Many nonprofits start an enewsletter and then think through how they are going to manage it day-to-day. Like most things, this is not the optimal way. Here are 6 crucial steps to take before you start an enewsletter.
1) Chart your course.
Before you start an enewsletter, ask some questions:
-who is my audience(s)?
-what do I want from them?
-what do they want from me?
-how often will they want it?
-what resources (staff time, money, etc.) can I devote to this?
2) Choose a platform.
There are many enewsletter platform providers you can use. Popular ones include Constant Contact, MailChimp, and Vertical Response. I use MailChimp because it is easy to use, inexpensive, and comes with great technical support. They also have a sense of humor which helps when dealing with the (sometimes) technologically challenged people like myself.
3) Design a template.
The major platform providers are all set up to allow the average user to design their own template. You can customize it with your colors, logos, etc. or you can use a standard template they’ve created. Some agencies prefer to have their enewsletter look like their print newsletter or website. If you want that level of customization, ask a graphic designer to help. I’ve used The Design Stylist many times and the results are astonishing.
When building your template, think about what you want to share and how often. For example,
-how many stories or notices will your enewsletter include?
-will there be a special section for events? For resources?
4) Create an editorial calendar.
Create a 3-6 month calendar outlining what you might write about for each of the stories in your Enewsletters. This isn’t set in stone but will give you a framework with which to work. It will also help you see if you have enough content for the enewsletter. When deciding on topics, keep it relevant. If appropriate, incorporate seasonal items, holiday references, and even the odd, “International day of chocolate covered insects” references. You can also see how your enewsletter content will cross-pollinate your other marketing such as social media, press outreach, and more.
5) Build your enewsletter subscriber list.
It is critical that your subscriber list opt-in. This means that you have their explicit permission to contact them. The best open rate success stories I’ve had with clients have come when two things happen: a) subscribers opt-in and b) content is customized to meet the audiences’ needs. This is to say: don’t buy a list. Take the time to build your own.
Here are a few pointers on building a strong subscriber base:
-put a ‘subscribe now’ link in your email signature line and on your website.
-check and see if your platform provider will set up an app on your Facebook page for fans to opt-in. MailChimp does.
-offer a goodie (like an ebook or a ticket for an opportunity drawing) for subscribers
6) Keep up the good work.
If you’ve done steps 1-5, you are well on your way. Don’t lose momentum! Consistency is as important to success as is content.
What is your best tip for a stellar enewsletter? Share it here or on Facebook.
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