I’m sure you have heard many online marketers touting the benefits of having a newsletter. I have used newsletters in the past for many sites. I’ve used them as a source of revenue by having advertisements embedded within the newsletter content. They are also effective as a means to keep a site sticky – to “anchor” clients and bring them back to the site. Newsletters can also be a great selling tool to provide free information, samples of your expertise or services, and as a taste of your full product/service. The lure of free content from newsletters can help you to turn casual surfers to potential customers and then finally paying customers.
I find the biggest problem for me personally is to consistently provide new content (which is strange since I have no problems writing a daily blog, go figure!). Consequently I have looked for methods to get around this problem.
Many of the sites I control I enjoy for the business management side of things and don’t actually provide the core services myself. For example at BetterEdit.com I don’t do any of the editing. I have professionals on staff that handle that aspect of the business. Consequently I have found it difficult to write newsletters that appeal to my target audience. Other times I’ve just grown bored of the subject matter and it becomes a chore to write a newsletter. If you don’t have enthusiasm your output is not going to be very good.
Over the years I’ve developed ways to make money from newsletters without writing them myself.
- The first and most obvious way is to hire people to do it for you. I did it this way for a community site I built with over 1000 members. In this case it was quite easy to find people that had experience and enthusiasm for the subject matter, I posted a news announcement looking for newsletter writers. I hired two people and paid cash on a per newsletter basis though at one point my writers were happy to write for free, they just enjoyed contributing to the community (though I made sure to pay them whenever there was advertiser revenue). To make a profit I just made sure I had more revenue from advertisers than I had to pay my writers. A simple equation but one that takes time to balance since you need an audience, advertisers and writers. If you have a popular site (the audience) the other two variables should come easily. Alternatively you could try searching for a freelancer to write for you.
- Another method that I’ve utilised is to put together a summary style newsletter that simply links to content online. You take the time to find the quality articles and links for your members but you don’t have to actually do any writing yourself. IncWire is a good example of a newsletter like this. It provides links to great entrepreneurship articles that have been drawn from all over the net. The newsletter is free and sponsored by advertisers. You can see a sample newsletter here.
- You can also try an e-course style newsletter. This is a bit different to a tradtional newsletter. Your visitors sign up and then over a period of time intervals they get sent the course via email. You can use plain text emails (this is the best method in my opinion –keep it simple stupid – kiss!), or HTML email or Adobe PDFs. You can send them out once a day for the next seven days or once a month for a year. It’s up to you but generally the sooner the better because you want to continually build up interest over a short period of time. Will Swayne at Marketing-Results recommends a seven day e-course.
While initially you do have to write the content yourself once it’s written your done. You don’t have to constantly provide new content and your course can be sent out to unlimited subscribers. The benefits of an e-course is that you can really focus on what your speciality is. Your course acts as a showpiece for your core competency, your skills, and allows people to try before they buy. You can monetise the course by inserting affiliate links, advertisements or selling your own services/products (or all three!).
You might be thinking this is all well and good, but how do I manage my newsletter. How do I handle an e-course being sent out every day for seven days to hundreds of different people without being blocked by SPAM blockers. What technology is available and what do I recommend.
Personally I use Marketer’s Choice to handle all email communications but if you just want a newsletter service it’s definitely way too expensive (it more of an all in one marketing tool – see Using autoresponders to grab clients for more details).
I’ve tried a few different newsletter software packages. Some you install on to your own server and then manage online, others that are externally hosted subscriber based services and one that functioned a lot like an email client that sits on your desktop and sends out emails through your mail server. All of these have pros and cons. Of course it depends on your budget, but as I have stated you often get what you pay for so be wary of the free packages out there.
I recommend you try my favourite script source, The PHP Resource Index, in particular the Mailing List category should be your first port of call. You can try good old Google search as well.
Before you commit to any newsletter software make sure you check how they deal with SPAM. Do they have an official policy and description of how your newsletters will be received? Are they just mass broadcast? Your newsletter software should provide double-opt in protection which means your subscribers have to opt-in and confirm their subscription via email before they receive anything. This helps to keep you from being accused of spamming.
One of the main reasons I chose Marketer’s Choice was because they have a very good system to make sure your mail is delivered to your subscribers. They have an in-built SPAM checker which reviews email you send out and tells you the likelihood your mail will be blocked by anti-SPAM software. It has the capability to personalise every email that is sent out so it appears with “Dear clientname” rather than just a generic “hello”. This is an important feature both as a sales tool (people tend to read emails that start with their name) and it’s more likely that your mail won’t be classed as SPAM by anti-SPAM software, which flag non-personalised email as potential SPAM. It’s the extra benefits that professional services provide that make them worth the cost, but you do have to go out there and test to find what suits your needs.
Newsletters are ace
Really I can’t think of many reasons not to have some form of newsletter or e-course on your site. Yes it does take time to set things up but it’s worth the effort. I suggest you write it in your to-do list now if you don’t have a newsletter already!