The Quick Guide to Launching an Email Newsletter

Launching an email newsletter is a simple and effective way to promote your content, drive website traffic, develop brand awareness, encourage engagement, and produce leads. This quick guide will walk you through the steps of how to create your own newsletter from start to send.

Why Create a Newsletter?

In an online world that’s growing more crowded by the day, it shouldn’t be shocking that highly interactive content formats like infographics, videos, and webcasts are all the rage among content marketers. After all, as we recently revealed in an exclusive report, deploying those formats often makes it easier to stand out in a sea of bland content, and they often facilitate more engaging conversation and idea sharing.
But that doesn’t mean that some tried and true content formats are now worthless.
In fact, for B2B technology companies, one “old school” content format in particular seems to be standing the test of time: eNewsletters — a collection of content that is regularly distributed to a subscriber base.
According to the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs’ recent “B2B Content Marketing: 2013 Budgets, Benchmarks, and Trends” report, eNewsletters rank as the third most used content format among B2B content marketers’ (78%), ahead of trendier content formats like video (70 percent) and infographics (38 percent). Only social media and website articles rank ahead of eNewsletters.
Of course, that shouldn’t exactly be big news for B2B content marketers, either.
Outside of being an excellent (and inexpensive) way to regularly package and distribute content to a large group of prospects and customers, well-produced eNewsletters can also improve brand awareness, drive higher website traffic, encourage more frequent content engagement, and, ultimately, serve as an outstanding lead generation tool.
Already have a newsletter that’s not providing those benefits, or thinking about creating one to boost your existing content marketing program? This guide is designed to help you get up and running (or on the right track) quickly and easily.

Before Launching an Email Newsletter

At the most basic level, creating an eNewsletter is as simple as selecting the best content that your company produces every week, packaging it into an easily readable format, and sending it out to a list of subscribers.
That doesn’t mean, however, that you should just dive right into producing an eNewsletter.
Here are some things you need to consider before you begin publishing and distributing your company’s newsletter:

  1. Start blogging before you publish a newsletter: In many ways, your corporate blog is the lifeblood of your newsletter. It provides you with fresh, inexpensive, and (if you’re doing it right) highly relevant content that can be used in your newsletter. So, if you’re blogging infrequently or you don’t have a blog at all, you may not be ready to publish a newsletter. After all, if you don’t have fresh content to fill your newsletter with it will fall flat.
  2. Determine a reasonable frequency for your newsletter: The frequency of your eNewsletter should correspond to the frequency of your blogging or content creation habits. A good rule of thumb is to start sending your newsletter once a week, but you may want to adjust that to biweekly or monthly based on the volume of content you create and/or curate.
  3. Ask for permission before you start sending a newsletter to your email list: Just because a prospect or customer has given you their email address in the past does not mean they will want to receive your newsletter. In fact, as email service provider MailChimp writes, blindly sending your newsletter to prospects and customers can be seriously risky business. Always “ask before you blast”. Why? Because customers who haven’t opted-in to your newsletter campaign are likely to report your messages as spam, and the more often that happens, the more likely it is that your emails and URLs will be flagged by search engines and blocked by ISPs.

From Start to Send: 5 Steps to Successfully Executing a Newsletter Campaign

Once you’ve laid the groundwork that will support your eNewsletter — generating a backlog of content, settling on the mission and frequency, and building an opt-in only subscriber list — you should be ready to publish and distribute it. And thanks to the myriad email service providers that exist today — ConstantContact, MailChimp, and ExactTarget / Pardot, just to name a few — doing that is relatively easy.
Before you send out your first newsletter, however, be sure to consider these five best practices for creating and distributing newsletters that have a high impact:

Step 1: Choose the right email service provider

As expert online marketer and social media rock star Chris Brogan writes in this post on his blog, there are numerous email service providers that marketers can choose from, and their features often run the gamut — from basic templates and functionality to highly customizable platforms and analytics. Price, of course, is one way to differentiate the best option for your eNewsletter campaign, but Brogan suggests you also consider which services are best at managing spam issues. At the end of the day, you often get what you pay for, so make sure to select an ESP that best aligns with your budget, goals, and needs. 

