You’ve decided to start an email newsletter for your small business. Congratulations! While this is an exciting step, email marketing can be confusing, especially when it comes to getting everything set up to send out your first email. You know email marketing is a valuable tool, but how do you actually do everything you need to do to send out an email? Here is a thorough checklist to follow as you prepare your first-ever email newsletter. 1. Get the Basics Set First things first: what is your email newsletter for? Before you do anything else, ensure you have a strategy and goals in place, so your email has a clear direction. Next, you’ll need to pick your email marketing platform. There are several to choose from, and each has its own benefits and features. You should pick your platform based on your needs and budget. Some email platforms have free account offerings while others offer free trials, so you may be able to test out a few different options before committing to one. With your goals and platform set, start building your list. You can set up opt-in forms on your website, put out a sign-up sheet in your physical store, and/or use social media to get customers to subscribe. Finally, decide your send schedule. How often will you be sending out emails? Who’s in charge of compiling content? Knowing your cadence will help you create a content calendar, which, in turn, helps plan content in advance. Having a plan and content outline will streamline your email process and make it feel like a lighter lift in the long run. 2. Log into Your Email Client With your email marketing plan in place, it’s time to log into your new email client. Take some time to get familiar with the layout and capabilities. You’ll want to make sure your account is set up with all your info, including your branding. Your email client may enable you to upload custom fonts, colors, and logos to make your emails branded, for example. You’ll want to upload your email list with everyone who’s signed up to receive your emails so far. If you’re collecting emails electronically, it will be helpful to import them into your email client automatically, if possible. Look into integrations and automation that can make this happen. If you’re using a website form, there may be a way to connect form responses directly to your email client. Next, take a look at all your email newsletter design options. There will be a library of templates for you to choose from. Take time to look through all the different options and see which one stands out to you from both a design and functionality standpoint. 3. Pick an Email Newsletter Template It’s time to pick your email newsletter template! This will be the structure for each email you send. Depending on the frequency of your sends and what types of emails you’ll be sending out, you may need only one template, or you might use a few. When it comes to selecting your email newsletter template, you should base it on your needs. What kind of content will you be sending out? If you’re sending out sales emails, you’ll need a way to feature certain products. If you’re sending an event newsletter, find a template that lets you showcase events with all their corresponding information. Your template should also match your brand. If your brand is sleek and professional, a very colorful, creative template won’t make sense. You’ll be able to include your actual branding, but the layout and style also play into the overall feel of the email. Make sure it all feels cohesive. 4. Customize Your Email Newsletter Template Time to customize! Upload your branding, including your logo, fonts, and brand colors to your email client. Your logo will likely appear at least once in your email template, either at the top or the bottom. Your fonts might not be compatible with email (learn more here). If that’s the case, you can use your brand fonts within graphic images instead to make it feel consistent. With your branding uploaded, start adding elements to the newsletter. Add in whatever products, services, updates, or events you’re showcasing and place them in order of importance. For example, if you’re announcing a new product, you’ll probably want that featured at the top of your newsletter. 5. Check All Elements As you build your first email, it’s important to ensure all elements are working as they should. The last thing you want is for a link to be broken or for a button not to work. Broken elements make for a poor user experience and can make subscribers less likely to open your emails in the future. Here is a quick checklist of all the elements to check before sending out your first email: Hyperlinks Buttons Subject line Pre-header text “From” email and name Customizations Plain text version Alt text on images 6. Sending Out Your First Email Newsletter Are you feeling ready to hit send? While email might seem intimidating, just like anything else, the more practice you have with it, the more natural it will start to feel. Email marketing can be a highly effective (and lucrative) facet of your business, so it’s important to put in your best effort and give it some time to see the results. Take your time as you get everything set for the first time to ensure the email is fully functional and looking good. From there, as you send out more and more emails, you’ll start to feel like a pro.