Social media has its place as a way of connecting and marketing to your clients. However, with the rapid changes to the social media platforms and all the filters they put in the way of people seeing your content, the most effective way to stay connected is by content marketing through an email newsletter.
Why your small business needs a newsletter
- Build a list of people who want to hear from you.
- Create a stronger connection with your clients.
- Keep your list no matter what happens to social media platforms.
- Stay at top of mind with your clients.
- Get more leads or sales.
- Get feedback on business ideas/directions.
- Get better reach than through social media.
What & Why: The Content
What outcomes are you looking for?
Before you leap into building your newsletter, you need to work out what you want to achieve from having a newsletter in the first place.
Work out the goals and objectives for your newsletter. Are you looking for extra sales, leads, building a relationship or simply staying on a customer’s radar? Your goals will affect your content strategy.
Who is your target audience?
Work out the details of your potential audience. How old are they? Are they more likely to read your emails on a smartphone or a desktop computer? Your client demographics will affect your design as well as your content.
What outcomes are your clients looking for?
What is in it for your readers to read your newsletter? Why should they take the time to read your information?
What are they looking for when they get a newsletter from a small business? Do they just want discount coupons or are they looking for “how to” information or tips on using your service or product?
Newsletters need to have high value, useful information in order to be read. In general, remember the 80:20 rule – 80% useful, fresh content and no more than 20% marketing.
What will you write about?
Good newsletters are predictable in terms of content type and layout. Leaping from fishing tips to testing smoke alarms from one week to another is a great way to lose readers.
Think about whether you have enough material within your area of interest and focus that you can discuss in an ongoing newsletter.
Do you want short sharp content or longer well-considered articles? Can you forward plan your content to match upcoming events or promotions?
When will your newsletter come out?
Are you aiming for a daily, weekly, fortnightly, monthly or quarterly newsletter?
Whatever your planned schedule, stick to it like glue.
Predictability and reliability is important in business. If you send out a newsletter once, and then nothing for months, your clients will have forgotten you and you are likely to end up in the spam folder.
Who will be responsible for the newsletter?
Like any other duty, you need to assign a person to be responsible for either writing or compiling the newsletter.
A word to the wise here – this is not the job to give to your office admin or receptionist. I have seen too many newsletters scuttled by well-meaning office admins including “off colour” jokes, gossip or non-approved content in the newsletter just to meet a deadline.
Do you have enough skills and time?
Researching, designing and sending a quality newsletter takes time. My weekly blog/newsletters take a minimum of 6 hours work each week.
If you don’t have the time, then outsource your newsletter to ensure consistent quality and compliance with deadlines.
How: The Technical Side
What Newsletter Service Will You Use?
If you are going to build an email list and send out newsletters, you will need to subscribe to a newsletter service to manage it for you.
There are loads of different email marketing services on the market.
Some just allow you to send out broadcast emails. This is where you create a newsletter and then email that newsletter to your list.
Others also include an autoresponder or drip feed option, where you can set up a number of pre-prepared emails that are mailed out at certain times or after certain actions. For example, thank you emails when someone joins your email list or discount coupons 7 days after a sale.
Other email systems include options for email capture forms you can include in your website, as well as surveys and landing pages.
When getting started, look for a service that has both the newsletter and autoresponder options included as this gives you the most flexibility and room to grow.
One advantage of using a reputable email provider is that they automatically comply with some of the provisions of the Spam Act. They require you to include your contact details in emails, and they provide an unsubscribe option on your emails and manage unsubscribes for you.
How Are People Going to Join Your List?
If you have been in business for a while, you may have already built up a list of emails of past clients in your Outlook system or client database.
The problem is that you can’t simply import their details into your newsletter system and start mailing to them. If you do that you will be in breach of the Spam Act and be liable for some hefty penalties.
Even if you take the risk and do a mail out, you will have a huge bounce rate as people regularly change their email addresses. A significant portion of your list will unsubscribe and report your email to the newsletter service provider as spam.
Get enough of these bounces and complaints (the threshold is exceedingly low), and your service provider can instantly close down your service without warning or issuing you a refund of fees you may have paid.
Don’t do it!
People need to explicitly consent to join your mailing list. This means for your existing clients, you need to contact them outside the newsletter system and invite them to join your email list. Only if they consent, can you add their details to the system.
The safest option when you are starting out is to include an opt-in box on your website so people can manually enter their details and go through a legally compliant opt-in procedure.
Read some great tips on how to grow your email list.
What Will You Offer?
When building an email list, most businesses create an offer to entice people to join their mailing list. It could be as complex as an eBook or course, or as simple as a discount coupon. Identifying what you will be offering in return for people joining your list needs to be part of your initial newsletter planning.
What Is Your Email Sequence?
With most small business newsletters, you ideally need your autoresponder and newsletter working together to give the best customer experience.
You need to work through what you will communicate at each step of the initial sequence to build connection and achieve your newsletter goals.
Here is a diagram that outlines a typical sequence when someone joins a newsletter.
What Design Will You Use?
There is something very personal about email. With an email newsletter you have a one-on-one conversation with a client. You want to look your best!
The design and layout of your newsletter is important.
People skim emails, so make sure your text and design is easy to read by skimmers. Too much information crammed into a tight space means people won’t know where to look and will click away.
Keep plenty of white space and attractive imagery. If you add an image, remember to include ALT details on each image to cater for people who have images turned off by default in their email programs.
Remember also that many people read their emails using their smartphones and tablets. Your newsletter needs to be mobile friendly.
Should You Include Full Text Articles?
This is one of the most hotly debated topics in email marketing. Should you include the full text of an article in your newsletter, or simply a teaser and then send people back to your website?
My personal view is that given that most good blog posts now are getting longer and more complex, the teaser with links back to the site makes the most sense from a readability and an SEO perspective.
Small businesses don’t need a newsletter to be effective with their marketing. However, given the benefits in terms of building connection with your clients while you are building a valuable asset for your business, it is one of the first marketing tactics that small businesses should consider adding.