How to launch a popular newsletter

Question: Which is more valuable to your brand? A single Instagram follower or a single email newsletter subscriber? Well, while we hate to disappoint those who are slaving away on their social media strategy, that single email newsletter subscriber is around 15 times more valuable than a single social media follower. Certainly, if click-through and conversion rates are anything to go by.

Email newsletter subscribers are more engaged, more loyal and much more likely to buy than followers on any other marketing platform. They’re also aren’t at risk of being stolen away by an algorithm or hacker. But what does it take to entice—and engage—these a-grade admirers? And where, amid the post scheduling, caption crafting, blog writing, and networking, can we muster the energy and time to add another spinning plate to our marketing strategy?

We’re here to help, so we’ve made things nice and simple. Ready to pull off an extraordinary email newsletter launch from scratch? Here are the steps you’ll need to take.

1. Build and grow your newsletter subscriber list

Headspace, How to launch a popular newsletter

American Apparel, How to launch a popular newsletter

Headspace and American Apparel warmly welcome their subscribers. Images via: Really Good Emails

If an email gets sent and no one is around to receive it, does it make any impact? No. So the first step to starting an email newsletter is to work on your subscriber list. How you will let people know about your email newsletter, and how they will be able to subscribe? Will you have a newsletter signup form on your site? Or a landing page for your email newsletter?

Be sure to include call to action (CTA) buttons and links across your social channels to encourage your followers to subscribe—and don’t forget to also mention and link to your newsletter signup form in your email signature.

Once you’ve established your list, a nifty way to grow it is by running a contest or offering a free online event, resource or tool that people can access by providing their email address.

Hot tip: It’s only polite to say a little hello to new subscribers. Create an inviting automated welcome email with the Pink and Blue Photo Hello Card or Simple Table Photo Welcome Card.

2. Get clear on the purpose of your newsletter

Clover Newsletter, How to launch a popular newsletter

Daily newsletter Clover was designed to target teen girls

Now it’s time to nail down the nitty gritty: Who are you sending this email newsletter to and why are you sending it to them?

Defining your subscriber’s gender, age, professional status, location, and digital habits will go a long way in determining how frequently you send out your email newsletter. It will also help to establish which day—and time of day—you send it (and don’t forget to factor in time zones here).

You can also segment your subscriber list and send out targeted newsletters to various groups depending on why they signed up. Do they want to know about your podcast? Be kept up to date with product launches? Attend your events? And so on.

Once you’re clear on who you’re sending to, hone in on what you want to say to them and what you’re hoping they’ll do with this information. Is your newsletter promoting a specific campaign? Do you hope it will gather feedback? Be shared with potential email contacts? Send traffic to your website? Sell a product? Educate your subscribers?

The purpose of your newsletter might be different each time you hit send, so get crystal clear on why you’re popping up in someone’s inbox before you make your entrance.

Design tip: Don’t play hide-and-seek with your subscribers. Position your newsletter’s purpose front-and-centre with the Pink & Black Simple Minimal Announcement News Women's Fashion Your Story or Blue and White Women's Fashion Announcement New Story templates.

3. Find your email marketing service

Mailchimp, How to launch a popular newsletter

Get acquainted with Mailchimp or one of its less furry friends

We’re ready for the nuts and bolts: How to actually make your newsletter. Do a bit of research to suss out which email-marketing service is your best fit. MailChimp is a hot favorite, with 11 million current customers, and Constant Contact, Drip, ConvertKit and AWeber are also popular.

Generally speaking, your email-marketing service should have a user-friendly interface (preferably drag and drop) and make it easy to customize, personalize and send bulk emails. You’ll also want a service that makes managing your contacts, segmenting your list and tracking your performance a cinch.

A lot of services offer a free trial period, and some, like MailChimp and Benchmark, won’t cost you a cent until you hit a certain amount of subscribers.

Design tip: drag and drop in a customized Yellow and Orange Square Retail Logo or Black and Yellow Typographic Art & Design Logo to quickly brand your email newsletter template.

4. Create your newsletter template

Wufoo Email Newsletter, How to launch a popular newsletter

Wufoo Email Newsletter 2, How to launch a popular newsletter

Wufoo keeps their newsletter short and sweet – in signature colors. Image via: Really Good Emails

Let the creativity begin! Your email newsletter design will be guided by the kind of content you’re sending out, but nevertheless, the golden rules should apply:

  • Make it your own. Put that logo of yours in your newsletter header, and keep your color scheme, fonts, images and content consistent with your brand.
  • Make it skimmable. This means clear headers with short paragraphs. Create your template with a content hierarchy in mind and use different fonts and font sizes to highlight headers and important details.
  • Include CTA buttons. Such as ‘Shop Now’, ‘Read More Here’ or ‘Visit our site’. These can increase your conversion rates by up to 28%.
  • Optimize for mobile. Most people will open your newsletter on their mobile device, so think mobile-friendly design, short subject lines, and low-res images. Many email marketing services include mobile previewers to help you out here.

