Are you sending out newsletters? If so, have you included a ‘forward’ button? No? Houston, we have a problem.

That means you’re missing out on a ton of potential leads!

You’ve probably invested masses of resources in adding ‘subscribe’ buttons everywhere on your website, through pop-ups or on social media, trying to get as many email leads as possible. (Note: never go for ‘subscribe’ as your call to action. Check out this CTA Bible for plenty of tips on creating effective CTAs.)

But you forget the most important place of ‘em all: Your very own newsletters. Yup, the ones you send out ever so often. They are a pot of gold just waiting for you.

When you send out your newsletter, it’s only to people on your email list, right?

But think about this: how often have you forwarded a relevant newsletter to a friend, a colleague or your mom? I do it all the time.

That means there are plenty of relevant subscribers out there that you can easily catch by making it easy to forward or share and then adding a subscribe button in the newsletter itself.

Seems simple? Not at all. There are countless factors you need to take into consideration to actually change the reader’s behavior and make them forward and then make the receiver subscribe.

In this guide, I’ll take you down this two-lane highway and teach you the best newsletter practices, including how to:

  1. Create newsletters that are actually worth sharing and…
  2. Make the receiver subscribe to your newsletter

By the end of this article, you’ll be ready to create newsletters that others can’t wait to share and be a part of.  Let’s start doing a bit of sharing magic, shall we?

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Targeted content will get more shares and forwards

One way to collect more leads through your newsletter is through forwards.

Let me elaborate: People are more likely to subscribe to a newsletter, if a family member, a friend or a colleague forwarded it and said: “Hey, check this cool content out.”

It taps into the loyalty and trust that exists in a network of people. It’s such a basic thing.

It’s why people buy the products they’ve seen in ads and why social proof and recommendations have gained so much popularity during the last years. If someone has already approved the content, people are more likely to subscribe themselves.

That means that every time you get someone to forward your newsletter, you are one step closer to collecting one more email for your list.

As a matter of fact, 36,2% of Aweber’s active web subscribers come directly from links in their emails!

The first step to doing as great as Aweber? Awesome newsletters!

You should always strive to create inspiring and informative newsletters, but when you want to collect leads through your newsletters, you really have to up your game.

Consider this: If you were introduced to a newsletter you have never received before, what would make you subscribe?

The easy answer: fantastic content.

More specifically, content that is relatable, personalized and inspiring. The more niched your newsletters are, the more likely you are to get more forwards.

If you send out a broadly themed newsletter, you aren’t likely to inspire anyone to send it to someone they know. But if you send out a newsletter with selected ski equipment at great prices, the receiver is more likely to forward that newsletter to someone they know who loves skiing.

Let’s have a look at the clothing company, & Other Stories. They recently sent out a newsletter informing their subscribers, that selected pieces in denim are now available in stores—and then only included clothes in denim materials in their newsletter:

Skærmbillede-2017-01-31-kl.-11.45

The & Other Stories example is a simple way of creating a niche, single-messaged newsletter that is forwardable.

There’s a great chance that one of the subscribers knows someone obsessed with denim and thus, will forward the email to them. It is much more likely to happen than if they had sent out a newsletter saying: new products—check them out in our store.

Many mistakenly think that personalized messages are emails with the receivers first name in the message header. If you are on that team, think again.

When you personalize your content, you can use triggers and segmentation. Litmus has conducted a really interesting research on what the most shared newsletters contain.

They have analyzed a staggering 400.000 email campaigns and then thoroughly investigated what common features the top 1% most forwarded emails contain.

Their main finding backs up my most important point: Among the top 1% of most viral emails, they were able to unmistakably identify 29% of them as either segmented or triggered. These two tactics help brands narrow the audience that they’re appealing to and target them with much more relevant content.

Best Newsletter Practices: Lesson one

  • The more targeted the message, the more forwards
  • Personalize like you’ve never done it before

Stick to single message emails

Another simple yet crucial detail to take into consideration when creating forwardable emails is stick to one message!

