How To: Generate Sales With Your Email Newsletter

If you are a small business owner, your chief job responsibility is to generate sales. There are many ways to do that, and if you've been reading my blog for a while, you know that I am a big fan of online newsletters. They are an inexpensive way to stay in touch with customers and show them that you care, even when they are not buying something from you. They are a great cross-promotional tool, and if they contain quality content, they are also great at generating sales leads.

Many people publish a newsletter because they know it's a good thing to do, but that's where it ends. Some don't know exactly how to properly format a newsletter, while others don't know how to create sales generating content for the publication. This blog post shares tips for creating newsletter content that generates sales leads.

  1. Provocative subject line. People prioritize email in large part based on the subject line. Many people suggest using things like sex, controversy and danger to attract attention. I think it's better to use terms that appeal to your particular audience, and which complement the things you sell. If you sell sexy lip stick or sensual massage oils, then sex-headlines might be great if that's your niche and that's what your readers want. But a similar subject line will only serve to annoy people and deter sales if sex-related themes is not what they expect from you.

    Stick to what complements your offerings. If you sell food, use subject lines that conjure images of family meals, comfort foods, or one-of-a-kind special events. If you sell jewelry, use subject lines that relate to helping people properly accessorize so they can look and feel their best.

    I'm not suggesting there's no room for a deviant surprise every now and then. There may be. But then again, there may not be. Know your readers and customers. Pay attention to their feedback. Give them more of what they say they like and you can't go wrong with a subject line that gives them a preview of the fun to come once they open your publication.

  2. Use the power of voice and video. The written word is great, but in today's busy world, people want to be able to digest content in a variety of different formats. Sometimes they're in the mood to read. Other times, they want to watch or listen. As small business owners, we have to mix things up enough so we don't become stale and inconvenient.

    If our chief job is to generate sales, then we must do that by earning the attention of the people we want to become our customers. Mixing things up between written text, audio and video is a great way to give people options.

    Don't believe me? Read the October 2010 results of comScore's study showing that consumers are responding to user-genrated videos in much the same way they respond to professionally produced television advertising.

    Of course, whichever option they choose must lead directly or indirectly back to you and your shopping cart.

    Mixing it up is not hard to do with free services like YouTube for video and Audio Acrobat (affiliate link) for audio. Yes, experimentation is necessary and that turns some small business owners away. Don't be one of them. Don't be intimidated. Let your desire to sell your products overcome your fear of trying new methods to engage people. You won't regret it.

  3. Ask for the sale. As obvious as this is, it bears repeating. No matter how you communicate with people, there should always be some kind of call to action. Buy a product, watch a video, answer a question, take a survey — something!

    When it comes to email marketing newsletters, many small business owners think that a coupon code at the bottom of each issue is enough. It's a start, yes. But the repeat of a cut and paste code simply shows that you are competing only on price. Once people get used to seeing the coupon code, it's all they'll look for, so what happens when you have to raise prices? Or when you cannot afford to discount products for some reason? Don't run the risk of “no coupon, no sale.”

    Engage repeatedly and consistently. Deliver value with each issue. Mix it up with text, audio, video, photographs, customer testimonials and more.

    Once you've delivered, it's fair to ask for the sale. Go for it. It's how you make money.

I once heard a preacher say that the reason the offering is collected after the sermon is because it's logical to “make the ask” after value has been delivered. Of course, there's a difference between a non-profit religious organization and a for-profit small business, but perhaps the same logic applies.

Once you have delivered value, you have earned the right to ask for the sale.

Deliver value and ask for the sale. Connect your newsletter to your Twitter, Your FaceBook, your e-commerce site, our YouTube and everywhere else you maintain your brand's online presence. Follow up using these different online tools to keep your readers engaged and make sure their questions are answered.

The most effective newsletters are a combination of valuable content that appeals to your particular customers, and information designed to result in sales. Each issues should contain both, but there should be more genuine value than sales talk. That's where your mix of text, photos, audio, and video come in. Offer all of them and neither you nor your prospects and customers will ever become bored.

And remember that an email that only offers discounts or links to a shopping cart is not a newsletter — it's a sales letter. There's nothing wrong with it, but it's important to know the difference.

If you are a small business owner, it's great to have a newsletter. Just remember that it should be a means to an end. In other words, a newsletter for a newsletter's sake is not going to increase your sales much. If you use your newsletter to deliver valuable information to your customers, and you incorporate some of these suggestions, you should see a dramatic increase in sales and qualified sales leads.

Question: What other newsletter publishing tips can you suggest?

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About Donna Maria Coles Johnson

Donna Maria is an author, podcaster, attorney, and the founder and CEO of the Indie Business Network, providing affordable product liability insurance and mentoring. Donna Maria teaches Makers and Creative Entrepreneurs how to use technology and community to build a profitable, sustainable business.