13 Tips for Creating an E-Newsletter People Actually Read

February 4, 2019
February 4, 2019 Carol Forden

Want to ace your new email newsletter project, or revitalize an old one? Here are 13 tips for creating an e-newsletter people read.   And if you’re looking for some inspiration, here are some awesome email newsletter examples you can check out.

13 Tips for Creating an E-Newsletter People Read

1. Assess: Do you even need an email newsletter?

What are your business’ goals?

Are they trying to increase the number of leads?

Are you looking to improve the quality of your leads?

Close more deals? Retain more customers?

Here are some statistics that might get you in the mood to write, courtesy of Convince & Convert:

  • 44% of email subscribers made at least one purchase based on a promotional email they received.
  • And, even better, people who make purchases marketed through emails spend 138% more than people who do not receive emails.
  • If you’re still wondering if and why are newsletters important – think of all the sales opportunities you’re missing out on if you don’t send out regular newsletters.

If your industry or customer base isn’t interested in email newsletters, or if your goals don’t align with what a newsletter can accomplish, your time will be better spent creating something else like a lead nurturing email workflow and campaign or content for your blog.

Analyze your data, create a plan-of-action (either for a successful newsletter or another activity), and evaluate the results of what your data is telling you.

Okay, let’s say that your data says that you should do an email newsletter.

What next?

2. Figure out what kind of online newsletter you want to send.

One of the most significant problems with email newsletters is that they’re often cluttered and unfocused because they’re supporting every aspect of your business.

Product news goes right next to PR stories; blog posts go next to a random event week … it’s kind of a mess.

Email — whether it’s a newsletter or not — needs one common thread to hold it together.

One way to help reduce the randomness of an email newsletter is by keeping it to one very specific topic.

So instead of it being about your company in general, maybe it’s dedicated to one vertical.

An example of a great, topic-based email newsletter is Zillow’s “Trending This Week” which brings fun, interesting selection of content to Zillow’s subscribers. We love the layout and the variety of photos.

Though Zillow writes about pretty much everything under the sun around their vertical – real estate  – they offer up one specific newsletter for people who love reading about home design trends. Because the niche is aligned with a particular interest, the articles have an opportunity to get way more engagement than they would in a newsletter featuring content from all over the website.

13 Tips for Creating an E-Newsletter People Actually Read3. F0llow the 90/10 Rule.

Balance your newsletter content to be 90% educational and 10% promotional.

Odds are, your email newsletter subscribers don’t want to hear about your products and services all of the time.

While they may love you and want to hear from you, there’s only so much shilling of products or services and self-promotion you can do before they tune out.  And likely unsubscribe from your newsletter.

Case in point: I have a thing for electronics, and I especially l find the Best Buy site easy to navigate, with excellent product reviews.

I willingly opted into the company’s email list, but Best Buy now sends me emails 2-3 times a day to buy, buy, buy … and when I see their sender name pop up in my inbox, I want to scream.

If they sent me educational content — about the latest news on HGTV’s or improvements in soundbars and speakers or an invite to a private demo of new Mac laptops — I might be more inclined to buy from them, or at least start opening their emails again.

Don’t be that company.

In your email newsletters, get rid of the self-promotion (90% of the time) and focus on sending your subscribers educational, relevant, timely information.

Unless you have an exciting, big piece of news about your product, service, or company, leave out the promotional parts.

4. Set expectations on your “Subscribe” page.

Once you’ve figured out your newsletter’s focus and content balance, make sure you’re properly communicating about them on your subscribe landing page.

Get specific.

Tell potential subscribers exactly what will be in the newsletter as well as how often they should expect to hear from you.

Take a page out of SmartBrief’s book: On the subscribe landing page, it says what’ll be in the newsletter and gives potential subscribers a preview link. Check it out:

13 Tips for Creating an E-Newsletter People Actually Read expectations-example-set

To make certain that important details are not overlooked, they place information not only in the header of the form but above the form as well.

With your form, if you can’t explain in full detail what subscribers will receive in just the header, include a description near the web form on the page.

This web form includes the benefits of what the subscriber will receive – “free printables and contests, extra-hip party tips and secrets and new products alert.”  They make their newsletter sound special and exciting while describing exactly what is to come.

As a subscriber, wouldn’t that be awesome?

You’d go in with open eyes knowing exactly who you’ll be receiving email from, what they’ll be sending you, and how often they’ll be sending it.

