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Email Newsletters: The Definitive Guide

July 26, 2020

Designing an engaging email newsletter is quintessential to the success of your email marketing campaign.

Email marketing has been around for what seems like forever – and for good reason. It's the most straightforward and efficient way of connecting with your future clients, nurturing them, and turning them into paying customers.

A stunning email newsletter can help build your brand identity and create more awareness, which in turn can lead to a stronger customer base. If you already know how to create a newsletter, you'd know that it's one of the most cost-effective channels to reach your marketing goals.

Actually, for every $1 company spend on email marketing, it has an average $41 return on investment (ROI). ROI allows companies to see the progress of their advertising attempts. When ROI increases, the company understands that its advertising efforts are growing. Nevertheless, if the ROI decreases, then the companies advertisements aren’t working.

In short, ROI shows the effectiveness of the investment to a specific marketing channel. It does so by analyzing the money your company spent and the money your company made. Seeing these direct balances makes it easier for your company to see the results of marketing changes on your income.

However, people receive more and more newsletters, and it can be challenging to stand out if you are new to the whole thing. That's why we created a guide to help you find out the ins and outs of email newsletters and how to create strategies that will help you to lead your industry.

If you're having a hard time with your first newsletter, email marketing software companies are constantly adding new features to make creating stellar email newsletters even easier. So whether you are a beginner or expert, these tools can help you design and deliver newsletters that will take your marketing game to the next level. 

Looking at newsletter examples you know and love can also help inspire your next newsletter. Those brands have it figured out, so consider emulating them when it comes to design, content, call-to-actions and more. Now let's figure out what comprises great email newsletters to help you create better ones in the future. 

What is an email newsletter?

Newsletters are email marketing messages sent out to your target audience to inform them of the latest news or updates about your company, products, or services. The purpose of email newsletters is to keep subscribers engaged, informed, and connected with your brand.

Are email newsletters still effective?

That's a strong yes! Email marketing is here for decades, and it is still relevant to your customers., here are the main reasons why:

  • The highest ROI from comparing any other marketing channel.
  • You can reach any target audience with emails, from teenagers to elders.
  • People tend to check email every day, at least twice a day.
  • Email marketing has higher engagement rates than other channels.

If you’re still not convinced, then you should test it out, and you'll see how email marketing will improve your numbers.

Email newsletters vs. email marketing

Are you confused about the difference between email newsletters and email marketing? Then you are not alone. Email newsletters are usually on the top of mind when developing an email marketing strategy. Although newsletters are only one part of a complete email marketing plan.

As we mentioned before, email newsletters are regularly sent emails that include essentially informational content for your target audience. Email newsletters usually don't promote direct products; instead, these emails create a relationship by engaging in a personal and relevant way to the subscriber.

On the other hand, email marketing includes email messages that has a goal to persuade a recipient to take some action, such as click a link, download a file, or purchase a product.

Emails examples that are not newsletters:

  • Welcome emails that are sent when a person subscribes and agrees to receive emails from your brand.
  • Promotional emails include promotions, exclusive deals, and special events.
  • Maintenance emails that engage with customers to make sure they are engaged and continue to use your service or product.
  • Nurture emails email series with benefits for a subscriber that aims to make them buy the product or service when they have shown interest in your brand.

No need to feel overwhelmed if you think there are too many types of emails. If you keep it plain and focus mainly on the emails that perform best for your strategy, you will not push your subscribers into unsubscribing, or even marking your email as spam.

11 steps for creating an email newsletter

Let's go through the most essential components of properly-formatted email newsletters sure to blow your readers away. 

Create your company goals

As in any other marketing channel, when you want to start a campaign, you have to know your clear goal, what you want to achieve from this. On email marketing, you shouldn't focus mainly on the direct sell, but more on creating a healthy relationship, giving valuable information, improving conversion, click-through numbers, and more.

Develop your email list and segment your audience

When you know your goal, it’s time to build a mailing list. But how should you collect emails?

  • Create a subscription form on your website
  • Share a subscription form on your social media
  • Offer people to subscribe when they buy a product or service

Some advice? Never buy email lists. Those email addresses are not high quality, and you will never get good results from people who are not expecting to get an email from you. When you have an email list, you have to segment your audience into groups so you could send your subscribers even more relevant content about your product or service. For example, you target people according to their age, profession, location, device, and so on.

