How do I create an e-newsletter for my small business?Firstly I would like to warn against sending advertising email messages to non-clients or to unsuspecting persons/businesses.

If they are not a client or have not signed up to your list the newsletter can be considered as SPAM, for which you can be penalised.

Consult the CAN-SPAM compliance guide.

Getting started with e-newsletters

There are a few ways of creating an email newsletter for your business, but my favourite is MailChimp – an email marketing and email list manager.

MailChimp manages your email list by taking care of unsubscribes and addresses that no longer exist.

For small lists which are under 2000 subscribers, sending under 12000 per month the service is “forever free”. No contracts, no credit card. You can sign up here login.mailchimp.com/signup.

How to signup to MailChimp : step by step instructions

If you are happy signing up on your own, then click jump to the next set of instructions. If not, keep reading.

  1. Sign up to MailChimp on the free signup page.
  2. Complete three fields – username, email address and password. When MailChimp is happy with your input you can click the create account button.
  3. You will be directed to the SUCCESS page. Close this window for now.
  4. After this you will need to ACTIVATE YOUR ACCOUNT, by means of clicking a link within an email.
  5. The activation email arrived very quickly for me and was labelled MailChimp Client Services from clientservices@mailchimp.com. Check your SPAM box if you have not received the email within about 15 minutes. Click the large red link within the email.
  6. You will be taken to a page where you need to confirm your humanity. This is so spam programmes cannot sign up. Can you see the wiggly letters within the box? If you can make them out type them into the field underneath it. It does not matter if these are lowercase or uppercase, or if the two words have a gap inbetween. As long as the letters are correct.  If there is a comma, type the comma too. Click the “Confirm Signup” button.
  7. At this stage the website timed out on me – which is basically where nothing happens. Now through experience I just assumed the information had been taken and navigated through to the MailChimp Login Page.

How to get started with MailChimp

  1. Once you are signed in, you will arrive at the MailChimp Let’s Get Started page.
  2. Complete all the fields, and tick to sign up to MailChimp Boot Camp at the bottom. MailChimp encourage you to comply with the rules of sending campaigns out. An e-newsletter has to clearly display your business address, as per your website. The CAN-SPAM compliance guide will explain in detail.
  3. Once you click to confirm your details you will be redirected to the MailChimp Dashboard.

Create a subscriber list in MailChimp

If you have been collecting email addresses and stored them in a document, for example on an excel spreadsheet, you can easily import it using MailChimp.

Create a list in MailChimp

  1. Go to the CREATE A LIST
  2. Enter details in the fields on the page.  I usually name my lists something that reminds me how these people signed up eg. “Website sign up”.
  3. One field is “remind people how they got on your list”.  You could write your own, or copy and paste this text:
    You are receiving this email because you signed up for my newsletter via my website.
    You will be required to add an OPT OUT link later.
  4. Next it will ask you to check the mailing address for this newsletter.  If you are doing this newsletter for yourself, it should be the correct business address that you typed in earlier.   Why do they need this?  By LAW you must include your contact information inside every promotional email that you send, including a physical mailing address where you can receive mail or a PO Box. (Not just a website or email address.)
  5. I would tick both boxes saying “Email me when people subscribe”  “Email me when people unsubscribe”.  This way you can keep on top of things.  You can always opt out of this later.
  6. Email format:  Most email clients on a computer these days can receive an email in HTML format.  HTML is the standard language for the Internet, and will mean that your email lands in their inbox as you intended.  However, as a small business remember there will always be someone who is a little behind in technology, or receiving on a phone, so tick the box next to “people can pick email format (HTML, plain-text, or mobile)”.  It just covers all angles.
  7. Click SAVE
  8. The next page will give you the option to IMPORT CONTACTS.  So if you have got your email list ready, you can go ahead and click on import contacts.  If you do not have any, do not worry, you just need to start encouraging people to sign up to your e-newsletter.  This will be a whole different blog post!
    Click here for details on using a list on MailChimp
  9. You can import a list by copying and pasting from EXCEL, as a CSV file (comma seperated values eg. a text file where fields are separated by commas) or from another services like Google Docs.
  10. Once imported you can view and edit your list.   There is a “navigation bar” at the top of the MailChimp website.  Just click LISTS to view all your lists (you can have more than one).

Creating a MailChimp campaign

  1. On the “navigation bar” at the top of the MailChimp website click CAMPAIGNS.
  2. Lets do a regular campaign, so you need to click on “Regular ol’ Campaign” (you will get used to the MailChimp way of chatting to you)
  3. MailChimp will then as you which list you want to send the campaign to.  I only have one in my option list at the moment, so I will use that one.   Note: you can send to a section of the list or create a new list from here.  I’ve clicked “send to entire list”.
  4. Most of the fields are filled out for you automatically, but you will need to put a name in for campaign.  This will be how you see it within MailChimp, no one else will see this.
  5. Subject field: your customers will see the subject field when the email comes into their inbox, so do put something useful and informative, and relevant.  Do not write something considered spammy like “Read this and receive a free prize” as this will put people off, if it makes it to their inbox and not their spam box.  Make sure your subject field tells the reader what the email is about.  This is also required by law.
  6. Personalise the To: field.  If you have got the names of your recipients in your email list, I would keep this ticked.  There is a little bit of code in here, that will read the NAME column of your list and use it in the recipient field.  This personalises your message, so this is a good idea.
    Here are the codes you might need for this field.  For First Name type *|FNAME|* in the field.  Second Name *|LNAME|*  or email address is *|EMAIL|*.  I would use both first name then second name (*|FNAME|* *|LNAME|*) space inbetween OR just the code for email address.
  7. Tracking, social networking and more: I myself would integrate with both twitter and facebook, to show all my followers I have sent out a newsletter, and hopefully get them to subscribe.  You will need to click on both the buttons to connect to the Social Networks and authorize MailChimp to use your accounts.   Definitely tick to TRACK your opens and clicks.  If you have Google Analytics on your website also track via Google Analytics – this will be really helpful.
  8. Now scroll the bottom of the page and click NEXT

Choosing a MailChimp template

  1. You will now be able to choose your template. Click SELECT next to the template that you like. Then click next.
    There are lots and lots of pre-designed template that you can choose from and add your personal style too, like your logo. Or you can create your own template and save it for later (that’s another blog post).
  2. Your template is now displayed on the left hand side. The options on the right hand side. You can drag boxes from the right to the left (text, images, social media icons).
  3. Once the box is in your template, on the left you can click on it to view the style options, which appear on the right hand side.
  4. Once you have edited a box click SAVE & CLOSE.

Confirm and send your MailChimp newsletter

Once you have the design you desire click NEXT.

On this page you confirm the list you want to send to, the subject line and various tracking options.

When you are ready you can SCHEDULE the newsletter to go out, or you can send it right away. I advise to wait for a time you think your clients will be able to sit down with a cup of tea and have a read.