Alright, confession time: I resisted setting up an email newsletter for a long time. It was always somewhere on my to-do list, and I knew I really should get on with it, but…
I didn’t know what I wanted to say.
I knew what I didn’t want to say. I didn’t want to send another newsletter with writing tips like “How to Write a Killer About Page” because God knows the internet does NOT need more of that. I didn’t want to send newsletters with “50 Ways You’re Misusing Commas” because, come on, business owners don’t care about grammar minutiae the way English nerds like me do.
(I’ll save you my rant about apostrophes for another day. The short version is apostrophes literally never make anything plural.)
Anyway, I let this “not knowing what to do” stop me from starting a newsletter for far too long.
Don’t be like me! If you’re still hesitating about starting a newsletter, let’s talk about it and get you started.
But really, why do I need one?
First, let’s clear something up.
I’m not going to spew all the marketing BS about how email is the best way ever to reach your customers and getting into people’s inboxes is the key to happiness. I see too many marketers and writers saying that email is immune to the whims of a large company and that’s just wrong.
We know Gmail can mess with the ways your emails reach your customers in the same way Facebook can mess with the ways people see your posts.
Email is still a more reliable and effective way to reach your people.
And as long as that’s the case, you’re doing your business a disservice if you don’t have a newsletter.
So what exactly can a newsletter do for your business? I like to point to two major benefits:
Your newsletter reminds people you exist.
If you’re a brick-and-mortar, your customers aren’t stopping by in person every day to see what’s new (unless you're Starbucks) or if you have a sale or sign up for your next event. If you’re an online business, they’re not visiting your site every day.
They probably aren’t specifically searching out your Facebook page or Twitter feed—if they happen to see your update as they scroll, great, but there are, like, five Instagram feeds I might actually search for if I realize I haven’t seen an update from them in a while (and, sorry to say, none of them are brands or businesses).
True story, though: I have signed up for an newsletter (I won’t tell you which one) because I saw a post on Instagram about a promotion they had two days late, and I thought damn, if I’d been on their email list I probably wouldn’t seen that in time.
I mean, I’m not sure if I’m ashamed of that or not, but it happened.
Newsletters are how I find out about...
Which breweries are hosting a wine-and-paint night. When a local boutique is having a sale. When a restaurant changes up its seasonal menu. What special workshops my yoga studio is offering next month. When a maker I love will have a booth a local craft fair. When Taste of ____ tickets go on sale. Instead of remembering and visiting all those sites, I’m aggregating all that news in my inbox for easy access.
Your newsletter lets you connect with people one-on-one.
Every now and then, I sign up for a newsletter and get a welcome email that says something like “I want to hear where you need the most help in [my area of expertise]. Just hit reply and let me know.”
Exactly twice, I have hit reply and responded—and both times, I got a direct response. Once, it led to a back and forth exchange that ended with me saying “sure, sign me up for your next e-course.”
Comments on blogs or social media are great, but sometimes you—or your customers—are looking for a longer, more in-depth conversation, or they’d like to keep what they’re saying private. Email is gold for this. You get to know your customers on a deeper level and they get to form an actual connection with a real person. It’s wins all around.
Okay, so what do I put in my newsletter, exactly?
Whatever you want. Within reason, but really, don’t think you must follow some special magic formula. Ideally, you find a balance between “useful/helpful/interesting to your customers” and “something you enjoy writing or putting together on a regular basis.” That might include:
Sharing your latest blog post (or, if you blog more often than you send your newsletter, send an “in case you missed this…” list of links to your latest posts)
Short notes about what you’ve been up to (look behind the scenes at your business, share some recent lessons learned, peeks at upcoming sales, events, products, promotions, etc.)
Exclusive sales, discounts, offers (big key to giving people a reason to be on your list)
Bonus tips, guides, and information (like a guide on “how to wear rompers” if you’re a clothing boutique, or “best stock photo sites” if you’re a designer, or “pranayama exercises” of you’re a yoga instructor)
Share press and news about your business
Freebies—maybe an excerpt of your next e-book or a BOGO coupon
Round-up of links you found interesting/inspiring
Obviously—news about what they can buy from you and when. These are the people you should be telling first about a new product launch, your next event, when you have one-on-one spots available, when you’re having a sale, when new inventory arrives, when you’re discontinuing a line so they have limited time to get what’s left.
A note about opt-ins...
I don’t currently have one. I’ll put something together later this year, but I realized that I need an opt-in first was one of the things stopping me from starting altogether, so I just went forward without one. So, do you need one? No. Would having one really, really help? Probably.
If you’re a product-based business, you can get creative, but an easy opt-in is a one-time discount code for new subscribers (10% off or free shipping or whatever), or a promise of exclusive, subscriber-only deals and sales. If you’re service-based, you can still offer discounts (10% your family photography package for new subscribers). Or you can offer exclusive freebies, like ebooks or ecourses.
Here’s the thing. If you’re offering a discount for your opt-in, look around at what your competitors are doing and offer something in-line with that. If you’re offering a guide or ebook, you really need something that stands out. We’re getting saturated with free ebooks and ecourses and tip sheets and guides, and I know I don’t need another PDF about “how to find great clients!” sitting on my hard drive. So come up with something more unique and memorable. Sarah von Bargen, for example, asks new subscribers to email her with their website and social media profiles, and she’ll take a quick look and send them three tips to improve their online presence. (Or at least she used to; I signed up ages ago so I don’t know if that offer still stands—she also has a ton of other stuff for subscribers.)
What’s stopping you from starting a newsletter? If it’s time, or overwhelm, or not wanting to write, I can help with that.