Emails are loveable, again.
I have two things on my mind -
cannabis kale juice and newsletter.
It’s Sunday detox morning and I am sitting with a monster mug of kale juice and looking at 23 unread emails in my primary inbox. With love. (Love for the newsletter only, not kale juice).
Don’t worry, I am one of your types, a human. I only love these emails because these are thoughtfully crafted or curated EMAIL NEWSLETTERS. Because I signed up for each one of these and can’t wait to devour, share, forward or tweet these. This information is delivered to my inbox without me getting lost in the vast ocean of the internet.
What's a Newsletter used for?
Ok, backing up a little bit and telling you what’s an email newsletter.
An email newsletter is a periodical email sent by a person or business containing news, updates, curated content from the topic that you signed up for.
Unlike a promotional email that almost hypnotizes you to ‘buy’, ‘join’, ‘enroll’ or email from boss that asks you to change the font on a presentation immediately (at 6 pm on a Friday!), a newsletter just asks to be loved and enjoyed.
What’s in it for the writer/editor?
While it provides readers with something worth knowing, thoughtful, things to tweet about or a new story, its underlying purpose is to keep the brand (personal or business) alive in people’s minds and build the sender’s authority around a topic. It builds a deeper connection with the audience as you are more than a status update or an IG story that’s here today and gone tomorrow.
But why care about all this?
So that, in the future your fans can become your customers, fund your Patreon account or hire you for their work.
Now read that again and pretend you are the creator of the newsletter.
Paying customers. Authority. Freelancing gig.
Ka-ching! Ah, the sweet sound of dollar rolling in.
Exciting, right? Newsletters are exciting. Get excited!
So, who is allowed to start a newsletter?Well, I would say everyone except my mother. Because she is just going to tell embarrassing stories from my childhood.
But everyone with an email list & good content can produce a newsletter.
Freelancing copywriters & artists have newsletters - minimal, funky and all kinds.
The awfully rich & extremely patient, Warren Buffet has a newsletter - published once a year, read for 365 days.
B2B businesses have newsletters. And pretty interesting ones by the way.
I bet 5 Bitcoins that your Meditation App has a newsletter. 😉
Key Ingredients to start a Newsletter
An Email List
It’s simply a list of names and email addresses of people who have agreed to receive your newsletter.
The tricky part is how do you get people to cough up their email addresses. Let’s go step by step.
Get your first 10 subscribers - Scroll through your WhatsApp and ask your friends, colleagues & cousins if they would be interested in the content you plan to write about.
Aim for 100 subscribers milestone - Craft a kickass opt-in page and share in your social media posts, ask friends to share in their circle and of course, add it to your bio on a dating app.
Here is an example of the ‘Sticky Notes’ opt-in page. It has a header that’s enticing, sub-header & short description of what you will get if you sign up. The CTA button is on the side where you can see it clearly. The image used aligns perfectly with the color scheme used & the brand’s website.
Plan Strategies for the next 1000- Write quality blog posts and sprinkle your opt-in page links there. Share the blog post on microblogging sites, social media channels, tweet it. You can even run ads on Facebook or Instagram. Content How to write a newsletter that is simply… beyond.
Go niche- Write about topics your subscribers signed up for. If you told them you would send them poetry, it would be awkward & confusing to send them financial analysis or cooking lessons. 🤷♂️
Provide value - Before sending the hit button, ask if you were reading this newsletter from someone else, would you trash it in 2.3 seconds or keep it bookmarked as favorite?
Write with intent. Think of what it is that you want to say with this piece. Your every content should either move a reader away from pain or towards pleasure.
Be authentic - Write as if you are having a conversation with someone. Write honestly. Don’t embellish your stories. Write with emotions; to express, not impress.
The Hustle and Morning Brew have made media empires with 1M+ subscribers, with the help of just curated newsletters. You too can dream, achieve and enjoy the same.
Ultimately, write to entertain, inspire, educate or comfort.
Email Marketing Software
Now, you can’t build a successful newsletter if you don’t use email marketing software.
If you use a free emailing service, what will you face?
1. You won’t have full control over design & branding.
2. You can’t track open rate, click-through rate, deliverability & other email performance metrics with free email service providers.
In fact, your deliverability will suffer.
3. You can't automate your emails. Maximum you can do is schedule later.
Ughhh, that's very... unattractive. ☹️
So, go for an email marketing software & choose one according to your requirements, affordability, and ease of use.
The brilliant team at SendX has built an intuitive, feature-rich and affordable marketing platform that you can explore now for free for 14 days. Sign up is easy even if you are a lazy duck because you don’t need a credit card to do so.
Elements of a Newsletter - Crafted or Curated?
There are two major approaches to the newsletter - crafted or curated.
When you write your own original content, it's a created or crafted newsletter. And when you share relevant links from external sources (other blogs, websites or social media), it’s a curated newsletter.