If your newsletter contains plenty of news, tons of images of different things or several key points, it’s not going to get a lot of forwards.

Why?

Because if someone wants to share only one of your news with someone else, it will be nearly impossible to point out to the receiver what they want them to have a look at.

Instead, check out The Body Shop’s newsletter:

Skærmbillede-2017-02-09-kl.-20.36

The message simply says: “Shop with your friends in our stores and get more discount the more friends you bring – and 50 % off to all of you!”

Now that’s a newsletter that will get plenty of forwards. The reason is that it encourages the receivers to bring their friends to their nearest store and shop in great company—and they’ll even get a discount.

Not only is this newsletter a great way to reach out to friends and invite them to a fun event, but it also offers something in return the more people they bring.

I know it can be challenging to stick to only one message because you probably have plenty of amazing things you want to tell your subscribers. But keep it simple and it will pay off. You don’t want your receivers to get lost in information.

You want it to be as easy as possible for your subscribers to forward the email to someone without having to explain anything. The visuals have to be simple, too. Don’t let your message drown in too advanced visuals. Images, colors, and infographics can be amazing, but they all have to support that one message of yours.

Summing up: Lesson number two

  • Stick to single message emails
  • Keep the visuals simple

Why people share emails and how to work with that

Obviously, not all of your subscribers are the same; they have different interests, they live different lives and probably have different occupations.

So when you decide what that one golden message in your newsletter should be, you must consider what you receivers want, what their pain points are and what they are interested in.

A fantastic way of doing that is by working with personas. In short, personas are detailed descriptions of who your ideal customer or subscriber is—everything from what car they drive, where they live if they have kids, age and more. The more detailed the persona, the easier it is for you to target them perfectly.

Now, my definition on personas is nowhere near as great as the man who knows: Bryan Eisenberg. I’ve interviewed him about how he works with personas and how to identify them.

Personas can be used for a lot of things and newsletters are no exception.

As a nice little treat, I have included Bryan Eisenberg’s favorite tools for identifying personas in case you still haven’t got a good hold on your company’s personas:

  • Usertesting.com. A great way to get into the minds of the customers
  • Facebook. forgotten and incredibly effective way to gather insights into who your customers are and what interests they have
  • Abandonaid (soon to be Cartessentials). A startup Bryan is currently a part of is working on a plug-in, which, once finished, will be very exciting news for all ecommercers

So once you have figured out who your subscribers are and what they want, you have to send them something that motivates them to forward.

There are many different reasons to why someone shares a newsletter. The amazing news are that The New York Times Customer Insight Group concluded a survey in which participants provided reasons why they shared information online with others—so we don’t have to!

That means they have separated reasons for shares into six main categories:

  • To Bring Valuable Content: 94% carefully consider how the information they share will be useful to the recipient
  • To Inform Others: 49% say sharing allows them to inform others of products they care about and potentially change opinions or encourage action
  • To Define Themselves: 68% share to give people a better sense of who they are and what they care about
  • To Nourish Existing Relationships: 85% say reading other people’s responses helps them understand and process information and events
  • For Self Fulfillment: 69% share information because it allows them to feel more involved in the world
  • To Spread Awareness: 84% share because it is a way to support causes or issues they care about

Let’s stick to the top 3 here: value, network, and awareness. Those are the three factors you must take into consideration when creating shareable newsletters.

Having trouble visualizing what that might look like? I got you covered. I have included examples of different newsletters that taps into the various motivators. Keep reading!

Examples of newsletters worth sharing

Events

Depending on the nature of the event, happenings generally motivates people to share, as it is useful information for others who are already attending the event. Moreover, the newsletter can be used to encourage others to attend as well. Events are a great way of expanding one’s network too.

newsletter-event

Whether you are hosting a webinar, are attending a conference, or have noticed a cool happening, your subscribers should definitely know! The best part? Newsletters including events are much more likely to get forwards.

