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How to Write a Newsletter: An Actionable Formula For Success (With Examples)

  • Email Marketing

Email is still the top channel for e-commerce brands to communicate with customers.

In fact, 72 percent of customers prefer email over every other channel.

Having a newsletter, “a tool used to communicate regularly with your subscribers delivering the information you want in your email inboxes,” is a no-brainer, then.

This is a key part of generating quality leads and nurturing them over time, while continually building trust that sets the stage for serious conversions. But like with any other area of marketing, getting results requires a solid game plan.

For this post, I’m going to explain how to write a newsletter, showcasing an actionable formula that you can use for your brand’s campaign. I’ll also include plenty of examples so you can see what I’m talking about.

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Let’s face it: writing good marketing emails is TOUGH. To help, we’ve put together an email marketing swipe file, including 41 email marketing examples (organized by category). Plus, a few other goodies not featured below (*cough* killer Facebook Ad examples *cough*).

1. Identify Your Primary Goal

Definiteness of purpose is essential here. Without a clear goal for each email, it’s going to be hard to gain any traction. So I can’t stress enough the importance of knowing what you’re trying to achieve.

Some examples of goals include:

  • Sending traffic to a new product you’re selling
  • Promoting a particular category of products
  • Giving readers insights into your company culture and values
  • Building your social media presence

For instance, this newsletter’s sole purpose from leather shoe and accessory brand Nisolo is to promote their new product, the Huarache sandals.

In it, Nisolo gives some background around these sandals, explaining that they have origins that date back to pre-Columbian Mexico.

They also talk about how the sandals are constructed, how they’re made sustainably, etc.

But the bottom line is that Nisolo is concentrating 100 percent on the Huarache sandals and nothing else. That’s their primary goal, which shapes their approach and ensures they don’t deviate from it. 

To ensure you stay on track, I suggest spending a bit of time brainstorming to figure out what direction you want to take with your newsletter campaign, on the macro level.

Then, determine what you want to do with each email, on the micro-level.

2. Let Subscribers Know What to Expect

Another critical part of building an epic newsletter is setting the right expectations from the start. By this, I mean letting subscribers know what they’re going to get when signing up and what’s in it for them.

A great example is this opt-in form from American and Japanese clothing company The Hill-Side. They make their offer enticing and generate some initial interest by letting shoppers know they’ll get 15% off their first order by signing up. 

But just below that, The Hill-Side also lets shoppers know they’ll “also get first dibs on new and exclusive products, advance notice about sales and promotions, and lots more.”

This helps to pique shoppers’ interest, as well as let them know what they can expect to find in their inbox, which sets the stage for quality communication right from the get-go.

In turn, this should raise The Hill-Side’s engagement levels and can factor into higher conversions in the long run. So, I recommend including some specific details like this and letting them guide your newsletter campaign.

3. Ace the Subject Line

Nearly half (47 percent) of subscribers decide whether they want to open a newsletter based solely on the subject line. So needless to say, this is an aspect of writing a newsletter that you need to master.

Now that’s an entire topic in and of itself, and unfortunately, I don’t have the time to cover it in full detail here. But here are some fundamental strategies that experts recommend:

In terms of examples, we created a massive list of 115 of the best subject lines we’ve ever seen, which can be extremely helpful for getting direction.

That post has a ton of great insights, and here are some of the highlights.

4. Write a Snappy Intro

As of 2018, the average person’s attention span clocked in at around eight seconds, which was down from 12 seconds in 2000. That’s crazy low and means you have an extremely narrow window to grab a reader’s attention once they open your newsletter. 

So nailing the intro with sharp, snappy copy is vital for getting them to engage further and ultimately check out your offer. Now I realize that the term “snappy intro” is subjective, but you know one when you see it. 

Take this example from personalized children’s books company Wonderbly that was sent when most people were quarantining during the height of the Covid-19 crisis.

It’s a fun, playful intro that leads subscribers to an equally awesome call-to-action (CTA) (something I’ll discuss in more detail later), where they can learn a cool magic trick at home using a few simple items.

This intro is super catchy and naturally makes subscribers want to check out the rest of the content. So I suggest spending some time perfecting your intro writing skills and using these specific strategies:

  • Keeping intros concise
  • Getting to the point with a maximum of three sentences
  • Making them hyper-relevant to your audience
  • Experimenting with wordplay

For a full rundown on how to craft killer intros, check out this guide from Get a Newsletter

5. Create a Visual Hierarchy

Research has found that 79 percent of people scan online content, while only 16 percent read it word for word. And this is something that should be kept in mind when writing a newsletter. 

Most people will simply scan it, so you want to structure your newsletter to accommodate scanners—something that can be done by creating a visual hierarchy through different size fonts and text colors.

Here’s an example from Ugmonk, an e-commerce brand that sells clothing and accessories with a minimalist aesthetic. They start with their brand name in large, bold font at the very top of their newsletter, which is known as an H1 tag. 

