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How to Create an Email Newsletter People Actually Read

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You’re sitting around a conference room, trying to figure out how to best engage your leads and customers, sell more products, or just “stay top-of-mind” for your target audience, and someone decides there’s a solution that can solve all of those problems at once: an email newsletter!

Suddenly you’re “volunteered” to do it. And you’ve got to make sure that open and clickthrough rates don’t dip. Oh, and the first one needs to go out tomorrow.

I’ve been in that situation before, and I was terrified. Even though e-newsletters are one of the most common types of emails to send, they are actually some of the hardest to do right. In this post, we’ll teach you how to create an email newsletter your customers will enjoy reading.

Want to ace your new email newsletter project, or rejuvenate an old one? Beloware 10 things you need to make sure to do. And if you’re looking for some inspiration, here are some awesome email newsletter examplesyou can check out.

1. Review successful newsletter examples.

Where do you start? Before you get started creating an email newsletter, look at some examples in (and outside of) your industry. We’ve compiled a list of dozens of our favorite email newsletters into an ultimate lookbook.

customer email newsletter

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2. Evaluate whether or not you need an email newsletter.

I know it can be kind of scary pushing back on your boss about a project you’ve been handed, but if an email newsletter isn’t right for your marketing, you shouldn’t waste your time working on one.

To figure out what you need to do, first do some research. In your industry, are there successful email newsletters that people like to subscribe to? What’s in them? With the resources you have available to you — budget, time, and internal support — could you be successful?

Then, re-examine your business’ goals. Are they trying to increase the number of leads? Better qualify leads to speak with salespeople? Close more deals? Retain more customers?

If your industry isn’t really interested in email newsletters, or if your goals don’t line up with what a newsletter could accomplish, your time might be better spent creating something else like alead nurturing email workflowor content for your blog.

So gather some data, create a plan-of-action (either for a successful newsletter or another activity), and go chat with your superior. Even if you disagree with his or her vision in doing an email newsletter, your boss will be glad you came prepared with a plan for success.

Okay, let’s say you’ve found that you should do an email newsletter. What next?

3. Figure out what kind of newsletter you want to send.

One of the biggest problems with email newsletters is that they’re often cluttered and unfocused because they’re supporting every aspect of your business. Product news goes right next to PR stories, blog posts go next to a random event week … it’s kind of a mess. Email — whether it’s a newsletter or not — needs one common thread to hold it together.

Oneway to help reduce the randomness of an email newsletter is by keeping it to one very specific topic. So instead of it being about your company in general, maybe it’s dedicated to one vertical.

An example of a great, topic-based email newsletter is BuzzFeed’s “This Week in Cats” newsletter. (Don’t judge … I recently adopted a kitten and I’ve become full-on obsessed with cats.) Though BuzzFeed writes about pretty much everything under the sun, they offer up one specific newsletter for people who love reading about cats.Because the niche is aligned with a specific interest, the articles have an opportunity to get way more engagement than they would in a newsletter featuring content from all over the website.

email newsletter example: buzzfeed cat newsletter

4. Balance your newsletter content to be 90% educational and 10% promotional.

Chances are, your email newsletter subscribers don’t wantto hear about your products and services 100% of the time. While they may love you and want to hear from you, there’s only so much shillingyou can do before they tune out.

Case in point: I have a thing for shoes, and I especially love this one shoe site. I willingly opted into the company’s email list, but it now sends me emails 2-3 times a day to buy, buy, buy … and when I see its sender name pop up in my inbox, I want to scream. If they sent me educational content — about the latest styles of shoes, or how to pair certain styles with certain outfits — I might be more inclined to buy from them, or at least start opening their emails again.

Don’t be that company. In your email newsletters, get rid of the self-promotion (most of the time) and focus on sending your subscribers educational, relevant, timely information. Unless youactuallyhave an exciting, big piece of news about your product, service, or company, leave out the promotional parts.

