Some things to consider
by Paul Myers, Editor of TalkBiz News
You've undoubtedly heard about the marketing advantages of starting your own email newsletter. It's something that everyone talks about, and more people consider it every day.
I recently saw a post on the subject on one of the marketing bulletin boards. I'll try to give a few helpful hints for you folks who are thinking about this as an addition to your business strategy.
We'll stay away from the software and the ad sales end of things for right now. First you should consider whether or not this is something you'll do and do well. If so, the rest is easy.
The post started out with...
I would like to start a newsletter but I'm afraid what will happen when for some reason I lose steam and have problems writing it regularly. Is there a place where I can get content and how much does it cost? Are there free places?
Boy, could I relate to this question!
When I first started my newsletter, over two years ago, I had the same questions. It wasn't that running out of steam was a concern, because I wasn't counting on it to be a money maker. But the rest was an issue, and burnout is a very real possibility no matter how much you enjoy the process.
Some suggestions that might help...
1. Have a standard format, so that you can plug in the content quickly, and to make things familiar for your subscribers.
This means simple things, like a standard header (the top part of the newsletter that people see in the first screen of the email), and a specific way to separate sections. Stuff like that.
2. If you're doing a solo publication, where you do all or most of the writing, learn to make a lot of mileage from one aspect of your topic. The way to do this is to get really into the details of one small aspect of it at a time, so that when people are done, they can apply the info immediately. Real nuts and bolts specific. For example, if you were going to do a series on autoresponders, it might consist of a general outline first. Then, as separate articles, you could cover:
Thirteen article topics, and the subject still has more to cover. LOTS more.
By the way, it wouldn't hurt to consider most of those when starting a newsletter either. ;)
Most subjects that are worth writing about have lots of facets like that. Before you start your newsletter, make lists of possible articles. Get enough ideas for at least six months worth of articles, and then get the first four issues ready before you even announce the newsletter. This will solve a few potential problems:
First, it will let you get into a routine for writing and editing while you tend to the important early stages of promotion. And still put out the newsletter on a regular basis.
It will also force you to consider your format carefully and have it more refined before you start to distribute the thing. That provides more consistency and a professional look early in the process.
Most importantly, it will let you see for yourself if this is something you want to do. Writing is not something that everyone likes to do on a schedule. The same is true of editing, but fortunately the two groups aren't always made up of the same people.
Contact some people you know who are involved with the same subject before you start. Tell them the specific plan you have for marketing the newsletter, and ask them if they'd be willing to contribute articles on a regular or an "as available" basis. If they're not sure you'll follow through, point out that writing the articles means they're available for other newsletters even if you don't follow through. You're making it hard for them to find a problem, and pointing out a real possibility. As an added benefit, being a feature in something new and original has as much value online as offline.
Then start contacting authors you see already publishing articles related to your subject, and ask for reprint permissions of pieces that fit well. It will be rare for you to be turned down.
One very useful strategy for getting ideas for articles is to keep an eye open for questions people ask that you can answer. (That's where this one came from, remember?)
Another is to keep an eye out for good answers posted to boards or lists. Then ask the poster if they'd be interested in writing the answer up as an article for you. (That's how this got to be changed from a short rambling post to a long rambling article!)
Next, plan to publish at half the rate you think you can, and be picky with your info. Quality material will win you more loyalty than volume or higher frequency. And it will allow you to avoid the pressure to publish second rate stuff just to meet deadlines or keep the same quantity.
Other times I tend to the dry, how-to stuff. That's me too. (Usually I'm a smart alec. It's more fun.)
Never try to develop an image. Show your personality. Be you, and you'll attract the kind of people you want to deal with, and shoo off the ones that would be annoyances. Who wants to attract large groups of people who just read, delete, and don't CARE?
To do a newsletter regularly, you need to either:
Having at least 4 of those five is a good sign that you should do the newsletter schtick. If you don't fit at least two of them, consider writing for other people's newsletters. The visibility is almost as good, but you get to recycle your material more widely.A. Love to write, and
This is an often neglected avenue to the publicity you want. There's a huge market out there for quality content. If you publish regularly in quality newsletters, you'll gain as much recognition as the editor. Without the headaches. (Yeah, there are a few headaches in the newsletter game.)
The post continued...
Also - is it necessary to have a website first? I am thinking of building a site but it is so overwhelming and I thought that newsletter first might be good idea..
Having a website first is a Very Good IdeaTM.
Lots of the places you'll be listing your site will want a URL for people to visit. It shows also that you're a bit serious, and not just running an email address trap. It's easy to populate it with content. You'll be writing right along, right?
(Do two rights make a write? An airplane? A write cross? I'm confusing myself here.)
It doesn't have to be anything big to begin with. Simple isn't a bad thing.
Lots more to consider. Hopefully these will give you some things to think about. If not, pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!
"Hard Core How-To for Small Business!"
To subscribe, just fill in your email address here, and click Subscribe Me.