e-newsletters build relationships with your clients

Email newsletters are a popular marketing tool to inform and persuade people. They are an ideal way for businesses to keep in touch and connect with clients. Email newsletters can be very effective if you know how to use them as a tool correctly. In addition, it is free and/or low cost to send to everyone on your database.

The days of sending long email newsletters are gone with less information, and sending emails more frequently becoming the norm.

Main reasons to send an e-newsletter

Some of the more common reasons that small businesses send e-newsletters are to:

  • Keep your business at the forefront of your customer’s mind
  • Show your customers what you have been up to, be it new products or services
  • Show your customers what your business can do by sharing what you have done
  • Attract more customers

Grow your client list

If you’re relying on social media to engage with your clients, the organic reach is low and becoming more difficult. Instead, grow your client list by using email marketing channels you own, such as your website and email.

Drag and drop vs Hybrid Templates

There are many email marketing platforms to choose from Mailchimp, MailerLite, Constant Contact and GetResponse, to name a few. You can create a perfect branded template for your business. Templates are a way to save time, be consistent and build trust with colours that match your brand. They are easy to use, with many providing a drag and drop template such as Mailchimp.

While Hybrid templates are also an option and can be developed for those times when more than one person is involved in compiling news for a business. At minimum, a sales and news template and a sign-up form are recommended for most businesses.

Content

As a writer, I sometimes struggle to find topics to write about in my e-newsletter. I am conscious of boring my clients and what to ensure that the content is relevant. A way that works for me is to keep a content file of topics and information of interest. This is a great resource to refer to when drafting my content.

Some content topic ideas:

  • Your successes
  • Pillars – what do you and your business stand for
  • Throwback Thursday
  • Quote or question on another day
  • Blogs you’ve written (or blogs that you have read and resonate with)
  • Useful tools
  • Industry news
  • Testimonial or review
  • Social media items of interest
  • Staff profiles
  • Case studies within your field
  • List upcoming events
  • Offer links to other useful websites
  • Pet photos
  • Offers, products, insights, articles, research, tips

Writing content that rocks

Your newsletter should mostly be about providing value to your customers and not always pushing your own business. In the same way that social media posts are trying to get the most attention, e-newsletters are the same. The content that works best on social media like the photos of your pet, what you had for dinner last night and what you did on holiday, will do the same in your e-newsletter. It needs to meet the needs of your readers which is entertainment and information. This also helps build a connection and relationship.

Using a structured approach in your e-newsletter that includes an introduction, middle and conclusion work perfectly for most.

Writing the introduction

My top tips for writing the introduction are:

  • Keep it short
  • Keep it topical
  • Personalise it with material related to you
  • Explain what will be in the newsletter, give the reader a taster

Writing the middle

The middle sections are where all the important information goes, such as:

  • your latest blog
  • your Christmas specials
  • staff profiles
  • how you can help your customers – focus on a particular service/product

Writing the conclusion

Sometimes it can be a natural flow from the beginning and middle to the end, and other times it requires a bit more thought. Here are some suggestions:

  • Keep it brief
  • Sum up what you have talked about in your newsletter
  • Include a call to action. Tell readers what you want them to do next
  • You could give a sneak peek at what is coming up in the next one

If you are looking for some more tips, my e-book ‘How to write better and engage with your customers’ has helpful information on writing emails and email newsletters.

Most important of all, develop a goal or strategy for your e-newsletters. For example, if you want to let customers know about a new service your business is providing, then make that the newsletter’s focus and go from there.

Rule of thumb for e-newsletters is that three to five pieces of information at the most! If you can link every item/story back to your website, this will help with google rankings. This will also ensure the reader is not overwhelmed with too much initial content. 

If you need help with creating an e-newsletter strategy, developing content and/or sending your next newsletter, get in touch. I offer a free 30-minute discovery chat over coffee or zoom.

Five tips to get your website content read

In today’s modern world, as a writer I’m competing to get my website content read. I’ve found the best way to get content in front of users is to understand the features of the World Wide Web (WWW) as a communication medium and how this affects my content writing.

Here are my five tips to get you started writing website content:

1. Know what a website page does

Each website page links to different multi-media from text, still and animated graphics, audio and video files, to software applications (apps) and games via web browsers. They’re accessible on smartphones, tablets and computers. Embedded hyperlinks enable users to navigate between web pages to downloadable files, source documents and other web sources.

2. Know how interaction online works

Users interact online to do a range of tasks from social media, shopping, banking, to finding information, and giving feedback. It’s global in reach, but also a personal experience for each web user. Thanks to alternative mediums and formats, people with a range of disabilities can also access the WWW.

3. Know your audience

The attention span of users is decreasing. Web users are impatient and goal driven. They search and scan more than actually read and approach web content as a means to accomplish a task. As a web writer you need to help users to take the next step and ensure they will trust your content enough to proceed. So, write actionable content in the form of clear instructions, key messages, links with descriptive anchor text and calls to action. Write with search engines in mind. Search engines such as Google are the main way for audiences to find relevant content.

4. Know your role as a web writer to produce the right content

Pitch the content to an international audience in the right tone and style for the user. Content should be well researched and in an easy and digestible format, using good grammar, punctuation, and formatting of text that’s brief and gets to the point quickly. It’s good practice to use the inverted pyramid style of writing; important information first followed by secondary and least last.

