Email Newsletters Don’t Have to Be Boring and Pointless

At face value, email newsletters can seem arcane. Social media websites, news apps and RSS feeds all push out content immediately and constantly. But, as consumers are constantly inundated, it can be hard for them to determine what is important, accurate and worth reading.

An email newsletter cuts through all the drivel and sends your audience informative content on topics they care about, right to their inboxes.

For you, the sender, email newsletters are an extremely valuable way to build a connection with your community. For example, if you run an auto body shop for BMWs, your email newsletter will likely focus on all things BMW. As the local expert, you can provide context and experience, and your audience will view you as a trusted resource.

Email newsletters are a great way to develop strong relationships with your customers, promote your content, build brand awareness and drive traffic to your website—as long as you have a good strategy.

The three elements of a good newsletter strategy

Unfortunately, there are many poorly planned newsletters. A 2014 email marketing study by Silverpop found that there is a wide gap between successful email campaigns and those that fail. The top quartile had an average unique open rate (i.e., individual users who opened an email counted as one, even if they went back and opened it multiple times) of 39.4 percent, while the bottom quartile had a unique open rate of only 6.5 percent.

To help ensure you see good engagement with your newsletter, consider incorporating the following elements into your newsletter strategy:

  • Timely content: Good newsletters are built around a specific topic, such as cars, real estate or cooking. You should aim to comment on the most relevant information on your chosen topic (last week’s mortgage interest rates, for example, not the housing trends from last summer). You should assume that the audience wants the most up-to-date information with your intelligent, relevant and brief commentary included.


  • Credibility of the author: Newsletters are always more powerful from an individual. This person should have credibility—either from their leadership role in the company or work experience. One of our newsletters is sent to Ilyce Glink’s fans who value real estate investing. Ilyce Glink is a perfect example of credibility: she has years of experience in real estate, has authored a dozen books on the topic and hosted a weekly radio show for 15 years, focused primarily on real estate issues. Ideally, email newsletters should be written by a person that readers can trust, not a corporation or an unrecognizable name. Even if the sender isn’t well known, a bio and photo of the sender should be included somewhere in the newsletter or on the website.
  • Professional design: As with most content online, email newsletters must look professional. Readers aren’t interested in a long, boring block of text. The design can be simple, as long as it is thoughtful and provides some graphics. A smart design shows that you care about the content and want it look appealing.

Once you have nailed these three strategy elements, it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty. It only takes one bad email newsletter for readers to unsubscribe from your list forever. Here are a few tips to keep your emails fresh:

1. Surprising subject lines

If your subject line is poor, readers won’t open your email.

Every newsletter will have its own tone and best practices, so you should start by reviewing which subject lines preformed the best in the past and note the characteristics. When we did this review process with one of our client newsletters, we found that lists with tips performed best—as in, the top five ways to do X. So we adopted that style going forward.

We also discovered that surprising, counter-intuitive statements interested our readers the most. This might be something like, “Why Renting May Actually Be Cheaper than Buying,” for a real estate newsletter.

2. Link to other writers occasionally

Don’t throw in a link to an article just because you wrote it. Your goal should be to provide a rich experience for your audience, which could mean pointing out a recent story written by another expert.

3. Don’t cram in too much content

Email newsletters don’t need to be long. You can include descriptions of 2 or 3 links to your content. Be sure not to reproduce the first sentence of the story as the description. A story lede is meant to draw you into the article, whereas an email newsletter description is intended to tease the story. The description should be no longer than a sentence or two. If you make it too long, the reader may not even get to the second link.

4. The newsletter should be sent regularly and based on your content production

If you only write once a week, then you should not have a weekly newsletter. Whether your newsletter is daily, weekly or monthly will depend on your content production. For example, a news editor who sees 15 stories per day may want to pick out the top 3 for a daily newsletter. Whereas a blog that features 1 or 2 new stories a week may opt for a monthly newsletter.

Whether you are just starting an email newsletter or trying to revamp an old one, try out these strategies and let us know what works for you.