As a marketer, having this information up front will help diminish your unsubscribe and spam rates as well.

5. Deliver relevant, trustworthy content

People want to buy from companies they trust, and one way to build trust is by providing relevant content in the form of a sales newsletter. What that content is will depend on what your business sells.

How to build a newsletter that turns readers into buyersFor instance, a startup yoga studio may send out a weekly newsletter that highlights a recent health study on the benefits of yoga along with some recipes for clean, healthy meals.

A B2B company might include articles about optimizing your business’s social media accounts in their newsletter.

Think about your customers, and think about what you, as an industry expert, can offer them to help them in their business and personal lives.

6. Why You Need Good Email Subject Lines

Did you know that 47% of email recipients open email based on the subject line alone?

At the same time, 68% of email recipients report email as spam based solely on the subject line.

13 Tips for Creating an E-Newsletter People Actually Read

Even if your subscribers sign up for your emails, there’s no guarantee that they will open your emails once they get them in their inbox. Many marketers try increasing familiarity with their subscribers by keeping the subject line the same each day, week, or month that they send it.

But let’s face it, those subject lines get old for subscribers — and fast. Why? Because there’s no incentive from the subject line to click on that specific email right this instant. A better approach would be to try to have a different, creative, engaging subject line for each newsletter you send.

Your subject lines have the power to make or break your email marketing campaigns.

The best way to write email subject lines for higher opens (instead of being marked as spam) is by leveraging natural human tendencies and psychological principles.

Here are 164 examples of the best subject lines for email marketing, and the proven principles that make them work…

Fear of Missing Out

One psychological principle that is practically impossible to resist is the fear of missing out. You can use this fear in your subject lines by adding an element of scarcity (limited availability) or urgency (limited time).

Subject lines that include words that imply time sensitivity–like “urgent,” “breaking,” “important” or “alert”–are proven to increase email open rates.

13 Tips for Creating an E-Newsletter People Actually Read

Here are some great sample subject lines for emails that use the fear of missing out

  1. Warby Parker: “Uh-oh, your prescription is expiring.”
  2. JetBlue: “You’re missing out on points.”
  3. Digital Marketer: “[URGENT] You’ve got ONE DAY to watch this…”
  4. Digital Marketer: “Your 7-figure plan goes bye-bye at midnight…”
  5. Digital Marketer: “[WEEKEND ONLY] Get this NOW before it’s gone…”
  6. Jersey Mike’s Subs: “Mary, Earn double points today only.”
  7. Guess: “Tonight only: A denim lover’s dream.”

Curiosity

Humans have a natural desire for closure– we don’t like having gaps in our knowledge. You can leverage this desire for closure by leaving your subject line open-ended so subscribers will be curious, like a cliffhanger that can only be satisfied by opening the email.

You can make subscribers curious by asking a question (and answering it in your email), promising something interesting (like pictures or a surprise gift), or simply saying something that sounds strange or unusual.

Here are some great examples of curiosity-inducing subject lines

  1. Manicube: “*Don’t Open This Email*”
  2. GrubHub: “Last Day To See What This Mystery Email Is All About”
  3. Refinery29: “10 bizarre money habits making Millennials richer.”
  4. Digital Marketer: “Check out my new “man cave” [PICS]”
  5. Digital Marketer: “Is this the hottest career in marketing?”
  6. Thrillist: “What They Eat In Prison”
  7. Eat This Not That: “9 Disgusting Facts about Thanksgiving”
  8. Chubbies: “Hologram Shorts?!”
  9. The Hustle: “A faster donkey.”
  10. Mary Fernandez: “? a surprise gift for you! {unwrap}”

Funny Subject Lines

If your subject line makes your subscribers laugh, then they’ll simply have to open it. After all, have you ever read a subject line that tickled your funny bone and you didn’t read it?

Being humorous requires a bit more thought and creativity, but it can pay off in terms of your open rates.

