Our Epic Q and A On Creating A Killer E-Newsletter

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Steve Strauss: I’m really happy to chat with one of the best people we could have to talk about that, Jill Bastian. Jill is the Training and Education Manager with our great sponsor VerticalResponse. Welcome!

Jill Bastian: Thanks Steve.

Strauss: Let’s talk about e-newsletters. Why don’t you tell us, why should a small business have an e-newsletter?

Bastian: Well, e-newsletters actually do a lot for a business. It’s a way for you to stay in front to the people who are interested in your product or services that you offer. So when they’re ready to make a purchase then you come to mind since you’ve been mailing to them for a while. Also it just helps to get the word out, what you’re doing with your business.

And it also helps to establish yourself as an expert because you can use an email to share knowledge that you have in your industry that people may not necessarily have access to. And if people start to look to you as a knowledge leader then they’ll have a lot more interest in what your business is doing. Plus, an e-newsletter really helps to build relationships with people and that’s really what they’re looking for.

Strauss: Let me add two things to that. I think one of the great things about e-newsletter is that it is permission based marketing, right? People are allowing you to market to them. I think that’s pretty amazing. Second, it allows you the chance to go viral a little bit. You know, I always say that word of mouth today is so different, it really is word of click. And so if someone takes your e-newsletter and they forward it on that’s word of mouth advertising in today’s world.

Bastian: Oh, sure is. For sure. And with social media it’s really easy to share an e-newsletter on Facebook, on Twitter, on Pinterest, and help spread that word of mouth even more.

Strauss: So how would you do that? Would someone post the whole newsletter or would they post a link to where it sits on your website, how would someone do that?

Bastian: It depends on which social network you’re using. The emails have a hosted link, so you can just share that link on Facebook, or you could take a screenshot of your email and share it that way. But on Twitter you would need to share the link, on Pinterest you can actually pin that on a board.

Strauss: So you see lot’s of e-newsletters, right? You see the good, the bad, and the ugly?

Bastian: I do.

Strauss: So what makes for a great e-newsletter?

Bastian: I think what makes a good newsletter is a balance of information, first of all. As a small business especially you can’t be all about asking people to buy, you can’t just be, “buy, buy, buy.” Some of the bigger retailers can do that but as a small business you need to give people something a little bit different. So that’s where having different information available in your email makes people a little more engaged, so you can share things like articles that you’ve read, if you have a blog you can share blog posts, you can share recipes, you can share all kinds of different types of content in an email.

And I think that really helps to keep people engaged. So it’s more than just selling. I think that helps to make a good e-newsletter. As well as having interesting images, people like to look at nice pictures. A picture is worth a thousand words, that certainly come into play, especially when you’re talking about things like a newsletter, or something that you’re posting on social media. So sharing something visual really helps people to connect as well.

Also, I think it’s important not to have a really wordy newsletter, having a really long email gets to be really hard for people to read, especially if they’re looking at it on a mobile device, so you want to keep your information kind of free. So maybe link out to your blog post about something that your sharing. But of course it can still contain information about your business, what you’re selling, your products or your services. So that people again know that’s what you’re really offering them.

Strauss: I often think this is a place where the 80/20 rule comes into play. 80% should be about them and 20% should be about you. Is that an accurate analysis, you think?

Bastian: Yeah, we usually say about 25% about selling or your business, and the rest of it should be something that’s informative or fun or really interesting to the readers.

Strauss: Why do you think more small business don’t create e-newsletters? I mean, I think maybe they’re intimidated, they think they need to be a great writer or something like that. I’m not really sure why they don’t take advantage of this.

Bastian: I think there’s two reasons. One is time. I think a lot of people feel, especially for a small business where there’s one or a couple of people who are running the business, they feel like there’s a big time involvement for creating a newsletter. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be that. And I think the other thing that kind of goes with that is content. So once people realize they should be sending out an email for their newsletter they then think, well, I don’t know what I should be putting in there. But there’s tons of content available.

