How to Build Profitable Newsletters

It starts with understanding the basics about how readers respond.

by Janelle Elms
- Oct 01, 2010

I had to laugh the other day when I heard someone say that with Facebook and Twitter, there soon would be no more use for e-mail. Wow… not only will that never happen, but e-mail use among social networkers is going up as they utilize e-mail messages for some of their communications, including notifications and reports.

Social networking for a business should really be called "relationship building"; that is what your buyers are seeking. You can definitely build a relationship with your community on Twitter and Facebook, but newsletters have that infinite power as well. In fact, many businesses are still trying to figure out how to turn the conversations of Twitter and Facebook into something profitable, whereas the conversations in a newsletter already have those expectations. More than 75 percent of people have purchased something from an e-mail newsletter. But what's even more telling is that those buyers spent 138 percent more than a non-reader.

Tapping the gold mine

Newsletters are worth gold—but only if you understand how to use the power behind them. This article is the first in a three-part series that, I hope, will give you better insight into this power and profitable tool.

In this article, I want to concentrate on best practices of a profitable newsletter. You can send out newsletters to a huge client list, but if you don't understand some underlying basics about how your readers are responding, then you are simply wasting a lot of your time.

The second article will be focused on eBay Stores and list building. Many of you have newsletters immediately available in your eBay Stores, and can optimize this powerful tool that is already built into the price of your Store. But if your focus isn't around getting people to sign up for your newsletter, then who will you send it to? So next month I will discuss building your newsletter sign-up list.

During the final part of this series, I would like to talk about utilizing an outside newsletter service for your blog, Web sites and Facebook page.

60 percent of your readers will decide whether to read your newsletter even before they see the actual information

Best practices start here

First let's tackle some basic elements of any type of newsletter, and best practices for working with them.

From address — Did you know 60 percent of your readers will decide whether to read your newsletter even before they see the actual information? Eek! This powerful piece of deciding information is simply your From Box. If your e-mails and newsletters come from [email protected] instead of [email protected], your readers will perceive a lack of professionalism, and possibly even a security issue. Utilize the power of your business' domain name to promote security and safety with your clients.

Subject line — If you can get your readers past the From Box, then the subject line is your next hurdle. More than 30 percent of your readers will decide whether to open the newsletter based upon what the subject line says. Is it enticing, or does it sound like "one more e-mail I don't have time to read?" Does it sound spammy ("earn multiple streams of income," for example), or does it create a scenario that they want to know more about ("did you see what eBay changed this week?").

Consistency — The biggest question I get during newsletter training is "how often should I send out a newsletter?" The truth is that's up to your audience. For some of you, your audience may seek out daily information from you—especially if you're in a fast-moving field like Internet consulting. For some businesses, this may mean once a quarter, since they don't have as much new or updated and timely information to share.

But whatever you choose to do, simply be consistent. If you always send out your newsletter once a month, don't suddenly start sending it out weekly without giving your audience plenty of information and time to agree to this new format. If you always send out your newsletter on a Sunday, don't switch to Tuesday without again, informing your readers. People like consistency; they don't like change.

Newsletters have to be good enough that I am willing to let you interrupt my busy day

Content vs. Pitching — During the time it took you to read just this sentence, some 20 million-plus e-mails were sent! So why would a potential customer take time to read yours? Newsletters have to be good enough that I am willing to let you interrupt my busy day. If you're just pitching products, I don't have time for that. However, if Carol of AlphaBargains pitches one of her knife sharpeners, and also includes a free recipe for Holiday Festive Salsa, then I'm more inclined to want to participate in that experience.

Images — Up to 90 percent of your readers view their inboxes with images turned off. This may be for security reasons, loading time or a possible disability of just not being able to see the images. Be careful about putting in too many images or making your newsletter one big clickable image. If you do choose to use images in your newsletter, ensure that if your reader has their images turned off, they will still be able to "see" what the image is via written text. This is done using an ALT attribute.

Here's an example of the code you can include with the images in your newsletter. Let's say that Janet Zeh of Zeh Original Art had an image in her newsletter of a custom pet portrait. Then her code may look like:

<img src="pet-portrait-custom.jpg" alt="I do custom pet portraits">

By the way, Zeh has one of the best newsletters I have seen from an online seller. It's informative, engaging and creates a great experience. She shares content that helps give her buyers additional information, not only about the art process but also about how to purchase items safely online. I would recommend signing up for her newsletter to see a great example of how it's done.

Mindful of technology — OK, so not everyone has the latest and greatest smartphone, but in 2009, more than 174 million new smartphones were shipped worldwide. This is an increase of 15 percent over 2008, and the market is still growing. Most of these users will be reading your newsletter on these devices. This means keeping the most important words of your subject line near the beginning (since many phones will truncate this information) for openability. It also means that many of your readers won't want to scroll through an entire newsletter. Give them links for "additional information" if they would like to read more.

Etc. — There are many best practices that successful marketers use for their online newsletters. Some of these include:

  • Keeping your content to approximately 50 to 55 characters per line. This ensures no weird breaks as your reader receives your newsletter in so many different viewing venues.
  • Ensuring the body of your newsletter is at least 12-point type for readability.
  • Including text-based links as well as full URLs. This means instead of just linking words like see our amazing selection of brand name clothing at Dream Adventures, you also include the full URL, i.e., If your reader has a text-based e-mail reader, they won't see the linked words like someone with an HTML-based e-mail reader.

You can learn more in-depth information about newsletters by checking out

Coming up next month: how to utilize one of the most powerful relationship marketing tools you already have—your eBay Stores Newsletter.

About the Author

Janelle Elms is a best-selling author, inspiring educator and Visionaire of the OSI Rock Stars. You can hear her on wsRadio every Wednesday on Ask Janelle Radio. Learn the success information you need to grow your business at For step-by-step training on how to set up an eBay Store for maximum exposure and profit, visit One Percent Coach.

Opinions expressed here may not be shared by Auctiva Corp. and/or its principals.

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