Here are some funny email subject lines to make your subscribers laugh…

  1. Eater Boston: “Where to Drink Beer Right Now” (Sent at 6:45 am on a Wednesday.)
  2. OpenTable: “Licking your phone never tasted so good.”
  3. Groupon: “Deals That Make Us Proud (Unlike Our Nephew, Steve)”
  4. The Muse: “We Like Being Used”
  5. Warby Parker: “Pairs nicely with spreadsheets.”
  6. UncommonGoods: “As You Wish” (This is a reference to the movie The Princess Bride.)
  7. Travelocity: “Need a day at the beach? Just scratch n’ sniff your way to paradise…”
  8. TicTail: “Boom chakalaka! Let’s get started.”
  9. Thrillist: “Try To Avoid These 27 People On New Year’s Eve”
  10. Baby Bump: “Yes, I’m Pregnant. You Can Stop Staring At My Belly Now.”
  11. Gozengo: “NEW! Vacation on Mars”
  12. The Hustle: “Look what you did, you little jerk…” (This one is a hybrid curiosity/humor email. Here’s what it says when you open it.)

Vanity

Everyone has a bit of vanity. People love to be liked, accepted and even revered by others… it’s just a part of being human.

That’s why some of the most clever subject lines use vanity to get you to open the email. To do this, you can either promise something that makes the subscriber look better to their peers, or invoke the fear of being shamed.

Here are some great examples of clever email subject lines that leverage vanity

  1. Guess: “Don’t wear last year’s styles.”
  2. Fabletics: “Your Butt Will Look Great in These Workout Pants”
  3. Jeremy Gitomer: “How Have You Progressed Since the Third Grade?”
  4. Rapha: “Gift inspiration for the discerning cyclist.”
  5. La Mer: “Age-defying beauty tricks.”
  6. Pop Physique: “Get Ready. Keep the Pie Off Your Thighs Returns.”
  7. Rapha: “As worn in the World Tour.”
  8. Sephora: “Products the celebs are wearing”

Greed

You may not think of yourself as a “greedy” person, but it can be tough to pass up a great deal… even if you don’t need the item right now. That’s why sales, discounts and special offers work well in your subject lines.

However, be very cautious about offering huge discounts– the higher the percentage, the less reliable effect it has on your open rates (perhaps because consumers don’t believe large discounts are real).

Regardless, you can usually expect to see an increase in your click rates whenever you offer a discount in your subject line. That’s probably because the people who open these emails are already interested in your offer, so they’re naturally inclined to click.

13 Tips for Creating an E-Newsletter People Actually Read

Here are some great email subject line ideas for hitting your subscriber’s “greed” button

  1. Topshop: “Meet your new jeans.”
  2. Topshop: “Get a head start on summer.”
  3. HP: “Flash. Sale. Alert.”
  4. HP: “New must-haves for your office.”
  5. Seafolly: “A new product you won’t pass on.”
  6. Guess: “25% off your favorites”
  7. Rip Curl: “Two for two”
  8. La Mer: “A little luxury at a great price”
  9. Rapha: “Complimentary gift wrap on all purchases”
  10. The Black Tux: “Get priority access.”

Sloth

Another common trait among all humans is sloth, or the tendency to avoid work. Even people who aren’t inclined to be lazy would prefer a silver bullet over the long and hard route.

You can give subscribers an easier way to achieve their goals by offering a shortcut, or a useful resource that saves a lot of time and energy. (These useful emails are perfect for lead nurturing too!)

Here are some great examples of email subject lines that satisfy sloth

  1. Syed from OptinMonster: “63-Point Checklist for Creating the Ultimate Optin Form”
  2. Syed from OptinMonster: “Grow your email list 10X faster with these 30 content upgrade ideas”
  3. Ramit Sethi: “How to email a busy person (including a word-for-word script)”
  4. Digital Marketer: “Steal these email templates…”
  5. Digital Marketer: “A Native Ad in 60 Minutes or Less”
  6. Digital Marketer: “212 blog post ideas”

Pain Points

If you understand your buyer persona, you should know their biggest pain points. Use those pain points to get subscribers to open your emails by solving that problem for them.

Here are some examples of email subject lines that bring out the subscriber’s pain points and offer a solution

  1. Pizza Hut: “Feed your guests without breaking the bank”
  2. IKEA: “Where do all these toys go?”
  3. IKEA: “Get more kitchen space with these easy fixes”
  4. HP: “Stop wasting money on ink”
  5. Sephora: “Your beauty issues, solved”
  6. Uber: “Since we can’t all win the lottery…”
  7. Thrillist: “How to Survive Your Next Overnight Flight”
  8. Guess: “Wanted: Cute and affordable fashions”
  9. Evernote: “Stop wasting time on mindless work”
  10. Duolingo: “Learn a language with only 5 minutes per day”

Retargeting

Retargeting emails are sent to subscribers when they fail to complete an action or a step in your sales funnel (e.g. when they abandon their cart or fail to purchase after a free trial). These emails serve to bring your subscribers back to your sales process.