5. Set expectations on your “Subscribe” page.

Once you’ve figured out your newsletter’s focus and content balance, make sure you’re properly communicating about them on your subscribe landing page.

Get specific. Tell potential subscribers exactly what will be in the newsletter as well as how often they should expect to hear from you. Take a page out of SmartBrief’s book: On the subscribe landing page, it says what’ll be in the newsletterandgives potential subscribers a preview link. Check it out:

Email Newsletter example: Smartbrief

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As a subscriber, wouldn’t that be awesome? You’d go in with open eyes knowing exactly who you’ll be receiving email from, what they’ll be sending you, and how often they’ll be sending it. As a marketer, having this information up front will help diminish your unsubscribe and spam rates as well.

6. Get creative with email subject lines.

Even if your subscribers sign up for your emails, there’s no guarantee that they will open your emails once they get them in their inbox. Many marketers try increasing familiarity with their subscribers by keeping the subject line the same each day, week, or month that they send it.

But let’s face it, those subject lines get old for subscribers — and fast. Why? Because there’s no incentive from the subject line to click on that specific email right this instant. A better approach would be to try to have a different, creative, engaging subject line for each newsletter you send.

One company that does this really well is Thrillist. Here’s a collection of email newsletters I’ve received recently:

Thrillist_Newsletter_subject_lines_in_Inbox_Example

I’ve opened every single one of these because of the company’s subject lines. Even though I know that these emails are coming into my inbox every morning, the subject lines are what entice me to click.

If you need help with your email newsletter subject lines, check out this recipe.

Click here to download our free beginner's guide to email marketing.

7. Pick one primary call-to-action.

Okay, part of what makes a newsletter a newsletter is that you’re featuring multiple pieces of content with multiple calls-to-action (CTAs). But, that doesn’t mean you should let those CTAs share equal prominence.

Instead, let there be one head honcho CTA — just one main thing that you would like your subscribers to do. The rest of the CTAs should be “in-case-you-have-time” options. Whether it’s simply to click through to see a blog post or just to forward the email to a friend, make it super simple for your subscribers to know what you want them to do.

Check out the Scott’s Cheap Flights email newsletter below, which was promoting their newest travel deals. It’s got a photo to draw you in and chock-full of information … but it’s also pretty obvious what they want you to do: purchase the premium plan for exclusive travel deals. By placing this CTA above all the other pieces of information, Scott’s Cheap Flights increases the chance that their email recipients will click on it.

email newsletter examples: Scotts Cheap Flights

8. Keep design and copy minimal.

Like we said before, a newsletter can easily feel cluttered because of its nature. The trick for email marketers to look uncluttered revolves around two things: concise copy and enough white space in the design.

Concise copy is key — because you don’t actually want to have your subscribers hang out and read your email all day. You want to send them elsewhere (your website or blog, for instance) to actually consume the whole piece of content. Concise copy gives your subscribers a taste of your content — just enough that they want to click and learn more.

White space is key in email newsletters because it helps visually alleviate the cluttered feel, and on mobile, makes it much easier for people to click the right link.

Look to Schwab’s investing insights newsletter to see how this should be done. The design is clean, with just one thumbnail next to a paragraph of text, a link to read the article, and plenty of white space. The design feels uncluttered and easy to read.

email newsletter example: Schwab minimal design

9. Make sure images have alt text.

Given that visual content is incredibly important to the rest of your marketing activities, it’d make sense that you’d want to include them in your emails … right?

Right. But email’s a little bit trickier. Most of the time, people won’t have images enabled, so you’ve got to make sure your images have one essential component: alt text. Alt text is the alternative text that appears when images aren’t loaded in an email. This is especially important if your CTAs are images — you want to make sure people are clicking even without the image enabled.

Each email marketing program is different, but here is one tutorial for adding alt text to email.

10. Make it easy for people to unsubscribe.

This seems kinda counter-intuitive, but it’s key if you want to maintain an active, engaged subscriber list. Don’t use weird language like “Alter your communication with us.” Don’t hide an unsubscribe button behind an image without alt text. Besides keeping your list healthy, having a clear unsubscribe process will help ensure your email isn’t marked SPAM before it hits the rest of your list’s inbox.

