How to Design an Effective Newsletter to Drive Customer Engagement
By Lauren McAlister
You’ve probably heard many of the benefits of email newsletters, but are you actively sending them to your customers? On a consistent basis? And if you are, are they actually driving results?
If your answer is anything but an enthusiastic yes, you’ve landed on the right post. On the other hand, if you’ve been successfully sending newsletters to your subscriber list for years, the following will serve as a good check-in to ensure you’re optimizing each and every send.
The definition of an email “newsletter.”
A newsletter is a regularly sent email distribution that’s composed, primarily, of informative content, which may include blog posts, upcoming events, new products or services, and the like. Newsletters should focus on connection with customers rather than sales (that’s where automated emails come into play). That being said, the best newsletters include relevant content that will likely, in turn, improve retention and therefore, increase revenue.
The intro to your newsletter: A catchy subject line.
Your subject line determines if your newsletter will be opened. The tone of your subject line (and the rest of your written content) should be consistent with your brand as well as your website. Most importantly, it should be clear, concise, and clever.
The foundation of your newsletter: A branded, mobile-responsive template.
Your template sets the stage for the content in your newsletter and should be branded, organized, and consistent. That way, it’s easy for your readers to both read and take action. Thankfully, you don’t have to be a designer to create a template; most automated marketing and email providers have customizable templates to help you get started.
Your template should align with your visual brand, which means it should include your business’s:
Logo or business name. This should be in the header of your newsletter so readers immediately know who it’s from right when they open.
Brand colors. However, it’s most important to stick with colors that are easy to read so be mindful.
Fonts. If your branded font is simple and easy to read (think Arial or Helvetica), use it. Otherwise, stick to a single, legible font throughout (and please, no Comic Sans).
Social media links. In your footer, include links out to your Facebook, Instagram, Youtube—whichever platforms you’re active on.
Finally, your template should be mobile-responsive, which means it will automatically adapt to any screen. Whether the email is opened on a computer, phone, or tablet, with a mobile-friendly template, your newsletter will look great on any device.
Tip: Once you’ve started using a template, save it! That way, you can keep all of your newsletters consistent and you won’t have to recreate every email from scratch. Plus, your subscribers will know exactly what format to expect in their inbox.
The heart of your newsletter: Your content.
InclBy far the most important part of your newsletter is the written and visual content inside. Remember: shorter and simpler is better. Your customers are busy, just like you, which means they don’t have time to scroll through a complex email.
Keep your newsletter content as effective as possible with these tips:
Keep it to 2-3 topics. If you have more to say, you might consider a separate email.
Get straight to the point. Each topic should include 200 words max. If you need to include more detail, link out to a blog post on your website. The added benefit of doing so: fresh, high-quality content on your website is great for boosting your SEO ranking.
Include your most important content first. You know the saying, "If you ain't first, you're last"? It applies to your email content too (thanks, Ricky Bobby). Keeping your most important content at the top increases the likelihood that those who open your email will read what matters most. Be sure to include a call-to-action (CTA) button above the fold, i.e., before readers have to scroll, to give it the attention it deserves.
Focus on one main CTA. Although there may be multiple topics, there should be one main action you want subscribers to take. When drafting your CTA, keep the text direct and aligned with your brand voice: “Get the details”, “Sign up now”, and “RSVP” are simple, effective examples.
Use branded imagery. Like topics, keep your images to 2-3 max. When in doubt, keep an 80:20 text-to-image ratio in mind. Not only does this help your email load faster for readers, but it also prevents your newsletter from landing in Spam folders.
The key to newsletter success: Test and evolve.
You’ve chosen a mobile-responsive template, written your subject line, and added your email copy and images—now it’s time to test before hitting send. Most email platforms come with a test feature that allows you to send a test email to yourself. Be sure to open your newsletter on both mobile and desktop, test all links and CTA buttons, and ensure there are no typos. Once you’ve confirmed, you’re ready to schedule your distribution.
Evolving your newsletters requires testing. Pay attention to things like your subject line, your CTA button(s), your distribution day and time, etc. Using A/B split testing, which most providers offer, involves splitting a random subset of your subscriber list to receive one of two variations of your email. The email variants are nearly identical, except for one small difference (e.g., your subject line or the color of your CTA button) to help determine what is most effective. By continuously testing your newsletters, you’ll figure out your perfect formula to keep your readers opening and engaging.