The following is a guest post by the awesome Lynn Terry. Lynn has a ton of experience and solid advice on a topic I don’t. Creating a (successful) email newsletter (actually, she has several of them) from the ground up. I asked her to write a post offering advice to first time newsletter owners so that I could you could benefit from her advice… ;-)

Mailing ListI’ve been publishing newsletters online for more than a decade now, but I still remember the very first email I sent out to my list. It went out to all of NINE subscribers. Yes, just nine.

This was a “weekly tips” newsletter, by the way. The first couple of Monday’s passed by and I waited. It didn’t make any sense to send an email to just a few people.

And then on the Sunday night before the third Monday, just having received my 9th subscriber, it dawned on me that none of those people knew there were only eight other people subscribed. And they didn’t care. Why should they?! They signed up for a weekly tip, and all they knew was that they weren’t getting it…

That’s when I sent out my first email, and when I realized that every single email I wrote was really only going to one person. From their perspective, that is. It totally changed the way I viewed my “newsletter”, and caused me to adjust my writing style accordingly.

Over the years, thousands of people have subscribed to my various mailing lists. And while I have the “big list”, I still view it as a means of sending a message to each individual person that signed up.

That’s not to say that I don’t use automation, because I do. But I keep in mind that each confirmation email, blog broadcast, weekly tip or whatever is going to be received by a single person. And that message has to resonate with them and communicate with them on an individual level.

Keep that in mind as you set up your email list, and with each email that you send out. ;-)

Choosing A Mailing List Manager

When I first started a mailing list, I chose the mailing list manager that came free with my hosting service. Big mistake. Hosts are not email marketing experts, their email servers often get blacklisted, and your delivery rate will be terrible. Lesson learned.

The problem with trying different options is that you’ll lose up to 90% of your mailing list (or more) every time you move it to a new mailing list manager.

With this in mind, I always recommend people start out with Aweber. They are the industry leader in mailing list management, have great delivery rates and customer service, and every feature you’ll ever need.

Unlike some options, with Aweber you will actually own your list (important!). You can back up the database anytime you please. This is not the case with all providers.

Trust me, you’re going to end up there in the end so you might as well just start there and save yourself all the hassle…

Your Email Marketing Strategy

Don’t set up an email list just because someone told you that you should. Though, I’m telling you – you should. :)

Even with the popularity of Social Media, and all the mediums to share content, you’re still going to get your best response & conversion rates from email.

But before you set up your list, it’s important to know your objective. Who do you want to email, and why? What do you want your subscribers to get out of it, and what do *you* want to achieve with the list?

A couple of examples for you to consider:

  • Build a loyal readership & encourage repeat visitors
  • Lead up to and close a sale
  • Customer follow-up and back-end sales
  • An e-course that educates your market and leads to sales

Don’t just set up a form and say “hey, join my list”. Know what you plan to send your list, how you’re going to monetize it (directly or indirectly), and the results you want. Then make it obvious in your opt-in copy what your visitors can expect when they sign up.

Customization: The Technical Stuff

You can use the default confirmation pages and confirmation emails that come built into your account, but I recommend you customize each step of the process.

You’ll want to create a customized:

  • Subscription Form
  • Confirmation Page
  • Confirmation Email
  • Success Page (where they are taken when they confirm)
  • Follow up Email (welcoming them to your list)

Customizing each of these steps will help you maintain your branding, and also give you opportunities to lead the subscriber into other pages. The Success Page and Follow-up Email are both great places for a call to action!

It’s Time To Email Your List!

Don’t make my mistake and leave them sitting for several weeks without an email from you. Decide what format you want to use, and go ahead and set that up.

You may want to write a traditional weekly or monthly newsletter. If you do, make sure your subscribers know upfront (and in the welcome email) when to expect your messages. Other options include setting up an Autoresponder or a Blog Broadcast.

With an Autoresponder you can set up a series of messages that go out over time. This is great for an e-course or for sending out evergreen tips & content.

A Blog Broadcast is great if you have a blog, as you can simply tie your RSS Feed into Aweber and have it email your subscribers when you publish – or in digest format on a set schedule.

The great thing is that you can still send a timely email to your list anytime you please, even if it’s set up as an Autoresponder or Blog Broadcast.

Aweber will also archive your email messages if you choose that option. This means your emails can get indexed by the search engines and that the links in those email archives count as backlinks.

The archive page includes a subscription form as well, which can serve as another way to get sign-ups. You can see mine as a live example here:

Isn’t Email Marketing Dead?

While many people may say that “email marketing is dead”, I disagree. As I said earlier, you are still going to get your best response and conversion rates from email – over any other medium.

Even more so now that everyone is going mobile, and has email in their back pocket everywhere they go. ;-)

Is Pinterest part of your marketing plan?

Check out my recent case study that shows how I generated 234,000+ pins (and counting) to a site with only 45 posts. I give you all the details (with specifics) here.