Before you start any type of marketing or advertising campaign, you need a plan. You don't have to put together a 200-plus-page document outlining all your goals and objectives, but you do need to define some basics before you begin.
At the very least, your plan should:
Identify your audience. It's not enough to say, "They're people who like widgets." Take your cue from magazine publishers. They know exactly who their target audience is, how much money they earn, what social group they fit into, and what motivates them to buy. Find out who your customers are, then tailor your newsletter around their needs and desires.
Check out your competition. Every business has competition. Find out what they are doing by researching their product or service. What could you do better? Is there a gap in their service you can fill?
Identify your newsletter's purpose. What do you hope to achieve with your newsletter? Do you want to give your subscribers information about your product to help them make purchasing decisions? If so, you must first show them how it can make them smarter, healthier, wealthier, or more successful.
Do you want to position yourself as an expert in your field? Your goal here is to provide your subscribers with well-written articles that address issues in your industry. Whatever your objectives, your purpose will determine what content goes in to your newsletter.
Now you need to think about content. Here are three ways to provide your readers with fresh and relevant content:
1. Write it yourself. By far the cheapest approach is to write the content yourself. If you enjoy writing and if you have lots of ideas for content, then this may be the best option.
2. Hire writers to create your content. If you are not comfortable writing your own content, you can hire a professional writer. Many freelance writers specialize in writing newsletter articles. FreelanceWriting.com is one source for finding freelancers.
3. Use existing content. There are several online article directories, such as Ideamarketers.com, GoArticles.com, Articlecity, and EzineArticles. Articles posted on these sites are generally free as long as you include the writer's byline.
Design Your Template
Just as a magazine has a certain look that appeals to its subscribers, so must your e-mail newsletter. Decide on a design and stick with it so your subscribers know what to expect with each issue. Think about how magazines and newspapers have regular columns in each issue. Divide your newsletter into bite-sized pieces so the content is easier for readers to digest.
Ready, Set, Go!
You've defined your objectives, secured your content, and designed your newsletter. Now all you need to do is put it together and launch it to your customers. For this you need a mailing list. Begin with your own in-house list, made up of people who have specifically requested to receive information from you. Put up a sign-up form on every page of your site, advertise your newsletter in online ezine directories or in other newsletters, and announce your newsletter in e-mails that you send.
If you are comfortable designing your newsletters, then go for it. But there are also many third-party solutions that make creating and sending e-mail newsletters easy and cost effective. They generally allow you to design, send, and track the newsletters as well as maintain your list of e-mail clients. Some of the more popular options are Topica, MyNewsletterBuilder, and emma.
However you choose to build your list, do not succumb to the temptation of becoming a spammer. Never send your newsletter to anyone who hasn't specifically requested to receive it. Remember, new anti-spam regulations require every marketing e-mail to include an opt-out provision and a valid physical address. Violations can carry hefty fines, so read up on the regulations and make sure you are following hem to the letter.
E-mail newsletters are a boon to small businesses. They are a great way to drive customers to your site, create demand for your product, gather customer data, and help your company succeed.
This article was written by Julia Hyde, who is an independent copywriter and consultant specializing in advertising, search engine optimization, and search engine marketing services. This article originally appeared on www.allbusiness.com.