Planning - an easy step to create better newsletters

By APSIS

2011-10-03

If you have been sending newsletters for a while, you have a firsthand experience of the possibilities and pitfalls of publishing.

Start by examining the newsletters you sent last year. What was successful? What could have been better? Make a list (5-10 bullet points on each side) that sums up the experiences from the past year.

With these experiences in mind, it is time to start planning.

Everyone who send newsletters ask themselves the same basic questions:

  • Who should we send to?
  • What should we write about?
  • How often should we send something?

When you know the answer to these questions, you are well on your way towards a publishing plan.

The publishing plan contains everything needed to create, send and evaluate the newsletter:

  • Publication date
  • Content plans
  • Deadlines (for publication, tests, proofs, corrections, design, content, landing pages).
  • Responsibilities. (Who is in charge of production, sending and evaluation?)

We suggest that you plan as far ahead as the next year, but it is not necessary to go into too much detail in your plan – you still need to be able to adjust and make the most of interesting opportunities. If you send a monthly newsletter, make detailed plans for the coming three months, plan roughly 50% for the next quarter and an outline for the rest of the year. It is called ”newsletter” – but many news articles can be produced far in advance and if necessary be updated when it is time to publish them.

By being prepared, you will not suffer from the last-minute stress that so often characterises sloppy and ill-prepared newsletters.

Producing quality content is quite hard. Here are a couple of tips that may be useful:

  • Think about the most popular articles of the past year. Could you make extended versions and write more on the subject?
  • Do you have to produce everything in-house, or could you find an external writer or journalist to write something interesting?
  • Is there a subject that is interesting enough for a series of articles?
  • Can your newsletter in any way help your recipients in their daily work?
  • Could you ask your readers to share their experiences or tips?
  • Conduct a survey in a newsletter – and share the results in the next.
  • Look at other newsletters. What is inspirational? Which ideas can we use in our line of business?
  • Perhaps it is time to test using videos in your newsletters. It is a powerful way to increase click-through rates. Try it, but be sure to have content that is so good that your recipients wants to see the next video you publish!

When you produce content, make sure you have plenty of time and try to write more than you actually need (if you have planned for four articles in each newsletter, write five). Then you will have the freedom to quickly add new content or remove something that looked good on paper but didn’t work out the way you wanted.

Write the publication plan, let it rest for a while and look at it again. Having a well thought out publication plan is a great way to develop and strengthen your email marketing.

The next step – a strategic plan

Why do you need a strategic plan?

A publishing plan and a strategic plan are two entirely different things, and they do not exclude each other at all. A publishing plan tells you when to send and what to include in each newsletter. But a strategic plan starts where the publishing plan ends and helps you reach your overall marketing goals. Working with a strategic plan means identifying targets and adapting along the way to reach these targets – or beyond.

To develop your email marketing, an important step is to move away from a trial-and-error-based workflow. Sure, you learn a lot from your mistakes – but it is better to avoid them in the first place.

Everyone benefits from a strategic plan – small companies and major corporations alike. You will see results faster in less hierarchic environments, but it makes no difference if you cater to other companies or to end consumers.

Targets come in different forms and sizes. A common target is to increase the number of subscribers to the company newsletter. But this is quite often a part of an overall target to increase traffic on the web site, which in turn serves the overall target of maximising conversions. More orders or increased sales is the main objective.

More subscribers is just one way of getting there. Another is to be more active in social media and to integrate other marketing channels with your newsletters.

Let your company’s internal resources and knowledge guide you as you create your roadmap!

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