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How to start a newsletter and connect with your customers

An email newsletter can help you share updates and build relationships with your customers. From opt-in forms to welcome emails, here's how to start a newsletter with Podia.

When you start an online business, you run into a ton of content about email marketing.

You probably see experts talking about “growth hacks” to build your email list — and a lot of opinions about email newsletters.

Some marketers claim that the newsletter is dead, while others swear by it as their top income source. There’s enough contradictory info out there to make your head spin, especially if you’re new to marketing your online business.

We’re firm believers that the newsletter is alive and well — and that starting a newsletter can be an easy, low-stress way to build relationships with your audience, share your ideas, and grow your business.

That’s why we put together this guide for creators like you. We’ll cover everything you need to start your first newsletter, from collecting email addresses to sending your first email (template included). And we’re showing you how to do it all through your Podia dashboard.

But first, what exactly is an email newsletter? And why should you start one?

What is an email newsletter? And why should you start one?

An email newsletter is a regularly scheduled email sent to your email list. You might also hear newsletters referred to as “broadcast emails”.

Email newsletters often include:

  • Product updates and announcements

  • Content roundups, including blog articles and educational resources

  • Stories and musings

  • Industry news

  • Helpful tips for your audience

In other words, your newsletter can include any content that your subscribers will find engaging or valuable.

What makes newsletters great?

Over 4 billion people will use email this year, collectively sending about 320 billion emails per day. And 73% of consumers rank email as their top channel for marketing messages.

Email is one of the most effective and affordable digital marketing tools. As a small business owner, every dollar counts, and email has one of the highest returns on investment (ROI) of any marketing channel:

That ROI can be even higher when you use an all-in-one tool like Podia.

With Podia, you’re not just getting an email marketing tool — you’re getting a platform that lets you manage your email marketing, create your website, and sell digital products from a single dashboard.

(See for yourself. Try Podia for free with a no-strings-attached 14-day trial.)

Plus, Podia makes it easy to start sending newsletters to your audience. But first, you need a way to start collecting email addresses. Keep reading to learn how to add a newsletter opt-in on your site. (Spoiler: Podia makes that step a breeze, too.)

How to add a newsletter email capture to your website

Before you can start sending newsletters, you need to build your email list. And to build your email list, you need people to opt in to hearing from you.

Like vampires, marketing emails have to be invited in. If you email people without their consent, your messages are far more likely to end up in their spam folder.

When your emails show up uninvited, you risk breaking people’s trust and the law. Never buy a list of email addresses. It might seem like a quick way to build your list, but it can violate two of the main anti-spam laws: CAN-SPAM and GDPR.

(Quick note: I am not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice. When in doubt, consult a small business attorney.)

Both CAN-SPAM and GDPR regulate how businesses can attain and use email recipients’ information.

In the U.S., the CAN-SPAM Act is “a law that sets the rules for commercial email, establishes requirements for commercial messages, gives recipients the right to have you stop emailing them, and spells out tough penalties for violations”.

GDPR is a European law that states that consent for email communications must be “freely given, specific, informed and unambiguous”. In other words, email subscribers must opt-in to receive your emails.

One of the biggest benefits of entrepreneurship as an online creator is being able to reach people from around the world. If you have customers or subscribers in Europe, you must comply with GDPR, even if you’re not based in Europe.

What does all of this have to do with your email newsletter?

To start your email newsletter — and stay on the right side of the law — you need to give subscribers a way to opt-in to hear from you.

That’s where newsletter email captures, also called opt-in forms, come into play.

Developer and teacher Reuven Lerner uses the opt-in form on his blog to grow his email list.

“I’ve found that posting to my blog, and then getting blog posts repeated and re-posted by others, and then having an opt-in widget on my blog, is a great way to go,” Reuven told us.

Emily Mills, founder of Sketchnote Academy, includes a newsletter signup form on her Podia homepage:

When you use Podia as your email marketing platform, it’s easy to add a newsletter opt-in form like Emily’s to your website. Here’s how it works.

Add a newsletter form with Podia

First, go to the site editor.

