When done properly, a newsletter can be a huge asset to your content marketing efforts. Whether it goes out weekly, monthly, or at some other time, having a regular schedule is the way to go. If you’re looking for something to add to your regular content strategy, read on and see if a newsletter might be for you.
And why have a newsletter? There are any number of reasons to tally up in the “Pros” column, but among them is the opportunity for added engagement. Maybe you use this space as a kind of round-up of your blog posts over the last week. Maybe you use it for fresh content that follows up on some of your more popular blog posts. Maybe you even use it to curate great content from others that you think your readers would really enjoy.
Though I’m not here to talk to you specifically about email marketing, please know in advance that this post assumes your newsletter will be online and sent to your subscribers through an email service provider. While there are still businesses who publish paper newsletters, the ability to enhance your content with video, high-res images, sound bites, and any other kind of rich media you can imagine is a major winner with audiences. It makes the content come alive and is more likely to get your readers invested than something they read earlier this month online, only now it’s on paper.
Which would you want to read?
23 Things to Consider When Creating a Newsletter
Preparing For Your Newsletter
Preparing for your newsletter isn’t just a one-and-done deal. While some of the decisions are major ones that you will make regarding the fundamentals of your newsletter, others are ones that you might need to tweak a bit each time you’re about to create a new edition.
1. Seek out a reputable email service provider. Can you do it on your own? Sure. But I’m not going to recommend that you do that. Too much can go wrong and if you violate certain laws of the CAN-SPAM act, you’re up a creek without a paddle (and your wallet will likely be feeling very light).
2. Decide whether your newsletter will be opt-in or opt-out. For example, if your site requires an account to use it, will you automatically enroll your users in your newsletter subscription? Or will you tell them about it and let them make the decision from the start?
3. Make sure subscription options are easily seen on your website. If people don’t even know that you offer a newsletter, then you’ll find yourself having a hard time getting subscribers.
4. Build your subscriber list. Make sure these are people who want to hear from you. If you’ve built your list in-house, fabulous! Gaining subscribers organically is my personal preference. If you pay for email lists, make sure you’re up to speed on who you can and can’t contact.
5. Have an editorial calendar. A newsletter is just a piece of your overall content strategy. Just as you likely have an editorial calendar for your blog content, you should also have a plan in place for your newsletter.
6. Know what you want to accomplish with your newsletter. As with anything, goals are important. Maybe your end-goal is to get 25 people to sign up for your webinar or 100 people to register for a conference you’re co-sponsoring. Maybe your goal is just to get more subscribers. When your goals are less specific, know how you will define success. Whatever those goals are, identify them at the beginning so that you can align your content strategy to suit.
7. Decide how frequently you will send the newsletter. When doing this, have your goals in mind. If you’re attempting to use your newsletter to get your audience to register for your conference or a monthly webinar you hold, you need to keep those registration deadlines in mind. If you’re not using the newsletter to promote something timely, consider any other correspondence that your community might be receiving from you. If they start to hear from you too often, you become noise and they start to ignore you. That’s definitely not what you want.
8. Know your audience. Will you have multiple newsletters? Multiple versions of the same newsletter? Before you can start creating, you should know who your target audience is. Current clients? Prospects? Employees? The choice is yours, but know that your content must align.
9. Decide if you will follow a regular template or not. In other words, will readers know that in every issue of your newsletter, they can expect a video interview with an industry professional, seven pieces of original content written just for the newsletter, three of your most popular blog posts from the month, and a message from your CEO at the end? Or will your publication depend more upon what you think is more important to include at that particular time?
10. Consult with your creative department or a third party in order to create a design for your email. No one wants to look at an ugly email. It’s just a cruel fact of the world. If your newsletter is both aesthetically pleasing and functional, you’ll already be ahead of the curve.
Creating Your Newsletter
The planning is very important, but it would all be for naught if creating the newsletter weren’t so darn important. There are a lot of things to consider when creating a newsletter, and what’s listed here barely scratches the surface. Understand that there are bucket loads of variables. Don’t be afraid to test different layouts, color schemes, templates, and so forth with your readers. Find out what they respond to best. Creation, after all, is an on-going endeavor.
