01 Sep The Basics: Newsletters 101
A solid mailing list and a great newsletter are two of the best and most important tools in your arsenal. Your email list is composed of customers who have expressly told you that they want to hear more from you! If social media disappears tomorrow, you need a way to reach your customers directly and get the word out about the fabulous products and services you offer. And your email newsletter is one of the best ways to measure ROI (return on investment) – you can measure sales generated from each send. If you’re still not sure about newsletters, let us help guide you through how to start your own and why they matter!
Step 1: Choose a Platform
There are so many platforms out there that it’s hard to know which one to choose. Many offer essentially the same functionality for a reasonable price. We work most frequently with Mailchimp, Constant Contact and Omnisend, but there are many others out there. One thing to consider is whether there is an email platform that integrates with your e-commerce system. For instance, Shopify has its own email marketing modules, but it also can integrate with Omnisend. The bonus of integration is that you can track in real time how much revenue each newsletter is generating, and continue to improve your newsletter game by focusing on what resonates most with your customers. All the newsletter platforms mentioned above offer easy ways to integrate signup forms into your website (or to maintain them externally), ways to segment and tag your lists, standard templates with ability to customize for your aesthetic and branding, reporting features (open rates, link clicks, etc.), and the ability to create landing pages (important for growing that list!)
Step 2: Compile your Newsletter List
Now that you’ve got a platform, it’s time to start building your list. Chances are you already have a list of email addresses for your clients, but you might not have done anything with it yet. Don’t let that list go stale! You will need to export this data from your website or e-commerce software. All e-newsletter providers have the ability to take the information you give them and create lists, but each one may have a slightly different format (the two most common being CSV and Excel files).
It’s also important to consider the permissions associated with your database. Each email address on your list must be from someone who has opted into your newsletter knowingly. If they haven’t, you must notify them, giving them the option to opt-out. When compiling your newsletter from your brick and mortar store or from an event or trade show, be sure to make it clear to people that they’re signing up for your newsletter and not just signing up for a free pattern, coupon or other incentive.
Speaking of incentives: how do you get people to join your list? Offer them something fun! Whether it’s a free pattern, access to an exclusive tutorial, a coupon off their first purchase, or some fun shop swag, entice customers to sign up for your newsletter list with a special promotion. Your email platform can help you develop a landing page for collecting signups, and can automate the delivery of certain rewards (coupon codes, pdfs of a free pattern in an email, and more). Again, make it clear that they’re signing up for your newsletter list in addition to receiving the incentive and deliver that incentive in a timely manner, preferably along with an automated email welcoming them to your newsletter list!
Step 3: Design your Newsletter
The design of your newsletter is the most important element to perfect right at the beginning: essentially, you want a simple but aesthetically pleasing layout without too much text. All newsletter providers have a different way of helping you achieve this goal. In order to make your email newsletter stand out, it needs to be streamlined. Consider how many emails the average person receives every day – how do get them to open your message and what will stop their quick scroll?
Consider these 5 elements in every newsletter you create:
- A call to action – Every newsletter needs to give your customer a reason to take action. Invite them to shop your products, register for an event, contact you to learn more, send you their feedback and ideas, read a post on your blog or watch a video on your website. Also take the opportunity to make it bold and graphic – in addition to adding links to relevant text, make your call to action a clickable button!
- Good graphics – You don’t need to be an artist to create a well-designed newsletter, but you do need some great photos to draw the eye in. Many email marketing companies provide easy-to-use layouts – just add your own logo and some well-placed pictures and you’re good to go!
- A Great “Give” – Not every newsletter needs to sell your customers something; some newsletters might give them something they want, such as a free pattern they couldn’t get anywhere else. Think in terms of “am I offering VALUE?” Too much pushy sales messaging is the thing that makes people “unsubscribe!”
- A message specific to your audience – Who is your customer? Think carefully about your Customer Avatar and what they need most, then focus on how you can address that need beyond just selling a product to them.
- Social Media links – Make sure your customers can easily find you on social media, and encourage them to follow you, join your Facebook group and/or share their own photos with your specific hashtag! Get connected and engage with them on a variety of platforms.
A few more things to consider:
- Personalize your template to echo your aesthetic and brand. Think about the colors and fonts you have chosen, your logo and how it relates to your brand and do what you can to make your newsletter reflect those choices. Make it recognizable as coming from you.
- Keep those newsletters short and sweet. Don’t include 45 items that have your readers scrolling for days. A good rule of thumb is to pick 3-5 topics, products or news items you’d like to share with your list. This gives you the opportunity to focus on what’s really important in each newsletter and encourage your customers to take action.
- Build your fan club. While it’s great to share what you’ve been up to in the shop and elsewhere on social media (recent blog posts or tutorials, videos, etc.) think about offering your newsletter list some piece of content that they can ONLY get by subscribing to your list. Make them feel special, like they’re “in the know.” This doesn’t have to be complicated – let them know about your sale a day or two in advance of announcing it on social media, offer them first crack at pre-orders of a popular product likely to sell out, share a coupon only good for newsletter subscribers once a year – just a little something that lets them know you value the invitation into their inbox!
There’s so much more that we could cover about newsletters, but we hope we’ve given you a few steps to getting started. If you’ve already gotten this far, then delve a little deeper into building great newsletters with some of our previous posts, Understanding Email Metrics and Targeting and Segmenting for Better Marketing Results.
If you’d like help kickstarting your newsletter, growing your list, segmenting your customers for more targeted sends, or something else we haven’t covered, contact us today to get started!