Creating Email Newsletters That Your Subscribers Can’t Wait To Open

How to create an email newsletter

What is more important in email marketing — making sales or being useful? Well, there’s a kind of email that’s useful AND gets sales at the end of the day.

Let’s talk about newsletters and why you need one. Yes, we mean those emails with company news, tips, and digests that are different from your regular promotional messages. Since email marketing is a versatile tool, such informative emails can be more valuable than promo emails that sell things directly. Exactly how? Read on to find out how to create email newsletters that engage, make your brand memorable, and pay off.

What an email newsletter is

Newsletters sometimes get confused with other types of emails because many people are used to calling any email they receive a “newsletter”, like in the olden days. And yet, newsletters are very different from other major types of emails like classic promotional messages and transactional emails.

This is a promo email:

Say hello to good old discounts and product photos
Say hello to good old discounts and product photos

This is a transactional email:

A welcome email from Slack that comes to every user automatically upon signing up
A welcome email from Slack that comes to every user automatically upon signing up

And this is a newsletter:

Withings sells health tech products. The main point of this email is to educate subscribers about risks associated with sleep apnea and only then showcase the new sleep sensor, which makes this email a newsletter
Withings sells health tech products. The main point of this email is to educate subscribers about risks associated with sleep apnea and only then showcase the new sleep sensor, which makes this email a newsletter

Think “news” + “letters”.

As the word itself suggests, an email newsletter is a type of email that informs the audience of the company’s latest news, provides useful tips or updates. The main idea of email newsletters is to keep subscribers connected, engaged, and informed about what’s new in the industry and how it can make their lives better.

Newsletters are much more relationship- than sales-oriented, often with a personal approach. Sure, you can use your newsletters to sell sometimes, just don’t put focus on it. Newsletters sell in a different way — indirectly, by being regular and value-packed go-to sources of information.

Here are some examples of newsletter content:

  • Product launches and company news
  • New or popular blog posts, books, podcasts, YouTube videos, conferences, people, Tweets, etc.
  • Upcoming events and webinars
  • Case studies and customer stories
  • Opinion/commentary
  • New stories around your company culture and job openings
  • Tips and how-tos
  • FAQs and other resources for customer support
  • Research data in your industry
  • Important changes in the market, industry, etc.
  • Just some interesting content you want to share with your subscribers.

Almost all companies, regardless of whether they work B2B or B2C, can use newsletters, adapting their content to the features of their products and services.

Why email newsletters are important

Email marketing is very popular among marketers and business owners thanks to its benefits. Mainly because it’s low-cost and has a ROI of 3600%.

And content-focused newsletters are a part of content marketing — an effective brand promotion tool (this very article happens to be a part of our content marketing strategy, BTW).

But you can only explore the email marketing potential if you send all types of emails — promotional and transactional messages, and informative newsletters. Newsletters are an essential part of the email marketing strategy because subscribers don’t like receiving promotional messages only. According to the Adobe Consumer Email Survey Report 2017, 40% of consumers want emails from brands to be less promotional and more informative:

Source: Adobe
Source: Adobe

It means that for better results, you’d want to add newsletters to your content calendar even if you mostly rely on promo emails.

Newsletters have other significant benefits, let’s look into details.

Traffic increase

Sometimes things are like this: you have written a great blog post or conducted a survey and want to share its results with as many people as you can but you see that there are not enough views. Using newsletters, you can increase traffic to your website or blog.

When sending a message about new posts in your blog, or a how-to, or a tip, place a preview and a button with a clear call-to-action that invites readers to learn more by visiting your website. Subscribers will follow links to interesting materials on your website, increase the traffic, and over time can turn into your customers.

Well, what can they do? Can’t help clicking on the button.
Well, what can they do? Can’t help clicking on the button.

Brand awareness and recognition enhancement

No matter B2B or B2C, people don’t like buying from businesses – they like buying from people. With newsletters acting as your personal newspaper and a reality show combined, you can create a more personal relationship with your audience and place an image of your brand in their minds. They will associate your brand’s logo and sender name with the positive experiences they get from your emails.

