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How To Write Email Newsletters That People Actually Want To Read

by Ollie Green on

A few weeks ago, the CEO of GMB Fitness, Andy Fossett, looked out at a crowd of marketers and said, “Don’t. ever. blast. your. list.”

We all know this. But Andy’s eyes said what we were all thinking, “I cannot believe I still have to say this to a group of marketers. You people should know better.”

And we should. “Blasting” your list is one of those foundational email marketing violations that can get you banished for life from advanced marketing circles. Other violations include: using the greeting “Hi Friend,” not segmenting your list, and “pushing” content to “get the word out.”

Each of these violations makes up a core element of the infamous “Email Newsletter.” You might know them better as the things in your inbox you “Mark as read.”

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Self-respecting email-marketers scoff at email newsletters.

And yet…we’re seeing a resurgence of (dare I say it) GREAT email newsletters cropping up everywhere.

If you don’t believe me, check your own inbox. How many of you look forward to Tim Ferriss’ 5-Bullet Friday (and copied it yourself with a not-so-clever, “Friday’s Top Hits” or some other knock off)? Or Austin Kleon’s famous “10 Things Worth Sharing” Newsletter. Or Ann Friedman’s “The Ann Friedman Weekly,” also sent on Fridays.

Yeah, that’s what I thought. The newsletter is having it’s moment, which begs the question: Why on Earth are these working?!

Every company with internet access has attempted the newsletter and failed miserably, boasting open rates that are lucky to hit 17%.

What are these newsletters doing that’s making them work??

I decided to investigate. Spoiler alert: the answers will (not) surprise you. In fact, they’re so #facepalm obvious you’re going to kick yourself for not seeing it. I certainly did.

Here is why the email newsletters don’t suck and how you can make sure yours don’t either:

💌 They’re super niche.

If you work in a traditional company, odds are the email newsletter is your way of satisfying the CMO’s frantic need to “get the word out” whenever he randomly decides he needs to because he didn’t do the hard work of planning a proper launch or promotion strategy.

That is the wrong way to do this.

The right way is to focus exclusively on the kind of people who make up your specific audience and deliver content that only they will appreciate.

You don’t want everyone: just the right people. (Kinda like having product/market fit) This is why they don’t have to segment and can send ONE email to everyone. Their lists are niche and specific.

My favorite example of this is Gary’s Guide  --  a New York specific “digest” of what’s happening in the NYC tech scene. It has the most comprehensive list of events, classes, series A/B/Whatever funding updates, and job listings of anything on the internet. The best part? It looks like it hasn’t been updated since 1992.

Tim Ferriss is also very niche, despite his famously massive subscriber numbers. His audience is made up of bio-hackers and aspiring digital nomads and Tim delivers exactly what they want: latest “hacks,” supplements, gadgets, and, of course, stoicism!!! It’s got wonderfully nerdy book and documentary recommendations too.