How to write a newsletter

Early-stage businesses often strategize on marketing strategies that lead to a stronger community and recurring sales. Social media tends to be the trending option right now, with new platforms popping faster than ever before, to accommodate specific audiences.

And while the likes of Clubhouse, Facebook, and LinkedIn seem to drive referral traffic to your product page, engagement seems to be getting harder and more expensive as time goes on. After all, you are leveraging the audience of the social media platform; You are renting digital space, which is not a good, long-term approach.

What if Facebook disappeared tomorrow? What if they doubled their ad costs? You have little saying in the decision-making process. For these and many more reasons, it is best to build a native audience; one that can’t be “taken” from you. And there is no better way to do so than learning how to write a newsletter.

Why newsletters are ideal for startups

When it comes to Social Media platforms and even search engines, you never really “own” your audience. The traffic you receive passes through third parties which allows the engagement to occur. This can become a huge bottleneck and one you have little control over.

Just recently we saw massive engagement drops with creatives on Instagram and complete censorship of many Twitter accounts. And email newsletters are not immune to this either.

Platforms like Substack create a middleman for email distribution as well. The popular startup raised $65 million just a few weeks earlier, promising large financial returns and more opportunities for creatives. And while authors are pleased with the luring rewards, many fail to see how this is centralizing the distribution of emails.

Since startup newsletters are great for community engagement, it is best to leverage all available platforms (digital and physical) to build an “organic” email list; one that is not dependent on third parties. The main idea behind Kevin Kelly’s 1000 True Fans.

Ideally, you should incentivize product users (and demo testers) to join the newsletter by offering some form of discount. A small incentive can go a long way when considering the benefits startups get when building up a solid email list.

  • Higher CTR than any other medium - average of 7,8%
  • Personalized communication opportunities
  • Complete freedom of speech (no censorship)
  • Highest ROI - $1 spent leads to an average of $38

How to write a newsletter - 7 Tips

It’s time to learn how to write a community newsletter; one that has high open rates, real value, and a promotional hint that does not disrupt the user experience.

1. Start by understanding who you are writing for

We have previously written on the importance of customer profiling and segmentation. In short, you want to qualify your subscribers based on several criteria, like demographics, location, and buyer behavior. By doing this, you will be able to send slight variations of your newsletter to different parts of your audience, making them more personalized and targeted.

How to write a newsletter

In other words, you are able to step into the shoes of your (potential) customer and know how to accommodate their wishes and needs. When doing this effectively, you will see:

  • An increase in open rates (due to better-fitting subject lines)
  • CTR growth (due to relevant call to action buttons)
  • Increased engagement and sharing

While this tactic may not be the highest priority at an early stage, it is best to create systems that will automatically segment your audience as you start building up your list. In the following tips, we will share more on the methods to do so.

2. Pay attention to the subject line

With a good understanding of your audience, it is now time to personalize the first thing your subscribers see - the subject line.

Subject lines determine whether your email is opened, and is thus directly affect your CTR. So how should you go about it? Crafting the perfect on-liner is not that simple, and often requires an understanding of emotional triggers, psychological principles, and human tendencies.

Optin Monster has written an excellent guide on the science of newsletter subject lines. We recommend reading through it to understand how to write a company newsletter for a specific segment of your audience.

3. Consider A/B testing

Similar to paid advertisement methods, email newsletters can also be sent out in a variety of versions to better understand the audience. A/B testing can be done through most email marketing software tools, which also compare the open rates and click-through rates.

How to write a newsletter

You can A/B test multiple versions of your newsletter across several segments of your audience to identify:

  • Subject lines that lead to the highest open rates
  • How personalization elements affect CTR
  • Which CTR buttons perform best
  • How visuals affect the reading experience

Based on the results of your tests, you will be able to adjust future newsletters to maximize their effectiveness and ROI. To follow-up on the previous point, here is a video explaining how to A/B test your subject lines on MailChimp:

4. Keep it compact and valuable

Let’s talk about the body of your email newsletter. After analyzing many successful emails and learning from the best in the industry, we have noticed several best practices that contribute to an improved experience for your readers.