Navigate to your homepage or the landing page where you want to add your newsletter capture. Then, click the plus sign to add a new section to the page.

In the left-hand sidebar, click “Newsletter”.

You can edit the header, text, call-to-action (CTA) button, and design for your opt-in form to match your voice and brand.

To make the most of your newsletter form:

  • Give people a specific reason that they should subscribe to your email list.

  • Tell them what information you’ll send them. Tailor your messaging to your target audience’s interests and pain points.

  • Explain how often they can expect to hear from you.

Your newsletter capture will look the same on every page on your site, and you can even embed it on a non-Podia website by clicking “Copy embed code”.

Once you’re happy with your opt-in form, click “Publish”. It’s that simple.

After someone signs up for your newsletter, you can set up an automated email confirmation, like this one from VNutrition and Wellness:

Asking new subscribers to confirm their email address is called “double opt-in”. We recommend using a double opt-in process — it helps you build an email list full of people who are excited to hear from you and engage with your content.

To set up a double opt-in with Podia, head to “Site settings”, then the “Email” tab.

In the Email tab, you can turn double opt-in on or off and edit your email opt-in text. (To learn more about updating your email marketing consent opt-in message for GDPR compliance, check out this help article.)

Don’t forget to click “Save changes” when you’re done.

Once a subscriber confirms their email address, they’re officially on your email list. And you’re ready to start sending them content that they’ll love. I’ll teach you how to do that next.

How to send a welcome email to new subscribers

To meet those expectations and create a top-notch customer experience, your welcome email should do three things:

  1. Set expectations. How often will they hear from you? What kind of content (and value) will they get from your newsletter?

  2. Welcome them to the list. Make your new subscribers feel like a part of your community.

  3. Invite them to connect. Share your social media platforms, blog, and any other places your audience can connect with you online.

Passive income coach and entrepreneur Rachael Taylor does a great job welcoming subscribers to her email list.

I subscribed to Rachael’s email list and received this email the next day. Rachael’s welcome email:

  • Thanks readers for subscribing.

  • Tells them what kind of valuable content she plans to share.

  • Shares links to her social media accounts and encourages new subscribers to interact with her there.

Podia makes it easy for creators like Rachael to automate the welcome email process, saving time and creating an excellent customer experience.

Send a welcome email with Podia

To set up an automated welcome email, you need to create a conditional campaign. Conditional campaigns are email campaigns that subscribers enter when they meet a specific condition — like signing up for your newsletter.

First, go to the Email tab on your Podia dashboard. Then, click “Create” and select “New campaign”.

Give your campaign a name. This name is just to help you keep track of your campaigns, so only you will see it.

Set your campaign entrance condition. For your newsletter welcome email, you want people to enter the campaign when they sign up for your newsletter, so select “Joins mailing list”.

Next, it’s time to write your email copy. (If you need help getting started, we’ll share a welcome email template later on.)

You can also choose how soon you want your email to go out, preview your email, and send a test email to yourself.

(For this use case, you only need one email in your campaign. To learn more about creating automated drip campaigns that span multiple emails, check out this help article.)

Your welcome email primes subscribers for all of the stellar newsletter content to come. Now, it’s time to start sending that promised content to your list.

How to send a newsletter to your email list

Like we mentioned earlier, you can share tons of different types of content in your newsletter.

Not sure where to start? Here are some newsletter ideas to get your gears turning:

  • How-to guides

  • Top 10 lists for [topic]

  • Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

  • Interviews with an expert

  • Ask me anything

  • Behind the scenes content

  • Industry news (and your take on it)

  • New product announcements

  • Social media contests and giveaways

  • Customer stories and reviews

No matter what kind of content you include, make sure that it’s relevant to your audience’s goals and pain points. 71.7% of users who cite content as irrelevant say that it’s too general in nature.

Another way to make your newsletter stand out in a crowded inbox? Craft subject lines that your audience can’t resist opening.

47% of email recipients open emails based just on the subject line. On the other hand, a whopping 69% of email recipients report email as spam judging solely by the subject line.

Here are some tips for writing an irresistible subject line:

  • Avoid using the word “newsletter”. It can decrease your open rate by 18.7%.

