Why Newsletters Don’t Work (and 5 Alternatives That Do!)

As a business owner, you’ve probably asked yourself, “Do people still subscribe to newsletters?”

Unfortunately, the answer is no, at least for the most part. A recent LinkedIn article said that the average person gets over 190 emails in their inbox per day. With that number of emails cluttering up their inbox, your customers are going to be reluctant to sign up for a new mailing list, and even if they do your email will have to be impressive to get their attention.

Fortunately, we’ve put together a quick overview of why newsletters don’t work, and how to change your email marketing strategy to get customers’ attention.

Are Newsletters Obsolete?

The two main problems with most newsletters are focus and format.


Your newsletter’s focus includes all of the content in your newsletter. For example, many newsletters include business updates, service changes, and price declines. If this seems like a lot, that’s because it is. If you’ve ever opened an email to see a massive wall of text and just sighed in frustration, that’s exactly how customers will respond to long newsletters.

Though it can be tempting to include a comprehensive update on everything that’s changed in your business, most of your customers won’t be interested in the little details. Keep your focus narrowed in on the most important things, especially the things that affect the customers’ experience, and you’ll be more likely to keep their attention.


Your newsletter’s format includes how your text’s organization and appearance. Your customers are busy, and they want to know the most important information first. Generally speaking, you have the first two sentences to get your customers’ attention before they decide whether to read the whole thing or delete it. So don’t leave the new product announcement at the end for a dramatic reveal – put it first to get people excited!

5 Newsletter Alternatives

Now that we know why newsletters don’t work, we can start looking at our top five alternatives (that do).

1. Change the Language

One of the major problems with newsletters is that they can describe a wide variety of content. If you really want to step up your email marketing efforts, use your heading or call-to-action text on your website to tell your customers exactly what they’ll get in exchange for their email address.

The call-to-action of “Sign up for our newsletter” is easy to ignore, but the call-to-action that says “Don’t miss out on our latest product announcements and deals!” lets customers know exactly what they’re missing out on.

2. Narrow the Focus

What is an alternative to a newsletter? Having several focused newsletters. Part of the reason that newsletters can get so long and overwhelming is that businesses try to put in something for everyone.

Rather than telling all of your customers about every new update, split your customer base into groups that receive personalized content. For instance, if you’re a higher education institution trying to increase enrollment, science-interested prospective students will have very different interests and concerns than liberal arts-interested students.

3. Offer Unique Content

Email marketing is all about increasing trust, and trust doesn’t only come from knowing what your business is about; it also comes from seeing what your business can do.

If your business is a kitchenware supplier to family-owned restaurants, you could send out an eBook with “3 Best Practices for Cleaning Kitchenware to Help It Last”. Though this may not help your customers learn more about your business model, it will show them that your business is invested in helping customers succeed.

4. Customer Success Stories

People love stories, and customer testimonials are a great way to get emails read and build trust with your business.

Think of it this way: would you rather read about the many features of an electric mixer, or would you rather read about how one specific feature helped a baker save a wedding cake? Stories are much more memorable than lists, and they’ll show new customers that your business works.

5. Event Invitations and Product Updates

The last way to make email marketing exciting is to give the customer something to do. Reading an email about how your business has expanded to another building can make a customer ask why it matters to them. Reading an email about how you’re having a 25% off event to celebrate your business’s expansion gives your customers something to get excited about.

Another way to add value to your customer’s inbox and get them excited to receive your emails is to include a product sneak peek or VIP event invitation. Or, for those in the higher education industry, upcoming dates for Student Weekends or virtual tours.

Greenstone Media Can Help You Transform Your Email Strategy

Are you ready to transform your email marketing? Greenstone Media’s experts can help.

Schedule your free strategy call with our team today!

Or, if you’re interested in reading more about sales funnels and effective customer communication, download one of our eBooks: Creating an Effective Sales Funnel or Creating an Automated Enrollment Funnel.