  • Get right to the point - No one has time for lengthy introductions or personal stories. Your subscribers have joined your list for a particular reason and it is your job to deliver upon this. Anything more than one sentence to introduce your topic is considered “fluff” content and is thus unnecessary. Speaking of…
  • Eliminate fluff content - The digital era is filled with information ready to consume. And since there’s only so much attention span available for your content, make sure to make it as compact as possible. Divide your points in bullets, keep your paragraphs short, and try to deliver your message in as few words as possible.
  • Add an audio version - Consider hiring a voice-over professional or record yourself reading your newsletter out loud. This trend has seen an increase in popularity among business newsletters, turning your email into a bite-sized podcast episode.
  • Make the unsubscribe button easy to spot - Finally, when learning how to write a newsletter remember to respect the reader’s preferences. Don’t make it hard to unsubscribe or you could find yourself getting many spam reports, which in turn decrease your deliverability.

5. Add a CTA

Every newsletter has a purpose, and top-of-mind awareness is only partially it. When you structure your email consider the way through which readers can expand upon the information you provide, and the main action you want them to take.

When it comes to expanding on information, you can add hyperlinked text at the end of your bullet points so that readers can “Find out more” or “Read more”. These do not necessarily need to be formed as a colored button that draws attention. It simply adds more value to the message you are trying to deliver. For example, if you are writing on a trend in your particular industry, you can link to the study that indicates the validity of the trend build-up.

And then there is your CTA; a button of bolded text that represents the action you want the reader to take. This can be anything from a click-through to your product page, a limited-time offer, the latest news, or any offer that can help you convert readers into customers. Having people click on this button is the reason for which you are sending the email in the first place. Hence, make sure that the information flow strengthens the possibility of subscribers clicking through to your offer.

Note that most email marketing software will track the click-through rate of readers, but does not track the individual links clicked within the body. Hence, if you are adding more than one link, consider using UTM parameters instead. Apart from giving you a detailed overview of the CTR, it will also improve the analysis of your A/B testing.

6. Go easy on the visuals

When you search how to write a newsletter for a company, many resources will try to indicate that fancy templates and visuals will do the trick. This is not necessarily true for startups. If the visual element does not add to the value of the email then it is considered fluff and should be eliminated.

Hold on a minute… what if it represents my brand and its colors? Many may give this some second thoughts but the point is - you need to think like the reader. Do fancy visuals even make a difference in your decision-making process? For the most part, they only confuse the reader as they take away the focus from the main message. While visuals may sound like a great idea, in theory, it is not a priority in practice.

That said, if you do feel the need to add at least one visual element to differentiate your newsletter from a typical email, we’d recommend adding a logo of your brand. Combining this with a colored frame that centers the content should be enough to not distract the reader.

7. Make it easy to find

Remember our emphasis on leveraging all available platforms to build your list? To do this, you need to promote your newsletter in a non-pushy way. Here are some tips on how to do it:

  • Inline subscription boxes - While pop-ups are still the most popular choice when it comes to optins, it can take a toll on the reading experience. Inline subscription boxes are not pushy and offer a more “invitational” approach to join your mailing list. You can also personalize these by adding custom incentives to fit the needs of the reader. For example, if you add an inline optin to a blog post that talks about the best ways to deal with a particular problem, you can add a lead magnet in the form of a checklist.
  • Mention it in your social media handles - Founders and other personal accounts on social media can add the newsletter within their handle to add another source of non-pushy promotion.
  • Add subscription boxes all across your website - While doing your best to time-triggered and exit-intent pop-ups (there are annoying!) you can find many more ways to add a newsletter reference within your website. Start by reading this post to get more ideas.

Wrapping up

Email continues to be one of the best communication mediums when it comes to reaching your audience. Especially when it comes to business, startups benefit massively from understanding how to write a newsletter. Not only does it increase community engagement, but it also leads to an increase in revenue and recurring purchases.

The 7 practices we discussed in this post perfectly summarize the focus points of your efforts:

  • Understand your audience - Segmentation, profiling, & buyer persona development
  • Craft the perfect subject line - It is the first thing your subscribers see
  • Test different versions - Understand what elements lead to better open rates and CTR
  • Keep it compact and valuable - Avoid fluff content and focus on providing value
  • Add a Call to Action - Lead your readers to a (landing) page of your choice
  • Go easy on the visuals - No need to add templates and visuals if they don’t add value
  • Make it easy to find - Add reference points within your website and social media to help readers find and subscribe to your newsletter. You can also incentivize them to do so by offering a lead magnet.