Also, by communicating with subscribers on topics that are interesting to them, providing some valuable information, and ultimately making their lives better, you earn credibility and loyalty.

Social media profiles promotion

Social media accounts are sometimes used to grow email lists, but it can be vice versa. Include “Follow me” buttons in your email newsletters that lead to your company’s social media pages, come up with an enticing invitation to become a part of your community on Facebook or Twitter, and watch your numbers grow.

Filmsupply has a section with social media links in their newsletters and an extra one promoting their Youtube Channel.
Filmsupply has a section with social media links in their newsletters and an extra one promoting their Youtube Channel.

Independence from third parties

Another benefit of newsletters is that they are a separate marketing channel that you’re free to design and manage as you like, not constrained by third-parties requirements and limitations like in the case of social media where you have to fit into particular formats.

Increased sales

As a result, newsletters definitely influence sales, but not always directly. After all, when you make content emails, you don’t just put anything there — the said content is always related to the brand’s products or services. It corresponds to the interests of users, forming loyalty and gradually pushing them to make a purchase.

Some companies base their email marketing strategy on newsletters. More often, though, they are used in combination with promotional mailings. This allows you to sell less aggressively — subscribers don’t get tired of an overabundance of commercial offers and at the same time do not forget about your brand. Because of a good image you’ve created with regular emails, they trust it.

How to structure a newsletter

Now let’s look at what a newsletter usually consists of. It’s not as if it’s totally different in structure from other types of emails but it has some specifics.

Subject line

The first thing that anyone sees about your email is its subject line. The subject line is as important as the title of an article or the cover of a book. And whether someone will want to read it, depends on the title also.

In the case of newsletters, the best bet is to promise valuable information — something that the majority of newsletter subscribers expect. Make it sound interesting and intriguing — read our guide on email subject lines for inspiration. But don’t overdo it with spam trigger words like “buy” or “cheap”, it can be harmful to your deliverability.

Not sure which option to choose? Come up with several variations of a single subject line and test them.

These are some examples of great subject lines taken from real-world newsletters:

  • Do you really need an MBA? 🎓
  • Find out why we DDOS’d ourselves ⚡
  • What’re the top 10 Facebook templates in the US?
  • The way you design is stuck in the past
  • The top 4 ways Harvest can help your business

Copy

The most important things in email copy are its value, its style, accessibility, and respect that it shows to readers.

Try personalization. Personalized emails are tailored to specific subscribers and fare better in terms of clicks and conversions.

A segment of Canva’s newsletter telling about the top 10 Facebook Post templates popular in user location. Nice touch.
A segment of Canva’s newsletter telling about the top 10 Facebook Post templates popular in user location. Nice touch.

Although we don’t recommend direct sales in newsletters, you can sometimes add promo content — such emails will help you warm up your audience for the next set of emails about discounts or new collections.

Template

Don’t send a newsletter just because everyone does it and don’t copy somebody’s message block for block. Use a layout that suits your goals. Like, what do you need a newsletter for? What exactly do you want to achieve? For example, if your main goal is to increase traffic to your website, pay special attention to the CTAs.

Let’s say you know what you want to tell your subscribers about and only need to “package” the materials. The smartest and easiest way for you is to use ready-made email templates. Selzy bulk emails service provides various types of templates, including newsletters. Choose templates from the Universal category:

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You can also use services like Stripo that allow you to design beautiful templates (and have integration with Selzy and other email marketing service providers). Here are some of the templates from their Email Digest collection:

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CTAs

A call-to-action is a kind of instruction for users. If it’s incomprehensible, ambiguous, or dubious, the rest of the content is useless because the goal will be unreachable.

A great way to write good CTAs is to imagine you’re a subscriber and complete the phrase “I want to…”. And the following options can be: get the template, try it now, book a call, visit a website, read more, subscribe, shop, etc. A straightforward approach works best.

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More tips on creating great CTAs:

  • Tell users what they’ll get and be as specific as possible. If the button size doesn’t allow you to fit a clear call-to-action, add some explanatory text nearby.
  • Add numbers and guarantees.
  • Choose strong action-oriented verbs.
  • Make CTAs stand out from the rest of the content and grab the attention of users with the help of contrasting colors and some space around.