11. Use a heading that is eye-catching without being overwhelming. You want readers to open your email and be drawn in. Maybe you want the color to pop or you’ve got some kind of graphic or logo to use in the header. Ask yourself if that image will be appealing to visitors. If the color is too light or bright against the background, you risk turning your readers away before they even get to the content!
12. Use the F-Layout for visual appeal and readability. The F-Layout is popular in website design because it uses content to draw the eye across and down the page in the shape of an F. Try this layout technique to give your readers a very natural flow.
13. Enhance your content, but make sure you don’t have too much going on. While it’s okay to include video or images, keep a balance. If you’ve got too much going on, you’ll overstimulate your readers and cause them to close the email as soon as they feel overwhelmed. Design will play a big part here in keeping assets organized and balanced.
14. Ideas for newsletters with original content:
• a video message from the CEO
• a video interview
• a podcast
• an article that follows up on your most popular blog post since the last newsletter.
And why use original content? This is probably for you if you have a highly-engaged following that loves to interact. They consume lots of content on your site and want something fresh in a newsletter.
15. Ideas for newsletters with curated content: You will hand-pick content from around the web and arrange it to share with your subscribers. When choosing this content, look at what does well on your site and try to find material from others that runs in the same vein. Aweber has some great tips on how to use curated content in an email campaign, and these tips certainly hold true for a newsletter.
Why use curation? This style is for you if you want to shine the spotlight on some of your peers who are either thought leaders in their fields or are creating the kinds of content that your audience will enjoy.
16. Ideas for newsletters with recapped content: You will use previously created content and do a round-up or best-of kind of email newsletter. If you only publish 3-5 blog posts a week, you might include all of them in one place. If you publish more than that, you might use the newsletter as a best-of list or to highlight posts you thought were particularly good.
Why use recapped content? Recapping your content is a good solution for a busy audience who prefers to see the highlights all in one place.
17. Optimize your email for mobile devices. It’s no longer safe to assume that your newsletter will be read on a computer. It could very well be consumed on a smart phone or tablet, so make sure it’s still easy to view and navigate for those on-the-go readers.
18. Invite interaction. Just because your readers are looking at an email newsletter doesn’t mean that there can’t be some interaction involved. If you’re featuring some of your own blog content, link them to the comments section on each of those posts. Include an email address where they can contact you to provide feedback. Link them to a poll or survey so that they can let you know what they thought and what they’d like to see in the future.
19. Avoid spammy words in the subject of your email. I’m sure you know what I mean, but here are a few examples: free, money, bargain, reduced, slash, credit, credit card, and so forth. Look at what shows up in your spam filter. You’ll see a host of words that you should avoid using. Along those same lines, don’t use all caps. That’s another red flag for spam filters.
20. Have a good proofreader on hand. You might have a fantastic editor, but even the best editors are fallible. Have a great proofreader on hand to look over the final product before it goes out to your readers. This will save you the embarrassment of knowing that everyone is going to see that glaring typo or misspelling that the editor missed at 3 am when she was tired and trying to finish up. Make sure your newsletter is as smooth as possible.
After You Hit ‘Send’
Though it might seem like you should be finished once you hit the send button, you’re just getting started on the third phase of the newsletter. This third phase involves monitoring your success, archiving your newsletter, and preparing to do it all again.
21. Have a plan for measuring your success. After the newsletter has had a significant amount of time to marinate with readers, you’ll want to look at your analytics to find out how many people opened it, how many clicks through it saw, how many deleted it, how many emails bounced back, and so forth. These are all things that will help you to decide adjustments to be made to the content, schedule, or other details in the future.
22. Create an archive for your newsletters. Perhaps you have a specific page on your site that houses the .pdf versions of all of your newsletters. If, when creating your content strategy, you envisioned that the newsletter would serve as a reference for readers, you certainly want to make sure they can access that content when they need or want it.
23. Do it all again. Once you’ve finished your newsletter, it’s time to start again. Keep in mind what you learned from the analytics, as well as from reader feedback and interaction. Use that knowledge to help you shape the next newsletter. If you would like to see how we implement all this goodness, sign up for our newsletter.
Every business will find its own groove. What are some tips that your business would add to this list?
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