How to create a successful newsletter: the complete guide

Newsletters are one of the most common tools of communication used by companies to stay in touch with their customers. Whether it’s special promotional campaigns or regular updates, email marketing offers a channel to routinely communicate with the audience in a quick and inexpensive way. And marketers know it: having constant contact with your audience is the basis for retaining or acquiring new customers.

With the advent of digital technologies, over the last 30 years we have witnessed an evolution in corporate communication and marketing techniques, and in general in the way companies do business. The web, in addition to having created new forms of communication and working practices, has allowed companies to automate some operations that in the past were done manually and which required much more time and resources. Among these, there was undoubtedly the need to frequently communicate information and news about products and services to customers and potential ones. What was once sent in printed form in the PO box, today can be completely automated thanks to the several tools and software available on the market for sending newsletters which, despite being one of the oldest forms of communication, are still effective.

What are newsletters? And what are its advantages?

Newsletters are e-mail messages sent on a regular basis by a company to a specific mailing list of users who have explicitly expressed their consent to receive the communication, with the aim of communicating informative or commercial content.

Small businesses as well as powerful multinationals can reap numerous benefits from sending messages via e-mail, including:

  • Convenience: email marketing platforms generally have low prices;
  • Speed: you can reach a large number of users in just a few minutes;
  • Real interest: newsletters are generally sent to a mailing list created ad hoc for each individual campaign. This allows you to send newsletters only to users interested in a certain content;
  • Generate website traffic: within the newsletter it’s possible to insert Call-To-Action buttons and links to specific pages, thus generating traffic and increasing views;
  • Performance control: all email marketing software allow you to monitor the performance of newsletters and user activity, providing a complete overview of the results of a campaign.

As in every professional and non-professional field, email marketing as well can have pitfalls and we could be tempted to take “shortcuts” that may turn out to be the wrong path.

For example, to acquire a large number of contacts without particular effort, some companies buy “prepackaged” databases for a few cents. However, this activity is counterproductive as they typically contain low-value email addresses. It is good to focus more on the quality than the quantity of the email addresses in your database. In addition, incorrect or generic email addresses (not belonging to a specific person) affect the deliverability rate of your email. Last but not least, as previously written, it is important that the users have expressed their consent to receive your newsletter, otherwise you could incur into penalties.

In fact, in recent years the regulations to protect the privacy of consumers have been tightened. These vary from country to country, but it is advisable to equip your company with a comprehensive privacy policy. For example, in Europe the GDPR requires the company to obtain explicit consent before registering an e-mail in its database for commercial purposes. While in the USA the CAN-SPAM Act states that explicit consent is not required. However, both regulations oblige the sender to provide recipients with the possibility of unsubscribing in a few clicks.

Another factor to consider when it comes to email marketing is that, although it is still essential in any communication strategy, it is an overused tool. About 2.9 billion emails are sent every day and we all know how annoying it is to receive them all the time. Our advice is to create a really effective, interesting newsletter for your audience, which will be more prone to reading it.

So, what can we do to create an effective newsletter that entices our audience to open, read it and interact with its content?

Surely, it is not just a matter of deciding the layout and content: our strategy must also take into account the previous preparatory phase as well as the monitoring of performance following the sending.

Before sending

1. Define your email marketing strategy

Even before starting to design and write a newsletter, it is important to establish the focus and objectives in order to implement the marketing strategy that best suits the needs of your company. Different strategies and contents correspond to different purposes: will the newsletter serve to sell products? To sponsor a service rather than an event? Or to inform readers of the publication of a new article on the blog? Or to generate traffic to your website?

Starting from the answers to these questions, plan a strategy suited to your goal.

2. Create an editorial calendar

Regularity is a very important concept when it comes to email marketing. Consistent sending of emails will allow you to find the right balance between being present in your customers’ inbox and at the same time not too intrusive. Scheduling mailings will therefore allow you to keep your communications monitored, avoiding sending too many emails or, on the contrary, too few. An ideal frequency is about 2-4 newsletters per month, depending on the type of communication and the final goal.

However, the fundamental prerequisite is to have really interesting and useful content to communicate: sending newsletters without useful information can cause serious damage, such as an increase in the unsubscribe rate and an overall negative performance.

3. Choose a professional platform that suits your needs

It is a good rule to rely on an email marketing platform to be able to send your communications without problems. Very often sending identical emails from your personal inbox is counterproductive because they could end up in spam or, even worse, your domain could end up on a blacklist. This could lead to problems with sending even daily emails which, coming from the same domain, could be incorrectly categorized as spam.

Email marketing platforms such as Mailchimp, Mailup or SendInBlue offer a professional, monitored and secure service for sending our newsletters.

 4. Define your audience

Based on the focus of the newsletter, it is possible to profile a mailing list to try to offer readers relevant and interesting content and to measure their real interest in your emails.

At the base of the success of most of a company’s activities – and we are not just talking about marketing and communication – there is the creation of a specific and well-organized database of contacts. Additionally, email marketing platforms give you the chance to import contacts and organize them into specific mailing lists based on their interests and preferences. In this way, you can differentiate the mailings and send to specific lists only the contents that are most useful and relevant to them.

This phase is very important because the more accurate the profiling is, the higher the performance will be – especially in terms of open rate and click rate. In addition to these, other indicators that can make you understand if your list is active and interested are the aforementioned unsubscribe rate, i.e. people who request not to receive your communications anymore, and the number of inactive and incorrect emails.

