Five powerful tips to create email newsletters people will love

You've been firing out some email newsletters for some time. They seem to be going well. Why would you need to change anything? Email marketing is one of those areas that we never dedicate enough time to. It's an after-thought. A quick fix, when we remember we've not sent anything for a while.

But all that is about to change. If you've been chewing over the idea that you could do better with your e-marketing, then the following tips will boost your efforts and give more return. That is, more opens, more click-throughs and more potential customers. Awesome.

1. Supercharge your subject lines

You really can make all the difference if you take a closer look at your subject lines. It's the first and only chance to entice people to read your email. Don't just write "latest news from me". Consider the reasons why your audience might be encouraged to click "open" in the first place.

According to the Advanced Marketing Institute, "reaching your customers in a deep and emotional way is key to successful copywriting, and your headline is unquestionably the most important piece of copy you use to reach prospects."

How do you know if you're hitting the mark? This free tool will analyse your headline to determine the Emotional Marketing Value (EMV) score. The higher the score, the better. As well as your EMV score, you'll find out which emotion your customers will feel the most:

  • Intellectual: Words which are especially effective when offering products and services that require reasoning or careful evaluation.
  • Empathetic: Words which resonate in with Empathetic impact often bring out profound and strong positive emotional reactions in people.
  • Spiritual: Words which have the strongest potential for influence and often appeal to people at a very deep emotional level.

But it's not just about tapping into emotions. You have to treat your subject line as though it's a headline in a newspaper. What would make people click to find out more? BuzzFeed or Bored Panda are great examples of having enticing headlines. They might write up to 30 different versions, and then test them to see which works best. It really is a job in itself.

In David Hieatt's Do/Open: How a Simple Email Newsletter Can Transform Your Business, there are various ways you can give a subject line "hookiness":

  • it might make an emotional promise
  • create a curiosity gap – "a need to know that drives people to click"
  • use relevant words that relate to the desired customer
  • include the brand name – people will want to know who is speaking to them
  • be positive and full of sunshine, rather than doom and gloom
  • ask a compelling question
  • give some urgency
  • offer tips and how-to's or lists!

Aside from the EMV tool, Mailchimp has testing tools to help you refine your subject lines, as well as carry out A/B testing to reveal how "small differences impact performance".

"Make it simple. Make it memorable. Make it inviting to look at. Make it fun to read." – Leo Burnett

2. Get the design just right

When designing email campaigns, the general rule of thumb is that you should focus on your message and keep the design straightforward.

In Mailchimp's Email Marketing Field Guide, it suggests that you "lay out all the elements for your campaign in a hierarchy, putting your most important information or the main takeaway toward the top so people can quickly scan your email if they’re short on time." This makes total sense when you consider how we consume content these days – we might not scroll because we have so little time. So put the important stuff at the top.

Readability is the next important design tip: you want your emails to be as easy to read as possible by not being afraid of white space, dividing content into sections, choosing legible fonts within the 14-16px range, and adding a clear call to action. Mailchimp's Email Design Guide is highly recommended and offers some fantastic tips.

You should also consider mobile, and how your e-newsletters will look on a smaller screen. Mailchimp emails are thankfully responsive, and you can have some control over mobile design within their templates.

For further advice, check out these 28 tips for designing effective HTML emails, courtesy of Telepathy. Or have a gander at these top newsletters from some of our favourites:

  • Ways We Work: Interviews with interesting people delivered to your inbox every week.
  • Protein Supplement: Get a weekly dose of inspiration and insight straight to your inbox every Friday from the people behind Protein magazine.
  • Shillington: Offering some of the world's leading graphic design courses, Shillington has a superb newsletter, perfect for designers.
  • 99U: Stay in touch with all the latest from 99U where stories are told of the "creative leaders who are mastering their crafts, building incredible careers, and shaping their industries".
  • Rafal Tomal: Designer and web developer Rafal Tomal shares some excellent tips via his regular newsletter. And you get more access to tools on his website too.

