Choose a format
Format is a personal choice, but be sure that you choose a format that is pleasing to your readers. Depending on your industry and customer base, you may have long or short articles. There are many ways to test format, but be sure to test and modify. You can test with a select group of customers or you could create several formats and see which one works the best. Both of those strategies take time. At a minimum, track the opens and clicks from each issue of your online newsletter. If you use a newsletter service, it is easy to get these metrics.
Layout - Carefully choose a layout that is attractive and suited to your readers. Putting your logo at the top and information about your company and offerings on the sidebar is a classic format. You may want to experiment with some more daring themes, but once you choose a format stick with it so your readers will recognize each issue. Newsletter format is branding.
Article length - The length of articles not only depends on the topic but your readers. If your readers are computer programmers and your article is about specifics of programming, you can write long informative articles that are well read. If you write articles for business people, you have to quickly get to the point. For your online newsletter, use links so the reader can learn more about a topic.
Testing length and content - Make sure that you are tracking clicks on the links. This way you will know the link popularity by the number of clicks. When a customer clicks on the link, you can track by email address and make a sales follow-up call. But don't tell the customer that you are calling because they clicked on a link. That's a sure way to turn off your prospect.
Use pictures and graphics - People like to look at pictures. In each issue, be sure to include a couple of attractive pictures that match the content. There are several royalty free sites where you can get pictures, illustrations and videos for a reasonable cost.
Use real news, tips and offers. Examples are: company and industry news, business tips and advice, money saving offers and announcement of new products. Don't use filler, it will be obvious to your readers. And once you start, you have to be consistent. If you have a quarterly newsletter, be sure to publish it quarterly!
Company news - Give real information about what your company is doing for employees, customers and the community. Press releases are valuable for promoting your company. Use the content created for press releases for your newsletters. Press releases are written in the third person, so be sure to change to first person narratives for newsletters. First person articles are more personal and allow you to connect with customers. Be sure to include any events or activities that you are hosting.
Industry news - Let your customers know about industry news that you find interesting. This requires that you keep updated on what is going on in your industry. Make sure the news is relevant. If it's not informational, don't use it.
Business tips and advice - This is the most important content of your newsletter as it establishes you as the expert. Use time-saving and money-saving tips that have step-by-step examples or specific case studies. For business advice, be clear and concise. Give examples on how you have achieved benefits. These types of articles can be used for your blog, technical notes or web page content.
Article reprint and guest contributors - These are easy ways to build content. Be sure you have permission for reprints and that guest articles are relevant to your content. Inviting guests to submit to your newsletter can be good for partnership building.
Money saving offers - Use special offers in your newsletters that are really unique. Offers should be a good value and relevant to your market. Don't use the same offer over and over. Make sure that the offer is targeted and special. You don't have to include a special offer in each issue of your newsletter.
New products - Whether your own product or a partner product, add new products that help your customers be more efficient and productive. In general, the case for products should have a value statement that shows how you can increase revenue or reduce costs. Some products have a "cool" factor that you may want to include even if you can't quantify the benefits.
Before you publish - proofread!