Harnessing the Superpower of Rhetoric for Persuasive Business Writing

Blog Post #19 v.2

What makes a successful online business owner special? The power to persuade.

In fact, persuasion is so important, that it’s probably better to call it a superpower.

That’s because it’s what makes blogs, PowerPoints, vlogs or podcasts work.

So what can you do to enhance your persuasive superpowers?

It’s as easy as reviewing a few rhetorical concepts. And understanding what makes those concepts as formidable as Superman himself.

So let’s do it.

Concept #1: AUDIENCE

Audience refers to who is on the receiving end of your communication.

Don’t fall into the trap of generalizing your audience. Create at least one ideal prospect to represent your audience and communicate to him/her.

What does that ideal prospect struggle with in businesses and/or life?

As you imagine who this ideal prospect is, think of a current client who represents the demographic you are targeting.

Or a prospect from a demographic you want to target.

If you still can’t quite put a face on a your ideal prospect, it’s time to sharpen your superhero eyes and ears.

Research prospect/the demographic he/she is part of on Google. Then observe and engage that person — or people like him/her — on social media.

If that person has a blog and/or vlog, read/watch closely. Join any social media groups your prospect might be part of on Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook.

The more you know, the more you can make your message recipients real and specific. And the better you can visualize your prospect, the easier it will be to craft a piece of communication.

Concept #2: ETHOS

Superman is arguably the greatest of all superheroes. But he didn’t have a teacher to help him along his superhero path.

You do. His name? Aristotle.

He’s the man who identified what makes for persuasive communication in a fourth century B.C. treatise called Rhetoric.

Ethos is the one of three elements that Aristotle identified as crucial to a persuasion. It’s the root word for “ethics” but also refers to a communicator’s credentials.

Someone who has credentials had to earn them. And earning something implies integrity and character.

Ethos asks one important question: why should your audience trust you?

One way is by demonstrating you have expertise and have the “goods” — education and/or experience — to prove it.

Another is by linking to/referencing credentialed and/or well-researched sources.

For example: I’ve taught freshman composition and written for businesses. And I’m referencing Aristotle, the Greek philosopher who laid the foundations for rhetorical theory and practice. Both comprise the ethos behind this post.

Trust is earned, not given. So give your audience reasons to believe (in) you.

Concept #3: LOGOS

Logos is the second persuasive element Aristotle identifies. The term refers to the logical, factual components of writing/speaking and refers to how you reason your way to a conclusion.

So for example, let’s say that you want to communicate that your business produces a certain kind of results.

Logos asks: can those results — say, customer satisfaction — be discussed in measurable ways? And what kind of reputable statistics/metrics/studies can you use to demonstrate those results?

Remember: facts alone do not make for persuasive superpowers. You can have all the facts in the world at your fingertips.

But if organization (or lack thereof) is your kryptonite, you’ll lose your audience.

And your credibility/ethos. Would you trust a source that wasn’t clear or logical?

Concept #4: PATHOS

Pathos is the final persuasive element in Aristotle’s rhetorical triangle. It refers the emotional component of communication.

Here’s where knowing your audience — and imagining yourself as being part of it — becomes especially useful.

And where you can show that you’re a bona fide superhero who’s guided by facts and heart.

Speak directly to what your audience likes, loves, desires. Or to what worries them. Or what gets under their skin.

And make them laugh. Everyone loves a good sense of humor…but be careful.

What might be a hit with twenty-somethings might flop miserably with middle-aged business owners or corporate executives. Again, know your audience.

While you’re at it, don’t be afraid to show who you are as a person. What do you like (love, desire etc.) that your audience might like (love, desire etc.) too?

Audiences always appreciate a personal connection. It shows empathy, especially if you’ve dealt with the same problems they have.

The best communication will have a mix of ethos, logos and pathos. How much of each element is present, though, will depend on your audience.

And what you know about representative members of that audience.

And how much time you’re willing to invest learning about them.

But for the online business superhero dedicated to saving clients from their problems, it’s all in a day’s work.

 

 

 

 

4 Reasons Why Twitter is Good for Mobile Marketing

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Cell phones and tablets aren’t just for consumers. They’re also powerful tools for businesses seeking clients on social media.

