Five ways to ensure the success of your email newsletter.
1. Comply with Spam laws
First and foremost, become familiar and comply with the Spam Act. It not that hard and has three basic components:
Get consent to send a message
Clearly identify yourself
Provide the ability to unsubscribe
2. Make it an easy decision to sign up
We moved the newsletter sign-up to the top left corner of the home page (an optimal offering spot). We highlighted the fact it was free and we made it easy to sign up (you don’t need a username and password). We’ve had over 600 new people sign-up (not including Russians or Romanians) in nine months without doing any deals or specifically marketing it.
3. Manage your software
Initially we used a Maximiser CRM based system, which sat on our network and caused problems for us as we had to manually sign everyone up and the newsletter system was clunky. We then transferred it all over to the free, web-based PHP List which was fabulous as it allowed the system to be run from anywhere (even when I was home sick) and ran problem free.
Finally we transferred it over to the ACAJOOM system (cost around $100) as I wanted automatic integration with the Club’s new Joomla-based website. People who signed up for a Club Event or Club Membership are now automatically signed up to the newsletter, but there is still a manual sign-up option on the home page.
4. Email Construction
One of the early things I found was that although its useful to use HTML to make a newsletter pretty, don’t get too carried away. Just like web pages can appear differently to people depending on what web browser people are using (let alone Windows versus Mac issues). Email clients also make things appear differently. I try to use basic HTML for the newsletter and not more cutting edge technologies such as CSS as it’s just easier to control the appearance.
I also found out the hard way not to embed images into the email, instead have the images sourced from your website and linked to from the email. Images embedded inside an email dramatically increase the size of your mail out (plus slow it down) and increase the chance that things will go wrong.
Actually this problem has now become worse in recent times and I’m now investigating ways to automate things using a CAPTCHA solution or Bad Behaviour plugin.
I also make sure I delete any subscribers immediately whose email bounces. I like my current 925 to be a real 925 and I don’t want to have to double handle bounced emails.
5. Make it regular
Initially I used to send out newsletters just when I had something to say. After awhile I found this adhoc proposition didn’t really cut it.
Most people need to see a marketing message multiple times before they recognise what they are seeing (I believe the TV rule of thumb is nine times before awareness starts). I now send newsletters out every week regardless. Tuesday is the day, just after lunch. I like Tuesday’s as it gives breathing space before a Thursday night event (occurring roughly ever other week), plus I feel that you are more likely to get read on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. Note I haven’t validated this yet by moving the email around and tracking stats on how many people open it (but I could!).