Newsletters are a crucial part of email marketing, and creating newsletters your contacts will actually read is even more important. Let’s find out how.
The world of email marketing can be a lot to deal with and, at times, very complicated. There are so many things you have to think about – how do you keep your subscribers? How do you ensure that your subscription process is legal and won’t get you into trouble? How and where do you even find subscribers to send your newsletters to?
In this article, we’re going to answer all of those questions, plus more that you might have on this topic. Email marketing doesn’t have to be overwhelming, so why don’t we start with the basics?
Email Newsletters – What Are They?
You will have received an email newsletter at least once in your life. In reality, you probably receive several a week. Email newsletters are emails that are regularly sent out, usually weekly or monthly. They can be in plain text format or displayed in a design (HTML).
If you were to look in your inbox now, you would notice that this form of communication is extremely popular for businesses. In fact, roughly 85% of B2B marketers send email newsletters regularly. This is done as a part of their content marketing strategy and used as a means of pulling in potential customers.
Newsletters usually focus on giving subscribers information on a specific topic that they have shown interest in. You will have noticed that almost every website you visit will have an option for you to sign up to their newsletter.
Autoresponders and automated emails are not the same thing as newsletters, although on many occasions they do overlap. While both automated emails and newsletters each have an important part to play in the marketing strategy, at times they can look very similar to one another.
It isn’t uncommon for consumers to not even be able to tell the difference sometimes. This is because, while newsletters are supposed to nurture a relationship between potential customer and brand, they are sometimes used to push forward sales and advertise discounts, which is not their intended purpose.
Newsletters should, in a perfect world, only complement marketing emails rather than take their place.
There are a multitude of software programs that can be used to create newsletters. These vary greatly in price but should all be able to do the basic functions. Some software programs such as MailerLite are very easy to use and inexpensive while others, such as Hubspot are far more costly.
The Advantages Of Email Newsletters
There are lots of great things about email newsletters. Thanks to modern technology, newsletters are a popular choice for online marketing, and for good reason.
- Newsletters are much cheaper, easier to create and faster to deliver compared to traditional media where flyers and posters must be printed and manually delivered
- Results can be measured when newsletters are sent out – you have the ability to see which contacts open which newsletters. This allows you to tailor content to subscribers and therefore increase your chances of then becoming a paying customer
- Sending out newsletters ensures that the business is kept at the subscribers’ front-of-mind. This is another thing that influences the chances of them becoming a paying customer.
- The use of smartphones means that contacts will receive newsletters no matter where they are
- The same medium can be used for both registrations and purchases, so everything is in one place and more concise.
The Disadvantages Of Email Newsletters
- Most people already tend to receive a large volume of emails, so they may not take the time to read every single one they come across. This means that the newsletter you send may get lost in a sea of other emails
- Emails are deleted quickly after being received, and the ones that are read are usually read through quickly and on the fly. This means that contacts may not take in the contents of the newsletter and overlook details
- The experience of having something physical and tactile no longer exists, which may be seen as a downside for many people
So, Are Newsletters Worth It?
While there are clearly disadvantages of using newsletters to reach people, they are vastly outweighed by the benefits. Overall, the use of email newsletters is more cost-efficient, not to mention no paper goes to waste. Email marketing as a while cultivates a return on investment (ROI) of roughly $38 for every $1 spent.
Creating An Email Newsletter
Creating a newsletter can be really simple once you have decided on your content. Using different tools can impact how easy it is to create your own newsletter, since some are more complicated than others. However, tools such as ActiveCampaign, MailerLite, and MailChimp are popular software programs for this purpose.
Most easy-to-use tools offer graphical editing, which makes using the tool a lot easier. Additionally, the use of drag and drop editors gives you the opportunity to give your newsletter different building blocks. What makes these software programs better is that no coding knowledge is needed at all – so anyone can do it.
The 5 Steps to Creating a Newsletter
Creating a newsletter is a lot more simple than you might think. All you need to do is:
- Choose an email service provider and sign up
- Find your newsletter mailing list and import it
- Set up your sign-up form for people to join your newsletter mailing list
- Create and set up your first newsletter campaign that you will send out
- Monitor the performance of the campaign and see how it does.