Step 2: Create an eye-catching, mobile-friendly email template

Inboxes are flooded these days, and (as with any content) in order to stand out from the crowd you need to make sure your emails are clear, compelling, and pack plenty of visual impact. When designing your newsletter, keep in mind you’ll want it to reflect your company’s personality, but it’s also a good idea to keep it focused and not get too carried away. To strike the right balance, read up on Creative Bloq’s 20 Tips for Great Email Newsletter Design and check out the helpful infographic from Email Monks below:

The Commandments of Email & Newsletter Design; an interactive infographic & checklist for creating exemplary emails.

 

STOP: Don’t Forget to Design for Mobile
As ConstantContact’s Dave Gerhardt points out in this blog post, smartphone usage is skyrocketing and with that comes increased email usage on those devices. According to research conducted by e-mail testing and tracking service Litmus, 43 percent of email is now opened on a mobile device, and that number is only likely to increase. As a result, it’s critical that you spend some time designing a mobile-friendly newsletter template that your subscribers can easily view on their phones. The good news is that doing so shouldn’t be difficult. Service providers like ConstantContact, MailChimp, and ExactTarget all provide ready-to-deploy mobile-friendly templates.

Step 3: Select your most relevant and compelling content

The reality is that not all of the content you publish is created equal. Some blog posts and articles will be more engaging, compelling, and provocative than others, and those, says Content Marketing Institute founder Joe Pulizzi in this video, are the ones you should include in your newsletter. Spend some time looking at the content on your blog that received the most attention or traffic throughout the week, and include that in your newsletter. The idea is to not re-package all of the content you create on a weekly basis — just the best, most engaging content.
You should also steer clear of packing your newsletter full of promotions and the type of content Brogan refers to as “selly sell”. Your readers get pummeled with plenty of those already, and all it takes is a few emails that are off-target to get your newsletter delegated to the ignore/I’ll unsubscribe/delete-this-later pile. For your subscribers using Gmail, your newsletter is already going to appear under the dreaded Promotions tab, which only underscores just how important it is to feature content that truly resonates with them.
Give Subscribers a Reason to Look for Your Email
In addition to your very best content from the week, consider including bonus content only available to your newsletter subscribers. It could include exclusive interviews with your CEO or external industry influencers, or sneak peeks inside upcoming releases or events. Go out of your way to provide them with something special and constantly ask yourself how you can boost your newsletter’s value. The goal should be to make your newsletter something your readers don’t just react to, but instead something they look forward to.

Step 4: Write captivating headlines and article summaries

What’s the single most important contributor to higher eNewsletter open rates? According to Copyblogger founder and CEO Brian Clark, it’s the headline. In his eBook, How to Write Magnetic Headlines, Clark shares that 80 percent of audiences will read article headlines, but on average only 20 percent of those people will go beyond that. The most immediate way to push past those averages is to write more compelling headlines and brief, but informative, summaries after them. For specific tips on what exactly constitutes a great headline and how to write one, check out Clark’s eBook here. 

Step 5: Grow your subscriber list

There are numerous ways to encourage prospects to opt-in to receiving your newsletter. Some of the most basic include:

  • placing a subscription form at the top and bottom of your website
  • including a link to your subscription page in your email signature
  • promoting your newsletter through your social network
  • sending an opt-in invitation to your email list that gives a few compelling reasons to subscribe

At OpenView, we’ve used those strategies to help grow our newsletter subscriber list from 5,000 to more than 25,000 in less than two years. For more tips on growing your opt-in email list, check out this post from OpenView’s Kevin O’Leary.

Examples of Great Email Newsletters

Human Business Works      Smashing Newsletter      StartupEdition
Human Business Works       Smashing Magazine             Startup Edition

Additional Resources

10 Step Guide to Great Newsletters by Hubspot
Quick Tips for Better Newsletters by Content Marketing Institute
Expanding Your Newsletter’s Reach by OpenView Labs
E-mail Marketing Field Guide by MailChimp

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Photo by: Andrew Taylor 

Senior Content Manager

Jonathan Crowe is Senior Content Manager at Barkly. He was previously the Managing Editor of OpenView Labs.
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