email content ideas

By now—if you’ve been following along in The Email Marketing Strategy That Works— you’ve set the tools in place to build your subscriber base, attract subscribers, recruit subscribers and have become a pro at onboarding subscribers (whew, that was a lot of posts to get through. Bravo, you brilliant unicorn of email marketing strategy, you). This part is where you get to have fun and be creative, because it’s all about email content ideas.

Email Content Ideas FTW

Again, if you read the last post about onboarding subscribers, you’ll have a steady stream of ideas coming to you straight from your readers thanks to your fabulous feedback prompting email. While those lovely readers will help you choose which topics to explore next, you may be wondering how to approach them.

That’s where my handy dandy list of email content ideas comes in.

Below is a list of 20+ email content ideas proven to be loved by readers in any niche. Try them all, measure success and figure out which ones you and your subscribers love most.

The To-Do List – This is a step-by-step guide for tackling a simple (or not so simple) task that affects most of your readership. 

The Checklist – This is where you provide your readers with a rubric to grade their success or proficiency in a specific topic or niche.

The Curated List – When all else fails, you can deliver a list comprised of content from other places and still serve your readership valable content. This is such a successful content strategy that there are several types of curated lists to choose from:

The Resource List – This may be made up of tutorials, tools and guides to help solve one specific problem.

This Week in [Topic] – This is a timely email comprised of the latest trending articles around a specific topic or current event.

The Best Books on [Topic] – This is a roundup/book review list to help readers find the best places to dig deeper on a specific topic.

The Best Blogs on [Topic] – Similar to the “best books on” format, this could link readers to the best blogs, vlogs or podcasts about a specific topic or challenge.

The Best Examples of [Topic] – This type of email is a great way to help define best practices in your niche or topic area and connect with the people who do it best. Usually they’ll be delighted to be chosen and may give you a quote or shout out on their website for being included.

The Best Tools for [Topic] – This is a great prompt made even better if you can find free tools for your readers to try.

The “Tip of the Iceberg” Email – This type of email gives a brief overview or one part of a blog post or other web resource that will go into more detail. It’s a great way to funnel more traffic to your site.

The “Hard Lesson Learned” Email – This is a chance to tell a personal story and reveal a more vulnerable side, while showing how you solved a problem. The audience will feel closer to you, root for you and celebrate your victory with you. It’s a great way to build loyalty with your readership.

The “Success Story” Email – You can use this type of email to share the story of one of your clients or colleagues and how they succeeded (with your help). The goal is to tell the story in a way that gives the subject most of the credit, but doesn’t ignore the fact that you helped them get there.

The Failure Story – Similar to the hard lesson learned, there are some things we have to give up on based on the way the world changes. This email may talk about why you stopped doing something, using something or believing something, why, and what you do/use/believe now. It should ultimately be an inspiring type of email, not a cynical one. What is failure anyway, except another lesson on your road to success?

“How-To” Email – One of the most successful email content ideas on the lists, a well-written tutorial email will always win with readers. Try to keep the content short and pare it down to quick lessons on how to accomplish something your audience would like to know about.

“Why” Email– This is a great way to tell a story with meaning. Something like “why I decided to become a designer” or “why mobile is taking over the web” can be a compelling read.

Prediction Email – Everyone loves these, especially before big events happening in your niche or in popular culture. Otherwise these are very popular around the new year.

Company/Personal Goals – This is a great way to be transparent and authentic to your readers and help them learn about your values. It also keeps you accountable.

Personal Stories – These are always great, especially if they tie back to your core business. For example, “How Being in a Band taught me to be a Better Web Designer” is a great example of a personal story being transformed into meaningful content (in this case, for a blog, but it also applies to email content).

Questions and Answers – When your feedback emails return questions from subscribers, it’s great to give them credit for the question and devote a newsletter to answering it. Even better is when you can get multiple experts in your field to all weigh in on the answers.

Interviews – While these need to be short to fit into an email, sitting down with a local influencer or expert to share their unique perspective on the topics you write about can make a great newsletter. Bonus points if they’re a client of yours!

Facts and Stats– These can be about your company, city, industry, topic (like mobile) or audience and can make for intriguing newsletter content. Just be sure to ask yourself, “what kind of facts and stats would my readers want to share?”

Case Studies – These can also link to longer case studies you’ve just published on your site, but should quickly cover what the problem was, what you did to fix it, and what the results were. Everyone loves to see the actions that back up your words.

Demos – By incorporating some video in your email, you can demo something you did or made that’s related to your niche. Even making these into embeddable gifs will make your email more dynamic and engaging for readers.

Comparisons and “Versus” Content – These can be fun and even a bit controversial, which is a great way to  start a conversation with your readers. It’s good if you ask them for their opinion at the end of the post and invite them to chime in on social media.

I hope this helps to get your email content ideas flowing! And as a bonus, I’ll share a little secret with you: these all work just as well as blog post ideas!

