I’ve been sending email newsletters for years now. Precisely every…whenever I get to it. This is not frequently enough because I’m focused on building and maintaining my clients’ websites. And I’m also busy building and sending email newsletters for my clients. But I will be sending more newsletters in 2022.
Newsletters are a great way to stay in touch with your community – whoever they may be. It’s funny how email, this ancient technology (in terms of the Internet) remains relevant and useful even with all the innovations we’ve seen online.
“But I’m not a writer!” you say. Neither am I! You don’t have to be a literary genius to send out a message that benefits your constituents. For my part, I think about topics that are relevant to my clients – people who need a professional website. And you don’t have to write a ton. I get Seth Godin’s daily newsletter. They’re short, sweet and packed full of thought-provoking goodness.
So you’ve decided to send a newsletter (or resume sending a newsletter). Now what? I have a few suggestions.
1. Choose an email sending platform
It’s tempting to just send from your own email account. It’s simple and fast. And it’s fine if you’re just sending to a few contacts.
But if you want to send to more people, then email sending platforms offer many advantages. Use a tool like Campaign Monitor or MailChimp to send your messages. This allows you to manage your list, allows your readers to subscribe/unsubscribe themselves, and enables you to comply with anti-spam laws. These platforms also enable you to collaborate with others to create content, manage your list, and more.
2. Don’t worry about the design
The variety of template options can be paralyzing. The goal is to send something out. It doesn’t have to be perfect or even beautiful. It doesn’t have to be a book. It just needs to get out there and reach people.
In fact, a recent trend has been for email newsletters with no formatting, that look like regular emails.
Unless you’re a designer yourself, or that it conflicts with your brand, jump on that to send bare bones messages.
I’ve been asked for help with a few challenges that people face when sending newsletters:
1. Emails are getting blocked
There are two main things to look at here.
a. Newsletter content. You need to consider the content you’re sending out. Lots of links and suspicious verbiage can get your messages marked as spam. Take a close look at what you’re sending and even run it through an online spam checker.
b. Email Newsletter Configuration. When sending email using something like MailChimp, you’re using that platform to send messages on your behalf. This can look suspicious on the receiving end. The message claims to be from you but is coming from somewhere else. The solution is to mark your email platform as an authorized sender. Here’s a good primer on what’s needed. The exact configuration will vary by platform but all of them offer documentation explaining what to do or you can ask your friendly neighbourhood web developer (like me) to set this up.
2. People are unsubscribing or not engaging with the newsletters
All newsletters lose a certain number of readers. That’s inevitable and not a concern. However, if you lose a great many readers then some introspection may be needed. Is my message no longer relevant to them? Is it offending or otherwise turning them off?
Ultimately, a certain amount of unsubscribes is okay because it just means you’re not a match. And if you’re paying to send your newsletters, then you’re saving money by not sending to uninterested readers.
How many people are reading your newsletter? Not everybody will. Not even close. You can get lost in the stats offered by your newsletter platform. To start out with, ignore those metrics.
Which Newsletter Platform should I use?
Which platform do I recommend? I’ve had the most experience with Campaign Monitor, MailChimp, and Constant Contact so I’ll restrict my comments to those three.
I like MailChimp’s free tier as a great way to get started with sending email newsletters. Campaign Monitor has the best interface and they have a very useful tool for testing how emails look in different email clients. But sending with Campaign Monitor always costs money. Constant Contact I find clunky and awkward. They’ve been around since 1995 so they’re doing something right but I haven’t figured out what that is yet.
If you’re not sure about this whole newsletter thing and don’t want to spend money, then use Mailchimp. But if you’re in it to win it, then go for Campaign Monitor. And if you’re feeling bad for my third-ranked choice, then use Constant Contact.
My main point is to dive in and start sending an email newsletter. It doesn’t have to be overly complicated or lengthy. There are some technical details involved but help is out there. You can ramp up what you’re doing over time and with each iteration of your newsletter, you have a fresh chance to improve.
Ready for some more technical notes on building your newsletter? Check out my previous notes about Designing and Building newsletters.
And don’t get discouraged, overwhelmed, or distracted by the technology. The basic idea has always been to connect.