Not Just A Newsletter - Guest Blog by Matt Chatterley

Not Just a Newsletter..
Keep your eyes peeled as you navigate the web and you'll soon realise that almost every single website has a Newsletter which they'd love you to join. This cycle is self perpetuating - when creating a website for your venture, you know everyone else has one - so you have to have one too!
Before you dive right in, stop and think! There are several basic questions which are very useful in this situation (in truth there are more, but these five apply particularly well to Newsletters). If you can't answer them all satisfactorily then perhaps you should wait until you can before forging ahead.
I'll share my answers (on behalf of Mattched IT) with you - and try to give you some pointers to help you to reach your own conclusions.

WHO - do you want to subscribe to your Newsletter?
Our target audience is primarily small business owners (notionally extending to senior managers in larger enterprises) - people who are the "IT decision makers" in their organisations and to whom we can advertise and sell our products and services.

You may find you want to run a newsletter for a different demographic to your default customer base - you may even want to partition your newsletter list and send different messages to different people. Ultimately the key reasons tend to be Sales/Marketing related or to increase the level of engagement and communication which is sustained with clients.

WHY - should they sign up?
Because they've seen our website (or engaged with us via social media - Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn) and want us to keep them updated on new products/services which we launch as well (or changes to existing services). Occasionally we also offer discounts or other promotions exclusively to Newsletter subscribers.

I often feel that the incentives for joining our newsletter are quite weak, if I am honest. Partly because of the nature of our business - which is service orientated - as well as nature of the services we offer - which very rarely change. It's likely to be very different for you, depending on what you do. If you update your products regularly then you've got a killer reason right there - they can be the first to find out when you start selling widgets in blue as well as red!

WHAT - is in it for me?
Increased engagement with the audience, and the opportunity to periodically remind them that we are here, and that we can help them should they be facing any challenges in the IT department. We also try to encourage our subscribers to forward our newsletters on to their friends and colleagues if they feel the content might be of interest.

There must be a clear benefit to your business for it to be truly worthwhile running a newsletter. If you sell a tangible product then your newsletter can be a very exciting and powerful tool - it's an opt-in list which you can market to, as long as you are sensible and courteous when doing so. Otherwise you may have to look closer to find a good reason!

WHEN - are you going to send Newsletters?
We aim to send one each month, although we do occasionally skip an edition if there is absolutely nothing to report. Mainly because I personally believe it's somewhat frivolous to use our client’s time reading a message - when really we have nothing to say to them - and certainly nothing of value to offer.
It's key that you don't send newsletters out too often. Your unsubscribe rate will tell you immediately if you're too vocal - because it'll be high! People are accustomed to once a month, but that doesn't mean you can't send them out bi-monthly or even fortnightly if it is appropriate for your audience.
Don't save up a colossal amount of information and send out a novel once a month if really you could be sending out relevant messages which have meaning and value to your subscribers on a weekly basis - there is a limit to how much information people can (and want to) absorb in one go!

HOW - are you going to manage your email list and newsletters?
We use MailChimp. It's great - and has a brilliant free trial, too. This lets us manage our lists through a handy user interface, use their API to automatically add subscribers from our website (we can easily integrate yours too, if you like) - and means that we don't have to worry as much about making sure people have opted in, legal requirements and handling bad addresses which get onto the list. The reports have just the right amount of information to help maximise performance too.

Enough of selling someone else’s product! My point is that you probably don't want to just keep a list in a text file - there are strict requirements you need to follow under various pieces of legislation (not least of all the Data Protection Act) - and if nothing else you need to exercise the same due diligence that you do in all the other areas of your business. Plus you need the tools available to work out what happens when you send a message and to help you make the most of your list.

And where does that leave us?
Put plainly, a newsletter can be an enormously powerful business tool and can be hugely beneficial to both you and your clients if used properly. But if used poorly or badly implemented/managed, it'll achieve very little apart from using up your precious time. Remember - failing to plan is planning to fail!

Matt Chatterley
Director - Mattched IT

Mattched IT offer a wide range of Web Design, Web Development and Search Engine Optimisation services tailored to meet your needs and requirements.


  1. Good Post there Matt :)
    Completely agree with the WHEN section, time is an important aspect, I always think of it as would I have time to read this if I sent it.

    Sending too often is a sure fire way to go into overload.
    Although not as technical a post as I would have liked to have seen it's still worthwhile people reading and reviewing their aims and goals about their newsletter.

    Perhaps there will be a 2nd part going into more depth ;) The end figure I use is the Churn rate which also encompasses the un-subscribe rate. Segmentation is a whole new topic by itself too ;)

  2. Hi Kev - thanks for commenting. Yeah - "WHEN" is really critical. And hard to get right, as well - you need to really study results to figure out the best way to get to each audience (or segment).

    A more technical one might be a good option in the future - maybe looking at ways of analysing results and improving on them - and you're right about churn rate too - it gives you a snapshot view of list growth and a nice simple metric to measure performance by.


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