When I first started my first business at the age of 23 (bless! I will use it as an excuse to mitigate my embarrassment!) I knew a lot of people who were raving about newsletters, so I quickly decided I needed one too. I went for it without any email marketing strategy at all – I simply opened a free account with a big email marketing tool provider, collected some addresses of prospects online, and spammed my potential customers with an offer on a beautiful template I spent waaay too much time designing. Collecting over 1200 email addresses online and designing the newsletter also took me way longer than it should and then – guess what happened? Nothing happened. I got *exactly* one reply (not counting the few auto-replies with out-of-office messages).
Undaunted, I figured I must have made a mistake with the template, the subject line, or the way I addressed the audience. So, I split my subscriber list, did an AB test with different subject lines and templates, and repeated the same process two or three more times, getting more and more frustrated each time until I finally declared ‘email marketing does not work for a small business!’ (I was running an online translation agency). I became sort of an anti-evangelist of email marketing, ready to pounce at anyone who claimed otherwise. I smelled conspiracy theories and suspected the advocates are in fact promoters in disguise, plotting to sell me on another paid ‘premium plan’.
What I didn’t understand back then was that I got the whole idea of newsletters completely wrong.
Of course, nobody responds to spammy mail with sales offers that land unsolicited in their mailbox!
Heck, nobody responds to salesy emails even if they agreed to get them first and provided their email address voluntarily.
The biggest mistake I made was that I didn’t understand a newsletter is primarily a tool for communication with existing and potential customers, not a marketing channel to promote your offers for nothing. You need to first provide lots of value so that people want to give you their email because they believe they will get something out of it, then provide even more value in the newsletters so that the readers can’t wait to get your newsletter, and then…then magic happens. They will come to you to ask for your services themselves.
This of course implies a newsletter is never *a* newsletter. You need a series of probably 10-20 emails before you sell anything. Daunted? How-do-I-even-come-up-with-ideas-for-10-emails-?!-kind of daunting? Don’t worry. This is where email marketing strategy comes in, and with a little guidance (and my step-by-step guide below ;)) you can design one in almost no time. And then – you don’t even need to execute it all yourself!
Discover what your customer wants
The first thing is, you need to first discover what ‘value’ means for your customers and how you can link that logically to your business (we talked about monetization logic here). No idea how? Read on.
There is no one-size-fits-all recipe for writing a great newsletter. Whichever industry you are in before you write you need to answer an honest question: why would your customers want to read it? What need do they have? What problem is your business trying to solve for them? What are they looking for in your business? The answers to these questions are industry-specific. However, the procedure of discovering them is largely the same. Check out our strategy worksheet below with some industry-specific examples already filled out for you!
Discover what your customer wants to read
|What business do you have?||What do your customers buy from you?||Why do they buy your service/product?||Why would they want to read your newsletter?||What can you write that would be interesting for them?|
|Indian restaurant||Good food, nice experience with friends and family||We provide top-quality Indian food and great service in a nice venue||To get inspiration to try new Indian dished, learn more about their ingredients, origins, and the stories behind them; to find out about new menus, promotions, and special events||An invitation to DivaliA promo newsletter with discount vouchers
A menu with new menu items and a focus on one dish (history)
|Business coach/blogger/ consultant||E-books, Worksheets,Consulting sessions via Skype||They want to find out how to run their business more efficiently and make more money; they want to find out about business tools they can use||They want to find out how to run their business more efficiently and make more money; they want to find out about business tools they can use, they want to learn more about how I can help them||10-top tools for a small business owner10 mistakes I made in the 1st year of running my business
How to manage time effectively working as a soletrepreneur in a home office?
Create a long-term strategy
Now that you have established why your customers buy from you and what they would like to read in your newsletters, you need to think about how you can create a consistent long-term e-mail marketing strategy around it. After all, you aim for long-term communication with your clients, not a one-off email.
|My business||What do my customers what to read?||How can I create a recurrent e-mail marketing strategy around it?||Titles of newsletters in the series|
|Indian restaurant||An invitation to DivaliA promo newsletter with discount vouchers
A menu with new menu items and a focus on one dish (+history about it)
|1. Each Tuesday – I will write a story on one item on the menu and give the customers -20% off that dish on Thursdays – call it ‘discount Thursdays’2. Have one special event with a set menu every 2 weeks and send out a newsletter with this menu every Wednesday||1. Tuesday special – the history of Samosas and your -20% voucher!2. Indian Wednesdays in Ganesha p. 1 – 3-course set menu for just 99RMB!|
|Business coach/blogger/ consultant||They want to find out how to run their business more efficiently and make more money||1. Monday – business tool focus2. Tuesday – entrepreneurial journey case study
3. Wednesday – top sales tips
4. Thursday – Marketing support group
5. Friday – Link Party!
6. Saturday – -20% off all my products!
|1. Monday Small Business Toolkit!2. #myentrepreneurialjourney – read our community business journey case studies!
3. Salesy Wednesday – put this sales tip into action TODAY and let me know by the end of the week to get 1 of my e-books for free!
4. Best marketing tips of the week from our Marketing Support Group
5. It’s FRIDAY! It’s Link Party on Our FB page! Promote your business for free on me as much as you want today ;*
6. Saturday Garage Sale – 20% off all my digital products TODAY only!
Consistency is king!
Once you have started writing, you need to execute your strategy consistently. This means sending your newsletters regularly, without exception, and often. Don’t be afraid of sending too much – if your content is valuable and your readers love it, they will be waiting in anticipation for that ‘you’ve got mail message.
No time for e-mail marketing?
There are plenty of ways how you can automate or outsource (try Fiverr or Freelancer.com) your newsletters so creating and sending them does not interfere with the day-to-day hustle in your business. Here are a few options:
Create a strategy and content for a few weeks/ months in advance and DIY
This will save you a lot of time in start-up costs and ensure you deliver your newsletters consistently no matter what. Writing your newsletters as-you-go, week by week, incurs the risk of running into some problems, emergencies, and other ‘more urgent issues that will stop you from running your email marketing campaign consistently. And the last thing you want is a disappointed customer who was waiting for the ‘Part 4’ of your ‘Business Toolkit’ series which you didn’t deliver because your wife was delivering your first baby. You get my point – life happens, but your customer doesn’t care. If you know what you will be doing in your business 6 months down the road, there is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to write about it 6 months in advance. Take 2-3 days off to create and schedule content in advance (your business will thank you), although you can cheaply outsource the execution part (see next point). Start by writing down your email marketing strategy and a list of newsletter titles. Write compelling subject lines (see my next post on how to do that). Choose the photos of products you will promote or stock photos you will use to illustrate your content (you can use a free stock photo website like Unsplash.com for royalty- and attribution-free, high-resolution photos). And then, set down to writing the newsletters or…
Outsource the content writing to a freelancer
Once you have the strategy and content plan in place, you don’t actually need to write the newsletters yourself. You will find plenty of talented copywriters on services like Fiverr.com or freelancer.com. who will pen a newsletter for as little as £20? If you know that you can write max 8 newsletters per working day yourself and that you make £300 per day in your business, the alternative cost of not working on your business while writing your newsletters is actually £140 in lost income [£300 – (8 x £20)].
Schedule your newsletters
You don’t need to send the newsletter to your mailing list manually each time. Use the scheduling option in your GAN tool to send the newsletters on specific days without any further involvement on your part. You can basically set up 6-months of work in less than an hour and forget about it!
Need some help?
We will be launching an email marketing support group on Facebook this May, so if you feel you need some extra motivation with meeting your email marketing goals, sign up for the group here.