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Anatomy of a Winning Email Newsletter (With Examples to Inspire You)

Staying in touch with your audience should be among the top priorities as a marketer.

Building relationships between your brand and consumers is like making friends in real life: If you never talk to them, well … your friendship won’t last very long, or be very strong.

Newsletters are one of the most basic, yet most effective, ways to engage your audience, keep your brand top of mind and share your content with others.

Creating your newsletter will take a little bit of upfront work, but once you’ve got a template and a workflow, it should be simple to keep it going. First, though, you’ll need a few essentials:

Once you have the basics, you can get right into the dirty details of creating a winning email newsletter.

Here are some of the most important elements to consider:

Title and subject line: Make them memorable

Let’s start with the top of your newsletter: the title. Make it something memorable so people will recognize it when they see it in their inbox.

Examples:

  • The Content Marketer (from Brafton).
  • Total ANNARCHY (from Ann Handley).
  • Medium Daily Digest (from Medium).
  • Quibbles & Bits (from BuzzFeed).

Or, you can simply title your newsletter after your brand, like The Muse and BrainPickings do.

While your title will remain the same for every single newsletter edition, your subject line will change to reflect the unique details within each edition.

There are nearly 250 billion emails sent worldwide every day, according to Campaign Monitor. You don’t want to be another unopened email. So, your subject line has to be on point and eye-catching.

Here are a few tips:

  • Start it with a number.
  • Ask a thought-provoking question.
  • Make it fun with a pun or an emoji.

Introduction: Provide a preview

Give your readers a brief overview of what they’ll find by scrolling through your newsletter. These emails tend to be long and unable to fit on a typical computer screen (much less a mobile screen).

For this reason, enticing them early on to actually spend time in your newsletter and read the content is key. A brief sentence or two about the theme, topics and/or articles you include is sufficient.

But, make this part interesting. Think hard about how you’re introducing your content. If it sounds boring in the introduction, you probably won’t get many people to scroll beyond the fold.

Here’s how we at Brafton do it in our newsletter, The Content Marketer:

Branding: Call back to your company

Your newsletter might be the primary method of communication between your organization and an individual. While providing readers useful or interesting content should be a top priority, the ultimate purpose of your email newsletter is to remind the reader of your value as a company. As such, your newsletter should always tie back to your branding.

Imagery is an easy way to consistently maintain branding throughout the newsletter. However, this isn’t the only way to weave in your branding. Your tone of voice, writing style and even the font you choose will all call back to your brand guidelines.

Awesome content: Give readers value

Now let’s get into the good stuff: What to fill your newsletter with.

Truthfully, there’s no single right way to construct an email newsletter. The main question you want to keep in mind is this: Are you giving readers something they actually want?

Here are a few ideas on what to include in your newsletter:

1. Your own content

Do you have a blog? Promote it through the newsletter.

You can include links to specific articles, or you can simply fill the entire newsletter with a single article, like Josh Turner’s The Marketing Minute newsletter:

2. Someone else’s content

Sift through the internet to find articles your audience would be interested in. The value here is doing the heavy lifting of finding worthwhile content from around the web. This is the strategy behind the Moz Top 10:

3. Photos and artwork

National Geographic’s email newsletter is, of course, packed with awesome imagery. They even have a section dedicated to an Instagram photo of the day:

Calls to action (CTAs): Say what you want

As you know, your newsletter is more than just a nice gift you’re placing in your readers’ inboxes; it’s a tool that should benefit your marketing goals. A good CTA inspires action and gives your audience an opportunity to further engage with your brand.

Your CTA might promote that new product you launched, or the webinar you’ll host next month, or the podcast episode you just released. In fact, that’s exactly what The Muse did in their recent newsletter:

Here are a few things to keep in mind when creating your CTAs:

  • Design: Adhere to the same brand guidelines as the rest of your newsletter.
  • Language: Be specific about what will happen when someone clicks on the button. If they’ll be redirected to a product page, “Shop now” or “Check price” would work well. If they’ll be taken to an article or downloadable resource, “Read more” is a good option.
  • Landing page experience: Make sure you’re bringing people to pages that function properly, look nice and reflect the CTA in your newsletter. Any interruption in the user’s experience will likely leave a bad impression.

Conclusion

The single most important part of creating a winning email newsletter is making sure people actually want to read it.

This is a goal that begins with those basics I mentioned earlier (especially an opt-in form on your site). Consistently delivering great content is the key to keeping readers hooked.

With these steps, you should be on your way to building a newsletter that works.

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Molly Ploe

Molly Ploe is a Marketing Specialist at Brafton. When she's not writing, she spends her time reading, going on walks and drizzling honey onto ice cream.

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