How to Create, Design, and Deliver an Email Newsletter
Although many web publishers consider email newsletters an old-fashioned way to update their readers and customers, in my opinion, email messages remain THE most familiar, intimate, direct and effective way to communicate with anyone you know. As such they represent one of the most powerful means to create and share value online and one of the few effective methods to start the "conversations" we keep hearing more and more about when it comes to marketing and community building.
But, how do you create, design and deliver an effective email newsletter?
Is it better to use plain text or take advantage of the cool formatting options available with HTML? How do you get readers to subscribe? What is the best writing style and format to use? How do you avoid having your newsletter trapped into a spam filter or your email added to a public mailing blacklist?
In this MasterNewMedia guide I am going to introduce you to the whole process of starting, designing and delivering an effective email newsletter.
Whether you want to keep up with your online community, promote your sales or increase your brand awareness, these guide will help you learn how to get started and how to avoid the most common pitfalls.
In this guide you will find everything about:
- Newsletter Creation
- Newsletter Writing
- Newsletter Formatting
- Newsletter Design
- Newsletter Distribution and Performance Analysis
- Newsletter Spam Testing
As a special bonus, I have also added at the end of this guide a selected list of free, quality newsletter templates that can be immediately downloaded and put to use to format your newsletter.
But before getting into all these details, let me share here with you first what I think are the key items you should be paying attention to, if you are serious about immediately starting an email newsletter.
- Make it stand out: Make your email subject line memorable; this is the first thing your readers will see. Most people receive tons of emails everyday, so it is really hard to get their attention. Speak to their heart and curiosity as if you were their friend, not their supplier.
- Make it readable: If you use HTML in your emails, use a smooth and big font type to make sure that your newsletter is clearly readable, especially for those who are not teenagers anymore.
- Make it scannable: Nobody likes lengthy documents to read, especially where the text is all crowded together. Be sure to space the paragraphs and sections of your newsletter properly and also provide short indexes and visual "anchors" that readers can use to quickly skim through the text.
- Make it intimate: Avoid the press-release-like writing style favoring instead a more confidential and direct tone to create a true "conversation" with your readers. Ask questions openly and try to understand what your audience really needs.
- Make it relevant: Only send your newsletter when you have something to say. Do not send out newsletters that are just full of your latest offers and suggestions to buy. Give first something really useful and relevant to your subscribers and use the newsletter to build intimacy, confidence and trust instead of using it as an offer-firing-cannon that only broadcasts and never listens.
- Make it light: Do not use videos, sounds, heavy images or attachments. If you want to provide such content, link back to it on your web site.
- Don't fancy up your newsletter with cool layouts and graphics: Those things, impactful-looking layouts and images are the trademarks of companies communicating via newsletter in the "old" way. In fact, if you pay attention, you will see that those very newsletters are the ones you read less and trash more. Why? Because they smell fake a mile away. The ones that work are the ones written as if a friend was writing to you, and as such these are normally written in plain text, with minimal formatting and no graphics at all. For now these are the traits of intimate, confidential and trustable. Use them.
If you want to dig deeper, and learn more about how to build and successfully distribute your email newsletter, here is the cream of the best tutorials, guides and resources you can find on the Internet:
Intro by Robin Good
1. How To Build Your Newsletter
In this PDF the Congressional Management Foundation shares some useful tips to create and manage an effective newsletter. Keep your newsletter scannable, have always something to say, get readers' attention, etc. You will also learn how to build your own email newsletter distribution list.
by CMF Editors - Congressional Management Foundation
Before starting your newsletter you have to decide a few things: how you want to write your newsletter (plain text or HTML), how to let readers subscribe to your newsletter (opt-in or double opt-in) and how to value the response rate your newsletter will get.
by Jeanne Jennings - ClickZ
You have to set goals for your newsletter to see if it will really help you improve your sales, increase brand awareness or whatever your goal might be. In this article you will learn the most common goals a newsletter may help you achieve and also useful tips on how to create an effective subscription page and how to find affordable editorial content.
by Jeanne Jennings - ClickZ
Microsoft Word helps you manage templates, adding images, and other bells and whistles to develop an effective email newsletter. In this article from microsoft you will be guided through the creation process of your newsletter starting with Word and ending with Outlook to send your finished newsletter to your mailing list.
by Microsoft Editors - Microsoft Office Online
2. How To Write Your Newsletter
If you have ever wished you could convert more of your newsletter readers into raving fans of you or your brand, then in this article you will get to know some effective ways to develop a writing style that actually creates a "conversation" between you and your audience.
by John Alexander - Search Engine Guide
Producing your newsletter doesn't have to be a monumental task. You probably have a word processor and that's just good enough to get started. You will then have to set up a few options and think of publication frequency, the topics your newsletter will deal with, a good template you want to use. What is really important is that you develop a unique newsletter "look".
