April 5, 2021 Content Chat Recap—Community Conversation: What Marketers Want From Email Newsletters

A #ContentChat header image that says today's topic is what marketers want from email newsletters.

Marketing to consumers and business decision-makers is certainly a challenge, but marketing to marketers is a uniquely difficult task that may leave even less room for error. Increasingly since the pandemic, brands have used email newsletters to convey empathy, provide value and support to their audiences, and reinforce their brand voice through consistent newsletters. But how should brands approach email newsletter marketing to marketers?

In this #ContentChat community conversation, we discuss what marketers want from email newsletters. Read the full recap below, where we share what type of subject lines compel marketers to click on an email newsletter, why marketers unsubscribe from email newsletters, our advice for marketers looking to launch a new email newsletter, and more.

Q1: As both a marketer and a consumer, how do you feel about email newsletters? Are you actively looking for more? Trying to whittle your list down?

Several of our community members are actively looking for valuable newsletters. They want unique perspectives, well-curated resources, and content that sparks conversation.

A1a: I won’t say “it depends” (b/c we all hate that answer!) BUT, I am always looking for new email newsletters while, at the same time, trying to cut back the ones that no longer grab my interest. #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Founder @ErikaHeald (@SFerika) April 5, 2021

A1b: I am always looking for more email newsletters that give me an interesting marketer’s unique POV on a marketing topic, point me to things I’d otherwise never see/read/do, and that inspire me to share the email with someone I’ve been meaning to catch up with. #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Founder @ErikaHeald (@SFerika) April 5, 2021

A1. I’m actively looking for more *good* ones so I can whittle down my list. Makes sense?

Some days, I tent to subscribe a lot thinking the stuff will be good, but the inbox overload + unread content leaves me feeling bad. So working on quality mostly. #ContentChat

— Masooma | Content Writer (@inkandcopy) April 5, 2021

A1: As a subscriber, I’m very selective about the newsletters I subscribe to, because I want to make sure I’m getting quality content. As a marketer, I’m always looking for interesting newsletters for inspiration and learn something new from #ContentChat

— Win Shi Wong 黄颖诗 (Win Shi, not Win) (@winshiwong) April 5, 2021

When approached well, newsletters are an incredibly powerful way to strengthen your community relationships.

#ContentChat Newsletters might be my favorite way to (give and) receive content. It’s versatile, great, for curation, and doesn’t require too much of me

— LaDonna LaGuerre 🇯🇲 🏳️‍🌈 (@ellellellag) April 5, 2021

Marketers are short on time and turn to email newsletters for interesting and useful content that they can’t get elsewhere.

A1: I’ll give almost any newsletter a trial run, but I’m not shy about unsubscribing if it doesn’t provide interesting or useful content. Give me something I’m not getting somewhere else and I’ll probably read what you send me (probably not a typical take tho). #ContentChat

— Derek Pillie 🎯 (@derekpillie) April 5, 2021

I was and have become very picky about the newsletters I subscribe and consume.

In fact, knowing how picky I am makes me nervous about starting my own newsletter—thinking about how people would be picky like I am lol. #ContentChat

— Masooma | Content Writer (@inkandcopy) April 5, 2021

A1 I rarely subscribe to newsletters, and when I do I rarely read them just because of time available #ContentChat

— Dan Goldberg (@Jonas419) April 5, 2021

A1. The problem with most email newsletters is that there’s no value in them for the reader.

They’re usually a list of things you’re selling.

However if we give value that helps people then we enjoy receiving them. #ContentChat

— Rob & Kennedy 🦸 Email Marketing Heroes (@RobandKennedy) April 5, 2021

If a marketer did not willingly sign up for your email newsletter, they are likely to unsubscribe.

A1 Here it is – it depends on where it’s coming from. If I signed up willingly, then I love them. If I was required to give up my email when I just wanted to browse or needed 1 answer and you keep sending them – no thanks
Currently, trying to cut down the list
-Alyx #ContentChat https://t.co/cgblINCsVz

— Charlie & Alyx – Charlie Appel Agency (@ColfaxInsurance) April 5, 2021

I can not begin to count how many times I have lost the argument against auto-subscribing people to email newsletters. The value of an opt-in email newsletter subscriber is so much more in addition to being the right thing to do. #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Founder @ErikaHeald (@SFerika) April 5, 2021

Review your email newsletter subscriptions at least twice a year to keep your inbox streamlined.