That is because people want to go to cool events with their friends, family or colleagues.

The example above is from Think.

Why it works:

  • It has simple visuals
  • It includes important information about the event
  • Love: “The forward to a friend” option. That makes it easy to forward fast

The ‘but’:

  • They should emphasize why the receiver should forward the newsletter

News

Whether it’s a new product, a new feature or news concerning your company, a well-designed newsletter explaining why your new product or service is helpful, revolutionizing or just pure awesome will motivate subscribers to forward. Who doesn’t want to share useful and new information with their network?

Inform your subscribers so they can inform others.

newsletter-news

This example is an excerpt from a new tool called Peak.

Why it works:

  • It’s work related. Receivers are likely to forward it to colleagues
  • The email has one simple message
  • It’s a very personal email with pictures of the team at the top

The ‘but’

  • Where’s the ‘forward to a friend’ button?!

Competitions

Competitions are fun! No secret in that. And of course, people will want to share the fun and excitement of a competition with their network. Winning is always a thrill.

newsletter-competition

Check out this example from Nivea. The prize is amazing and it’s fairly easy to enter the draw.

Why it works:

  • To enter the competition you must send them a photo of a perfect place to kiss. That means receivers have to get creative—which is a lot more fun if you are more people to come up with a great idea.
  • There’s a runner-up prize. The more likely people feel they are to win, the more likely they are to enter or forward to a friend.
  • Yet again, a single messaged newsletter

The ‘but’:

  • No forward option. And what’s worse: no sign-up button. How are they going to collect emails through their newsletter, if people can’t sign up through there?

Want to know more about creating amazing competitions? Check out this blog post “How to Convert your Visitors with Exciting Competitions” I promise you that once you have read this post, you’ll be able to create thrilling competitions that will result in heaps of emails!

Pro tip:

Why don’t you have a look around the world to see what’s going on? Newsletters that ties in with other real events such as movie premiers, elections or holidays are great sources of inspiration that your subscribers can relate to.

Guides

Everyone wants to come across as professional, informed and helpful. And what better way to signal all those things by forwarding a useful or interesting guide?

newsletter-guide

And yes, recipes categorize as guides as well. They both exist to help people improve a certain skill. In this case: cooking.

Why it works:

  • It emphasizes why this recipe is amazing
  • The forward to a friend option is included clearly right at the top
  • It even has a share button for social media. The more shares, the better

The ‘but’:

  • Oh golly. No subscribe button
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How to harness the power of sharing

  • A shareable newsletter includes only one powerful message
  • Niche newsletters generally get more forwards
  • Segment and use triggers to create tailored newsletters (personal newsletters are more relatable and will, therefore, get forwarded more)
  • People mainly share newsletters to inform others, bring value and create awareness towards something. Take advantage of that
  • To tap into those three motivators by creating newsletters about either events, competitions or a guide

Don’t waste your efforts by forgetting the subscribe option

Now we’ve had a closer look at the research behind sharing and gone through examples of forwardable newsletters, you’ve  probably noticed the three examples above either didn’t have a forward button or a subscribe button

Why is that a disaster?

Because regardless of how fantastic your newsletter is, it will not get any forwards without a simple forward button. And if you have a forward option, you aren’t going to get any subscribers, if you don’t have a clear subscribe button.

Now, instead of just going on for ages trying to describe what you should do, I’m going to show you examples of companies who are doing a fantastic job at getting subscribers through their own newsletters.

Who’s acing it?

1. MediaREDEF

Redef

Why they rock

The key thing to remember is to make is as convenient as possible to both forward and subscribe. MediaREDEF is doing a great job because the ‘send to a friend’ option is clear and an integrated part of the newsletter instead of a small option in the bottom.

Better they’ve included a subscribe option, which is where they (and you) will really get your return on investment, as that is how you collect subscribers through your newsletter.

“Spread the love” is a cute detail which adds personality to what could potentially just be a dull ‘send to a friend’ button.

