We talk a fair amount about scaling your online teaching business on Anomalous Educator. We also spend ample time on marketing and networking. One of the most common questions in regards to both of these topics is how to start a newsletter and gather email addresses.
Newsletters are perhaps the most scalable way to reach wide audiences of people with a clear and consistent message.
They can be used to launch products, generate interest in existing courses or lessons, and promote special offers. Perhaps their most useful function, which encompasses all of this, is that they put your brand right in front of a specific audience.
There are many services designed for creating email newsletters (which we’ll discuss below). The goal is to use your newsletter to reach your intended audience and hopefully convert some sales (new students!). Therefore, the first step is gathering email addresses.
How to gather email addresses
You may be familiar with the term ‘opt-in.’ An opt-in is when someone opts to join your mailing list. For this to be a true opt-in, the person must sign up themselves, without being paid to do so or having their email address put on a list without their knowing about it.
- A creative sales funnel is one of the best ways to obtain the email address of visitors to your website. The visitor is enticed to sign up in order to receive a perk of some kind. The perk can be a download (eBook chapter, infographic, etc.) or perhaps access to a set of content not available without signing up.
- Well placed opt-in boxes on your website can generate signups. Typically, it helps to offer the same perk, or place the box next to a highly valuable section of content. Visitors want value – that is the best way to get them to sign up for your newsletter.
- Pop-ups, slide-ins, and other flashy ways of catching attention on your website.
- Gather emails via a sign-up sheet at in-person events. Particularly if you are ‘tabling’ at an event, this can be highly effective.
- A tab on social media pages, especially Facebook. If your social pages are designed to get potential students interested in your services, the odds of them signing up for an email newsletter are much higher.
- Sponsored social media posts. If you aren’t a social wizard, hiring an expert to do this isn’t a bad thing to consider.
The best way to promote your opt-in is by having it pop up on the page when someone visits your site. When you visit Teacher Indie, for example, you see this:
We use a service called SUMO and highly recommend it. Our conversion rate has grown from less than 0.5% to nearly 2% in less than two months, all because we added this handy pop-up opt-in to collect email addresses.
You can customize the copy, photo, and buttons to represent your business or product — and the best part is they have both free and paid plans so it doesn’t cost anything to get started.
How to start a newsletter
Which service you use will depend on a few factors. The first is your website. Do you use Wix? ShoutOut is their in-house email marketing system and comes free with your paid subscription to Wix.
Most site-specific services like ShoutOut as well as common general services such as MailChimp, ConvertKit, and Constant Contact allow users to use pre-fab templates to format their newsletters. Each is a little different and designed for different types of users.
MailChimp is, in my opinion, the simplest and easiest to use. For those without prior email marketing experience, this is the best way to get your feet wet with creating newsletters and managing subscription lists.
It’s free up to 2,000 subscribers and includes basic templates and formatting features. Their paid plans allow users to use more direct marketing techniques and services.
Any newsletter service worth using allows users to manage multiple lists. Here is the breakdown on this: Say your online teaching business is running a special for first-time students.
You also want to send an update to current students about the next month’s lesson plan. You have gathered 1,000 email addresses and have divided them up into two lists – current/former students and general.
Because of this, you’ll have the ability to send separate emails, one to each group, without sending unnecessary or irrelevant information to anyone.
Newsletter best practices
A few helpful hints to make your newsletters more successful:
- Don’t over-send. In the last week, I’ve unsubscribed from four or five newsletters just because they send out way too many emails. Make each newsletter valuable.
- On that note, being sporadic isn’t helpful either. Try to maintain a schedule- either monthly, bi-weekly, or (if you have enough content to keep each blast useful) weekly. People generally don’t want to feel like they are being contacted out of the blue.
- When planning for and formatting your newsletter, think about your favorite magazine. Most likely, it’s divided into consistent sections that repeat in each issue. Do the same with your email blasts. A light intro and update, a monthly special or list of upcoming events. Repetition and a smooth flow from top to bottom are key.
- If you can, include a good header photo, and an image to accompany each section. Breaking the newsletter into sections keeps the reader on the page longer.
- Include a call to action (CTA). This can be a link to sign up for a lesson, a survey, anything that pushes the reader to take a further step and engage.
Before creating your first newsletter, take a look at a few that you subscribe to yourself. What do you like about them? What sticks out and grabs attention? On the other hand, what do you find yourself skipping over, or worse, makes you feel like unsubscribing?
Keep this stuff in mind when creating your newsletters. Building a strong email list takes time. But it’s worth it –actionable newsletters are the best way to regularly engage with an audience.