You can write effective retargeting subject lines by overcoming objections, offering something to sweeten the deal, or alerting them that something bad is going to happen if they don’t take action.

Here are some excellent examples of retargeting email subject lines

  1. Nick Stephenson: “How you can afford Your First 10,000 Readers (closing tonight)”
  2. Bonobos: “Hey, forget something? Here’s 20% off.”
  3. Target: “The price dropped for something in your cart”
  4. Syed from Envira: “Mary, your Envira account is on hold!”
  5. Syed from Envira: “I’m deleting your Envira account”
  6. Ugmonk: “Offering you my personal email”
  7. Animoto: “Did you miss out on some of these new features?”
  8. Pinterest: “Good News: Your Pin’s price dropped!”
  9. Unroll.Me: “Unroll.Me has stopped working”
  10. Vivino: “We are not gonna Give Up on You!”

Personal

According to a 2015 study by Experian Marketing Services, email subject lines that were personalized by including a name boosted open rates by 29.3% on average across all industries.

13 Tips for Creating an E-Newsletter People Actually Read

Including your subscriber’s name is only one way to make your subject lines more personal. You can also use casual language, share something personal, or use copy that implies familiarity or friendship.

(Just be careful not to play too many “tricks” on your subscribers by making them think that you are a friend!)

Here are some examples of personal email subject lines that get attention

  1. Guess: “Mary, check out these hand-picked looks”
  2. Rent the Runway: “Happy Birthday Mary – Surprise Inside!”
  3. Bonnie Fahy: “Mary, do you remember me?”
  4. Kimra Luna: “I didn’t see your name in the comments!?”
  5. John Lee Dumas: “Are you coming?”
  6. UrbanDaddy: “You’ve Changed”
  7. Influitive: “So I’ll pick you up at 7?”
  8. James Malinchak: “Crazy Invitation, I am Going to Buy You Lunch…”
  9. Brooklinen: “Vanilla or Chocolate?”
  10. Sam from The Hustle: “I love you”
  11. Ryan Levesque: “Seriously, Who DOES This?”
  12. Jon Morrow: “Quick favor?”
  13. Mary Fernandez: “you free this Thurs at 12PM PST? [guest blogging class]”
  14. Mary Fernandez: “? your detailed results…”
  15. Syed from OptinMonster: “300% increase in revenue with a single optin + a neat growth trick from my mastermind!”
  16. Revolution Tea: “Thanks for helping us”
  17. Harry’s: “Two razors for your friends (on us)”

Straightforward

When in doubt, make your subject line simple and straightforward. Contrary to what you might think, these “boring” subject lines can convert well.

The key to making this work for your list is to consistently provide value in all of your emails.

Don’t ever send an email unless you have something important to say: always make sure your campaigns are packed with value. If you do this, you’ll train your subscribers to open your emails no matter what the subject line says.

For help with writing better emails, check out Optin Monster’s post on 19 quick and dirty tricks for writing better emails.

Here are some examples of email subject lines that get straight to the point

  1. Al Franken: “Yes, this is a fundraising email”
  2. AYR: “Best coat ever”
  3. Barack Obama: “Hey”

…and these “boring” subject lines performed the highest out of 40 million emails, with open rates between 60-87%…

  1. “[Company Name] Sales & Marketing Newsletter”
  2. “Eye on the [Company Name] Update (Oct 31 – Nov 4)”
  3. “[Company Name] Staff Shirts & Photos”
  4. “[Company Name] May 2005 News Bulletin!”
  5. “[Company Name] Newsletter – February 2006”
  6. “[Company Name] and [Company Name] Invites You!”
  7. “Happy Holidays from [Company Name]”
  8. “Invitation from [Company Name]”

If you need help with your email newsletter subject lines, check out this recipe.

7.  Only have one primary call-to-action (CTA).

Okay, part of what makes a newsletter a newsletter is that you’re featuring multiple pieces of content with multiple calls-to-action (CTAs). But, that doesn’t mean you should let those CTAs share equal prominence.

Instead, let there be one head honcho CTA — just one main thing that you would like your subscribers to do.