However, an option saying ‘subscribe’ is never ever a good idea. Always remember to answer the reader’s questions “What’s in it for me?”. In MediaREDEF’s case, I would inform the possible subscriber that if they want to stay up to date on cool and different media and tech news every two weeks, they should go ahead and sign up for their newsletter.

2. Further

Further Sharing

Why they rock

The example above is from Further. What I really love about this example is that they have included several sharing options. Social sharing is just as powerful as inbox to inbox sharing. As a matter of fact, you have a better chance of reaching a lot of people, if someone shares your newsletter on their preferred social platform.

What’s even better is their subscribe option. They explain exactly what their subscribers receives and emphasizes the value “without the noise and fluff”.

I especially love how the make it absolutely clear that the newsletter is free, clear of spam and that it’s easy to unsubscribe whenever. Just by including that small line might win a few doubters over. Good on you, Further.

3. Airbnb

Air-BB-Referral

Why they rock

Not only is this a stunning email all the way through with fantastic images that really get the imagination going.

They have a stunning offer and they know it. They have placed the forward option right next to the book now which signals “this offer is so great, so if you are not going to take advantage of it, you might know someone who will.” That way the forward option is an integrated part of the main message.

It’s not all breezy, though.

There is no subscribe option anywhere in the newsletter. I know that this CTA invites the receiver to enter Airbnb’s site, but why not just include a small text underneath saying something like:

“Not feeling like going to Sonoma? Don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter to receive our next great travel offer.”

Get started collecting emails through your newsletters in a jiffy

I have now shown you some great examples and walked you through the basics.

But how do you do it yourself? Is it tricky?

Not at all!

It doesn’t take a lot of time to insert a subscribe option in your own newsletter. We have included the option in every single newsletter sent out every week.

Sleeknote Newsletter Footer

Do note that we’ve included an explanatory text about what the subscribers will receive—always include a CTA!

There are endless opportunities on how you can design the forward option and where to include the opt-in form. My main point is to remember them both. What’s the point of having people forwarding your emails like mad if you don’t get any subscribers from it?

Want More List Building Strategies?

Growing your email list is TOUGH. To help, we’ve put together a list building toolkit, including 100+ list building strategies (ranked), an email marketing ROI calculator to measure your campaigns’ effectiveness, plus a few other goodies (updated once a month).

Free Downloadable Bonus:
Get access to our free list building toolkit and turbocharge your email list today (include resources not included in the blog post).

Wrap up

This is your time to shine. You have now learned why people forward and subscribe to newsletters and how to make that work for you, and I’ve gone through some great examples of companies already practicing this.

So all there’s left to say is that I can’t wait to see lots of newsletters with forwarding options and opt-in fields. Start getting excited; if you execute this well, you’ll start watching your email list grow exponentially.

I firmly believe that we marketers should keep each other updated and inspired. My questions for all of you: What would make you forward an email? Share in the comment section below and inspire fellow marketers.

Julie Fjeldgaard
Julie is the communications manager at Sleeknote. She spends the majority of her time on writing content and doing PR. When she’s not obsessing over words and sentences, she loves watching documentaries, listening to podcasts and daydreaming about amazing holidays.

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  1. Thanks for the article Julie.

    As mentioned, highly targeted ads make all the difference. It’s surprising how many marketers neglect this. It’s not easy though, of course, because it’s not as though we are able to read our customer’s minds.

    Collect the right information though and you stand a much greater chance of delivering a newsletter that is very highly targeted and something the recipient will value. One solution to this lies in a network of eCommerce sites that are able to help each other in their marketing campaigns. In forming strategic alliances, partners can help each other to display ads only to potential customers that have recently purchased similar items.

    Offering great deals on items the recipient has an interest in is a great way to deliver newsletters that will really help make the difference.

    Reply
    • Sam Thomas Davies

      Thanks for reading, Jamie. Thanks for chiming in with your thoughts, too. Those are some great insights 🙂

      Reply

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