How to Deliver Winning eMail Newsletters

Posted by Murray Sye

on Wed, Dec 3, 2014 @ 02:05 PM

How to deliver winning email newsletters

Are you active on social media?

Tweeting, posting, sharing, engaging?

How's that working for you?

According to recent Forrester research, analyst Nate Elliot finds that posts from top brands on Facebook and Twitter reach just 2% of their followers. And engagement opportunities? Well, a measly 0.07% of followers interact with posts.

Less than impressive right? 

Elliot goes on to say: "Yet most brands still use social media sites as the centerpiece of their social media efforts – thereby wasting significant financial, technological, and human resources on social networks that don't deliver value."

If Twitter and Facebook aren't working, then what does?

A new Forrester study points to email as the number-one tool for marketers to have in their arsenal.

Emails, like newsletters, are far more likely to be seen and read by your followers than social media posts and provide more flexibility in how you engage with your customers. Follow these best practices to help optimize your next newsletter's click-through rates.

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

Chances are, your email newsletter subscribers aren't down to hear about your products and services 100% of the time. While they may love you and want to hear from you, there's only so much shilling you can do before they tune out.

In your email newsletter get rid of the self-promotion (most the time) and focus on sending your subscribers educational, relevant, timely information. Unless you actually have an exciting, big piece of news about your product, service, or company, leave out the promotional parts.

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. As a subscriber, wouldn't that be awesome? You'd go in with open eyes knowing exactly who you will be receiving email from, what they will be sending you, and how often they'll be sending it to you. As a marketer, having this information up front will help diminish your unsubscribe and spam rates as well.  

et creative with email subject lines

Even if your subscribers sing 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 see it.

But let's face it, those subject lines get old, fast, for subscribers. 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.

Pick one primary call-to-action

Okay, part of what makes 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 all have equal prominence.

Instead, let there be one head honcho CTA, just one main thing that you would like your subscribers to do, and the rest of the CTAs are a "in case you have time." 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 – and then do it.

Keep design and copy minimal

Like I said before, a newsletter can easily feel cluttered because of its nature. the trick for email marketers to make a successful email newsletter look uncluttered revolves around two things: concise copy and enough white space in the design.

Concise copy is key because you don't actually want to have your subscribers hand out and read your email all day. You want to send them eleswhere – your blog, website for instance – to actually consume the whole piece of content. Concise copy give 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 right link.

Make sure images have alt text

Given 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. 

Make it easy for people to unsubscribe

This seems a little counter-intuitive, but it's key if you want to maintain an active, engaged subscriber list. Don't use weird language like "After your communication with us." Don't hide an 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.

Test, test, test

I know I just listed out a whole bunch of "best practices" to make sure you're doing email newsletters right, but you've also jot 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.


Use these email newsletter best practices as a jumping off point and then experiment to find your secret sauce. Run an A/B test on subject lines Change up your CTA copy. Heck, even try not including images. The world is your oyster for your email newsletter, so find out what it likes.

How to get started with inbound marketing


Written by Murray Sye

Murray is the CEO and Creative Director with the award-winning
Toronto HubSpot agency partner, WhiteSpace. You can
connect with Murray on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.

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