You’ve probably heard that email marketing delivers a $38 return for every $1 you spend on it. So, you’ve pulled the trigger and sent out a newsletter to your list. But are you getting the ROI you thought you would?
Whether your answer is a nod of affirmation or a sad frown, know this: you can get a lot more from your email newsletter.
Wondering how? By giving it a distinct personality.
So, in this guide, let’s walk you through the basics of giving your newsletter a personality so that you can build stronger relationships with your subscribers while growing your email list.
On we go:
How to give your email newsletter a personality
Picture your favorite person. They could be someone you met at a networking event, someone among your colleagues or friends, or your sibling. Now tell me: isn’t their personality what makes them stand out?
You probably like them because they strike interesting conversations, have a presentable appearance, and they might even be good at throwing an occasional joke or two.
In simple: they’ve a likeable personality. Circling back to your newsletter now: giving it a personality mainly involves borrowing traits from likeable personalities.
How? Here’s a checklist of traits to follow:
1. Make your emails visually appealing
They say don’t judge a book by its cover, but we often end up doing so, don’t we? That’s because the first look leaves a lasting impression – one that either encourages us to read the book or leave it sitting on the shelf. Untouched.
With email newsletters, this becomes all the more important. Even if you’ve packed your letter with tiptop content, if the design isn’t inviting, chances are, only a handful of people will give it a read.
So, first things first, work on your email design. Keep the following in mind:
- Get rid of everything ‘extra’ in your email design to ensure it’s breathable and clutter-free. This makes reading easy on the eye.
- Look at each design element and ask yourself: can my design do without it? If so, remove it.
- Stick with your brand colors. You want to leave a memorable impression, not a scattershot one with your website featuring a mix of blues and your emails all in pink.
2. Keep things easy to read
Spoiler alert: this is going to hurt but: folks read only about 25% of an article. This means the odds of subscribers reading your entire text-heavy email are poor.
In fact, long paragraphs with little breathing room rarely do justice to good content.
So, if you’re serious about getting people to read your emails, get serious about making your content easy to read – or, rather, skim read.
Clutter-free design that uses visuals to break text does part of this job. For more:
- Write short paragraphs. 2-3 lines max. 1-line paragraphs work as well.
- Keep your sentences short. Shorter sentences are easy to read and digest.
- Break down content with direct, to the point subheadings.
- Wherever you can, introduce bullet points to express your ideas. Just as I’m doing right now.
Ann Handley writes long emails – over 1000 words long. But those emails never get ignored. Know why? Because they’re readable.
See for yourself:
3. Include personality-driven images
If you’re using stock photos in your emails, I recommend scrapping them immediately.
There’s nothing worse for your newsletter’s health than adding cheesy, widely-circulated-over-the-internet stock images.
To earn your subscribers’ trust, consider showing personality by sharing behind-the-scenes (BTS) pictures. These show your business’s human side so it’s a quick way to gain your audience’s trust.
Liz Moorehead sharing this image in her company, Impact’s newsletter, The Latest, is another good example of BTS content:
For an ecommerce business, this would mean sharing user-generated content (UGC), images of your product with context and with humans in them. Like this:
4. Have something to talk about
This, right here, forms the foundation of your newsletter’s personality.
Nothing beats good content that offers value and shares opinion. It gets people talking. And, it helps you stand out from the rest.
Let’s break this personality trait down to actionable bits:
Share your opinion
A pandemic taking over human lives? The BLM movement on the rise? Say something. Take your stand and talk about it. But be careful: don’t land yourself in hot water every time a trend picks up. Share measured opinions occasionally.
Offer value, value, and then some more
This is why you talk about stuff that your audience wants to talk about. Word of caution: don’t overload your reader with too much value at one time. Even the Triple Stacker King fails to hold your taste buds’ attention after you’re full.
So, pick out 1-2 points to talk about and elaborate. Serving a mix up of multiple info nuggets can be tough for the brain to digest, choking readers with an information-overload.
Spice up your content with interesting stories and facts
Stories do a top notch job in holding your audience’s attention – they’ve been doing so since our ancestral times.
To tell a story in your newsletter, consider sharing a personal anecdote. Or, find a historical story to begin your email as this newsletter does:
Alternatively, talk facts – ones that both educate and entertain your audience. Throw them randomly in your conversation as Grammarly does in the email below or add them to a dedicated fact section.
5. Talk like you’re talking to a friend
This will send the I’ve-a-warm-personality signal to your readers. Guaranteed.