Take a look at charity: water’s newsletter below to see how to do this right. The link to unsubscribe is bolded and capitalized, making it really easy for you to take action on it (if you wanted). No footer hunting required to uncover where the heck you can change your email settings.

charity water newsletter with clearly visible unsubscribe options

11. Test, test, test.

I know I just listed out nine things you should do to make sure you’re doing email newsletters right, but you’ve also got to find out what works for your company and your list. Just like different cultures of people prefer different things, different groups of email subscribers prefer different things.

So use these email newsletter best practices as a jumping off point … and then experiment to find your secret sauce. Here are a few things you can try:

Short, Funny Subject Lines

All of your subject lines should be on the short side. (They work better that way.) But have you ever tried infusing a little humor into your copy? It could put a smile on your recipients’ faces — and potentially improve your open and clickthrough rates. Below’s a really funny subject line example from MasterClass:

funny email newsletter example: Masterclass Our favorite F-word is

funny email newsletter example: Masterclass

This clever F-word subject line was used to introduce their new line of fashion-centered classes with Anna Wintour.

CTA Copy & Design

Maybe your readers like loud, bright colors on your CTA — or maybe drab, bland ones are the way to go. Maybe they prefer really fun, excitable, action-oriented copy — or maybe a simple “click here” works. Definitely test out your CTA language and copy to see what resonates.

As a good example to follow, Etsy has multiple CTAs in its email newsletter, but the way that they use color and copy makes them seem very natural and easy-to-read.

email newsletter example: Etsy multi cta

email newsletter example: Etsy multi cta

No Images

Most of the emails featured in this post have lots of gorgeous, compelling images … but that doesn’t mean you need them in your emails.Try stripping away images in favor of seriously well-written copy.

Mobile Version

More and more people are surfing the web and checking their emails on mobile devices, so you should make sure that whatever design you work with is both visually pleasing and functional. This will ensure that your mobile email is engaging to both desktop and mobile users.

Want to learn more about this? Here’s a detailed guide that walks you through how to optimize your email for mobile devices.

Sender Name

Another way to get a subscriber’s attention is to send an email with a name they recognize — whether it’s their own or a brand leader they’d recognize.

This email from Gartner used the subscriber’s first name in the subject line to grab their attention. If you have a company mascot that’s widely recognized, you could test sending a newsletter from them.

email newsletter example: Gartner-name subject line

Want to start designing but aren’t sure how? Use a template! Check out our long list of effective email templates that are free or very affordable.

Now that you know how to put together your newsletter, it’s time to brainstorm what content your readers will enjoy. What you choose to offer will depend on your business, industry, and target audience.

If your website already has a blog, consider sending out a content roundup of your best articles and videos. Educational content is also valuable. Sending a how-to guide in your newsletter can help establish your brand as the authority on a given topic and provide readers with content that is most relevant to their interests.

Get your subscriber list engaged with contests or scour your social media channels for user-generated content featuring your brand. Customer promotion adds social proof to your brand, making it more trustworthy.

Email Newsletter Best Practices

Once you’re ready to put together your newsletter, be sure to follow the above steps. Here are some best practices to guide your efforts, regardless of your newsletter’s formatting:

1. Keep things short and sweet.

Don’t overwhelm people with too much text or imagery. Level things out. Even if you choose a photo-less newsletter, keep your message quick and to the point so the email cuts to the chase and grabs attention the whole time.

2. Make your content valuable.

No one wants to open an email with a bunch of advertisements in it. So, include gems of wisdom, tips, and helpful blog posts along the way so the reader feels like they’re actually learning something. This will make the subscription feel much more valuable to them.

3. Always test your emails.

It’s embarrassing when a link doesn’t work or a design aspect looks wonky. So be sure to send test emails to yourself and a colleague who can give you helpful feedback. Check them on both a computer and a smartphone inbox so you can confirm that both the mobile and desktop designs look good.