And especially Twitter.

In fact when you think about it, it’s like the two were made for each other.

Consider these December 2017 statistics about Twitter from Brandwatch.com:

  • 330 million monthly active users are on the site
  • the average user follows five businesses
  • 80% have mentioned brands in their tweets

And most significantly of all:

  • 80% access the site via mobile devices

But some business owners hesitate to invest energy into even the most minimal daily interactions on that platform.

If you’re one of them — and especially if you own a mobile device — then here’s why you may want to rethink that strategy.

Reason #1: Visibility

What makes Twitter stand out from other social media platforms is that almost every conversation is open — including ones users may be having with your competitors.

This kind of visibility is useful for what it can tell you about potential clients. From what they tweet and the information posted in their profiles, you can get insight into:

  • who the members of your target audience really are
  • their needs and wants
  • their pain points
  • how you can best serve them

Conversely, dialogue visibility can help prospects who find you on Twitter through your @name or any #hashtags you might use.

Tweets make you more findable on the Internet. If someone Googles your name or business, they can see your latest tweets.

Reason #2: Ease of communication

Mobile devices are on 24/7. So is Twitter.

No matter where you are and what time it is, you can quickly and easily tell your audience — most of whom also have mobile devices — about on your business.

Or about the products/services you offer.

Statistics  show that of the Twitter users who do follow a brand, 74% do it to get updates. And that 47% of these users are more likely to visit your company website.

That makes Twitter great for all kinds of promotional activities including:

  • marketing campaigns
  • educational content postings
  • opinion polls
  • company/team stories
  • discounts/special offers

You’re also free to experiment with content types to see what gets the most (and most positive) response from your audience. Asking for feedback is also an excellent strategy.

Over time, you can get a better feel for exactly how your business can help prospects, even when you are not at your computer.

Because you never know where or when inspiration might strike.

Reason #3: Real-time convos

Many social media platforms allow you to talk to other users. Facebook, for example, has the Messenger app, which allows you to connect to other Facebook users.

But Twitter is unique. Its 240-character count restriction force tweeters to pack as much information as possible into short word (or word and image) bursts.

This makes it much more “in-the-moment real time” than most other sites. It also offers many different ways to converse, and in real time.

There’s the reply function that allows Twitter users to respond to your tweets. It’s both private and public in that whatever you say to another user will also be visible to others.

And there’s Twitter chat.

You and others “meet up” on Twitter at a designated time and in the feed for a hashtag associated with your business (mine is #WordstoSayIt) and send tweets that the group can see.

Twitter chat is especially useful to connect with others of like mind…and show your engagement with issues important to your brand.

There’s also Direct Message (DM),which is private.

Depending on how you want to interact with your prospects and for what purpose, all three of these functions can bring huge benefits to your company.

Twitter, unlike email, is about immediacy of contact. In the digital age, consumers not only want immediate responses. They also expect it.

And when you’re building a brand, nurturing connection from the moment it happens is hugely important.

Reason #4: Website traffic generation

Twitter can also be a huge help when you’re looking to generate more traffic to your company website.

If you’re just starting your Twitter account, put a link directly to your website in your bio. Links to company blog posts or other sources of useful information — which you can embed into your tweets —will also help.

But watch out.

As with everything social media, the name of the game is consistency and reliability.

If you tweet once a day, that’s better than nothing. Don’t expect much, though. Approximately 6,000 tweets get sent per minute every day on Twitter.

Sharing engaging content is great. But with a mobile device, you can easily retweet that content several times during the first few days it appears…which increases your chances of being seen by potential clients.

Good content positions you as a committed and trustworthy source of information. That trust in turn paves the way for Twitter users to go from prospects to active buyers.

According to Shopfy.com, this is especially true if your business deals in/caters to any one of these niches:

  • home and office furnishings
  • home and garden
  • gifts and specialties

Mobile devices and Twitter are a match made in marketing heaven. By pairing the ubiquity and ease-of-use mobile devices offer with Twitter’s immediacy, you can help your business stay top-of-mind with prospects and clients like never before.

