‘Chit-chat and coffee date’ or ‘rambly Great Aunt’? What’s your newsletter type?

Posted on May 24, 2019 By

We wondered whether GDPR might kill off the e-newsletter. But, looking at the current state of my inbox, apparently not. I’m bombarded with them every single day.

But newsletters are vital to your growing businesses. In fact, 59% of B2B marketers say email is their most effective channel for generating revenue (BtoB Magazine).

Newsletters come in all shapes and forms. They all have their place. And different types suit different audiences. So what type of newsletter are you sending out into already saturated inboxes? How are you making sure your news isn’t ignored?

At A Thousand Monkeys, we’ve done some research of our own. We’ve identified common types, as well as weighing up the pros and cons for you.

The ‘rambly Great Aunt’

Every month or so, I receive an email from the university I graduated from. It always starts something like this…

Dear Hayley,

Welcome to the March/April edition of Evolve, the University of XXX alumni e-newsletter. If you have any feedback for us then we’d love to hear from you. Please email us.

Then they jump into seven or so stories about research, postgraduate courses, or an event. They also tend to have small descriptions supporting each article.

I must admit I’ve never clicked on a single link. This type of newsletter only really works if your community cares about what you do. But, like the ‘rambly Great Aunt’ droning on, most of the audience will acknowledge but not listen.

So have your audience got time to read something like this? Do they actually care enough for it to be worth your effort?

Pros

  • Good for building a sense of community and sharing stories (if they care). Might work well for a charity.
  • Opportunities to promote events
  • Lots of chances to drive readers to your website for the full story

Cons

  • Takes time to get the stories together
  • Audience likely to unsubscribe if content doesn’t relate to them
  • Call to actions can be completely ignored (by unengaged people like me)

The ‘chit-chat and coffee date’

Sticking to the article layout, you might move away from news and just focus on three or four advice articles with a one or two-line description. The majority of these should be based on tips as you’re trying to show how helpful and thoughtful you are about your reader’s lives.

Moo include an interview with a greetings card designer, an insight piece about what other creatives are doing, and a new business tips article. Then they sneak in a call to action to “shop flyers”.

This option is a good middle ground. It’s newsworthy but feels more personal. However, it takes quite a bit of time to put together an email like this.

Have you got the time to write articles that are really valuable to your audience? Could you interview people to make it more interesting?

Pros

  • More laid back than other types
  • Appears to be more helpful than the ‘rambly Great Aunt’
  • Opportunities to show your expertise and build trust

Cons

  • Fewer opportunities to get them to your website than other options
  • Takes more time to write pieces that are really informative – you might need to carry out interviews or do some research
  • Not as many call to actions as the ‘rambly Great Aunt’

 The ‘read all about it!’

In recent years, we’ve seen a shift away from the traditional newsletter. But there are still some brands that opt for it, and it’s probably because it works well for them.

Take Marketing Week. They jump right in without any pleasantries like ‘hello’ or ‘how are you?’. The top headlines cover a range of areas to build intrigue and encourage their audience to head to the website for the full story.

They also use it as a tool to promote jobs and events, so it really is an update about everything they think will interest their readers.

But is this type of newsletter right for your brand? Do you have enough newsworthy topics to talk about? Or are your audience expecting you to be more human?

Pros

  • Good for readers who just want to be up to date
  • Opportunities to promote events and jobs
  • Variety of content boosts chances of engaging a wider audience

Cons

  • Less human and chatty than other options
  • Easy to completely ignore among the sea of other emails
  • Need to spend time writing a variety of engaging content

 The ‘I’ll be there for you’

Like the catchy Friends theme tune, this type suits audiences likely to need you ‘when the rain starts to pour’. Or when they’re having a crisis like having their bank card stolen.

Let me explain. I have a current account with Nationwide so I receive their newsletters. Like many customers, I don’t really need anything else at the moment.

Each month they give me a friendly reminder of what they offer, as well as dropping in some info about their app and any security matters. Exactly what I want to hear from my bank!

If you have a lot of stories to tell, this option isn’t going to work for you. But if you just want to keep at the forefront of your crowd’s mind, then ‘I’ll be there for you’ might do the trick.

Pros

  • Reminds your audience of your service – works well for insurance companies, legal services and energy suppliers
  • Doesn’t need to be too regular – once a month would be fine
  • Friendly like ‘chit-chat coffee date’ but you don’t need to produce such tailored content

Cons

  • Won’t work for brands that need to actively sell, sell, sell
  • Open rates will probably be good but you won’t necessarily see big results immediately
  • Audience might unsubscribe if they get bored or don’t see the value in your reminders

The ‘storyteller’

We’re big believers in focusing on quality, so we like this option. Few people have got time to follow ten links to boring articles, so why not just focus on one or two really strong stories?

I really enjoyed this story from Ben & Jerry’s newsletter. It works because they’ve picked a small thing (the bakers of their delicious brownies) to focus on.

Pros

  • Shows off your brand values better than other options
  • Focuses on one or two stories to capture your readers’ attention
  • No need to write up lots of different stories

Cons

  • Less newsworthy than other options
  • Call to action not always clear (what did Ben and Jerries actually want me to do?)
  • Need to uncover interesting stories about your brand (easier for some sectors like food)

 The ‘postcard from a pal’

Remember the joy of receiving a postcard? Give your audience a similar feeling with the personal ‘postcard from a pal’.

Strip your newsletter right back. Forget about design. Stick to one point. Only include one call to action.

I don’t see many emails like this and I’m not really sure why. They seem like a great option and stand out from the heavily designed emails filling my inbox.

This one is from a writing guru. I’m signed up to her for tips – and that’s exactly what I get. She’s chatty yet sticks to the point. All I need to do is read one article. Perfect.

Do you think your audience would react well to the ‘postcard from a pal’? Or do you think their interests are too broad for one call to action to capture attention?

Pros

  • Feels more personal and stands out from heavily designed newsletters
  • Likely to be a higher click-through as there’s only one call to action
  • Easier and quicker to put together than other options

Cons

  • Not as many opportunities to engage in comparison to other types
  • Need to know your audience really well so the piece is of value to them
  • Without a design, your brand might not be as instantly recognisable

So which type of newsletter is best?

The ‘read all about it!’ and ‘rambly Great Aunt’ give you lots of opportunities to update your audience. But the ‘I’ll be there for you’ feels a lot more personal.

The ‘let’s have a chit-chat’ is a strong contender – you can mix tips, interviews and products all in one. But, like the ‘storyteller’ type, it takes time to create good quality content.

The ‘postcard from a pal’ feels personal. And focusing on one call to action might boosts click. But it won’t suit every brand.

Whatever type you want your newsletter to be, make it interesting and worth reading. No one wants an inbox full of ‘rambly Great Aunt’. You can do better than that.

Categorised in:

This post was written by Hayley Cherrett