The Features To Look For In Professional Email Software
To run any newsletter, you need these things:
- An editor
- List management
- Responsive templates
- Well-defined processes
Having an editor is a crucial part of creating a newsletter. The editor needs to be able to test the newsletter designs in popular webmail and email clients such as Gmail, Outlook and Apple Mail.
This is another incredibly important aspect of running a newsletter. List management enables you to maintain a lost of subscribers that can be filtered into groups in a database Customer relationship management might be able to be integrated, but this depends on the software program that you are using.
If you want to cater to people who primarily use their mobile devices for reading their newsletters, then having responsive templates is another essential function. Having responsive templates will ensure that newsletters and emails are displayed correctly on smartphones.
Most email service providers have a range of templates to choose from and use, but if you find that you do not like any of the ones that are available, don’t worry. You can also use a dedicated email template builder to create your own templates. The great thing about these are that they are often free.
Well-defined processes revolved around the idea that people need to be able to subscribe and unsubscribe easily. You need to be able to deal with invalid and incorrect email addresses, too, and make sure that it is not impossibly difficult to stop receiving newsletters.
You might expect all newsletter services to have the same rates when it comes to deliverability, but this is not the case. These are incredibly important for newsletters, since you want your subscribers to actually receive the emails that they subscribed for.
Naturally you, as a good marketer, must always follow best practices such as making sure that subscribers are kept engaged and regular list cleaning, but none of those things really matter if your deliverability is no good.
What You Should And Shouldn’t Do In Email Newsletters
Of course, content is an important part of a newsletter, if not the most important. Old newsletters, like the ones that would get printed, were often more company-focused.
Companies used newsletters as a way to let people know about new products released, company announcements and awards – a lot of things that nobody really cared about. Now, however, things are very different.
Businesses have put themselves in the reader’s shoes to try and figure out what it is they actually want to receive news about. They have figured out that subscribers want to receive information that they sign up for, not anything else.
Additionally, they have learned what kinds of things would make someone unsubscribe from a newsletter so that they can avoid putting out content like it. All the best newsletters contain content that is relevant to the reader. These newsletters tend to contain information that:
- Is personalized or tailored to the subscriber’s interests – several email providers allow you to learn what is and is not of interest to your contacts through learning which emails are opened or which links are followed from the newsletters.
- Tells subscribers about upcoming events – this can work for both online and offline events. If you have an event of any kind coming up where subscribers are able to attend or participate, it’s always best to let them know so that they can sign up for it
- Lets subscribers know about freebies, promotions and special offers that are available – everybody loves learning about possible ways to save money or get free things, so always let subscribers know if they can get discounts, vouchers, webinars and even e-books.
- Is useful – tutorials, tips and ‘how to’ guides are very popular, especially in specific circles
- Is newsworthy – compelling newsletters are a must. Your subscribers will want to know the important things about your business, such as recent developments and updates
- Is timely – Holidays and events are some of the best sale times for businesses. From Christmas to Coachella, there are thousands, if not millions, of people who are interested in the topic and will eat up any newsletter you offer on the topic.
- Is visual – everybody likes attractive things, and that is not different when it comes to attractive newsletters. Your content can’t be too text-heavy or it just won’t be read. The email needs to look visually appealing, suit the aesthetic of the content and easy to read.
There are a few things you can do to help you make sure that your newsletter content is up to scratch. These things include:
- Subject lines
- Keeping an eye on metrics
- Driving readers to your site
Nobody likes to be bombarded with emails. If you constantly send your subscribers emails, especially ones thy don’t care about, they will unsubscribe in no time. If you want to schedule properly and only give your subscribers reason to stay, you should:
- Always bear in mind the timezone that your subscribers reside in – it’s never a good idea to send newsletters to people in the middle of the night
- Plan your newsletter content ahead of time – decide on your weekly or monthly content in advance so that there is no rush to send them out on the day. It’s a good idea to create a schedule for your newsletters so both you and your subscribers know when to expect them. To make sure you have an optimal time, you may need to A/B or split test to test when the right time is
- Create a sturdy scheduling plan for when newsletters are sent out. You can either ask your subscribers how often they would like to hear from you or choose to send out newsletters once a week, month or every two weeks. It is not a good idea to send out newsletters more than once a week
You aren’t going to read an email about a subject you aren’t interested in. In fact, you are likely to send it straight to trash without e second thought. Good subject lines can make or break it when it comes to subscribers actually paying attention to the newsletters you send, so you need to do it well. In order to do that, you should:
- Make subject lines concise – it is recommended to make your subject lines around 41 characters. Some sites allow you to preview subject lines to ensure that you don’t use too many words.