A1: I really love a good newsletter, but I’ve had to be more judicious about how many I read and *when* I choose to read them.

Curiosity gets the best of me sometimes and I subscribe to a lot. But I do a review every 3 months. #ContentChat

— Rachel Wendte (@rkwendte) April 5, 2021

And Derek shares a few guiding principles for email newsletter content:

I’ll share the golden rule of newsletter writing from a webinar whose source I can’t remember (wish I could so I could give them credit). Don’t hit publish until you:
1) Laugh at your content (because it’s funny)
2) Learn from your content
3) Love your content #ContentChat

— Derek Pillie 🎯 (@derekpillie) April 5, 2021

Q2: What type of subject lines compel you to click on an email newsletter?

An email newsletter subject line should provide a strong what’s in it for me for the reader…

A2: I like email newsletter subject lines that pique my interest (the curiosity gap) or that give me a strong WIIFM so I know what I can learn from reading. #ContentChat pic.twitter.com/gYePnUkjFx

— Erika Heald | Founder @ErikaHeald (@SFerika) April 5, 2021

A2: Direct, short, and honest about what’s inside #ContentChat

— LaDonna LaGuerre 🇯🇲 🏳️‍🌈 (@ellellellag) April 5, 2021

Pique the reader’s curiosity (in a non-clickbaity way)…

A2. Usually something that’s honest about what’s inside while making me curious at the same time.

It’s not an easy subject line combo to come up with. But I think that taking the time to work on SL helps. #ContentChat

— Masooma | Content Writer (@inkandcopy) April 5, 2021

Address a specific, audience-focused problem…

A2 Usually has to be specific to a problem I’m having or anticipating. A broad subject sounds lazy #ContentChat

— Dan Goldberg (@Jonas419) April 5, 2021

Or have humor (if in line with your brand voice) or a sense of timeliness.

A2: Subject lines that get clicks from me are:
– Humorous or amusing with puns or plays on words
– Timebound: Telling me when I need to act to get something
– Intriguing: Offering some info I want to know more about
Content bound: “3 things to know” “5 ways to…”#ContentChat

— Rachel Wendte (@rkwendte) April 5, 2021

A2: It depends on who is the sender. If it’s something of my niche, subject lines that imply new/valuable information get my attention, if it’s from SaaS/community, I’m more interested in updates, what’s new going on, or something from the founder #ContentChat

— Win Shi Wong 黄颖诗 (Win Shi, not Win) (@winshiwong) April 5, 2021

Often, marketers actively engage with content from people that they know or recognize. By establishing yourself as a trusted and valuable resource in your space, your community will increasingly read and engage with your email newsletter.

A2: If I like your newsletter, probably knowing in the subject that it’s your newsletter will be enough for me to click (or refrain from archiving) your email. I rarely opt in to a newsletter that’s sent to me cold, no matter what the subject. #OptInLife #ContentChat

— Derek Pillie 🎯 (@derekpillie) April 5, 2021

This is also true! I find I scan my email inbox for the names of the people I know, and when I see them, I usually open and at least scan/skim. #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Founder @ErikaHeald (@SFerika) April 5, 2021

subject line is so imp, but content from a trusted, regular source would compel a reader to open #ContentChat

— LaDonna LaGuerre 🇯🇲 🏳️‍🌈 (@ellellellag) April 5, 2021

Erika shares how she writes the Content Chat Bulletin email newsletter subject lines:

That’s real tough to tap into: WIIFM tends to be unique for most people.

What’s your process for writing your newsletter’s subject lines? #ContentChat

— Masooma | Content Writer (@inkandcopy) April 5, 2021

I am a terrible email subject line writer!

But, for our email newsletter, I start with the name [Content Chat Bulletin] then the main idea my intro is going to cover. I figure either you will open bc 1) it’s from my email, 2) it’s #ContentChat, or 3) The topic grabs you.

— Erika Heald | Founder @ErikaHeald (@SFerika) April 5, 2021

Q3: No email newsletter subscription is forever. What has prompted you to unsubscribe from email newsletters?

