Create & Send your first email

This track is all about getting an actual email out to your list. Even if your list is new, you can send an email as long as there are a few people on that list. Ideally, this will show subscribers they did the right thing by signing up. I’ll be using MailChimp, but the process will be similar in any email software. Some of this is similar to the process you followed when setting up your welcome email, so it may be familiar. 

Activity 1: Create and send an email

This is divided into several steps. You don’t have to do them all at once, because MailChimp will save your progress, so it’s absolutely fine to spread them over a few days.

MailChimp has a LOT of options, but we’re going to keep it simple, by creating a campaign. You’ll select Email from the options below:

Give your campaign a name, then you’ll be taken to a one-page form to set up your email. 

Once you’re there, here’s what you do:

Step 1: Pick who you’re sending the email to. This is your list or audience. Click Add Recipients and select your list.

Step 2: Choose who the email is coming from. This is you. You’ll need to enter this manually, but if you copy future emails the info will be there automatically. 

Consider a format like [first name] from [site or business], so recipients know who the email is coming from. This makes a big difference to whether they actually open your emails.

Add the email address you want people to reply to. The first time you use a new email address MailChimp may ask you to verify it. 

Step 3: Write your email subject line – this is what people will see in their inbox, and it will help them decide whether to open your email. You can and should add preview text, for more info, as it’s another factor in making people open.  

Learn more:

Step 4: Choose a template

Most email providers have multiple email templates, and you can also find external templates you can use. My own practice, after much trial and error, is to use a simple one column template. It allows me to have:

  • a branded header
  • the email content 
  • social contacts and other email marketing details

This works for 90% of the emails I send. But you’re welcome to use as much design flair as you want. 🙂

Here are some email newsletter design tips to get you started. 

Step 5: Write the email content

Most templates include sample content. Now you’re going to replace the sample content with your own, and write your first email. 

Let’s keep this simple. You’re using some of the same principles from Mission Not Impossible to draw your reader into your email. There’s just one thing. Most emails are short – 250-300 words – so you don’t have much time to make an impact. Every word has to count. Here’s an outline you can use:

  • Greet your subscriber
  • Introduce the content of your email
  • Add a call to action
  • Give more detail on the topic of the email
  • Add another call to action
  • Sign off
  • Add a PS (I don’t use these often, but everyone says they work) and a final call to action

Here’s more guidance on writing email copy:

Select any images you’ll need to send your email. At the very least, you’ll need a version of your logo (or a new logo resized to fit your email template), You may choose to include an image in the content.

Step 6: Tweak your URLs

Go back to the wizard page

Up at the top there’s a name for your campaign. Tweak this so it means something to you. For example, when I ran the Biz of Writing course, I labeled each email according to the unit. This means I could easily find it later.

Down at the bottom under Share Your Campaign, you can also change the URL to make it more friendly. 

MailChimp will still add letters and numbers to the end, but at least most people will be able to understand it. This URL is where the live version of your email campaign will live online

Step 7: Test and send or schedule your email

When you think you’re done, send a test email to yourself.  See where the email ends up (hopefully not in spam) and proofread for errors. 

Here are some tips on avoiding the spam box:

Once you’re done, fix any errors that come up, then send your email for real.  You can also schedule your email if you want it to go on a particular date and time.  

Activity 2: Try these other email marketing tasks (optional)

  1. Connect your social media accounts if you want your campaign to automatically post there when it’s live. Tweak the social posts to make sure they’ll look good.
  2. If you have an email list already, switch it up and send a different kind of email. Consider including a poll or survey to help your audience get to know you better.
  3. Check on email deliverability, which  is the ability of your email to reach the inbox at all. Learn more about deliverability in this article on email list hygiene: 

Email list hygiene: Why it’s time to clean your list

  1. Pick some more topics from your email marketing calendar and plan them out: subject line, preview text, bullet points. This will put you in a good position when you’re ready to send your next email. You can also write the whole email and schedule it to go out on a different day.
  2. Enable email automation. If you want to put part of your email on autopilot, you can automatically share new blog content. 

Most email service providers offer a way to import RSS. This is useful because if you spend time customizing the email, then you can be in regular touch with subscribers without having to do anything. Here’s how you do that in MailChimp:

And here are MailChimp’s tips on email automation:

Additional reading

These were written about ecommerce, but the principles are much the same: