E-mail newsletters are well-known to be highly successful advertising methods if done right, yet they can be one of the most frustrating and annoying if done wrong. In essence, it’s a direct message to a user, and if it’s impersonal and uninspiring, it can turn off a customer from a service they may even have used otherwise. However, if it’s too personal and informal, it can send the wrong message. At the same time, an e-mail newsletter needs to be concise for email marketing and to the point while still being clear and not missing out on any vital information. If you thought creating an e-mail newsletter was easy; hopefully, you’re now starting to see the difficult, fine balance a good newsletter has to maintain.
Before we even really get into the article, you should evaluate whether you even need an e-mail newsletter in the first place for your email campaigns. The most clear-cut answer you can obtain in this part is by looking at the industry this newsletter is for. Are others in the industry creating newsletters? Why/why not? If they do, what benefit exactly does it serve their business, and what is the value of that benefit to your business? If not, does creating a newsletter give you an edge over your competition? Then examine your business’s own goals and evaluate whether an e-mail newsletter is the best option in this case or if it should follow a different strategy. Think for yourself and decide if you even need an e-mail newsletter at all.
So, let’s get into what makes a good newsletter and the things that you should avoid, i.e., the things that make a bad one. First off, go through your e-mail. Scroll through a Promotions tab if you have one, open as many examples of an e-mail newsletter as you can. Currently, don’t read through them with full attention. Instead, try to emulate the thought process and mindset of an average consumer, the person who just throws a cursory glance at an e-mail newsletter, if they throw one at all. Close any newsletters in the list that can’t keep or even pique your interest at all. This should get rid of a huge percentage of the initial list.
The next step is to read more thoroughly and get rid of any newsletters that quickly lose your interest. Now, go through the ones remaining and group together the ones that made you click through to the website and those that didn’t. Don’t remove either group, just set them both apart for now. Now comes the exciting part; observe and note down everything you can about these newsletters – positive or negative, it doesn’t matter. This should help you come to some critical personal conclusions and help you visualise what a good newsletter should look like. This step should help you get a jump start on the basics of designing your newsletter.
Have a design language. What represents your business best? What aesthetic would fit a newsletter from your specific company? Should it be clean, formal, and modernist, or should it follow a more old-school, nostalgic, and relaxing look? Or should it not fit into any predefined aesthetic styles completely and create its unique look to represent something new and innovative? Once you have an aesthetic decided, look at examples and details and what makes up that aesthetic. Make a list of everything you need to accomplish that look and create a simplistic draft that helps you visualize the sort of result that you want to see. Create several different designs, compare and contrast which ones you like most. Show them to other people; colleagues, friends, higher-ups in the company, whoever can give you a perspective that you’ve been lacking.
The next step revolves around content, aim, goal, and knowing what you want the newsletter to be. You should know what kind of newsletter you want, and you should have a very good idea of what will be going into this newsletter in the future. Know the format that will be followed, or if you have to define a format, define a flexible one that can sustain change over time without complete overhauls. Have sufficient space in your formatting such that it doesn’t break the design or look odd if the content is lesser than expected or more than expected. Your design should be able to accommodate any reasonable scenario or text that might end up in your newsletter.
If you are in charge of the content that will be going through, keep in mind that your readers will only read as long as they’re interested. Most people in modern society can see right through pandering, advertising, and marketing tactics. So be genuine, keep the promotion and marketing to a minimum. Make the reader curious, and if they want to check out the goods or services you’re providing, they’ll be more likely to purchase from you. If you force promotional material onto them, they might click through to the website more often, but they will purchase way less. So a good ratio to stick to is 90:10. 90% informational, even if part of the information is about your product, and 10% promotional. Also, make sure not to have repeated buttons or requests to click-through. This can be very off-putting and frustrating, so try to only have one leading call-to-action at the start or at the end of your newsletter.
Aside from these fundamentals, some basic and functional newsletter etiquette include the inclusion of creative subject lines, having alt text and metadata on images, lots of third-party content if your format and company allow for it, user-generated content for a more personalized and open feel, social media links and a clear way to unsubscribe. Don’t forget that these are general guidelines, and not a set of to-the-letter instructions. They apply to a vast majority of good newsletters, but there are always outliers. If you think you have ideas or designs that don’t fit with some of these guidelines, or your company requirements break some of these suggestions, don’t worry too much about it. I recommend testing everything multiple times and trying to obtain a wide variety of opinions. And that’s it; I wish you luck with creating the best newsletter you possibly can!