Thursday, April 23, 2015

Ten tips on how to produce your email newsletter

At a recent event our speaker eloquently advocated that the small business owners in the audience consider an email newsletter as way to keep in touch with existing customers, and potentially recruit new ones.

And you could see that they were taken with the idea, until it came down to what  they would actually write about.  Hmm.  Not so easy for some.  But it doesn’t have to be complicated and a difficult item on your to-do list that you put off, rather than getting it done.

The underlying rule is that 80 percent of your content needs to be informative and helpful to the reader, and only 20 percent should be focused on promoting your product or service.  That means you need to find the bulk of your newsletter from elsewhere.

However, that doesn’t have to be the intimidating task that it first appears.  Here’s some tips to keep you on track and make your new “publication” easy to produce.

1.              Keep it simple.   The newsletter doesn’t have to be lengthy.  In fact it is more likely to be read if it is short and sweet.

2.              Think about what people want to know.  What information would be helpful to your clients but also fits with your business.  For example, if you are in real estate, articles about home d├ęcor, gardening, stain removal would fit the bill.

3.              Consider having 3-5 regular “columns  People like familiarity and once you set the sections up, they will come to look for them.  It also makes it easier for you to find material.  The columns don’t have to be big either. You could have “Thought of the Month” with an inspirational quote.

4.              Tips and How-to articles work well.  When I worked on a national magazine, we found that people read the sidebars first, before delving into the main article. People are busy, so sound bites work.

5.              Have a guest column. You can then get someone else to write the content. It could be an Advice column with typical questions answered by an expert.

If you team up with other professionals in complementary businesses, you could help each other out e.g. a landscaper, kitchen designer and interior decorator.  Several women at Company of Women did this and it worked well for them.

6.              Keep a file.  If your newsletter is monthly, you may want to start a file where you collect and clip material to use, so when it comes time to pull it all together, you are not scrambling to compile it.

7.              Visuals.  Use photos if you can but make sure you have permission or have paid for them.  The last thing you want is being sued for illegally using a photo.  Downloading from Google Images, for example, can be courting with danger.  There are several sites that offer free digital photos like

8.              Use a template.  Programs through Constant Contact, for example,  provide you with a template you can use.  They are pretty easy to manage (even I can do it) and give you a professional look.

The bonus in using an email marketing program is that they track the mailings, what was opened, number of click throughs and who wants to unsubscribe, so you just have to send it out.

9.              Keep your list clean.  However, you do have to make sure your mailing list is permission based.  What does that mean?  It means that you have asked the person (by email or in person) if you can send the newsletter and they have agreed. 

No longer can you meet someone at a networking event, get their business card and then automatically add them to your list.  With the introduction of the Canadian Anti-Spam Law (CASL) you run the risk of hefty fines if you are accused of spamming people.

10.           Track the results.  As with any aspect of your business, you need to track the results – in this case, the response to your newsletter.  By keeping your business front and centre with your clients, has it generated new business?  Have you recruited new clients who like what they see?  Which sections are opened most frequently?  When do they open them? 

When you study all this, you can zero in on when is the best time to send it, and what type of material is of real interest to your readers, and fine tune it to make it even better.

It has been said before, but people do business with people they know and trust.  Sending out a newsletter is one way to build that trust.  When you give your clients an opportunity to get to know you better,  you become more than just another salesperson selling your wares.  Good luck.

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