Personally, I receive monthly email newsletters on topics that add value to my business. For me that includes new techniques for Search Engine Optimization, trends in web site design, new web site development techniques (html, css), and tools for managing social media.
The point is...there are people who want to receive email news because they add value. And if you are adding value, you are building a relationship and might get a call one day when they need your product or service.
Step 1: Finding Value
What information to do you have that your contacts might benefit from? If you fill up someone's in box without adding value it could cause an "unsubscribe" action. While not everyone will be interested in every topic, create a list of about 6 topics to get you started and then get feedback.
Step 2: Write Content
The news content could be your perspective on another news story, business advice, or perhaps links to interesting topics on the Internet. This step not only requires writing, but finding and editing photographs or images to accompany your content. Keep your eyes open for new topics every week.
I have chosen to put articles on my web site first and then use the newsletter to summarize the articles, giving readers a link to read more. Keeping the articles on the web site also lets me add links to them from other areas such as Google+ and LinkedIn, driving traffic to my web site. The more traffic, the higher I hope to rank in the search engines.
Step 3: Set up Email Lists
One low cost entry into email marketing is Constant Contact, which provides a free trial version if you want to start with only 10 email addresses. The annual cost may run about $150 for up to 500 contacts. When signing up, look into the cost of storing photographs on your account too. Emails are more interested with photographs and if you have a web server on the Internet, you can store them there instead of paying Constant Contact to store them.
The Small Business Association has great tutorials. Here's one on growing your email list: 5 Tips for Building an Email Marketing List for Your Small Business
Step 4: Know the Laws
Pay attention to the email marketing laws of the Federal government. Visit this email guide from the Small Business Administration.
Step 5: Write your Newsletter
Find a newsletter template that is mobile friendly, so it will display properly on a cell phone. Constant Contact has a search feature - enter "mobile friendly". If you want your own branding throughout the newsletter design, more than just your logo, a custom template can be built using html.
Constant Contact also has tutorials on how to avoid being classified as spam and how to create actionable links (sign up, reply, visit the web site).
Step 6: Test and Test Again
If you are using Constant Contact, be sure to use the "Preview" feature that allows you to send your email in test mode. Send it to yourself at minimum and a wider audience if you have others who will give you feedback. View the email on an IPhone, Android phone, tablet and desktop.
How much time does this take?
Keeping up with a newsletter will probably take more time than you expect. Each article might take 2-4 hours, setting up Constant Contact with emails might take 2-4 hours, and writing your newsletter might take 2-4 hours. In general, I would suggest putting 2 hours aside each week, on the same day, dedicated to your newsletter if you are just starting. Once you are in a routine and see value for your investment, adjust accordingly. Marketing your business is never done - it just evolves.
Contact Us if you would help selecting or customizing a template for your newsletter and/or a blog for your web site.