Newsletters have a bad name. Why? Because they’re usually a mixture of message with nothing tying anything together. There’s no clear call-to-action. And they’re usually a summary of everything the business has done over the last month and little about things that the reader might be interested in.
The good news is that if they’re done carefully, newsletters can still be a great way for a small business to keep their readers up-to-date.
To have an effective email newsletter, there’s a lot to be done. The good news is that the more you send, the easier it gets.
In this article, I’ll take you through the steps you should follow to create an email newsletter that your recipients will open every time.
What is an email newsletter?
Before we start going through how to create an awesome newsletter, let’s take some time and learn about what they are.
An email newsletter is an email you send to your subscribers on a regular basis. Content can include new blog posts, updates on what’s happening in your business, new products or services that you’ve launched, special offers and discounts.
Email newsletters are a great way to stay in touch with your subscribers. Your newsletter is how you can keep your readers part of your tribe. They can keep your business front of mind when they want to buy from you.
Newsletters bring familiarity of your brand identity and are an excellent marketing tool.
If they’re done in the right way.
Do you need an email newsletter?
So, you read a post by an email marketing that said you need to be sending your subscribers an email newsletter. But are they right? After all, not all businesses are the same.
The first thing you should do is some research. Do other businesses in your industry send email newsletters? How long have thy been doing this? What content do they include?
The easiest way is to subscribe to their newsletter and see what comes out and how often.
Next, do you have the resources to create an email newsletter. Budget, time, support.
Would an email newsletter support your business goals? Would your resources be better utilised creating or improving a lead nurturing campaign or improving your search rankings? Think sending a newspaper versus a personalised note.
Okay, let’s say that you’re sure your need an email newsletter. What next?
How to create a newsletter
Successful email newsletters don’t just happen. Throwing a bunch of random items together isn’t going to be a winning strategy. Here are some simple tips that will help you create a newsletter your readers will love.
Step 1: Design your emails
Like your website, business cards, and other marketing collateral, your newsletter design should fit into your brand image. Readers should recognise your brand when they view your email.
The hardest part of many businesses is understanding that their readers may not like the fancy, image rich email. At the same time, they may not like the plain text, image free email. The best way to start? Don’t try and design the perfect email. It doesn’t exist. It’s what you say in your email that’s important.
What is important when you’re designing your newsletter is how it will look when viewed on different devices. Remember, your content will be read on smartphones, tablets, and desktops. Make it easy to scan and read by using headlines, short sentences and paragraphs, and lots of white space.
Once you have a design that you’re happy with, create a template. This then becomes the pattern you use for future newsletters.
Step 2: Plan ahead
Create an email marketing calendar. In your calendar, have the promotions and events you are going to have throughout the years. Include special occasions such as Mother’s Day or Father’s Day.
This calendar helps you promote the things that your readers will find relevant and be interested in. If you leave topic choice to the last minute, you will forget something.
Step 3: Set a goal of your email newsletter
How will your newsletter fit into your business marketing strategy and your overall content strategy?
Is your goal to increase sales of a particular product or service? Is it to increase website traffic?
You can have multiple goals BUT you need to list them in order of priority.
Included in your goal should be the date and time that the newsletter will be sent. If you don’t do this, you’ll delay sending it for any reason you can think of.
Step 4: Research
Using your goals, gather the content that will be included in your newsletter.
While you can write new content, you can also pull together content from past blogs or social media posts. They don’t all have to be your own work. Tell your readers about content you’ve discovered that they might be interested in. This is an especially useful tactic early on while you build a collection of your own useful resources.
The important part is that your newsletter content must be relevant and helpful to your readers.
Step 5: Write your content
Now that you have your design, goal, and content ideas, it’s time to start writing.
Start by creating an outline. Focus on the order for each block of information. The most important information should be at the top. Then, write useful, interesting, and engaging content. Don’t be that boring newsletter nobody reads.
Don’t make it too long. Remember, people will be reading your newsletter on smartphones. They’ll be scrolling and scanning for headlines that interest them. If your newsletter is too long and not easy to scan quickly, you won’t see the result you might expect.
Step 6: Balance your newsletter content
People subscribe to your newsletter to get something of value to them. Not to hear about you all the time. If your newsletter is full of stories about you, they’ll tune out. Just like people tune out to repetitive ads.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s OK to be self-promoting just not all the time.
90% of your email content should be educational and relevant to your reader. 10% about you. If you don’t have anything about you or your business that’s newsworthy, don’t force it.
Step 7: Include a call to action
In case you don’t know what a call to action (CTA) is, it’s the next step you want your reader to take. The better the CTA, the greater the conversion rate.
So, always put a CTA in your emails. They don’t always have to relate to getting the sale. But you should always be asking your reader to do something.
It could be asking them to read a blog post or to forward the email to someone they know who might find the content interesting.
Many marketers recommend a CTA be in the format of a button. This is a generalisation. A button may not suit your audience. Text links are the safest. I don’t recommend image links in a newsletter. To man links and you’ll attract unwanted attention from spam filters.