To get started writing to a friend, start with tweaking your imagination. Instead of thinking of writing to a room full of audience, picture talking to your buyer’s persona. Or, to make it a little less overwhelming, picture a friend that shares characteristics of your buyer’s persona.
Ready to put pen to paper? Keep the following front and center:
- Remove technical terms or jargon. Do you think your friend would know all those terms? Keep the jargon only if your answer is a ‘yes.’ If you’re finding it hard to write simply, complete your email then underline biz speak in the content. Rewrite underlined sections.
- Use text formatting and punctuation to your advantage. For example, make a word italic if you want to stress it. Use em dashes to connect sentences.
- Don’t forget: you’re free to use emojis. Our brains react to emoticons the same way they react to human faces (yep, scientists have actually proven this 😃).
- Use active voice. This is where your subject does something, like ‘Masooma is writing a post for Sendinblue.’ Active voice is energetic, direct, and doesn’t feel like you’re hiding behind something. Now, read this: “This post is being written by Masooma.’ This is passive voice – one that makes your sentence unnecessarily long, boring, and, well, robotic.
- Lastly, be brief and clear.
6. Encourage conversation
One-sided conversations are rarely refreshing. Even if you enjoy them at first, you get tired after some time.
Besides, it’s great to be around someone that gets you excited and talking, isn’t it? With your newsletter, it’s the same.
There’s another plus too: prioritizing conversations leaves people feeling like they’re part of a strong community. It’s something that they truly value.
However, don’t expect conversations to occur naturally. Rather, push people to talk to you. Ask them for their feedback. Leave questions in the call to action (CTA).
See how Dennis Shiao is doing so in his email:
So here’s what you’ve got to do:
- First, talk about things that interest your audience or they can relate to. If you talk math with someone who loves science, they’ll avoid talking to you right away (yep, I’m proof. I do that ALL the time 😅). The mattress company, Casper, is pro at this. They talk about sleeping – something of great interest to their audience.
P.S. Not sure what your audience finds interesting? If you’ve an established audience, go on and ask them. You could email them or ask them on social about what they’d like to hear from you. New to newsletter-ing? Head on to Quora and Reddit to see what people that fall in your target audience are talking about.
- Ask just one question as your CTA. Remember: asking too many questions leaves them confused about what to do (a.k.a. choice paralysis). One question, on the other hand, is simple and quick to answer.
- Be enthusiastic. I thought it’s just my observation, but science confirms that upbeat feelings like joy and enthusiasm are easily spreadable from person to person.
7. Talk positive and add a touch of humor where you can
Positive news elicits good feelings – something that people are always on the lookout for.
Author of the book Contagious, Jonah Berger also learned that stories with good news are more likely to be shared than bad news.
Put simply, focus on spreading positivity and happiness. If the situation demands (as most of 2020 has demanded), it’s okay to share some sad news. Or, be vulnerable with your audience like Jocelyn K. Glei does in their newsletter here:
One last personality-ripening tip for your newsletter: crack jokes (non-offensive ones, please).
Humor makes your brand more human, hence, easily relatable, which, in turn, increases your engagement. Not to mention, humor makes you memorable, which increases chances of people buying from you and sharing about you.
Bonus points for giving your emails a personality
Before you go about working your way through the checklist shared above, start with these pointers. They are what every newsletter owner needs to do:
Include a legitimate address
Your emails are supposed to be coming from a human. Prove that in your email address by going for a personal email address rather than generic ‘no reply’ or ‘admin’ email address.
Use a name in the mailing address
It helps you connect with your readers better. Besides, studies on email open rates confirm that the email sender’s name plays an important role in getting people to open emails. So, be sure to have a consistent sender name pre-decided.
Take a page from the team at Databox:
Quit the sales approach
Make friends first, sell second. Here’s your shortcut to doing that: be three parts educational or informational and one part salesy.
That’s how Daily Carnage does it in their emails:
Don’t write generic subject lines
Be specific. Tell what the reader will find inside. Eddie Shleyner is a pro at this and he shares his formula of writing subject lines with me in this piece on email copy characteristics.
A strong personality has a defined voice and style. That’s what your email personality needs to be as well. Settle on your personality (the voice, layout, even email sending frequency). Then, be consistent with it. This way, your subscribers know what to expect from you and your personality will shine through.
Tying it all together
So you now know how to give your newsletter a personality. To get started, take to the drawing board and note down personality aspects you’d like to show. Once you’ve a solid plan in place, start writing emails with personality.
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Written by Masooma Memon, freelance writer for B2B SaaS.