You’re re-reading your own newsletter for the 50th time trying to make it sound natural and authentic. But despite your best efforts, what comes through is repulsive: cold, paternalistic and salesy.


It’s like reverse psychology in action: you focus on not sounding a certain way, and in the end… Well, you know the feeling.


I know you may have even considered quitting writing altogether, but that may not work well for your business. So in this post I’ll give you some of the tips from my own newsletter writing experience on how to tone down paternalistic and salesy language in your newsletters.


Here are 5 tips to keep in mind:


#1: You can’t sell before you give.


You’ve logged into your MailChimp or any other email marketing service account a few times, and now you feel like you can just ask people to buy any time you hit the “send” button. After all, doesn’t Amazon do the same thing?


Yet when you send that sales pitch, you find that people don’t even bother to open it. Maybe they do and then unsubscribe. What’s going on?


I’ve learned that before I ask for anything, especially a sale, I have to earn the right to do so. Put yourself into the shoes of your subscribers. When someone is sending you amazing content every week, sharing insights, ideas, beautiful graphics, inspiring images and music — all because they care and love what they do and want you to share in their joy, they’re earning the right to be heard.


Most likely you will re-share their content, buy their books, join their courses and programs, and be grateful that they’ve reminded you about their launch. Try selling without building a relationship first, and don’t be surprised that nobody buys.


Use your emails to…



Do it consistently. Then you will have earned the right to sell.


#2: Connect with your audience.


To write newsletters that are versatile and fresh, you need to make an effort to connect with your audience. The smaller your audience, the easier it is to connect (yay for small lists!). If you have 50 -100 subscribers, here’s what you can do:


  • Find the most active subscribers
  • Write special thank-you notes to them (it can be as simple as a few sentences via Gmail or as complex as sending a special card)
  • Send an Amazon thank-you card (instead of losing $5 on boosting your FB post to an obscure audience in the middle of nowhere, send an Amazon card to your most loyal subscriber)
  • Offer 1 free coaching session
  • Buy them an e-book (!)
  • Also: respond to emails on time (kudos if you do that!)


All of these incentives will open up more meaningful connections with your subscribers and clients. As you get to know them, you won’t sound like a guru who knows all the answers (that’s too annoying), but more like a sojourner.


Want to learn how to launch and sell products to a smaller audience? Check out my mini-course.

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#3: Know the benefits of your offer.


Let’s say you’ve done #1 and #2 faithfully, and you feel like you can help people better through your paid program/service. You are ready to sell, but you don’t know where to begin. Your sales offer sounds like a reference book table of contents.


You add more activities to make the offer look more appealing, but people want something completely different. They want to know the benefits, not the features of your program.


As funny as it sounds, few people care about fluency, frequency or length of your classes, workbooks and quizzes and other buzzwords. People may tell you that this is what they want, but they want something totally different.


  • They want a creative break in a crazy working day.
  • They want to build meaningful relationships with their in-laws in a language that’s not their own.
  • They want to be viewed and valued the same way they are in their native language.
  • They don’t want to be yelled at just because this language they’re learning isn’t their native tongue.


A friend of mine at the gym (who suffers from depression and a whole gamut of neurological disorders) told me the other day, “If I don’t force myself to come here, I’ll spend my entire day in bed. And then the depression catches up with me — and who knows what may get into my head.”


The gym saves her life daily. Yet that same gym will spend thousands of dollars sending brochures about their new pool or a renovated spin room or other cool features they offer. No conversation about benefits though.


This post by Henneke Duistermaat will help if you’re still not sure about the benefits vs. features copy.


Want to tone down your salesy newsletter lingo? Here's a guide for you.Click To Tweet


#4: Know how your services are different.


Such a basic thing creates a world of difference in the way that you write. When you’re not sure how your services are different, instead of sharing your passion and the life-changing experiences of people working with you, you defend yourself.


  • But my services are cheaper.
  • But I have 5 more degrees.
  • But I just received another certificate.
  • But others charge more for the same service.
  • But I also offer a bonus.


All of this reminds me of the proof by contradiction method in Math. The problem with such rhetoric is that you assume that there’s only one true way to teach, and it is yours, and so you spend your creative energy showing why others are wrong and you are right. If that doesn’t sound paternalistic or arrogant to you then you might continue with this method.


A smarter way to go about it is to forget comparison and choose creativity. If you know how different you are, you no longer have to compare or defend yourself.


You create your own world and speak to the people who want to live there. Then you lead them there. Knowing how different you are is the core of niching down, so all the time you spend figuring it out is worth it.



#5: Keep it well-formatted.


Clear and readable format means:


  • Short sentences and paragraphs
  • Bullet-point lists
  • Vibrant verbs over lengthy sentences
  • Clear focus


I use the “white space” rule. If I look at my writing, and it’s too crowded with little white space, I know I have to re-format.


More helpful tips on this by Henneke Duistermaat: Using Verbs Correctly in your Sales Copy.


Final remarks:


That course that you want to launch in about 8 months? Your launch starts now, with warm and human-sounding emails that educate and inspire. Your launch starts not when you ask, but when you give. The more you give today, the more successful your launch will be in 8 months.


We all need to earn the right to be heard, trusted, and liked. The people you want to sell to in 8 months will have to give you permission today. Don’t miss your chance. Dig deeper into your brand. Get to know your audience. Learn to communicate with them.


It will take time, but will be worth it in the end.


The post was updated in March, 2021.


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