I probably don’t need to sell you on the idea of having a newsletter. I’m pretty sure you’re already aware of the relationship-building potential of having a newsletter for your theatre company or arts-based business. I don’t like the hard sell, so I like newsletters. My favorite one is published by the good people over at Biz Books. It’s not a hard sell–it’s just about putting the information out there in a really accessible, easy-to-read format. The free ticket giveaways are a bonus (everyone likes getting stuff for free).
The purpose of this post is give you some e-newsletter options. Not too many people are doing hard-copy newsletters these days. The price of layout, printing and stamps is formidable if your list is over 100, and there are lots of great programs out there that can do the online equivalent for just pennies per click.
So, why not just send out a formatted email? A couple of reasons. First off, your email might get tagged as spam, and then it never gets to your client’s inbox. Second, different email platforms view things differently, so your fonts, photos and links might come out all screwy (yes, that’s a technical term).
E-newsletter software circumvents all that. What you see in the program is what your clients will see in their inbox. Comforting to know when you’ve just spent 6 hours laying it out and writing the perfect copy, no?
Secondly, E-newsletter software handles all your database issues. If you have a database of email addresses, every time one bounces, you have to go in and remove it. Every time someone unsubscribes, you have to go in and remove it. The software takes care of all that for you, and more besides: it can also track your opening statistics (ie: it can tell you how many of your emails were opened, and how many were not).
Here’s a list of the top E-newsletter software out there right now, and their pros and cons.
Constant Contact is the industry leader. There’s a few reasons for that. First off, they offer a 60-day trial period, longer than any of the other softwares out there. Second, they have excellent customer service. The day after I signed up for my free trial, I got a call from some guy in Minneapolis (or some place like that) called James, asking if I had any questions. They worked for my business. Third, they offer a 30% discount for non-profits.
Constant Contact has good templates, and the interface is pretty easy to use. You can drag and drop boxes to add more, or just hit delete to make them go away. I have had some challenges changing nitty-gritty details, like background colours.
IContact: is also really big. If you have a small mailing list, like around 500, it’s a bit cheaper. Their trial is only 15 days. They also have a cool feature where you can archive your newsletter to your website (check out Biz Books). Even though they say they have more templates than Constant Contact, I found them to be harder to access. Overall, I think they create cleaner-looking newsletters than Constant Contact, and I really like that.
Mail Chimp: If you are just getting started, and you have a small mailing list, I’d start with Mail Chimp. It works more like a pay-as-you-go cel phone, whereas the others work on monthly fees. Mail Chimp does credits. You start with 600 for free, and every time you send an email, it costs you a credit. You can buy more as you go along, or you can go to a monthly fee. Overall, the templates and interface are very useable, and it has a sense of humour that I really appreciate.
if you are in the market, there are a few more: Blue Sky Factory, Member Clicks, and Vertical Response, which offers deep discounts to not-for-profits.
A couple of my clients have asked me about Canadian E-newsletter software, so that they don’t have to pay the exchange on the dollar. The only one I found, based out of Kelowna, E-Newsletter Software, charges in American dollars!
It’s a big world out there, with lots of choices. So, if you are considering going E- with your newsletter, sign yourself up for some free trials, and have some fun experimenting with the software.