The rest of the CTAs should be “in-case-you-have-time” options. Whether it’s simply to click through to see a blog post or just to forward the email to a friend, make it super simple for your subscribers to know what you want them to do.

J. Crew’s first call to action is on top.

By communicating that it’s worth scrolling, you get to the second CTA at the bottom. Black “Go” button in contrast with the light background wants you to “go for it” and visit the J. Crew collection. Middle of the newsletter is full of delicious colors, but it stops near the bottom where clean space is reserved for Call to Action button.

By placing this CTA above all the other pieces of information, J. Crew increases the chance that their email recipients will click on it.

 

13 Tips for Creating an E-Newsletter People Actually Read8.  Keep design and copy minimal.

Like we said before, a newsletter can easily feel cluttered because of its nature.

The trick for email marketers to look uncluttered revolves around two things: concise copy and white space in the design.

Concise copy is critical — seriously you don’t want to have your subscribers hang out and read your email all day, and they won’t.

You want to send them elsewhere (your website or blog or a landing page, for instance) to read the entire content in the article or blog post.

Concise copy gives your subscribers a taste of your content — just enough that they want to click and learn more.

White space is key in email newsletters because it helps visually alleviate the cluttered feel, and on mobile, makes it much easier for people to click the CTA.

Take a look at Tom Fishburne’s blog post newsletters and see how this is done.

The main blog post has one large comic, a few small paragraphs of introduction, and a link. The rest of the newsletter components are smaller and more visual, making the whole newsletter layout and design feel uncluttered an easy to read.

13 Tips for Creating an E-Newsletter People Actually Read

9.  Make sure images have alt text.

Considering that visual content is incredibly important to the rest of your marketing activities, it’d make sense that you’d want to include them in your emails … right?

Right. But email’s a little bit trickier. Most of the time, people won’t have images enabled, so you’ve got to make sure your images have one essential component: alt text. Alt text is the alternative text that appears when images aren’t loaded in an email. This is especially important if your CTAs are images — you want to make sure people are clicking even without the image enabled.

Each email marketing program is different, but here is one tutorial for adding alt text to email.

10. Try Out Emojis

According to a report by Experian, using emojis in your subject lines can increase your open rates by 45%.

Well, we’ve been testing this as well, and we can confirm that the email subject lines with emojis do beat out the plain text ones!

Here are the top 15 emojis by subject line appearances.

13 Tips for Creating an E-Newsletter People Actually Read

11.  Make it easy for people to unsubscribe.

To retain the subscribers, it’s important to understand the reasons that subscriber unsubscribes from your emails.

13 Tips for Creating an E-Newsletter People Actually ReadThis seems kinda counter-intuitive, but it’s key if you want to maintain an active, engaged subscriber list.

Don’t hide your unsubscribe button behind an image without alt text. Besides keeping your list healthy, having a clear unsubscribe process will help ensure your email isn’t marked SPAM before it hits the rest of your list’s inbox.

Take a look at JetBlue’s newsletter below to see how to do this right. The link to unsubscribe is in the header, making it easy for the reader to take action on it (if they desire to).

There’s no need to hunt to uncover the unsubscribe option.

Jet Blue goes further and gives the reader reasons to stay and does it in a fun way.

13 Tips for Creating an E-Newsletter People Actually Read12. Test, test, test.

I know I just listed out nine things you should do to make sure you’re doing email newsletters right, but you’ve also got to find out what works for your company and your list. Just like different cultures of people prefer different things, different groups of email subscribers prefer different things.

So use these email newsletter best practices as a jumping off point … and then experiment to find your secret sauce. Here are a few things you can try:

13.  What to include

Customers don’t want to be bombarded with an in-depth newsletter detailing every piece of industry news.

They’ll look forward to your newsletter as a break in their day-something to inform or entertain them that won’t take too long to read.

To that end, for many businesses, it’s best to keep your newsletter short and sweet.

Focus on a single, specific topic that will be easy for your readers to digest. Here are 25 newsletter email content ideas for you.

Finally, Your customers are busy people.

They aren’t spending all of their time thinking about your company or brand.

Sending out sales newsletters, however, encourages customers to think about you more often than they would normally.

And when you’re sending them content that applies to their lives, and not just your business, they start to think of you as an industry leader, not just another company.

If you want assistance with conversion rate optimization, content marketing, inbound marketing or social media, please contact us, we are happy to help.