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Email How-To Tip

Q: How can I improve the effectiveness of my email newsletters?

In this email how-to tip, we'll discuss four easy ways that you can simplify your workflow and save time while improving the reach and effectiveness of your regularly scheduled email newsletters.

Extending the delivery of your newsletters

Let's say that you have a monthly newsletter that is sent out on the first day of every month. The newsletter also has a public subscription page where people can subscribe to it. Unless people subscribe exactly on the first day of the month, they will have already missed the delivery of the current month's newsletter and will receive the next month's newsletter as their first issue.

However, wouldn't it be nice if people would receive the current newsletter immediately after subscription so that they wouldn't have to wait until the next month to receive their first issue? LISTSERV Maestro makes this easy if your newsletter subscribers are stored as a subscriber list in the LISTSERV Maestro subscriber warehouse and if you're using the built-in subscription forms.

When you send out your newsletter, you simply use the recipient type "Send to a List or Dataset in the Subscriber Warehouse" in the "Define Recipients" wizard and select the desired subscriber list.

Then on the "Delivery Settings" page of the mail job, you specify the first day of the month, in other words, the day when the newsletter is supposed to be delivered to the current subscribers.

Then you enable the advanced scheduling options. Since you are sending the newsletter to recipients that are stored in LISTSERV Maestro's subscriber warehouse, these advanced options include the "Extended Delivery" option, which you select as shown below:

When using the extended delivery option, after the initial delivery of the newsletter on the first day of the month, LISTSERV Maestro will continue to check once per day if any new subscribers become available. If so, then the current month's newsletter is automatically sent to these new subscribers without the need for any further manual input.

The period during which LISTSERV Maestro checks for these new subscribers can either be open-ended or set to a fixed end date. The former is usually only used for one-time jobs, while for recurring jobs, like a monthly newsletter, you would usually set a fixed end date so that the extended delivery period of the previous issue does not overlap with the delivery of the next issue.

In our example above, we have set the extended delivery period to end at midnight between April 25th and 26th, five days before the end of the month. As a result, any new people who subscribe to the newsletter during the first 25 days of April will receive the April newsletter shortly after their subscription (remember that the system checks for new subscribers only once per day).

With this configuration, any latecomers during April will still receive the current April newsletter. But during the last five days of April, we refrain from mailing out the April newsletter to any new subscribers in order to not overload them with too many issues in a short timespan since the next scheduled newsletter, on May 1st, is just around the corner. Of course, for your own settings, you may decide to shorten or lengthen this grace period at the end of the month, or to not have such a grace period at all.

Using images without having to manually store them on a web server

In this day and age, no one will seriously consider sending out a plain text newsletter. Instead, newsletters will almost always use HTML and most likely also include images. The problem with images in HTML is that they must be stored somewhere so that the subscriber's email client can retrieve and display them.

The standard solution for this is to put the newsletter images in a suitable location on a web server (for example, your own company web server) and then reference these images in the newsletter HTML code by using their web URLs.

The problem with this solution is that it's cumbersome and creates additional work for you as the newsletter creator. Not only do you have to make sure that the correct image files are put into the correct location on the server (which you may have to coordinate with the webmaster), but you also have to make sure that these images remain there more or less indefinitely because if the images are removed prematurely, then anyone who views your newsletter will only see broken images.

LISTSERV Maestro offers two methods to solve this problem.

You can either include the images directly in the email as inline attachments. This has the advantage that the email is self-contained and can be viewed even if the subscriber is offline. However, it has the disadvantage that it increases the size of the email and that some (older) email clients may not be able to correctly display such inline images. If you want to use this method, select the "Inline image embedded in message" option of the image dialog in the content editor.

The other solution is that you can upload the images and let LISTSERV Maestro take the role of the web server where the images are located. This way, the HTML code still references the images as web URLs (and the email itself does not contain the images as attachments), but these URLs now point to LISTSERV Maestro instead of a separate web server. If you want to use this method, select the "Linked image stored on a server" option of the image dialog in the content editor, then select the "I want to upload the image and let LISTSERV Maestro serve it" choice and select the image you want to upload:

The advantage with having LISTSERV Maestro serve the images for you is that you now don't have to deal with the inconvenience of having to maintain the image files in their correct location on your own web server. You don't even have to know the correct web URLs of the images. Everything is handled automatically by LISTSERV Maestro, and LISTSERV Maestro will continue to serve any images uploaded in this manner for as long as the mail job that the images belong to is not deleted from the system.