4. Don’t skip A/B testing.

Aside from testing emails to make sure the design looks as it should and all links work, you’ll want to experiment with A/B testing. Performing A/B tests will help you determine the types of emails your audience prefers. You can also use A/B testing to see what works or doesn’t when it comes to CTA placement and other details.

5. Make it mobile-friendly.

With more users checking their email on mobile devices, it’s imperative that your newsletter is mobile-friendly. Nearly 60% of emails are opened on mobile devices. One way to ensure your emails display properly is by using a responsive email template. HubSpot’s drag and drop email templates are responsive by default and a great option if looking for an easy solution.

6. Monitor email frequency.

Another aspect to pay attention to is how many emails you’re sending and how often. Sending too many emails can cause recipients to unsubscribe.

Send an Email Newsletter Your Subscribers Will Love

Email newsletters are something we’re all familiar with, yet it can be challenging to create a successful one for your own brand. Use the examples above for inspiration and create an email newsletter that delights your subscribers.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in September 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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45 Free Content Writing Tools to Love [for Writing, Editing & Content Creation]

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45 Free Content Writing Tools to Love [for Writing, Editing & Content Creation]

Creating content isn’t always a walk in the park. (In fact, it can sometimes feel more like trying to swim against the current.)

While other parts of business and marketing are becoming increasingly automated, content creation is still a very manual job. (more…)

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How data clean rooms might help keep the internet open

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How data clean rooms might help keep the internet open

Are data clean rooms the solution to what IAB CEO David Cohen has called the “slow-motion train wreck” of addressability? Voices at the IAB will tell you that they have a big role to play.

“The issue with addressability is that once cookies go away, and with the loss of identifiers, about 80% of the addressable market will become unknown audiences which is why there is a need for privacy-centric consent and a better consent-value exchange,” said Jeffrey Bustos, VP, measurement, addressability and data at the IAB.

“Everyone’s talking about first-party data, and it is very valuable,” he explained, “but most publishers who don’t have sign-on, they have about 3 to 10% of their readership’s first-party data.” First-party data, from the perspective of advertisers who want to reach relevant and audiences, and publishers who want to offer valuable inventory, just isn’t enough.

Why we care. Two years ago, who was talking about data clean rooms? The surge of interest is recent and significant, according to the IAB. DCRs have the potential, at least, to keep brands in touch with their audiences on the open internet; to maintain viability for publishers’ inventories; and to provide sophisticated measurement capabilities.

How data clean rooms can help. DCRs are a type of privacy-enhancing technology that allows data owners (including brands and publishers) to share customer first-party data in a privacy-compliant way. Clean rooms are secure spaces where first-party data from a number of sources can be resolved to the same customer’s profile while that profile remains anonymized.

In other words, a DCR is a kind of Switzerland — a space where a truce is called on competition while first-party data is enriched without compromising privacy.

“The value of a data clean room is that a publisher is able to collaborate with a brand across both their data sources and the brand is able to understand audience behavior,” said Bestos. For example, a brand selling eye-glasses might know nothing about their customers except basic transactional data — and that they wear glasses. Matching profiles with a publisher’s behavioral data provides enrichment.

“If you’re able to understand behavioral context, you’re able to understand what your customers are reading, what they’re interested in, what their hobbies are,” said Bustos. Armed with those insights, a brand has a better idea of what kind of content they want to advertise against.

The publisher does need to have a certain level of first-party data for the matching to take place, even if it doesn’t have a universal requirement for sign-ins like The New York Times. A publisher may be able to match only a small percentage of the eye-glass vendor’s customers, but if they like reading the sports and arts sections, at least that gives some directional guidance as to what audience the vendor should target.

Dig deeper: Why we care about data clean rooms

What counts as good matching? In its “State of Data 2023” report, which focuses almost exclusively on data clean rooms, concern is expressed that DCR efficacy might be threatened by poor match rates. Average match rates hover around 50% (less for some types of DCR).

