Newsletters 101

Before we start discussing how to build your list, we are going to talk about your newsletter.  Why?  Because that is the thing that stops most entrepreneurs in their tracks.  What exactly do I DO with my list?

This article covers the entire process of setting up your newsletter, from deciding what you want your newsletter to achieve... to the nuts and bolts of publishing. Let's get started...

Preliminary Questions: Who? Why? What? When?

What to Write

Before deciding upon what you'll write, decide for whom you'll write, and why (i.e., the Most Wanted Response).

Are you targeting a particular subset of visitors to your site, or everyone (e.g., all visitors to vs. high net-worth individuals)? Do you want them to visit your site again and click on an ad, or do you want them to retain your services?

Answering the "who" and the "why" forms the "what"...

What benefits will you deliver to your subscribers? Will you provide a tip of the day? Will you digest news in your field down to a small number of key snippets each week? Or will you write an original article with valuable info once per week, or once per month?

Research your competition's newsletters. Then develop your USP (Unique Selling Proposition). It may be the same as your site's... or not. If your newsletter is taking a special direction, its USP tells potential readers why yours is the best/only choice over anything else in the same field.

That takes care of "who-why-what." Now...

When to Write It

Put up your newsletter opt-in form as soon as you see your first visitors arriving. A newsletter credentializes your site as a serious one, one with the technology to do this, and the content to share.

No site?  Not a problem.  With the correct tools, you can still build a mailing list.

Don't worry if your newsletter isn't ready yet. Start building your subscriber list even while you're working on developing the format and content of your newsletter. Each visitor who subscribes will be a great motivation-booster for you to finish the job. One caveat though...

The longer you wait before providing your subscribers with that crucial first issue, the more likely they are to forget you... or forget that they had signed up... or forget what compelled them to subscribe in the first place. So don't wait more than two months (after your first subscriptions) to publish.

How often should you publish?

Don't attempt a weekly schedule, not at first. A newsletter requires more of your time than you realize. A quarterly schedule, though, is just not often enough. So a monthly newsletter is a good frequency, to start. Adjust after you've had a chance to measure how much time it takes.

Balance the frequency of your mailouts carefully. Deliver your newsletter often enough to stay in your subscribers' minds. Do not publish so often that they grow tired of you, nor so rarely that they wonder who you are! Ideally, they should look forward to hearing from you.

Whatever the frequency, make it regular. Deliver on time, on the day they expect it, whether it's the first of the month or every other Tuesday. Regular, timely delivery establishes credibility.

OK, now that we've covered the preliminary "who-what-why-and-when," let's talk about the "how"...

The Quick "How-To"...

Everything about your newsletter must be top-notch. And that starts with its name. Make it...

  • short and catchy
  • descriptive, consistent with your site's theme
  • relevant to the USP, voice and content of the newsletter.

Let those creative juices flow. You want your newsletter to stand out from the crowd. Make the name unique and appealing!

Start Building Your List

Your newsletter is now "set up" and you're ready to write your first issue. But, as noted above, you should start building your list of subscribers as early as possible.

Your newsletter's subscription form on your site is a personal invitation to potential readers.

They should want to take advantage of your great (free!) newsletter.

And don't just place one form on your site. Provide your visitors with lots of opportunities. Otherwise, they may never see it. And even if they do see it (once), the impact is minimal. It may not even register on their minds. So...

No need to restrict yourself to a couple of sign-up forms. Give your visitors several opportunities. You just never know when they will react favorably!

Write Your First Issue

Your main goal is to deepen the relationship (that has already started) by delivering valuable content to your subscribers. In other words, you have already been "found" -- you want to "take it to the next level."

Congratulations! Your e-publication career is launched!

Let people know about your outstanding publication. There's a pleasant bonus when you market your newsletter. Not only do you build your e-publication's subscription list, you build more traffic to your site. Always provide a link from your newsletter issues to your home page.