Set your email newsletter goals
Before you establish an email newsletter, consider what you and your group want to achieve. What is the overall purpose of this email newsletter? Perhaps your community group intends to raise awareness about specific issues or recruit new members. You may be looking to increase event registrations, promote blog posts or possibly raise funds. Decide on the goals of your newsletter and you will already be generating some ideas of content.
Decide how regular your email newsletter will be
Unless your email newsletter is very time-sensitive because of content (with links to the fast-paced world of news, for example), we would recommend you send your email newsletters monthly, quarterly or biannually.
Consider your resources before making a commitment to regular or semi-regular email newsletters. Make sure you have enough time, people and interesting content to keep delivering, as consistency will help you earn the trust of your readers.
Setting up an email newsletter
There are multiple eNewsletter service providers available, at a range of prices. Here are some of the best free email newsletter service provider websites available:
MailChimp is one of the most well-known email marketing services; you can send up to 12,000 emails a month to 2,000 subscribers with its free plan. You can manually import subscribers’ email addresses (as long as you have permission to email them) and add a subscribe form to your website or blog. MailChimp provides both ready-to-use email templates and the ability to create your own emails templates in a very simple drag-and-drop system. Analytics are also included in the free plans, giving you insight into how your subscribers respond to your email campaigns. http://mailchimp.com/
By signing up for Benchmark Email’s ‘Free for Life’ plan, you can send up to 14,000 emails per month to a maximum of 2,000 recipients. This free plan also enables you to create online surveys, use the ready-made email templates, customise templates, create your own templates and track email statistics through in-built analytics. You only need an email and a password to sign up, but note that if you provide a phone number, they may follow up your registration with a courtesy call. In their introductory email, they also provide short video tutorials to help you get started. http://www.benchmarkemail.com/
Though partially hidden in their registration process, MPZMail also offer a ‘Free Forever’ plan, covering up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month. When you sign up to the free plan, MPZMail will email you a randomly generated password. Log into your new account, change your password to something you will remember and then visit the ‘Upgrade Account’ options to change your plan to ‘Free Forever’. You should see this change reflected in your ‘Current Plan’ information. After this, you will be able to create your own templates using the very simple ‘Drag and Drop’ email newsletter builder, customise the pre-made templates, import subscribers and send out your newsletters. As with MailChimp and Benchmark Email, MPZMail also records statistics on your email campaigns. https://mpzmail.com/
Managing your mailing list
Recipients, or subscribers, of email newsletters are compiled from a database of people who have ‘opted in’ to receive updates from your organisation or community group. Please note that if the recipients have not consented to receive updates from you via email, then the email newsletter is a form of spam.
You may already have a list of people who have requested to be added to your email newsletter recipient list. These may be members of your group, friends, people in related organisations, etc. You can import these contacts to any of the service providers listed above, but make sure you have their permission to do so.
To continue growing this list, you can also create a sign up form in your chosen service provider, which you can then add your website, blog or Facebook. People who sign up through these forms will automatically be added to your mailing list.
Preparing an email newsletter
For every email newsletter that you prepare, you will need to consider the content, the layout and who will produce these.
If your email newsletter is for a community group, we recommend assigning roles to people in the group. Decide who is responsible for creating content and who will send out the email newsletters regularly. It is always a good idea to have someone on hand to proofread test versions of the email newsletter before it is sent out.
The people on your mailing list are already interested in you, your project and your group. Keep them interested with positive and interesting news. This might include:
If you are in need of inspiration, invite people in your group to make suggestions for newsletter content and sign up to related organisations’ newsletters.
Remember that collecting information takes time and organisation. Ask people for contributions well in advance and set a clear deadline date.
Most email newsletters feature:
MailChimp, Benchmark Email and MPZMail all feature ‘Drag and Drop’ systems, so you can build your newsletter without needing to know any HTML coding. You can also adapt existing templates to suit your community group or personal preferences.
When you add your content, you may discover that the email newsletter seems very text-heavy. Try trimming down long blocks of text by cutting out extra words, turning your content into short paragraphs, bullet points and lists wherever possible, and introducing subheadings.
Hitting the ‘send’ button
Before sending out your first newsletter, make full use of the preview and test features of your email newsletter provider. This will enable you to check that it displays correctly in your inbox and still make changes to the email campaign before it is sent out to your mailing list. Send the test version to someone in your group who can view it with a fresh pair of eyes – it is very easy to miss typos in a piece of writing that you have written yourself. You may also find that printing out a hard copy on paper can help to highlight any errors.
Monitoring the success of your email newsletter
Whichever email newsletter service you choose, remember that it is more than just a platform to send out emails. It will also provide you with data about what happened to your email newsletter once you clicked the ‘send’ button. These analytics can reveal:
This information can help you shape the content of your future email newsletters to your subscribers’ interests. It may also highlight which stylistic choices have a greater impact – for example, more people may click on ‘buttons’ rather than hyperlinked text, indicating that your future email newsletters should feature ‘calls to action’ as buttons rather than text.