Tip 1: Why do you want to write a newsletter in the first place?Creating quality content for a target audience on a regular basis is going to take up some of your valuable time. Even if you outsource production of your newsletter you will still need to spend time planning and checking the content, creating any offers you may want to include in the newsletter and overseeing how it is marketed. Can you identify a clear audience for your newsletter - existing customers, members of your club or group, visitors to your website - and do you have things to say on a regular basis that they will WANT to read, and will this benefit your business in some way? If not, maybe you could spend your time more productively on another marketing activity.
Tip 2: Set objectives for your newsletter and decide how you will measure successWrite down what you want your newsletter to achieve, which will depend on the type of business or organisation you run. Possible objectives could include: driving traffic to your business website; new sales; new leads; keeping your customers or members engaged and loyal; encouraging downloads of resources you've created; raising your profile. Is your newsletter going to be email and online only, or is there a valid business argument for sending out print copies as well, or instead?
Set some measurable targets so that you know whether you're getting a return on any time or money you are investing in your newsletter. Targets could include: number of newsletter subscribers; click-throughs to your website; number of downloads; direct sales; use of exclusive discount codes only published in your newsletter; reviews, testimonials and feedback received.
Tip 3: Plan your newsletter content in advanceOnce you've followed tips 1 and 2 and you know WHO you want to talk to, and WHY, you should be in a good position to plan WHAT you are going to talk to them about. Your regular content could include compelling images, product discount codes, special offers, competitions, giveaways, information about forthcoming events, tips and hints, news about you and news about your customers. Keep focused on what your audience wants to RECEIVE more than what you want to PROMOTE. You have to work to earn the attention of your audience. They'll unsubscribe from your enewsletter, or leave it unopened and unread, unless you make their life easier or better in some way. Are you giving them something that they want?
Tip 4: Newsletter subject lines that make people want to open your emailWhatever you do please don't WRITE SUBJECT LINES IN CAPITAL LETTERS AND USE EXCLAMATION MARKS!!!! It looks like shouting and some email clients may assume it's spam and put your enewsletter straight into a junk folder. If you choose a very safe subject line, such as "Newsletter 1", it is likely to be overlooked and not get anyone excited. Review the content and purpose of the newsletter and work on creating a subject line that will make your subscribers want to click and open your email.
Tip 5: Do your research on email newsletter providersIf you've harvested the email addresses of customers, contacts and people you've met at events it's NOT a good idea to copy them all into an email and send out a basic enewsletter that way. I would always recommend using a professional third party service that will ensure you are meeting all your legal obligations for sending out direct marketing emails and give you the best chance of getting delivered to people's inboxes and not identified as spam. Read up on marketing emails on Ofcom's website and there's some clear information on privacy and data protection on the Information Commissioner's Office website. Ask colleagues and contacts, whose opinion you trust, which providers they recommend. There are some excellent low and no cost options around. Personally, I'm a fan of MailChimp.
Tip 6: Manage the expectations of your newsletter subscribers
When people sign up to your newsletter - and I'm a big believer in marketing only to people who have given express permission - make it clear what they will be getting in your newsletters and how often you'll be sending out a newsletter. Set a frequency that's sustainable for you. For many clubs and businesses a monthly or bi-monthly newsletter is ideal. Time flies and everyone leads busy lives. If you mail out too often you risk annoying people, and once they've unsubscribed you've lost that opportunity to engage with them.
Tip 7: Check, check and then check your newsletter again
You'll get a horrible sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach when you press 'send', or send your newsletter to print, and then spot a spelling mistake or a wrong date or name. Most third party email newsletter providers offer you the chance to preview your email newsletter and send out test versions. Make sure you send it to people you trust and get them to read it and check that any hyperlinks work. If you've written it yourself you can be convinced that it says what you intended it to say. Spelling mistakes and typos can escape the best of us. Print out a hard copy and, if you can, leave it for 24 hours and then read it again. Correct any mistakes and then check it all again. Look at the test preview of your enewsletter on a mobile phone as well as a PC or laptop. More and more people check their emails on the move so a newsletter that they can read easily on a small screen can be read and acted on sooner.
If you want to know more, I'll be delivering a newsletter-writing workshop for working women over a networking lunch in Stone, Staffordshire on Monday June 16, 2014, between 12 and 2pm. It's a new date organised by the Stone Women In Rural Enterprise (WiRE) networking group. It's being organised by Maggie Hollinshead, who runs Maggie's Studio and Gallery in Newport, Shropshire. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve a place. It will cost £10 for non-WiRE members and £8 if you belong to WiRE, which includes your lunch.