If you have ever used some online service, you have probably seen an option to sign up for a newsletter. Video streaming providers, online clothing stores, data storage providers, airlines, grocery stores – most businesses these days send out regular newsletters. If you have a website, you should consider sending one as well. In this article, we will show you why you need a newsletter, what to include in it, how to create it, and how to send it.
- Why do you need a newsletter?
- How to gather subscribers
- What content to include
- Software to create your newsletter
- How to send it
- Tracking your newsletters
- In conclusion
Why do you need a newsletter?
You may wonder if you really have to send a newsletter. After all, you can have a website and regular customers without sending one. As you will see, however, sending a regular newsletter has a number of benefits. Here are a few of them:
- Send promotional offers. If you launch a new product or offer a discount for an existing one, a newsletter is one of the best ways to inform your customers about that. After all, they may not visit your website or log in to their account every day, so they can easily miss your offer. Depending on the particular offer, you can send a standalone promo newsletter or combine a discount code with other content.
- Create brand awareness. If you offer a product or a service, sending a regular newsletter will remind people that they can order from you if they need anything. This way, they will start associating that specific product/service with your name. If they don’t see your brand for a while, they may consider ordering from one of your competitors that may be more familiar to them.
- Increase your credibility. Sending out a regular newsletter will increase your credibility. If your customers receive high quality information, they will trust you more. They may also look at your brand as an authority on a particular topic. A regular newsletter will show customers that your business is still active. It is a sign that you put effort into creating content for them, which will increase their trust in you even more.
- Increase your sales. Email marketing is one of the best ways to boost your sales. For every dollar spent on emails, you can get up to $36 in return (Source: Litmus). This is a great way to engage all your subscribers and convert your efforts into sales. Once people end up on your site, they may order something else along with the product/service they wanted initially, increasing your sales even further.
- Reach more people. A newsletter is easy to share, so if your subscribers like the content you sent them, they can forward your email to other people. Alternatively, they can open a link from the newsletter and then share it on social media or instant messengers. This is a potential channel to increase your client base.
How to gather subscribers
This is an important question. You should have a list of people to send the newsletter to before you start creating any content. It makes no sense to design a marketing campaign and create a newsletter if you have few or no subscribers. The easiest way is to add a subscription checkbox on your order form, or to add a subscription option on your website – a pop-up for new visitors, or a checkbox in the client area for existing customers. You can also use a landing page for visitors coming from other websites (social media, paid ads, search engines, etc.) to promote your product/service and prompt people to sign up for your newsletter.
Whether email addresses will be added to some software automatically, or you will simply gather them and then add them to an application manually is up to you. We offer software called ezmlm, for example, that allows you to add subscribers and manage them using a mailing list. You will be able to add them with a few clicks in your web hosting control panel. Other applications allow you to add a subscription box on your website that will save all email addresses to a list automatically. A few examples are our Website Builder, some WordPress plugins, and some email marketing platforms. Some options are easier to implement and use than others.
Regardless of the way you choose to gather subscribers, what matters is to get their consent. You can simply find a list of email addresses and import it to some software to send your newsletter, or gather the addresses from your customers’ profile information without informing them, but your emails can be reported as spam or you may not reach the right people. Sending unwanted messages to customers or to random people is a bad practice and such a thing will make the whole process of building and sending a newsletter pointless.
What content to include
A newsletter is more than just an email with a few paragraphs of text. There are a few things that you should include to make your newsletters more appealing to customers. We have listed a few of them, but the list is not exhaustive. Depending on the nature of your content, you can decide to skip some elements or add others.
- Logo. Adding your brand logo is a must. One of the main purposes of a newsletter is to increase your brand recognition and what better way for that than having your logo in every email you send. Depending on the structure of your newsletter, the logo can be in the header or in the footer (the former is usually preferred, though). Use the logo original colors, and make sure you use the right size. Usually, the logo should be a link to the home page of your website.
