Before you make any steps to go further into the digital space, you need to get your current channels working for you as best they can.
E-newsletters are a great way to get content out to your current, and potential, students, parents, alumni and agents, along with other stakeholders.
Before you jump in though, assess whether an e-newsletter is right for you, and make a plan to manage it.
How e-newsletters can be used
E-newsletters can be an excellent value-adding tool for keeping connected with:
- Current students
- Parents of current students
- Current and potential partners.
There’s a few potential audiences there, so depending on how many you want to target, you may want to think about whether you need more than one e-newsletter to cover these audiences.
One of the best values from e-newsletters is word-of-mouth marketing. It’s easy for your subscribers to forward your email to a friend or associate, especially with a friendly reminder from you at the end of each issue. It’s also a great way to build your subscriber base and market your offering to people you might not have reached any other way.
Know your goal
As with every marketing and communication tool you use, make sure you know who your target audience is, what they’re interested in, and what your goal is for communicating with them in this way.
And importantly, link your goal to your measures of success.
What kind of e-newsletter do you want to send?
One of the biggest problems with e-newsletters is that they're often cluttered and unfocused because they're trying to talk to everyone and cover every aspect of what you’re doing.
It’s best to have one common thread to hold your e-newsletter together. One way to do this would be to keep to one very specific topic or theme for each issue.
And as always, keep your audience in mind.
Be clear what your e-newsletter will provide
Once you’ve figured out your newsletter’s focus and content balance for each audience, make sure you’re properly communicating about them on your subscribe landing page.
Get specific. Tell potential subscribers the type of information that you’ll have in your e-newsletter and how often you will send them.
Stick to simple subject lines
Don’t be too clever with your subject lines. This is particularly relevant when English is a second language.
Aim for subject lines that succinctly tell people what’s inside. It’s good to have something consistent that you use every issue, such as ‘Organisation X January news/update’.
Have a content calendar
Plan your content in advance, and add it into your marketing mix. You should be thinking of all your communication tools as a package. What social media links can you include? What events can you leverage?
An advance plan will mean you can get your content developed ahead of time and have it ready and waiting to go on time.
Set a frequency that suits
Set a frequency for your e-newsletters that suit your audiences, and is manageable for you. It may be fortnightly, monthly, or even quarterly. The frequency of your e-newsletter will also mean looking at content that matches.
Sourcing content providers
Think creatively about who can provide content for you - get your students, past and present, involved and provide opportunities for them to contribute copy. Don’t make it onerous; short stories on their experiences or tips for other students are great ways to get ‘free’ copy. Guest articles are also great. Again, plan in advance and don’t put too much pressure on people to provide you with long pieces of text. Think short and snappy!
Keep design and copy minimal
The trick to making e-newsletters look uncluttered involves two things: concise copy and enough white space in the design.
Keep your copy short. For longer pieces, send them elsewhere (your website or blog for example). Only give your subscribers a taste of your content; enough that they want to click and learn more.
White space is key in e-newsletters. It helps provide breathing space, and on mobile, makes it much easier for people to click the right link.
Avoid the spam detectors
If you want people to open your emails, you have to get past spam filters first. Avoid using spammy keywords and phrases, and AVOID USING ALL CAPS or loads of exclamation points!!!!!!!!!!
Make it easy to unsubscribe
Make it easy for people to unsubscribe. And action it. There is nothing more annoying than unsubscribing and an organisation not following up quickly on it.
You may like to give people the option of providing a reason for unsubscribing, so you can use it to enhance your e-newsletters in the future.
Link it all together
Your e-newsletter should form part of your marketing plan mix, and link to your other platforms, such as your website, Facebook page, other channels.
Get regular feedback
On a regular (but not too often) basis, get feedback from your subscribers. This might be once a year or every 18 months. Check the content is useful and/or enjoyable, and that the frequency is still right for them. Have a search around the web to see examples of what might form a good user survey.
Get the right tools to manage your e-newsletter
There are lots of software packages out there to choose from to help you set up and manage your e-newsletters. Search and find the right solution for you.
Specialised software will help you manage your content for different platforms, such as mobile, measure your success, and manage subscribe and unsubscribe.
Talk to others about what they use, or join together and invest in a software tool that suits a number of you to use.
QUICK TIP: USE AN EMAIL MARKETING SERVICE
You may want to use email marketing services like MailChimp to send your e-newsletters. MailChimp’s basic service is free to use. It provides a range of customisable templates to showcase your brand in the best light.
Measure your success
Go back to your marketing goals and objectives. What is the aim of producing and sending your e-newsletter? Put in place ways to measure success of your goals.
Some statistics worth paying attention to include:
- Open rate: How many read the email; aim for 20-40%
- Click rates: How many click on a link; aim for 2-15%
- Forwards: How many shared with friends; an increase in this number indicates a heightened value to your content
- Unsubscribes: The fewer the better, of course; a spike indicates a problem with your content
- Conversion rates: How many people took desired actions; you want to see this rate increase, as it should indicate how successful your e-newsletter is at attaining your goals
- Bouncebacks: The fewer the better; make sure your list is up to date
- New signups since your last email was sent: A good indicator that readers are sharing your content
Soft bounces usually mean the recipient is temporarily unavailable. Maybe they’re on vacation, or their mailbox is full. You can keep those emails and try them again later.
Hard bounces mean an email address failed. Maybe it no longer exists, or maybe someone made a typo when they subscribed to a list. Hard bounces might also be spam filter —if you see an abnormally high number of bounces after sending an e-newsletter, read your bounceback records for any messages or clues from spam filters.
- Decide what audience you want to target for your e-newsletter/s
- Define the goals for your e-newsletter and be clear on what it will provide
- Set a frequency that works for you, and your audience
- Plan your newsletters in advance and think creatively about who could help create content
- Know how to avoid spam detectors
- Get the right tools for delivery, and have measures for feedback
- Have a process for managing your subscribers
- Link it all together with your content marketing plan