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Remember when email newsletters were the latest, greatest thing in online marketing?
Remember when you could add a form to your sidebar that simply said, “Sign up to receive my newsletter” and people would join your list in droves?
Unfortunately, those days are over. In today’s overcrowded online market, getting email subscribers is a lot more complicated than it used to be.
Most people are rabidly protective of their email inboxes, and we’re understandably hesitant to sign up for yet another newsletter we’re not going to have time to read.
What people do want, though, is good content. They want helpful, useful, and entertaining articles, podcast episodes, and videos that will make their lives easier and solve their problems.
As a content marketer, what does that mean for you?
Is the newsletter extinct?
If you’re considering offering a newsletter, should you shelve the idea?
If you’ve been sending out a newsletter for years, should you stop?
First, you need to figure out the most efficient (and most subscriber-friendly) way to publish content and send it out to your email list.
As you already know, sending regular emails to your list is the best way to build relationships with your subscribers.
You’ll also get more traffic, comments, and social shares from the folks on your email list than from any other source — so it’s absolutely worth your time to figure out the best way to stay in touch with them.
Let’s look at the pros and cons of two popular email types for content marketers: email newsletters and content notifications.
Option 1: Send an email newsletter
A traditional newsletter is usually sent on a regular schedule (often weekly or monthly) and typically includes a branded HTML header, an opening greeting, and a main article. Not all newsletters look exactly like that, but many do.
A newsletter might also include links to the publisher’s content (or curated content from other sites), badges, coupons, featured photos, or special offers. Picture a newsletter as a collection of items, instead of one stand-alone piece of content.
Here are some examples:
Warren and Betsy Talbot of Married with Luggage send a newsletter out every Sunday morning.
It’s called “Notes from the Marriage with Luggage Life Lab,” and it includes a collection of personal stories, links, and photos from their life abroad.
Every other Saturday, Rainmaker Digital’s own Pamela Wilson sends a beautifully formatted newsletter from her business, Big Brand System.
Her newsletter, The Weekend Digest, includes a collection of attractive images, links to Pamela’s blog, and other relevant content handpicked by Pamela and her team.
Benefits of sending an email newsletter
You are committed to a set publishing schedule
If you advertise your newsletter will be published on a particular schedule (for example, every Monday), your reader will expect your email on that day.
Presumably, you will be more motivated to get your email out the door if you know your audience is waiting with bated breath.
Your audience will know when to expect a note from you, and you may see lower unsubscribe rates
If you’ve trained your audience to know they will get an email from you every Monday morning, they’ll usually recognize your newsletter when it hits their inboxes.
When they expect an email from you, it helps prevent them from thinking, “Why is this person spamming me?”
You can include links to additional content your audience will enjoy
A newsletter format provides flexible content sharing options, so you’ll have more room for links to posts in your own archive, curated links, or other content.
Sharing content like this on a regular basis can help you earn a reputation as a generous and thoughtful authority in your field.
Disadvantages of sending an email newsletter
Newsletters can be a pain to format
Since you’re a smart content marketer, I know you’re already using a qualified email service provider; you’ll want to publish your newsletter with that email service provider as well.
But unfortunately, no matter which email service you use, formatting a newsletter — especially one that includes a variety of images and links — can be time-consuming.
Even the most user-friendly service will still require some fine-tuning to position your articles and images in the right places so your newsletter shows up well on multiple devices.
You are locked into a set publishing schedule
Having an established newsletter-publishing schedule could either be motivating or horrifying, depending on your capacity for procrastination and your overall stress level.
Make sure you can commit to your schedule before you set expectations for your audience.
Your readers might delay reading your newsletter (or never read it at all)
Some of your email recipients might receive your newsletter and think, “There’s great content in here, but I don’t have time to read it right now. I’m going to put this in my ‘Read Later’ folder and read it when I have more time.”
Unfortunately, these “Read Later” folders can be deadly for your email message. If your recipient reads your newsletter at all, it might be months after you send it.