Finally, check out Really Good Emails – a super helpful online resource where you can search great newsletter designs by different categories.

99U and Shillington newsletters

99U and Shillington newsletters

3. Take a fresh look at your writing style

Do you enjoy writing newsletters? Do you think the copy reflects you and your brand? Is it personal? Will it emotionally connect with your audience? Because one of the biggest mistakes we make with our email marketing is that we go into "drone" mode and write copy that's long-winded and boring.

It's easily done. Writing can be hard work. You want to impress, but remain humble. You want to be friendly, but stay professional. You want to connect with people but avoid being gushy.

If this sounds familiar, and you're struggling to write great copy, then write the way you talk. It's as simple as that. This one piece of advice will transform the way you create content forever.

  • Don't overthink it: Struggling to find your authentic spoken voice? First of all, relax. Ditch the insecurities and stop over-thinking it. Be yourself. Throw out the rule book and just start writing. Allow the words to naturally spill out. Just focus on covering what you want to say, and you can go back and edit later.

  • Imagine you're in a pub with an old friend: How would you tell them about your business or latest news? You wouldn't use long sentences or complex grammatical structures. You'd be short, punchy and light-hearted. You wouldn't be afraid of full stops.

  • Get personal: Don't talk about your community or subscribers, write as though you're only emailing one person. And throw in the word "you" whenever possible – it will engage your reader and make them feel special.

  • Smile while you type: It might sound ridiculous, but if you grin your head off while you write, you'll end up with vibrant and positive copy. And as positivity is something that appeals deeply to everyone, you'll be writing copy that will make others smile too.

  • Record yourself: Still can't write like you talk? Record yourself and listen back. You'll notice you're more laid-back and relaxed. Start typing out what you're saying and you'll soon get into the flow. Don't be afraid to use a little slang either – this isn't the time to be formal.

  • Read your copy aloud: Before you hit "publish", read your copy to yourself or someone else. Is there anything that feels awkward? Any words that you stumble upon? You'll be able to make any final tweaks to turn your copy into something people will enjoy reading.

  • Make use of helpful tools: For extra help, use the Hemingway App to highlight any lengthy, complex sentences or common errors, and boost your copy's readability. Or there's the most excellent Readability Test Tool too.

4. Get savvy with segmentation

Segmented campaigns see an average 14.99% increase in click rate over non-segmented ones. If you've never split your email list into more targeted groups, then now's the time to do so.

Segmentation makes it easy to send people content they care about, according to Mailchimp. Which means you have a better chance of capturing their attention and converting them into paying customers.

For example, you might want to send a particular event invitation to subscribers in the UK only. Or you may wish to email your most engaged subscribers about special offers or discounts.

Image courtesy of Mailchimp

Image courtesy of Mailchimp

Reassuringly, Mailchimp has pre-built segments to help you quickly target those who share a particular trait or behaviour. Whether they're new subscribers, active, inactive, male, female, recent customers – there are no limits to the segmented lists you can create.

5. Test your campaigns again and again

When it comes to newsletters, there's literally nothing you can't test. Whether you're looking at what's the best time and day to send your campaigns or you're keen to see which subject lines attract the highest open rates – there are no limits.

To understand where you can make improvements, discover the power of A/B testing. You can test different email subject lines to see which gets the most engagement. You can fire out your campaigns on different days, and see which perform better. You can see whether subscribers are more likely to click on a 'read more' button rather than a clickable headline. You can even see if gifs attract more engagement than images.

Mailchimp offers A/B testing to help you improve performance. You can build up to three variations on each test, using different content, send times, and much more. And Litmus has some powerful email analytics tools to help you optimise your campaigns.

Whatever email marketing platform you use, only test one thing at a time, so you can truly see what is and isn't working. Testing your campaigns and improving your newsletters will undoubtably be part of your ongoing marketing efforts.