Once upon a time, your computer proudly announced “You’ve got mail!” any time an email arrived. What joy! What excitement! What anticipation—oh it’s another group email chain or some spam… 🤦♂️
Today, the average internet user receives more than 100 emails per day (but only opens 1 in 5).
Email marketing is as old as the internet itself, but it’s still the most reliable way to build a profitable online education business (and the only way to email 1,000 friends).
Even though email marketing is still the uncontested champion channel, it has changed.
You Need to Start an Email Newsletter. Here’s How:
Simply put, an email newsletter is the best way to serve your audience by delivering real solutions to real problems for real people, before they even leave their inbox.
It’s not enough to send an email to announce your new content or product, you need to deliver value immediately in the content delivery, itself.
This is now true for every platform.
It’s not enough to post a link to your article on LinkedIn or Facebook or Twitter—you need to post valuable, engaging content native to the platform you’re posting on (and then you can link back to your website for further reading, if you’d like).
Your first choice, as a content creator, is to decide which medium to master. If you choose to be a writer, you need to learn how to write a winning newsletter your subscribes want to read.
Once you’ve done that, your subscribers are more likely to keep opening your emails, clicking on the links you send them, and buying your products (because you’ve already earned their trust).
I've sent more than 10 million newsletters to more than one hundred thousand inboxes with my name in the “from.” If you count emails I’ve written “from” clients… I’ve sent billions to millions 🤯
By design, those email newsletters have led to tens of millions of dollars in sales for online education products for myself and my clients, so… how do you write a winning newsletter? I’m glad you asked 🤓
Step 1: Make a promise
Nobody actually wants your “emails” just like nobody really wants a couple hundred pages of paper when they buy my book 🤷♂️
When someone takes action by subscribing to your newsletter, reading your email, or buying a product they are buying the promise of a happier, healthier, or wealthier version of themselves.
So, which will it be? Start with those three categories (and yes, you must pick only one). Who are you helping, and how will you help them?
Once you've picked a category and target customer, go one step further and articulate how you will do that in a one sentence promise. For example, will you:
- Empower successful women to take control of their finances (like Jennifer Welsh)
- Help couples rescue & recover their marriage (like Mark & Jill Savage)
- Help busy business men lose weight (like Alan Thomas)
Whatever your promise is, make sure that it is compelling and clear, solving a problem that your audience already cares deeply about, where they are actively engaged in seeking a solution to their problem.
For this promise to fuel your newsletter without end, it also needs to be part of an Infinite Game.
Step 2: Write 5 Lessons
It's temping to jump straight to setting up a landing page or shopping for email marketing software, but wait.
First things first, try your promise on for size. Write the first five lessons (or “issues”) of your newsletter without sending them to subscribers just yet.
Even though your newsletter has one central promise, each individual lesson should serve as a standalone solution even if a subscriber read just one email, apart from the rest.
What is the most important, foundational insight that you find yourself repeating over and over again? Start with that.
What are the most common questions clients ask you, or what are the first questions they ask? Answer those next.
After writing five lessons, you should get more clarity on your writing style, your promise, and your potential. Do you have much much more to say, or did you get your manifesto out of your system and now you're ready to move on?
In the process of writing, did you get more clarity on what type of subscriber you're writing for, and how your newsletter needs to be structured to meet their need?
Congratulations! You are now a full month ahead of your next writing deadline if you publish a weekly newsletter, so you can write with intention but without intensity, to keep up the good work.
Step 3: Select Your Email Newsletter Software
Thankfully, there are many excellent email marketing platforms to choose from today.
Almost all of the options available meet the "good enough" threshold to get started—so I won't judge you for your software selection (unless it's Infusionsoft, which is somehow both incredibly expensive and the absolute worst platform available 😵💫).
Both ConvertKit and Ghost are built for content creators, by two different teams of creators who have done the hard work of building content publication businesses themselves.
ConvertKit starts with a free plan, and then scales affordably as you start using their amazing automation features and your subscriber list grows.
Ghost doesn't have a free plan or any automation features, but it is an open source software that can power both your website and email list (which is how I use it here).
Either platform is best in class for what they offer, and simply meet different needs.
Do you want to keep your existing website separate, leverage email automation, or get started for free? Use ConvertKit.
Do you want an all-in-one super simple solution that powers your website, email newsletter, and also paid membership? Use Ghost.
In the past, I've used ConvertKit to build automated newsletters that are delivered to each subscriber sequentially based on when they subscribe (in one case, the newsletter automation lasted more than one year). That was super slick.
Currently, I'm craving simplicity and I personally have a bad habit of spending lots of time tinkering with automation to master every feature of every software I use.
For me, Ghost's limited features is the feature I need. I can write a newsletter as an article on my website, and that arrives in the email inboxes of my subscribers as soon as I hit "Publish & Send."
Step 4: Start Sending (Don’t Stop)
If you already have an email list, even a small one, then start sending your newsletter weekly at the same day and time without fail.
That consistency builds trust and anticipation with your audience, and keeps you top of mind with potential customers, week after week.
Some subscribers may buy your products, or share your newsletter with a friend. Others may unsubscribe, and that’s okay! It’s a natural part of the process.
As you write, you’ll refine your newsletter based on feedback (in the form of replies or surveys but also open rates and unsubscribes).
Your best newsletter content may become it’s own product, or part of a book, or you can recreate that as micro-content on social media, too.
Even when you send non-newsletter emails as part of a promotion, your subscribers will be warmed up and engaged so they’re more likely to open, click, and buy.
With time and intention, you too can bring back the joy of "You've got mail!"