Newsletters - how do people do them

We'd like to send out email newsletters; could I canvas some opinion on the easiest way to produce professional-looking ones please? I know I personally receive hundreds every month (or so it seems) which suggests that it isn't a difficult process, but we can't seem to work out how to do it ourselves.

Just in case anyone's in any doubt, I'm looking to replicate the sort that arrive in your inbox with "click to load remote content" or similar in the top corner, and a "not displaying correctly  -view in your browser".

Ideas on both stand-alone newsletters and on those linked to the website (like accountingweb's ones) would be very welcome.

Thanks in advance!

Comments
bookmarklee's picture

I use a facility provided by Constant Contact

bookmarklee | | Permalink

 Have done for almost 5 years now. I choose to use a simple business letter style of template as I am told that many accountants view emails without displaying images.  I send two newsletters a week to over 3,000 accountants. Every copy is personally addressed and contains a simple unsubscribe facility too.

You pay a fixed monthly amount depending upon how many names are on your circiulation list. There is no charge for each newsletter that gets sent out.  This suits me.

You can add names to the email list without everyone having subscribed. BUT when you do this you'l be asked to confirm they have opted in. If you use the facility to send emails/newsletters to people who don't want them they can 'report' it as spam. If too many people do this Constant Contact will intervene.

Other providers of similar services - with similar safeguards - of which I have heard good things are mailchimp and aweber. There are many more too.  Some charge only for the number of emails sent out - which can be more cost effective if you're only using the facility on a monthly or less frequent basis.

Another advantage of using such a system is that they allow you to check whether email systems will view your email as 'spam' - eg: if you use certain words.  

Before I started to use constant contact I sent out emails through outlook. Once the list became a decent size this took some time and monopolised my mail server. This (old) approach also, apparently, means some mail systems will reject the newsletters when the circulation list is too long (even when you use the bcc box - which is a must, rather than To or cc).

If you like a particular newsletter you receive have a close look and you'll probably see a reference to the facility that's been used - eg: constant contact, aweber or mailchimp.

Hope that helps. 

Mark

ps: . You're welcome to sign up for complimentary copies of my practical, commercial and timely tax tips newsletter here.

NetAccountant's picture

What Mark said

NetAccountant | | Permalink

Aweber, ConstantContact and MailChimp are the leading providers of newsletter sending facilities. All three of them also provide countless "templates" to use if you want to hit the ground running, or you can import your own design into the system. I have also used VerticalResponse in the past which offers similar features.

All these providers also enable you to create "sign up forms" that you can add to your website and these are usually double opt-in types (person registers and receives an email to confirm / verify they are happy to be emailed).

Unsubscribe links are mandatory as well, whatever platform you use, otherwise you are going to get reported as a spammer - I even think that most of these platform do not let you send your campaigns unless you have one (or they add it automatically)

Having used VerticalResponse, MailChimp and ConstantContact, I find the latter is the easiest to get started on.

Now for your questions:

  • the click to view remote content is caused by the fact that images of the newsletter etc are not embedded directly into it but hosted remotely. This is caused by Outlook / your mail client rather than the newsletter itself.
  • I am not sure that the "view in browser" is something that is automated if you do not have a web page that is design to play this role - especially with third party systems, so it may be something to check..
  • links to your website with the usual "read more" is something that you would manually set in the newsletter you send. Links (and open rates) are usually tracked (to see how many people open the newsletter and clicked on the links) so there might be some testing that needs to be done to see what works best for you - tracked newsletter can have a slightly lower delivery rate because of the tracking features.
  • Standalone newsletter and linked newsletter both should have their place in your email marketing strategy. Announcements could be stand alone, while budget summaries - for example - could be leading back to your website for the full analysis.

disclaimer: I work at AccountantWebsmiths, one of the specialist providers of websites and newsletters for accountants, but the info provided should be as unbiased as possible :).

David2e's picture

Own email option

David2e | | Permalink

The above posts are certainly good advice, though they don't mention any options of sending out email from your own accounts... which can have good and bad points too.

