Questions on starting an email newsletter for my clients.
January 26, 2012 9:24 AM   Subscribe

I'm a freelancer, starting an email newsletter for my clients for the first time. I have some questions about email newsletters.

So I want to start an email newsletter for these reasons:
  • A client requested that I start an email newsletter with some general tech news and information
  • I'm always upgrading my offerings, and many of my clients have no idea about that.
  • I want to link to articles on my website to make the website more useful and benefit from the SEO perspective as well.
  • I have a Mailchimp account. Is that enough to start? Or overkill for about 50 clients? I know how to design HTML emails.
  • Should I be worried that clients will feel it's spammy?
  • Anything particular I should communicate in the first email?
  • Any pitfalls I should be aware of?
  • How often should these things be sent out? Is once a month enough?
Anything else I should know? Thanks!
posted by circular to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The answer to your questions depends, in part, on the industry(ies) for which you freelance. If it's at all tech-based, I would think that something like Twitter or even Facebook content would be more appropriate (and easier to manage) than an email newsletter.

If your clients are more traditional and corporate, perhaps an email newsletter is a good idea.

But whatever you do, you want your newsletter/content to get clients (and potential clients) to hire you. Therefore, you need to tailor whatever you send out, either via email, or via social media channels, to your clients' interests. Show your clients that you understand their concerns, problems, etc. And, even more pertinently, offer them a solution, in order that they hire you again or recommend your work to others.
posted by dfriedman at 9:30 AM on January 26, 2012

Best answer: If your clients "signed up" for this newsletter just because they happened to be your clients, yes, some of them will feel it's spammy. Do provide a way to unsubscribe or opt out in your first - and every - newsletter.

I don't know your business or your clients, but I'd say that once a month is plenty.
posted by ThisKindNepenthe at 9:32 AM on January 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks, dfriedman. My clients are mostly more traditional and corporate. I plan on tailoring much of the content to a specific audience, but will probably segment it out a bit, since I have some bigger clients who aren't in my primary target audience.
posted by circular at 9:34 AM on January 26, 2012

Best answer: I think that, with 50 "subscribers", Mail Chimp may be a bit overkill, and it also may be a little impersonal.

Ensuring your recipients are "opted in" would also be a great idea. I'm not quite sure of the legalities in this case (for mass mailings of thousands or tens of thousands of subscribers we have a process), but sending an initial email with a link for recipients to opt-out might be a good idea (but is it legal?)

If I were you, the first email should be personalized; each recipient should be addressed by first name. Let them know that you're planning a regular newsletter, and make sure they're comfortable with that. Since they will not be able to reply to a MailChimp email, provide a link to a Facebook page or something where they can leave feedback. I would even plan a second followup email, in case they don't get back to you.

Once a month is plenty, unless there are concrete and immediately understandable and relevant reasons for connecting with them more than that.

Some of my clients want me to send out newsletters once a week or something, and I have to tell them gently that if you do that no one will listen to a thing you say.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:38 AM on January 26, 2012

Response by poster: It sounds like opt-in from the very beginning is the best idea then. Makes sense to me.
posted by circular at 9:54 AM on January 26, 2012

Best answer: Also backup with a permasite for each newsletter.
posted by infini at 9:57 AM on January 26, 2012

Response by poster: infini, is there a recommended way to do that on one's own, or is it best to just use one of the commercial services for it?
posted by circular at 9:59 AM on January 26, 2012

Best answer: Mailchimp is very careful about not being spammy. Newsletters subscribers have to opt-in. There is a tiny paragraph at the end that says "you are receiving this e-mail because you have subscribed to [name of newsletter]. You have to provide a physical, snail mail postal address as well.
posted by Baud at 10:02 AM on January 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: All things being equal, for smaller mailing lists (but still much larger than 50!) I've found Campaign Monitor to be a little easier to work with than MailChimp. The content editor is more straightforward, and saves a little time if you're not doing anything too, too complicated.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:10 AM on January 26, 2012

Best answer: circular, when I worked on launching this site (and its initiating weekly newsletter) they had managed to do something at the back end of the blog and Campaign monitor so that I created the blog post each week and when it went out as a newsletter it was visually different from just looking like a mailed blog post (a template change of some sort). I'm sorry I can't be more specific technologically but I can recommend that using a blogging app of some sort helps (I went on to set up something similar for a couple of friends with small businesses but it was simply mailing the blog post though) - this way you end up with a blog post each week as well as the newsletter.
posted by infini at 11:23 AM on January 26, 2012

Best answer: Another way to approach this is to run it is a blog with a prominent "have new entries e-mailed to you" signup box (which can be done automatically by Wordpress and, I'm sure, other blogging software). Then announce it once, or put a link to it in your e-mail footer, or whatever.
posted by adamrice at 2:20 PM on January 26, 2012

Best answer: Re: KokuRyu's comments- Recipients can reply to MailChimp mails - you just set whatever reply-to email address you like.
You can also set the newsletters up to address everyone by their first name.
posted by KateViolet at 3:48 PM on January 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: OK, thanks everybody, so far my plan is:
  1. Configure account (done, used tinyletter, gonna see how that goes)
  2. Send out an email to clients with subscription link if they're interested
  3. Add signup form to blog
  4. Add "newsletter" category to blog, make it appear a bit different, kind of like Panic do with their blog
  5. Write up articles to accompany newsletter
  6. Write up newsletter blog post
  7. Paste into newsletter software, reformat as needed,
  8. Send newsletter.
Sound good? Thanks for the help so far.
posted by circular at 4:02 PM on January 26, 2012

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