Executing an effective communication strategy is vital in today’s connected world.  Sure, you want to communicate special promotions and other marketing messages that will increase your customers’ interest in your product or service, but to be successful, you should also provide objective, interesting content they can enjoy and put to use.

An email newsletter is a great form of communication because it allows you take off the sales hat for a moment and talk to your audience in a different way.  Not only does it help your brand, but crafting a newsletter is a soothing drill for YOU as well.  But where do you start?

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With the solutions available today (some of them free), launching an email newsletter is less cumbersome than you might think.  Having recently revamped our Small Business Smarts Newsletter, I thought now would be a good time to share how we did it – in 8 simple steps:

1.       Define your topic

You don’t have to be as specific as “The Downward-Facing Dog Newsletter,” but if you run a yoga studio, for example, it’s best to provide expert content on the topic of yoga. Remember, the email newsletter is an opportunity to build your brand, so don’t be afraid to show off your knowledge.

2.       Set goals

What do you want your newsletter to accomplish?  This will depend on your intended audience.  If you’re trying to attract new business with your newsletter, your key performance indicator (KPI) may be the website traffic or leads it attracts.  If it’s only being distributed to your customer base on the other hand, engagement with the email (opens, clicks, etc) or repeat business is a good judge of its success.

3.       Pick an email solution

Depending on your newsletter budget, there are tons of solutions available.  If you plan on starting small, MailChimp has a great option that’s free up to a certain number of contacts.  After you cross a predefined subscriber threshold, you will have to upgrade your account to a paid solution.  Constant Contact also has free and paid options, so shop around before making a decision. And keep your newsletter’s growth in mind.

4.       Design a template

Most email providers have pre-designed HTML templates built in to the solution.  Using one of those templates is a good place to start.  You simply choose your colors, text, and basic layout, and then upload your logo into the header.  You can make small tweaks to the design as you go, but try to be subtle as your subscribers will become familiar with your layout.

5.       Send out a teaser and invitation to sign up

If you have a list of customers or prospects that complies with CAN-SPAM, it’s polite to send a soft, one-time invitation to sign up for the newsletter rather than opting contacts in to the list automatically.  Your list will be smaller to start, but the audience will be genuinely interested in your content and more likely to share it with friends.  Your email solution should provide a customizable signup form that feeds new subscribers into your list.  Simply link to that in the invitation, and watch the subscribers pour in!

6.       Craft and send Volume One

With your solution picked out and your list already growing, you’re now ready to send the first edition of your newsletter.  I highly recommend sending it within one week of the initial invitation so it’s fresh in your subscribers’ minds.  If you’re having a hard time deciding what to write about, try repurposing and linking to content from your blog.  Also, feel free to link to relevant, third party stories as well.

7.       Promote to new subscribers

Now that your newsletter is a well-oiled machine, spend some time promoting it.  Some easy, cheap ways to gain new subscribers include linking to it in your website footer and emails, encouraging subscribers and friends to forward it along, and sharing it across social channels.  In the long-term, you can even consider using display ads and other paid techniques to draw in new readers.

8.       Stick to it

Perhaps most importantly, be sure to stick to your newsletter schedule.  If you commit to sending a weekly newsletter, you better make sure you have the time and content resources to pull it off.  I may suggest starting with a monthly newsletter until you feel comfortable cranking them out in a couple of hours.  Also, your subscriber-base isn’t going to hit 1,000 overnight, but if you consistently provide valuable content, word will spread eventually.