Unsubscribe link

An unsubscribe link is mandatory, it’s an important attribute of respect for your subscribers.

Sometimes people lose interest in mailings, and it’s OK. Instead of hiding the unsubscribe button in the hopes of holding them back, offer it freely. Clear your lists of inactive subscribers and let users unsubscribe without complaining about spam.

So don’t forget about the unsubscribe button and the link to the subscription preference page if you send multiple mailings.

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How to create and launch an email newsletter

So, you have an understanding of a newsletter structure. What’s next?

  1. Build a list and segment contacts.

For a newsletter to be successful, you need to understand the audience’s pains and needs. For this: conduct surveys among clients and keep track of what works with your competitors, and what works with you by tracking opens, clicks, comments.

You might want to divide your list into several smaller parts, i.e. segment it. You need this for crafting different sets of messages, more relevant to different groups of subscribers than one universal message.

  1. Choose an email marketing service.

There are dozens of email services. They get chosen based on various criteria: popularity, functionality, pricing, rating, etc. Some of them are e-commerce- or automation-oriented, others are more versatile in their approach. For newsletters, it’s better to pick the latter and not overpay for the functionality you don’t need. Services like Selzy (or Mailchimp, or MailerLite) are suitable for solving simple tasks like sending a holiday newsletter, as well as for complex actions like creating automated sequences in case you need it in the future. Browse our email marketing service comparison for details.

  1. Craft a message: choose a template, create a good copy.

Remember that you can change how subscribers react to the content of your emails by changing the format and “repackaging” information into other forms. Test new formats.

  1. Analyze the results.

How to calculate the effectiveness of newsletters?

Keep an eye on the click-through rate, it’s the most important indicator. Historically, open rate mattered also, but after last year’s iOS update, things have changed for email marketers. The rest depends on your further goals.

Best email newsletters you must see

To find inspiration, analyze your competitors’ newsletters and newsletters from companies you think are successful at email marketing. That’s what we’re going to do 😉

Important: don’t look for the most ingenious designs. The main point of newsletters is to be useful and interesting. Although, you can dabble a bit with creative ideas to stand out from the crowd.

  1. Mental Floss

Mental Floss is an online magazine and e-commerce brand that’s focused on millennials.

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What’s good about this design?

Mental Floss’s mission is to entertain with fun and interesting facts, quizzes, and brain teasers. And they do it well with their easily-skimmable short newsletters that nonetheless feature all the right information about why you have received this email and how you can adjust your preferences.

  1. Dense Discovery

Dense Discovery is a curated weekly email newsletter with fresh information on design, tech, and culture.

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What’s good about this design?

Mental Floss’s mission is to entertain with fun and interesting facts, quizzes, and brain teasers. And they do it well with their easily-skimmable short newsletters that nonetheless feature all the right information about why you have received this email and how you can adjust your preferences.

  1. Dense Discovery

Dense Discovery is a curated weekly email newsletter with fresh information on design, tech, and culture.

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What’s good about this design?

They sure know how to make a good one at Canva! Notice how this email doesn’t contain anything but necessary information on the chosen topic — Zoom backgrounds in this case. It’s detailed but has a lot of free space and a clear focus on the product. The information is carefully placed, perfectly aligned, and is vertically organized for quick and easy reading.

  1. Ritual

Ritual is an online retailer of multivitamins and nutritional supplements targeted for women.

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What’s good about this design?

The company understands what matters to its clients and goes to some length explaining the design of their product and why it’s important. What’s more, it uses simple but beautifully drawn illustrations rather than photos of real medicine which can be a bit intimidating to some people. With a graphic like this one, it’s also easier to show a scheme in a more easily-digestible way. This is what we call “functional art”.

  1. MiMOKO

MiMOKO is a Canadian brand of ceramic ware for plants.

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What’s good about this design?

This newsletter is quite lengthy too (see the full version on Really Good Emails), so we decided to include the fragment that shows how you can smoothly incorporate promo info in a newsletter. Apart from informative content about the company’s news and updates, and tips about arranging vases around your home, it features a “Shop now” section that tells about the new collection and features a clear but unobtrusive CTA leading to the website. Effective but low-key.

