Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Writing a Newsletter: The Electronic Product

In last week's post, we discussed the needs for a printed newsletter. Here's a quick recap:

  1. You can take your newsletters everywhere you go.
  2. Your newsletters are excellent collateral material to showcase your product to potential retailers.
  3. Newsletters are excellent take away pieces for craft shows, etc.
  4. Including a newsletter with a sold product is an excellent way to soft sell to existing customers.

When I begin content development for my newsletter, I usually start with my printed product.  There's no particular reason for doing so; probably just old habit from my former marketing days prior to the proliferation of electronic media.  Possibly because it also helps me to visualize what I want my message to be. Also, once your printed content is written, it is so easy to copy and paste into your electronic format.

So, let's talk electronic newsletters.

When I began selling my candles, I knew how to market a product, but not necessarily how to market a product online  My first electronic newsletters were literally emails with brief articles and the printed version as an attachment.  Sincerely.  And I even sent the printed version in Publisher format.  In time, I learned how to "print" my newsletter into a portable document format (.pdf), which could be emailed quicker and anyone could open.

I decided to move to an online service for two reasons: 1.) I wanted a more professional product. 2.) I wanted to grow my online marketing network.  Sending newsletters via email did not allow me to add customers to my list due to spam laws.  So I was sending to the same network of friends in December as I started with in May.

I chose to use the Mailchimp service.  It's a free service and user-friendly in that does not require .html coding. However, it does have a bit of a learning curve.  So here goes.

Your first step is to develop your list. Hopefully, you've been collecting email addresses and are already communicating, even if on a limited basis, with your customers and prospects.  Side note on your lists: it is ok to email marketing information as long as you include a way for the recipient to "unsubscribe" from the list. We'll discuss this more in an upcoming post.  Mailchimp contains an unsubscribe feature and requires it be included on all emails sent from their system. Fortunately, Mailchimp allows you to add your recipients manually, to upload a file from Excel, or to import from another sales database.

Take some time and think about how you'll use your list.  "You're talking newsletters, so why don't you create a newsletter list," I"m sure you're thinking.  Well, as you become more comfortable with this marketing tool, you'll find a need to develop other lists.  I currently have lists for newsletters, new customers, new subscribers, craft show sign up forms, etc. We'll focus on other uses for Mailchimp in an upcoming post.

Your content is written. Your list is developed.  Now is the time to develop your online newsletter.

Here, you'll work with Mailchimp's "campaigns". Admittedly, this took some time for me to understand.  Your list is your list, and your campaign is your publication software (e.g., Publisher). Similar to how you began your newsletter in your publication software with a template, I highly recommend you choose a template from Mailchimp's offerings. Again, the set up take the most time.  Upload your logo, link your twitter and Facebook accounts. Add your contact information.

Use the template blocks to add your newsletter content.  This part is actually very similar to writing a blog.  You can either copy and paste your content into the text or type, type away.    Be sure to add pictures of your product.  I usually try to incorporate two photos for visual appeal.  I also try to vary the font by periodically using bold or italics.

But here's the key for writing an online newsletter: be sure to provide plenty of links into your shop.  You have their attention, now drive them into your store!!!! Let's count the links available in my September newsletter:

Article: Apples are In!
1.) Link to Fragrance of the Month shop section.
2.) Link to Apple Harvest candle.
3.) Link to Apples & Oak candle. (My Pumpkin Applebutter was not ready to be posted on Etsy or it would be #4.)

Article: Decorating with Candles:
4.) Link to my Pinterest boards.
5.) Link to my Pinterest "Decorating With Candles" board.

Article: New:
6.) Sign up links to Sales & Specials newsletter.
7.) Sign up links to Where Am I? newsletter.

Extra credit:
8.) My Apple Harvest photo also links to my Apple Harvest candle in my Etsy shop.
9.) The candle decoration photo also links to my Pinterest "Decorating with Candles" board.

You'll notice I did not create links for my "editorial" article.  This was purely personal preference on this. My first draft included links to everything, but at the time I could not figure out how to hyperlink my Twitter account, so I deleted all links within that particular article.

It's a lot of information for today, and there is so much more to cover.  Upcoming articles will discuss how to build your online lists, how to market your newsletter, and how to use Mailchimp for other purposes.  As always, I welcome your thoughts and your comments - they have driven so much of this content!!!!

Dorene


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