Why Email Marketing?
Building a mailing list is growing your audience. Growing your audience is actually developing a future customer base. And we all need customers!
I love email newsletters. Because we are often so busy with social media that is fast and fleeting, I think the contrast with a well-written newsletter is rather lovely. It’s like tea brewed in a pot and enjoyed in a cup and saucer instead of a coffee on the go. Does that make sense?
The message is more personally delivered. The value you provide can be much greater. Therefore connection you make is deeper.
I suppose what I mean is that you can actually take some time with an email newsletter and really think about the recipient as you are crafting the content. It seems to me to be a more meaningful way to communicate with your audience and something I firmly believe you should do regularly.
Additionally, an email mailing list belongs to you. If your facebook, instagram or twitter account is shut down for any reason, then you lose access to your audience. Not so with a mailing list - although you do need to manage it using a GDPR compliant method or provider. More on that anon.
Permission Based Marketing
Providing you collect emails in a GDPR compliant way, then you have permission from your audience to stay in touch with them and send them emails. That is increasingly valuable in an overcrowded digital marketplace where everyone is vying for attention.
Think about it. Opting in for your newsletter involves saying TWICE, "I want to hear from you." It’s much more active than simply liking a post or page. That means no matter how small your mailing list, your audience really wants to be there. It’s hard to put a price on that kind of attention.
So that being said. How do you get going if you are starting from ground zero? Well, it’s not actually that difficult.
10 Easy Steps to Get You Started with Email Marketing
Step 1. Set up a Mailchimp Account
I use lots of different mailing list programs, but Mailchimp is by far the best. Especially if you are starting out.
- It’s free up to 2k members.
- It’s simple to set up.
- There are great design templates.
- It’s easy to use.
- It will help you to be GDPR compliant.
There are numerous tutorials on MailChimp that will help you to get set up. Taking it slow and just get started!
Step 2. Capture Emails
The basic version is to create a form to capture addresses in MailChimp.
Add a button for the form to your website. Simples.
A more advanced version is to also create a pop-up in MailChimp and link to your website. Pop ups have great conversion rates, especially if you offer a really nice incentive or download for people that sign up. We’re all quite used to them now too, they aren’t quite the pest they used to be.
Step 3. Design a Masthead
A masthead is the bit at the top of a newsletter that at least usually carries the logo of the sender. But it can be so much more and great fun to create.
Your newsletter masthead should convey your brand, set expectations of what is contained in the newsletter and might even be different for different types of newsletter.
You can really enjoy creating this. Get onto canva and have a play around. It’s great fun.
Step 4. Create a Welcome Email
You need to ensure you double opt-in option ticked in Mailchimp (I think this might be default now) so that people have to confirm they want to be on your mailing list.
Once done, they should then get a nice welcome email from you to say thank you. You should also use this welcome email to set expectations about how often you will email, what sort of content you will send.
You might then include a link to your website or sign post them towards some specific content on your site that will be helpful.
Step 5. Plan Content
There are a few different ways to think about content for your newsletter and this is where most people freeze and panic. But it’s actually not really as hard as you think. You don’t have to do it ALL yourself.
You need to think about
- Creating content - that is to produce fresh new content that you will spoon feed your audience via your newsletter first.
- Repurpose content - taking existing content and distributing it through your newsletter.
- Curating content - collecting content that aligns with your values, themes, and audience interests then sharing it through your newsletter.
I’ll discuss each of these in more detail shortly.
Generally speaking to plan content I’d advise you to create a method of book-marking content that inspires you, that you might want to share, or that you simply feel would be worth having an opinion on.
- File as you find it.
- Write notes on the go.
- Set aside time to sort it regularly.
I use a free version of Evernote for all this.
I also recommend signing up for and saving great newsletters. The content might not be relevant to your industry, but the design could be fab. Or you may see a fantastic subject header that you could tweak to suit your next newsletter.
There is no such thing as a new idea. Collect and savor the creative genius of others. Then add your own relevance and finesse.