- Unsubscribe link. The link may not remove the email address from your mailing list directly, but it should at least give your customers a way to manage their subscription. Such a link is mandatory for any newsletter. Its lack will increase the spam score of your emails, and some providers may even reject your newsletter directly if they do not detect such a link. An unsubscribe option is mandatory if you want your newsletters to be compliant with the US CAN-SPAM Act.
- Contact information. People may want to contact you about something they have seen in your newsletter, so an email address will help them do that without going through your website. A postal address, if you have one, can also increase people’s trust. Sending a newsletter from a no-reply email address without any other contact information is bad practice.
- Social media links. This is something very important for your web presence as a whole. People leave or read reviews, check if a company is active, comment on posts, or use the messaging system of social media for quick questions. This is why, it is good practice to add links to your social media profiles in the newsletter footer.
- Images. Visuals are important. When you create your newsletter, make sure that you add some images as well to make your email more appealing. The images should be relevant to the rest of the content, not just random graphics. Make sure they fit well in terms of their size and colors.
- Quality content. Once you have added the things listed above, you should consider the actual content of your newsletters. Depending on the nature of your website, you can send a summary of your latest blog articles, industry news, promo offers, testimonials, infographics, etc. The content of your newsletter should bring value of some sort to your customers. Do not add content that will be of no interest to them just for the sake of sending something. Proofread everything as typos can leave a bad impression.
- Personalized offers. If it is possible, you should personalize your newsletter. Adding a name is the least you can do. You can also consider offering personal offers for customers. Of course, such a thing may not be possible in certain cases, but the personal touch will leave a very good impression.
Software to create your newsletter
Now that you have some idea what to include in your newsletter, you have to create it. There are different ways to do that, and you can choose the one that suits your needs.
- Ready template. You will find lots of templates online, so you can replace the dummy content with your own text and images. Two websites where you can find such templates are https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/newsletter-template and https://templatelab.com/newsletter-templates/. Depending on the site you find and the type of template you need, you will come across files in different file formats. You can edit them using a suitable editing application.
- Text editor. You can use your favorite text editor to add content, but modern text editors have evolved quite a lot and some of them include free newsletter templates. Microsoft Word is one example – templates are available with the free online version as well, so you don’t have to pay a dime to be able to create a newsletter using a template. You can write HTML code in a simple text editor as well, but this option takes too much time and requires some skills.
- HTML editor. This option is similar to the one above, but since newsletters are viewed in email applications and web browsers, you can use an HTML editor directly to create web content for your newsletter. A couple of examples are Adobe Dreamweaver and WYSIWYG Web Builder.
- Online generator. If you do not want to install software or create an account for the options above, you can use an online generator such as https://www.visme.co/templates/newsletters/. It will allow you to build a newsletter and then export it so that you can send it to your subscribers.
How to send it
You will find different options to send your newsletter. You need software and a mail server for that. Depending on the option you have selected in the previous step, there are different ways to send the newsletter.
If you have a web hosting account, for example, you can use the email service of your hosting provider. You can have a mailing list, or for a small number of subscribers, you can even send an email directly. If you used an online template or a text editor, you can simply copy the content of the newsletter in your preferred email client, and then send the email. Just make sure that HTML is enabled in the application for composing new messages. For example, you can create a newsletter using Microsoft Word or OpenOffice Writer, and then send it using Outlook, Thunderbird or Apple Mail.
With this option, your newsletter will be sent through the mail server of your web hosting provider. If your website is with one provider, and your emails with another, you will use the mail server of the latter. Unless you use a dedicated email provider, you should schedule your newsletter carefully and clean up inactive recipients to make sure that you don’t hit a limit for the outgoing emails. This is something common for many hosting providers, even if you use a high-end plan or a virtual server.
If you use an email marketing platform that provides the option to create a newsletter, you can send it directly through their system. This is the case with popular platforms such as Mailchimp, MailerLite and Sendinblue. In this case, the DNS records for your domain or subdomain will point to the platform you have selected, so your newsletter will go through their mail servers automatically.
