A client newsletter is a great way to develop top-of-mind awareness and build loyalty. Learn how to write a newsletter your clients will love reading in this article.
Sending your clients a newsletter isn’t the most obvious of agency marketing tactics.
Yet, when done right, a newsletter can be a powerful tool for building authority while also entertaining and educating clients.
Create one as part of your broader content marketing initiatives and it will help you win new deals and secure old ones.
But let’s back up – should agencies really be sending clients newsletters? And if yes, what should they include in them? Should they send them only to clients or to prospects as well?
I’ll answer all these questions in this article. I’ll also share a step-by-step process for writing newsletters your clients will love reading.
Why Agencies Should Send Newsletters
As an agency leader, you already know the importance of email. Email has the highest ROI of all marketing channels, even beating SEO and PPC.
Email is also particularly good for driving B2B lead generation. In a February 2017 survey of marketers, 73% said that email is their top channel for driving leads.
The effectiveness of email as a marketing tool can be traced to a simple fact: email is private. Your social media information is freely available to anyone online; your email isn’t.
In fact, your email is so private that there’s a cottage industry of software tools for finding email addresses.
In this always-public social era, the relative privacy of email means that people safeguard it zealously. They might share their Twitter handle with everyone, but they’ll think twice about sharing their best email address (we’ll get to this term later).
Let’s not forget that because email is a work channel, people will check it every day. You can’t say the same for any other channel barring personal phones.
These two factors are also the reason why email is a fantastic marketing tool for agencies. Imagine landing in your target client’s inbox every week. Or sharing insight with existing clients that makes them value you – and your expertise – more. When you’re occupying such prime digital real estate, opportunities open up quickly.
By and large, agencies should send newsletters for four reasons:
- Share expertise: As an agency, you’re in the business of expertise. If you share high-quality, relevant content with your clients, you essentially show them what you know about the topic.
- Share news: Your clients turn to you to solve their problems. As a part of this, they also rely on you to keep tabs on industry developments and spot issues before they emerge. By sharing relevant news, you can a) educate clients and b) show them that you’re keeping tabs on their industry.
- Share results: Won a Clio? Landed a Fortune 500 client? Increased a client’s traffic by 500%? An email is a great way to make sure that clients – current and prospective – hear about it.
- Top-of-mind awareness: Landed a targeted lead that’s not ready to switch agencies yet? Email is a great way to make sure that the client doesn’t forget about you and your work.
Four Types of Emails to Send Clients
The people you send newsletters to can be divided into two categories: a) existing clients, and b) prospective clients.
(Even general readers should be treated as prospective clients – you never know when they might send a referral your way in the future.)
You want different things out of these two groups. With your current clients, you want loyalty, trust, and perhaps a bigger, better deal.
With prospective clients, you want to win new deals. For this, it is important they trust you and your expertise.
Based on these goals, there are four types of emails you can send clients:
- The original content email: This newsletter shares your original content and research. Think of it as a blog post, but delivered over email. Original content emails tend to be long form and can be sent to both current and prospective clients. Their objective is to showcase your expertise and share useful insight.
- The news digest email: This newsletter consists of news stories and “best of” reads. Your goal is to show readers what inspires you (and by proxy, how it impacts your work) and to keep them abreast of industry developments.
- The salesy email: Newsletters don’t have to be entirely educational. If you’ve just won a big new deal or published a new case study, this email is the right place to talk about it. Although you mostly send salesy emails to prospective clients, you can also send them to existing clients, especially if it’s about a service you want them to buy.
- The company email: Send this email if you want to tell clients about an important new hire or company development (like an M&A deal). Limit this email to existing clients – prospective clients don’t care much about your company to read it.
The question now is: how do you write these four types of emails?
I’ll share some answers below.
How to Write a Newsletter
Writing an email newsletter is a bit different than writing a blog post or an eBook.
For one, so much of your success depends on a single string of text – the subject line.
