"You put together fantastic newsletters EVERY WEEK!! How do you do it!?" - Teresa
I received this question in my inbox this week and realized it would make a great blog topic! Obligatory disclaimer: This is my method, this is what works for me. Maybe you can find some helpful info here and maybe you'll be shaking your head at me if you're a seasoned email marketer!
Decide what your goals are.
I'm looking to build a stronger relationship with my customers and potential customers. I enjoy having this blog for my long-winded thoughts, but it's more of a time and energy investment to update it and I realize that not every customer wants to read blog posts. I see my newsletter as a quick way for my customers to better get to know me, my designs, and my brand. Obviously I'm looking to make money from my designs, but I'm personally against sales-y emails that only push, push, push products or services. I want to offer content that's interesting whether or not the readers wind up buying one of my patterns.
I also am hoping to use my newsletter to convert some of my Instagram followers into customers and dedicated fans. I'm always mindful of the advice that any social platform can be taken down, so if you're counting on Instagram (or Facebook, or Twitter) as being your link to your customer base, you'll be in trouble if that platform is suddenly taken offline for good. An email list connects you directly to your customer AND you don't have to worry about losing your following.
Knowing your goals will help determine the type of content you share, how frequently you send your newsletter, the tone of voice you use, how you promote your newsletter, and so on.
Choose an email service and format.
I use MailChimp because it's free until you have 2,000 subscribers, so you can get your feet wet and figure out if you'll really commit to a newsletter before committing to a paid service. You can create a generic template for your newsletter and edit the content in it as you compose emails (called campaigns in the MailChimp universe), which helps save you time and keeps a consistent look across your emails. I chose to use fonts similar to what's on here for consistency's sake. I'm in the middle of a logo design and branding process with Knit Fitch, so once that's complete I'll likely change my website and my newsletter template to fall in line with that.
I send weekly newsletters since I believe it's important to keep a regular line of communication open with my customers. I would have longer newsletters if I sent them less regularly, and I prefer to keep things short and sweet. I ran a quick survey a few weeks ago asking my newsletter subscribers what their preference was, and overwhelmingly they also preferred weekly newsletters. Always nice to have some reassurance that your audience is in sync with you!
Content, content, content.
This is probably the hardest part and I'm guessing what Teresa was most curious about! I definitely have weeks where I struggle with this, especially if I'm working on the same project for weeks on end. In my newsletter survey, I asked people what they liked to read about and learned they were most interested in knitting tips, behind the scenes, and photos. Of course, your customer base might be different--ask them what they like!
My default template includes several regular sections, and I will admit I was heavily inspired by Andrea Rangel's awesome weekly newsletter. (Pro tip: Subscribe to other people's newsletters in your industry to see what they do!)
- My newsletter opens with a photo, anything that I've photographed recently that I think is visually interesting or relevant to the content of the first section.
- My first section is general chit-chat. I might talk about something in my personal life I've been doing, a project I'm working on, a struggle I'm having, or hint at a new project.
- The middle section is the longer meat-and-potatoes portion of the newsletter. In the past I've: showcased my progress on a design WIP, talked about a new release, provided a knitting tip, spotlighted designers, patterns or links I'm currently into, or announced a KAL or event.
- After that I always include Instagram of the Week, which is the photo with the most love from the last week on my Instagram account.
- The final section is a wildcard. Regular themes include Q&A and a color story mini mood board, but I've also shown off finished FOs of my designs from customers.
- It finishes with a link to the Weekly Newsletter thread in my Ravelry group and my signature.
Having a template makes it easier to plan ahead week-to-week. I like to let the chit chat flow naturally, so I don't plan that ahead unless I have something I REALLY want to say. I know I only need to come up with a good topic for the central chunk of the newsletter, and the rest is much easier to let fall into place.
Figuring out ways to recycle and re-purpose your content is a really easy marketing hack. I really enjoy photography and try to post to Instagram once per day, so in order to save time during the week I do mini photo shoots where I'll shoot a bunch of stuff for Instagram posts for the following week. Those photos can be used in blog posts, to open my newsletter, or in the main content section if it relates to what I'm talking about. Similarly, I'll include a blurb about this blog post in my next newsletter and include a link to it, so those who are interested in reading the full piece can check it out if they want to.
When I'm stuck on what to highlight in my next newsletter, I'll refer to my list of newsletter ideas that I have on my desktop. Whenever I have an idea that I could use in my newsletter or turn into a fully fleshed out blog post, I add it to the list which definitely helps when I'm not feeling super creative.
Aside from promoting your newly formed newsletter across your social media platforms, you can encourage people to sign up by offering some incentives. Free products, coupon codes, or useful information like free PDFs/ebooks are some tried-and-true methods. I've also seen some designers encourage would-be test knitters to sign up for their email list since they open testing spots to email subscribers first.
Hard Mode: Data
I'm not going into this because I'll be honest, data analysis is not that fun to me. I do it in my day job, but I'm not at the level in my design business where I feel I need it and I'm not about to voluntarily start doing data analysis for funsies! If you do geek out on this kind of thing, MailChimp automatically reports on your open rate and click rate so you can see what newsletters took off and which ones flopped, as well as more detailed stuff like who opened your newsletter how many times and what links got clicked. You can also integrate your Google Analytics account with it which is great if you want hard numbers on where your revenue is coming from. (IE: Does Pattern A sell well on customers coming from Instagram, while it sells poorly with your newsletter audience?) Google Analytics is super cool and they have free training videos to figure out how to use it, should you desire to travel down that path.
Once you set aside time in your schedule to create a regular newsletter, like any other habit it quickly becomes second nature. If you can commit to a few months at first, you'll soon develop a rhythm of making time for your newsletter while developing your voice and style.