Looking like an expert is important for any small business, but is especially important if you are marketing yourself as a personal brand.

This is something Susan V. Phillips of Spotlight Decor knows well.

When she started her business in 2003, Susan knew she needed a way to showcase her 30+ years of experience in design and interior decorating.

That’s when she decided to learn how to create an email newsletter for her business.

After 10 years of using email marketing, Susan credits 90% of her business (which includes a number of books and stage designing for the Dalai Lama— twice) to a monthly email newsletter she sends to a list of over 875 people.

Want to learn how to create a newsletter to showcase your expertise? Just follow these 10 steps:

1. Use your branding to get more opens

The one thing you need to remember when writing an email newsletter that will develop your thought leadership is that … you are your brand.

That’s not to say, you don’t want to promote your business as well, but you want to make sure your customers understand you are writing the content, you are providing the insight from your experience, and you are the one they should think of when it comes time to buy or call for a service.

And that personal branding should start from the moment your customers find your newsletter in their inbox. Here are three ways to do it:

Personalize your subject line: Injecting yourself into your subject line is the best way to show your readers you are sharing your knowledge with them.

Use an email address your customers will recognize: The relationship a person has with the sender is the number one reason why people choose to open emails that end up in their inbox. Make sure to use an email address and a sender name your customers will recognize.

Create a branded newsletter header: The typical reader only gives an email a few seconds before they make the decision to either read or trash it. Branding your newsletter with a professional header is the best way to catch their eye and keep them from moving on to their next email.

Using her name and the Spotlight on Decor branding, Susan has seen her open rates improve to over 38%.

2. Make it easy to unsubscribe in your newsletter

I know what you’re thinking: what kind of expert would make it easy for their reader to opt out of their emails? The answer: the kind of expert who is not only confident in their content (and thus expertise) but is also interested in sharing their expertise with an audience that wants to receive it.

Place your unsubscribe link at the top of your emails, along with a confirmation link readers can click to tell you that: “Yes, I asked to receive your newsletter” and “Yes, I want to keep hearing from you each month.”

By making it easy for her recipients to unsubscribe, Susan knows that she will only be sending her newsletter to people who have asked to receive it.

3. Personalize your email with a professional photo and signature

Connecting a face and name to the content of your newsletter will help establish you as the thought leader and will drive improved recognition for your brand.

Think of how many people you are sending your newsletter to: 200? 500? 1,000? Those are all opportunities to make a connection and start to build a more personal relationship. A professional photo will help your readers recognize you, the expert … and a signature will show that you believe in your content and are putting your name behind it.

Susan says that she constantly meets people at trade shows and events who receive her newsletter – allowing her to make new professional connections and grow her business.

4. Tell people what to expect right from the start

Like you, your customers are busy. Three things they’ll want answered, right from the introduction are: Why is this worth their time? What am I going to learn? How can this help me?

Answering those questions will not only improve the likelihood your readers will keeping reading, but will also show them you value their time.

You can also try a tactic that has been successful for Susan: including a word count (typically less than 700) and the estimated time it will take for someone to read your newsletter.

Telling people exactly what to expect from your newsletter will help keep people reading and improve the likelihood of getting results from your email marketing.

5. Use a real life experience to set up your content

The best way to show the value of your content is by putting it into the context of an experience your customers will understand. It’s not after all, just about how well it is written or how much time you put into putting it together—it’s about how your customers can take it and apply it to their own lives to get real results.

As an expert, you should have plenty of experiences from your life you can use to demonstrate that value. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes—think of the problems they face, the obstacles they need to overcome, or the goals they hope to achieve. Then, create a narrative around those things where, in the end, your advice is what helps them achieve what they’re looking for.

Use your experiences, the good and the not-so-good, to set up the content of your newsletter.

6. Give your advice, just not all of your advice

If you’ve done everything right up to this point, your readers won’t need any more convincing to read and engage with your content. They’ve recognized you, they’ve been told exactly what they’re going to learn and why they should learn it, and they’ve begun to understand how they can apply it to their own lives.

This is a perfect opportunity to not only share that advice, but to also move your readers away from your newsletter to another online resource like your website or blog. Presenting part of an article or a story with a link to “read more …” will help drive click-through rates and by exposing them to a site with even more content, further establishing your credibility as a resource to your readers.

Susan is able to increase traffic to spotlightondecor.com by including a “Read more…” link to her website.

7. Sell without really selling

As much as you want to help your readers and be a resource for them to turn to when looking for advice —you also, in the end, should want to turn them into customers to help grow your business.

You’ve demonstrated you know your stuff and have even connected them with a wealth of knowledge on your website or blog—now it’s time to turn those readers into customers by selling your expertise.

For Susan, that means pitching her book, Home Staging Workbook: A Comprehensive Checklist. But she doesn’t just put it in there and say: BUY! BUY! BUY! She explains (like she did in the introduction of her newsletter) how the book can be used to help her readers while also providing other options for people to connect with her for personal services. (See below: How to sell, without really selling.)

8. Provide one more key takeaway

By now, your reader probably has a phone to answer, another email to respond to, or a number of other responsibilities pulling them away from reading your newsletter.

Don’t end with the sell. Leave them with one last piece of advice—a final snapshot of knowledge they can take away and possibly use that day. Keep it short (or at least shorter than your main article) and consider using visuals to catch their attention.

Give your readers one more key takeaway they can use in their own lives, right away.

9. Encourage actions other than BUY!

Don’t forget that every newsletter you send should have an intended action you want your readers to take. Encourage them to reply to your email, visit your website, or even forward it to a friend. It will be the easiest part of creating your email and may have the biggest impact in terms of driving real results.

Susan encourages her readers to reply to her newsletter or forward it to their friends. This helps boost engagement and lets her readers market on her behalf.

10. End on a personal note

I hope I’m not being overly repetitive here, but you really can’t underestimate the value of creating a more personal experience for the readers of your newsletter.

From your subject line, to your photo, to your personal story, and advice—the entire email has been about building that relationship and that’s exactly how it should end.

End your newsletter in the same way you would if your reader were already a client or a colleague—use an appropriate salutation and put your name, title, and professional contact information.

Susan closes every newsletter with a personal salutation to her readers.

Why looking like an expert really matters

As you can see, creating an email newsletter that makes you look like an expert, isn’t about self promotion or showing off to your readers. It’s about building a personal relationship and using your expertise to bring an added benefit to the lives of your customers.

With an average monthly open rate of 38%, it’s worked for Susan V. Phillips and Spotlight Decor, and it can work for any business owner whose name is synonymous with their brand.

Ready to look like an expert? Try Constant Contact today for free! Sign up for your free 60-day trial.