- Limit your use of capitalization and punctuations – if you open a newsletter and all you see are capitalized words followed by five exclamation points, aren’t you going to feel like you’re getting yelled at? Keep punctuation and capitals professional. Just because it is professional doesn’t mean that you can’t convey excitement with your tone of voice
- Don’t try and trick your subscriber into thinking that they will see something in the newsletter that isn’t there – you should always be honest with your contacts or else they might just unsubscribe from you because they find your fake newsletters annoying or, worse, they think that you are untrustworthy.
Keeping An Eye On Metrics
Not everything you try is going to work. You need to go through split testing to find out which things do and do not work, so you can either eliminate or improve on certain aspects. You can do this by:
- Distinguishing which call to actions drive more traffic to the site you run and which ones do not
- Analyzing which subject lines have a positive correlation to higher open rates
- Finding out which type of emails you send lead to more people unsubscribing from your newsletters
Driving Readers To Your Site
Your newsletters need to have a purpose. Nobody wants to receive emails that don’t really say anything, there must be a call to action in some way. You can do this by:
- Including social links at the footer of your newsletter – these links should take subscribers to your social media profiles that will take them there if they click on it.
- Be clear on what your call to action is – if you want your subscribers to visit your website, then tell them that and include a link to your site. You have a new blog post you want your subscribers to see? Let them know that and include a link to the new blog. Be careful with this, though. You should limit one newsletter to one call of action or else your subscribers might feel overwhelmed and ignore the call, which won’t help you or anyone else.
It should be noted that it is recommended to use the click rate as your primary metric on Apple devices. Getting an accurate click rate gives you a much better idea of how well your newsletters convert. Some email providers give you a general overview but do not mention anything specific, so that is something to keep an eye out for if you want to keep tabs on your click rate.
Email Newsletter Examples
Split Testing Your Email Newsletter
Split, or A/B testing, is a crucial part in setting up your newsletter. To do this, you need to split your audience in order to test different campaign variations. By doing this, you will learn which campaigns do better and boost your success rate as a result.
Usually you put your subscribers into two different groups, but it can be done with more variations, although this can be a bit confusing.
Each group will receive one of the two emails you have prepared, and you can measure which email is more popular with your subscribers. For his test to work, you need to have at least 2,000 subscribers on your list.
Having more subscribers will mean that you can get results that are more valid and make sense. Thankfully, this feature is offered by most newsletter services in some way. Often, however, this feature is reserved for the more expensive paid plans that are available, so running these tests could be very pricey.
Technically, you can send out newsletters for free. You can use your normal email program, like Outlook, and use it to send your newsletters. It isn’t that easy, though. You will run into a number of problems in no time and wonder what to do from there.
Firstly, creating HTML emails using Outlook is a complicated process and secondly, if you are using Outlook, there is no way of analyzing your newsletters. Furthermore, you would have no way of automating subscriptions or unsubscribes, so it really isn’t a good option when you think about it.
You will be glad to know that you don’t have to fork out a lot of money to send a decent newsletter. In fact, you might not have to spend any money at all. There are a number of email providers that have free plans and are good quality.
There are limitations, however. If you decide that you do need expert features and your subscriber list is continuing to grow, you will have to spend some money. Not too much money, though. If you need to reach 5,000 subscribers in a month, you can pay as little as $25 and a maximum of around $45.
You can even use a prepaid plan if your newsletters go out at irregular intervals. Using a prepaid plan means that you will only actually for when you send out a newsletter, so you could save money.
Is It Possible To Outsource Your Email Marketing?
If you don’t feel like managing your email marketing by yourself, you don’t have to. There are different options you can go with, but these will cost you money. For example, you can always hire an email marketing agency.
Marketing agencies are probably the most professional way to go about your email marketing, but it isn’t cheap. It depends on how much you want to outsource, so things like project management, copywriting and artwork and campaign creation will all add to the costs.
Going in the direction of hiring an email marketing agency, you can expect to say goodbye to several hundred dollars or more for every newsletter campaign.
