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The Key to a Great Email Newsletter

Let’s talk about a cat named Poncho.

Poncho is a cat that tells me the weather. Well, really, Poncho is just a vector drawing of a cute cat in a raincoat, but I read those email forecasts religiously, and it’s not because I care that much about the weather. It’s because I’m entertained by the way he presents the information even though I could easily just look at my phone. I legitimately enjoy the emails. The weather forecasts are punched up with beautiful design and helpful information about everything from my commute to whether it’s going to be a frizzy hair day. Most importantly, Poncho has personality. So when Poncho is promoting something, I’m more likely to click through because he’s already got me on his side.

Let’s contrast. Every year around Christmas you get it: the dreaded “Aunt Erma’s Winter Update” where your aunt tells you the vague goings on of family members you’ve never heard of. You groan and quickly glance at the pictures, vowing to read it later – but inevitably forget it in a pile of mail that hangs out on the table for months. How many business newsletters or pieces of email marketing do you get that read the same way?

As laundry lists of goings on, with no way to connect to the company, these newsletters fail to get responses because they are uninteresting to the readers.  But then there are the simple ways you can get and keep reader’s attention, and make them want to read your newsletter.

A lot can be learned from Poncho. What makes me read Poncho’s emails but ignore Aunt Erma’s? The same things that make people ignore your newsletter. Here’s what we can learn from a simple daily forecast.

I engage with Poncho before I even open the email. The subject line is always cute and funny. It’s usually a clever pun about the weather or current event. They’re tailored to the day and time, and they make me laugh. I know that it’s just the weather, but Poncho is already entertaining me before I even open the email.

Even though yours won’t necessarily be quite so up to the minute, the subject of your newsletter should always catch the eye. You have 75 characters to make a good impression – so don’t waste them!  Make a statement about the lead story of your newsletter that incites the audience to read, and then give them exactly what they were looking for. 

Poncho’s content is simple, but it’s also well laid out, relevant and put forward in a creative way. Every single email has a topical gif and a joke, even before the highs-and-lows for the day. Poncho also includes notes on the wind speed, information about the pollen count, and even the kind of hair day it’ll be. Generally it’s the same format every time I open an email, but occasionally he also includes messages from his sponsors, special offers or other advertisements, and you know what? I read them every time. I’m interested in the offers because I am interested in Poncho.  He follows the 80/20 rule of marketing by keeping the content 80% focused on what his readers care about (weather) and 20% self-promotion (or, in Poncho’s case, promotion of partner sites.

Even though your content will be very different from a weather report, it doesn’t need to be complicated, overwhelming, or dull. It only needs to be engaging and relevant to the people on your email list to keep them reading.  Poncho’s audience is broad, but I still have the option to tailor the information I get based on my needs. Don’t need the hair forecast? Ask to have it removed from your email. Poncho has learned that if you try to sell everything to everyone, you can’t sell anything to anyone. Specificity allows you to stay focused and let your corporate voice be heard. By allowing me to specify what I want to read (and ensuring that I care about all of the information I’m getting) Poncho is keeping himself relevant to my tastes and needs.

But most importantly, Poncho’s content is creative. This is information I can get from a dozen other sources, but it’s his email that I check first thing in the morning. From the funny subject lines to the cute frizzy hair gif, I enjoy the creativity and thought that was put into these emails. If you give your customers a unique and engaging experience through content that shows your creativity, and how much you care about the subject matter you’ll be able to keep your open and engagement rates high.