What’s the difference between a personal email newsletter and company email newsletter?

You’re missing an opportunity if you’re not doing the former.

A personal newsletter is sent to the people you know i.e. the ones you find in your address book. A company newsletter is sent to people you do not have a personal relationship with; they usually will have opted in and subscribed to an email list you set up.

The content, frequency and way you go about delivering your personal email newsletter is very different to a company email.

I often get asked two recurring questions when I’m talking to like minded small business owners or professional people.

  1. How do i get people to open and read my emails?
  2. How do I do email marketing if I don’t have an email mailing list?

There’s one simple answer that encompasses both and the beauty is that it’s quick and requires minimal work on your part.

Send a personal email newsletter to the people you know in your address book. You don’t need to be sitting on a mailing list of 10,000 names to start, you have an audience in your rolodex.

And to directly answer the two questions:

  1. People will read your emails if they are relevant and interesting.
  2. Look to your address book – aka your rolodex – as a source of emails.

My goal of sending out a personal email newsletter  is simply to stay front of mind with people. Here’s how I went about it.

Step 1 – Content: Practice “information dieting”.

  • No one wants to receive pages of drivel about your life – sorry people.
  • Try information dieting. Less is more.
  • I like to send just a one story that I think will be of interest to the people I know.

For my newsletter, I decided  to pick a write-up that my company had just gotten in the press. It wasn’t too long and it was a great way to update people on what I’m doing, as well as providing them with something they may find useful.

flashissue inc article

As I said, my goal in sending the newsletter is to keep me front of mind with a group of people I don’t have a regular contact with. It’s a way to say “hi, I’m still out here”. When I then need to pick up the phone to connect directly about something I’m not starting from cold.

This may sound overly simple but it works. If you don’t have a press write-up don’t worry, find any article that genuinely makes sense to send to your audience. Here’s a couple of examples:

Example #1:

I work with a non-profit, Soccer In The Streets, helping to make at-risk kids become more employable. We’ve been working for years to get the support of the Coca Cola Foundation and couple of weeks ago, the director of the non-profit announced we finally got a grant approved.

This was big news for us, and I know many of the contacts in my address book would feel good about hearing this.

Create and Send Engaging Newsletters From Gmail

Example #2:

My wife has just published her first book on health and nutrition. She was then interviewed by a well known website. Tons of people she knows would be interested in this. I’d send an email and keep it short – “Finally, it’s done. The Get Real Diet is ready to read…” {link to article}.

Tip: Don’t get over analytical about this. If your your business is in Commercial Real Estate, don’t make the mistake of sending out things about the property market. Make your personal newsletter personal about you. It will resonate more.

Your goal is to engage, not sell yourself.

Step 2 – Create newsletter: No design skills necessary.

I tried out 2 different design options, to compare the response rates. When i say design, I kept it simple in both cases. Both designs used a couple of line summary of the article, a small image and a link to the full article.

I used the Flashissue newsletter creator for Gmail to get the layout design right. This probably increased my response rates but you could also just use plain text.

Subject Line: we got reviewed by inc.com

Intro: we got reviewed by Inc.com

(I don’t address the recipient by name in the email body because the email was sent to many people using the BCC send field. Given it’s a personal email and the receiver knows me, they usually assume the email is just sent to them).

Body Content: see below

First format

flashissue add clip inc

Second format:

You can see that this looks a little better formatted. Just because you’re using Gmail it doesn’t mean you have to totally give up on design. It took me under a minute to create (how do you create an html email in Gmail).

If you want to use my template click here, Personal Email Newsletter Template.

Step 3 – Build a mailing list.

If your address book is like mine, it contains tons of contacts from over the years, many of which are probably outdated or defunct altogether.

What’s more, it contains all types of people from all walks of life – my friends, my business colleagues, random people I met at a conference in 1992 – not all of whom I want to be sending my email to.

Instead of having one giant mailing list I therefore break down my contacts into mini groups that I can use as segmented mailing lists. Whether you’re using Gmail, Outlook or Yahoo, there’s usually a way in the software to create mailing groups (Tip: how do I create a mailing list in Gmail?).

My Google address book contains 1,800 names and from this I selected 245 people who I thought would be interested in receiving my personal newsletter.

Just a cautionary note here. If you are using a service like Gmail, remember they do have send limits and if you get too heavy handed you and you exceed their sending limits your account may be frozen for a day or so.

As a rule of thumb, I keep my mailings to 250 names or so when using Gmail. Here’s a good post to read if you’d like to read more on how to avoid Gmail sending limits and spam filters.

This type of email is not targeted at thousands of names. It’s a personal newsletter being sent to people I know and shouldn’t be confused with a mass bulk company newsletter that is better delivered through a service like Mailchimp or Constant Contact. Therefore, using your regular personal email service like Gmail makes sense.

The Results

  • Total mailing = 245 recipients.
  • First mailing = 54 recipients / 0 bounces (0%)  / ??? Opens / 9 responses (17%)
  • Second Mailing = 191 recipients / 14 bounces (7%)  / ??? Opens / 36 responses (19%)

You’ll see that the response rate was really high at 18%. Almost a fifth of the people i sent the email to, hit reply and sent me a return message. These replies were short – “well done”, “really cool” “good to hear from you”.

Remember, the Response Rate is not the Open Rate or the Click Through Rate (CTR) that marketers frequently use to measure the success of email campaigns;  the response rates result from people opening my email, clicking the link (reading the article) and returning to their email to send me a note back.

So in reality, the Open rates will have been much higher than the Response rate but I don’t have any tracking capability with Gmail to report this. The bounces – i.e. the emails returned as undeliverable – are likely from people who have changed their email address.

Here’s my template again that you can use to edit and try for yourself – Personal Email Newsletter Template.


If you’re interested, we’re in the process of making the creation, mailing and tracking of personal email newsletters much easier. See more here.