A guide to creating a better email newsletter
Email has been described as a soul-sucking distraction, counter-productivity tool, and old-school artifact that should have died around the same time as dial-up. And yet, some 40 years on — despite many reports to the contrary — it’s still here, not just enduring but killing it.
If you don’t have a consistent, high-quality email newsletter, now is a great time to fire off your first missive or revitalize a stagnant sending schedule. Whether your aim is to attract new customers, retain existing ones, or establish yourself as a person of taste and influence, a better email newsletter is the way to do it. Here’s how to craft a great one, from start to finish.
Come up with a compelling subject line
The typical corporate email users sends and receives around 105 emails per day. This includes coupons, password resets, social media notifications, office memos, dispatches from friends and reminders from Mom. Often, the decision to open an email comes down to its subject line: does it sound like a waste of time?
The best subject lines are descriptive, pithy and highly clickable. You should offer meaningful insight into why your newsletter is worth reading (“Joe Blow’s Weekly Update” doesn’t cut it) and steer clear of generic or cheesy sales speak. People prefer the personal to the scripted, a point exemplified by President Obama in his legendary “Hey” email campaign.
Write a superior snippet
Once your subject line has captured hearts and minds, it’s time to move on to the next hottest piece of real estate: the snippet. Too often, the snippet serves as a mini-prologue telling readers they can click to view a web version of the email — useful information, sure, but hardly worthy of top billing.
Instead, use this valuable space to foster a connection with your reader, build interest, and speak to a need or issue. Put some personality into your snippet and try to point out the newsletter’s “main attractions.” This is an opportunity to make your message stand out from the “Having trouble viewing this message?” crowd — don’t throw it away.
Make it easy on the eyes
Congrats! Someone opened your email. But before they read a word, they’re going to make a split-second appraisal of your layout and design. Is it clean, simple and mobile-responsive? Or is it garish, crowded and slow to load?
Pay attention to the header: it’s one of the first things to hit a recipient’s eye. It should instantly convey that you’ve taken care to craft a high-quality publication, not a trash-bound piece of junk mail.
Use evocative images to draw the reader in and break up larger sections of text, but don’t go crazy with fussy audiovisual elements. Check out Hubspot’s round-up of beautiful email marketing.
Craft your copy
Having settled on a design and layout, the only thing that remains is to write the thing. Feeling daunted? Remember that the best email newsletters are concise. Nail down a few section headings and then flesh them out with no more than one or two paragraphs apiece.
Readers aren’t going to linger all day on your newsletter — and the fact is, you don’t want them to. You want them to click a link to your site or fire off an email. Newsletters are a great way to start a conversation, so consider ways of getting people involved by including a survey or a competition.
Prepare for launch
As MailChimp puts it: “This is your moment of glory.” You’re about to deploy your message to the masses, but before you pull the trigger, test it out by mailing it to yourself first. No matter how many times you’ve combed through it, there are always things that can go wrong. Whether it’s a typo, broken link or wonky formatting, you want to catch these things while the stakes are low.
One last thing to consider is timing. While email marketers tend to favour Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings, it really comes down to demographics. If you’re targeting the young, tech-toting crowd, evening emails can be a good option. If your newsletter includes ideas for weekend fetes and activities, the much maligned Friday might be a good choice.
Whatever you decide, keep it consistent but not incessant — nobody likes a spammer.