You can also send your newsletter through your web design software. Here, you will use one of the two options above, depending on the settings of the application you have used to build your website.
Our Website Builder, for example, includes a Newsletter module. You can add a subscription box on any page with a couple of clicks. The module includes a rich text editor, so you can create your newsletter right from the application, without using any third-party software. You can add subscribers manually or import a whole list. You can also easily see an archive of all newsletters you have sent in the past. Our Website Builder will send the newsletter through our mail server by default, so you will not have to set anything up.
If you use WordPress, you will find lots of plugins to send a newsletter. Some of them such as MailPoet or Icegram Express, can be used with the mail server of your web hosting account, so you will have to add the SMTP details for your mailbox. Of course, you can use any other SMTP-enabled mailbox as well in case your emails are handled by another provider. Others like Mailchimp or Sendinblue are created by email marketing platforms, as their names suggest. If you use one of them, they will send your newsletter automatically through the servers of the platform you have selected, after a one-time setup. By default, WordPress does not have newsletter functionality, so you will have to choose the plugin that matches your needs (and budget) best.
You can find extensions for Joomla as well. A couple of examples are jNews and AcyMailing Starter. Depending on the extension you use, you can add Joomla articles to your newsletter, add a subscription option on the site registration form, schedule emails to be sent after a certain number of days after registration, etc. You will find the sending option directly in the extension. Similar to WordPress, most Joomla extensions allow you to use a third-party SMTP service as well.
If you have an online store built with OpenCart or PrestaShop, you will find modules for these applications in their module repositories as well. Similar to other platforms, you can create a newsletter from scratch using an editor, or add a ready one, and then send it.
Tracking your newsletters
The final part of creating and sending a newsletter is to track its success. Depending on how you send it, you will have access to different statistics that you can monitor. Email marketing platforms usually provide the most detailed statistics as a part of the main service they offer. You can usually monitor the audience engagement - how many emails have been delivered, opened, or rejected; how many clicks there have been on your links; top locations and email clients. This way, you can easily see your conversion rates and calculate your ROI.
If you use a CMS plugin, you can find similar statistics as well. Some plugins, for example, allow you to see how many emails have been opened by a live person and how many have been marked as read by software. Additional statistics include bounces, clicked links, etc. If you send the newsletter directly to a mailing list or to the email addresses of your subscribers, you can still see the bounced messages in the “Return-path” (or “bounce to”) mailbox that you can set, so you can see how many messages have been delivered. Make sure that you clean up your subscribers list regularly to avoid sending your newsletter to non-existing addresses.
Tracking the performance of your newsletters is quite important. If you notice that the number of your subscribers does not increase or even decreases, or less and less emails are being opened, maybe you should rethink your strategy. Consider reaching out to more audiences to gather more subscribers or changing the content you include in the newsletters. Try different formats as well.
Even something as simple as sending emails too often and informing people about every little update on your end can make some people unsubscribe. In this example, consider sending a regular update that includes multiple changes you have made in the past month or two, for instance. Any issue with your newsletter can affect your ROI, so you should keep an eye on how each email you send performs.
Sending a newsletter is not mandatory for your web presence. You can manage your website and post regular updates in some sections on the site, or in a social media account. Nonetheless, a newsletter is one of the best ways to engage with your customers. It is more likely for people to read more about a new offer or open a link to discover more information on a particular topic if they receive a newsletter. Your email will stay in their mailbox even if they don’t read it right away. They will not be distracted by tens of other posts by people or groups, as often happens on social media.
There are some things you must include, such as a logo and an Unsubscribe link. Other than that, the most important thing is to have good content. We have given you some ideas what you can include and what software you can use to build your newsletter. Depending on the volume of emails, your budget, and your needs, you can use your web hosting account or an email marketing platform to send it. Do not forget to track how each newsletter performs to make sure that you maximize your ROI.