Ultimate Guide to Writing Your First Email Newsletter6 min read
Email newsletters often don’t bring immediate conversions or sales. They take significant time and resources to create. Is it even worth it to launch one?
Those in the know think so. The Content Marketing Institute’s 2021 B2C content marketing report found nearly 3 in 4 marketers use email newsletters. Among those who run at least two types of content marketing campaigns, 26% say newsletters are the most effective.
Email newsletters are an essential marketing tool for sharing information that goes beyond your products and services. People trust brands that fulfill the trifecta of strong products, a good customer experience, and support of social issues that align with their own. This trust leads to increased sales and loyalty, which is why newsletters are worth the investment.
The question isn’t whether it’s worth it to launch a newsletter; it’s whether you can afford to not have one. However, building a newsletter from scratch is no easy task. This post outlines everything you need to know about how to make an effective newsletter. It’s not just about writing, either — these tips cover everything you’ll need to go from initial idea to successful launch.
Phase 1: Set the groundwork before you start writing
Content creation and distribution are two separate operations, but you have to consider both at the same time. Set up everything you need to send your email beforehand to make a process you can easily replicate in the future.
Choose an email newsletter service
First things first: Don’t try to send your newsletter manually using Gmail, Outlook, or any other standard email service provider. Google Workspace limits senders to 500 external recipients (people outside your company) per message and 3,000 per day. It’s not a scalable solution, nor does it have important tools like email templates, segmentation capabilities, or analytics. You’ll run into similar restraints with any app that’s not dedicated to email campaigns.
Your email newsletter service should have an easy drag-and-drop editor, come with sign-up forms, and be built for collaboration so even a well-meaning blunderer like Michael Scott could get great results. Campaign Monitor offers all these features, plus automation, real-time analytics, and more, for a competitive price.
Make a strategy and set a schedule
The first step in planning an email newsletter is choosing a subject matter that’s both interesting to your audience and relevant to your company. You also need to decide when to send your newsletter. You don’t want to send too often (and annoy your subscribers) or too infrequently (and have them forget why they’re on your list). Just make sure your installments go out on a set schedule.
When it comes to timing your send, no one rule works for everyone. Campaign Monitor comes with testing capabilities and analytics that help you determine the best time to send to your customers. You can build off your existing email marketing strategy, and use practices you already know are successful.
Start building your subscriber list
A newsletter can only help your marketing efforts if people read it, which means you need subscribers before you start sending. You may already have customer emails from previous list-building campaigns. If you don’t, use these effective tactics to bring in new subscribers:
- Incentivize sign-ups
- Run contests or sweepstakes
- Set up data capture forms and pop-ups on your site and landing pages
- Use social media (or other digital marketing techniques)
The easier you make it for people to subscribe to your newsletter, the more success you’ll have.
Don’t ever buy an email list to get more readers. Purchased subscribers are much more likely to flag your newsletter as spam and tank your deliverability.
Make sure you understand the laws
From CAN-SPAM to the GDPR and beyond, email marketing is regulated by multiple laws worldwide. Make sure you understand email legislation and follow it to the letter to avoid fines.
Some legal requirements, like getting consent from people before emailing them and including an unsubscribe link in every message, are common sense. Others require more technical knowledge. Campaign Monitor has tools to help you comply with major legislation like the GDPR.
Phase 2: Focus on strong content and design
The copy and design of your newsletter should work together to support its theme and reflect your brand identity. Your first newsletter needs to set the tone, as it will be a template for all future installments. Take the time upfront to make a process you can easily repeat.
There are a lot of decisions to make at this stage. You don’t have to make them all alone. Rely on the advice of experts who have been where you are.
Choose and customize an email newsletter template
Save time on your email design by using a free email template for newsletters. Choose one that works for the type of content you want to share and then customize it. Our email newsletter design tips can help anyone make a newsletter template look like their own.
If you get stuck during the newsletter process, try looking at our favorite resources for inspiration:
Still having trouble? Try to find a different template that better fits your needs. This is frustrating, but it’s better to take time to find the right template than to struggle with design and layout every month.
Keep your content interesting and relatable
The only reason subscribers will engage with your newsletter is if its content is valuable to them. When looking for topics for your next newsletter, consider ideas that are:
Depending on the size of your email list and the depth of your resources, you might want to create different newsletters for different segments. Most beginners — and those working in smaller departments — won’t have time to create content that’s personalized with that much depth. However, you should still use basic personalization, like customers’ names, to connect with readers.
Creating content regularly often leads to writer’s block. Don’t worry if you’re struggling — just refer to our list of 50 engaging newsletter ideas, which range from new product announcements to case studies to user-generated content. Or, you can check out some fabulous examples and get a breakdown of why they work from our list of 15 of the best email newsletter examples we’ve seen.
Make sure your newsletter has all the necessary elements
Email newsletters aren’t just about the body content. Don’t forget the other parts of your message. While they may take up less space, they’re just as essential to your newsletter’s success:
- A subject line that follows best practices to boost your open rate
- A preheader that complements your subject line and offers another hook
- A CTA, whether you want readers to click through to your blog, send feedback, or engage in some other way
- An email footer that helps you follow legal requirements and meet reader expectations
These elements are the ones readers use to judge whether they should engage further with what you’ve sent. Take time to execute them well if you want your newsletter to succeed.
Phase 3: Test and optimize on an ongoing basis
Verifying everything in your email works before you send matters just as much as A/B testing and looking back at analytics afterward. Each installment you send is an opportunity to improve on your process and your results.
Pre-send tests should include email list maintenance, content optimization, and email previews. These 17 low-budget email testing tools can help you cover all the major bases. Set up a good workflow to automate as much of the testing as possible.
After you’ve sent, the only thing to do is wait for the results to come in. Your KPIs should match the goal of your newsletter; whatever your chosen metrics are, make sure you faithfully track them. Our 2022 email marketing benchmarks can help you compare your open rates, click-through rates, click-to-open rates, and unsubscribe rates to senders across 18 industries.
Be ready to keep learning
You don’t have to stick to the rules you set for yourself in the beginning if they don’t perform as expected. Don’t be afraid to experiment by adding new content or retiring sections that aren’t resonating with your readers. It’s hard to send a quality newsletter, and sometimes it takes time for new attempts to really find their groove.
The most important thing you can do is listen to your readers to learn how you can better serve them.