  1. Not a Newsletter

Not a Newsletter is a monthly guide to sending emails by Dan Oshinsky — an email marketing guru and thought leader

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What’s good about this design?

Respect to subscribers comes in different forms. Here, there are no fancy graphics or glossy photos, no jumping through hoops in search of readers’ attention. Just a simple black-and-white picture, emojis, a couple of links and some copy — almost a plain text email. This newsletter is confident that it has useful information that doesn’t need a sophisticated layout to get appreciated.

Tips on creating successful email marketing newsletters

A few more short tips on how to make your newsletters shine.

Manage your mailing list wisely

You need to understand your potential readers’ needs and wants to provide value and send newsletters that appeal to them. So think about who you want to reach with your campaigns and be as specific as possible. Segment your audience into groups and create relevant content for each of them. You can segment based on interests, preferences, and demographics.

Clean your email lists regularly and delete contacts who unsubscribed, complained about spam or abandoned their mailbox a long time ago. It makes no sense to keep them in your list, they only make you pay more.

Keep it short but informative

Let your messages have useful information with little to no advertising and be as short as you can make it without losing on value and your goals. If you choose between longer and shorter, go for shorter. When a person opens an email and sees a certain amount of information they are not likely to scroll further if they don’t see anything important on the first screen.

Then again, what about the long Dense Discovery example earlier? True, that’s the specifics of newsletters — they can be rather long and justifiably so. Look at the Courier Weekly, for example. It all depends on what you need your readers to do and what they need: experiment to find the right balance.

Design matters

Once a subscriber is caught by your great subject line (or they are loyal enough to wait for your brand’s emails no matter the topics), their later actions depend on design.

Pay special attention to email design. Design is not only about gradients and beautiful pictures, but also about maintaining a balance between text and images, directing readers’ attention, guiding them to the desired action, and more. Effective design is not only pretty, but it’s also efficient: it grabs attention, it’s clear, on-brand, and actionable.

For brand awareness, use an eye-catching and recognizable logo that’s always the same.. Stick to the style you choose including typography, structure, colors, and images.

Be mobile-friendly

According to the 2021 State of Email report by Litmus, mobile is the top way to read emails with mobile’s share at 44.7%, webmail at 36.3%, and desktop at 19.1%. This means that mobile versions of email campaigns are a prerequisite for high conversion rates, including newsletters.

Most of the popular email service providers like Selzy enable you not just to adapt emails to mobile devices, but also to create separate mobile versions of emails which is much more wholesome and less error-prone.

Double-check the grammar

Check the completed newsletter for spelling and punctuation errors — this is a part of your respect for subscribers. You don’t need to hire special people for that, use services like Grammarly.

Also, once again check the readability and logical sequence of the text — is everything clear, are there any discrepancies?

Schedule your emails intelligently

The whole point about newsletters is in their regularity. Send quality informative campaigns regularly, make content plans for this: this is how users get used to the fact that they receive a new portion of high-quality information from your company once/2 times a week/month, etc., and start to expect it.

As for the specific time, there’s no universal recipe, but you can find some useful information in our guide on the best email sending time. Generally speaking, newsletters and other messages that don’t demand immediate action do well outside of working hours — evenings and weekends when people relax, but you can find options that work better for you.

Now start sending newsletters (or make yours even better)

Let’s recap.

Newsletters are a kind of informative email campaign that cater to subscribers’ need for useful information and differ from other types of emails precisely by their usefulness and relevance.

Newsletters are excellent at promoting the brand and increasing traffic to websites and social media pages. Newsletters are not a direct promotional tool, but they indirectly influence sales too. High-quality content helps to gain the audience’s trust and makes a company look like an expert.

To make a successful newsletter:

  • Choose an appropriate template
  • Pay special attention to copy
  • Make it easily scannable and contain useful information
  • Make it recognizable and regular.

All newsletter examples are credited to Really Good Emails.

What are your favorite newsletters?

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