You’re standing on a stage in a crowded auditorium. In the audience are your most supportive fans. These are the people who buy your products and rave about them to their friends. They’re the ones who read your blog posts and Instagram feed faithfully and leave you supportive comments. And now they’re all gathered in one place, looking up at you from their seats, waiting expectantly.
What are you going to give them?
This is the scenario I imagine each Tuesday afternoon when I open Mailchimp, click the “new campaign” button, and compose my newsletter. Each week I have the opportunity to make something special as a gift for my most loyal supporters – an email message.
You have the opportunity to do the same.
Many small business owners miss this opportunity all together by not collecting email addresses. Or, if they do collect email addresses, they rarely send anything. If you assume you have nothing to say and nothing to give, and that your loyal fans (the ones who trusted you enough to share their email addresses with you) don’t want to hear from you, you’re missing a huge opportunity. Your fans are gathered and waiting for you. You’ve got so show up!
Other businesses take advantage of this opportunity to a degree by setting up an RSS to email campaign. This means that every blog post they write is emailed to their fans automatically. It’s a good first step because at least their gathering email addresses and sending something out. It’s also the easiest option. You write one piece of content and publish it in two places – on your blog and as an email.
But is it the most effective option?
While doing research to prepare for my CreativeLive class on email marketing I spoke with artist Ann Wood about her email strategy and learned something really interesting about the difference between RSS and a newsletter. Ann told me, “I used to just send an RSS update, but it felt like a waste and a missed opportunity to connect with people. It seemed like an easy solution, but giving the whole post was a waste. I want readers to come to me and see everything I have to offer.”
Remember those faces looking at you from their seats in the audience. Is your latest blog post the absolute best thing you could give them?
Blog content and newsletter content are often written with different goals in mind. Here are some thoughts to consider about those differences:
- Frequency of the send– I publish blog posts three times a week. From talking with my subscribers, three times a week feels too frequent for an email. Other people update their blogs only a few times a month and that might be too infrequent for an email. With an email newsletter you can create a send frequency that’s optimal for email which might be very different from what’s best for publishing on a blog.
- Purpose of the content – When I write a blog post I often have a particular intent. This post about how to use safety eyes, for example, is referenced in many of my sewing patterns. That’s why I wrote it. This free pattern for a rag doll brings tons of traffic to my site from Pinterest. Part of my motivation for writing it was to boost traffic in an ongoing way. An email newsletter has a different intent. My goal for email is to nurture relationships with my most dedicated fans even when they aren’t buying so that when they’re ready to buy they feel like part of community. Sending them a tutorial isn’t necessarily the ideal step toward that goal.
- Intended action – What result are you hoping for when you send your email? If you use RSS to send a post in its entirety, your readers will read the post in their inbox. Is that the best action you can hope for or could you send something that would bring your readers to your site to read and shop instead?
An email newsletter also allows you to send out exclusive content to your most loyal fans. Ann told me, “Some of what you get in the newsletter is only going to be for you, you aren’t going to get it on my blog or on Facebook or anywhere else.” Treating your email subscribers as your special fans creates a sense of belonging, like being members of an insider’s club. That kind of intimate communication means that your subscribers are very likely to email you back, comment on your blog, buy from you, and share your products with their friends.
If you’ve already got an RSS to email campaign set up, you’re halfway there! To truly make the most of email marketing, take that RSS list and start sending something even better.
1. Import your list. If you’re not using Mailchimp now (and these instructions are for Mailchimp because that’s the email service provider I’m familiar with) you’ll need to download your list as a CSV file and import it into Mailchimp. Here’s how.
2. Pause your RSS campaign. If you’re already using Mailchimp for RSS to email, you’ll need to pause your campaign. Here’s how.
Now you’re ready to begin sending out a newsletter. In the first issue you can explain that you’re now going to be sending a real email newsletter, rather than RSS. You’ll still link to or include your latest blog posts so your subscribers won’t miss out, but now you’ll be making your emails even more interesting and useful.
Email software like Mailchimp costs money, but like investing in a branding and hosting and website design, it’s a business expense that’s well worth paying for if you use it well.
Ann summed up her experience this way, “People engage much more with my newsletter than they did with my RSS to email. It makes my followers feel respected and connected. The difference was immediate and remarkable.”