Hiring a freelancer would be cheaper. There are numerous platforms such as Freelancer.com, FreeUp and Upwork where you can find and hire professionals. These professionals can be from all over the globe and extremely skilled, so you will not be disappointed.
Furthermore, on platforms like these, you have the ability to see the professionals’ previous ratings. This will allow you to choose between high-rated individuals and get the best. You do, however, often have to pay a fee on the site if and when you find someone you would like to hire.
Does Sending Out Email Newsletters Mean You Need to Have Your Own Email Server?
A number of components come together when you want to send out an email newsletter. You need a web application or software that can create the newsletter itself, then you need an email server that actually send the newsletter out.
You can generally manage these two components separately without a problem, up to a point. The newsletter software can be installed onto your client computer or your server, and you can use the email server that is provided by your web hosting provider, such as GoDaddy. Doing this is, however, limited.
When using email servers like these, you are limited to the number of emails you can send out. These servers are not suitable for sending out large amounts of emails in a span of a few hours and can shut down.
This issue can be combated by moving to an email server that is external, such as Sendinblue. Most external email servers can handle much bigger loads, and shutting down systems will be a problem of the past.
You could also, in theory, run your own email server. This is a pretty unrealistic option, since a cost/benefit analysis simply does pan out. For small businesses, this is an especially bad option.
While sending email doesn’t tend to be much of an issue, your emails won’t be accepted by major emails services such as Gmail or Yahoo if your server doesn’t have a good sender reputation.
The easiest way to do things would be to go with a hosted email system. Using a hosted email system allows you to have full access to the software programs required for newsletters and not worry about maintenance or deliverability.
It’s a logical choice if you want your life to be a little easier and have less to worry about, allowing you to focus on the contents of your newsletters.
The Legal Parts Of Email Marketing
Like anything, there is a legal aspect to email marketing. There are two concepts that you should know about in order to stay out of trouble.
The Legal Concept In The USA
In the US, the CAN SPAM act states that you can essentially send as many emails as you like, so long as the recipient is subscribed. Some email service providers such as Mailchimp will require proof of an existing opt-in (subscription) from the subscribers that you have to ensure that the campaign is legal.
This demand for proof exists because it would not be good for people to receive emails what are sent through their servers when they do not want them. Complaints would be sent and the reputation of the email server would be tarnished.
When a large number of those receiving the emails mark the email as spam, the server is blacklisted, an outcome that should be avoided at all costs.
The Legal Concepts In The EU And Canada
There are different principles at work in Canada and the EU. In Canada’s case, you must be able to prove that the recipient of the emails explicitly subscribed to the newsletter that you are putting out. Using the double opt-in procedure is the best way to ensure this.
This is when the subscriber received an email of confirmation with a link inside that they have to click. When they click the link, only then are they added to the mailing list.
The EU takes this concept a step further. When the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was introduced, companies had to be clear in their language that is used on their sign-in forms and have procedures set in place for the storing and processing of data, on top of the double opt-in.
There are, however, some exceptions to these rules. For example, existing business relationships – in the case where a business had a current customer, they are usually able to send them emails without gaining explicit consent.
Purchased Email Lists
Some providers try to sell you email lists. Sometimes they have opt-in proof that would hold in a court of law, but these would probably not be accepted by most email service providers. If email providers accepted these kinds of lists, there is the possibility of their good sender reputation being tarnished and being blacklisted.
As a safety measure, they do not allow purchased mailing lists to be used, as they usually come with a high volume of complaints rather than successful clicks.
Getting People To Subscribe To Your Newsletter
Now, only one question remains – how do you get people to subscribe to your mailing lists? The most obvious and best strategy is simple – create good content. Your content needs to be wanted by subscribers, not a nuisance to them.
It must, in some day, add value to the recipient’s lives in some way, shape, or form. It needs to be something that they would recommend to a friend or family member and actually talked about. To do this, a great place to start would be to avoid sales-driven emails that only advertise.
Things like growing good customer relations is much more important than advertising, especially in the long run.
If you want to be generous to subscribers, you might want to consider adding things that they can use in some way. Popular things include e-books or other digital bits and pieces.
These can be used as a welcome gift or, if you really want to keep every subscriber that comes your way, a little gift they receive with every newsletter you send. Being able to give your subscribers something in return can go a long way, and they will be more likely to refer your newsletter to friends, even if it is just to get freebies.
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