6 Steps to Creating an Email Newsletter that Delivers

By Gwendolyn Pitkin

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Word of mouth is one of the best marketing tools out there. But how do you get people to start talking about you? The good news is, you’re probably already halfway there. High-quality work and great customer service are a great start, but a huge part of your success depends on what happens next.

Getting more referrals and repeat business requires staying in touch with your loyal customers after you’re finished working with them.

How can you do that without being pushy or making a big investment? I recommend an email newsletter.

At DelMain Analytics, we’ve been helping dentists, lawyers, home remodelers, and other business owners get more referral and repeat business since 2008. 

I know many people are a little wary of committing to a newsletter. You may think:

  • I’m busy running my business! Newsletters take too much time.
  • I never open email newsletters? Why would my customers open mine?
  • I don’t know how to make a newsletter that looks good.
  • I’d like to have a newsletter, but what would I write about?

Today, we’ll help you get over these concerns, look at why email newsletters are one of the best and most cost-effective ways to improve your bottom line, and how you can start building one for your business.

Step 1. Know Why You Want an Email Newsletter

Want to encourage repeat business by staying in touch with past customers? Great! Want to establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry by creating a newsletter for your peers? Perfect! Whatever your reason, start with a purpose.

Email newsletters aren’t right for everyone, so if you can’t think of a good newsletter purpose, you might be better off pursuing other online marketing tactics.

These are a few of the most common reasons businesses choose to build newsletters:

  1. Increase brand awareness. Your current and past customers are the ones who recommend you to their friends and write you 5-star reviews. Stay connected with them.
  2. Cultivate community involvement. Big or small, your business is part of a local community (or many communities). Show you are involved.
  3. Drive traffic to your website. Do you update your website semi-regularly? Do you have a blog or project portfolio? Share updates in your newsletter and encourage readers to visit your website.
  4. Build Strategic partnerships. Newsletters are also for staying in touch with your industry partners, peers, and connections.

With an email newsletter, you get your message out to people who are already listening.

Plus, email newsletters are less expensive, easier, and often more effective than traditional printed newsletters. Still not convinced? Did you know that 82% of consumers say they open emails from companies? And the average ROI for email marketing is $45 to $51 for every $1 spent.

Ready to get started?

Step 2: Start with a High-Quality Email List

Let’s face it. Many of us have been frustrated by annoying and irrelevant email newsletters we never asked for.

Sometimes this is because the content of the emails is uninteresting, but often, it has more to do with the fact that we never wanted to receive emails in the first place. Many companies send frequent newsletters to people who never intended to subscribe. They do this by requiring your email address when you make a purchase or sign up for a service. They don’t tell you you’re also signing up for their newsletter.

Don’t be like those companies.  

Send newsletters only to people who intentionally signed up.

This is why your method for collecting emails is so crucial. Be transparent when you ask for emails. Make it clear what people are signing up for and give them an opportunity to opt out. I’ll show you how in the next step.

Step 3. Choose an Email Newsletter Service

It’s time to set up your newsletter. There are many great email newsletter hosting services out there, but I prefer MailChimp. MailChimp is easy to use and provides clear, concise reports for every campaign. It’s also very inexpensive -- in fact, it’s free if you have 2,000 subscribers or fewer.

MailChimp subscribe forms are also extremely easy to embed on your website. Here’s what one can look like:

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After someone fills that out, they immediately receive an email that says: "One more step, please confirm your subscription." They won’t be added to your list until they click that link. This method -- called a double opt-in -- is the best way to keep a high-quality list and keep spam complaints low. (Collecting newsletter sign-ups in person is another good method.)

Step 4: Create a Branded Template

The great thing about a template is you only have to make it once. After that it will be there for you to use over and over for each email.

With MailChimp templates, you have control over everything from background color, to heading size, to the number of columns in each section of your email. 

MailChimp makes it easy to design templates for beautiful HTML emails. Their template creation tool looks like this:

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A few pieces of advice:

  • Incorporate your brand colors and logo. 
  • Choose a strong, easy-to-see color for your links.
  • Make at least one big button.
  • Don’t forget social media buttons with links to your social pages.
  • On mobile devices (over 50% of people read most of their emails on their phones), simple, single-column layouts work best.

Step 5: Plan Your Content Strategy

You’ve got a high-quality email list and a beautiful template. Now what? It’s time to actually start writing newsletters.

Promoting your work is important, but it’s equally important to deliver on your subscribers’ expectations: email content that provides value for them.

If you already know what to write about, great! If you’re a little stuck, try asking yourself these four questions to get the ideas flowing:

1. Can I promote what I’m selling? Do you have any recently completed projects, cases, or products you can showcase?
2. Can I provide expertise? If your profession gives you useful knowledge that’s hard to find elsewhere, chances are your subscribers will be interested.
3. Do I participate in any community events? Newsletters are a great way to drum up excitement for upcoming events you’re involved in, or to tout the successes of past events.
4. Do I have a blog? Newsletters are the absolute perfect place to promote your latest blog post to a willing audience.

Step 6: Know What to Expect

Even if you’ve done everything right, not everyone is going to open your email newsletter. It’s the unfortunate reality of email marketing. Most industries have an average open rate between 19% and 25%. That might not sound like much, but if you have a list of 1,500 subscribers, a 20% open rate means 300 people opened your email!

A successful email newsletter isn’t a game of chance. With eager subscribers, a good template, and a solid plan for content, email newsletters can help you keep in touch with your biggest brand advocates: your customers.

The Big Picture

An email newsletter usually works best as a piece of a broader online marketing strategy. The end goal is to get you more business, and the best way to do that is with a well-rounded plan that may include SEO, paid advertising, social media, and even website design. 

If you want to learn how to use these strategies yourself, enroll in our free 9-step course and we'll teach you everything we know about digital marketing.

It's great for small business owners interested in learning how online marketing can grow their business. Get started today!


GWENDOLYN PITKIN - CONTENT MARKETING SPECIALIST

Gwendolyn Pitkin is an avid writer and lover of storytelling. She specializes in content creation, and loves writing everything from blog posts to tweets. Before coming to DelMain Analytics, she studied marketing and Spanish at the University of Portland, where her interest in digital marketing began. When she’s not working, Gwendolyn loves traveling and watching Real Madrid games on TV with a mug of English tea.

Follow Gwendolyn on Google+Twitter, and LinkedIn.