A lot of small businesses produce an email newsletter for their prospects, clients and anyone else who signs up for it.
A good newsletter can be a nice marketing tactic to keep your company in front of potential new business, confirm and establish your expertise with past clients and a source of referrals.
A bad newsletter will never get opened, or worse, turn off potential new business.
Here are some general guidelines that over the years, I'fve seen work well.
Content is king. Is a majority of the content about the readers needs, problems, etc?If the content is all about your company - you need to change that.
Keep the style conversational. Remember an email is a very personal, one on one communication. Keep the tone informal and stay away from marketing-speak.
Prospect oriented content - not company oriented content - positions you as an expert, pro and someone who knows what the heck they're talking about.
Consistency. By this I mean, does the reader know what to expect, even before they open it up? If you're consistently sending them -BUY NOW- specials and marketing hype, they'll see the email - expecting to get more of the same, and pass on opening it.
If however, you've been giving them content that's useful to them, they'll be more inclined to open it because that's what they're expecting.
Subject lines: A lot of people say the subject line is the key. I tend to disagree a bit. Yes it's important - but studies have shown that the key factor to opening an email is the FROM. If they don't recognize that, they ain't opening it - (think about how you open email and I think you'll agree).
Oh - and don't use "first name" in a subject line. This is a personal thing and even though some studies show higher open rates with a person's name in the emai, I tend to believe that we all know it's just a trick. Again, think about when you send an email to someone you know- how often do you put the person's first name in the subject line?
Some technical things - (you probably know this stuff already)
Is your sign up process single or double opt in? There are pros and cons to both, you just have to figure out which is more important to you.
Single opt in is easy - they give a name and email hit submit and their on your list. This allows you to grow your list a bit faster, but the loyalty of this type of list is diminished.
Double opt in makes them confirm their interest after they initially hit submit. It's an extra step, yes, but I've found with my clients, while the list doesn't grow as fast, the loyalty of the readership is better - they want the information and have said yes - twice. My experience has been that open rates tend to be higher - for the most part - with double opt in.
(there's a whole tutorial on all this at the Aweber.com site - and you don't have to be subscriber to get their tips)
A few other observations...
Go Easy on the HTML and graphics. Make it easy for the reader to read and find your great content. (this will also help you avoid those nasty spam filters that look for a lot of graphics and HTML)
Keep them short and to the point and easy to read. Don't make them scroll and scroll to get to the good stuff.
If you have a long "article" you can tease it the email newsletter and link them to the full article which you can post on your site. This also has the advantage of driving them back to your site.
I'm a big believer in this type of format. Tease content in the email and link back to your site. This allows the reader to scan the topics quickly - and if there's one of interest, they'll go find more.
Then track, not only your open rates, but your click through rates.
My two cents, and worth every penny.