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5 Steps to Begin Monetising Newsletters for Small Businesses

Updated: Aug 28, 2023

For businesses looking to monetise their emails and newsletters, things can be a little daunting. Follow these 5 steps to monetise a newsletter for small businesses.

Person with dollars in their hand black and white photo

Any business can monetise their newsletter

There’s often the fear that monetising emails and newsletters will scare away the readers you’ve worked so hard to sign up.

That said, with the right monetisation process and strategy, this fear can be easily overcome while improving your personalised customer experience.

There are a ton of resources online around how various businesses have monetised their emails, but we’re going to break down the 5 steps to monetise a newsletter, regardless of your industry.

Let's dive into each of these and discuss how you can monetise your email marketing and newsletters today 💸

Step 1: Turn web traffic into subscribers and your subscribers into website visitors

Emails that offer a simple set of (relevant) links can boost your website page views, which may help increase your web rankings, on-site advertising opportunities and subscriber conversions.

Many potential customers will sign up for a newsletter, before engaging with your brand. These can be a great opportunity to entice potential subscribers by offering a taste of the content they’ll receive once they sign up, subscribe, or buy.

Below is a great example of using links to promote traffic back to the website of the Daily Maverick, who use their emails to send only a few sentences to their audience, enticing them to click and read the full article. This audience then clicks on the article intro to reading more on their website, because who wants to read an essay on email right?

Based on the reader’s subscription, they will either have unlimited articles to read or can only access those for unpaid readers (we'll cover this shortly).

A snipper from the Daily Maverick newsletter with article examples and links

The main function and goal here is to drive website traffic because that's how the Daily Maverick's funnel works. They're intent on driving readers to their website where they can convert them to premium, paid members.

The inverse is also true in their other channels driving website visitors who they look to convert to premium email subscribers.

Both share the intention of creating revenue from their email marketing. A win-win monetisation model, especially for news and entertainment publishers and content creators.

Step 2: Advertising in your emails and newsletters

Many email newsletters or update emails are sustained through advertising, which increasingly takes the form of either visual advertising, native advertising, or sponsored content.

Arguably one of the most effective of the above is native advertising. Native adverts (and sometimes, sponsored content too) are designed to look like part of the sender of that email's content, which helps ensure people read, or at least consider looking at this content.

The size and design of this type of content range widely because its main aim is to "mimic” or blend in with other content within the email or newsletter.

The other more common email adverts include banners or even sponsored email themes.

By now, everyone is familiar with banner ads, and though sometimes audiences are disengaged from this form of advertising, you can still create great impact using animated GIFS as banners, or making sure these visual adverts are relevant and appealing.

Here's a great example of an unobtrusive sponsored advert section from the Sahil Bloom Friday 5 Newsletter:

Example of sponsored content used as part of email content by Sahil Bloom

You could utilise this format for cross-promotion, sponsorship and even advertising or review-style sponsored articles.

The reason this method is so successful is due to the way that the content and sponsored content/ adverts blend in, instead of standing out obtrusively, which interrupts a reader's flow through your email campaign.

It's all good and well if the intention is to interrupt and have a reader take notice, however, this can also derail the consumption of content and needs to be well-planned and laid out within your emails.

Step 3: Promote a membership for premium content

If you consistently provide quality content and information to your readers, they may be willing to pay for exclusive access.

Promoting a premium site, paid package or premium subscription with exclusive content is one of the best ways to monetise your email list.

This is especially relevant to publishers, but regular businesses with an engaged email database and something to offer can also capitalise on this by sharing exclusive articles, help guides or content that only apply to VIP customers or premium subscribers.

You can think of these for e-commerce too, such as having a VIP list of paid members who get first access to products, premium content or assistance, or even the chance to be featured in other content.

Example of gated content for premium subscribers by The Times UK

Above is a great example from The Times, encouraging free readers to subscribe to receive exclusive content.

This is referred to as “gated content” and should be used cautiously. It is generally encouraged when you have content that is valuable when you hold an engaged audience and have the resources to facilitate payment for such content, easily.

We have to warrant caution here...

You need to ensure that the content your audience pays for truly has additional value, and is not merely a repetition of what your general audience gets. It's the only way you can keep a paying audience engaged and committed to remaining a paid member.

Step 4: Add affiliate marketing to your email plan

To explain affiliate marketing as simply as we can, being an affiliate is generally pretty straightforward:

Your company gets paid a commission on any sales you generate for a certain company through their content in your emails, or on your website.

A popular example is, BuzzFeed which has been doing this for a few years now under a specially crafted newsletter. This newsletter is aimed at exclusively driving sales to partners like Amazon, Mac Cosmetics, and other retailers.

An infographic explaining how the affiliate marketing model works

Affiliate links are often simple to implement, however, there is a danger in simply signing up with every affiliate you can.

Your ability to select only those affiliates that share your values (just as with selling your advertising space), is crucial to the success of your affiliate marketing. If your content, values, and relevance don’t match the affiliate adverts, your plan can be doomed from the start.

It needs to be a major focus that you aim to work with niche brands that your audience will most likely purchase, as well as those that are established in the industry, which adds social proof to your email campaigns.

Promoting makeup or jewellery to an audience of technology or gaming enthusiasts may not work very well.

Dealing with questionable affiliate partners can be highly detrimental to you and your audience’s satisfaction. Find products and services that would be of use to your readers and place the links, content, and images strategically on your emails or blog.

We also discussed audience-exchange platforms and using these to grow your email audience. Many of these apply an affiliate model for email list growth too.

Step 5: Ask your readers for tips or donations

There is no shame in asking for support, if it's done in the right way.

That is the reason crowdfunding has boomed in the past few years. Many services like Buy Me a Coffee, BackaBuddy, Patreon, Donorbox, and even PayPal let you set up a “digital tip jar” to earn some coin from your work. These earnings aren’t ever as great as selling advertising or affiliate spots but are a way to earn from loyal readers.

This is encouraged in smaller NPO mails and is often relied on by many non-profit entities, however, if you feel you are adding value to your audience and they have subscribed at no cost, it may be worth asking them to continue supporting the good news you share!

The key here is value and trust. Provided you have built trust with your subscribers and are adding value to their email experience with you, you will have loyal fans parting with their hard-earned money to support your business and email efforts.

Here's an in-email example by South African NPO Girl's & Boy's Town:

Example of NPO donation request in email by Girl's & Boy's Town

Bringing together the 5 steps to monetise your emails

There are many more ways you can turn your newsletters into cash, but this needs to be well-planned, tested and executed correctly within your organisation.

Doing this the wrong way can cost you the eyes of the audience you’ve been working hard to build. Always be certain to lead with the value you provide your audience and they'll reciprocate by making you money for your email efforts.

Before you go! Your first step to making money from your emails is by growing your audience. Learn the fastest ways to grow your email list today by using the tried and tested Email Database Growth Playbook. Click here or on the image below to get your FREE copy👇

Infographic explaining how to get the Email Expert Africa Email Database Growth Playbook

Want to become an email expert? Get our expert email guide today! Click here to find out more

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