Marketers unsubscribe from email newsletters for a variety of reasons. This includes if they did not opt-in for the newsletter, or the newsletter includes too many sales pitches…

A3: I unsubscribe from email newsletters all the time, including because:

1) I never opted in
2) The content has changed significantly
3) The voice or tone doesn’t work for me (like someone who neg’s constantly as a BizDev tactic)
4) Too many sales pitches#ContentChat https://t.co/MEcX6X3lFG

— Erika Heald | Founder @ErikaHeald (@SFerika) April 5, 2021

The emails are too long with minimal value or too many links with little background/WIIFM…

A3. Reasons I’ve unsubscribed:

– Incredibly long, zero-value emails.
– Too many links. Least of all, curate thoughtfully.
– Boring to read. Humanize the content. I’m here to connect so tell me a little about yourself instead of showering me with so many links. #ContentChat

— Masooma | Content Writer (@inkandcopy) April 5, 2021

Yes! Many links does *not* guarantee strong CTR or COTR or increase chance of engagement. And it makes the reader do too much and make too many decisions. It’s easier to delete than sort and click #ContentChat

— LaDonna LaGuerre 🇯🇲 🏳️‍🌈 (@ellellellag) April 5, 2021

Yes to these!

Don’t just share a link tell me who will get what out of clicking that link.

See also why I have been trying to share a useful template or framework in every issue of our email newsletter, so folks can count on that value add. #ContentChat https://t.co/XplfySBq7B

— Erika Heald | Founder @ErikaHeald (@SFerika) April 5, 2021

Yaas! If you take the time to explain what you more sharing something, it tells readers you aren’t simple pushing links to them that you may or may not have read yourself.

Content curation is an art in itself. #ContentChat

— Masooma | Content Writer (@inkandcopy) April 5, 2021

A3: If someone values the minimizing of spam, they get it. When newsletters cease to provide worth…#ContentChat pic.twitter.com/puYixxZn5R

— SPW ✍️🤓 (@ShawnPaulWood) April 5, 2021

So many “newsletters” are actually just the META descriptions of a company’s most recent 3-5 blog posts. Which is a blog subscription and not an email newsletter IMHO. #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Founder @ErikaHeald (@SFerika) April 5, 2021

I’m even okay with aggregation as long as there is some personality to it. I mean, if you put stuff together that I am likely going to want to read then you’ve saved me some time, which is good, but a little humanity in the content doesn’t hurt! #ContentChat

— Derek Pillie 🎯 (@derekpillie) April 5, 2021

The content is boring, robotic, or outdated….

Robotic is where the problem is. As Ann Handley usually points out: it has to be about the ‘letter’ in the newsletter — not all ‘news.’ #ContentChat

— Masooma | Content Writer (@inkandcopy) April 5, 2021

A3. I will unsubscribe from an email newsletter if it smells of regurgitated content from eons ago. No fresh content or point of view, buh-bye. #ContentChat

— Sandy Hubbard 🌻 Marketing Strategist for Printers (@sandyhubbard) April 5, 2021

Or the sender uses sneaky marketing tactics like hiding the unsubscribe link or adding fw: or re: to the subject in an attempt to increase opens.

A3. Sneaky marketing tactics e.g.

1. Tons of line breaks at the end, to hide the Unsubscribe link.

2. Pretend fw: and re: #contentchat

— Rob & Kennedy 🦸 Email Marketing Heroes (@RobandKennedy) April 5, 2021

A running theme is that marketers subscribe to an email newsletter for the ongoing value the newsletter provides. Brands should not force their audiences to subscribe to an email newsletter to receive a resource, discount, etc. Provide helpful resources through a variety of channels to compel your community to get even more value through your email newsletter (if they choose to).

A3: The number one reason I unsubscribe from a newsletter is because I opted-in for a resource, a discount, or something for work that was required.

