“What’s been inspiring you lately?”
“I’m ashamed to admit it, but I’ve really been loving… email newsletters.”
Seriously. When someone asks you for your source of inspiration and you tell them emails, you’re forced to take a long look in the mirror –– so I did. And what I found was that my love for emails was totally warranted. Lately, so much of the content that I see on what use to be my go-to social networks feels like it’s being fed to me by a team of robots. Probably because it is! And in the age of the algorithm, email is beginning to feel like the last safe space.
You can (and should!) listen to my conversation with Matt to hear me profess my love for the humble newsletter, or you can keep reading and see how to use email to the advantage of your business. Or –– hear me out –– you can do both.
I’m In Control
When you’re younger, email feels like the embodiment of all things “grown-up”. Adults send and receive emails, typically about things like “spreadsheets” and “synergy.” But when you feel like your world has been coopted by people trying to sell you things at every turn, email becomes a way to reclaim control.
For the most part, who I get emails from is chosen by me. I’m not at the mercy of Instagram’s explore page and whatever a few lines of code think I might be interested in. Plus, I know that when I get an email from a brand or person I’ve chosen to subscribe to, it’s trustworthy –– I’m not going to stumble upon some horrible content like I might elsewhere. In fact, I’m more likely to see things I actually want to see. If I sign up for a newsletter, it’s because I know (and like) the person, brand, or business putting it together. When they send me something, I feel like I’m getting to see a bit of the world through their eyes and find myself discovering things that would have otherwise taken me forever to collect and curate.
And if I don’t like it, I simply opt out. Truthfully, the opt out nature of email newsletters is what makes them such a valuable tool for marketers, but it’s also what keeps marketers on their toes. To marketers, newsletters are sort of like starting a class with an “A,” whereas social media is more like working up from a 0. If you create enjoyable and useful content, subscribers hang on and so does your passing grade. If receivers don’t like your content or feel like you’re just polluting their inbox, they can (and will) smash the unsubscribe button. You can’t be everything to everyone, and the best brands understand this. So, by segmenting your newsletters and targeting different personas, you can create a bespoke experience –– while giving your open rate a 15% boost.
Email is Patient
Another reason I love email newsletters as both a marketer and consumer is the lasting nature of the medium. As someone who works for a living –– but still enjoys a good scroll now and then –– Instagram can feel a bit hurried. If I see content I like, I’m forced to consume it right then and there. This usually means I A) have to reluctantly scroll past it, or B) try (and fail) to quickly absorb it. When content comes to me in the form of an email, I know it won’t be swept back out to sea with the tide of the algorithm. So when I do have time to read something, usually on Sundays (more on this later), I can savor all the content, actually get something out of it, and maybe even act on it. Our newsletter, Hot Air, compiles insights and articles from our team so that, when they’re ready, subscribers can enjoy our recent marketing musings all in one place.
Slower consumption also makes for heartier long-form content, which has allowed newsletter platforms like Substack to thrive. Journalists and other writers who have amassed online followings are using newsletters to put their work directly in the inboxes of readers, and with great success. The triumph of Substack is proof that consumers will make time for thoughtful, well-crafted content, and that brands looking to create value for customers might find that more is more after all.
(Good) Newsletters Warrant Loyalty
When it comes to content, some people have a serious fear of commitment. Scrolling is a way to be a bit “promiscuous,” and Instagram’s explore page is like content Tinder. But, at a certain point, you want to settle down. You want consistency, the house by the lake, the dog who’s always happy to see you… Where were we? Ah, yes, newsletters allow subscribers to form a routine and a ritual around their content. As I mentioned earlier, my favorite newsletters are ones which touch down on Sunday. This way I have time to savor the content, get as much out of them as possible, and bookmark the ones I don’t get around to for later in the week. Seeing a Gmail notification on a Sunday feels like a warm hug; a sign that I’m about to make a new discovery courtesy of my favorite brand or content creator.
When it comes to the loyalty of newsletter subscribers, the numbers genuinely don’t lie. Compared to most social media platforms, you as a brand or business have easier access to user data and campaign metrics. You can see in real time what is or isn’t working and adjust your strategy on the fly to earn subscriber loyalty. To me, the “holy grail” of a newsletter is something I immediately want to share with friends, family, or in our office Teams chat. If you can accomplish that, your content will spread like wildfire.
Some Noteworthy Newsletters
Inspiration comes to all of us in different ways. For me, it just so happens that it arrives in my inbox –– preferably on Sundays. (Brands, I hope you’ve been listening!) You can listen to my episode of Brand Narrative for the full list of recommendations from Matt and me, but in the meantime: here are just a few of my favs.
This newsletter from The Knowledge Project bills itself as “noise-cancelling headphones for the internet,” and delivers “timeless ideas you can use to create wealth, live a meaningful life, and achieve unstoppable progress.”
Why I Love It: Whenever Brain Food graces my inbox on Sundays (ding ding ding!) I know I’m about to get some precious intel I won’t find elsewhere. It sets the tone for the rest of my week.
The premise of Recomendo is simple: “6 brief, personal recommendations of cool stuff.” Multiply those cool things by this weekly newsletter’s 335-and-counting issues and you’ve got enough cool to go around.
Why I Love It: Whether it’s a new board game to play with family and friends or an unlikely shoe store recommendation, I’m always finding, well, cool stuff, from this newsletter.
Ann Handley –– writer, speaker, and digital marketing trailblazer –– produces this biweekly newsletter that’s more letter than news. In her words: “New writing tips, useful marketing ideas, fresh thoughts, and some high-spirited shenanigans” combine to form must-read material.
Why I Love It: The marketer I want to be when I grow up, Ann Handley is able to promote things without you having any idea you’re being promoted to. And she does so with a humor, an honesty, and a humanity that is truly irreplaceable. Likelihood I’ll learn something new with each newsletter? 100%. Chance of being sent to spam? Zero.