by MB Editors - MoreBusiness.com
In today's information overload world, it is vital to communicate clearly, concisely and effectively. People do not have time to read book-length emails, and they do not have the patience to scour badly-constructed emails for "buried" points. Then the better your writing skills are, the better the impression you will make.
by MT Editors - MindTools
3. How To Format Your Newsletter
Robin Good explains how to resolve the annoying MS Outlook 2003 extra line breaks issue that most people come across when writing their email newsletter. As you will see, even though the solution is pretty easy it took quite some time and testing for Robin to sort this out. If you too have the same issue, here is what Robin has discovered.
by Robin Good - MasterNewMedia
Cristopher Heng talks you through the very first steps you have to take when starting and formatting your email newsletter. Making the right choices in the very beginning of your experience with newsletters is crucial to make sure your email will look professional and not the result of the spur of the moment.
by Cristopher Heng - The Site Wizard
HTML emails are a very engaging communications medium for both publishers and readers. Publishers can track rates for email opens, forwards, and clickthroughs; readers are presented with information that is more visually appealing and much easier to scan and navigate than plain text emails.
by Tim Slavin - SitePoint
4. How To Design Your Newsletter
In this article, you will be presented with common design patterns of email newsletters and learn which approaches work well, so that you will be prepared to create one for yourself and your clients. Also included is a compilation and analysis of different newsletter designs so that you can learn from them as well as tips on what to do and what not to do.
by Noam Almosnino - WebDesignerDepot
Smashing Magazine editor Chui Chui Tan discusses some guidelines for designing and distributing email newsletters. Each point is accompanied by both good and bad examples, so you can get a better understanding of the problems to avoid and good design decisions to make.
by Chui Chui Tan - Smashing Magazine
This article from Smashing Magazine is a quick guide to effective email newsletters which will give you the information you need to plan, design and build an HTML newsletter that renders well and is actually useful for your recipients.
by Matthew Peterson - Smashing Magazine
5. How To Distribute and Track Your Newsletter
Communicating via email in a direct, intimate and informal way remains one of the best ways to market and promote your content, services and products online. This is why the most effective online businesses still rely on crafting quality newsletters and email updates to keep their fans and customers updated, entertained and happy. In this MasterNewMedia guide you will find the best free email newsletter distribution and mailing services available out there, as well as complementary information to help you identify and select your ideal one.
by Daniele Bazzano - MasterNewMedia
Email distribution and newsletter mailing services are among the best and most utilized email marketing tools available out there. They allow you to get in touch with your audience in a direct and intimate way trough autoresponders, direct messages, and any type of newsletter format that can be used to market your ideas, or your online product or service. In this MasterNewMedia guide you will find the best commercial newsletter distribution and mailing list services available out there, as well as complementary review information to help you select the best solution for your specific needs.
by Daniele Bazzano - MasterNewMedia
In this tutorial you will learn how to use WordPress and Feedburner with a few plugins to create a simple email newsletter service for your WordPress blog. You can track the performance of your newsletter by checking how many subscribers you have, how many clicks each link gets and much more.
by WPB Editors - WPBeginner
6. How To Test Your Newsletter For Spam
Sending out newsletters and having them delivered reliably to your list of subscribers has become a greater challenge than I would have ever thought. Problem is, if you don't devote yourself to it, everything is set for your newsletter to run into trouble. To not run into such issues you really need to proactively do something about it. The negative consequences are blacklisting of your email and your newsletter filtered out by spam filters on your recipient ISP mail server or on their computers.
by Robin Good - MasterNewMedia
SpamCheck is a free online service that will help you verify whether your newsletter will be treated as a spam message and thus trashed when it hits your receiver's inbox. All you have to do is prepare your e-mail and then send it to SpamCheck which will analyze your newsletter and send back an error report to you with all the issues encountered and how to fix those.
by SS Editors - SiteSell
MailingCheck is a free software for Windows that will analyze your email newsletter and help you clean it from anything that may lead email providers to treat your messages as spam. Just download the software, install it and open your emails. Then click on "Check now" to analyze your email and then go cleaning your newsletter from spam following the instructions.
by MC Editors - MailingCheck
Selected Quality Email Newsletter Templates
Here is a list of free quality email templates to help you style your newsletter:
- HTML Email Templates
- 30 Free HTML Email Templates
- 35+ Free HTML Email Newsletter Templates
- Design Newsletter Templates
- Free Newsletter and Email Templates
This article was originally prepared by Daniele Bazzano for MasterNewMedia, and first published on February 22, 2010, as "How To Create, Design And Deliver Your Email Newsletter".
This work is licensed under a  Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License