If it’s the first, I often stay on for a month or so to see if I like it. The other two self destruct naturally. #ContentChat

— Rachel Wendte (@rkwendte) April 5, 2021

This is why I put up my resources without forcing an email opt-in. I want you to find me useful FIRST and sign up to the email newsletter to keep in touch. #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Founder @ErikaHeald (@SFerika) April 5, 2021

I’m the same way! I don’t want to use email as currency to hook people. Rather, I want them to invest in me with that personal connection that THEY choose. #ContentChat

— Rachel Wendte (@rkwendte) April 5, 2021

Email offers one of the best ways (if not THE best) to build relationships with customers. It should be honored and respected. I love how you put it, investing in a personal connection they chose #ContentChat

— LaDonna LaGuerre 🇯🇲 🏳️‍🌈 (@ellellellag) April 5, 2021

A3. If you want to aggregate your content for the convenience of your audience, make that something they can opt into and then deliver it separately. #ContentChat

— Sandy Hubbard 🌻 Marketing Strategist for Printers (@sandyhubbard) April 5, 2021

Q4: What are some effective value-adds that you welcome in the email newsletters you receive?

Templates, checklists, before-and-after results, actionable tips, and ready-to-use graphics are effective email newsletter value-adds.

A4: I can’t help but click when an email newsletter I subscribe to shares:

* A useful marketing template
* A checklist for doing some new or precise/painful marketing task
* Any sort of extreme marketing makeover with results#ContentChat https://t.co/l2KtZyOFof

— Erika Heald | Founder @ErikaHeald (@SFerika) April 5, 2021

Case studies of sorts, is that right?

Also, visuals (like a rough sketch or Venn diagram) and examples to back your point. #ContentChat

— Masooma | Content Writer (@inkandcopy) April 5, 2021

A4: I just opted into a new newsletter last week, & the author had a “week of welcome.” 3 emails over 7 days. Each had a downloadable template, a tip, & a section of clearly relevant links.

I’ll never turn down a template, a ready to use graphic, or content prompt. #ContentChat

— Rachel Wendte (@rkwendte) April 5, 2021

The voice and tone of an email newsletter can determine its ongoing readership. Personalization, even if subtle, can be incredibly effective at strengthening your community relationships.

A2. Forever newsletter value adds:

– A friendly voice that shares both personal + biz life updates and takeaways (BTS content always wins)
– Personalization. Subtle things like ‘hey friend,’ ‘friends.’ I’m the only 1 reading.
– Carefully curated links. #ContentChat

— Masooma | Content Writer (@inkandcopy) April 5, 2021

A4. Personality. And someone not saying the same stuff everyone else is regurgitating. #contentchat

— Rob & Kennedy 🦸 Email Marketing Heroes (@RobandKennedy) April 5, 2021

And ideally, an email newsletter will promote subscriber-exclusive content and deals.

A4: Love thinking about surprise goodies for readers. It depends, ofc, but anything that enhances the #CX and deepens the relationship or engagement. Could be high value content, discount code, event invitation, etc. Bonus if it feels exclusive to me as a subscriber #ContentChat

— LaDonna LaGuerre 🇯🇲 🏳️‍🌈 (@ellellellag) April 5, 2021

A4:
– Personalization with a fun writing style (interesting ones keep me reading)
– Curated content that I can grab and go
– Subscribers’ only perks like discount codes or events
– Content that show that they are human too #ContentChat

— Win Shi Wong 黄颖诗 (Win Shi, not Win) (@winshiwong) April 5, 2021

A4. Effective value adds in newsletters are (1) exclusive offers, (2) invitations to exclusive events, (3) exclusive discounts only for loyal readers, (4) um, did I say Exclusive? #ContentChat

— Sandy Hubbard 🌻 Marketing Strategist for Printers (@sandyhubbard) April 5, 2021

As an aside, send your email newsletter from a real human, not a “no-reply” email address.

This is also why you want the email to come from a real human that you can reach by hitting reply. Not from a “no-reply” email address. #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Founder @ErikaHeald (@SFerika) April 5, 2021

Q5: Which email newsletters are your favorites, and why?

The community shares their favorite email newsletters below. Are your favorite reads missing? Let us know in the comments!

