Years ago, the newsletter was dead. More specifically, email was dead and social media was where everyone wanted to be. Due to the unknowability of algorithms, (which make figuring out how to reach followers on social media platforms near impossible), the reliability of email has put the newsletter back in the spotlight. In fact McKinsey concluded that email is nearly 40 times as effective at acquiring customers than Facebook and Twitter combined. The problem with email is, how do you create a newsletter that people will want to open?
How to design it:
A newsletter has got to be mobile-first – even if you think most of your readers read it on a desktop. Make it simple and skimmable and your work is half done. Humans are visual creatures, so use photos to break up text and showcase your products but place them further down in the email so they have time to download before your reader gets down to them. Choose bullet points and short sentences in lieu of paragraphs and use headers to break up text.
Write a great subject line:
This is critical because it will either make a user open or ignore your email. It’s vital to get it right. A subject line can be a question, a single word, or a grabby sentence – anything goes if it is intriguing enough to make people want to click on it. Try testing your subject lines to find out what works. Mailchimp and other platforms have an A/B testing feature that lets you try out two or more competing subject lines on a small sample of your subscribers before sending out the winning version to the entire list.
What you must include in your newsletters:
A good hook: Good content is essential, but without a couple of cool content features your readers might lose interest after the first couple of months. See if you and your colleagues can brainstorm a unique way of delivering news to your audience, about your industry, or something that affects it tangentially. It could be a unique format like the Significant Digits newsletter or the pop culture savvy of TheSkimm. Industry gossip is always welcome, and a bit of pixie dust – like any celebrity connection to your product or service – is going to increase interest in it too. So, search for those tidbits that will elevate your content.
Among all of Quartz’s excellent emails, we especially enjoy their Obsession newsletter which comes out every afternoon (just when we need a break at work!) and focuses on a single topic that is in the news. For instance, yesterday’s was about the Happy Birthday song and today’s is about Esports. Quartz has a knack for including fun images, interactives and videos in their entertaining newsletters, which make them fun to browse. We rarely miss an opportunity to open them up, because you never know what you’ll find, and much of it is shareable too. There’s a lot to be said for scrolling down the entire thing, but Quartz makes it easy by sectioning off pieces of content which can be consumed in small bites. The layout lets you pick and choose to stop at whatever strikes your fancy and never seems overwhelming.
Helpful information: Updates to your products or services can create renewed interest in your offerings, along with keeping customers informed of any changes to their existing product. Don’t forget to include any news that will affect your customers, even if it’s only peripheral to your own company. (Be useful to customers and they will appreciate your presence in their lives).
Social share buttons: This can get you in front of more eyes with no effort of your own, so be sure to include plenty of share buttons – even one after every article, image or product. Be sure to include one that allows readers to share the entire email, so you might get more subscribers into the bargain.
CTAs: Wherever CTAs appear, they all have the same goal. But placing them at different parts of the email journey is just plain smart. So, don’t just wait to place them at the bottom of a piece; think about placing them at the beginning as well, and at the top and bottom of the newsletter for good measure. Sometimes people skip reading the entire newsletter and just want to know if there’s anything important they should check out, on your website. That’s an opportunity you don’t want to waste, so make sure your CTAs are scattered generously all along the way.
When to send it:
Timing matters less than consistency in terms of when you send out your newsletter. Newsletters have a long shelf life, and people will save emails to read later. What is important is consistency in terms of when people receive it, so you can become part of your readers’ routines (and you definitely want to be part of their routine). That said, if you want to strike when the iron is hot, think of a time in the day when your audience are likely to be at their desks and able to spend a few minutes with your (compellingly titled) newsletter. After experimenting, you might see a decent open rate at a particular time. Stick with that and try not to change it so your newsletter becomes a reading habit.