Part of any successful business is building a relationship with your network and any prospective clients. A newsletter can be a useful marketing tool for keeping in touch with them. Reminding them of who you are and what you do and an opportunity to provide added value, let them know about your services and offers.
1. Purpose. Firstly — What’s it’s purpose? Who is your audience? Are you planning to gain clients, grow your reputation or both?
2. Be authentic, be yourself — this will distinguish you from all the other 1000s of newsletters out there.
3. Jotting down ideas for potential topics. Start a notebook, open up a file for ideas as you come up with them or come across something you think might be useful.
4. Sign up to other people’s newsletters. Subscribe to people or businesses newsletters that you know or respect and see how they do it. They vary a great deal in content, quality, format and frequency. See what you like and dislike, what would work for you?
5. Think of a key topic and start writing. Start with whatever comes to mind. Maybe leave it a day or so then do some more. Work on it until you’re reasonably happy but don’t expect perfection. It’s going to evolve and change over time as your business grows so the important thing is to get it out there!
6. Set yourself a deadline. Stick to it and then get it posted. Decide on a frequency and plan time to write it on a weekly/monthly basis or whatever frequency you feel comfortable with. Twice a month seems to be the recommended frequency for keeping you fresh in people’s minds but might seem too much. A longer newsletter once a month or quarterly may be better for your type of business and your potential audience.
7. Format and layout. Although I cut and paste mine from Word some email browsers convert it to text, which can mess up the formatting so keep it simple. Avoid tables, columns and large images. Formatting and automation becomes more important as your distribution list grows. Once you’re happy with the layout create a template that you can re-use each time.
8. Avoiding the spam filters. Filters look for certain words within the email title and content and filter out suspect emails as spam. Some subscribers may not even realize that your email isn’t reaching them. Lots of images and different fonts styles and sizes will also affect filters. Keep it simple. Use a utility to check the header and text of your newsletter to avoid it being filtered out by some ISPs spam filters.
9. Contact Information. Always include your contact information and your brief business message or tagline — what’s your niche, who are your clients? Provide a link to your website.
10. Subscribe/unsubscribe options. I’ve had people forward my newsletters so give new subscribers a way to contact you and get added for the next one. Confirm with new subscribers that you have added them. Known as double opt-in and available through some auto responders. Always give people the option to unsubscribe from your newsletter. This is a legal requirement in some countries and is good practice.
11. Your distribution. Now you’ve written it, who are you going to send it to? Use your current address book — friends, family, colleagues, people you’ve met networking. It’s grown as my contact database has grown. Capture people’s email addresses when they visit your website. If you make a new contact — send them your newsletter as an example of who you are and what you do and invite them to subscribe.
Important: Don’t include the address list in the To: field. Use the Bcc list instead. This stops your readers seeing everyone else’s email address and possibly having a list of valid email addresses getting into the hands of spammers!
12. Test. Send it to a couple of friends to test it out — they can give you feedback on it. Also send it to yourself if you have various email accounts with different providers to see that they get through the filters OK and any formatting comes across OK.
You can add auto responder services as you go and increase the frequency — apparently monthly is too little, some people recommend twice a month or even weekly. I receive some that are 2–3 times a week (too much in my opinion).
If you want to use an autoresponder such as Aweber, use it sooner rather than later.
The more subscribers you have, the harder it is to switch. You’ll always lose a proportion of your subscribers in the switch over process, so don’t switch too often. Find one that will grow with you.