they can take action on. When you consider what topics to cover, think of the questions that you are frequently asked. What are the areas your clients and potential clients are most interested in? In what areas do they need and value your expert advice? Giving them a little bit of free advice every month will build their trust in you and make you the obvious choice when they're in need of what you offer.
  2. Hold a Q&A session.In keeping with the idea of answering questions, feature a Q&A section in your newsletter. Invite your readers to submit their questions, and in each issue choose one or two to answer. I know of at least one successful newsletter that is based solely on this format.
  3. Tell a story of success.Do you know any inspiring customer or client stories? They can be testimonials that are focused on how your business helped a company or person or simply a profile of a customer and his or her business. Either way, true-to-life stories make your newsletter multi-dimensional, making it more interesting and relatable, and serving to increase your credibility.
  4. Conduct an interview.While you're the expert of your newsletter, it can also be good to bring in some other expert voices from time to time. Highlight other professionals who offer products or services that are complementary to yours, and cover topics that your readers care about. This type of content helps show that you're connected and understand the "big picture."
  5. Feature fun facts.Inject a little fun into your newsletter. You might include some little-known, yet interesting facts that are relevant to your type of business or offer a riddle or trivia question that you invite readers to solve or answer. Include the answer and the winner in the next issue of your newsletter.
  6. Take an in-depth look at a product or service.Take a deeper look at a product or service you offer. Show how it could be useful to the reader by outlining the benefits and give any other information that could convince them of its value. Remember to stand in their shoes. And ask yourself the question, "What would they want to know?"
  7. Springboard off of current events (news items, holidays, etc.).Events that are common to all of your readers' lives provide a great starting place for your content. This could be a topic that the media is actively covering, like a downturn in the economy, or it could be a holiday, such as Thanksgiving. Look for creative ways to tie these events in with a topic in your field.
  8. Ask your readers.Last, but not least: If you want help knowing what content to include, ask the people reading it. An online survey is the perfect way to get feedback in a format that is easy to process and act on. Give options of types of content (articles, success stories, etc.) and topics that you are planning to cover. See how respondents rate this information and use their feedback to shape future plans. Also, give them the opportunity to present their ideas. They may suggest a great topic that you hadn't considered.

How can you know if your content is connecting with your readers? Besides asking the question, take a close look at your newsletter statistics. How many people opened and, more importantly, what did they click on? A link that got 30 clicks vs. one that received 300 is very telling.

By creating a relevant and interesting newsletter, you'll find one of your most valued and successful marketing tools.

Gail Goodman is the author of Engagement Marketing: How Small Business Wins In a Socially Connected World (Wiley, 2012) and CEO of Waltham, Mass.-based Constant Contact Inc., a provider of email marketing, event marketing, social media marketing, local deal and online survey tools and services for small businesses, associations and nonprofits.

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