How to start an email newsletter

Lewis Wake
Wednesday 15 June 2016

What is the best method to keep your loyal customers or fans informed with your latest activity? Most people will answer this with Facebook or Twitter, but these solutions are now so popular your content will quickly become buried in an overly saturated newsfeed. In the digital world, the most direct way to communicate with someone is to drop them an email.An email newsletter is a regular bulletin board that lands directly in a user’s email inbox.

Email newsletters are the most direct method to drive loyal traffic to your website or blog. Newsletters aren’t necessarily as simple as composing a new email message and sending it out to a few friends: they can become huge campaigns from which you’ll want to accumulate engagement data. So, where do you start?

1. Choose a newsletter service

Gone are the days of having to code your email newsletters by hand. Now, specialist services exists to get your campaign up and running in no time.

The digital communications team uses Mailchimp. We use this service for our own newsletter, the press team use it for the all-staff “In The Loop” emails, and Admissions have also been using it to communicate with potential students.

Mailchimp is a popular choice for a newsletter service.
Mailchimp is a popular choice for a newsletter service.

Perhaps the most appealing feature of MailChimp is that it’s free for up to 2,000 subscribers. It also has a very easy to use interface with templates that make setup a no-brainer. This makes it the logical choice for many first-time users who are just starting to build an email list. However, MailChimp becomes a little more expensive once you get past 2,000 subscribers.

There are also alternative services out there like Campaign Monitor and AWeber.

2. Segment your list

Before you have even started collecting email addresses, you should be categorising your subscribers into appropriate mailing lists. This will help target your campaigns to the correct demographic early on.

Organise your subscribers into the correct user groups
Organise your subscribers into the correct user groups

There is no easy work around to go back and re-organise your subscribers unless they have provided you with their user data early on. Depending on your niche, it could be very valuable for you to be able to divide your subscribers based on location, age, job title, gender, and so on.

Customising your email campaigns to each of these various groups can significantly increase open and click rates, as shown in this data from MailChimp. It’s a good idea to get this extra data from your subscribers from day one, even if you aren’t using it right away.

3. Collect email addresses

You can’t start reaping the benefits of your newsletter until you get people to sign up for it. One of the most common and most effective strategies is to offer something valuable to people who opt in to your list. You could give away a free ebook, an exclusive video series, or other premium content related to your niche. Give the user a reason to subscribe to your email list. Ultimately, you’ll want to gain a new audience with your newsletter, so your goal should be to create content that’s good enough that other people will promote your newsletter for you.

Here's an image macro because I couldn't find a relevant image about collecting email addresses
Here’s an image macro because I couldn’t find a relevant image about collecting email addresses

4. What to send

Starting out and finding your feet comes with time. Finding content for your first newsletter can be difficult. Most commonly, you’ll find that newsletter campaigns tend to give out an update on the project work that they’ve done. Sometimes this can be egotistical and completely unappealing to a user.

In a previous blog post, I wrote about how to create an email newsletter that people actually want to read.

Include recent blog posts, relevant links to worthwhile resources, and updates on important project information that is relevant to your user group.

There is always something to blog about, so you should always have content to share with your users. Think creatively, there is no such thing as a dead-end.

Writers block? Think creatively, there is no such thing as a dead-end
Writers block? Think creatively, there is no such thing as a dead-end

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