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Does your email newsletter read more like a company brochure? It’s time to rethink your approach, says marketing expert Bill Macaitis.

Macaitis has led marketing at some of the fastest-growing SaaS firms in the country, including Slack, Zendesk and Salesforce. He said writing a more relatable newsletter is all about sharing what you know.

“I like content that educates you. That talks about the space. That tells you fun stories where you get to hear about what different customers are doing,” Macaitis said.

“I like content that educates you… That tells you fun stories where you get to hear about what different customers are doing.”

You don’t have to look far to find that kind of content. Macaitis recalled approaching the head of customer support at Zendesk with a content idea several years ago. He was interested in compiling a list of 10 job interview questions for managers to ask when hiring customer service representatives. The resulting blog post took 30 minutes to write. It was a hit.

“It turns out there’s a lot of customer support people out there. And they have to hire a lot of people,” Macaitis said, adding the piece remains Zendesk’s most popular piece of content.

Macaitis, a recent guest on rasa.io’s Pushing Send podcast, noted a relatable email newsletter is useful and thought-provoking. Here’s his advice for achieving that mix with your own newsletter.

1. Write what you know.

This is a common saying among creative writers. It applies to email newsletter writing and content as well. Macaitis recommends writing newsletters that share ideas and content about the topics your company knows something about.

For example, while Macaitis was working for Slack, “we tried to create a lot of content on the future of work and where it’s going,” he said.

“We created a podcast on all the different trends of how teams work together and some of the amazing things they did,” he added. “It was helpful.”

2. Avoid sales talk.

Macaitis noted many companies use their email newsletter as a way to promote their latest sale or explain why the reader should buy from them. In that case, an email newsletter amounts to little more than “brochureware,” he said.

Macaitis said it’s important to view your newsletter as totally separate from (and independent of) your promotional emails. A customer who doesn’t feel like they’re always being sold something is more likely to stick with your brand over time, he said.

At Slack and Salesforce, the newsletter was “more of a long-term game approach, saying ‘Hey, we want to provide value,’” Macaitis said.

3. Ask for feedback.

It’s easy to fall into a marketing bubble. An email newsletter is a way for you to reach out directly to clients and get feedback, either on the newsletter itself or on another aspect of your marketing and branding strategy. Most people would be surprised at the kind of response you can get when you ask for insight, Macaitis said.

Macaitis points to an experience he had while working with a photo sharing website called Clip Photo. Macaitis sent an email to their subscriber list asking what features they would like to see on the site and what they might pay for.

He was “blown away” by the number of people who took the time to write back and share personal experiences. The direct (and personal) approach paid off.

“I don’t like the emails where you send it out and it’s just like this generic thing that could have been sent to a thousand people,” he said. “That’s where you start getting into the spam side of the equation.”

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