One of the things that perplexes me is why every business doesn’t send a regular email newsletter. Do you send one?

I don’t care how boring your business is — and, trust me, many of my clients sell some boring products and services, just as my firm does. But if you’ve got a community, then that means that there are people who are interested in what you do. They use your products and services to make their lives better and to help their businesses grow and profit. They care what you have to say about how your business may impact them.

Given how many email services exist nowadays — and the low cost for sending bulk emails — it’s kind of a no-brainer for any business to take advantage of this opportunity. A good email newsletter will not only generate leads from prospects but also keep your customers close at hand, so that when they’re thinking of buying something you provide, they’ll hopefully think of you first because of your great email newsletter.

Like everything else in life, you get out of things what you put into them. Getting people to read your email newsletter is both an art and a science. How to do this? Just follow these three golden rules.

Rule 1: You must have a compelling subject line.

Every month I get an email from an umbrella company — yes, that’s right: an umbrella company. The subject line of the monthly email is always the same: ABC Umbrella Company [Month] Newsletter. Not exactly riveting, is it? I assure you — this is a real company, but I’ve changed their name because…well, you’ll see. The newsletter is all sorts of wrong for a few reasons (see Rules 2 and 3 below). But let’s start with their subject line. Why the heck would I even want to open this newsletter? Who cares? If you’ve got “newsletter” in your headline, then you’re likely to find that your emails are getting deleted without a look.

How can you resolve this? By making your subject lines compelling. If ABC Umbrella Company’s newsletter subject said, “This type of umbrella could give you cancer” or “How an umbrella can make you rich!” then I’m like, “Really? Go on, please!”

Take an item from your newsletter and blow it up a little. Make it fun. Make it something that people would talk about at a cocktail party — like “Did you know there’s an umbrella that could cause cancer? I just read about it.” Of course, be professional, and avoid naughty words and controversial things. But take the time to come up with a subject that would raise eyebrows and motivate people to say, “Go on, tell me more.”

Rule 2: Keep it short, sweet, and educational.

For purposes of this blog, I did something that I never do: I actually opened up one of the newsletters I’d received from ABC Umbrella Company and attempted to read it. Sadly, I fell asleep halfway through it. Boring, boring, boring! The “newsletter” contained a thousand-word advertorial about one of their products, including ads for discounts on bulk buys. This is not interesting and it’s too long. We live in a bite-size world where most people can’t get past the first 140 characters, let alone a thousand freaking words! Long-form articles are great in Vanity Fair or The Atlantic. Not so great in your email newsletter.

So here’s my advice: Keep it short, sweet, and educational. Have three items in your newsletter — boom, boom, and boom. Each has a short intro paragraph that continues with a link to the longer (but not too much longer) article on your blog. The writing should be fun and airy, not technical and boring. Most importantly, you want to educate.

Tell me some umbrella best practices. How do I avoid having my umbrella turn inside out during a storm? What do I do if it does? What other uses are there for umbrellas when it’s not raining? What type of material is best for an umbrella? How can I have an umbrella like The Penguin in Batman? Or Mary Poppins? There are lots of umbrella fun-facts that ABC Umbrella Company could be writing about. You, too!

Rule 3: Don’t send stuff to people who don’t care.

Why am I getting an email newsletter from ABC Umbrella Company? How did I possibly get on their list? Am I the target umbrella customer that they’re looking for? Is it possible that my life has declined to this extent? I get depressed every time I see their monthly newsletter — a reaction I’m sure their marketing department does not intend.

And neither should you. Your email list is all about quality, not quantity. It matters not how many people are on your list if only 1% of them are looking at your newsletter. I’d rather have a list of 10 people who are reading my newsletter than to have 1,000 people who are not. Today’s email service providers and customer relationship management systems let you slice and dice your data in all sorts of ways. It means that, instead of just sending out one generic email newsletter (shame, shame), you might be sending four or five, each targeted toward a different audience. Yes, it’s a bit more work. But who said life — or business — was easy, right?

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Follow my three rules above and you’ll see a difference. How will you know? Well, of course, you’re tracking your results, right? You’re using a quality bulk email service provider, right? You’re getting leads, right? Right? Uh oh…I see another blog on the way.