12 Tips for Successful E-Mail Newsletters

Do you stay in touch with your current and previous clients? Are you building an e-mail list of your potential customers? What about those prospects you’ve been meaning to contact? Having your own opt-in permission-based electronic newsletter could be the answer.

An opt-in e-newsletter is a highly effective marketing tool because it is fast, personal and inexpensive. Many small businesses use e-mail newsletters to introduce themselves to new customers and communicate with existing ones. By sending useful information on a regular basis, you maintain consistent contact without being annoying. In addition, an e-mail newsletter can enhance your credibility and increase sales.

Creating an E-mail Newsletter

Producing your newsletter doesn’t have to be a monumental task. First, decide on the frequency of publication. This is based on how much time you have to do the work. Publishing it monthly or quarterly is probably a comfortable pace for both you and your readers.

Next, produce a graphic design for your layout. Many e-mail list management companies provide online templates for their customers. You simply type or paste in your information online and an HTML or text-based newsletter is automatically created for you.

Now it’s time for the content of your newsletter. Concentrate on topics that your readers will be interested in, not only the ones that only you find fascinating. Try to use real-life applications. For example, you can describe past successes and maybe even interview a customer or two. This way, you tell your audience how you solved a problem that relates to them and conveys that you are a results-oriented professional.

12 Tips for Customer Opt-in

  1. Do not purchase, trade, or borrow an e-mail list. Sending e-mail to people who have not specifically requested to receive your mailings (opted-in) is almost always regarded as spam. This can cause blacklisting issues – your future mailings could be blocked.
  2. Make signing up and unsubscribing easy and visible. Add a sign-up form to your Web site’s home page or link to it and ask your customers if they would like to sign up when you speak with them in person. You may only want to ask subscribers for their e-mail address, first and last name, and one or two other questions such as their interests. This will allow you to target future mailings.
  3. Use double opt-in registration. There are two common methods for online registration. Single opt-in allows a customer to be added just by entering their e-mail address in a form. Since there is no address confirmation, anyone can enter any address into a form, resulting in fake or unwanted sign-ups that could lead to spam or blacklisting issues. Double opt-in (a.k.a., confirmed opt-in), the preferred method, sends a verification request to the e-mail address entered, thereby validating the address and the recipient’s permission to get your newsletter.
  4. Link to your privacy policy. Place a link to your privacy policy near your list sign-up form. Your policy should describe how you handle the information you collect and how people can contact you in case they have any concerns or questions.
  5. Send a welcome message to each new subscriber. Once someone subscribes, send a welcome message immediately. Include a description of what they will receive, how frequently, and how to unsubscribe. The longer you wait to send a welcome note, the greater your chances of recipients forgetting they signed up.
  6. Keep accurate sign-up records. Sometimes, you or your Internet Service Provider (ISP) will get a spam complaint from someone who forgot they subscribed to your list. Keep accurate records that include the date and web address from which they signed up. Many e-mail list management services do this automatically.
  7. Ask your members to opt-in again if you are using an older list. If you have not sent a mailing for a while, ask subscribers to indicate they want to stay on your list by sending you an e-mail, clicking a link, or visiting a web page. Older lists often result in spam complaints from members who are unsure why they suddenly started getting your mailings.
  8. Remind people that they subscribed. Include a standard heading each time you send a message. A short note such as, “Thank you for subscribing to our newsletter, Mary,” will remind recipients that they requested your mailings. Keeping consistency in your subject line will also improve brand recognition and increase your open rates.
  9. Avoid certain terms in your subject line and message text. If your message contains words frequently used by spammers, such as “Free” or “Urgent,” people will delete it and possibly file a spam complaint. ISPs often filter e-mails with suspicious subject lines and it is also illegal to use deceptive or misleading ones.
  10. Include your physical address and phone number. Put your phone number and postal mailing address in your message. This allows readers to contact you to place an order or inquire about your services. In addition, federal legislation requires physical addresses on commercial e-mail messages.
  11. Send your mailings regularly. Keep in touch with your subscribers frequently so they don’t forget they signed up to receive your mailings. They will begin to anticipate your messages if you adhere to a schedule.
  12. Reply promptly to each inquiry or spam complaint. When and if you receive an inquiry, respond to it as soon as possible. If someone filed a complaint about getting your newsletter, always include the subscriber’s sign up information with your response.

Following these simple suggestions will help you retain your subscriber base, which is fundamental for a thriving permission-based electronic newsletter or outreach campaign.

Vistage member Raj Khera is CEO of Mailer-Mailer LLC, a Web-based e-mail list management and hosting service based in Rockville, Md.

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