A crash course in digital newsletter publishing

You have probably heard from all the top Internet marketing specialists that you should have an online newsletter.  But do you need one and how do you go about creating one? And do the same rules apply as with a print newsletter?

An online newsletter is just an “Electronic Magazine.” Newsletters, magazines, and other publications that are distributed via email are often called newsletters.  A newsletter is a powerful marketing tool. Statistics show that an newsletter published consistently and coherently increases recognition, improves customer relationships, and generates strong response rates. More than 80% of newsletter readers say newsletters are useful, 90% get an idea from each issue, 75% save issues, and 32% pass along articles to colleagues. No other promotional method gives you the same value at such a low cost and has such short lead times from concept to distribution. 

When thinking about whether you really need an newsletter ask yourself these questions, Why do you want to start an newsletter? What is the purpose of the newsletter? Who do you want to read your newsletter? You must be able to answer these questions before launching into developing an newsletter.  Like any project you must have clearly articulated goals and objectives to be successful.

There are a couple of other key decisions that you need to make as well:

What do you write about in your newsletters

It helps to subscribe to every newsletter you can get your hands on, especially competitor’s newsletters.  Read at least three issues of each and decide which ones are in your own personal top ten.  You will quickly develop a sense about what you want to include in your own newsletter.  As a general guide write “how to” articles, tips, answer common questions and concerns, include newsworthy events, and other related topics.

A word of advice, try to find a path less travelled so that you can differentiate yourself from your competitors. Don’t write about the same things as everyone else, brainstorm some ideas and come up with topics that other people are not writing about. As an expert in your field, there are multiple tasks that you perform daily, just write about the things you do and the knowledge you have attained.

What response do you hope to elicit from your readers?

The ultimate goal is to sell more products or services.  This can be achieved by driving readers to your website to learn more about your products and services and/or by increasing the exposure of your company to new prospects.  This is achieved by getting new subscribers.  If you have a useful newsletter, about 30% of newsletter subscribers will pass-along your newsletter to family and friends. In other words, good newsletters spread like wild fire. Additionally, an newsletter that is passed onto you by someone you trust is more likely to be viewed as a valuable source of information.

The whole point of an newsletter is to get targeted readers to respond—to do something or to think in a certain way. Whether they respond, or not, depends on four main factors:

• their willingness to read the newsletter;

• their ability to read it;

• their willingness to do what we ask of them in the newsletter; and

• their ability to do what we ask of them.

How often do you need to publish to reach your objectives and goals?

This all depends on how often you can find the time to write the newsletter or whether you can afford to outsource to someone to write it for you.. It is better to send an newsletter infrequently then to send it weekly full of sub standard material.. Once you get more subscribers, you can increase the rate at which you send them out. Try to send out your newsletter at the same time each month or week. Subscribers will appreciate your professionalism and will look forward to receiving it

How long should my newsletter be?

This is a question many people labour over.  The key is that if it is interesting, useful and personal, people will enjoy reading it no matter how long or short it is. Like a good article, a newsletter should be as long as it needs to be.

If you want to include several articles, use a table of contents at the top of the newsletter. An example follows:

1.         Welcome

2.         What’s new

3. Feature Article

5.         Contact Information

If any of your articles are really long, abbreviate the article and link to a web page where the rest of your newsletter resides. This is also a great technique to drive readers to your website.

The only question that now remains is how do you promote it to build subscriber numbers.  With the strict privacy laws in Australia newsletters must be “opt-in”, where prospective customers give you their names to add to the subscriber list.  They must also have the ability to “opt-out” and have their details removed from your database.

There are a number of things you can do to get the word to about your new newsletter:

  • Distribute the first newsletter to former and current customers but it must have an opt-out option
  • Distribute to prospects with an opt-out option
  • Put softcopy current and back issues on the website
  • Add “Subscribe to our free newsletter” on all auto signatures
  • Send to all personal advocates and ask them to email to at least 10 contacts recommending subscription
  • Alter meta tags to include “Free newsletter” and other relevant terms
  • Add to all promotional pieces eg capability docs, editorial, press releases
  • Make sure every new contact is subscribed to the newsletter by asking “Would you like me to subscribe you?” – do it for them – make it easy.
  • Make the newsletter easy to subscribe to AND unsubscribe from on your website

One final tip, before sending out your newsletter, do make sure you are complying with Australian Privacy and Anti-Spam laws, they are very strict and you can learn more here

So there you have a crash course in newsletter publishing.  Like any communication piece they are best used as part of an integrated communications strategy so that all elements can work together to achieve your business objectives.