Electronic newsletters have been around for as long as I’ve been in business; prior to that, I can remember getting them in the mail. Newsletters seem very 1990’s don’t they? They don’t have the flash of “new media” or the shimmer of a shiny new social media site just waiting to be discovered, but what they do have is visibility. In some cases, more visibility than you’re getting on all of your social media sites combined.
I just returned from the Romance Writers of America conference, and there was a lot of buzz around newsletters and why you need one. Why? Well, we all know that Facebook has declined in reach, in some cases only 1% of your posts reach your fans. If you’re not paying for placement on Facebook, it’s very likely your stuff isn’t being seen. And with everyone on sites like Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Twitter (which also will start monetizing posts) it’s really hard to get your audiences’ attention.
If you decide to do a newsletter, it doesn’t have to be long. I know some authors that just use their newsletter to “touch” their audience with a brief (500 word) update. Your newsletter doesn’t have to be complicated, but it does have to be consistent. And it has to be professional and on point.
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I’m amazed by how many people still have no idea how to manage their own newsletter. I see sloppy copy or newsletters that haven’t been edited (am I really going to buy from someone who doesn’t have the time to edit their newsletter or make it look nice?). I also see newsletters that veer off topic so much that I instantly unsubscribe. And, my absolute favorite: how on earth did I ever end up with this newsletter in the first place?
If used correctly, newsletters can be a great way to get your message out there, offer helpful advice, keep people in your marketing funnel, or simply remind them of who you are. We’ve had our newsletter for fourteen years and it’s been a solid way to stay in front of our audience and educate them about their market and what we do as a company. Candidly, I would consider getting rid of a lot of things, but never our newsletter. It’s often the single biggest business driver to our company. It’s not easy, it requires work, but the rewards are tremendous.
Convinced you need a newsletter? Here are some quick ways to start it:
- Make sure the sign-up is on the home page and every page of your website. Typically the left hand side is preferred since it’s considered the “power side” of your website.
- Give a great offer to get folks to sign up. By great offer I mean something they’ll want. If you’re a fiction author you can give exclusive content from your book, a gift card (hold a monthly drawing for one gift card) or some other valuable content your readers will want.
- Make sure you have a mail system to manage it like Mail Chimp or Constant Contact. Both are free up to 1,000 subscribers so you can test this before you launch it.
- Create an auto-responder: An auto-responder is a great way to stay in touch with your reader/consumer and remind them of who you are. An auto-responder might go out weekly, or monthly, or it might just be a one-time “gift” you send readers for signing up. Our auto-responder is our 52 Ways to Sell More Books which is separated into 52 segments and delivered twice monthly into our readers’ inboxes.
Now that you have your newsletter in place, here are a few things that can really help grow your list:
- Know your audience: While this might sound trite and a bit “duh,” it’s actually more important than you might think and, ironically, quite overlooked. Many authors and business owners who put out newsletters write more for themselves than for their audience. This is a huge mistake as you can imagine because most of the time, your consumer won’t care about things the way you do. Speak to their pain, their needs and their hot buttons and most important, know exactly who they are before you start cranking out newsletter copy.
- Write to one person: I don’t know about you but writing “hello everyone” seems very impersonal and, kind of spammy. The other piece of this is if you create your newsletter with that one reader/fan/customer in mind, you’ll create a better newsletter. Oh, and when it comes to the “from” line in your email, make sure it has your name, not your company name or book title. Personalize your email, you’ll be glad you did.
- Other newsletters: It’s important to know what other folks are doing with their newsletters. This will help you learn what you like, what you don’t like, and what might work for your market. Also, you want to really understand your space and other experts who share your arena.
- Give them someone to write to: Make sure that your readers know who to contact, and invite them to share their opinions, feedback or ideas for future newsletters.
- Subject lines: This is probably the most important part of any newsletter. They need to grab the reader’s attention, and if you know what your audience wants, the subject lines shouldn’t be hard. But they must speak to the needs of your reader. Of all the things going on in their lives, as it relates to whatever you are selling, what’s their biggest need right now? Answer that and you’ve got a perfect subject line.
- Who cares? Whether it’s a newsletter, a blog post, or a tweet, ask yourself: “Who cares?” If you can identify the person as your reader and the content as important enough to get them to care, then you have a good topic. Remember, it’s not about you – in fact when it comes to creating great content and newsletters that rock, you don’t matter at all. Keep that in mind, and understand that this is about putting together a message that 100% benefits the people you are writing to.
- Personal notes: What prompted this article was an email note I got. The subject line said, “A personal request,” which prompted me to open it. When I did, the email started out with Dear….., and a bunch of spaces after the word “dear” because I had not entered my name into their system. Be really careful of this. Not everyone enters their name into your email list when they sign up; if they don’t, you want to try and avoid these types of emails because they look a bit odd to the recipient. A subject line that said “A personal request” along with an email that was anything but personal caused me to unsubscribe right away.
- Length: A lot of people say that they prefer shorter emails to longer ones. I say it really depends on your market. Our newsletter is pretty long but it’s packed with content, and I hear from authors all the time that they keep these issues, often printing them off. Your market will dictate how long or short your newsletter should be and if you are following others in your market, this will tell you a lot.
- Colors vs. text: I’m still a big fan of text-based newsletters. I know that folks will say that color works best but I still think that color newsletters can be harder to read on your phones and often wind up in spam filters. A lot of people will be reading your newsletter on their iPad or phones so keep it simple.
- Frequency & Consistency: How often you deliver your newsletter will generally depend on your consumer, but a good rule of thumb is once a month at a minimum and once a week at a maximum. I would not recommend sending your end-user too many announcements and newsletters. Also, it’s a lot of content to create, so keep that in mind. If you build a loyal following you can often create special blasts with more frequency and not lose readers, but remember that we’re all inundated with emails, so many times, less is more. Also, be consistent. Pick a day and time that works for you and deliver on that promise.
- Editing: Please make sure your newsletter is edited, this is so important. Remember that everything is your resume. I used to know a guy in publishing who put out a newsletter that said “this is not edited.” I felt like it detracted from his message, especially when he backed up that statement with typos. Not good. If you don’t have time to send out an edited newsletter, you should consider whether or not you have the time for it at all.
- Appeal to the “skimmers:” Most people skim email these days, so appeal to that. Use short paragraphs, bullet points and strong headlines. That way your reader can glance through the newsletter without having to sift through endless copy and get to the heart of what they are looking for.
- Promote or not? I’m not a fan of a newsletter that’s all heavy promotion. You know the ones I mean, they scream “Look how fabulous I am” and then contain a lot of sales copy and special offers. I unsubscribe from those pretty quickly. Ideally you want to strike a balance. Clearly you are doing this to promote yourself and you want your readers to know what you do, what your message, book, or product is about, and how they can get it. You can and should talk about this in every issue but a healthy balance is 95% information and 5% sales. You’ll build customer loyalty much faster this way.
Having a solid base and a consistent way to communicate with your audience can really help to optimize and increase your bottom line. A newsletter might seem like a lot of work, but in the end if it’s done right it will pay off in some pretty amazing ways.
Reprinted from “The Book Marketing Expert newsletter,” a free ezine offering book promotion and publicity tips and techniques. http://www.amarketingexpert.com
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net