📝 Will anyone even read my newsletter?
Okay, so you’ve started a newsletter for your brand. Or, at least, you’re thinking about starting one. That’s great. Everyone loves newsletters. Right?
Right. In fact, in an article over on WIRED, Oliver Franklin-Wallis recently called them “the next (and only) hope to save the media.” And, while we realise that may sound extreme, it has to be good news for you and your newsletter, right?
So. You’ve got your MailChimp or your Substack account (or whatever platform you’re using) all set-up. You’ve spent lots of time (too much time) designing the template – maybe you’ve even thought up a funny title that riffs on your brand name. Brilliant. We’re sure all your subscribers will get a huge kick out of that when it lands in their inbox.
But, still, there’s a nagging question you just can’t seem to shake: “Will anyone even read my newsletter?”
The honest answer? No. Probably not.
Just kidding. Well, kind of anyway. The truth is, realistically speaking, the best-case scenario is a tentative “maybe.”
We know that might not be exactly what you wanted to hear, but it’s better coming from us now than from the cold, hard data later on – sometime after you’ve sent out your first three newsletters – with a 2% click-through rate we’re willing to bet will sting much, much worse. Analytics aren’t quite so good at softening the blow.
That being said, here at Wildish & Co., we’re not about pointing out problems without offering reasonable solutions. After all, what’s the point?
Here it is, then. Historically speaking – up until very recently, in fact – the problem with newsletters has always been that they fall into two distinct camps. They’ve either been glorified coupon mail-outs or rambling, overly-long missives that feel like a tedious Christmas card from a very, very distant family member with bad handwriting who also happened to take a creative writing course one time and which they somehow manage mention every time you see them.
Essentially, you might even say “obviously,” neither of these are what you want for your brand. (Or, if they are, you really don’t need our help. By which what we actually mean is that you’re very clearly beyond help. Sorry.)
So, if it isn’t 5% discount codes and it isn’t a 3,000-word story about what Dave did on the company away day, what should your newsletter be?
First of all, it should be original. But, when we say “original,” we don’t mean it has to be something no other brand has ever thought of. There are, after all, only so many chord progressions. We just mean that it has to be something that you can’t find elsewhere. You know, something that isn’t just copied and pasted from your website. People have already been on your website. How else would they be signed up to your newsletter?
Secondly, it should tell people something about your brand. When it comes to newsletter content, people like things to be personal. It’s one of the main reasons that – since the COVID-19 pandemic began – you might have noticed a huge uptick in newsletters. People are isolated and starved of intimate, direct contact and newsletters seem to be the perfect antidote. (In fact, as Franklin-Wallis mentions, “since the pandemic started, the number of readers and ‘active writers’ on Substack have both doubled, and other providers such as Mailchimp have seen similar spikes in users.”) So, Dig a little deeper. We know that won’t be easy every week, but it’s worth trying.
Thirdly – and with that in mind – remember: you have to keep it up. It may sound obvious, but readers will only lose interest as quickly as you do. If you you miss a week, or the quality very obviously dips, people will either have half-forgotten about you by the time the next one rolls or around or, at the very least, be less keen to open it if last time was a damp squib. The unsubscribe button is only ever a click away. So is “Mark as spam.”
Finally, make sure you leave them with something to think about. Your newsletters shouldn’t tell just half the story, but they should encourage your readers to look further and deeper into your brand for themselves.
Having said all that, we still can’t guarantee people will your newsletter. Of course we’d like to – we just can’t. But we think this should help. The rest is on you.