A5: I love my many @SmartBrief email newsletters (hi @biggreenpen !), and those by @Allen @cspenn @annhandley @JoePulizzi to name a few I always read.#ContentChat https://t.co/j5tdStQCpH

— Erika Heald | Founder @ErikaHeald (@SFerika) April 5, 2021

A5. Gave newsletters:

– Ann Handley’s Total Anarchy. The BTS + storytelling-fueled marketing takeaways are 🔥
– James Clear’s 3-2-1. Easy to read & digest and leaves me with good food for thought.
– Alex & Books’ newsletter for it’s unique + actionable content. #ContentChat

— Masooma | Content Writer (@inkandcopy) April 5, 2021

A5: So many! About email? Litmus. News and headlines? CNN 5 Things, Vox Sentences, The Daily (weekly) newsletter, all from the Boston Globe opinion desk. About content marketing? Oof. I don’t think there are many, but hoping to pick up some ideas from this chat #ContentChat

— LaDonna LaGuerre 🇯🇲 🏳️‍🌈 (@ellellellag) April 5, 2021

A5: Why? Because they are easy to read/navigate, predictable and templatized (but not robotic or rote), enjoyable to read, fill the curiosity gap, and deliver me what I need and surprise me w things I didn’t know I needed #ContentChat

— LaDonna LaGuerre 🇯🇲 🏳️‍🌈 (@ellellellag) April 5, 2021

A5: @reallygoodemail! They are great with subject lines, I always open them immediately. They create valuable and fun-to-read content that helps you learn more about email marketing and design, too. Oh and their weekly GIF is 👌 #ContentChat

— Win Shi Wong 黄颖诗 (Win Shi, not Win) (@winshiwong) April 5, 2021

A5: My favorite newsletters all share their content expertly and with clear voice. @chartrdaily is a fun look at using data visualization to talk about current events. @bonappetit curates a family articles around a theme, & @creativemorning gives me inspiration. #ContentChat

— Rachel Wendte (@rkwendte) April 5, 2021

Aside from Ann Handley or MarketingProfs newsletters (which I’m sure will get some shoutouts here):

– @PRisUs has a monthly newsletter that is packed with actionable PR tips and tricks
– @CBinsights is incredible with its graphics and data#ContentChat

— Alek Irvin (@AlekIrvin) April 5, 2021

Q6: What advice would you give to a marketer or brand looking to launch a new email newsletter?

If you’re looking to launch an email newsletter, start with zero subscribers. Don’t trick or bribe people to opt-in for your email newsletter. Create it, send it to your initial subscribers, and archive it on your blog to build interest.

A6: Start with 0.

Don’t trick or bribe people to opt-in for your email newsletter. Create it and send it and archive it on your blog if you must so people can see what they are missing out on and can receive. #ContentChat https://t.co/jyTIERVnZA

— Erika Heald | Founder @ErikaHeald (@SFerika) April 5, 2021

I agree with this approach, but it requires getting executive buy-in because adoption is likely to be slow #ContentChat

— Dan Goldberg (@Jonas419) April 5, 2021

100% on both counts. This is why you can then also ask for a budget to advertise on social, in relevant adjacent email newsletters, etc. to build that audience faster than word-of-mouth alone. #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Founder @ErikaHeald (@SFerika) April 5, 2021

Understand what your audience wants from an email newsletter. Ask members of your community how you can provide value through an email newsletter, or if they’re even interested in receiving resources through email.

A6. For a marketer or brand looking to launch a new email newsletter, really find out what your audience wants. Find an exciting and fresh way to deliver it (carbs), with some thought leadership for protein. #ContentChat

— Sandy Hubbard 🌻 Marketing Strategist for Printers (@sandyhubbard) April 5, 2021

Tell stories that spark emotion, illustrate use cases, and build trust.

A6. Tell stories.

Stories make things emotional, build trust, illustrate use case and applications, and they’re in more plentiful supply than more and more products.#contentchat

— Rob & Kennedy 🦸 Email Marketing Heroes (@RobandKennedy) April 5, 2021

Write down thoughts and ideas weekly to generate your content bank. If this process is difficult, you may need to rethink your email newsletter approach.

A6: My advice before you begin a newsletter of your own is to write down thoughts and ideas weekly. Struggling? If so, you might not have the content bank you need to be consistent. If it’s naturally easy, then you know you could keep up this practice semi-regularly. #ContentChat

— Rachel Wendte (@rkwendte) April 5, 2021

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top