Bustos is keen to put this into context. “When you are matching data from a cookie perspective, match rates are usually about 70-ish percent,” he said, so 50% isn’t terrible, although there’s room for improvement.

One obstacle is a persistent lack of interoperability between identity solutions — although it does exist; LiveRamp’s RampID is interoperable, for example, with The Trade Desk’s UID2.

Nevertheless, said Bustos, “it’s incredibly difficult for publishers. They have a bunch of identity pixels firing for all these different things. You don’t know which identity provider to use. Definitely a long road ahead to make sure there’s interoperability.”

Maintaining an open internet. If DCRs can contribute to solving the addressability problem they will also contribute to the challenge of keeping the internet open. Walled gardens like Facebook do have rich troves of first-party and behavioral data; brands can access those audiences, but with very limited visibility into them.

“The reason CTV is a really valuable proposition for advertisers is that you are able to identify the user 1:1 which is really powerful,” Bustos said. “Your standard news or editorial publisher doesn’t have that. I mean, the New York Times has moved to that and it’s been incredibly successful for them.” In order to compete with the walled gardens and streaming services, publishers need to offer some degree of addressability — and without relying on cookies.

But DCRs are a heavy lift. Data maturity is an important qualification for getting the most out of a DCR. The IAB report shows that, of the brands evaluating or using DCRs, over 70% have other data-related technologies like CDPs and DMPs.

“If you want a data clean room,” Bustos explained, “there are a lot of other technological solutions you have to have in place before. You need to make sure you have strong data assets.” He also recommends starting out by asking what you want to achieve, not what technology would be nice to have. “The first question is, what do you want to accomplish? You may not need a DCR. ‘I want to do this,’ then see what tools would get you to that.”

Understand also that implementation is going to require talent. “It is a demanding project in terms of the set-up,” said Bustos, “and there’s been significant growth in consulting companies and agencies helping set up these data clean rooms. You do need a lot of people, so it’s more efficient to hire outside help for the set up, and then just have a maintenance crew in-house.”

Underuse of measurement capabilities. One key finding in the IAB’s research is that DCR users are exploiting the audience matching capabilities much more than realizing the potential for measurement and attribution. “You need very strong data scientists and engineers to build advanced models,” Bustos said.

“A lot of brands that look into this say, ‘I want to be able to do a predictive analysis of my high lifetime value customers that are going to buy in the next 90 days.’ Or ‘I want to be able to measure which channels are driving the most incremental lift.’ It’s very complex analyses they want to do; but they don’t really have a reason as to why. What is the point? Understand your outcome and develop a sequential data strategy.”

Trying to understand incremental lift from your marketing can take a long time, he warned. “But you can easily do a reach and frequency and overlap analysis.” That will identify wasted investment in channels and as a by-product suggest where incremental lift is occurring. “There’s a need for companies to know what they want, identify what the outcome is, and then there are steps that are going to get you there. That’s also going to help to prove out ROI.”

Dig deeper: Failure to get the most out of data clean rooms is costing marketers money


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Ascend | DigitalMarketer

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Ascend | DigitalMarketer

At this stage, your goal is to generate repeat buys and real profits. While your entry-point offer was designed for conversions, your ascension offers should be geared for profits—because if you’re serving your customers well, they’ll want to buy again and again.

Ascension offers may be simple upsells made after that initial purchase… bigger, better solutions… or “done for you” add-ons.

So now we must ask ourselves, what is our core flagship offer and how do we continue to deliver value after the first sale is made? What is the thing that we are selling? 

How we continue to deliver value after the first sale is really important, because having upsells and cross sales gives you the ability to sell to customers you already have. It will give you higher Average Customer values, which is going to give you higher margins. Which means you can spend more to acquire new customers. 

Why does this matter? It matters because of this universal law of marketing and customer acquisition, he or she who is able and willing to spend the most to acquire a customer wins.