Always add personalization

As with most things involving content, it’s important that you know your audience. The majority of email marketing tools have the ability to integrate with other systems, such as CRM systems, to help you understand your customers better.

Personalization in the email is creating email campaigns to make a person feel that this letter is explicitly sent to them. One of the most used personalization tactics is using a personal name in an email. Use any information you have about the person so they feel special and unique, like you actually took time to get to know about them, their interests, and how to speak to them. 

Use the information provided by a CRM software or contact management system to create a newsletter that is catered toward the people who are more likely to subscribe. Design plays a big role in this as well, but the content within the newsletter has to be relevant and interesting to the people you are trying to target.

Draw readers in with your subject lines

Subject lines are significant in email marketing if a person doesn't like a subject line, they will never open your emails, and your open rates will suffer. Make sure to create engaging, intriguing subject lines before sending your emails.

It doesn’t matter how amazing the content of your newsletter is – no one will open it if the subject line is dull and unclear. Be straightforward about what the newsletter contains, convey the benefit it will have on the reader, and keep it short and snappy.

Focus on coming up with something inspiring, clever, funny or eye-catching to hook people in when writing a subject line. Also be careful to avoid words and punctuation that could flag your email as spam; the words “free” or “limited time,” or excessive exclamation points could lead to your newsletter missing inboxes entirely.

Design beautiful header images

A well-thought out header image is important because, well, it’s at the top of your newsletter. It’s the first thing people see, meaning it’s not something you want to rush. You want to make sure your brand is represented the way you want, and that it meets the needs of those you’re sending it to.

Since the header is basically your make-or-break section, take the time to craft a beautiful image that not only aligns with your brand’s identity, but also forges an emotional connection between you and your subscribers. You want those reading your newsletter to feel as though they are receiving a nicely packaged gift, not a piece of unwanted spam.

Focus on the format

Formatting your newsletter in a way that speaks to your current and potential customers helps keep things consistent. The message you decide on needs to be relevant to a specific group of people, and it should be formatted in a way that caters to their needs. Ultimately, this means a large part of deciding on the format of your newsletter will be dictated by your target audience's interests.

Pulling customer data from a CRM or similar system comes in handy here. It is essentially a hub for all customer-related information, giving you detailed knowledge of who your ideal customer is. Using this data can give you a clear understanding of what your customers want to see and how they want to see it. From there, all you have to do is produce a design that accommodates them.

Stack your content

Most email marketing tools provide you with some templates to use as a starting point, making life easier for those who are less interested in design. Newsletter templates allow you to organize and stack content into neat boxes, making for a much better user experience. Instead of starting from scratch, templates provide an easy way to quickly create a newsletter that is visually appealing and easy for your subscribers to navigate.

Balance information with promotion

Yes, your email newsletter’s main focus should be on helping your customers by providing valuable information relevant to them. However, it’s still perfectly fine to promote your own products and services, as long as it doesn’t dominate the newsletter. Your newsletter template can certainly help you balance the right amount of targeted information with your own call-to-action (CTA) and materials worked in throughout.

Having a clear CTA helps you better understand if your readers are engaging with your content in the way you would like. Once you decide on the single most important action you want your newsletter to encourage, come up with a CTA that prompts readers to take that action. 

Stay on brand, from copy to design 

This has been mentioned a little bit throughout, but staying on brand is critical for marketing success. If you’re a marketer, you know how important developing a consistent brand is. This certainly holds true when producing your newsletters. 

Just like feeding people content at the same time each day, week, or month, keeping your brand message the same helps with recognition and engagement. As discussed above, people like knowing what to expect, and creating a consistent newsletter can help retain subscribers.

Keep to a consistent schedule

Sending out your email newsletters on a consistent schedule helps readers know what to expect. There is definitely a science to determining what day and time newsletters sent via email perform better, which also depends of who you are writing to.

Once your readership knows what to expect, they can work reading your material into their schedules. That being said, it’s still important to give them something interesting to chew on in order to keep them coming back. This starts by religiously updating current offers and promotions that provide up-to-date, impactful information. 

Track email newsletter metrics with A/B testing 

When you finally send your emails, then don't forget to check the most important metrics like open rate, click-through rate, conversion, unsubscribe rate, bounce rate, list growth rate, overall ROI. Only following your results, you can improve your numbers and find out more about your subscribers.

