Sunday, January 31, 2010

Why I Started an E-Mail Newsletter

A few weeks ago, after reading David Risley's e-book entitled, Six Figure Blogger Blueprint, I decided to migrate my inactive newsletter from Google Friend Connect to VerticalResponse. In this entry, I discuss my reasons for starting a newsletter and explain why I chose to pay VerticalResponse to host it. So, if you are an individual thinking about staring a newsletter or just interested in growing your blog traffic, this article is for you.

Why An E-mail Newsletter?
Until recently, I wasn't sure why I wanted or needed a newsletter. I figured having one was the right thing to do, but thinking it was the right thing to do never motivated me enough to write anything. What's the point in having a newsletter, right?

Things changed after colleagues repeatedly asked about what was new in the world of social media and web technology. Quietly, I thought about the number of blog posts I've written and articles I have shared via Twitter, Facebook, and Google Reader. Were they not reading?

At that moment, I realized how valuable an e-mail newsletter would be in sharing information with busy people. Unlike me, one who spends hours on the Internet for work and pleasure, there are many people who lack the time or interest to find, filter, and read the latest news. To help satisfy their need for information, I could put together an e-mail update that would save readers both time and energy.

Therefore, I concluded that starting a newsletter would achieve the following things:

Connect With Readers 
Based on my previous experience and feedback, I found that there are people who: 
  • Do not use social media: While many of us use Twitter, Facebook, Friendfeed, LinkedIn, and the like, there are still others that have not yet jumped on board. Another group of users have accounts, but never use them, while yet another group only use one or two sites.

  • Miss messages posted via social media: It is highly unlikely that everyone is going to read everything posted online. Many of us have to work, eat, sleep, and run errands, which means something is going to be missed. With sites like Twitter and Facebook, once the update has left the visible screen, it is essentially gone forever.

  • Prefer to receive news in email: There are readers who simply prefer to have information delivered to their e-mail. E-mail is the one constant tool that people use. According to the Pew Research Center, 89% of Internet users send or read e-mail.  
Help Build A Loyal Reader Base
By connecting with readers and subsequently earning e-mail list subscriptions, bloggers and marketers generate powerful leads for future products and services.

As an example, Leo Babauta, author of Zen Habits,  explained how his loyal readers helped make one of his books a best seller.

David Risley states in his book that, "Your email list will be one of the most important assets you have in growing your blog's traffic and in monetizing it and making a bunch of money."

Even if I sell nothing, I recognize the value in building a loyal reader base.

What Should I Write About?
This is the question I sat on for weeks. However, after the frequent questions by my colleagues, I realized that  I can offer value to readers by including the following:

  • Blog posts: Share the title, summary, and link to articles hosted on my web site.
  • Upcoming events: Announce and remind readers about important or interesting events.
  • Interesting finds from the web: List the most popular stories I find and share via the web.
  • Archived blog posts: One way to revive older, but still relevant information, is to introduce archived articles.
  • Giveaways: As an added bonus for loyalty, I can provide free gifts and prizes.
  • News/Announcements: Sometimes, blog posts are too formal, but you still want to convey an important message to your readers. Consider sending an update on site changes, product launch, or new service offerings.  
Why VerticalResponse?
Once I decided that I would take the newsletter seriously, I began looking for a solution that would make this process as easy as possible. While I was originally using Google Friend Connect, I found that it did not have many of the features I wanted manage the list and refine the content. After a careful review of the major players, I rested with VerticalResponse. 

Below is a list of features that I found helpful:
    • WYSIWYG Editor: While I have the know-how to develop pages using HTML, I like having a simple tool to aid in the process. With only a few clicks of the mouse, I can spruce up my message to include colors, dividers, headers, and even images.
       
    • Templates: For a quick launch, VerticalResponse also provides a decent number of free templates. Unfortunately, I didn't like most of them and ended up going with a plain design. Don't let that stop you from looking around, because there are some nice layouts for certain businesses and holidays.

    • Opt-in form: The opt-in form is easy to create and simple to post on a web page. With this tool, visitors and readers a like can subscribe to your e-mail list with a click of a button.

    • Reports: One of the most valuable tools available. With VerticalResponse, I can review reports on sent e-mails and find out who opened and read the message. I can determine bounced addresses and see individuals who subscribe and unsubscribe from the list. If that wasn't enough, I can even pull Google Analytics.

    • Forward to Friend: Growing a loyal reader base takes time, but with Forward to Friend, users can easily pass on good information to others. As a result, your blog may find new readers and potentially new subscribers.
       
    • Spam check: One of the largest problems with newsletters is the likeliness of getting blocked because of excessive spam by the hosting company or by the use of common terms used by spammers. With spam check, you will learn if your message is at risk, whereby allowing you to make changes on the fly.

    • Flexible pricing: I am so new that my subscriptions are well under 100. Why would I want to pay a monthly fee for something I'm not maximizing? With VerticalResponse, I pay for what I use. As my list grows and I send more often, I am willing to pay more. 
    These are just a few of the reasons I chose VerticalResponse to host my newsletter. Of course, there are other perks like an online survey, social share, and more. If you're interested in learning more, take a quick visit to the VerticalResponse site. 

    Finally, if you haven't joined my e-mail list, take this opportunity to do so now. 

    Discussion
    Have you been thinking about starting an e-mail newsletter? If so, what questions do you have? For those with experience, what other tips do you have to those interested in making the leap? Let's discuss in the comment section below.

    Until next time...

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    Damond L. Nollan, M.B.A.

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