Design the content

The layout

When we have established the content of our newsletter, it is important to choose the graphic template that allows us to present the content in the best way possible and that reflects the style of our brand. A good layout should have the right balance between the three elements that are usually found in a newsletter: text, images and call-to-action.

Since many users view the newsletter without images, it is good practice to avoid writing important information on the images, as they may not be displayed.

By the way, it is always good to also insert a link to view the message in the browser, in order to avoid possible display problems.

The preview

As we have seen, the daily average of received emails is very high and constantly increasing. As recipients ourselves, we know that most of them are hastily deleted for different reasons. Among these, even a too trivial object or a poorly curated preview that leads the recipient to think that it might a suspicious and dangerous email. The user’s decision to open or ignore the message is influenced by three preview levels: sender, subject and preheader. These are the only elements that the recipient is able to see before opening the newsletter, and it is therefore pivotal to use them in the best possible way to stimulate the recipient’s interest.

It is always better to choose a recognizable sender, usually the name of the company, maybe accompanied by the name of the owner or of the person in charge of marketing, in order to make the communication more personal.

The subject must summarize in a clear and concise manner what users will find in the newsletter. It weighs heavily on the success or failure of our message because it is the only element that gives some clue about the content of the newsletter.

With a limited number of characters, it can sometimes be difficult to find the right object, able to attract the user’s attention and at the same time provide useful information on the content of the newsletter.

The preheader come to our rescue. It is another short text preview (often ignored and underestimated by those who create the newsletters) which is displayed in almost all mail clients and which provides us with a few more characters to further specify the goal of our newsletter. We have to think the object and the preheader as a pyramid of information: in the object we have to write the most important information, while we can use the preheader to further elaborate the object or to insert a call to action or additional attractive information that may prompt the user to open the newsletter.

The content

In addition to the steadily increasing number of emails that reach our inbox, users have less and less time to read them. The most suitable way to present the content within a newsletter is the inverted pyramid model: the most important content must appear first, in order to immediately capture the attention of recipients.

Let’s not overdo it with the amount of information: the newsletter must be clear and straight to the point. We therefore need to avoid mince words and premises that may distract the reader from the focus of our message.

Finally, don’t forget that the graphics is as important as the text. You have to balance the textual content with captivating pictures, which are able to capture the reader’s attention and, at the same time, are in line with the message you are sending and your brand.

Revision

To avoid undermining the success of a campaign, always do some tests, to make sure there are no display problems.

Check that there are no typos or errors in the texts and especially in the subject.

Also make sure that the chosen images are consistent with the content and that the recipients are profiled correctly.

Make sure the hyperlinks redirect recipients to the right page so that you don’t waste traffic.

Finally, make sure that the newsletter is not too heavy, otherwise there could be problems with reception. Generally, the recommended maximum weight is 50 kb.

After sending

Keep track of results and statistics

How can you know if what you have done works or if there is something to improve?

Generally, the platform from which you sent the newsletter provides you with a specific analysis on different performance parameters, such as the open rate, i.e. how many people have opened the newsletter, and the click rate, i.e. how many have clicked on the links. Furthermore, you will be able to see how many people have decided to unsubscribe and how many emails didn’t arrive at their destination due to problems of various kinds. These are usually divided into soft bounces, namely temporary errors such as a full mailbox, and hard bounces, permanent errors related, for instance, to an incorrect email address.

Carefully analysing all these data will allow you to understand the level of interest generated by your communications and which types of CTAs lead to greater conversion rates.

Another method to test the effectiveness of your newsletters is to do an A/B test, i.e. create two messages that have the same conversion goal (for example, the click on the Call-To-Action that invites readers to buy a product) but with slightly different texts and graphics, for example anticipating certain information and postponing others. Once you have set up the two newsletters, simply select your mailing list, choose the number of contacts on which you’d like to run the test and establish the success criteria (for example, the best open or click rate). The platform itself will then manage both mailings and, based on the parameters set, will automatically choose the most effective newsletter to send to the rest of the recipients of the list.

In conclusion

Although newsletters are probably the main tool adopted by almost all companies, writing a newsletter that is truly effective and that brings the desired results can be difficult.

In fact, precisely because of the immediacy and ease of managing newsletters, some may believe that this is a too easy, almost trivial task. Far from it. As with any communication tool, if we do not grasp the logics behind email marketing, how to monitor data and performance and how to create effective mailing lists, the time and resources used in this activity will have been useless. A mistake that we cannot afford in a world already so saturated with communications and emails.

This guide summarizes the best practices to follow before, during and after the process of creating our newsletters, during which a pinch of originality and creativity must never be missing.

Hoping it will help you, we take the opportunity to invite you to subscribe to our newsletter, which will keep you up-to-date on the latest news from the marketing and communication world, and to contact us to create together the right strategy to set up a winning newsletter.

Published by

Ilaria

Since I was a child, my school career has been driven by a passion for what I wanted to do when I was grown up. So I graduated in modern languages and cultures at the University of Pavia and now I'm studying journalism and communication at the University of Bergamo. Today I do what I like most: I work in the technical publishing industry dedicating myself in particular to social media and digital marketing at Eos Mktg&Communication, the publishing house of the international ipcm® magazines. If I had to describe myself in three words according to my hobbies and interests, I would say: globetrotter, shopaholic and motorsport-addicted.

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