Two, the email platform isn’t conducive to the kind of long form, visual-heavy writing that’s common in blogs these days. Remember that a lot of email clients are still text-only – any images you include will just show up as blanks.
With these factors in mind, let’s look at some actionable tips to write the different types of email newsletters we discussed above.
Start With the Subject
If you want to write better newsletters, you have to first write better subject lines.
Your email is usually competing with dozens, even hundreds of others in an inbox. Whether your email gets read or discarded to the spam box depends on two factors: the sender and the subject line.
You can’t change much about the sender, but you can change the subject line. Testing out different subjects and experimenting with interesting, unusual copy should be a key in your newsletter strategy.
One of the first tips you should follow (which a lot of marketers skip) is to clearly identify your email as a newsletter. Failing to do so can confuse and even infuriate your readers (they signed up for a newsletter, not a sales email).
You can do this by changing the sender’s name to something like “Daily/Weekly/Monthly” or “Digest”:
Or you can use a subject line that identifies the recurring nature of the email, such as “News This Week” or “Monthly Roundup:”.
Your next step should be to work on the subject line itself. There really is no proven formula to write a killer subject, but two things seem to help:
- Evoking curiosity in the reader (and thus forcing them to open the email)
- Visually distinguishing the email
The first part is crucial. Your audience has about 15 other unread emails in their inboxes – why should they read yours instead?
Try teasing some information in the subject line. Give readers a glimpse of the value they could potentially get if they just open your email. Do avoid being too over the top; you don’t want to go into Buzzfeed territory.
This newsletter’s subject line talks about “this” kind of traffic, without explaining what “this” implies, thus evoking your curiosity.
Another way to pique curiosity is to cover a topic that’s simply too interesting to ignore. Digest emails from large publishers and platforms such as Medium and Pocket do this particularly well. If you’re interested in podcasts, for instance, you will stop to read this email on “peak podcast”.
Try to frame your subject lines in such a way that they speak directly to the issues that concern your audience.
This subject line below, for instance, could have been framed as “a guide to understanding procrastination”. But that wouldn’t speak to the concerns of people who have struggled with procrastination.
While curiosity and value are crucial for grabbing attention, it also helps to make your emails visually distinguishable. Some ways to do this are:
- Add special characters such as @, !, #, % in your subject line.
- Add brackets, especially around attention-grabbing phrases (such as “[Free]”)
- Add emojis to your subject lines
- Use lowercase in all your letters
- Send emails from a personal address instead of your agency (such as “Jack from Agency” instead of “Agency Newsletter”)
- Make headlines unusually short
Experiment and split test often. That’s the only way to figure out what works for your audience.
Create a Better Newsletter Design
It used to be a best practice to send plaintext-only emails and reserve HTML emails for one-off occasions such as holiday greetings or special sales.
But this trend is changing, mostly because more and more people are switching to email clients that can natively display HTML. Gmail and Apple’s iOS email clients together account for nearly 60% of the email market, and both of these are capable of showing images by default.
It’s safe to say that in 2019, you can use stylized, HTML email newsletters.
However, be wary of over-styling your emails. Most people access emails on their phones; anything that’s too data-intensive will clog their networks.
A simple design with your logo on top, the date/number of the edition, and a short introduction followed by your links work well enough. AngelList’s newsletter does a great job of this:
If you’re a creative agency, you might want to add some flourish to this basic design, but make sure to compress your images.
If you’re sending the newsletter to prospective clients, consider adding a CTA at the end of the email. Carney, which runs the Daily Carnage newsletter, includes this CTA at the end:
This might be a hard sell for some but if you’re sending newsletters explicitly with the intention of getting new clients, it can work well.
Writing a Great Newsletter
This brings us to the third part of the newsletter-writing process: the writing.
Great newsletters are easy to write in that they don’t involve a lot of actual writing. Most top out a few hundred words at most.
The hard part, instead, is a) finding links to include in your emails, and b) making sure that the links are relevant to your audience.
