eNewsletters are arguably one of the best, and most direct, ways to connect with your audience. When used properly, they can be an incredibly powerful communication tool and help you build a dedicated online following and engaged community. Offering value is paramount, and in a noisy world you need to keep up with anything and everything that will help leverage your presence and message so you can retain mindshare and capture attention.

Before we even touch on content, which we will in part two on this topic next week, there are a lot of considerations when establishing your newsletter practices and how to optimize them.

Why eNewsletters Matter

I had to check my own personal assumptions about all businesses needing an eNewsletter or a blog while doing a routine client audit recently. I was walking through a draft presentation with Tod, engageQ’s President, when he asked: “Do they even need a blog? Let’s challenge that assumption.” He was right.

Just because you can, doesn’t always mean you should.

Consider how a newsletter fits with your overall marketing and digital strategy; do you have the staff resources in place to launch a consistent eNewsletter? Have you gauged your audience with any research or insights regarding their online behaviour? What are your main objectives for maintaining a list and how will you use it?

Building a list takes time. We rarely believe in overnight miracles but strategy, consistency, time, and solid content will bring you the results you’re looking for if you have something worthwhile to offer. Make sure you have a clear rationale guiding your efforts.

The Importance of Site Design

If you want people to sign up for your mailing list, it has to be highly visible on your website and look like something people would appreciate having in their inbox on a somewhat regular basis. While a discreet and non-invasive pop up can sometimes work wonders in terms of getting sign-up numbers up, others consider it annoying and it could just have them irritatedly clicking “x”. Try out different approaches and see what works for your audience.

Poor design, an unclear or hidden sign-up prompt, or failing to use an appealing branded look will worsen your chances of people signing up for your list. If your site design makes signing up bothersome, site guests will skip it.

Also, your visitors should never have to use the search function on your site to figure out where to sign up for your list.

The Flow: Simpler Is Better

People want the meat and potatoes in the simplest way.

Make your sign-up process EASY — make it super-stupid-fast. The less info you need from someone to sign up for your list, the better. Keep it to the basics; we've even seen prompts that initially just ask for an email and don't even include an additional one for name. If you want more information than just the basics, it will come at the price of less sign-ups. Visually, a bunch of fields to fill out automatically say “time consuming” to your visitors and people could bounce unless they’re very motivated to engage with you.

Someone’s inbox is an intimate place for you to be. Respect their time and attention. If you need more details down the road, conduct a survey and incentivize their participation with a gift card or prize of some kind.

So many organizations miss out on using their confirmation to deliver something of value to their new eNewsletter list members. Use this touchpoint to restate where to follow you on social, visit your archives, or send a special “thank you” to your new registrant in the form of a discount code, eBook or whitepaper depending on the type of business you have.

4. Encouraging Sign Ups

Setting up an eNewsletter and not telling anyone about it is like throwing a party and not giving anyone the address.

While the term think outside the box has become a bit of an overused cliche, this does apply to promoting your list. Do you do any street promos for your brand? Is there a contesting incentive where people can give their email and be entered to win a good prize that’s on-brand for you? Incentivizing sign-ups is a great way to build your list in the beginning. Plug the new eNewsletter in your staff’s email signatures, for instance.

These are some basic steps and considerations to either getting a new eNewsletter up and running or improving and revising a current one. Our next post will concentrate on creating enticing content and more specific list practices that will help leverage your audience and generate newsletters people actually want to open.

Any tips we missed? Please feel free to jump in and share your knowledge in the comments.