Which one is better? It depends on your choice and the kind of business results you want to drive.
Crafted newsletter drives organic visits to your blog, website or youtube channel. It builds your credibility and promotes you as a thought leader.
Curated newsletter is better for building relationships with other brands & people while saving you some time and effort. It also gives you a lot of content to experiment with & positions you as a go-to resource in your niche.
Later on, we will discuss some examples of both kinds.
Design & Branding
A newsletter is an extension of your website and brand, so let it show off your personality. You can do that with design.
You can browse through the templates provided by your email marketing software or create something with your designer. There is an infinite number of designs out there. You can choose a minimal style or something with images, gifs, and colors. Ultimately, it should complement your content.
For example, if your newsletter is focused on food & recipes you can’t have a purely text-based email. On the other hand, Tim Ferris’ newsletter contains only text and links as he mainly talks about what he is pondering over.
Choose a template that is mobile-friendly & font that’s easy to read. It shouldn’t be too much work. You should be able to work with it every time you publish a newsletter.
Initially, you should take feedback from your friends and others who have an eye for good aesthetics & design.
Look at my promotions inbox overflowing with emails. I am sure your subscribers’ would also look similar (or worse!).
Now, the bad news is, when you will send your newsletter it will become part of the same pile. But the good news is, it doesn’t have to stay there.
Some quick tips
- Keep it brief
- Don’t use spammy words
- Use positive and empowering words
- Always keep it relevant to the content
Written by a rad marketer, you can read the internet’s biggest compilation of subject lines here.
You can see how your audience is responding to your subject lines looking at open rate metrics. And lastly, test, test, test. Test which subject lines have a higher open rate & write similar ones.
Header & Footer
Two prime but under-appreciated real estates in your newsletter are - header and footer.
The header is the first impression upon anyone reading your email.
The very basic thing to have in your header is your logo. Even if you are not a big brand with a logo, you can give your newsletter a name and put that in the header every time you send that email.
These days, images are not heavily used as the focus is on a clutter-free design and brand logos. You can also add your unique brand color, fonts or icons to make sure your readers recognize it instantly and easily. Once you decide on a design, stick to it unless you do a major branding revamp.
Here are some examples showing headers from popular newsletters. The Ken has named their newsletter 'the nutgraf' and put it in simple fonts using colors of their brand.
The Brain Pickings is unconventional as you can find subscription management links and a message from Maria, the editor, included there. The banner is the same as the website banner which is good for brand recall.
Austin Kleon, a writer who draws has a pretty interesting header. There is a short text telling what this edition is about, followed by a logo designed especially for the newsletter & not for his own personal brand. But if you notice his website, the style of the logo is similar to his art.
It’s unique and quirky that I can still recognize it in a storm of newsletters.
Though this section of the newsletter doesn’t get much attention, readers might often scroll down to view more information and the thus footer’s objective is to ensure that it contains all that a reader might want to learn.
Organize this information in a hierarchy of actions you want from readers. Since it is text-heavy, ensure enough padding between text lines. Also, it is best practice to separate your footer from the body with a different colored background.
To add to a little playfulness, you can add a quote or amusing thought at the end.
Here is a great example of footer from key values’ email newsletter
Newsletter example and Design Ideas
This is my favorite part of this blog, to dig into interesting newsletters out there. It’s a great way to learn from the master. I am not asking you to copy these but I am trying to show you that it’s not rocket science and there is no wrong or right.
Having said that, you should always look for interesting elements and see how you can use them in your authentic way.
Let’s dive in.
This newsletter called Velocity from Gaurav Baheti, an entrepreneur is also curated but he has added a personality to it by using emojis which are universal and everyone can relate to them.He skilfully inserts links to tell people about his company.
It’s short, to the point and not sales-y at all.Most email footers can put you to sleep. Change your email prefere…zzz..
But notice how delightful Velocity’s footer is. It is written as if a human is speaking directly with you. It’s cheerful.
Austin is a writer who draws. He sends out this curated newsletter about things he read in the past week that are worth sharing.
The one-line description on top about what to expect in this email is a very good hook & if the reader finds it interesting it will lead him to read further.
The footer is wide but not overwhelming as there is a lot of padding around text & different text size helps navigate easily.
Starting the email with an informal greeting sets a comfortable tone for the email and xoxo in the sign off makes it authentic and personal. It’s a good read if you want to dive deep into a range of topics.
John P. Weiss
John is a former policeman and now a full-time painter who writes these thoughtful emails every week about living life more meaningfully. The unique touch here is his paintings that he makes and attaches to the story.
He gives a snippet of the topic and includes a ‘Read More’ button to drive organic traffic to his blog. And I love how he signs off his email with ‘artfully yours’
It’s perfect for a relaxed Sunday morning read or while you have a lot of time a long train journey to ponder over life.