 

How to Hunt for a Company Blogger

 

Explorer looking through binocularsWriting blog posts for your company website can be a BEAST.

For example: it takes me anywhere from 2 to 3 hours to write posts of 400-450 words.

And that’s just to say something coherent. Those hours exclude the time I also put into editing, image-searching and pushing my content on other sites.

That’s a big commitment, and one that can easily eat into time you might want to spend on building your business.

Or having a life.

The solution? Hire a professional blogger.

But how do you hunt for such animal?

Get a lay of the land

The Internet is loaded with sites where you can buy writing for any purpose or project.

Popular ones like Fiver, Upwork and Thumbtack, allow you to look for area-specific freelancers. Some, like Upwork and Thumbtack, let you to post what your needs and budget are so freelancers can bid on your project.

Watch out. Some freelance writers may be everything they say they are.

A lot of them aren’t.

Those willing to work for cheap ($5-$25/for 300-500 words) might give you the posts you want. But bad ones will force you to edit posts. Or trash them and start all over again.

So ask around.

Get recommendations from other business owners and people you trust before looking elsewhere.

Observe before approaching

Once you get the names of a few candidates, find them on Google and LinkedIn. Ask for references you can contact.

The best writers typically have samples they can send, an online portfolio that showcases their work and/or a professional website/blog you can check out.

Don’t be afraid to vet people. Look for patterns in testimonials and reviews.

Typically writer strengths will cluster around a few traits. Are they the ones you want?

Read blogger “footprints”

Get an idea of a blogger’s style by looking at sample posts.

  • Is the writing concise and easy-to-read?
  • Are all points laid out clearly?
  • Would it suit your business/brand?

Make sure they use “I” and “yous want to feel like they’re part of a conversation, not a one-way trip to lecture boredom.

And remember to vet for versatility. The best writers but can also mimic a specific tone and/or voice that suits a company/brand.

Be on the lookout for great storytelling

We live in an ADD world.

So a blogger needs to grab reader attention within a few seconds, which translates into at most one or two sentences.

The best way to do this is by telling a story wherever and whenever appropriate.

Good bloggers will follow basic plot structure and:

  • state the problem/situation in the first line/paragraph
  • describe the individual(s) involved
  • give background
  • show how the problem/situation gets resolved

Scholar Jonathan Gotschall says we are “homo fictus,” storytelling animals who love to make stories as much as hear them.

So look for writers who know how to tell stories and give readers what they naturally want.

Observe social media activity in the wild

A market-savvy writer knows the value of social media.

Many have blogs where they share interests and expertise.

Others use major platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Reddit to share content they create, find useful or like.

And shares = greater content engagement = enhanced conversion rates.

Ask yourself:

  • what — and how—often does a writer post?
  • does that person promote what s/he does and/or believes in?
  • what kind of engagement does s/he get?

A good blogger writes well. A great one writes well AND demonstrates traffic-generation savvy.

Finding the writer your company needs is like anything else. It takes a willing investment of time and money.

So remember: when seeking that perfect beast of a company blogger, be a big-game hunter.

Observe, study and track.

And never settle for less than the best you can get.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6 Essential Content Strategy Hacks

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E-commerce is more than just what’s hip and happening.

It’s the future of business.

A 2017 survey quoted on Statista.com showed that 40% of Internet users in the U.S. bought goods and services online several times per month, with 20% making those purchases weekly.

Experts also predict that by 2020, retail e-commerce sales worldwide will have doubled from what they were just two years ago in 2016.

The takeaway?

You need great content to bring in clients, but even more importantly, great content strategy to drive the gears of your online business.

Strategy #1: Appeal to search engines and readers

Earlier in the decade, keywords determined website page rank. But according to DYOmapper.com, they’re now one of approximately 200 factors that Google uses to make that call.

You still need to pay attention to SEO. Make a list of 7 to 10 keywords for your business and use them for page titles, sub headers, URL and meta-descriptions.

But don’t overrun a web page or blog post with keywords. You’ll end up devaluing the content because nothing kills content flow like repetition.

