Why you should stop calling your email a "newsletter"

It's 4 p.m. You're not finished up wrapping up work for the day and you still have 33 unopened emails in your inbox. You want a clean slate before leaving, so you start deleting anything that doesn't require action, anything that won't save you money on something you're already planning to buy, sharpen your job skills, or vastly improve your life.

What's first to go? Anything with a subject line like:

  • Come See What's New at Acme Products
  • The Latest from Our Blog
  • Monthly Happenings at Acme Marketing Co.
  • Hurry up! Last Chance to Save on Summer Items!
  • April Updates

These emails end up in the trash because there's nothing important about them, nothing that says, "if I delete it I will probably have missed an opportunity for a better life."

If you're still thinking of your email communication as a newsletter, you're probably not creating content that has immediate, life-changing value.

Like it or not, that's where the stakes are with email these days.

Not only are you running the risk of people deleting your emails, but if you're using crappy opt-in language on your website, you're losing potential new subscribers, too. What's crappy opt-in language? Something like:

  • Sign up for our newsletter.
  • Join 2,000+ subscribers who get our monthly newsletter.
  • Sign up for updates from Acme Products, Inc.

It's crappy because it's not immediately obvious what the value of subscribing is. What's in it for your customer? 

Now you're probably thinking, "Thanks for telling me what not to do. But can you help me figure out a better approach?"


How do you communicate the value of subscribing to your email list to your website visitors, and then how do you actually provide that value?

It starts with your target audience.

Stop thinking of your customers and website visitors  simply as "people who are interested in my business" and treat them like real people whose problems you have a unique ability to solve. What kind of information do you have in your head because, by creating a product or service for that target, you understand their related wants and needs?

Take this awesome example from ToutApp, a software that helps people manage sales email tracking (and bulk email outreach) from directly within Gmail. They know their target client is probably sending out cold emails all the time, and what's a problem that arises from sending cold emails? You don't get responses.

Here's Tout's latest email subject line:

How to Get a Response From a Busy Prospect & Other Tout Stories

Tout understands that their target audience wants and needs to get more responses from busy people, so they're providing tips on how to do just that. (They probably didn't need to include "& Other Tout Stories," in that subject line, but hey, nobody's perfect.)  

Here are some other examples of email subject lines that are worth clicking on, all from my inbox. Notice how they all solve a potential problem or add immediate value.

  • Does your site need more eyes? (Bluehost)
  • Up your worth in our free salary negotiation event! (SheSays Chicago)
  • Using images on your website is good. Except if it's this kind of image... (Shane from Thrive Themes)
  • Plan your ideal week (Nesha Woolery)
  • Complimentary Passes to the One of a Kind Show (Squasht Boutique)

All of these email subject lines speak to businesses'  target audience, creating a sense of value that you don't get with a plain ol' boring newsletter.

And they all have one thing in common: I can't ignore them. I want more eyes on my website, a higher salary, I MUST know what kind of images Shane thinks suck, I'd like to know how to plan an ideal week, and HECK YES I want free tickets to the One of a Kind Show in Chicago.

Ask yourself: what does my target audience really want from me, besides what I'm selling, and how do I give that to them over and over again in the form of an email?

That's not something you call a newsletter, that's just good communication. And that's what your "newsletter" should be.