The process of creating an email newsletter is fraught with potential bottlenecks and pain points. After nearly 20 years of experience building email newsletters for clients, we definitely have some thoughts about it. So, what are some of the most important features that you will find in the best newsletter building applications? We have 11 that come to mind.
A Content Calendar and Plan
Unlike one off email campaigns, email newsletters require an ongoing and consistent content production process. Your newsletter service should help you plan and implement this process – not just once – but for all the times throughout the year your newsletter will be published. In addition to your goals, this plan should include a content calendar that maps out the topics you want to cover and the timing of content to internal and external events – like trade shows, product releases, holidays, etc. This allows you to compute the timing of when you need to produce content and how to make it relevant to what else is going on in your world. Do not underestimate the value of operating with a content calendar and a plan.
Original newsletter content
Fresh, new original content is always one of the biggest challenges of a newsletter marketer so coordinating the production of this content should be a part of your newsletter process. The content calendar and plan lets you know what needs to be written. A workflow process is how you get it done. An ideal service will incorporate this type of workflow in the newsletter tool so that you can manage the content production with your writers.
Even better, consider a service that coordinates writers who can write articles for you on a regular basis. These writers follow your editorial calendar and can provide a regular stream of relevant content in your own voice. This is an important way to fill the gaps and ensure you have the original content to allow you to produce and send a regular newsletter. Original content is also the type of material that search engines and your clients like to see.
Easy to include relevant content from your blog and trusted sources
Your organization may already produce original content on blogs and social media that can be featured in your newsletter. By tapping directly into these content sources, your newsletter platform should make it very easy to include this content.
Creating new original content is a great way to fill your newsletter. However, this is only part of the overall picture. It is also best practice to identify content coming from external trusted sources that you can curate. These sources may be industry news sites, blogs related to your marketplace, and related social media accounts. You can develop a list of all of these places and check them regularly. But to make it easier, your newsletter tool should aggregate these content sources in one place. This puts all of this content at your fingertips – to easily incorporate into your newsletter with a single click.
Fast and efficient newsletter templates, with automation and mobile friendly design
Point and click ease of use is important. Going to multiple places and editors to assemble your newsletter can waste a lot of time. The best newsletter editor will already contain direct access to the content used to assemble your newsletter. In fact, you might even configure your template to automatically collect content from your most important resources and from your blog. Simple rules can determine which type of content goes into each section of the newsletter layout. This gives you a head start even before you have begun working on your newsletter. Imagine opening up the editor to find a fully assembled newsletter. From the editor you can easily remove the extra content you do not want and make small edits to finalize the rest. This concept of pre-building a newsletter is a powerful feature that makes your work much more efficient.
Automated landing pages to host full newsletter articles
The ideal email newsletter does not overwhelm your audience with content. It captures attention and highlights three to five core articles. The email itself should be relatively compact so that it avoids spam filters. A title, short teaser and a thumbnail lead the reader to click to read the complete article on your blog or on hosted landing pages that are associated with the newsletter. It is a good practice for a newsletter to be structured this way so that clicks are recorded when people want to read the articles. This allows you to understand what content is being read and which topics are the most popular.
Hosted newsletter archives to connect to your website and improve your search position
An archive of past newsletters can be connected to your Website to obtain multiple benefits. It provides a resource for visitors who can glimpse a history of your organization and what you have published. The archive also reinforces your search engine optimization. It adds new pages connected to your website that can promote your keywords and enhance your search position.
The best newsletter systems will automatically provide a newsletter archive that includes both the emailed portion and the hosted landing pages containing your articles. This avoids all the work needed to convert an email newsletter into a web page and connect it to your website.
Integration to blog and social media
An email newsletter is a critical component of a three pronged marketing strategy that includes newsletters, blogs, and social media. The email newsletter is particularly powerful because it is the only type of content that is pushed out to your readers through your email list. This provides the opportunity to drive traffic back to your blog and drive conversations around your social media posts.
The best newsletter software understands the importance of these other formats and automatically provides ways to incorporate blog and social media content and conversations into the newsletter template. For example, if you have a Facebook post that has received 5 comments, it would be great to publish this post and comment thread into your newsletter to gain even further engagement with your customers.
Integration to other email marketing platforms
Access to a tool that helps you build an effective newsletter should not be constrained by the email marketing platform in which you are already invested. While having its own email engine is a plus, a powerful newsletter builder should be compatible with all of the leading email marketing and marketing automation platforms. This gives you the flexibility to focus on the newsletter production process without being hampered by the system that maintains your email list.
Content sharing and lead collection
Encouraging your readers to share content is a great way to extend the reach of your newsletter. One common method is to provide sharing links at the top or bottom of the email to encourage people to share the hosted page in the newsletter archive. Even better, allow each specific article within the newsletter to be shared. In this way, readers can pick out and share the most relevant information with others.
A good newsletter tool does all of this and more. The sharing methods are part of the template and can be turned on easily. Lead collection forms can be used at the time of sharing to identify who is sharing and what is being shared. The lead forms can also be used as a gatekeeper to unlock premium content.
Content-based newsletter reporting
There are a number of ways you can track your marketing activity. For example, Google Analytics is a great way to measure your website traffic and determine traffic sources. On the other hand, a typical email marketing campaign will track email metrics such as the number sent, number bounced, the number of opens and the number of clicks. Email newsletter reports have the added benefit of telling you exactly who clicks on what link.
A quality newsletter platform goes even further by providing reports that indicate which articles and topics are the most compelling to your audience. This analysis can tell you which articles are getting the most clicks, shares, and impressions. It is also a good idea to have activity reports emailed automatically one day and three days after the email newsletter has been sent. This provides almost real-time awareness of what your clients and prospects are reading, providing actionable information to your sales team.
Option for fully-managed newsletter service
Having the best newsletter tool in the world will take you a long way. It provides all of the infrastructure, workflows and best practices in one place. However, even with the best tools, you may find yourself resource and time constrained. This is where a helping hand can bring it home. The option to have help in assembling and sending your newsletter each month should be an important consideration when selecting your newsletter solution. Ideally the managed newsletter service offers easy methods for reviewing drafts and editing and customizing portions yourself to give you flexible control over the process.
For more information about marketing with newsletters and for a demo, see http://contentmx.com