Essential Elements of an Effective Email Newsletter
Last updated: February 15, 2023
Newsletters are one of the most impactful ways to engage your audience while advancing your marketing strategy: According to Nielsen Norman Group, 90% of consumers prefer to receive updates via an email newsletter while just 10% prefer updates on social channels. And email marketing is 400% more effective than Twitter or Facebook at reaching your target audience(s).
Any company can throw a few of their latest blog posts into an email template and call it a newsletter. But the most successful ones use their newsletter to complement their content strategy, create community and ultimately drive revenue.
Learn how to do that below:
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The Most Important Elements of An Effective Email Newsletter
1. Must-click subject line
You may not be able to judge a book by its cover, but most viewers judge emails by their subject lines. The most successful newsletters have subject lines that spark intrigue among their target audience. How, specifically, they generate clicks depends on the sender’s goals, industry and audience preferences. It’s most common to tease new content or mention any guest contributors, but others lean on humor and brand voice to spark interest.
Crafting the perfect subject line is more art than science, but everyone should follow these standard best practices:
- Run A/B tests to identify the best-performing subject lines
- Optimize your subject lines for mobile devices (i.e., keep them under 20 characters)
- Ensure your subject lines accurately reflect the content inside your newsletter
- Avoid using words that trigger spam filters, like “100% free,” “too good to be true,” etc.
- When in doubt, opt for clarity over personality (and once you’ve got a solid following, you can start to experiment with spicier subjects)
2. Preview text
According to our research, subject lines are most effective when they’re 20 characters or less. That doesn’t leave a lot of room for context. Use preview text to add more meaning and/or personality to your subject line — and elicit some extra opens.
3. A streamlined, clear focus
If you’re only sending one email per month, it might be tempting to stuff it with all this month’s product updates, blog posts and webinars, along with top tweets and a promotion for your annual event.
But this will overwhelm your audience. They won’t know what to expect from you and they’ll be a lot less likely to open your emails as a result.
Instead, identify one or two specific goals for your newsletter. Use this to inform your newsletter content (and create multiple newsletter types for different segments if necessary).
If your primary goal is to increase customer mastery and retention, for instance, you might put out a monthly product update newsletter consisting almost exclusively on the latest updates, and linking only to blog posts, webinars and other content related to those updates. Then you can put out a content-focused newsletter promoting your other articles/webinars/etc., if necessary.
4. Differentiated content
Optimizing your subject line and preheader text can get you some incremental clicks. But you can’t hack your way to a passionate audience. Ultimately, your newsletter will only attract and keep subscribers if it’s giving them valuable content. Your newsletter content should achieve one or more of the following:
- helps them solve specific problems related to your product
- Informs them about timely industry topics
- gives them first access to content, events and/or discounts
- entertains them
It takes more than a pithy subject line and some good blog posts to achieve those goals. So as you plan your newsletter, keep these questions in mind:
- What is the purpose of my content? What actions do I want recipients to take after reading my newsletter? If you’re taking the time to create a newsletter, and sending it to your audience, you need to make sure it ladders up to your broader marketing and audience development goals. For example, you might encourage recipients to buy specific products or simply visit your website.
- What expertise do I have on my newsletter topic? How can I present that expertise in a way that stands out from others in the industry? You might take a more serious or lax tone, contribute exclusive proprietary research, conduct industry interviews with insiders, or even experiment with different design themes.
- What unique content can we provide in our newsletter, specifically? Your newsletter will be most valuable if it gives your audience something they can’t find on your other marketing channels. Stuck for ideas? Try using weekly/monthly digests, interviews, product update summaries, early/exclusive access to webinars and events, subscriber-exclusive discounts, etc.
- What sending frequency and time makes the most sense given my topic, industry dynamics and audience preference? With the average person getting 100+ emails per day, sending your email on the right day of the week can make the difference between someone opening every message and never even seeing it.
Put yourself in your audience’s shoes to figure out what sending frequency makes the most sense: If you’re covering crypto news, you likely need to send at least one email per day and even more during, say, the FTX bankruptcy saga. But if you’re marketing your tech solution, a weekly or biweekly email will suffice.)
5. An organized layout
The average person gets more than 100 emails per day and often, they’re checking their email on the go. So in order to maintain readership, your newsletter needs to be both visually appealing and visually digestible. People need to be able to find the most important information in one skim — or they’re clicking out.
Use a simple layout in your newsletter. Good options include:
- the block layout, which presents information in newspaper-style blocks
- the inverted pyramid, where the email begins with an attention-grabbing headline, followed by the details to support the value proposition, and ending with the CTA
- the Z, in which the most important parts of the email are situated in the upper right and bottom left corners, forming the shape of a Z. This aligns with the way English speakers naturally read pages, making it very skim-friendly.
6. A predictable sending cadence
The goal of creating a newsletter isn’t to hit a certain open or click rate. It’s to build a community of long-term subscribers that could go on to buy your product/service. Sending your newsletter at the same time each week goes a long way toward creating that community. If your audience can look forward to getting great content from you each week, you’re in a great spot.
According to our research, newsletters sent on Mondays get the most clicks and opens, but we recommend experimenting with different send days and times to see what works best for you.
7. Mix up your content
The primary aim of any newsletter is promoting your own company’s products and service. But adding other voices to your newsletter can humanize your brand and increase engagement, both important factors for your newsletters’ long-term health. Beyond that, partnerships and sponsorships can help you build your list quickly without resorting to spammy tactics.
Some great places to start:
- Incorporate comments and/or positive reviews into your newsletter (or the header/footer)
- Highlight interesting uses of your product
- Spotlight customer success stories
- Share your team’s insights, advice and/or quotes on relevant topics (use this to support the points made in your newsletter or dedicate an issue to an AMA-style interview with a team member)
- Welcome a guest contributor to your company’s blog or webinar, share their content in your newsletter, then return the favor for your partner’s newsletter. This way, both parties get to expose their brand and content to new audiences (and gain new subscribers too)
8. Eye-catching CTA buttons
While good newsletter content can stand on its own, look to drive traffic to your website via CTA buttons. Make your CTA buttons red or brightly colored to draw the most attention and drive the most clicks.
Want to build an email engine that drives deeper engagement? Omeda’s end-to-end email and marketing automation solution helps you build, automate and evaluate mass email marketing campaigns, then connect your data back to an integrated marketing database engine. Want to see it in action? Schedule a demo and get started today!
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