Listen to any of the digital marketing experts out there and you’ll no doubt hear that it’s essential to build a list of subscribers to an email newsletter with a service like Aweber.
Personally, I think a newsletter (or email subscription list) is essential in business because not only does it allow you to communicate with your audience in a very direct and personal way, it also gives you important data like:
- how many people are opening your mail
- who is clicking on the links
- what the most successful kind of content is in terms of engagement
and so on.
The entry level to setting up a newsletter service isn’t massively high but it can be a bit of a learning curve if you’re not, say, super comfortable running your website so here’s what you need to know.
How You Get Started With Your Newsletter
1) Sign-up with either Aweber or MailChimp
Personally, I prefer Aweber but that’s purely because I’ve experienced fewer emails ending up in spam folders than with MailChimp. I have clients who are equally pleased with MailChimp.
2) Create a List
The first thing you will need to do before you can create a message is create the name of your list: i.e. podcast_followers. People who subscribe to your newsletter through the sign-up form on your website will be added to this list automatically.
I run two lists: one on marketing tips for this site, and one for a podcasting site I’m developing.
As you create your list you typically have to add your contact details, a Thanks for Subscribing message that prompts the reader to confirm their subscription and an optional Thank You again page that you can either customize or use a default page.
4) Create Your Sign-Up Form
Once you’ve got your list sorted and all the data filled out you need to create a sign-up form.
You can design your very own sign-up form if you’re a coding wizard, get a specialist to make one for you or even choose from a variety of templates that Aweber and MailChimp provide. In the past I’ve used slightly tweaked versions of an Aweber sign-up form on this website, but we also make custom-designed forms for clients. It all depends on your branding, goals and needs.
Once you’ve finished your sign-up form you add it to your website. WordPress allows you to use a plugin that works with the widgets if you’re using a default template; otherwise, you have to install the custom html / css code in your site.
How to Create the Best Custom Opt-Forms for Aweber
Personally, I find that the OptinSkin WordPress plugin is an excellent resource for making tailor-made custom opt-in forms.
5) Writing Newsletters
Once you’ve got people signing up to get your newsletter you’re going to have to write your first message. Just like the sign-up forms, you have to choose from the option of using a template, a template you customize yourself or a completely custom-designed theme.
In Aweber you can write your newsletter in a WYSIWYG editor that makes it super easy to add links, images, logos, etc. Or, if you prefer, you can write in pure html.
My experience has been that this is the worst aspect of working with a newsletter service. WYSIWYG editors can be a bit buggy and often the font size of the text will look a bit weird, appear differently when it arrives in your mail, and generally mildly irritate. However, experience and a bit of playing around will help you overcome this.
After you’ve struggled through once you can just duplicate your first newsletter and add the new text, images, links, etc. That makes the whole process so much easier.
6) Test Your Newsletter
It’s really important to test your newsletter before you send it out to your list. This enables you to check links, fonts, the placement of images, etc.
It’s not unusual that I end up tweaking a newsletter three or four times. It’s not until you see the newsletter in your inbox that you might spot typos, bad links or broken paragraphs.
7) Checking for Gold dust
Once you’ve sent out your newsletter you can start to track your data. Typically you’ll see an overview of opens and clicks.
Don’t be disappointed if open rates are low. It’s not personal. It’s just that we live in a busy age and people don’t have time to read everything. The trick is to tweak your copy and write better headlines next time to elicit that first open and then a click to a link.
8) Call Outs
I mention click to links because it’s essential that your newsletter drive action whether its encouraging people to connect with you on Facebook or Twitter, read your latest blog post, or subscribe to your podcast. You can also use your newsletter to drive people to landing pages with special offers but be careful not to overdo this as you risk irritating people.
And there’s More
I’ve given you a brief overview of how to set up a newsletter in the hope that this will encourage you to give it a go. There’s much more you can do like create online courses delivered by email, social media integration, split testing, etc. Check it out. Or if you’re already running a list, why not share you best tips for a running a successful list here in the comments.