What a Newsletter Can Do for Your Site and Free Software to Get Started
If you’ve been on the Internet for more than a few minutes, you’ve likely signed up for at least one website newsletter. Those website owners who offer a newsletter are taking advantage of a savvy marketing tool that helps them gain new customers, educate current customers and communicate quickly and effectively. If you don’t already use this powerful tool in your marketing efforts, you should consider adding one today.
Educate and Reach Current Customers
According to Internet World Stats, as of 2011, there were nearly 7 billion people using the Internet. Online tasks are becoming more and more a part of everyday living. What better way to reach your customers than with a newsletter that appears in their e-mail box every so often? The newsletter is only limited to your imagination.
Sales and Coupons Some companies use a newsletter to inform customers about sales and offer a coupon. Hobby Lobby offers a good example of using a newsletter for this purpose. Each week, Hobby Lobby sends out a newsletter showing what is on sale and offering a percentage off coupon that can be printed and taken into a brick and mortar store.
Education An online newsletter can also be used to educate the consumer about a new product or other developments in an industry. Utility companies often utilize their newsletters for this purpose, teaching consumers about energy-efficient new equipment or how to save money on utility bills.
Just for Fun People love to be entertained, so most newsletters also contained interesting articles, amusing anecdotes and perhaps a recipe or two.
Reach New Customers
An electronic newsletter is an interesting way to reach new customers and costs you only the time it takes to put the newsletter together and e-mail it to your list. Encourage your current subscribers to share the newsletter in whole by forwarding it to others. Be sure to include information within the newsletter on how new readers can subscribe to receive the copy in their own e-mail inbox.
Another idea is to use the newsletter to offer exclusive items that the reader cannot get by visiting your site. For example, offer a free e-book here and there, articles that are not posted publicly, or recent news before it is announced elsewhere.
How Often Should You Send a Newsletter?
No two website owners seem to agree about how often you should send out your e-news. There must be a balance between sending so often that the reader gets tired of hearing from you and sending so seldom that the reader forgets she is even subscribed to your newsletter. For website owners just starting out in the newsletter game, once a month is a good place to start. If your website generates a lot of news or offers weekly sales, you can always go to a weekly or bi-weekly newsletter later on. More than weekly is probably too much.
A plain text newsletter offers information, but it not visually appealing or attention grabbing. HTML is the most efficient type of newsletter these days, although some companies also offer their newsletters in PDF format. Keep in mind that some people will not have Adobe reader installed, so HTML is most likely to reach the most readers.
Fortunately, you don’t have to spend time coding HTML to send out a formatted newsletter. There are several free and inexpensive software options that can do everything from tracking a small list to providing a template for your HTML news.
If you have up to 2,000 subscribers and send mail about once a month, Mail Chimp is free for you to use. Everything is kept on their website, so you won’t need to store anything on your computer, although you should always keep a backup list of your newsletter subscribers no matter how you are sending out your newsletter. Mail Chimp also allows you to share the newsletter on social networking sites and make it compatible for mobile surfers. An added bonus is that you can manage multiple newsletter lists from one account. If you plan to send mail more often, then pricing starts at $10/month for up to 500 subscribers and unlimited sending and goes up based upon how many subscribers you have.
This site offers an all-in-one solution for marketing. Not only can you use their newsletter creation and distribution services, but you can also use Constant Contact for event planning, online surveys and social campaigns. You can create a custom template or use one of the dozens already created. Constant Contact offers a free 60-day trial if you have under 100 subscribers. After the trial period, prices start at $15 a month and go up based on the number of subscribers you have.
Another free solution for website owners who are on a budget is Google Groups. Google Groups offers the ability to create a list that is for mailing purposes only. This means that other people in the group cannot post. Only the administrator of the group is able to post. Place your newsletter within a group that matches your business industry. Those who are seeking out a group on this topic can locate your newsletter and subscribe. This can be another way to reach new customers.
iContact offers hundreds of templates. It is similar to some of the other e-mail solution providers, but allows you to schedule items in advance such as social media posts. Start with a 30-day free trial, which will not require a credit card or other obligation. If you like iContact, prices start at $14.00/month for up to 500 subscribers and are only $47.00/month for up to 5,000 subscribers. They do have packages for even larger newsletter lists, but do not publicly list those prices.
If you’re looking for an open source solution that you can run on your site, PHPList offers you the ability to create an opt-in mailing list. Simply sign into the PHP-based control panel and type out the newsletter you’d like to send. You can utilize basic HTML commands and also subscribers can opt for a text-only newsletter. PHPList does require some set-up, but once you create a template and get everything in place, it is a free solution for sending out a monthly e-mailer to a list with more than a few hundred names.
If you don’t like the tell-tale sign that your newsletter is being sent from a mailing management provider, then you’ll appreciate the custom features of Contactology. Upload your logo and choose your own color scheme to create a one-of-a-kind template. This platform offers some unique features, like scheduled auto responders and the ability to become a reseller and tell others about the product.
You may not have heard of this mail campaign company, but it offers some interesting features. For example, you can see which campaigns are most successful for you by doing split sampling. You can also set up auto responders, personalize with subscribers’ names or other details, and integrate with your website. Even better, you can get a free subscription for up to 1,000 members and up to 6,000 e-mails. Send unlimited to those same 1,000 people for only $3.00 per month. Even if you gain 10,000 subscribers, your rate will only hit $26.00 a month.
Of course, there is always the old fashioned method of writing your own e-mail, adding in a few pictures and zipping it out to your mailing list. For very small lists, this might work, but as your list grows, your e-mail provider may balk at the massive list. Whichever service you ultimately choose, remember that offering content your newsletter subscribers feel they simply must receive is the key to a successful e-newsletter.
Article by Lori Soard
Lori Soard has been working as a freelance writer and editor since 1996. She has a bachelor's in English Education and a PhD in Journalism. Her articles have appeared in newspapers, magazines, online and she's had several books published. Since 1997, she has worked as a web designer and promoter for authors and small businesses. She even worked for a short time ranking websites for a popular search engine and studying in-depth SEO tactics for a number of clients. She enjoys hearing from her readers.