Keyword stuffing will look like you’re trying so hard for algorithmic validation that you don’t care about the actual people visiting your website.

Focus instead on content that is as interesting and useful enough that readers might want to share it across social media networks like Facebook and Twitter.

Strategy #2: Strive for maximum content digestibility

Readers love dynamic content. They also like lots of white space.

Even if you write long blog posts of 800 words or more, consumers will stay with you – if you know how:

  • use bullet points and/or subheads to highlight your main ideas
  • limit paragraph length to one or two sentences
  • Bold important words and phrases

These strategies will help eyes/brains register ideas and digest content quickly.

Remember: consumers like what they read to go down smooth as good food and drink.

Strategy #3: Problem solve rather than hard sell

Your business exists to solve problems.

So your content should always focus on what your goods/services can do for people. Or how they can make business goals more achievable.

Keep this point in mind for how to organize your website as well. What you put online should exist to help, not create more problems.

Make it easy for your visitors to:

  • navigate your pages
  • click through to external links
  • find product/service information
  • make purchases
  • contact you

But nix the hard sell.

Show consumers why they should want what you offer, yes. Give them a call to action that references your business, yes. Then let them decide.

To quote Copyblogger founder Brian Clark, “When you focus on the outcome you expect from your content, you are almost invariably failing your readers.”

Put your readers/website visitors first. Always.

Strategy #4: Stay relevant through trend-integration

Effective content strategy includes staying on top of what’s hot. Trending topics can range from current events (including seasons and holidays) to news of the day.

Integrating trending topics into your content will make your business and the goods/services you sell more relevant. And it will show you’re awake and aware.

But watch out.

Consumer psychologist Kit Yarrow says that buyers are “overwhelmed with spin, hype and superficiality and they’re working to de-BS their lives. There’s almost a visceral reaction to phoniness.”

In other words: find natural connections between your business and what’s happening. Otherwise you’ll look like you’re trying to sell Christmas trees for the Fourth of July.

Strategy #5: Reference key influencers…and become one yourself

There’s only so much you can do to promote your business.

That’s why good content strategy also involves social media, which Forbes writer Ryan Holmes has called “the single most effective way to reach audiences.”

Ways of using social media to help boost your visibility include:

  • sharing content on major sites like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Youtube
  • guest blogging on sites relevant to your industry
  • backlinking to content by influencers/thought leaders
  • advertising on sites like Facebook, which now has more than 2 billion users

The more you tap into the power of social media influence, the more you build your own online authority.

And the more you build your authority, the more trust and interest you build in your brand…which can only mean more sales for your business.

Strategy #6: Unleash the power of e-newsletters

E-newsletters may be old news. But don’t count them out because they’re “just email.” Or because email is so last century.

Email is in fact one of the few reliable touchstones in the increasingly fractured world of online marketing. According to a recent study, more than 90% of American adults use email.

And Forbes reports that a whopping 80% of businesses report that email is directly tied to their primary revenue.

Taking the time to craft great e-newsletters is well worth the time and effort.

So before you engage in content creation for your business, think about:

  • what that content will look like
  • where and how you want to use it

Then move forward, full speed ahead.

 

7 Ways to Build Social Media Influence

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You have a company website and blog that you update with the zeal that only true believers can understand: in the 24/7 online world, freshness counts.

But a web and blog just aren’t enough. A strong presence on social media is also crucial for both branding and building client relationships.

But with so many people making noise on social media sites every minute of every hour of every day, how can make people pay attention to you?

Strategy #1: Determine which sites look to offer the best ROI

Half the battle is figuring out where your voice stands the best chance of being heard.

Forbes writer Jia Wertz  suggests that all companies (and especially manpower and capital-poor startups) be strategic about which sites they choose.

Check the demographics reached by each platform. As an example, Wertz reports that 60% of Snapchat users are young women and men aged 24 and younger; 30% of Facebook users are mature women and men aged 25 to 54.

Does the information you find align with the general target audience you want to reach?

Also try to determine the frequency and the time of day/days of the week users connect with a particular site. This will give you clues about when to post for maximum visibility.

