Newsletters are one of the most effective ways to stay “top of mind” with clients and prospects.
Yet if you’ve toyed with the idea of launching a newsletter, you may have put it on hold once you realized all the steps required to launch one … and the potential stress of having to publish content on a regular basis.
Believe me, I get it. But the secret to launching a newsletter— and publishing consistently — is to have a process you can follow, month after month.
My friend and colleague Michael Katz is a pro at newsletter marketing. He’s been doing it for over 15 years.
Today, I’ll share with you the newsletter launch process that Michael recommends for freelance writers.
Step 1: Commit!
An email newsletter is a relationship-building tool. And building relationships takes time. So commit to publishing your newsletter for at least one year.
To hold yourself to this commitment, it can be helpful to sign a contract with yourself. Write down your newsletter launch date, frequency of publication and duration of the commitment. Specify how you’ll reward yourself when you meet this commitment. Then sign it and post it on your office wall as a reminder.
Step 2: Make note of the questions prospects and clients tend to ask you
If you think about it, I bet you get the same 10-15 questions from prospects and clients. These questions is a great place to start when planning your content. Make a list of about 20 frequently asked questions, and jot down a few bullets that describe your answer below each one.
You can create this list in a notebook, on your office whiteboard, in a Word doc, in Evernote, on sticky notes, as a voice memo or whatever works best for you.
You don’t have to explore these questions in depth It’s much better to give your audience a nugget or two in each issue than to try to cover the entire topic at length.
Step 3: Write three starter articles based on these questions
Your article (and your newsletter) doesn’t have to be long. All things being equal, shorter is better. Write what you need to write to give your readers something they’ll want to read.
Michael’s standard approach is to start the newsletter with a greeting to make a human connection. He follows that with a one story-based article that delivers an insight. He may then add a few ancillary things.
Newsletters with multiple articles can be daunting to produce and read. So generally speaking, shorter is better.
Step 4: Research and decide on an email service provider
You’ll need to engage the services of an email service provider such as ConvertKit, Constant Contact or MailChimp.
Email service providers give you the following benefits:
1. Customizable templates. These templates won’t turn you into a great designer, but they’re good enough to get you started. Most vendors have dozens to choose from.
2. List management. Add new subscribers and manage unsubscribe requests.
3. Data and reports. Get information about your mailings, such as number of opens, clicks, etc.
4. Compliance support. While not foolproof, these services help make sure you’re compliant with standard regulations.
Most email service providers are inexpensive to use. And MailChimp is free for up to 2,000 subscribers.
Step 5: Set up your newsletter template and opt-in box
Designing your own template (or modifying an existing one) can look amateurish if it doesn’t match the colors or design of your website. So sometimes it’s worth investing in having a designer create a custom design for you. But if having a professionally designed template is going to hold you back, then just pick the best ready-made template from your email service provider. You can always improve it later.
Your email service provider will also give you the code you’ll need to drop into your website to create an opt-in (subscription) form. If you’re not sure how to do this, look for a video tutorial on the topic. Most email service providers provide detailed tutorials on every aspect of setting up your newsletter infrastructure.
Step 6: Ask personal and professional contacts if you can subscribe them
You can’t just add people to your list at random. You need to have a relationship. And even when you have an existing relationship, it’s always a good practice to get their permission to add their email to your mailing list.
Some jurisdictions have restrictions on whom you can commercial emails to. So make sure you’re compliant with local rules and regulations.
Step 7: Publish your first issue
Once you have everything ready, it’s time to hit the “Publish” button!
Two quick tips about this…
First, you’ll never feel 100 percent ready to publish. Putting your work out there can feel scary. But at some point you just have to “ship.”
Second, include a quick note at the top of your newsletter reminding your readers that they’re on your list because you have a relationship with them. And provide an easy means to unsubscribe.
Many WILL unsubscribe when they receive that first newsletter. And that’s OK.
In fact, all subscriber lists have a natural rate of “decay.” A certain percentage of people will unsubscribe over time. So you have to keep adding new subscribers.
When you meet people, ask if you can put them on your list, and briefly explain the benefits.
Remember, it’s not a numbers game. It’s about list quality. You want people who care about you or your content.
Eventually, you might want to add other elements that will help grow your list, such as a lead magnet.
Step 8: Upload the newsletter article to your blog
A few weeks after publishing a newsletter article, upload the same article to your blog.
Having the content on your blog as well as in your newsletter is a good practice. People can see what you’ve written before, and Google likes the content updates because it’s a sign that your website is not static.
Step 9: Promote article on social media
Get more eyeballs on your content by sharing links to it on social media platforms, such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.
Step 10: Publish on LinkedIn Publisher
LinkedIn Publisher gives you yet another platform for publishing your content and getting it in front of more people who wouldn’t have seen it otherwise.
But wait about two weeks after you put your content on your blog to make sure that Google indexes the article on your site first.
Step 11: Find other uses for the article
Repurpose the same content into other formats and uses, such as a guest post for another site, a presentation or a video. You can also turn a series of related articles into an e-book.
Ultimately, your goal is to write once, publish many times. Use your newsletter as the base for a broader content marketing effort.
Step 12: Write another article
You always want to stay two or three articles ahead of publication. So once you’ve published your newsletter, go back to your growing list of article ideas and select another topic to write about.
Step 13: Repeat this process every month
If you want to be viewed as an expert, you have to create content. So you have to start. And then you have to repeat the process.
You may not do it perfectly at the beginning. But you’ll improve as you go.
To learn more about Michael Katz, visit his website, www.MichaelKatz.com and sign up for his excellent newsletter!