10 tips to write an email newsletter that REALLY converts
Email newsletters are one of the most powerful revenue-generating tools in your arsenal.
There’s a reason that email generates $38 for every $1 spent.
You’ve gotta love that sort of Return On Investment!
Firstly, an email subscriber indicates a level of intent and awareness of your business that many marketing channels don’t. People have actively decided to opt-in to receive your marketing, which means they’re interested in what you’re offering (unless you’ve bought a cold email list.)
Secondly, email newsletters are way more personalised than ads, they offer free valuable information (and who doesn’t love free stuff?), entertain, educate and make your audience itch for more. But only when they’re written by a skilled email copywriter.
And thirdly, as we keep our mobile devices within arms’ reach AT ALL TIMES, you’re never far from a customer when you use email.
Consistent emails are an incredibly-effective way to keep your brand at the front of your potential customers’ minds.
But writing a high-converting, engaging newsletter with huge open rates and stellar click-through rates isn’t as easy as it sounds.
To help you level up your email newsletter writing game, I’ve ‘done a Buzzfeed’ and put together 10 things you absolutely need to do to make sure your emails convert your audience into loyal customers.
No longer does creating an email newsletter need to be the task you keep putting off…
Table of Contents
1. Define the objective of the newsletter
Before beginning sitting down to write an email, you need to establish its purpose. What is the one thing you’d like your customers to do after reading? Do you want them to follow you on social media, read your latest article or buy your new arrivals?
Is it promotional, transactional or educational?
Is it sent manually or is it an automated email flow or series?
Once you have decided on your goal, you need to align it with what the audience wants to read. The more unique the angle, the better.
Suppose you sell a brand of honey, but you know your audience is interested in health and fitness…is there a way you can combine the two to talk about the health benefits of your product? Instead of going for the hard sell, you can provide your audience with valuable information that they actually care about. And as you become a guide to your audience, you become the authority in your field…and who better to buy from than a company who has shown they really know their stuff?!
2. Use your subject line as the hook
On average a person receives 121 emails per day. That’s a lot of emails. Like a crap-tonne of emails.
Can you imagine if you got that many letters through your door? Your postman would have to be built like Arnie just to do their daily rounds!
But although we get a lot of email, we don’t open much of it. Get this, the average email open rate is less than 20%!
Think how many emails go unopened. As an email copywriter, this stat should keep you up at night!
To avoid the Junk pile, you have to create an absolutely irresistible, eye-catching subject line. It should be precise and compelling, with a smattering of intrigue. It should also tell the readers what they can expect from the newsletter.
You can use power words, puns, personal statements or create a sense of urgency to increase open rates.
Check these out for some subject line inspiration (collated by OptIn Monster):
- “You free this Thurs at 12PM PST? [guest blogging class]” by Mary Fernandez
- “Deals That Make Us Proud (Unlike Our Nephew, Steve)” by Groupon
- “[URGENT] You’ve got ONE DAY to watch this…” by Digital Marketer
- “Try To Avoid These 27 People On New Year’s Eve” by Thrillist
- “Uh-oh, your prescription is expiring” by Warby Parker
You probably know by now that you need to test your email subject lines. What you might not understand is the sample size needed (aka. how large is your email list) to actually run a fair test. Testing email subject lines is a large topic in and of itself, so for now I’d recommend reading this article to get a better understanding.
An often neglected aspect is the “from” line of your newsletter. Getting this right can increase your email open rates, so don’t just put your company name without thought.
People buy from people – that’s why so many companies have started to use formats like ‘Amanda from Made-Up Company’.
Yes, it can increase your open rates to use a person’s name, but it doesn’t make sense for every business to do this. As a rule of thumb, the larger the business, the less likely they are to do this.
I can’t imagine looking at an email and seeing that it reads ‘Tim from Apple’.
3. Write relevant content (but make it stand out)
Now that you’ve got your readers to open your email, you need to give them the value you promised.
The best way to do that is to make your content all about your readers. Use crowdsourcing tools such as keyword research, consumer insights and social engagement metrics to understand the interests and needs of your readers and what they might be expecting from your brand.
But you shouldn’t just rehash what they already know, you need to add something!
It doesn’t matter whether you make your audience smile or laugh, make them smarter or make them desire your product but you have to get them to feel something. Use your content to give them a fresh perspective on an old topic, teach them something new, or give them useful ideas and insights which can empower them to improve their lives.
Some emails focus on showing value, some can be promotional, some may do both. What’s most important though, is striking a good balance between them.
If every email is promotional, you’re going to see more unsubscribers than wasps at a picnic. Your open rates will plummet and your click-through rates will say sayonara!
As a rough rule of thumb, I tend to shoot for three value-based emails to every promotional email. Obviously this depends massively depending on industry. Many skilled email copywriters are able to incorporate both seamlessly, so their emails improve their readers’ lives and their clients’ bottom line.