  • Shoot for a length of 6–10 words.

  • If it fits your brand, add an emoji or two. Companies that include emoji in subject lines have up to a 56% higher open rate than companies that don’t.

When I write email subject lines, I always run them through the Send Check It tool. This email subject line tester grades your subject line based on several factors and gives suggestions to help you get more opens.

You can also A/B test different subject lines to find what makes your audience want to open your emails. 70% of professional marketers report that they test subject lines and messaging most frequently.

For more subject line formulas and tips, check out this guide to email subject lines.

With all of these tips in mind, let’s walk through how to send a newsletter email with Podia.

Send a broadcast email with Podia

Head to the Email tab on your Podia dashboard. Click “Create” and select “New broadcast”.

Give your email a subject line using the tips we covered above. Then, choose which subscribers will receive your email. To send a newsletter to your entire email list, choose “Select all”.

Next, add your newsletter content.

Podia features a rich-text editor that lets you format text and add various types of content to your emails.

You can add:

  • Bold and italic text

  • Lists

  • Headings

  • Quotes

  • Links (including a mailto: link for opening an email address)

  • PDF files

  • Images and GIFs

(Learn more about the rich-text editor in this help article.)

To see how your newsletter design will look when it hits people’s inboxes, preview your email or send a test to yourself.

If you’re happy with how your email content looks, click “Review & send” to send out the broadcast. You can also schedule your newsletter to send later, which means you can plan out your content ahead of time.

Once you start sending email broadcasts with Podia, you can track email metrics right from your dashboard. Metrics like open rate, click-to-open rate, and conversion rate help you figure out how well your newsletter performs (and where you can make it even better).

Here’s what email metrics look like in the Podia dashboard.

Click “Email” in the top navigation. You’ll see a preview of the analytics, such as open and unsubscribe rates, for all of your recent email broadcasts:

You can also see more detailed analytics by clicking the subject line of any email.

From there, you can view the analytics report for your email, including the number of people who received, opened, clicked, and unsubscribed from your email.

Want to learn more about measuring your email performance? Check out this guide to six email metrics to start tracking.

Otherwise, let’s move on to our final piece in this email newsletter puzzle: A welcome email template you can make your own.

A newsletter template you can use today

Before we wrap up, here’s a welcome email template to help you get a head start on your newsletter. You can use this email template for the conditional campaign we talked about earlier, so it goes out to new subscribers as soon as they sign up.

(As always, this template is intended as a starting point. Remember to personalize your emails and tailor the content to fit your voice and your audience.)

Hi [first name],

Thank you for signing up for my newsletter! I’m so happy you’re here. 🎉

[Brief introduction to you and your brand.]

You’ll receive [weekly/monthly] tips and resources to help you [your audience's goal].

In the meantime, let’s connect on social media. You can find me on [social platforms and links]. Feel free to reach out with any questions, comments, or just to say hi.

Talk soon,

[signature]

For even more email templates, check out these digital marketing email templates and product launch email templates.

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Start sending your email newsletter ASAP

Email newsletters can be a powerful piece of your marketing strategy. They give you a place to share announcements, start conversations, and keep current and potential customers engaged.

To recap, here are the simple steps you can take to start your own newsletter:

  • Add a newsletter opt-in form to your website or blog. Tell visitors why they should subscribe to your newsletter, and make sure to follow privacy best practices.

  • Send an automated welcome email to new subscribers. This email should introduce you and your newsletter and tell people what they can expect from future emails.

  • Create personalized newsletter content with irresistible subject lines. Don’t be afraid to try out different formats, content types, and subject lines — just keep an eye on your email metrics along the way.

If you’ve reached this point, you’re hopefully ready to build a newsletter that’s as unique as you are. We can’t wait to see what you create — and if you have any questions about email marketing with Podia, we’re here to help every step of the way.

A portrait of Rachel Burns

About the author

Rachel is a content marketer for Podia, an all-in-one platform where online courses, digital downloads, and membership websites – alongside their creators – thrive. When she’s not writing, you can find her rescuing dogs, baking something, or extolling the virtue of the Oxford comma.