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How to write an e-newsletter

Summarises some of the key steps in writing effective marketing emails. Focuses mainly on producing good copy rather than using the right technology.

Things you'll need

  • Email marketing software
  • A database of emails
  • A website or blog

Choose a punchy, inspiring subject line

Many people will choose whether to open your email based on how exciting its subject line is. Effective subject lines think about what the recipient wants to hear: maybe they offer a solution to a problem, suggest something unique or exclusive, perhaps have a strong call to action. Bad subject lines tend to talk from the sender's point of view, with bald descriptions like 'March 2011 newsletter'.


'Frontload' the content of your newsletter

Recipients of your newsletter will tend not to read it from start to finish, rather they will read the first line or two and skim the rest for any topics of interest. Make sure the stuff you need people to know about is at least referenced in those first few lines, so people don't miss it.


Use plain English, short sentences and calls to action

Avoid using jargon. Keep your word count down to an average of 10 or 12 words per sentence. Think carefully about what you want people to do having read your newsletter text. Do you want them to read something on your site, buy something, attend an event, or give you feedback. Be clear and concise about what action you want your reader to take.


Don't get too hung up on design

It's very easy to get side-tracked from writing good, punchy copy by worrying whether your newsletter looks good. Don't fret too much about this. Flashy designs will often make your newsletter more onerous to produce, and there's no guarantee that every browser and email client will see that flashy design in the same way. Concentrate on writing focused, user-friendly copy and you're 95% there. Some of the most successful newsletters on the web have been sent out using just plain text.


Give options to share, find online and unsubscribe

You'll want to empower your reader to take action after reading your newsletter. This may be to share it with friends - so add 'share on Twitter / Facebook' icons, or 'email to a friend' options. Importantly, you'll also need to allow people to remove themselves from your email list. So every newsletter needs an unsubscribe option. If your newsletter is not appearing properly in someone's ermail client, a 'view online' option is also helpful, which allows people to see a web version of your newsletter.


Do some testing

Don't assume that just because your newsletter reads well that it's as good as it can be. The only way to improve is to get feedback from your readers. Try segmenting your database into randomised groups and split testing different subject lines or calls to action and see what works best. What subject lines generate the most traffic? What day of the week or time of day do you get most opened emails from your target audience? Some of this testing is easily done if you send your emails out through email marketing software such as Campaign Monitor.


Be careful about overloading with images

In the early days of modern e-mail marketing it was common practice to load up emails with lots of different images. Due to filters on most e-mail clients making images unviewable without clicking to show images their has been a shift towards HTML emails with fewer images with a focus high quality copy.


Make links accessible

Avoid including inline links (links from words within body of copy). When you wish refer to a link create a clear title explaining what the resource the link is referring to, see the example below.

Read our 'how to guide' on effective email marketing

Further information


Page last edited May 24, 2017 History

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