How to create an e-newsletter (and a great email marketing campaign)
In this post we show you how to create an e-newsletter that you can send to your business leads or clients; we also advise on how to run an effective e-marketing campaign in general.
1. Start with the most important thing: your data
Before you think about ‘how’ you are going to send an e-newsletter, you need to think about the ‘who’.
You probably have an existing database of leads and clients tucked away in an Excel spreadsheet somewhere – or more likely, your database is spread across several very messy spreadsheets.
If this sounds like you, it's a good idea to consolidate all your files into one clean, well-organised spreadsheet before you try to send newsletters to any of the contacts on them.
You should also ensure that your cleaned database is ‘segmented’ as well as possible – i.e., ideally you should have a field in it containing information which lets you flag data as leads, current clients, past clients and so on.
(That’s just an exampleof how you could organise things though: how you segment your database should depend on what you are selling and the nature of your business – for example, if you sell different types of products, you may wish to flag your data by product type.)
The basic aim of the exercise is to get your data into shape, so that you are able to send an appropriate message to an appropriate prospect at the right time.
2. Create a content plan and e-newsletter schedule
The next step is to plan your communications carefully. It’s a good idea to create an ‘e-communications schedule’ which maps out what you are going to send out in an e-newsletter, to whom, and when.
You can then refer to this schedule throughout the year, and ensure you have all the necessary content ready to go. And because you’ll have segmented your data nicely in advance (see above) you will be sending your beautiful and interesting e-newsletter to precisely the right group of contacts.
3. Pick the right tool for sending your e-newsletter
For many small businesses, sending e-newsletters means compiling a mailing list in Excel, then copying and pasting the addresses into the BCC field of a clunky-looking Outlook message.
This is a time-consuming way to go about things; it’s also very ineffective, because
- it doesn’t allow you to send very professional-looking e-newsletters
- it prevents you from accurately measure important stats like open rate and clickthroughs
- it increases the likelihood of your email triggering spam filters (email programs usually hate emails that are bcc'd to loads of people).
It is a much better idea to use a dedicated tool for sending your e-newsletter. There are many web-based solutions available now: big-hitters include Getresponse, Aweber, Mailchimp, Campaign Monitor and Mad Mimi.
These all allow you to import your database, create attractive templates, and send out proper ‘HTML e-newsletters’ that stand the greatest chance of being delivered (and crucially, read!). They also provide free trials / plans (of various degrees of quality) - it's worth trying a few out and seeing which suits your requirements best.
4. Create an attractive e-newsletter template
Once you’ve decided upon which bit of software you’re going to use for your e-newsletters, you need to design a nice HTML template for it. With the exception of Mad Mimi, most of the above solutions provide a wide range of e-newsletter templates which you can tweak - using a drag and drop editor - so that your e-newsletter matches your brand.
If your design skills are not all that strong of course, you might consider hiring a designer to set up your email templates. Either way, you should try to get to a point where your e-newsletter template looks professional and uncluttered and adheres to your organisation's branding guidelines.
5. Split test!
Once you’ve got your database, your e-communications schedule, your choice of software and your template sorted, it’s finally time to start sending some e-newsletters. But it’s really important to send them in the best way possible! This generally means 'split testing' your subject headers and/or your e-newsletter content.
Split testing involves trying out different versions of your message on a relatively small sample of your data before sending it to the remainder of your database. You might, for example, create three versions of the same newsletter, each with different subject headers, and send it to 500 people on your database – after a day or so, you can identify which subject header led to the best open rate, and then use that header for the remainder of your data.
Note that this is only worth doing if you have a relatively large database – if your business database is only a few hundred records in size, you might find split testing doesn’t really lead to particularly informative results.
You needn't restrict split testing to your e-newsletters - you can also split test forms (to see, for example if shorter sign-up forms work better than longer ones) or your landing pages (the pages where people can sign up to your list).
And speaking of landing pages...
6. Use good landing pages
It’s not just essential to have attractive, well-constructed e-newsletters: it’s important that the links in those e-newsletters take you to pages that actually ‘convert’ readers into taking further action too.
Generally speaking you don’t want to send people to a page that contains a huge number of competing calls to action or links – it’s better to present a page that encourages users to take one specific action, be that buying a product or completing a form. Your landing pages should be attractive, easy-to-use and focused firmly on conversion.
As mentioned above, you can split test your landing pages to see which pages 'convert' visitors to leads most effectively. This involves creating two or more landing pages, testing them against each other and ultimately rolling the one with the highest conversion rate out as your preferred landing page.
Some email marketing products, such as Getresponse, provide this functionality out of the box (see image below) or alternatively, you can use a dedicated tool like Instapage or Unbounce to create and split test landing pages.
7. Measure success
Most e-newsletter tools come with detailed reporting functionality – after sending an e-newsletter, you will be able to access statistics that let you measure the performance of your e-newsletters.
Study these stats carefully, as they will help you create better e-newsletters that generate more conversions in future. The key things you need to look out for are:
- open rates - which type of subject header / content encourages the most opens of your emails
- clickthrough rates (CTRs) - what sort of links in your emails are popular?
- unsubscribe rates - what content really turns people off?
8. Allow people to sign up to your mailing list via your website
Email marketing tools allow you to easily embed sign-up forms for your mailing list directly on your website. Make sure you do this, as it will save you having to repeatedly upload spreadsheets of data to your e-newsletter service.
Additionally, by connecting your website’s mailing list form directly to your e-newsletter software, you can make use of autoresponders or ‘drips’ – automated emails that you can ‘pre-program’ in advance so that when somebody signs up to your mailing list via your website, they will automatically receive messages of your choosing at intervals of your choosing.
For example, a subscriber could get a welcome message immediately upon signup; a special offer one week later; an encouragement to follow your company on Facebook two weeks later and so on.
9. Allow people to share your e-newsletter easily
Most e-newsletter tools will allow you to add ‘forward to a friend’ or social media sharing buttons to your e-newsletter.
Add them! It means that your content and offers get a good chance of being seen by an audience outside of your mailing list.
10. Always follow best practice
And finally, if you want to run an effective e-newsletter campaign, there are four important things to remember:
- Don’t spam: always ensure that anyone on your list has actually signed up to it
- Don’t over-commmunicate: leave decent gaps between messages
- Always send relevant, interesting content to people on your mailing list: this will minimise unsubscribes
- Always make it easy for people to unsubscribe
Hope you find these e-marketing tips useful. If you enjoyed this article, please do share it with others!