Newsletters are the bedrock of our early customer acquisition efforts. It'll typically be the most common place we'll interact with our users in the initial weeks and months. We like it because it's free, it gives us a lot of freedom and real estate to express our message, and it's fairly instant in its response.
Newsletters work best when they are approached as friendly conversations. They royally suck when they are approached as billboard ads wrapped in email containers. The world is mostly filed with the latter, so we're going to show you how to engage and build your early audience using a friendly, personal style.
Think of our newsletter like a recurring meeting you might have with a friend on a park bench. It's just the two of you catching up. It's friendly. You want to give this friend some updates on what you're working on and ask for some feedback as to whether they dig the idea.
Newsletter marketing is all about determining the goal we’re trying to accomplish and then figuring out how to craft messaging that actually drives our readers to take an incredibly specific action.
Believe it or not, there’s something of a science to this. The most successful newsletters tend to follow a similar set of criteria — from length, to tone, to content, all the way down to subject line.
We’ve all gotten that email from a @donotreply address. Where does it end up? That’s right, the trash bin! “Who” newsletters come from is going to be just as important as what’s being communicated.
As we create our first newsletter, we're going to think about how to open up a conversation with our recipients. That means we're going to ask questions, we're going to tell stories, and we're going to offer value so that people want to have more of those conversations.
"Wait, WTF are you talking about? I thought I was going to create a newsletter to get my startup more customers, not write love letters to a bunch of strangers?!"
See? That's where people screw this up!
We’ll approach these early efforts very differently than we will later with our marketing when we have a larger audience. Right now, we want to focus on making a small group of really close knit customers feel like it's just us gals talking.
If we lead early on with "Hey I had this idea 9 minutes ago, click here to buy my stuff!" — we're going to lose customers really fast. Instead, we're going to use these newsletters to ask our tiny audience what they think about our idea. We're going to highlight the suggestions they have made in subsequent newsletters — a virtual high five, if you will. We'll ask for money later on when the product is more refined. Right now, the currency we're looking for is input from our customers, not cash.
We're going to use our newsletter to communicate to our small but growing audience on a fairly regular basis - at least once a month if not more. Each time we send our newsletter, we're not just sending an update - we're leveraging our audience to help us explore and understand another unknown area of our business model.
One send may be focused on learning what price point works best. Another may be determining which features we should build first. Yet another may simply be a way to build some heightened interest in our pending launch. We'll pick one singular goal and build a small campaign to help drive that outcome. The newsletter will be the most important brainstorming meeting we can have, because we're having it with real potential customers.
Every time we sit down to craft our next newsletter masterpiece, we're going to ask ourselves the 3 questions:
We only get to pick one objective. So, what's the most important thing we can learn in this send?
We want our newsletter to be something people enjoy reading. So, what can we share with our audience that will entertain, inform, or engage them in a way that will make them excited to get our next edition?
Based on our objective, what's the single "Call to Action” we want to drive them to?
We'll cover each of these questions and our best approach to answer them throughout this course.
For our purposes, we're going to suggest creating a free account with Mailchimp — though, feel free to use any other newsletter software that you'd like. One thing we don't recommend is using your default mail client and sending out a mass email. Not only does it look low rent — there isn’t an easy way to add new subscribers, purge unsubscribes or get a closer look at detailed reporting on newsletter performance.
If you want to get a feel for what you'll need to do, the good folks of Mailchimp have a very easy step-by-step tutorial as well as a video walkthrough. You can dig into that now or keep reading and come back to the setup later.
From this point on we should have a newsletter account created — we just need to figure out what to do with it.
The CTA —or "Call to Action"— is our raison d'être or "reason for being". Think of it like the giant button we want everyone to press. While the CTA will likely appear below our images and copy — before we begin drafting up the message for our newsletter, we should ask: "What action do we want this newsletter to drive?"
We only get one shot at people's attention — and rarely for more than a second. So, we should focus on driving one response. If we really want to get a second response—we’ll just save it for a future newsletter.
Some popular CTA Formulas we could use:
There's no hard and fast rule as to which CTA to use — so long as it's fairly actionable and doesn't create a lot of overhead for the user. If it's something the user can take action on in one or two clicks, it's probably a good CTA. If it requires a bunch of work (more than 60 seconds) we're going to see a lot less action.