Whether you are a start up or a larger company the process would be approximately the same.
1. Plan Your Campaign Structure and Presentation
Look at other campaigns you received, note features you likes and thought would be suitable for your own business, look at what your competitors are doing, go and ask your customers what information they would like to receive from you on a regular basis (offers, tips, articles, news) and how often they would like to be contacted. Then create an outline for your campaign design and content.
2. Sign-up Benefits
Are you going to offer a free report/download/consultation as a benefit of signing up for your list? If you haven’t got the gift ready yet you’ll need create one now. If you are not going to offer anything – think how you will communicate the value of signing up to your future subscribers.
3. Develop a Content Plan
Email marketing is a long-term strategy, not a get-rich-quick scheme (or customers). So plan for the next 6 month what you are going to send in your campaigns. What offers will you run? What articles and news will you share? Email content plan needs to tie in with your existing marketing strategy and everything else you are /will be doing to promote your business online and offline.
4. Choose a Suitable System
There are 10s of systems out there, some mentioned by Lee but also Campaign Monitor, Mad Mimi and some may be provided by your hosting/web design company. In order to choose the right system think strategically about the features you need now and in 6-12 months time. Does it need to integrate with your CRM? Paypal? Membership system? Are you going to send a lot of autoresponder? How savvy are you with HTML/CSS to edit your campaigns? Many systems will offer a free trial so that you can look ‘inside’ to make the right decision. Switching providers is possible but it’s likely that you will lose email archive of previous campaigns.
5. Set Up Your Template
You can either use a pre-designed template and tweak it for your needs (MailChimp is the easiest to do it) or get someone to design a template for you according to your campaign structure and business branding. In the latter case test your template carefully against most emails clients as there are huge differences between what HTML tags are supported by each system.
6. Add a Form to Your Website
To comply with CANSPAM law you will need to ensure people on your list expressed their consent to receive information from you. Double opt-in is the best method of compliance. So you can put your sign up form on your website (and Facebook page if you have one) and then direct traffic and leads to your website to get them to sign up. All email marketing systems will not allow you to import lists that you purchased, rented or copied from other websites (like a local business directory).
7. Advertise Your Newsletter Everywhere
To get more people to sign you can advertise your email campaigns on all your online and offline promotional materials, talk about it at networking events, ask customers to sign up at the point of purchase.
8. Create a Campaign
Using your Content Plan and Template you can then create your first email campaign, test it and send.
9. Measure the Results
Most systems will provide a comprehensive report detailing campaign’s performance like unsubscribes, opens, clicks, forwards over time. You can test different subject lines, different FROM names, different offers to see what works best. Some subscribers may even email you directly with their feedback. It’s also useful to ask for feedback when someone unsubscribes as you can then adjust your segmentation, frequency or content.
10. Improve and Start Again!
Using the results you can now improve your template, content and list segmentation. You can review how you are promoting your campaign: is what you promise actually what your subscribers will receive? And then you start working on your next campaign – as email marketing is a long-term strategy.
The main difference between a start up and a larger company (or more established) is that in the latter case you would have a list of existing and/or past customers. You could then contact them personally and directly (not via an email marketing system) and offer to subscribe to your new email campaign, explaining the benefits they will get. This will help you grow your list quicker initially rather than just waiting for sign-ups via your newly established website.