Option 2: Send notification emails with links to your latest content
You can also send an email broadcast to your list any time you publish a new piece of content (including blog posts, podcast episodes, or videos).
Your email can either be:
- A “teaser” message that includes a short description or an excerpt of the content, with a link to the entire piece
- An email that includes the entire article
Here are some examples of both types of notification emails:
Neil Patel publishes a new blog post every day and sends a “teaser” notification email to his list each time he publishes something new.
He usually includes three separate links to his latest post in every email.
His notification emails look like this:
Michael Hyatt typically publishes the full text of his posts in his notification emails. He regularly includes a question at the end of his email, so his subscribers can converse with him on social media about the message’s topic.
Benefits of sending notification emails
Your email is focused on one goal
With individual notification emails, your goal is to get your subscriber to consume your newest piece of content. You can focus all your energy (and potentially all your links) on achieving that goal.
Because of this singular focus, you may get more traffic (and more readers) from this approach.
Your readers are also potentially less likely to stash your email in a “Read Later” folder if they know they only need to click one link and consume one piece of content.
Notification emails will be faster to create
Quick notification emails — especially if they are simple or text-only — might be less burdensome to create.
You can potentially craft and send a broadcast notification email in minutes.
Disadvantages of notification emails
Your email schedule may be more erratic
If you don’t publish content on a consistent schedule, you’ll end up sending emails to your list on an irregular basis, too.
Because of that, you might see a higher unsubscribe rate when you do send a broadcast, because your subscribers aren’t used to hearing from you and may forget they signed up for your list.
You might send many emails to your list
If you do publish frequently, your list will receive a lot of emails from you.
Long-term, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but you may hear some whining from your subscribers if you transition from emailing your list once a month to emailing several times a week.
The big question: to tease, or not to tease
If you decide to send notification emails, should you include the whole post in your emails or use a teaser excerpt and a link?
If you send an excerpt and a link, you can train your subscribers to click on the links in your emails regularly and expect good things when they click on those links.
On the other hand, you may get more people to read your post if you put the whole post in the email.
Both methods can work — you can test each of them and see how your audience responds.
The secret to getting your audience to love getting your emails
Your job now is deciding whether email newsletters or notification emails are a better fit for your audience.
If you send a newsletter, you’ll be committed to a set publishing schedule.
Readers will expect emails from you, and you’ll probably see less people unsubscribe from your list.
If you decide to send notification emails, your emails will be focused on a singular goal — getting people to consume your content.
You might get more visitors to your site, video views, or podcast episode downloads. Notification emails are also faster to create and send than newsletters.
The good news is, you don’t have to choose between the two. There’s no reason you can’t incorporate both into your email marketing strategy.
For example, Pamela Wilson sends her regular email newsletter (The Weekend Digest, see above) as well as short, excerpt-style notification emails when she publishes new posts on her blog.
Build a trusted relationship with your prospects and customers
No matter which way you decide to go — newsletters, post notifications, or a combination of both — the most important thing is communicating with your audience on a regular basis and reliably sending them great content.
Consistent, high-value communication with your list is critical to building a trusted relationship with your prospects and customers.
If you master that, your subscribers will not only learn to trust you and your content — they’ll also start to love getting emails from you.
And what could be better than that?
Read all the posts in our email marketing series
- How to Choose a Solid Email Service and Build Your List on a Firm Foundation
- Your Top-to-Bottom Email Checklist: What to Include Before You Hit Send
- How to Write a Heroically Effective Email Autoresponder Series
- How to Write Email Subject Lines that Make People Stop, Click, and Read
- 13 Tantalizing Incentives that Will Build Your Email List
- 4 Quick Solutions that Spawn Radical Email List Growth
- CAN-SPAM 101: A Crash Course in Bulk Email Regulations
- 7 Deadly Sins and 7 Virtues of Email Marketing
- Your Step-by-Step Email Marketing Strategy Guide [Free Checklist]
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