Step 8: Personalise your emails
Personalisation isn’t just about using your reader’s first name. But it’s a great start. Have you ever received an email that starts with ‘Dear Customer’ or my personal dislike “Dear Friend”? I don’t think you can get more impersonal. On the other hand, overusing their first name sounds creepy.
I recommend always asking a subscriber for their first name as well as their email address. Just use it sparingly.
There are other ways to personalise an email but in a newsletter, it gets difficult.
Step 9: Segment your list
Following on from personalisation, this step sends a newsletter to subscribers who have common interests. For example, if you deal with B2B and B2C, you should be sending two different newsletters as each group has different needs.
Your readers will appreciate it because they’re receiving information that relates more directly to them.
Step 10: Make your emails recognisable
The key to any marketing email is to make your email stand out in the recipient’s inbox. There are two ways to do this. One of them is to use a name in the ‘From’ address. You could use the name of a team member but whichever way you choose, use the name of a person ‘From’ address so that it appears like its coming from a real person.
SuperOffice’s research tells us that 45% of subscribers say they are likely to read an email because of who it’s from.
Adding a recognisable sender’s name will help build familiarity with your recipient’s, build trust, and not attract unwanted attention of the spam filters.
It’s not just about who the email is sent from. The design should reflect your brand as well. Logo, but not too large, fonts, and colours go a long way here.
Step 11: Pick a good subject line
In Step 8 I told you that using a real person’s name is one of two ways to make your emails stand out. The other is the subject line. If the subject line isn’t intriguing, it won’t matter the content, your email won’t even be opened.
Research by Invespcro indicates that 47% of recipients open emails based on the subject line alone.
Step 12: Use alt text for your images
Not all email clients support images in the same way, and not all readers can or choose to view images in an email. Alt text gives information to the reader about the image. Those who choose not to display image may do so and screen readers will convey the meaning of the image to the recipient.
Step 13: Be compliant to related laws
Anti-spam laws around the world are varied but in countries that have them, they have one thing in common. Marketing emails should only be sent to recipients who have agreed to receive them. Some laws are a little loser about the definition of permission that others.
Even if someone has given their permission to receive marketing emails, don’t be surprised if someone unsubscribes and gives the reason that the email is spam.
Step 14: Make it easy for people to unsubscribe
This is probably the hardest thing for many small businesses. But it’s important to make sure that your list readers are opening, reading, and acting on your emails. If they’re not, spam filters do notice. Some platforms will block emails simply because recipients aren’t opening them.
Most email service providers will put a default unsubscribe line in your emails if you don’t craft one yourself. It’s that important.
Step 15: Test, test, and test
Always test your emails before sending them to your subscribers.
Use a pre-flight checklist to make sure every part of your email has been completed correctly.
Get someone to proofread your email. It reduces the grammar and spelling errors. Some will always slip through.
Send the email to yourself or, preferably, a dummy email address used specifically for testing.
Open your email in different types of clients and on different devices.
Use split testing to try different variations of your email. This will help you learn what works better with your readers.
Step 16: Hit Send!
It’s time to send your email. You can either send it manually or schedule it. Stick to the date and time you decided on in Step #1. Don’t go after perfection. It will never be perfect. It’s only by sending and measuring the results will you be able to make improvements.
Step 17: Analyse
Once you’re email newsletter is out in the wild, schedule a date to analyse your results. 14 days is sufficient time to wait. The key metrics to measure are:
- Number of recipients
- Open rate
- Click through rate
- Click to open rate
- Unsubscribe rate
With these metrics, it’s important to track them over time. Trends are what’s important rather than the metrics for a single campaign.
Analyse the results and look for areas where improvements can be made. For example, if the open rate is low for a business in your industry, it may be that your subject line wasn’t as strong as it could be.
How to promote your email newsletter
Now that you have your email newsletter, it’s time to get subscribers.
The more people who subscribe, the more people receive your newsletter. The more people who read it, the more people are likely to buy from you.
You need to shout about your newsletter from the rooftops.
Here are a few ways to get you started.
1. Offer something for free
Most people won’t subscribe just to receive a newsletter every so often, but they will subscribe to get something they can use now.
Offer a freebie in exchange for their email address. Of course, you should make it clear that they will be added to your mailing list if they want to access the freebie.
2. Use social media
Promote your newsletter on your social media channels. Not just the ones you own but on pages or groups you belong to.
If you’re offering a freebie, promote that. There will be less resistance and remember, people love free stuff.
3. Add CTAs to your web pages
Your website should be the centre of your marketing efforts. Use it. Promote your newsletter by adding a strong CTA on every page of your website.
Again, if you’re offering a freebie, promote that. After all, people love free stuff.
4. Ask your readers
If your readers are loving your content, use this to your advantage. Ask them to forward the newsletters to someone they know who would find it useful.
If your email service can do it, track who forwards your emails and reward them.
Now that you have understood the trick to great newsletter copy, go ahead and send those emails!
Your subscribers will be waiting eagerly for your next newsletter when you provide them with a valuable and pleasant user experience!