Very often the business with the best product messaging very often is the business that can throw the most into customer acquisition. Now there are two ways to do that.

The first way is to just raise a lot of money. The problem is if you have a lot of money, that doesn’t last forever. At some point you need economics. 

The second way, and the most timeless and predictable approach, is to simply have the highest value customers of anyone in your market. If your customers are worth more to you than they are to your competitors, you can spend more to acquire them at the same margin. 

If a customer is worth twice as much to you than it is to your competitor, you can spend twice as much trying to acquire them to make the same margin. You can invest in your customer acquisition, because your customers are investing in your business. You can invest in your customer experiences, and when we invest more into the customer we build brands that have greater value. Meaning, people are more likely to choose you over someone else, which can actually lower acquisition costs. 

Happy customers refer others to us, which is called zero dollar customer acquisition, and generally just ensures you’re making a bigger impact. You can invest more in the customer experience and customer acquisition process if you don’t have high margins. 

If you deliver a preview experience, you can utilize revenue maximizers like up sells, cross sales, and bundles. These are things that would follow up the initial sale or are combined with the initial sale to increase the Average Customer Value.

The best example of an immediate upsell is the classic McDonalds, “would you like fries with that?” You got just a burger, do you also want fries with that? 

What distinguishes an upsell from other types of follow up offers is the upsell promise, the same end result for a bigger and better end result. 

What’s your desired result when you go to McDonalds? It’s not to eat healthy food, and it’s not even to eat a small amount of food. When you go to McDonalds your job is to have a tasty, greasy, predictable inexpensive meal. No one is going there because it’s healthy, you’re going there because you want to eat good. 

It’s predictable. It’s not going to break the bank for a hamburger, neither will adding fries or a Coke. It’s the same experience, but it’s BIGGER and BETTER. 

Amazon does this all of the time with their “Customers Who Bought This Also Bought …” But this one is algorithmic. The point of a cross sell is that it is relevant to the consumer, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be aligned with the original purchase. What you don’t want to do is start someone down one path and confuse them.

You can make this process easy with Bundles and Kits. With a bundle or a kit you’re essentially saying to someone, “you can buy just one piece, or you can get this bundle that does all of these other things for a little bit more. And it’s a higher value.”

The idea behind bundles and kits is that we are adding to the primary offer, not offering them something different. We’re simply promising to get them this desired result in higher definition. 

The Elements of High-Converting Revenue Maximizers (like our bundles and kits) are:

  1. Speed

If you’re an e-Commerce business, selling a physical product, this can look like: offering free shipping for orders $X or more. We’re looking to get your customers the same desired result, but with less work for them.

  1. Automation

If you’re a furniture business, and you want to add a Revenue Maximizer, this can look like: Right now for an extra $X our highly trained employees will come and put this together for you. 

  1. Access 

People will pay for speed, they’ll pay for less work, but they will also pay for a look behind the curtain. Think about the people who pay for Backstage Passes. Your customers will pay for a VIP experience just so they can kind of see how everything works. 

Remember, the ascension stage doesn’t have to stop. Once you have a customer, you should do your best to make them a customer for life. You should continue serving them. Continue asking them, “what needs are we still not meeting” and seek to meet those needs. 

It is your job as a marketer to seek out to discover these needs, to bring these back to the product team, because that’s what’s going to enable you to fully maximize the average customer value. Which is going to enable you to have a whole lot more to spend to acquire those customers and make your job a whole lot easier. 

Now that you understand the importance of the ascend stage, let’s apply it to our examples.

Hazel & Hem could have free priority shipping over $150, a “Boutique Points” reward program with exclusive “double point” days to encourage spending, and an exclusive “Stylist Package” that includes a full outfit custom selected for the customer. 

Cyrus & Clark can retain current clients by offering an annual strategic plan, “Done for You” Marketing services that execute on the strategic plan, and the top tier would allow customers to be the exclusive company that Cyrus & Clark services in specific geographical territories.



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