So you want to write a newsletter?

So you want to start a newsletter? It’s a fantastic way to build connections with your audience. Here are a few tips that I think are the most important to get you started.

  • It’s not all about you. It’s your newsletter. The most important things you can put into it are your voice, philosophy, character. That being said, it is actually about the subscriber. Specifically, it’s about building a relationship with the subscriber. Subscribers stick with you when they are getting something from the interaction. Keep the sales pitches below the 30% mark. Offer your subscribers your genuine self because it’s always the one thing they can’t get anywhere else.
  • Make it look and sound like you. If you don’t already have a brand standard for promotional materials I would suggest establishing one. Your brand standard should include a specific voice, story, logo, font set(s), color palette and imagery style. Apply them consistently to all of your media (website, email, social, etc). You can update portions (fonts, colors, or imagery) for new projects or as trends change. Revisit the full package every three to five years to refresh.
  • Be consistent but not boring. Monthly newsletters are best sent monthly and around the same time. Select a schedule and stick with it. In my personal experience, most people aren’t sure which is which between the prefixes semi and bi so I recommend that you keep it simple. Tell them what they are going to get and then deliver it as promised. No more. No less. When you keep the interior content fresh consistency doesn’t become boring.
  • Subject lines matter. All email marketing experts and data agree. Subject lines matter. They should be short enough to fit on most email clients. Since about half of the population receives email on their phone I suggest no more than 30 characters. The most important thing to think about is catching their attention. Give them a glimpse of what’s in the newsletter and always use the preview text. If your email marketing tool has the capability to try some A/B testing of multiple subject lines to see what sparks your subscribers’ interest.
  • Images need alt text. A lot of email clients will automatically load emails without images. If for no other reason than this you should include alt text for any images in your newsletter. Make the descriptions complete and enticing. If you are using a royalty-free image service they have great descriptions ready made for you to customize.
  • Feed your email list. You will get unsubscribes. People’s interests change and that’s ok. Make sure you are using your social media presence, your website, and your other promotional opportunities to get people on your mailing list. All email marketing tools have subscription page options and you should make sure you are using them. Don’t be afraid to run re-engagement campaigns and then sunset unengaged subscribers.
  • Content is key. Think about your brand, your goals, and your relationship with the subscriber and make a list of the types of content your newsletter will include. I suggest a minimum of 6 with no more than 9 types and no matter how many only 30% are sales related.  Select 3 that are the core of your newsletter and will be represented in every edition and the others can be cycled in and out to keep things fresh. Your core need not include a sales item. Keep a list of ideas and topics somewhere so you can add them whenever fresh ideas come to you. Make a checklist for your newsletter. It’s easy to forget to check links, add alt text, or even proofread. Once these emails are gone they are gone. Sending retractions and oops emails are often more distracting than our small mistakes.

Can you Relate?

59424639 - casual people activities frame graphic conceptI watched “You’ve Got Mail” yesterday. Ok, that sounds weird to me. In truth, it was on the TV while I meal and grocery planned for the week. When you’ve seen a movie approximately 1 zillion times it’s the same thing. In my favorite scene (when Meg is sick) Tom says opening a store that put her small book shop out of business “wasn’t personal.” After an awesome tirade Meg says, “Whatever else anything is, it ought to begin by being personal.” Fucking A! You go with your bad self, Meg. I think everything is personal. It’s a big reason I believe developing your values is important. We are persons after all.

You are a person with a business. You have business plans. You have loads of stuff to do. There is someone else with needs and plans in this equation, the customer. Are you relating to them? Are you thinking about what they need? Are you making it personal? Have you told them about it? When you are busting your rear to get things done it’s easy to forget to build customer relationships. The great news is that when love what you are doing and love your customer it’s easy to correct. Check out one way in my work with Pagan Pride LA/OC we have started building more of these relationships.

I am absolutely thrilled to be a member of the Pagan Pride LA/OC coordinator team. As a non-profit organization without a tangible product, they struggle to make ends meet each year. While sitting at the table discussing fundraising I got to thinking about customers. While not a traditional consumer relationship Pagan Pride surely has customers. They have several types of customers who are all interested in different products. Vendors are seeking access to customers/supporters. Presenters and performers are seeking exposure. Attendees are seeking goods, information, and entertainment. All of these things are what they seek from Pagan Pride one day of the year. So I asked myself, can we give it to them better? Is it possible for Pagan Pride to offer this year round? Can we gain additional financial support in return?

I developed the Pagan Pride Sponsorship program as a response to these very questions. What value can we offer our customers? How can we deepen our relationships? A keystone of the sponsorship program is the monthly newsletter. It gives each member of the audience a glimpse of Pagan Pride Day once a month. Pagan Pride LA/OC also has a healthy social media network. It offers an opportunity to help vendors and presenters get their work in front of pagans who want to hear about it. The sponsorship program is a successful fledgling. I’m hopeful that as long as we keep our customers’ needs at the center of the offering it will flourish.

  1. Who are your customers? be specific.
  2. What sort of relationship do you want to build with them?
    • Expertise, friendship, levity?
  3. How do they talk to you?
    • What language style? formal, casual, profanity?
    • What channel(s)? email, in person, social media?
  4. When are they available?

By answering these questions and creating a relationship building action plan you can develop stronger customer relationships and in turn a stronger business that is of service to people.

By Kandy Crenshaw