5. Know what’s different about writing for the web

Writing for the web is distinct from writing for print and other media. Compared to other forms of communication, the audience for web writing is unique as is the context. Getting the readers attention is important, here are a few hooks you can use to help readers find what they’re after:

  • clear, descriptive headlines and subheadings that contain keywords
  • short, to the point sentences and inverted-pyramid structure (as above)
  • text broken up into readable chunks, short paragraphs, bulleted or numbered lists, blockquotes, changes in spacing and formating
  • obvious and informative links

So you see, it can be a challenge writing content for a website. But, if you follow these tips the end result is sure to be well written content that is suitable for the user. Happy website writing!

Is shorthand a dying art form?

I must be one of the few people that still uses shorthand. I first learnt shorthand when I was at high school in the 1980s.

Teeline based around handwriting took me six months to learn. I was then able practise and developed speed over time by listening and transcribing radio and tv. Then using shorthand as a PA to record correspondence and minutes of meetings. Admittedly, I did develop the bad habit of taking down word-for-word what people said. But, you learn to develop your own style and way of establishing the main points in a meeting.

When I moved into a communications role shorthand became critical for getting those main points from people when preparing media releases and you need a quote. Being able to use an audio dictaphone was also a handy skill to have alongside the shorthand but one I no longer utilise. Technology has moved on with people also being able to record on their mobile phones.

You can still learn online although not so common at learning institutions these days. Texting, with its emoticons, acronyms, and symbols is shorthand alive, well, and at the cutting edge. It’s a system of abbreviations that makes writing faster, plain, and simple.

The history of shorthand

In early times, there were shorthand systems used by different cultures from the Egyptians, Greeks to the Chinese. Modern shorthand systems developed including Pitman by Sir Issac Pitman (1813-1897) which became well used from 1837 and over the years has been improved and adapted for 15 different languages. The system was widely used in the USA and UK by secretaries, reporters, and writers. Pitmans is phonetic and records the sounds of speech rather than writing. Gregg introduced by John Robert Gregg in 1888. Like Pitman, it is also phonetic but uses hooks and circles on consonants to represent vowels, where Pitman uses dots and dashes for vowels. Teeline is a spelling based system.

In 2016, shorthand was still mandatory in some professions. The National Council for the Training of Journalists insists trainees achieve a written speed of 100 words per minute to pass their diploma. Stenotype machines are used in courtrooms around the world and other specialised keyboards are used for shorthand in both speech-to-text which is used to assist the deaf and also for live subtitling.

I believe shorthand is still alive and well in the world but not as I remember it as a fresh-faced 18-year-old leaving high school for my first office job at the Department of Social Welfare. It is replaced to some degree by modern-day equivalents like texting and social media abbreviations. I’m not going to give up on the skill I learned all those years ago as it has stood me in good stead and continues to do so today.

What does telling the New Zealand story mean to business?

I attended a New Zealand story workshop which was relevant to me as a storyteller/heritage research writer. The workshop took us through exploring our inner storyteller with the aim of creating a nation of storytellers.

Our great stories are often left untold and not seen or heard in competitive global environments. New Zealand story has been set up by the government to enhance our reputation beyond natural beauty and to ensure we tell a broad, compelling and aspirational story about our country.

Why stories matter?

Our shared values and uniqueness is a combination of:

Kaitaiki: our role as guardians, ingenuity: challenging the status quo with original and bold solutions, and integrity: from a good place. Your story will be as unique as your business when you use the values that make us unique that’s when it becomes a New Zealand story.

To share how great my story is they used the Story Arc framework with five components: setting the scene, shared problems, tension or challenge, resolution and invitation.

We got to write our own story using these five components.

Here is my story as a writer who works with business and tourism:

  • Imagine the unique story of your visitor experience being shared with people now and in future
  • I connect visitors to an area they are experiencing
  • Working with business and tourism ventures to help achieve their vision for a site or visitor experience
  • Providing a better profile and exposure of an area for visitors
  • Wouldn’t it be great to work together to share the stories of your place for future generations to enjoy

My story can make a difference to my business: on my website, in the conversations I have, using digital experiences, presentations, social media content, publications, marketing and communications.

New Zealand story have created a toolkit with a range of resources from videos, images, infographics, presentations and inside stories films to help tell the New Zealand story. Make sure to check it out and if you get a chance go to a New Zealand story workshop to create your own unique story.

Telling a story

If you’re anything like me, sometimes I just jump straight into writing without any planning. I find it takes me much longer to write a story.

Here are some useful tips to make writing a story more effective.

1. Tell a story that’s memorable

2. Easily shared

3, Inspires action

4. Use metaphors (they help us learn, discover, and shape our views of the world)

5. Have a thesaurus handy and be ready to swap words that don’t pack any punch

6. Make sure you have all the information you need to support the story

7. Have some ‘key words’ that you can use throughout your writing i.e. discover, journey, weave, excited, victory, wonderful and so on.

8. Then write, edit, write, edit some more and more until you get a finished product that meets the Plain English criteria.: Does your story have good structure, language, grammar and make sure you have proof-read, used good layout and overall presentation it all counts.