Four years ago … about a month or so in from starting Styling You and this blog … I was at a networking function, downing a glass of wine and talking geekery to a former work colleague.
This former work colleague has many talents – one of which is applying contact to school books. It’s a true story that every January I would bring in to the office my children’s new school books. In exchange for a few freebie beauty products, she would take the mountainous pile home, returning them a few days later to my smiling and gratuitous face. I may or may not have then passed off her bubble-free-contact skills as my own. I am a bad mother
The day she left to start her own PR business was devastating. For me. Not for her. Let’s just say that I quickly discovered those ready-made plastic sleeves …
At this function, it turned out that my Contact Angel had recently secured the licence to an email newsletter marketing system. It was a version of the Vision 6 email system. She was extolling the virtues of building an email database and sending out a regular email to let readers and potential customers know that I was alive and styling.
I liked the sound of it, signed up the next day and appreciated greatly that she came to my
home office and stepped me through the set-up, design and send process.
About two years ago I out-grew this system. It was at the same time that I was noticing other newsletters land in my inbox. Newsletters that really impressed me with their layout and content. One in particular – published weekly by Clare Lancaster from Women In Business - inspired me to not only take my then monthly email newsletters to weekly but to also re-frame how I presented the blog content in that newsletter.
Clare knows her stuff so seeing her use MailChimp was a good enough endorsement for me to choose that as my email newsletter platform. She’s also a strong advocate of using regular email newsletters as part of your online marketing strategy.
… let’s talk about that for a bit, shall we?
You might be reading this and thinking, why would I spend time putting together an email newsletter? How will that help my blog? How will that help me build my readership? Won’t people just delete them?
And you know what?
It’s ok to have those thoughts because I’ve had them many times over the past four years. But every time I start to wonder if they have a place in my blog marketing, all I have to do is check my blog’s stats on the day that my email newsletter goes out. I am immediately silenced of such thoughts.
Without exception, there is a spike in visitor numbers. And not just on the post I’ve published on the blog that day … on posts that are up to six days old. These were click-throughs from readers who weren’t visiting my blog except for these weekly inbox “prompts” to do so.
I think sometimes as bloggers we forget that everyday people are not living and breathing online social media as much as we are.
Yes, as bloggers, we might all have our Google Readers and get annoyed if someone doesn’t have an RSS subscription option BUT and it’s a big BUT.
We cannot tell our readers – current or potential - HOW they should follow us.
Our readers are not just other bloggers.
We cannot assume that they are on Twitter (they’re probably not) or Facebook (mind you if they are on social media that’s where they’ll probably be). We should offer every possible avenue for them to follow our blog so they can choose the one that best fits their life – not ours!
And yes, the email subscription is just one avenue.
It’s true. Not everyone on your database will read your monthly/weekly/daily offering. Many will delete without so much as a cursory glance. People will unsubscribe. New readers will subscribe.
But play your email marketing right and you’ll continue to build that email subscriber database.
When I first started I had an email database of about 150 people, made up of friends, family, business and PR contacts from my life as a journalist. Today there are more than 7000 signed up to the Styling You database. This is still very much small fry when compared with the likes of ProBlogger but it’s significant growth for me.
In time – and with consistency – it is possible to end up with a database that is another “selling point” should you wish to work with brands. Or it will be a list of ready-made customers should you produce a product such as an e-book … or even open an online store.
Creating my MailChimp account and setting my template was straight forward.
I already had a pre-designed banner from my previous email newsletter and once I imported that, MailChimp automatically matched fonts and colours to suit.
I had decided on the columns I wanted for the content (my right hand side is available for banner advertising).
The great thing is once you’ve created one, the next one and the one after that is super easy because you replicate your template and then just change the text to suit what you’re talking about in that edition.
You can also easily create a sign-up form that integrates the email subscription into your blog, so it appears like this.
All the required anti-spam legislation is met – in fact a newsletter will not send if you have not included the “unsubscribe” button.
And the good news? MailChimp is free for up to 2000 subscribers.
And you can download the MailChimp app to track subscribes and check reports from MailChimp sends on your phone or tablet.
1. Just do it. Start today. The sooner you have that subscription form up on your blog, the sooner you can start building your email database.
2. Like a blogging schedule, work out how often you can consistently send out a newsletter to your readers. Consistency is the key here. Once a month should be the minimum that you send otherwise it’s too long between memory jolts. But whatever schedule you come up with, aim to publish at the same time (if daily), same day (if weekly) and same date (if monthly).
3. Keep your email newsletter short and to the point. The aim is to get subscribers to click through to your blog so entice them with an image, with a headline or with a tease about the content you have waiting for them.
4. Keep the look of your email newsletter consistent. It’s about branding so make sure it works in with your blog’s branding.
5. Email newsletter systems provide stats reports from every email send. Check these each week as they will show how many people opened the email – often this is tied back to the subject headline you’ve included. It will also show, of those who have opened the email, what they are clicking through to on your blog. What topics/posts are getting them more excited? This will help you plan future content on your blog and how you position it in your newsletter.
This is by no means a definitive guide to email newsletters for your blog. For anyone who’s looking to turn their blog into a business or use their blog as a springboard to an income where you are selling products, then get started today.
Here is a link to Women in Business’ latest email newsletter. And here is a link to mine. And the other newsletter pictured above is by Annabel Candy. She sends an email each time that a blog post is published on her blog, Successful Blogging.
Another email newsletter system that is highly recommended in blogging and internet marketing circles is AWeber. I’ve never used it so am not qualified to comment. Maybe you have? Maybe you have chosen it over MailChimp for particular reasons? If so, please let us know!
Do you blog? Do you have an email newsletter? Is it something that’s been in the too-hard, why do I need it basket? If you do send out an email newsletter, can you please share a link to it in the comments section below so we have more examples?
Thanks so much to everyone who plays along with my Saturday blogging linky. Sharing your blogging knowledge with other bloggers and potential bloggers really is how this blogging world best goes round. It’s a bit like having a mini online conference here every week.
Remember if you want to join in, just add your link below. The link needs to be to a post ABOUT BLOGGING (all others will be deleted). Please fill in the box where it says “name” like this: BLOG NAME: Blog post title. That way your blog gets a plug and if you include the title of your post, you’ll attract readers interested in the topic.