Step 6. Create Content
So the basic rule of creating content is to always give value. Offer something educational, entertaining or downright funny and shareable.
- Tutorials or/how-to guides.
- Share thoughts/comments on something relevant to your industry.
- Tell stories from inside your business. Bring it to life.
- Get personal. I don’t mean share the ups and downs of your relationships but a little bit more about the ups and downs of your business on a more intimate level. We all want the ‘behind the scenes’ cuts now. The age of polished flat-lays is over.
- Showcase your team/customers - create personal connections.
Above all, when creating your content, always ask yourself ‘so-what’? Is this really offering something interesting and valuable to my audience? I like to think of one or two members of my audience when I am creating content and how it might help them very specifically. This means not everything I create is for everyone, but I hope every week it is for someone, and that it really helps them.
Step 7. Repurpose Content
Even your most loyal fans are not sitting on your website or facebook page waiting for your latest piece of content to appear in their news feed. And if it did it would probably be gone just as quickly because well, that’s the fast-paced world of social media.
I feel very strongly that a member of your mailing list, who has TWICE said yes to signing up (double opt-in, remember) deserves the very best from you. That means they should be spoon-fed your content through your mailing list because that is effectively what they asked for.
This means you can take existing content from your website, articles and social media accounts and deliver it to them via your newsletter. On a silver platter as it were. You are their personal content butler.
Some ways to do this:
- Linking to a video tutorial you have created - you can’t embed videos in newsletters but Mailchimp will create a neat little preview then link to where you have it hosted.
- Inserting the content of a blog post you have previously written.
- Taking some really interesting elements of your website and inserting into a newsletter.
- Summarizing a longer article and linking back to the main post. I always prefer to try and include the whole article in a newsletter if its practical so that your reader can stay ‘in their inbox’, which is where they chose to be. But this isn’t always practical, if like this post, it’s quite long!
- Include a mini-shop - Mailchimp has some great e-commerce templates to use where you simply insert products or services from your e-commerce site into a newsletter.
Step 8. Curate Content
This to me is the most fun, the most value and the easiest place to start. If you are still a bit terrified of starting your own newsletter and not confident about having content to fill it then start with this type of newsletter for a few months and build up from there.
I wrote an entire blog post on curated newsletters here, which includes a 5-step process for content curation.
The highlights are to establish your values, develop themes that relate to these values, then define sources of content that align with those values and themes, mine sources for content and put it all together in a digestible format for your newsletter.
This type of newsletter is really about putting yourself out there as a valuable source of really relevant content that interests your audience. It should be quite easy and natural to do because you are most likely consuming this content daily - you should need to bookmark, collate and curate it for your tribe.
One word of caution here - do check the sources and read all the content you share. Sharing IS an endorsement and you are aligning yourself with the values of the content creator unless you very clearly state you are at odds with it and are sharing to promote discussion.
Step 9. Create a Publishing Schedule
- Be realistic.
- Be reliable.
- Be consistent.
Publishing quarterly is ok but probably isn’t regular enough for you to have any impact or retain any awareness with your audience. Try to start with a monthly newsletter, to begin with, and slowly increase the frequency as you get systems in place.
Not everyone will open and read every newsletter. But someone will and it might be just what they need on that day. So make sure they can rely on you to turn up when you say you will.
Step 10. Sell
Use your newsletter to sell!
This is so often overlooked or people are a bit scared to. You have permission, remember? You should train yourself and your audience that you are a business selling products or services and that for approx every three emails packed with the generous value you offer, one of them is going to ask for a sale!
The worst that happens is someone will unsubscribe and I suspect they would never have bought from you anyway.
Give content generously but also be bold and confident in selling yourself and your business. It’s why you are in their inbox in the first place.
The last step is to just do it!
Get started. Don’t wait to build your email list. Don’t hesitate to start sharing great content and building relationships with your future customers.
Don’t panic and wait until everything is perfect. Experiment a bit. There’s always a damn typo in my newsletter, but that is not the point. Anyone that focuses on the error is missing the value.
You will make improvements as you go. Just start.