Let’s look at some best practices to accomplish this below.
1. Understand your goals
To write a newsletter, you have to first figure out who you’re targeting. Are you sending the email to current clients or prospective ones? What do you hope to accomplish – loyalty, expertise, authority, trust, or more deals?
List these down before you put a single word to your digital paper.
Broadly speaking, your newsletter should take the following shape based on your goals:
- Showcase expertise: Share original content (or links to your original content) and industry-focused insight.
- Increase loyalty: Share client-focused stories and links, especially information that can directly help the client. Your goal is to show clients that you care about them and their business.
- Increase likability and trust: Share inspirational stories and interesting reads, even if it’s not related to the client’s business.
- Win deals: Share insider tips and tactics – mostly your own but also from other industry experts. Also share case studies and news about new deals.
2. Segment your audience
Audience segmentation will depend entirely on how large a list you have. If you have 100 people on your newsletter list, it’s a waste of resources to send separate emails to current and prospective clients.
However, if you have a large and growing client base and a steady trickle of prospective clients (and remember: everyone can be a prospective client), you need to segment your list.
Create one newsletter only for your clients. This should have a more intimate tone and should share things clients might be interested in (such as internal company news). Current clients will also have a higher tolerance for long form content since they already trust you.
Unless you’re WPP, your prospective client list (which includes everyone from blog readers to marketing generated leads) will likely be much larger than your current clients list. If it is sufficiently large, you might want to segment it further into categories based on their interest or industry (such as “B2B tech prospects” and “Interested in growing traffic through SEO”).
For instance, you might have three separate segments:
- Current clients: Include company news; original content’ interesting reads from other industries/topics.
- Prospective clients in small B2B software companies: Tips and original insight; interesting stories and reads from B2B software industry; case studies of your software industry work
- Prospective clients in manufacturing companies: Tips and original insight; insightful stories from manufacturing industry; relevant case studies.
3. Use personalization
Do you get excited when you see an email addressed to “Hey there!”?
Probably not. And neither do your clients.
Personalization – at least the reader’s name – is a must-have for any newsletter campaign. Even if you don’t do the segmentation exercise I outlined earlier, you should at least add the recipient’s name in the introduction.
Personalization can improve everything from open rates to unsubscribe rates.
4. Use an email-friendly writing style
A newsletter isn’t the place to practice your essay writing skills. Most readers will access your emails on their phones. The limited screen real estate and busy nature of mobile-readers mean that you have limited time to grab their attention.
Thus, your goal should be to adopt an “email-friendly” writing style.
The tenets of this writing style are:
- Short sentences and paragraphs. Each paragraph should be 2-3 sentences max.
- Simple words. Try writing at a 5-8th grade (use Hemingway to calculate your writing level).
- Generous line breaks that allow the email to “breathe”
And as with anything you publish online, follow an on-brand writing style. If your agency brand is fun and frivolous, don’t write stodgy emails. Similarly, if you’re a serious agency, make sure that your emails have a serious tone too (though don’t conflate “serious” with “boring”).
5. Source the right links
The hardest part of writing a newsletter isn’t the writing part; it’s finding links to share.
One way to make this process easier is to create a Google sheet and share it with your entire agency. Any time someone reads something interesting, they add a link to it in the spreadsheet. If you’re sending out newsletters monthly, this alone should give you enough material for an email.
If you can’t crowdsource links across your agency, consider these other sources of interesting reads:
- Reddit’s weekly top links
- Reddit’s most popular submissions currently
- Medium’s Daily Digest
- Longform.org’s best articles
- Top posts on SubStack
- Newslit and RightRelevance for industry-focused news stories
Add the best links to your design template, tell readers why they should care about them, and you’re ready to hit send!
Sending newsletters is just one way of promoting client loyalty. Another is top notch service and delivery. By using a better agency management system, you can improve efficiency and offer clients better results, delivered faster.