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There are so many things to consider when it comes to growing a business. Customers – with particular reference to gaining and retaining them – are usually near the top of the list, but one of the most powerful tools always seems to be considered only as an afterthought: email newsletters.

Too often, newsletters are overlooked. Many consider them a menial task and outsource them to the intern, or someone at the bottom of the production line. But by helping to build followers or a community, they have the power to grow a business. This is largely because they are sent via a platform that has been around for decades, and isn’t going anywhere soon. They’re also a way to talk directly to customers, and showcasing at a glance what your business does.

According to a 2014 study by McKinsey, email is still one of the most effective ways to reach out to customers. The same report claims that for every dollar a business puts into email marketing, they could get 40 back.

As well as sending communications via email, newsletters (or e-newsletters) should be given due consideration; they can be read on multiple devices, and you have the option to update and amend them as you see fit. Many businesses have little marketing budget, so an e-newsletter is the perfect way to invest in marketing without having to spend excessively.

All that is required for a quality e-newsletter is a strategy, for it to be delivered regularly, and, of course, for it to look good. You can use them for a variety of tasks, be it to communicate news, sell your latest product, or give something away. Whatever the aim, they allow for long conversations between you and your customers – something that social media fails to offer.

To help you on your way, here are eight steps to transforming your business with an e-newsletter, inspired by the book ‘Do/Open: How a simple email newsletter can transform your business (and it can)’ by David Hieatt:

Catch your customers’ attention.

It’s important to put as much time as possible into creating your newsletter. You want it to grab the attention of prospective customers, and you want them to look forward to receiving your communications.

Understand your audience.

Show that you know your readers by providing them with something they want. For example, if your audience works in internal communications, a content planner may be really helpful. Giving your audience something without asking for anything in return is a nifty tactic, as it builds trust between you and your customers. Once that trust has been established, your customers will view your products and services differently, and will be more likely to buy.

Create something meaningful.

E-newsletters will only work for you and your business if you put effort into creating them. They need to have a strong strategy behind them and must add value to the recipient in some way.

Be creative.

The design of your e-newsletter needs to be eye-catching and distinctive to your brand. As these newsletters aren’t physical, you have to make the reader want to read on, even if only to admire the layout and masthead. The better the design, the more likely it is your customers will appreciate your business.

Your audience are your customers.

Remember that your audience is not just a list of email addresses. These readers have chosen to sign up to your newsletter, and could become – or may already be – paying customers. If you send out your e-newsletter on a monthly basis, for example, ensure that means every month.. You need to think of your customers like a community, and it is your job to ensure they remain engaged.

Choose your inspiration with care.

From time to time, you may lean on an influencer, another company, or individual for inspiration. This could be in the form of a link to their work within your newsletter, or a simple mention. Be smart about your choices, and make sure whoever you choose as reference, is creating content worthy of promotion.

Engagement is key.

Make sure you deliver your newsletter on time every time. It will be hugely detrimental if you start to miss a week sporadically, or change the frequency without communicating such an amendment to your audience. You’ll also maintain engagement if you continue to bring new ideas to the table, as this will show your audience that you are going out of your way to create value for them.

Talk with one voice.

Your tone of voice is incredibly important in email communications. If your company has a particular tone of voice when producing editorial content, it’s important to keep this up in e-newsletters too. It’s much easier for customers to engage with a voice they recognise and understand. Remember, your voice comes through in everything you produce, not just the words.

Most companies use email to communicate, arrange meetings, and even share work, so why not use it to grab customers? And best of all, you don’t need to be a top designer to create a great piece of e-news. There are so many providers to choose from – Mailchimp, for example – and they’re all relatively easy to use.