According to a 2014 study by McKinsey, email is nearly 40 times more effective than social media when it comes to attracting new customers.
Email is one of the most direct places to reach existing and potential customers, and the proliferation of programs designed to help us curb our social media addictions shows that companies shouldn’t rely solely on Facebook and Twitter.
The good news is that programs like MailChimp and Constant Contact make it easier than ever to design a high-quality email newsletter that can help you reach customers and drive measurable results.
If you’d like to implement an email newsletter for your small business, you can use the following 7 steps to craft an effective email newsletter, from initial research to tracking conversions.
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Step 1: Evaluate Your Audience
Before you focus on growing your mailing list, spend some time reflecting on the audience you’ve already attracted.
To determine how your newsletter will serve your current audience, try asking the following questions:
- What is my audience hoping to learn?
- What challenges will my audience face during a given week?
- Has my audience shown a preference for any particular topics?
- For my newsletter to be successful, will I need my audience to complete a specific conversion?
If you’ve already developed buyer personas for your audience, keep them in mind while evaluating how a newsletter might serve your current audience.
By designing a newsletter for the audience you already have, you’ll ensure that growing your newsletter audience will align with attracting new customers who are a good fit for your company’s products or services.
Step 2: Develop a Content Plan
Once you know who you’d like to read your email newsletter, it’s time to develop a content plan.
Newsletters are an intimate, direct medium. While some brands use newsletters to simply distribute ads and coupons, these companies miss out on additional opportunities for brand-building.
Instead of sending only coupons and ads, companies should explore ways to promote existing website content such as blog posts, whitepapers, or videos. Companies can also experiment with curating outstanding content published on other websites, as long as it is highly relevant to their audiences.
For example, an eCommerce retailer specializing in organic juices might consider sending out a weekly recipe featuring one of their products, or a clothing retailer might send an “outfit of the day” suggestion several times per week.
Once you determine what type of content you’ll include in your newsletter, determine the frequency (daily, weekly, biweekly, monthly) and day/time. Feel free to experiment with changing these factors to determine the optimal time to engage your specific audience.
Step 3: Add a Sign-Up Field to Your Website
Although adding a sign-up field to your website might seem like the easiest step in the process, it comes with key nuances.
It can be tempting to gather personal details or demographic information while people are signing up for a newsletter, such as a name, company, job title, or location.
All you need to start sending an email newsletter is an email address–so that should be all you collect. You can always follow up later and invite subscribers to complete an optional survey if you’d like to learn more about them.
Step 4: Implement Email Verification
If you collect email addresses through an online form, it’s important to implement security features. When users abandon online forms, including newsletter sign-ups, security is often a key reason.
When it comes to newsletters, email verification is arguably the most important security measure to implement. Email verification automatically sends users an email containing a link that will allow them to verify their identity (and will help prevent your email list from being marked as spam).
Additionally, most email verification tools use CAPTCHA tests that screen for bots.
Step 5: Send a Welcome Email
Most email newsletter programs allow you to program a welcome message. This ensures that users who sign up for your email newsletter will receive confirmation of what they signed up for.
If you send your newsletter out infrequently, you should especially consider sending out a welcome email. In situations where new subscribers might have to wait a week or more to receive their first newsletter, a welcome email will help new subscribers understand when they can expect to receive their first newsletter.
Step 6: Track Relevant Metrics
Once you’ve started sending out your email newsletter, there are several key metrics you should begin tracking. The three most important metrics include:
- Open rates: Open rates refer to the number of subscribers who open your email newsletter. Most programs will differentiate between unique opens or the number of individual users who open your email newsletter, and total opens, which track the total number of times all subscribers opened your email newsletter.
- Click rates: Click rates measure the percentage of newsletter subscribers who clicked on links included in your email newsletter.
- Conversions: Conversions will vary depending on your goals, but should always be tracked. Common goals include driving sales or attracting readers. To track these conversions, use a tool to generate UTM codes. These special codes allow you to add tags to the links you embed in your newsletter. When you review your website traffic in Google analytics, you’ll be able to use the UTM codes to differentiate traffic from your email newsletter.
Most email newsletter programs are equipped with analytics tools. When evaluating your email newsletter analytics, use Smart Insight’s 2018 email marketing statistics to find average metrics for your specific industry.
Step 7: Allow Users to Unsubscribe
Finally, although we all hope that our subscribers will stick around forever, some will inevitably leave us at some point.
The FTC’s anti-spam regulations require companies to promptly honor opt-out requests and provide clear steps users can take to unsubscribe from your newsletter.
Most email newsletter programs allow you some control over the landing page or message users see when they unsubscribe. Be sure to take care in crafting these pages so that you’ll leave users with a positive last impression.
Thoughtfully Designed Email Newsletters Help Companies Meet Key Goals
Email newsletters can help companies build deeper relationships with customers by sharing key information about their products and brand in a direct, intimate medium.
By paying careful attention to each step in the process–including audience research, sign up fields, welcome messages, and tracking analytics–companies can create effective email newsletters that bring measurable results.
Michelle Delgado is a content marketer and developer at The Manifest, a B2B publication based in Washington DC. She primarily reports on web design, with additional reporting on the UX of online forms and the Future of Work.
7 Steps for Creating an Effective Email Newsletter