Strategy #2: Publish on a regular schedule

Once you’ve figured out which social media sites are best for your brand and message, you’ll need to work out a posting schedule.

Entrepreneur and influencer Neil Patel suggests that for blogging, how often you update your site should be a function of what you want to accomplish.

His observation is also applicable to other types of social media.

To grow a following, frequent posting (e.g., several times a day on Twitter and Facebook, once a week on YouTube) may work best.

To build trust and loyalty over time, more infrequent posting (e.g., a few times a day on Twitter and Facebook; once or twice a month on YouTube) may be the better solution.

Whatever you do, keep it consistent. You won’t create engagement otherwise.

Strategy #3: Give people a reason to follow you

Motivating people to follow you is part of how you build engagement. To make this happen, you can:

  • offer informed opinions on your area of expertise
  • show the depth/range of your knowledge

Share (or backlink to) articles, reports and studies written by other major influencers and/or brands relevant to the products/services you provide.

Show that you’ve done the research and know your stuff.

At the same time, don’t forget that social media has a lighter, more personal side.

An ability to inspire or entertain can also motivate others to listen to what you have to say.

Strategy #4: Form alliances with established influencers

Influencers are area experts who have built reputations online or off (or both).

They can be people in your network, professionals you admire but haven’t met or people who work in areas complementary to your own.

You need to stand near them and connect.

Ask questions. Engage in dialogue. Show you have ideas on topics of interest. If the spirit moves you, suggest a project you both can showcase on social media.

Collaborating with established influencers can introduce you to new audiences, offer valuable learning experiences, and bolster professional credibility.

All of which can add immeasurably to your own influence quotient.

Strategy: Create (an) online conversation

You also build your influence by starting — rather than just joining — a pre-existing conversation.

Try bringing up  a little-discussed issue. Or expressing a unique opinion. Or posting controversial content that sparks debate.

These approaches require equal doses of professional expertise and self-confidence. You’ll also need to be ready to manage exchanges that could heat up.

But seeking out the spotlight has its rewards. Followers are much more likely to remember who you are…and want to listen to more of what you have to say.

Strategy #6: Focus on engagement before follower numbers

Too many people make the mistake of using large social media followings as a barometer of influence.

Social media experts will tell you that the best indicator of influence is engagement.

The number of likes, shares and comments site posts get over time is one simple way to measure influence across most social media sites.

On Twitter, a person’s impact can be measured by how many lists they are on. According to Social Media Explained author Mark Schaefer, if that number, divided by the number of followers equals 5% or more, that person is an influencer.

Strategy #7: Become an online community-builder

Another way to build social media influence is to create user groups. If you’re willing to take the lead, Twitter and Facebook are especially good host sites for these types of communities.

Groups can develop out of professional interests. These types of communities are most likely to directly impact your identified area of expertise.

BUT: don’t discount the possibility of creating a group based on connections to an industry (rather than a profession), a shared passion, or a specific geographic location.

Say you are a Seattle portrait photographer. You could start a Facebook or LinkedIn group for:

  • Seattle portrait photographers
  • professional photographers in Washington state
  • people/firms with connections to the world of commercial visual art.

Communities like these could help you build influence in sub-niches that could one day benefit from interaction with your business.

Social m influence isn’t just about who has the biggest following. It’s about earning the right to be heard amidst the din of online noise and distraction.

 

 

Keywords & Your Online Marketing Strategy

Keys on a wall Keywords are just that: linguistic tools that unlock. What they open is e-business potential.

Typically, keywords define the ideas and topics your content covers. They come in two varieties: one or two-word phrases (head terms ) and longer phrases (long tail keywords).

But…a recent study by SEMRush  revealed keyword inclusion is not quite the “thing” it was a decade ago.

So what value do they have for your business?

Let’s break it down.

Yes, the SEMRush research showed that nearly one-fifth (18%) of the top-ranked pages that turned up from targeted online searches didn’t contain the keywords entered.

Forbes writer Jayson DeMers suggests that this is because Google now searches internet pages by looking for qualities associated with the search term entered. It’s also showing a preference for what DeMers calls  “natural and conversational language.”