4. Make your content readable
We’re constantly told we modern-day humans have a low attention span. I disagree. I think we have a low attention span for stuff we don’t care about. Sit me down in front of Stranger Things all day and then measure my attention span, you labcoat-wearing skeptics!
Anywho…it’s true that we need to consider how we can keep our audience’s attention through the whole email. Remove anything that doesn’t serve your objective and read your email through to find the sentences where people are likely to tune out.
The layout of your newsletter should be simple and easy to follow.
Break text into short paragraphs.
Use bullets and subheadings to make your content easy to scan.
Keep your design simple. Too many email newsletter creators focus on creating emails that you could submit to Design Awards. This means that you risk forgetting what is most important – your message.
That’s why I love email software providers like ConvertKit (affiliate link, just FYI) who focus on plain-text emails over fancy design.
Another thing to consider is length. Most readers aren’t going to wade through a 1,500 word essay, so keep it short and sweet, eliminating every unnecessary word.
5. Harness the power of personality
Newsletters connect you directly to your audience.
Using a conversational tone in your newsletter makes the audience feel like they’re talking to a friend. I’d much rather listen to a friend than a salesman.
If you can use a personable tone and speak to them as if you’re talking face-to-face, your audience will feel like you care about them. This build a sense of trust, partnership and shared goals – an essential aspect for good businesses.
Ramit Sethi’s insider newsletters are a brilliant example of this. His emails feel intimate because he writes like he’s talking to each individual. This is one reason he’s been able to build up a loyal follower base.
6. Use visuals for greater impact
Simple and catchy high-quality graphics, images, GIFs and videos are entertaining and grab the attention of the readers. Many people like to scan articles, and as everyone has a different learning style, using images in your email newsletters can help your audience process and retain information better. But don’t go overboard with using graphics and maintain a balanced text-to-image ratio. What this ratio is depends on the industry – fashion brands, for example, typically include more images in their email newsletter than SaaS companies.
Another trick is to use a button as your CTA instead, or as well as, hyperlinked text. Buttons stand out and everyone knows that when they click a button, they’ll be taken to a web page.
Here’s how Trello uses images and an on-point CTA button in their email newsletters. Hello, higher click-through rates!
7. Make it spicy
Like ghost-pepper chili spicy! 🌶️🌶️🌶️
Your content should stir up the emotions and the imagination of your readers. To make your content more captivating, use humour, interesting analogies and stories, sensory words and/or power words.
Noted author and Digital Marketing pioneer Ann Hadley’s email newsletter Total ANNARCHY (full marks for the pun) uses powerful writing to make a lasting impression:
Once you begin reading, you find yourself completely immersed.
Another brand with delighful copywriting is Chubbies, a clothing brand centered around men’s shorts. Here’s their clearance sale promotion email:
8. Simplicity is key
A cluttered email newsletter can do your brand more harm than good. Your content should be focused. It needs to be easy to read. Don’t bombard your audience with unnecessary information otherwise they will lose interest. Stick to a single objective and don’t try to fit everything your brand has going on in one email blast.
Remember mobile opens account for 46 percent of all email opens, so think simple and easy to read and you can’t go wrong!
9. Use a strong Call-to-Action
After your readers have finished reading your content you have to tell them what to do next. Don’t leave it to them to guess. Spell it out!
Whether you want them to download your e-book, read your blog, sign up for a course or buy your products, your call to action should be strong and absolutely clear. When reading it back, think ‘have I told them EXACTLY what I want them to do?’
Don’t overwhelm your readers by including different calls to action. Guide them down a single path. If you give them too many to choose from, you risk choice paralysis and your readers might not click on any of them.
Focus on providing your audience with quality content which makes them curious to learn more and they’ll click through.
10. Reflect your brand identity
In order to better connect with your audience, you need to show them your brand personality. Email newsletters are a great opportunity to share personal stories, accomplishments or behind the scenes that could evoke interest. Remember, people buy from people – take the opportunity to humanise your brand where appropriate.
Show them who you are and what you stand for. These days, this is as important as the services and products you provide and strengthens your consumer-brand relationship. No-one wants to buy from a faceless corporation.
To maintain a brand persona, make sure your newsletter templates and writing style remain consistent. Don’t try to experiment with the design too often, because your audience like to know what to expect. Figure out what works for your business and only change it when you have a good reason for doing so.
What are you waiting for?
Email newsletters are a powerful medium. They can increase brand loyalty and help you rake in the big bucks. When they’re done right they can be a consistent source of revenue which will take your business to the next level.
So what are you waiting for? Get your creative hat on and start writing.
If you’re looking for someone to write your email newsletters, email automations, or advise you on email strategy, contact me here to see if we’d be a good fit.