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Timothy Ronaldson
By: timothy-ronaldson
Read in 14 minutes

Ultimate Newsletter Guide for Small Business Owners

Chances are if you have an email address, you’ve received more than one newsletter from some business.

Whether it be from a large chain or a local mom-and-pop shop in your town, businesses of all shapes and sizes are sending out email newsletters nowadays. Some promote a specific product or service for sale, while others are more geared toward educating consumers about general topics in their industry.

According to a 2019 Content Marketing Institute study, more than 87% of all B2B marketers use email campaigns “to nurture subscribers, audience or leads.”

There’s a good reason they’re doing so, too. A report by Campaign Monitor found that every $1 spent on email marketing can result in $44 in Return on Investment (ROI). What’s more, a study by McKinsey found an email newsletter is 40 times more effective at acquiring new customers than social media channels, such as Twitter or Facebook.

An email newsletter is one of the most effective tools a small business owner can use to market their business to a broad audience. 

The great part about them—aside from the impressive ROI—is they are inexpensive to start, maintain, and grow.

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What is a newsletter?

The easiest way to understand an email newsletter is to think of it in printed terms. Many smaller towns around America mail out a semi-regular newsletter to keep residents informed about what’s going on in town.

It’s usually a four-page printed booklet that has articles on updates on construction projects, details on dates for leaf collection as well as a column from the mayor. It may include significant phone numbers for departments residents should call based on their needs. Many school districts throughout the country do this as well.

The idea behind the newsletter is to serve as a general education tool for the people who are receiving it.

An email newsletter has the same general goals, but for your business. It’s a digital newsletter that you put together with stories, updates, and FAQs that you then deliver regularly to a list of subscribers.

While your initial instincts as a business owner may be to directly promote the products or services you sell, or any exclusive deals you are currently offering, the most effective email newsletters are those that promote your business less directly. Instead of writing stories about why your business is so great, you educate your subscribers on a particular aspect of your industry, showing them in the meantime how you’re an expert in your field.

Newsletters: an example

Let’s say, for example, that you’re a landscaper. As spring is in full swing, people will be starting to ramp up their garden, planting flowers and treating their lawns with fertilizer and seed. 

This is a prime time for landscaping companies to acquire new business. Your initial thought may be to directly promote your upcoming sales and all your great products that people can use to spruce up their yards. But a better approach may be to write an article about the top 10 tips for getting the lawn of your dreams—and delivering that as the central part of your email newsletter.

Your subscribers are more likely to open and read that article than one that simply says your business has seeds and mulch for them to purchase. In the end, you’ll be helping your customers and branding your company at the same time: they’ll know you’re an expert in your field.

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Why are newsletters so important?

Email newsletters can help drive new sales, but they also serve other very valuable purposes for your business. 

  • Promotion: Even though we mentioned newsletters should be more of an indirect form of marketing, they can be used to promote your products and/or services (without being too pushy). You can notify people of upcoming sales and also announce new products you’re launching.
  • Expertise: Email newsletters can help you position yourself as an expert in your field. Consumers always want to do business with people they believe are experts at what they do.
  • Branding: Email newsletters are an excellent tool for bringing awareness for your company and, ultimately, building a brand. The best branding happens when consumers think of your company first when they have a specific need (think Q-tips when people think of cotton swabs or Kleenex when they think of facial tissues).
  • Contact: Email newsletters are a great way to stay in touch with your current customers consistently. It’s as important—if not crucial—that you nurture this relationship as it is to build a relationship with potential new customers.
  • Audience: Email newsletters help you reach more people. Not only that, but they can also serve as highly-targeted marketing. You can build your list of prospective customers by putting a subscription form on your website, your social media pages, and even have forms in your business.

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#CaminoTip
Before launching your email newsletter, you should come up with a plan of attack. Having a detailed plan will help you not only be more efficient with your system, it’ll help you be more effective with your message. 

Steps to start a newsletter

Here’s a step-by-step guide to creating an email newsletter for your business:

1. Define your strategy

The ultimate goal of creating an email newsletter is to generate more sales. But before you can do that, you need to figure out the best way for you to get to that endpoint. 

Developing a well-thought-out strategy will serve as your blueprint to get from Point A to Point Z.

There are two main areas on which you should focus—the frequency of the newsletter and acquiring subscribers.

