Newsletters – Simplified
If you have an audience, some of them want email from you
Having a newsletter is a must for anyone creating content. Newsletters can vary in depth and time commitment from a simple list of recent content and announcements all the way up to exclusive daily content. As long as it communicates valuable information to your target audience and publishes consistently, you’ll build authority with an email newsletter.
No matter what other content you’re creating, an email list with a regular newsletter is still one of the best ways to keep in touch with your audience.
In this article we’ll walk you through everything you need to know to start or level up an authority-building newsletter.
Choosing the right newsletter
The first two questions to ask yourself are simple —
- How large is your audience? Do you have any hidden or untapped sources of email addresses to kick-off the newsletter list?
- How much are you planning to invest in the newsletter?
Without at least 250 email subscribers, it’s best to spend your time focused on creating and promoting content that will help build the list. Stick to a Publishing Companion style newsletter and build your list! If you’re in the audience-building phase of your authority road map, your newsletter should be a top 3 content priority. It should not be #1 if your goal is to build an audience.
Regular readership can be much more easily measured than in the past. Skip over subscriptions as a metric and track what matters — readers.
A daily personal email is a much less risky investment once you have over 1000 subscribers or 500 regular newsletter readers. Wait until you have a big enough audience that you can invest in building personal relationships with top subscribers. A newsletter is one of the most effective authority-building and lead-generating resources available if you have a dedicated audience.
Whether it’s a line for an empty club or a six-month waiting list for a top-notch executive coach, people want what they don’t (or can’t) have. We recommend providing exclusive content like bonus resources, webinars and contests to your subscribers to help prove the value of your newsletter. Since exclusivity is such an open-ended opportunity, we’ve put together our favorite options for you to choose from.
This is the most common newsletter: “I’ve got a new THING, go check it out!” While your audience will probably appreciate an email as an option to hear from you, announcements are all about YOU. We only recommend a non-exclusive newsletter to experts just starting out on the path to authority.
This is the easy step-up from a 100% non-exclusive newsletter. Pick out a few favorite articles to share with readers, either from your archives or from around the web. Lightly-curated content is an easy way to make the newsletter a little more helpful every time you send it. Just be sure to read whatever you’re recommending. Our clients often use tools like Evernote or Onenote to grab their favorite reads each week. Alternatively, just email the articles to yourself.
Exclusive created content
Exclusive content is how you really start building authority and value in a newsletter. It could be as simple as a lead magnet upon signup, or it might be an entire weekly video series only for subscribers. Exclusive content helps drive subscriptions to your newsletter and builds trust with the audience. The investment becomes worthwhile once you’ve found your tribe and are effectively reaching the target audience.
To create or curate?
Good creation beats good curation every time, but they’re even better when combined. Take your curation to the next level by including an extra paragraph or two summarizing why you chose that piece of content.
Build an overarching topic into your content curation
We like to use curated content as support for our authoritative creations. As long as you tie the choices to your positioning and keep everything relevant to the target audience, you’re on track for quality curation.
The three most-common newsletter styles and who should use each
If you’re just getting started with content creation: make a Publishing Companion until you have at least 250 subscribers. We normally don’t look at the newsletter as a channel for growth until we have a few hundred regular readers, not just subscribers. At this point, focus your resources on building up a targeted following.
If you’re working to build an audience with guest appearances and other cross-promotion — use a Standard Newsletter and maintain your publishing frequency. Be sure to feature articles from sources where you’ll appear, in advance of publishing your piece.
A Standard Newsletter offers many more opportunities to feature others and get to know your audience via content submissions. Showcase your community and gain authority as a result.
If you’re preparing to launch a product or course in the near future: use a Personal Letter and increase the frequency of your publishing. The list size will most likely drop, but you should see an increase in engagement. This will better prepare you for launch by revving up your audience’s desire for more in-depth content.
The Publishing Companion
The simplest of all newsletter styles, this option essentially gives your audience the ability to receive an email whenever you publish a regular blog/podcast/article/video as well as any other big announcements. It should follow the schedule of your other content creation.
The Publishing Companion can be as simple as just sending out a snippet from a blog post, or your podcast show notes with a link to the episode on your website. These take very little time or investment to produce, and email platforms like MailChimp will even automate this process for you.