Google algorithms are dynamic: that’s nothing new.

While search results are different than what they once may have been, the one-fifth that can’t be predicted is not the whole enchilada. What about the other four-fifths?

That’s why small businesses still need to invest time locating relevant keywords to use for blog posts and company web pages.

Brainstorm

Think about the topic you want to tackle in your blog post or content you want to put up on your website.

Then think about your prospects.

How is what you’re writing about/posting relevant to them and their needs?

Say you are selling plastic shower caps and are writing a post on how yours are not only nice to look at but also made from recycled materials.

A starter list could look like this:

  1. shower caps
  2. cute shower caps
  3. eco-friendly bath accessories

Browse, shop or buy? 

Once you have a list, ask yourself to whom they would be most applicable among the types of prospects out there.

Entrepreneur writer and pay-per-click expert Richard Stokes suggests that companies doing online business organize all the keywords they use into three basic categories:

  1. browser – just looking
  2. shopper – actively comparing brands, prices etc.
  3. buyer – actively intending to purchase

Once you do this, you can begin to analyze each term.

Check and Cross-reference

Free keyword databases like SERPs and WordStream can help immensely with the process of keyword creation and research.

For example: a keyword search for “shower caps” on SERP offers these results:

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KEYWORD #1 – shower caps

As the shortest, most general keyword to describe this product,  “shower caps” has the highest volume of traffic. While it’s popular, the down side is that more established companies are likely occupying the first page of Google rankings for that keyword.

KEYWORD #2 – cute shower caps

The second term, “cute shower caps,” falls third on the SERPs list. It’s not as popular but still a term that prospects are using.

The takeaway here is that you might be better served using this term (or some permutation of it, like “cute shower caps for kids,”) rather than rely on “shower cap.”

You could also use it to help create a niche for yourself…and eventually own it by consistently producing quality content that emphasizes the aesthetics of your product.

 

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KEYWORD #3 – eco-friendly bath accessory

The third term, “eco-friendly bath accessory,” is general in how it refers to “bath accessories” but specific in how it refers to “eco-friendly.”

The phrase could be useful for those browsing for bath accessories to see what’s out there as well as those looking to buy within that market.

The volume listed is small. But a quick Google search that adds the term “shower cap” shows that a market exists, even if it is one that is primarily promoted by/on Amazon:

Screen Shot 2017-12-28 at 6.05.52 PMWhen you are doing this kind of keyword checking, consult at least two reputable databases. Then cross-reference your findings with what you actually see listed on Google.

Analyze

 Once you’ve got all your basic data, you’ll need to think about what’s important to  your goals for the post and/or relevant pages on your company website.

Let’s look at our keyword list again.

The first search term “shower caps,” is general — and therefore much more competitive to rank for.  So while your post or page may turn up somewhere on Google, it will likely not rank on the first page of a Google search.

A post that references “cute shower caps” will attract everyone looking to style in the shower. BUT: because you’ve made this phrase more specific than “shower caps,” and because it’s not a high-volume keyword, your chances of ranking more highly on Google are better than if use the more generic keyword.

The revised keyword phrase “eco-friendly bath accessories shower caps” is extremely specific and nichey. So posts/pages that use this phrase will likely rank higher than “shower cap” or even “cute shower caps.”

And higher rankings mean greater potential for getting your product/service in front of the people who want them.

To sum up: of your business is new and/or you’re just making your presence known online, one strategy could be to mix in keywords intended for browsers, shoppers and buyers.

If you’re more established, home in on keywords that more aggressively target

  1. your desired niche
  2. shoppers and buyers most likely to be interested in your specific product/service

Compiling a keywords master list that are most relevant to your business and drawing from it as needed could also be useful…so long as you don’t get complacent.

Revisit, review, revise and expand: your business will thank you for it.

 

7 Tips for Writing Dino-mite E-Newsletters

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No doubt you’ve heard respected sources like Entrepreneur magazine claim that the e-newsletter is a “dinosaur”  that’s too fossilized to drive results.

Or maybe you’ve come across articles on LinkedIn like “Why the E-Newsletter is Dead and Why That’s a Good Thing.”