Automatically archiving newsletters

When sending out a newsletter on a regular schedule, it's always a good idea to also offer web access to an archive with all old issues of the newsletter. Such an archive does not have to be complicated. It could be a simple index page on the company website with a list of all previous issues where each entry is a clickable link to view the issue. Each time a new issue is sent, you simply add another entry to this index with a link to the new newsletter.

However, where should these links point to? Most likely the newsletter is in HTML format already, so it should be easy to convert it into a web page and add this web page (and all images it uses) to the website too. The URL of that new web page is then the URL that the link on the archive index page must point to.

While such an approach is of course possible, it is impractical and requires additional work. The HTML newsletter must be converted into a regular web page, and the web page and its images must be stored in the correct place on the web server, likely requiring the cooperation of the webmaster.

With LISTSERV Maestro, there is an easier way because LISTSERV Maestro automatically makes a "view in browser" version of every mail job available after it has been delivered. So you can use the URL of this "view in browser" version as the target URL for the link on the archive index page.

To find out the "view in browser" URL for a mail job, select the job in the job list after it has been delivered, then select the "Preview" tab in the job details pane. In the top-right corner of this tab you will find a link titled "Share Link". Click on this link to show the popup with all supported social media share links:

The popup contains icon tabs of the supported links, and one of these tabs is always the "Generic Share URL" tab. This is the one with the little icon on the tab. This tab may even be the only available tab depending on your LISTSERV Maestro configuration. Make sure that the tab for the generic share URL is the selected tab and then make sure that the generic share URL is enabled. If not, click on the "Enable Generic URL" link to enable it. Once enabled, the tab now shows the actual URL:

You can copy and paste the URL from here and use it as the target URL for the newsletter's entry on your newsletter archive index page.

So each time when a new newsletter issue is sent out, instead of having to create a new web page (with all related images) and linking from the archive index to this new web page, you only have to enable the generic share URL of the newsletter as shown above, and then add an entry with this URL to your existing archive index page.

And even better, each access of the generic share URL is counted by LISTSERV Maestro, so you can later view a report about how often the URL was accessed.

Automatically publishing a link to the newsletter on Facebook and Twitter

If you are sending out a regular newsletter, chances are that you also have a Facebook page with fans or a Twitter account with followers. If you do, then it's probably a good idea to share each new newsletter issue with your Facebook fans and Twitter followers – after all, not all of them are likely to be subscribers but may find it interesting regardless. You may even generate some new subscriptions that way.

Of course, you can create a new Facebook post with the URL of the newsletter manually, or tweet the URL on Twitter every time a new issue is sent out.

But LISTSERV Maestro can help you with this too by automating the process. When using the automatic publishing feature, LISTSERV Maestro will automatically create a Facebook or Twitter post for you at the moment the newsletter is delivered, including a link to the "view in browser" version of the newsletter.

To use this feature, three configuration steps are required.

Step 1 must be performed by the LISTSERV Maestro administrator, so you may want to ask your administrator about it (please point the administrator to LISTSERV Maestro's "Admin Tech Doc 11 – Social Media Integration" for more details).

Once this has been done, you have to perform Step 2 while logged in with your own LISTSERV Maestro account. From the menu, select "Utility" -> "Social Media Settings" and then enable "Twitter Publishing" and "Facebook Publishing" as desired. For this, use the Twitter and Facebook accounts that LISTSERV Maestro is later supposed to post to:

While the previous two steps only need to be performed once, the following step is required for every newsletter that needs to make an automatic Facebook or Twitter post at the moment of delivery.

On the "Define Message" page of the mail job, go to the "Social Media" tab and provide a message for Twitter and Facebook, as desired:

LISTSERV Maestro will post each of these messages to the configured social media account at the moment it delivers the newsletter. Each message will be published together with a link that the fans and followers can click to see the "view in browser" version of the newsletter.

And, of course, LISTSERV Maestro will also count all clicks on these links, so that you can later view a report about how often the newsletter was viewed through each social media channel.

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