Frequency

Your content strategy should begin at how often you want to distribute your newsletter. At the minimum, you should aim for once a week, if that’s something you can handle time-wise. If not, then start at twice a month and work your way up to once a week. The important thing with an email newsletter is making sure you are consistently delivering your message.

Subscribers

As for acquiring subscribers, create a strategy for how you’ll collect people’s email addresses. As mentioned, you can advertise your email newsletter on your website and social media pages, and have people submit their address to be added to the list. You can also have store associates (or sales reps) mention it to customers. 

One thing you should never do is simply add someone to the list without asking them first. Even if you have a customer’s email address already, it’s not a good idea to simply add them to your newsletter without asking them for permission.

2. Write the content

The next step is to write your content. If you’re new to doing this, a great way to gain inspiration is to subscribe to other email newsletters (in your industry) and see what other people do. 

How do they approach the content? 

What type of articles do they write? 

In what tone/voice do they write it? 

Do they include pictures and/or videos?

An easy way to choose topics to write about at first is to approach the content as a FAQ section. Think about the most common questions your customers have—or the common problems you help them solve—and then write about that.

Once you start writing for a while, other topics will come to your mind that you can add to your editorial calendar for future newsletters.

Remember, the goal of this content is to educate your subscribers, not to sell to them directly. Other parts of your newsletter will brand your business and promote specific products and/or services.

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3. Design the newsletter

Newsletters aren’t just text like email correspondence. They are designed in a way that looks nice and draws the reader’s attention.

This is the part of an email newsletter that may scare a lot of business owners away. But don’t worry—designing an attractive email newsletter is not difficult. And the best part is there are plenty of free resources you can use. 

There are lots of excellent email newsletter companies that provide you with free tools for designing your email newsletter. They will allow you to use templates to start designing a fabulous looking email newsletter without any artistic or design skills.

#CaminoTip
Once you’ve got the basics down, you can then get more creative and venture out from these templates in time.

4. Customize your newsletter

There are two main ways in which you can customize your newsletter:

Personalization

Many newsletter services offer you the option to customize your newsletters. This means adding the name of each subscriber—don’t worry, you won’t have to do this manually. This is a great tool to personalize your marketing efforts—which is a big hit with readers.

Segmentation

At first, you will probably just start with one email newsletter that gets sent to all of your subscribers. The best email newsletters, though, are ones that are customized to your customer base.

In time, this will mean that you’ll probably want to create a separate email newsletter for different categories of customers. For example, you may want to send one message to current customers and another to prospective customers. Or you may wish to promote a specific product/service to people who have purchased it in the past.

There are many different categories you could create here. The only way you’ll be able to segment your subscriber base effectively is by integrating a CRM system into your workflow. This will help you better track all your customers—current and potential—based on several different areas.

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Tips for creating your own newsletter

The best way to create your newsletter is to simply dive right in and try. Before you actually start sending out your creations to customers, though, here are a few tips:

  • Write a lot of content: It’s always a good idea to have more pieces of content written and ready to go than you need at first. This gives you an excellent “bank” of content you can use at any time. For example, if you plan on sending two email newsletters a month, make sure you have enough content in your “bank” that can last you two months.
  • Find a program: Search for the best email marketing tool available that fits your needs. This program should be free to use (at first) and allow you to build and manage subscriber lists, design newsletters with templates, send the newsletters, and then track the statistics. Programs like HubSpot, Benchmark, MailChimp, and Constant Contact are all worth checking out. 
  • Start marketing: Once you’ve got all your ducks in a row, make sure you market your email newsletter. Promote it wherever and whenever you can. The bigger the subscriber list you can build, the better chance you have at it succeeding.

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Let the News be Known

Who knew that when you ventured out to become a business owner that you’d also become a writer and designer! 

Email newsletters have proven to be such great marketing tools for small businesses that it’s almost essential you start one.

Lucky for you, it’s very simple for you to do both of these things today, even if you don’t consider yourself the most creative person on the planet. All you have to do is approach an email newsletter as if you’re answering the most common questions your customers have, and/or providing them knowledge and information you think they would benefit from knowing.

This is just one great idea for how you can build a solid list of potential customers. 

Talking about newsletters, if you want to receive more marketing ideas and ways to grow your business, you should subscribe to the Camino Financial Newsletter. It’s one way that we connect with our customers consistently, helping us live up to our motto of “No Business Left Behind.”

By subscribing, you can also pick up on some tips and tricks for how you can design and send your own email newsletter!

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