BUT: dig deeper and you’ll find that reports of the e-newsletter’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. Both Entrepreneur and LinkedIn suggest that it’s newsletters with too much verbal/visual content and/or too many links that don’t work.

So it’s the format that is (or can be) the problem. Not the newsletter form or how it’s delivered.

Still not convinced? Consider this.

An October 2017 Biz Report.com article reports that 74% of consumers prefer to receive branded email communications (read: company newsletters) over all other types of communication.

This includes those that come from social media and messaging apps.

The takeaway here is that with a little strategy and savvy, e-mail newsletters can benefit your business.

But how can you make the most of the newsletter form?

Tip #1: Work that subject line

Don’t just write: “Monthly Newsletter.” Or “Hello, It’s Me.” That’s a surefire way to get your efforts deleted.

State exactly what your letter is about. But also make your readers wonder: you’ve only got a few seconds to make an impression, so make the most of that time.

Here are some examples from successful online entrepreneur Lauren Hooker of Elle & Company:

  • “Why I deleted 7,000 subscribers from my list”
  • “Are you buying into the success myth?”
  • “My worst fear came true”

All three titles are short and compelling. They make you want to learn more.

Tip #2: Ask: “What’s the point?”

Before you even compose a newsletter, know why you are writing it. Do you want to inform? Make a good impression? Get click-throughs to your website?

Once you know the objective, go back to the beginning and write with that aim in mind. Or work backwards to the start.

This kind of focus will also help unify content and help you determine appropriate calls to action (CTAs) to use throughout the newsletter: “Sign up for X to learn more.” “Click on this link to visit the company website.”

And so on.

Tip #3: Be informative

A good newsletter offers subscribers “news they can use.” This can include:

  • company/industry updates
  • fun facts/anecdotes
  • tips, tricks and tools
  • (sections from) a recent blog post
  • images/videos
  • links to podcasts and webinars
  • infographics
  • product/service reviews
  • client testimonials
  • resource lists

Show your subscribers that you bring value into their lives. And that you want to help.

Tip #4: Keep to one topic

Following from tips #2 and #3 above, use your newsletter to talk about ONE topic. Resist the temptation to follow New York Times publisher Adolph Simon Ochs’ dictum and present “all the news that’s fit to print.”

Your newsletter isn’t the NYT. And your readers have attention spans of about 8 seconds…which is less than a goldfish.

One strategy you may want to use is to segment your email list. Platforms like MailChimp allow you to target and filter contacts.

This means you can send newsletters to those individuals with whom your one message/purpose is most likely to resonate.

Whatever you do, be brief and get to the point. Your readers’ attention spans — or lack thereof — demand it.

#5: Drop the sales pitch

The access you have to (potential) client inboxes is a privilege, on par with having access to subscriber living rooms. If you seem like you’re “barging in” with too much hype, subscribers may revoke that privilege by unsubscribing from your list.

The best approach is to keep any sales news down to a minimum and in the style of a report: “We’re having a 25% off sale on product/service X all this month.”

Save the sales pitch for promotional emails ONLY.

Tip #6: Go for scannability

Because your readers have such short attention spans, you need to make your newsletters easy on the eye. And easy to digest.

Ways you can accomplish this include:

  • creating 1 to 2-line paragraphs
  • highlighting keywords with boldface type
  • keeping word choice
  • using short, direct sentences

If you decide to use images — and you should use a few since humans process visual information 60,000 times faster than text —be conservative.

A good rule of thumb is to follow the 70/30 rule: 70% text, 30% image. Including too many visuals may cause email systems to mark your newsletter as spam.

Tip #7: Show consistency

Be very clear in your opt-in regarding how often your subscribers can expect to hear from you. Every other week? Once a month? Once every six weeks?

Whatever you decide, say what you mean and mean what you say.

If you send more than you promised, your readers may see it as spamming and opt out of your newsletter. Send less and they may ignore you.

Making the most of newsletter potential means adapting the form to the needs of internet-surfing subscribers. Do it and you build business-sustaining relationships.

Don’t…and your newsletter may well go the way of the Tyrannosaurus rex.