As businesses have been forced to adapt to the new post-COVID-19 lifestyle, many are pivoting to be online (or more online). If you’ve been doing plenty of online orders lately, you may find yourself in possession of a huge cache of emails and wondering what to do with them. Though it might be obvious, newsletters are a great way to use that new resource to your best advantage.
Over the years, we’ve had many clients chat with us about the best way to approach running a newsletter. So we’d love to take this opportunity to go over what you need to consider before starting a one, as well as what it takes to follow through.
Is a newsletter right for you?
First things first—decide if newsletters are actually the right choice for your business. They’re not necessarily the best communication channel for everyone!
Whether or not a newsletter works for you depends on
- Your goals, and
- Your resources.
If you’re a business that people would make repeat purchases from, and are looking to build loyalty among your existing clients, this is a great medium for you. Flash sales, gardening tips, new menu items—all of these are great ways to provide value for your customers. And it’s mutually beneficial! Effective newsletters can result in conversions, and at the very least keeps you top of mind.
If your goal is to reach brand new peeps, however, a newsletter probably isn’t where we’d recommend starting. Something like promoting posts on social media or investing in Google Ads might be a better choice for you. The exception is—if your newsletter is fantastic—it is a great way for people who love you to spread the word! For example, Austin Kleon’s newsletter is a personal favourite of some of us in the office—one of the Curios recommended it and now multiple coworkers subscribe!
Next, let’s take a look at your resources. To state the obvious—you can’t send out a newsletter without emails to send it to! If you don’t have a list but want to start building one up, you can include a “sign up” check box into your ecommerce checkout form, add a callout on your website, or link a newsletter sign up form to your social media.
Now, you just need to consider the resources required to actually write the dang thing.
Writing a newsletter takes work, so it’s important to think it though. Be consistent if you can, and set yourself reasonable production goals. How often do you want this to go out? The answer can be anything from weekly or biweekly, to quarterly or annually! Then, set up an editorial calendar to outline when you need to start working on the next newsletter, and you can start brainstorming content ideas in the meantime.
Another way to help guide your idea generation and content creation is to decide what style of newsletter you will have.
Common newsletter types
Think about what you’re writing this for—how will you use your newsletter? What style will it be in? Some common categories that newsletters fall into include:
- For colleagues—A compilation of things that are relevant to your industry (e.g., Better Allies).
- “FYI”—This tells customers what’s been going on since the last time they heard from you, and can include blogs, achievements, sales/pre-sales, new menu items, new vendors, or other special deals.
- Think piece—Your CEO or another expert coming in hot with topical commentary (common among consultants, professional associations, or firms like Viget). This should provide value to your readers that they couldn’t find elsewhere.
With great email lists come great responsibility
A list of emails is a precious thing, and it should be treated with care. Be respectful of your recipients’ time and attention. If you do, your newsletter can be a powerful tool to build brand loyalty and strong repeat customers.
Creating and sending content just for the sake of publishing something can get spammy and annoying—think of how many unread emails you have in your inbox right now—so only write things that are actually going to provide value.
Your recipients have gone out of their way to sign up for this, and likely have done business with you before, which makes this more precious than posting things on your website. They’re on your side, they’ve consented to receive information from you in their private lives, so you need to nurture these connections.
One last (Important! Legal!) caveat is to always remember CASL (or Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation). This came into effect in stages starting way back in 2014, and you probably received plenty of notices about it at the time. But just to cover our bases, remember that if you’re sending a newsletter, communication needs to be consented to by the recipient, it needs to include the contact info for your business, and people need to be able to unsubscribe if desired (easy breakdown provided by EnvisionUP).
The technical stuff
Now that you’re actually creating the newsletter, where should you start? We recommend Mailchimp as the easiest email marketing platform to work with. It’s very intuitive and built to be super easy to use.
A big bonus? Their templates are awesome. HTML email is really hard, and having a template that personalizes the look of your newsletter without having to get into all that is huge. Colour, formatting, etc.—you don’t have to worry about any of that in Mailchimp.
Mailchimp is also super easy to integrate on your website, if you’re hoping to do that—WordPress even has a plugin for it!
If you’re looking to get fancy:
(This is not actually too fancy, but In the Time of Quarantine we know anything more than the basics can feel unattainable.)
Look at your metrics! Track your open rate, click-through rate, unsubscribes and list growth, and your conversion/ROI. Often your newsletter tool will even do this for you. Tracking those numbers helps you see whether the newsletter is working for you. It also helps you see what content your audience likes, so you’re more informed to make improving your content moving forward.
(As always) Ask for help if you need!
Want to integrate your newsletter and add calls to action to your website? We do that! Get in touch and we’ll see what we can do for you.
Still not sure where to start and don’t have any extra to spend? That’s okay! At the moment, we’re offering free consultations to help small businesses and non-profits thrive during this crisis. Book a time to chat today!