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I have another question from Jocelyn, a reader from the Raise Your Voice community weekly newsletter. This time, it’s about newsletters. Jocelyn asks via Twitter:
I used [to] send a newsletter out to help maintain a professional/personal network. How do I decide how often [to send out a newsletter, and] if it’s valuable to others? I think I have a clearer focus now than a few years ago, but my work is still broad/not specialized. Appreciate any tips!
Ahhh, newsletters. Also known as email subscriber lists. I started my newsletter back in 2012, mainly because business people I follow would routinely say, “The money is in the list”. You want as many people subscribed to your newsletter so that, when you need to promote something, someone will buy it.
My relationship with my newsletter—everything from the design of it to the content I share—has evolved along with my business. I’m more comfortable promoting my business services as I’ve gotten clearer on what I do, how I want to show up in the world, and what value I want to give. Plus, I give priority to my newsletter subscribers over my social media platforms because social media is saturated and filled with noise. When someone gives their email address to you, it shows that they want to hear directly from you. Also, outside of posting my latest blog posts on my platforms, I tend to go on brief social media detoxes. If you don’t hear from me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn, chances are my newsletter subscribers have.
Along with answering Jocelyn’s questions, here are some things I’ve learned along the way:
Figure out your purpose for creating a newsletter
Since starting my newsletter, I’ve shifted the way I view my newsletter as well as my newsletter subscribers. I see my subscribers as not only people I want to share information with or people who may one day become clients or collaborators, but also as a larger accountability system.
My “why” for sending out my weekly newsletter is first and foremost to provide value. Outside of my weekly blog post, my subscribers get information on awareness themes (such as National Minority Health Week or World AIDS Day) and ideas on how to raise their voices in their community about these themes, resources and tools related to Reproductive Health/Rights/Justice, design thinking, program evaluation, and other things related to social justice and community collaboration that they can use in a variety of settings, and resources that promote self care and prevent burnout.
Also, my newsletter gives a behind-the-scenes look at all of the ups and downs of being a social worker running a business based on my passions. I may disclose certain struggles or successes in my newsletter than I wouldn’t otherwise mention “out in public” on social media. For example, my newsletter subscribers were the first to know that I was leaving my day job in 2016 to go into my business full time.
This ties into my first point because it’s through becoming clear on why I have a newsletter and what value I want to share that’s allowed the process of creating a newsletter to no longer suck. For 2017, I’ve decided to post a blog and send out my newsletter on a weekly basis, no matter what. If you’ve been a Raise Your Voice subscriber for a while, you know that I’ve been consistent, and not so consistent, so the point where I had to remove “weekly” on my website when promoting my newsletter list. By the end of 2017, I’ll re-evaluate if I want to continue on with weekly newsletters and blog posts.
We all have certain email lists we’re subscribed to, and there’s a certain expectation we have in hearing from those people or businesses, even if you don’t open the email each week. For example, Marie Forleo sends out her newsletter every Tuesday, and yes sometimes I tend to mark her emails as “read”. But no matter what day of the week it is, I can always scroll back through my business emails and Marie’s email will be sitting in my inbox for that week. Unless she and her team are on vacation, Marie always sends an email out.
Find a way to be consistent. You may like sending out an email on the third Thursday of every month, every Wednesday morning, or once a quarter. For the most part, my newsletter goes out on Wednesdays. There’s research out there on when’s the best time to send out newsletters, but I like Wednesdays because it’s the middle of the week. The goal is to show up when you say you will. Find a good balance so that people aren’t caught off guard when you show up in their inbox and they’ve forgotten they subscribed to your newsletter.
Create a balance of value, promotion, and personality
We’re naturally curious about the people we follow. Some of the best people I’m subscribed to often mention their most recent business venture, vacation, or something that they’re passionate about that’s unrelated to their brand. It shows their humanity.
Share interesting information that’s related to your brand, but may highlight another person or business. It’s a good way to introduce people to resources that may be of interest, or lets them see that you have something in common. I recently highlighted Paula Pant’s Afford Anything podcast during Women’s History Month with my subscribers as a way to share podcasts I love listening to that are hosted by women of color, and a subscriber replied back to the email to share that she’s a big pan of Paula’s blog and podcast as well.
Also, share testimonials from past and current clients and little tidbits of the business services you offer so that subscribers can get more information from your website.
Never sign people up for your newsletter without their permission
It’s annoying to get emails from people and companies you never opted into. Many email marketing systems warn against this can you can be banned from their services if they see there’s a large number of people subscribing from your list because they weren’t aware they were signed up in the first place.
Measure your impact
You can always survey subscribers to get an idea of what they want to see in your newsletter, but there are a variety of ways that you can tell if your newsletter is providing value, including:
- Number of unique opens
- Most viewed links
- If your newsletter is shared by a subscriber to others
Feedback directly from subscribers (via replying back to your email, on social media, etc.) when they want to make a suggestion, if they’re responding to a question you pose, etc.
Key take away
What I’ve noticed since becoming more consistent in sending out newsletters every Wednesday is that I value the feedback I get from subscribers now more so that how many people are opening the emails. It’s easy to become discouraged when you feel people aren’t opening your emails or clicking on the links you share, but when I shifted my focus to the quality of the information I share along with remembering why I sending out a newsletter, it’s changed my perspective on the newsletter process and the relationship with my Raise Your Voice readers.
Will sending out a newsletter be valuable? You’ll never know unless you try. Commit to building your newsletter list, and tell people about it.