The first benefit is lower costs since you avoid those monthly fees or additional costs on either the number or frequency of the emails.  It also means your emails can go out from your own domain rather than from others, however, it also means if you are reported for spam it may reflect on your own domain too.

Email campaign management is something we do offer either as a standalone tool, or integrated into websites we develop. We've also included this as a feature within our Online Practice Management System.

If you have your own website, depending on the framework behind it, there may be add on options available to integrate a newsletter subscription into your own site.

Any decent system should be sending out individual emails that can be personalised (ie using names) and I expect all listed here do that.

David Toohey
The Accountants Circle

Avoiding "the click to view remote content"

gsgordon | | Permalink

If you create content including images in Word for an email, you can avoid the "click to view remote content" issue - at least in Outlook. Copy the content from Word and paste into a blank email. I find it looks neater if you insert a single-cell table into the email and paste the content into that cell.

There may be a more sophisticated way of achieving this, but the method described above works and is very quick.

PUREaccountants's picture

What about Content?

PUREaccountants | | Permalink

 All of the above are excellant responses, I personally use MailChimp. I may have missed it but I can't see any mention of conent. 

Are you intending writing it yourself on a weekly basis or buying in content that you can amend?

There are many companies (at very reasonable prices) who can provide you generic content relating to the latest news, tax updates etc saving you time and obviously creating the opportunity to write specific articles for your clients weekly/monthly/quarterly.

I mention this as this is how I'm going to be running my own marketing this year. Having paid for a generic site/content in the past I felt I was wasting money. I now have a new supplier who will send me the content for me to use as I wish, using MailChimp etc.

 

Not sure if 

Really helpful, thank you all

SSmithCA | | Permalink

Thanks to everyone for the really helpful ideas. PURE, I'd love to know of some of the names of content providers too. Currently we write our own (very short and sweet), but it would be good to know the other options out there.

We will also have a look at the various systems you all mention.

Have you considered buying a software mailer program?

maxmillion | | Permalink

Instead of using a monthly subscription service, you could also buy what they call a "bulk" email program.

Two years ago I purchased and use a product called Groupmail from a company called Infacta.

It has many of the same features as the Subscription services like aweber and constant contact, including opt-in and opt-out and processing emailed unsubscribe requests automatically. It also handles bounce messages automatically, which I find is a boon, because that can be a time-consuming task

The product offers a number of html templates that are easy to personalise and it offers simple queries enabling you to select a subset of your complete list based on say postcode or other data field whatever your criteria may be. You also get to send them as plain text messages for those recipients who prefer it.

It holds as many names as you need and you can break those down into small groups or subsets, simply by copying a list from say an excel spreadsheet. So you could have multiple groups like "old-clients", "current clients", potential clients", Clients in Northamptonshire whatever.

There is a fully functional free version (can store unlimited records but will only send to 100 addresses at a time, and mail delivery is slower) but I have found that the Personal edition at £80 works perfectly for me. There is also a business edition costing a bit more at £200 which enables some clever database linking and extra add-ons.

 

PUREaccountants's picture

Suppliers

PUREaccountants | | Permalink

There are many suppliers from the usual practice web and practice track usuals. But also take a look at the 2020group who provide such stuff as part of their offering, accountantwebsmiths.co.uk, yourfirmonline.co.uk.

Each option depends on your budget but there are some here that off incredible value for money.

Hope that helps.

Bob Harper's picture

Easy or Effective?

Bob Harper | | Permalink

@SSmithCA - you ask for the easiest way and you have good answers. But, do you really want an easy and efficient solution or an effective one?

My recommendation is that you follow the lead of PUREaccountants and write your own content, unless you want to be seen as a template accountant. The tools are low cost and you have content all around you.

Have all the content on the Website because it is good for SEO and link to it from a brief email newsletter with one or two lines.

I have just finished a new report Trash the Template, if you email me bob@portfoliomarketing.co.uk I will send you a copy. This talk about the danger of taking the easy option.

By the way, this maybe an interesting option for you www.intouchcrm.co.uk. It is a CRM system which allows you to send emails out so you have two systems in one. I have not used it but I will be looking at this for myself within the next month or so.

Bob Harper

Portfolio Marketing
 

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