I once asked him about what is the process he follows while crafting this and today I share it with you here so you get inspired, get ideas and finally start your own newsletter.
"I carry a small, leather notebook with me and write a lot of notes. Quotes from my reading. Observations while sitting in coffee shops. I also type notes on my iPhone sometimes.
On Mondays, I usually get up early, read, review my notes, and develop ideas for articles. From there I do research online and sometimes in my library to flesh out my article. I look for supporting quotes, articles, etc. I also start imagining what kinds of cartoons and illustrations would support the piece.
Then there are other times when I literally wake up in the middle of the night with an idea. I have to run into my office/studio and write it down before the epiphany escapes me.
Other times a piece of music, or movies inspires me to write.
Lastly, there was a time when I used to look at photos on Unsplash.com and then pick one to write about. Several of the stories in my book “An Artful Life” began that way.
I wish I could share a specific process, but as you can see, the craft of writing and the inspirations that drive it, come from many sources. " ~ John P. Weiss
This is another crafted newsletter that explains a single topic in the form of a sketch and a quick explanation. It’s a short one but totally serves its purpose.
The consistency is maintained by the format used here - a sketch & small paragraph explaining it.
It’s clutter-free, has an authentic voice and something original. It’s a good read while you wait for your tea to brew. It doesn’t overwhelm the reader with too much & is written beautifully.
Measuring the success of the newsletter
The best thing about email marketing is that you can judge whether your content, messaging, emails are working on what is concrete data instead of making assumptions.
To measure the success of your newsletter, look at two categories of KPIs - List Health & Email Performance.
- Open Rate: It is the percentage of people who opened your email. This is a key metric to show engagement.
How Email Open Rate is calculated: (total unique opens ÷ total recipients) x 100
A low email open rate means two things:
Either your emails are not getting delivered to the inbox and are going to the spam box instead.
Or your subject lines are not exciting enough for people to open.
- Click to Open Rate: The percentage of people who clicked on the CTA given in the email.
How Click to Open Rate is calculated: (unique clicks ÷ unique opens) x 100
This shows the effectiveness of your content and CTA (whether it made the reader take an action or not). Usually, it's a good practice to make your CTA clear and repeat it more than once to increase the click to open rate.
- List growth rate: The rate at which the total number of subscribers in your broadcast list increases. It is calculated after taking into account new subscribers and subtracting the unsubscribers.
([(Number of new subscribers) - (Number of unsubscribes + email/spam complaints)] ÷ Total number of emails on your list]) x 100
If your list is growing that means enough people are hearing about it on social media, through friends, and are joining your email list.
- Unsubscribe Rate: Percentage of people who opted out of your email list after receiving an email.
(Unsubscribers ÷ Successful email deliveries) x 100
If you have a high unsubscribe rate that means, your newsletter seems interesting and relevant but once people receive it, they might not be getting much value.
Make sure that your list is growing, fewer people are unsubscribing and your open rate doesn't go down a lot when your subscribers increase.
Turn towards awesomeness
Don’t let infinite scroll of Instagram or sneaky algorithm of YouTube feed stop you from taking the time to build that newsletter.
Yes, newsletter #23 is going to be much better than newsletter #2. Don’t bail on things just because you are a little nervous. Keep experimenting to find your unique style, brand and attract your tribe.
None of the examples I showed you above got it right for the first time. But they kept doing it consistently.
You can, too.
If you googled ‘what’s a newsletter’, I am sure you are thinking of starting one.
So why don’t you get your 3 friends to enroll, make a list on SendX and create a newsletter of your own with beautiful templates available there?
When you sign up, we all take a moment to do an exuberant little dance to your milestone.
We would LOVE to hear your thoughts, favorite newsletters and any questions you have. So do tell us in the comments sections. We read each one of those.
If you want to tell us personally, you can go here right now and sign up. See you on the other side.
1) What is an email newsletter used for?
An email newsletter is a periodical email sent by a person or business containing news, updates, or curated content from the topic that you signed up for.
2) Why is a newsletter important for a content marketing strategy?
As your newsletter produces quality content about a topic or area that you have expertise in, your business will become a reference as a source of information about that topic. And by creating a newsletter publishing routine, you promote customer loyalty, and gain the trust and respect in the eyes of your audience.
3) What goes into making a successful newsletter?
For a newsletter to be truly effective, you need to tick certain boxes, like:
- Offering value for time spent on reading it
- Leverage new content (or even evergreen content)
- Engaging subject line
- Personalized and consistent content
- Consistency of quality
4) Which type of newsletter is better? Crafted or curated.
It depends. For example, from a traffic perspective, a crafted newsletter is better because it sends traffic to your own website or blog, whereas a curated newsletter mostly shares links from outside sources and sends traffic to them.