10 Steps to Starting an E-Newsletter
1. Subscribe to ConstantContact.
ConstantContact, the most famous program for creating and distributing an online newsletter, only costs about $30 per month depending on the number of email addresses you wish to include. The program is recognized by major search engines so your transmissions to multiple addresses avoid categorization as spam.
2. Choose a template.
ConstantContact provides a series of templates and then lets you adjust the color, add pictures and links, and manipulate blocks of text. You should choose a professional style with at least two columns so you can provide company information in one column and original articles in the other.
3. Organize your contacts.
ConstantContact accepts a list for distribution with the relevant names and email addresses in an Excel file, but it is even more powerful when you integrate it directly with your Outlook address book. Outlook lets you categorize each entry in your address book, and once you have done this, ConstantContact lets you select only those categories you wish for sending your e-newsletter.
4. Write an introduction.
The beginning of your newsletter should contain a short one or two paragraph note introducing the topics to be covered in the current issue. If possible, you should “sign” the note with your signature in an electronic format, created through a personal scanner or at a copy store such as Kinkos.
5. Choose and draft the articles.
Think of two interesting articles to include in each issue. I like to choose professional advice for one article and exposition of an interesting book for the second. Each article should be about 300-500 words and should be written in a vendor-neutral (non-promotional) format without mentioning your company name. You should strive to find topics of genuine interest to your readers.
6. Continue the articles with links to drive traffic back to your web site.
The body of the newsletter itself should only contain the first two paragraphs or so of each article, stopping at an interesting point with a link reading “To read the rest of the article, click here.”
7. Using Dreamweaver, create a new web page on your site with the full article.
When the reader clicks on the link, he will see a new web page with the full article, and this new page will be an integral part of your web site with the same active navigation bars and structure as your main web site.
Creating these pages is easy to do using a user-friendly software package from Microsoft known as Dreamweaver. The program costs about $300, but it is well worth the money because it will give you the capacity to add new html pages to your web site for any purpose.
8. Add your company boilerplate at the bottom or in a side column of your e-newsletter.
While your articles should be vendor-neutral, you can promote your company in a short two-to-three paragraph standard description. You should also include a short bio of the CEO or President of your organization.
9. Include archives on a newsletter landing page.
Using Dreamweaver, you should create a separate page on your web site with a list of the date and issue number for each e-newsletter. Each e-newsletter will also reference this “landing page” through a links labeled “Archives.”
An e-newsletter, for inclusion on the landing page, should be distributed once every eight weeks. This interval will maintain sufficient visibility with your prospects so your company’s services will be in the back of their mind should an opportunity arise.
10. Use ConstantContact’s reporting function to track your results.
ConstantContact provides a list of the email address of every person who opened your newsletter as well as a list of those who clicked on the interior links. It also keeps track of people who “unsubscribed,” and any transmissions bouncing back due to a non-existent or inactive address. On average, about 30 percent of the contacts will open the newsletter with a significant reduction for interior links.