A couple of weeks ago I asked LinkedIn what their favourite newsletters were and why they liked them. It’s by no means an extensive survey, more of a straw poll, but there was consistency into what makes people open a newsletter every week.
It is also interesting how many people were recommending the same newsletters.
Every time I open a newsletter I stop and think about what made me open and read it. In fact, there is one newsletter that I actively look forward to every week and have even parted with my cash to support. I’ll share this later, in case you want to part with your money for an email, too.
We get hundreds of emails every day. In fact, it’s 121 emails on average. That’s a lot of emails and why we’ll never achieve inbox zero. So what is it that makes these newsletters so popular?
Let’s take a look.
ENTERTAIN AND INFORM
Newsletters need to entertain and inform. And if you can do one of these with your newsletter then you are at a great starting point. But newsletters need to do so much more than that.
I’m going to break the newsletters down into groups so you can see clear types of newsletters.
THE ‘COLLECTION OF LINKS’ OR ‘CURATED’ NEWSLETTERS
These are hugely popular newsletters. What they do is collate the best of the internet and put it together in one place for you.
What I like best about these newsletters is they give the reader exactly what they want. They serve a purpose. My favourite of these is Sian Meades Freelance Writing Newsletter and it seems so many other freelancers agree.
Even if I’m not looking to pitch any writing to a publication, it is an enjoyable read. Which is why I’ve donated to the newsletter before and will do so again.
Paying to get an email might seem absurd but sending emails costs money. Email providers charge and it takes time to research and write. These things aren’t free so it’s a no brainer that if I actively look forward to getting a newsletter, I should pay for its upkeep.
And if you’re enjoying this newsletter, I fully recommend Sian’s other newsletters.
The Friday Club by Dan and Lloyd Knowlton also do a great curation newsletter. It’s funny and simple. You know the links are going to take you somewhere useful for your business or be entertaining.
Likewise, Nick Parker’s newsletter at That Explains Things is filled with interesting takes on language from the internet. What this does well serves his audience, it doesn’t talk down or try to be too clever. It reminds you there’s a product but doesn’t shove it in your face. A nice balance.
THE ‘THESE THINGS WILL HELP’ NEWSLETTERS
There are people out there who are sharing some invaluable advice on their newsletters each week. And if you’re not signed up, then you’re missing out.
The trick to having a ‘these things will help’ emails is that you only share one important thing each week. And you explain it well.
You Are The Media is a great example of this. It has a helpful short version of the email at the start in case you’re too busy to read it. Personally, I save this email for a tea break and read the whole thing because it’s so well written. And look, it’s known as ‘The Thursday Email’ so you know when you are going to get it.
YATM taught me a lesson in being a last-minute Larry. I thought I had plenty of time to book a ticket and attend their first Bristol lunch club. And then it went and sold out. So this time, I bought the ticket when it was released. Lesson learned.
Julia Chanteray gives nuggets of business advice in her weekly Business Stories emails. Between book recommendations and practical advice, these are witty emails that you can relate to. Julia’s newsletter was recommended by a few people and I should be clear that I am biased as she’s a client. Even though I’ve read them all, I still open them and read them properly when they pop into my inbox.
The Professional Freelancer is also another great ‘these things will help’ newsletter. And this helps all of us working as little freelance islands, not realising that our self-employed virtual neighbour is having all the same gripes. Again, this newsletter came up a few times when I asked. It’s interesting to see what newsletters people agree on.
THE ‘PERSONAL SHARE’ NEWSLETTER
There are two types of personal share emails. There’s the one where you get a stream of consciousness from someone because they feel they need to send an email and share all of their thoughts, content and sales. These are the emails I rarely open. And you, too. In fact, let’s just go press unsubscribe on these now.
Then there are the truly entertaining personal share emails. Sofie Hagen does this incredibly well. She tells a good story and it’s very entertaining. I recently recommended Sofie’s newsletter to a business psychologist because a lot of the work they do was very much like the thinking that Sofie shares in her newsletter. Without the bad sex.
THE ‘HOBBY’ NEWSLETTER
The other type of newsletters that we open is the ones which are to do with our hobbies and downtime. If you have a product-based business, pay attention to the hobby newsletters that you open. What do they do in them? What ideas can you use in your own way?
I really like Tilly and the Buttons newsletter. They share pattern hacks and fabric ideas. Now I don’t get much time to sew at the moment but I love looking at the ways I can use my patterns if I did have time. It also has lovely pictures and tips. And it doesn’t try to sell to me every time. Which I appreciate. It feels like a conversation.
But you probably don’t sew and aren’t the audience for this newsletter. And this is an important lesson to learn. You need people on your newsletter who are interested in what you do. You need to attract the right audience to your newsletter.
WHY WE OPEN THEM
What is clear is that there will always be emails we open as soon as they land in our inbox. There will be emails we read if we have time. And there will be emails we simply ignore.
When you open all the emails, start asking yourself why you decide to open this one. The emails where you occasionally open, think what they need to do to make you open them all. And the ones you ignore, unsubscribe.
It’s knowing what it is about those that are opened each week that will help you make your newsletters more appealing.
WHAT WE CAN LEARN FROM THIS:
- Write what your audience wants to read
- Don’t just share your own stuff, share things that people need
- If you educate keep it simple
- Tell a good story
- Bring your tone of voice into the newsletter
- Make it a conversation, not a presentation
- Be consistent.
Whether you send one type of newsletter or a mix of all of them, the main thing is to be consistent with it so you can build trust. If you are ever unsure why this works, I can tell you that the reason I know it’s Thursday is because a particular newsletter appears in my inbox.