People love to read about what’s going on with a small business. Especially because they feel a little more connected. So then you can include things like, pictures from events that you’ve had in your email and by pulling in more content that you can see going on around you, I think that makes it a little easier to create the email in the first place. That first stopping point, I don’t have time, you do if you make a little bit of time to think about the stuff going on around you. It can really help with the content and the time piece. I think those are the two big stumbling blocks.

Strauss: So once you get your template, either you use a VerticalResponse template, right, or maybe you create your own template? How long should it take someone to actually put together an e-newsletter?

Bastian: If you’re using a template in the system, like ours, you can probably put together an email in about an hour. The more you do it the more you get used to creating emails and having your content ready to go, the quicker you can put it together.

Strauss: Here’s one more great thing about e-newsletters that I forgot to mention. That if it becomes popular then you can start to sell ads in your e-newsletter, right?

Bastian: You sure can, yeah.

Strauss: And I love e-newsletter advertising because one, it’s usually pretty affordable, but two, if it’s the right e-newsletter you are getting the specific eyeballs who are interested in what you’re selling. So it’s a very targeted, targeted audience if you can find the right e-newsletter to advertise in or if you can create that e-newsletter, boy, you found a new profit center.

Bastian: Sure, and you know, for a small business somebody advertising could be another business that’s local that has something to do with their product or their service. You can swap for newsletters, swap ads for newsletters. It doesn’t necessarily have to be something expensive but it can certainly be something that benefits local business.

Strauss: Right. What creates an e-newsletter that gets forwarded on, that somebody actually clicks and send to someone else, and you get that viral thing I was talking about?

Bastian: I think it really comes down to the content that’s in the email. You really want the content that you’re creating and adding in your emails to be something that your readers are really interested in. And again, it isn’t all about selling so what other information are you able to share with your readers and if it’s something that really strikes a chord with them they’ll be more than happy to share that with their friends.

I think you want to make sure that you’re also including a link in your emails, a forward to a friends link, people can certainly just forward to without using something like that but using a forward to a friend link benefits the person who is actually sending the email because you’re able to track that type of information and in our system anyone who gets a forwarded email can be added to the mailing list. So that can also helps a small business grow their mailing list. I think it really comes down to really interesting content for the people who are reading it, is what can cause it to go viral.

Strauss: So content is not prince and content is not duke, but content is king.

Can you tell us a couple of ways that VerticalResponse makes it easier for small businesses to create and send out email newsletters?

Bastian: Oh, sure. It’s free to set up an account so you can login and check out how everything works without having to spend any money, which I know for a small business can be something that might keep them from checking things out. So it’s free to set up an account. And then we have lots of templates that have already been made, you don’t actually have to be a tech wiz to put together a nice looking email.

We also have an image gallery, so if you want to put a picture in your email but you don’t have one specifically for what you’re talking about we do have lots of free images that you can use and then everything is sent out through our system, so basically we just walk you through creating your email and the template has a place where you put your logo, a place where you put in your text, adding links is really easy. It goes out through our system so nothing gets impacted on the sender’s side, and then we give you lots of information about how your readers are interacting with the email. When they’re opening it, what they’re clicking on, so you know what they find really interesting in the email and you can keep sending them that kind of info.

Strauss: Well, I will attest to the fact that it is really easy to use your system, we use it for our e-newsletter.

What do you think the most important tip people should take away from our interview and your knowledge today?

Bastian: I think it’s really important for a small business to be sending out an email or a newsletter. It’s something that can really help their business grow and it really gets word of mouth started, as you mentioned before, people start talking about your business and emails are actually pretty easy to do and easy to send and really inexpensive. So it’s a really easy way to communicate to customers and to potential customers to help their business grow.

Strauss: Jill, thank you so much for all your knowledge and your help and your great information today.

Bastian: Great, Thanks a lot Steve.

Strauss: For more information people should go to VerticalResponse.com.

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