There's only one way to know if your email newsletter works on your target audience: You have to test it! Send it out to your friends, relatives, and focus groups for initial reactions. View it on different browsers and devices to look for flaws. Do anything you can to make sure your message is clearly and correctly conveyed.

Email marketing tools, with the help of A/B testing, can help you determine which version of your newsletter people are more likely to click. Even if you think you’ve created the most incredible, visually stunning email newsletter of all time, it’s not worth much if people aren’t opening it. After running through all manner of testing, simply take the feedback and improve. 

Types of email newsletters you should be sending

If it is a beginning for you with email marketing or you already sending newsletters weekly, you know that emails are one of the best channels to sell products or services. However, smart marketers are constantly looking for new ideas on how they can build loyal relationships and grow.

Here you will find the different types of marketing newsletters you can send and their advantages and disadvantages. It will help you make an educated decision about picking the most suitable email type and how to use it for your business.

Welcome emails to encourage newsletter sign-ups

It is always polite to introduce yourself in any situation, and it doesn't matter if it's a real-life or a digital one. It is what the welcome email series are for. By sending a series of emails, you can build some familiarity with new readers. Also, you can educate subscribers about your brand and the product or service you are selling, encouraging them to become and stay subscribed to your newsletter content.

Your primary emails should include the following components:

  • Introduction
  • Invite them to follow you on social media
  • Personalization and email preferences

Taking too long to reach a new subscriber can lead to a higher unsubscribe score simply because they forgot they signed up for your mailing list. Welcome emails receive higher open rates, click-throughs, and tend to generate higher revenue.

Promotional newsletter campaigns

It is the most popular of the email marketing campaigns and reasonably the one most familiar to all email users. Rather than sending 10 different one-off newsletters promoting your products or services, how about putting some thought into a growing or unified campaign in some style, so one email forms on the previous and leads to the next email?

Here are some tips to spice up your promotional emails:

  • Evoke emotion
  • Add some humor
  • Give a free trial product
  • Leave subscribers curious
  • Use color and images that grabs attention

Seasonal and holiday-based newsletters

On any significant holiday, you can most likely create your newsletters to reflect the importance of those holidays, big or small, and have a promotion before the celebration and a follow-up email after.

Here are some examples to consider when planning your email newsletters:

  • Know the holidays' traditions in the country you are promoting your products.
  • Start earlier. People are attacked with content over the holidays, so make sure you're one of the first to reach out.
  • Make sure the colors and design match the theme of the holiday.
  • Give subscribers a special discount for a holiday, if you’re selling a product or service.
  • Create a sense of urgency. Emails with a limited amount of time works better.

Targeted and triggered newsletters

With email automation, you can have a user's action trigger targeted and relevant emails. For instance, if people clicked on a link in one of the promotional newsletters, put products in their cart, but bounced without checking out, downloaded a content, bought something specific, or answered a survey. Subscriber's behavior "triggered" the drip email campaign.

Post-purchase newsletter drip campaigns

This is a newsletter series sent not to sell, but as a simple follow-up to a buyer. Let's a person bought a new gadget for the garage. The email marketer could use automated email to send information that both strengthens the decision to make the purchase and creates brand loyalty.

For instance, one email might give special tips on cleaning and taking care of the gadget. From an emotional aspect, it creates trust and joy with clients because you're delivering value after you've made the sale, although each email is still a chance to up-sell.

Re-engagement email newsletters

The re-engagement email is a series of emails sent to inactive users. Normally, people change emails; companies change names or forget their inbox password, so inactive users happens.

Let's say a part of your mailing list hasn't opened an email in over eight months. Your re-engagement newsletters attempts to either bring these subscribers back into the fold or decide if they have to be deleted from your email list.

Why do you need to remove inactive subscribers from your mailing list? They are dead weight. By not opening your emails, they can possibly affect your email reputation in the eyes of the ISPs; therefore, your deliverability rate will suffer from this.

Signing off 

When you send newsletters the right way, they aren't sales emails that your target audience is likely to get tired of; rather, they're value-packed emails that can educate and inform subscribers about product updates, business goals, and anything fun or frivolous you might want to add to for engagement purposes. 

You benefit by staying top of mind to your subscribers, building brand loyalty, and producing share-worthy content that possibly grows your target audience. Make sure to keep your newsletters interesting to your subscribers and keep them engaged and reading. 

Learn even more about the best email newsletter and campaign tactics when you visit G2's curated email marketing content hub for marketers like you! 

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