A newsletter is an opportunity, an opportunity to attract attention, make an impression on your audience and lead them to take a desired action. It deserves to be paid attention to, to be planned well, to be executed well, the results to be monitored and the process fine tuned.
Understand your readers, that is, why they are on your mailing list. Respect them by not sending them irrelevant material. Be of use to them or they will unsubscribe.
One thing you will struggle with is to keep your ego in check. It is very tempting to blatantly toot your own horn. You are the writer and it is very tempting. You must check yourself and include material that is not necessarily yours but is good useful information from other sources but can be of use to your readers.
Tell stories – stories of events, of how your product or a similar product helped a person. We relate to stories and are turned off by a very clinical benefit / feature checklist. If you are not good at telling stories, hire a story teller – commonly called content writers or content developers or copy writers.
Be mindful of the content delivery method. If a very high percentage of users read your email on their smart phones, make sure your email is sent out in a mobile friendly format.
Communicate with your team. If you are using an outside resource or even in inside resource to develop and send out newsletters, make sure you communicate with them your objectives and also educate them well about who your readers are. The better their understanding, the more relevant pictures, infographs and related collateral they will create.
Define your objectives. It could be:
- Build credibility
- Drive people to your website
- Inform of upcoming events / deadlines
Defining goals helps you create relevant content and also helps your prioritize content.
- Make it easy for people to sign up. If you are asking for too much information at sign up, it could reduce sign ups
- Offer an incentive like a free ebook or PDF or video if they sign up. Helps grow your mailing list.
- Use a good auto responder like GetResponse, Aweber, MailChimp, Mautic etc.
Create a Calendar:
Create a calendar for the whole year. What content to send at what time. This helps you get the maximum impact at the right time. No point in talking about Christmas in July.
Work on your Subject Line. The 25 to 75 characters of your subject line have an unusually heavy impact on whether your email gets opened or not.
Work on the images you share. The infographs or pictures you share should be relevant. You may use various tools to blend certain images and make them more impactful. If you are like me and not very good at graphics software, work with a designer to help you out on a regular basis. It’s not expensive and is money well spent. Make sure your images have alternate text defined for those who have graphics turned off.
Call to Action:
The calls to action should be
a) Clearly defined and
b) Correspond to your objectives. e.g.
- Here is the donation link
- Use code ZBG877 to get 20% off. Offer expires April 10.
- Print and present this email at the gate,
- Call 800-555-1212 to sign up
Do not over-commit:
People are very gungho when starting a Newsletter and promise their readers fresh content every day. After a few days they realize that it is a lot of work. Besides, life gets in the way and their newsletter start getting delayed. From daily it gets to 3 days, then to once a week and once a month and eventually total shut down. Start with one a month and when you have sent out several newsletters on time and you have all your resource identified and inline, increase the frequency.
Identify resources and deadlines:
- Who is going to write – by which date the draft must be ready
- Who is involved in the review process and by which date the review must be completed
- Who is going to proof read
- Who is responsible for producing the newsletter and by which date it must be ready
- When should the test emails be sent and who is going to test
- Final release date
It is very important to monitor the effectiveness of your newsletter and fine tune accordingly. You need to pay attention to:
- Bounce rate – cull the dead and invalid emails
- Unsubscribes – bluntly tells you how many people don’t care for your content. If a particular subject or content results in unusually high unsubscribes, maybe you should lay off such topics.
- Open Rate – Shows you how effective your subject line is
- Click Rate – how good your content is and how effective your call to action is
- Forwards – this really excites me. It is real validation of how well your content was liked and it also generates additional readership.
- New sign ups – if soon after a newsletter you see a spike in new users signing up, that is a good indication that many people forwarded your newsletter to their friends and / or talked about it on social media. You can pat yourself on the back.
All of this seems like a lot of work. Yes it is. Sending out a newsletter is not a casual activity. It is very effective if planned well and executed well. It works. So get busy!
And Good Luck!