How to write a valuable email newsletter

Are you in charge of your email newsletter?

Do you find yourself struggling for content that’s relevant, timely, targeted, and valuable?

Here’s a recipe for finding out exactly what people want you to write about. First, start with a Q&A site of your choice, such as Quora, Ask.com, Askville, or many others. Type in something related to your industry or vertical. Let’s use a fictional coffee retailer as an example on Quora. First, we’ll go to the site and type in the word coffee to explore the coffee topic:

valuable-email-newsletter

This alone should give the coffee retailer a list of topics and articles to write. As a bonus, if you write specifically to answer a question that someone else has asked, you can then legitimately link that issue of the newsletter to the question on site for bonus SEO points.

Let’s take it a step further and filter out just the questions from this page in our favorite text editor:

  • Are there general differences between “coffee people” and “tea people”?
  • Are coffee beans still shipped in burlap bags? If so, why is whole bean coffee vacuum sealed?
  • Why do New Yorkers prefer their coffee prepared for them (cream, sugar, etc.) rather than self-serve (which is the norm virtually everywhere else)?
  • Where can I find the best coffee on TaoBao?
  • Where can I get freshly roasted whole coffee beans?
  • What are the first steps in beginning a coffee importation business?
  • Why did coffee become a popular beverage worldwide?
  • What is the etymology of the word ‘coffee’?

There are nearly 100 questions in this list, which we’ve cut short for brevity’s sake. Hand out each of these questions to someone in your company to answer and you’ve got 100 blog posts, 100 newsletter articles, 100 new pieces of content virtually for free.

If you want to create truly original content, look for connections in the questions that aren’t immediately apparent. One way of doing this is with word associations. Here we’ve taken the list of questions from above and fed them to a word cloud generator, Wordle:

word-cloud

Are there any specific questions in the list about the aroma of espresso beans? No. However, these two words show some prominence in the word cloud and might be a new area of content to explore in your newsletter. You could potentially uncover market-changing associations this way.

By now you should have no shortage of topics for your next email newsletter or email newsletter series. Combine original research with questions people have already asked, and you’ll be on the path towards a truly industry-leading newsletter with content that you know people will find relevant, timely, targeted, and valuable.

Christopher S. Penn

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