Final Thoughts

The last thing to remember is to make sure you schedule your newsletter consistantly. I can’t stress enough how important consistency is because to me, delivering a newsletter is a lot like delivering a promise to your reader. It can build trust, credibility and loyalty in your readership and those aren’t a small thing.

While I hope you always experience constant success in your business, the loyalty of your readers will often see you through some rainy days and tougher times. Be sure to treat them as if they already have.

attract subscribers with inbound marketing

Note: This post on How to Attract Subscribers is part 2 of a 3 part section on List-Building Strategies in “The Email Marketing Strategy That Works” series. Read part 1 “Email Marketing: Build Your Subscriber List.”

Attract Subscribers with Inbound Marketing

Inbound Marketing (in a nutshell) is the art of producing content of such high value that you attract potential customers to you. If you’ve already started optimizing your website for email marketing by adding awesome opt-in forms, this strategy can really help you to attract subscribers to your newsletter. A few Inbound Marketing tactics include:

  • Offering an Incentive on a Landing Page
  • Creating Cornerstone Website Content
  • Blogging
  • Adapting blog posts for content sharing platforms like Medium and LinkedIn Pulse (also known as blog distribution)
  • Creating SlideShare presentations that link to your site
  • Hosting webinars on your site (or that link to it)
  • Creating valuable content on social media that links back to your site
  • Curating valuable content on social media to get noticed and ultimately drive traffic to your site

Let’s break these down.

Incentives

Incentives are when you offer a reader something for download as a special offer given to newsletter subscribers. This could be anything from an ebook to a template collection. Arguably the best way to attract subscirbers, offering an incentive in exchange for a subscription is a great way to hook them, but be careful about attrition (unsubscribes).

The emails that follow the incentive offer should not be overshadowed by the incentive, but rather should tackle the same or similar topics and provide an equal level of value to the reader. Otherwise there is little to keep a person from unsubscribing.

Cornerstone Website Content

Coined by Brian Clark on Copyblogger, Cornerstone Content is content that you create on your website that is highly relevant and useful to your target audience. It has a lot to do with figuring out how your site can be the answer to the questions asked by people on Google about your topic. Creating content like this will attract a great deal of traffic to your site, and as long as your newsletter promises more of the same, will help you attract subscribers.

Blogging

In many ways, blogging is like an audition for earning the role of an email newsletter provider. When you produce blogs of value on a consistent basis, you prove that you’ll do the same in your email newsletter. Blogging is an excellent way to enhance your SEO strategy, because each post can focus on answering a single topic or question in detail, making keyword optimization a cinch!

Also, blogs are excellent content to share on social media, and allow you to capture attention and traffic around hashtagged keywords. To determine which related hashtags will be the most successful for promoting the topics you blog about, check out the RiteTag hashtracker.

Blog Distribution

In addition to using social media and SEO to promote your blog, occasionally you’ll want to distribute your blog onto other platforms. First, you can adapt or slightly re-write your post to avoid producing duplicae content (a search engine no-no). Then post the slightly different versions of your post on Medium or LinkedIn Pulse, which both have large audiences. As long as you link back to the original post or site, you’ll be able to attract new visitors who may ultimately become new subscribers.

Rand Fishkin talks about this in detail in this episode of Whiteboard Friday.

SlideShare

SlideShare has been heralded as an incredible way to attract visitors to your website and generate subscribers. When you produce a valuable presentation around a topic you’re trying to become known for, it can be a great way to boost traffic and win over new subscribers. Like every other tactic on this list however, be sure to cover the same content topics in your emails that attracted the visitors to your site in the first place.

Convince and Convert has a great post on this topic.

Webinars

These can be very valuable to the people you’re trying to help and you can always ask for users to register for your webinars by providing you with their email address. In any registration form, you can include a checkbox for visitors to subscribe to your newsletter. If the box is checked by default, this can be a fabulous way to grow your list.

ProTip: Tools like GotoMeeting make live webinars easy, but you can always pre-record webinars like any other video and allow access on demand when users register.

Social Media Marketing

You can always invite your social media followers to sign up for your newsletter. This is especially great when you can send them to a landing page that talks all about the benefits of subscribing or offers an incentive.

Social Media Curation

While this is probably the most indirect way to attract new subscribing, curating content (which is when you share useful articles, videos, etc. from other sources about your topic of interest on social media) is a great way to build credibility and grow your audience. It’s actually how I have been growing my Twitter following by a little over 100 people per week this year. When you build that audience of loyal followers, you earn the right to ask them to subscribe to your newsletter. If your newsletter matches or exceeds the quality of the content you curate, you’ll be sure to keep your audience happy.

Final Thoughts

This was a brief overview of how to use Inbound Marketing to attract subscribers. While I tried to link as many helpful resources as possible, I plan to examine each of these strategies in greater depth on my blog and report how they worked for me. They’ll be categorized under the “Inbound Marketing” tag so you can find them easily, and I’ll link them to this page as they’re added. Be sure to come back for more!

Next we’ll discuss Part 3, “How to Recruit Subscribers: Outreach Strategies for Email Marketing.” You can also return to the main page of The Email Marketing Strategy That Works for additional topics.