For me, email is more effective than social media.

Social media algorithms may not show the content in your feed. So, you may miss an announcement unless someone DMs you. And people often change platforms.

People rarely change email addresses, though. If they subscribe to your list, they want your content until they don’t.

But before you send an email newsletter, it’s important to answer five key questions:

Here are five essential elements of an email newsletter.

What does your audience need?

A colleague said she always asks “What does your audience need?” before she writes anything, even social media posts. That’s a good rule to follow.

But to understand needs, you have to dig a little. Who is your audience? Do you have more than one? What do they like?

You can find out about your audience by asking them in an email, with survey questions, and by paying attention to past behaviors.

Why do you want to have an email newsletter?

Although you may have a call to action (CTA), an email newsletter is not for selling.

Regular updates about your business or organization, products, services, and information let you stay top of mind with your audience.

How often you send an email newsletter is up to you. If you can’t stand sending one every week, then don’t.

People will keep reading it as long as you offer them something of value:

  • A link to a blog post, video, podcast, webinar, or course
  • Curated content that links to helpful, informative content from other sources
  • Access to exclusive content that you can only get if you’re a subscriber

So, make sure your content has high value and downplay the CTA.

Are your subscribers receiving your email newsletter?

Here’s a brief list of things you need to do to ensure newsletter deliverability:

  • Verify your email address with a Sender Policy Framework (SPF) and Domain Keys Identified Mail (DKIM). Otherwise, no one will be able to receive your emails from your domain’s email address.
  • Make sure your email list is permission based. That is, people gave you permission to include them on your newsletter’s email list. If you’re not sure, you can always send an email and ask, “Would you like to be on my mailing list?”
  • Clean up your email list. Every time you send a newsletter your email service provider (ESP) will track soft or hard bounces rates. Soft bounces are usually easy to correct because they usually contain a typo. Hard bounces happen because the email address no longer exists or a subscriber has permanently opted out of your list
  • Personalize the “To” field if you can. That means try to include a first name and last name (if you have them)
  • Personalize the “From” field because people want to know who is sending the email.
  • Ask subscribers to add you to their contact list or tag you as a VIP.

How compelling is your subject line?

The subject line will get you the unique open you desire. For instance, this subject line from the Chronicle of Philanthropy, “Giving plunges 6% in the first quarter,” caught my attention

Why is it so good? It’s short, to the point, and uses a strong verb. I only needed to see the first two words to want to read more.

So, in seven words or less, make sure your subject line grabs people’s attention and compels them to read your message.

How good is your content?

When do you unsubscribe from a newsletter? When the content is no longer useful.

Give your subscribers content that has high value.

Your content can be any length; but make sure it’s well written. The tone should be conversational. How conversational depends on the type of business you have and how edgy your audience is. Make sure you include at least one image. And either downplay the CTA or skip it.

Alice Brzovic of Write for Small Business uses her more than 20 years of writing and editing experience to help small businesses and nonprofit organizations build long-lasting relationships. She has been creating web content since the web was the next big thing.  When not working, she likes looking at art or hiking in the open spaces in San Diego and beyond.