Publishing Companions don’t build authority, but email is a universal channel for content. This format is really only meant for communication. Your content will have to do the heavy lifting to generate authority.
Pro tip: Give your newsletter subscribers access or notice of new content before you promote it to the public. This will help you build a closer relationship with the audience, and hopefully you’ll get some feedback to adjust the work before the larger push.
Next steps: Engage with your best subscribers and ask them if they have any questions they’d like answered, or any specific kind of content they’d like to see from you. If you’re just getting started with content, create a lead magnet related to your most popular content so you can start driving more newsletter subscriptions and build the email list.
The Weekly or Monthly Standard
The most popular kind of newsletter is the Weekly (or Monthly) Standard. It combines recent content (like the Publishing Companion) with some curated content and possibly a short note as well. The curated content could be community-sourced, related articles, or content from your archives. A Standard is as effective as the work put into it. A multi-hour read like Evergreen Business Fortnightly or a comedic tone like The Hustle both bring unique personality and authority to their newsletters. This sets them apart from the competition and helps cement their authority by signaling the time and effort put into them.
Pro tip: Subscriber-only content and quality curation are the best ways to quickly establish your newsletter as something worth reading. Focus on exclusive content first and follow up your plan with a goal to encourage people to share your curated articles. Use a link shortener like Bit.ly to track and confirm shares.
Next steps: Schedule an exclusive online event or contest just for your subscribers. This will give you a chance to test your list engagement in a way that could bring in leads. Target those that participate with additional offers to help turn them into prospects.
Many newsletters start out as a Standard before their publishers find out what the customers want to hear. Continue to get to know your audience by asking for article submissions and questions.
The Personal Letter
A Personal Letter is a powerful option for authorities who already have large enough followings (500+). It acts as a strong force binding your fans closer to you. Over time, it will reduce your list size while increasing the level of engagement. These are normally written in a very casual or personal style, often as a direct letter to the reader. Personal Letters are best used by established authorities simply because they take longer than any other type of newsletter. Thirty minutes or even a full hour each day will need to be dedicated to writing the newsletter, if you want to publish daily as we recommend. A weekly letter should be a bit longer than a daily, but will still take a few hours each week.
The good news is that you’re able to prove your authority directly to readers every time you send one. While this style may be less effective in growing your audience size, it is a very effective way to build authority with existing fans. If your audience grows quickly while you’re writing in this form, then you know you’ve got the right content.
Pro tip: Start using your newsletter as a sounding board for new ideas, blog posts, and products. Ask the audience questions as often as you can to build a better view of your readership.
Next steps: If you haven’t set up any automation software or email drip campaigns, you should. Consider setting up an initial campaign with 5 or 10 of your best newsletters to send to new subscribers. This lets you put your best foot forward when they decide to subscribe.
The right tool for the right job
While picking out the right kind of newsletter is tough, picking the right software to send it can seem downright impossible. Dozens of reputable and successful companies provide email marketing software and some of them even build it into other marketing tools like automation suites or CRMS. Luckily, we’ve narrowed the search down to a few simple rules.
The best all around
You still need a newsletter. Use MailChimp. It’s simple – Just follow any of the hundreds of online tutorials on how to use it. It’s powerful – MailChimp is a solid product with a lot of features, that’s the reason they’re the market leader. And, it’s free – Up to 2,000 contacts with unlimited sends per month. If you’re above that, consider a less-pricey option or be prepared to pay a premium for some features.
Our favorite for automation
Drip.co is what we use and recommend. It’s powerful marketing automation software with email newsletters and campaigns built right in. While it’s a bit more complicated than MailChimp, it’s much more powerful if you want to automate engagement or build out large drip email campaigns.
ActiveCampaign is great software. It has many (maybe too many) features, but we hear a lot of good things about their automation and email. They don’t have a free offering like MailChimp, but they’re a great middle choice between good automation and ease of use.
Investing the time and effort to make an authority-building newsletter isn’t worthwhile for most authorities-to-be until they have the audience and growing subscriber base to make it worthwhile. Get your newsletter up and running FAST if you’re building subscribers. Pick an emailing tool and start republishing your blogs and other content directly to your audience.