Design tip: customize a professionally designed newsletter template like the Brown Minimalist Fashion Email Newsletter or Pink and Light Blue Bordered Email Newsletter and drop it straight into a blank email template on your email marketing service.

5. Create engaging content

Behance, How to launch a popular newsletter

Behance strikes an engaging balance of enlightening and product-centred content. Image via: Really Good Emails

Engaging content is, of course, the beating heart of your email newsletter. Once you’ve got the purpose of a particular newsletter locked and loaded (see Point 2), here are some things to keep in mind while crafting your copy:

  • What value can you give to your subscribers? What problem can you solve for them? Your email newsletter should be less about selling and more about serving your subscriber community.
  • Give time and care to your subject line. More than a third of recipients open an email based on the subject line alone, so make it clear, snappy and inviting.
  • Get personal. Addressing a subscriber by name is shown to increase open rates by 26% – but be sure to test this works properly. There’s nothing more awkward (and un-clickable) than getting someone’s name wrong.
  • Capitalize on your existing content. Can that blog post or caption you wrote, speech you presented or webinar you ran be repurposed for your newsletter? Pillage every piece of your existing content and pull out key points, how to’s and behind-the-scenes snapshots for your subscribers.
  • Make your content shareable. Email subscribers are 3 times more likely to share your content than visitors from other sources—so make it easy for them. Ensure every newsletter communicates the crux of your brand and include social sharing buttons and an ‘Email to a Friend’ option.

Design tip: a simple infographic template like the Purple Header Process Infographic or Green Modern Process Infographic makes for a high-impact newsletter.

6. Preview and test your newsletter. Then test it again.

Various email programs (Outlook, Gmail, Hotmail and the like) will display your email differently, so it’s crucial to preview and test your newsletter before you send it out. Your email newsletter platform will enable you to send a test email to yourself and/or another trusted set of eyes. Things to look out for include:

  • Are your links, linked-images and CTA buttons working? Test that everything goes to where it should.
  • Is your content clean? Proofread your copy (better still, put it by a friend)
  • How long does your newsletter take to load? If it’s sluggish, look at reducing the resolution of your images.

Worst-case scenario, if you send out a dud, a speedy follow up email with a subject line like ‘Whoops, let’s try that again’ is a nice way to ask for forgiveness.

Design tip: Incorporate your brand logo, fonts, and colors into a letterhead template, like the Clean Blue Bordered Letterhead or Pink Pastel Floral Designer Personal Letterhead, to create a simple, to-the-point email newsletter.

7. Hit send

A straightforward, but crucial step! Now sit back and wait for the numbers to roll in…

8. Crunch the numbers

Kate Spade, How to launch a popular newsletter

Kate Spade incentivizes its subscribers to offer feedback

One of the best things about email marketing is you can see exactly what’s hitting the spot (or not) with your subscribers. Your email marketing service will provide you with data across various elements of your newsletter, and these are the ones you’ll want to pay particular attention to:

  • Open rate. Your send day and time can play a big part here, so test this to find your sweet spot. Subject lines are also a major factor here, so take note of the length and phrasing of the ones with higher open rates.
  • Click-through rate. What kind of content are your subscribers clicking? What kind of layout and placements do they most engage with? Do they prefer to click on links, images, animated GIFs or buttons?
  • Conversion rate. What percentage of subscribers completed the desired action or become customers (depending on your newsletter’s goal)?
  • Unsubscribe rate. Uh-oh, what happened here? Could it be that you are emailing too regularly? Or your subject line isn’t speaking to your subscribers? Your email-marketing service will help you establish an unsubscribe survey to get to the bottom of it.

Aside from keeping an eye on your analytics, another way to gather feedback from your subscribers is to ask them for it. Your email marketing service should allow you to add a survey or poll to your newsletter, or you can send a separate survey campaign.

Keep your survey simple by asking only one or two questions such as: did you find this content useful? Was it relevant? Do you have any suggestions as to how we can improve? And it won’t hurt to throw in an incentive to complete the survey, like the team at Kate Spade, just to make it worth their while.

Use your data and feedback to inform the choices you make for your next email newsletter, and then send, analyze and repeat!

Design tip: use a customized coupon or promotional template, such as the Grey and Mint Cyber Monday Coupon Medium Rectangle Banner or Pastel Pink, Green, & Cream Floral Shop Retail Sale Promotion Facebook Post, to gather subscriber feedback.

Your secret weapon for stunning design