How to Create an Effective Email Newsletter

by Rachel Hartman on September 13, 2012
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If you have a list of email contacts or are in the process of gathering one, sending out a regular e-newsletter may be just what you need to increase interest from current and prospective clients.

When used correctly, “newsletters can be a great way to get your message out there, offer helpful advice, and keep people in your marketing funnel,” says Penny Sansevieri, CEO of Author Marketing Experts. “It requires work, but the rewards are tremendous.”

Here are five tips for putting together an effective e-newsletter for your small business:

1. Target your audience. It can be easy to opt for content about you and your business, but will that interest your readers? “Most of the time, a consumer won’t care about things the way you do,” says Sansevieri, whose company sends out a regular e-newsletter. “Speak to their pain, their needs, and their hot buttons. Most important, know exactly who they are before you start cranking out newsletter copy.”

2. Make it interactive. The content of your e-newsletter will vary, depending on your audience and industry. To keep readers interested, aim for about 95 percent information and 5 percent sales, Sansevieri recommends. For example, Squeeze In, a restaurant with four locations in California and Nevada, has sent out a monthly newsletter and e-newsletter since January 2009. The bulletin includes stories about the restaurant owners and guests, lists new menu items, and makes note of Squeeze In’s presence in the news and the community. In each issue, readers also receive a promotional item at a discount or additional points for the restaurant’s loyalty program. “It’s a great way to connect with our guests,” says Eva Lipson, communications manager at Squeeze In.

3. Include items you can track. Squeeze In makes note every time a customer brings in a promotional item or offer from its newsletter. Its staff then calculates the company’s ROI on each offer. To do this, employees fill out spreadsheets that include information from each receipt that has a returned offer stapled to it. “We figure out how many offers came in, how many guests were on the bill, what the total bill was, and once everything is entered, we can see the big picture,” Lipson notes. “It’s fun to try new things and see what works and what does not.” Your e-newsletter may not bring such exact results, but soliciting readers’ feedback and modifying your content accordingly can help build interest and increase your audience. These steps, in turn, could generate future sales.

4. Stick to a schedule. How often you send an e-newsletter will depend on your available time, your industry, and which consumers you’re trying to reach. A good rule of thumb, Sansevieri advises, is once a month minimum and once a week maximum.

5. Use a reliable service. Don’t send an e-newsletter from your own email account, because your account could get blacklisted from sending too many emails out at one time, Sansevieri warns. To send out an e-newsletter, MailChimp offers some free services; Constant Contact is another option. When choosing a service, “go with a trusted source,” she advises. “These companies spend a lot of time on their whitelisting tactics.” If a company is whitelisted, your e-newsletter will have a much better chance of arriving in a reader’s email inbox — and not a spam folder or, worse, undelivered.

Rachel Hartman is a writer who frequently covers topics related to small businesses. Her work has appeared in The Costco Connection, Wells Fargo Conversations, Pizza Today, Bankrate.com, InsuranceQuotes.com, CreditCardGuide.com, and many other outlets.

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