Then, they break down the different sections of their email with subheaders (known as H2 tags), followed by smaller text for paragraphs.

Also, notice how they use really short paragraphs with plenty of white space, just like we do with Sleeknote blog posts. This helps create a logical flow that allows readers to scroll through the newsletter seamlessly.

And if a reader only wants the highlights rather than reading it word for word, they can scan by checking out the headers and subheaders.

Then, if there’s a particular section they’re interested in—such as Ugmonk’s all-time favorite shirts, for example—they can read through the paragraphs in detail. 

Creating a visual hierarchy like this is what helps readers quickly get oriented and find what they’re most interested in, while at the same time making a newsletter more aesthetically pleasing. 

For more on visual hierarchy, check out this post from Jilt.

6. Don’t Just Sell, Educate

You’ll want to promote your e-commerce products in your newsletter. After all, that’s the entire point—to generate leads and make sales.

But don’t make the mistake that many brands do and make it all about selling. That’s one of the quickest ways to sour relationships and make readers want to opt-out. 

In fact, that’s the reason nearly one in five readers unsubscribes.

Just think about it. How many times have you been excited about signing up for a newsletter, only to be turned off with “buy, buy, buy” content?

A simple way to avoid this problem is to focus on creating value for readers by educating them, so they walk away with more knowledge.

White Horse Wine is a brand that pulls this off brilliantly with their newsletter. Take this one about pizza night essentials, for example.

They offer a step-by-step breakdown on baking a mouthwatering pizza, sharing their personal recommendations, and specific products to use.

It’s genuinely helpful and doesn’t barrage readers with annoying sales pitches. However, White Horse Wine can still promote their products by providing readers with a link to items for pizza night essentials. 

They’re still directing readers to relevant sales pages, but they’re doing it without being pushy about it, making this a great template to borrow from. It’s all about finding the right balance of educational to promotional content in your newsletter.

7. Make an Emotional Connection

The purpose of a newsletter is to build trust and rapport with readers. That’s what motivates them to engage with your e-commerce brand and sets the tone for them to make a purchase. 

So, another part of the formula for writing a newsletter is to make an emotional connection to facilitate better trust-building. And when you boil it all down, there are two main ways to go about this. You can either tell a story based on your firsthand experience or feature a story involving actual customers. 

Here’s a great example of the latter from Tracksmith, a company that specializes in performance running gear and apparel.

One of their newsletter’s common themes is featuring real customers using their products and talking about what their experience is like. 

In this email, they feature a customer named Lou, who tested out their “Reggie Half Tights” by running 25 miles in Flagstaff and another 26.2 miles during the Olympic Marathon Trials in Atlanta. 

It’s just a quick highlight. But if a reader is interested in hearing the full story, they can click on the link and go to the product page. For there, they can read more details on Lou’s experience, along with a ton of other great images. 

After reading through Lou’s story, subscribers can conveniently find the exact product he tested and buy it right from the same page.

This is a cool way to help readers connect the dots and gives your e-commerce brand a more human feel, while at the same time working in promotions. It’s just a matter of finding creative ways to make a connection.

8. Focus on One Main CTA

Earlier I talked about the importance of having a great CTA. But what does that mean? 

Besides the givens of using simple, concise wording and having it stand out from the rest of your content, each newsletter must have one main CTA. Why? It prevents your readers from being overwhelmed with too many choices.

Asking them to complete four or five different actions from within an email can leave them feeling paralyzed, where they end up doing nothing. But sticking with a single, simple CTA gives them clear direction, which greatly increases their odds of clicking-through.

Just look at this example from Supergoop!, an e-commerce brand that sells sunscreen and skincare products.

Their CTA is incredibly straightforward and promotes a single product called Unseen Sunscreen. Whenever a reader clicks on it, they’re taken directly to the product page to buy it with zero complications.

Now, this isn’t to say that it’s never okay to use multiple CTAs. In some cases, that makes sense, like if you’re promoting a new line of products. 

But always be aware of how many CTAs you’re using, and try not to overdo it. Instead, it’s better to spread your promotions out across a series of newsletters.

Free Downloadable Bonus

Want More Email Marketing Inspiration?

Let’s face it: writing good marketing emails is TOUGH. To help, we’ve put together an email marketing swipe file, including 41 email marketing examples (organized by category). Plus, a few other goodies not featured below (*cough* killer Facebook Ad examples *cough*).

Conclusion

Learning how to write a newsletter starts with first having a concrete goal of trying to achieve and letting subscribers know what to expect. 

You need to use proven strategies to hit all key areas, like writing an eye-catching subject line, crafting a snappy intro, and creating a visual hierarchy for better scannability. 

Then, it’s all about delivering real value and making an emotional connection that makes readers want to engage with your newsletter, check out your offers, and, most importantly, stay subscribed. 

Can you think of any e-commerce brands that have amazing newsletters?

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