How to Create an Email Newsletter Your Customers Actually Read

How to Create an Email Newsletter Your Customers Actually Read
Key 'Takeaways' From This Post:
  • Email marketing is almost 50 years old!
  • Email delivers a median ROI of 123% -- 4xs higher than any other channel (including social media and paid search!)
  • More than half of email opens occur on mobile devices

Email marketing may be a veteran of the digital marketing world (Campaign Monitor touts that email marketing is just five years away from being a half a century old!), but it’s still one of the smartest and hardest working digital marketing channel around. In fact, a survey conducted by the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) and Demand Metric found that email was excelling despite its old age. The study found that email delivered a median ROI of 123% — more than four times higher than any other channel, including social media and paid search!

According to the DMA, “Email has been declared dead and dying many times over, yet it remains the most prolific tool for today’s data-driven marketer. When executed well and delivered with relevance to engaged customers, email provides the highest ROI for modern marketers.”

Of course, to tap into this promised abundance of sales and triple figure ROI, you need to make sure that your email marketing is something that your customers actually want to read. Read on to find out how to ramp up your email open rate and create newsletters that your consumers engage with, advocate for and share.

Email Marketing Concept

Be Data Driven

Chad White, from email optimization software Litmus, tells Campaign Monitor “Data science is making email marketing smarter by powering better automation and personalization. However, data science isn’t a “set it and forget it” solution. 2017 will be the year marketers focus on the care and feeding of their data-driven marketing. They’ll zero in on the data points and behaviors that lead to truly valuable insights.”

Being data driven gives you clear, hard facts to base your email content on and means making decisions based on what numbers tell you. Use the data you generate from your campaigns to identify what works and what doesn’t. Whether that’s noticing a change in behavior and reflecting that in your email template design or drilling deep to identify sweet spots for sending, subject line length or topic, use your data to play to the numbers.

Think Mobile First

There is just no getting away from the mobile mindset. American Express Open Forum cites a Litmus test that looked at more than one billion email opens in November 2016 where they found that more than half of the opens occurred on mobile devices. With your audience more and more likely to read your email newsletter on a smartphone, being mobile aware is an easy step to improve your open rate.

Email platform Mailchimp has these words of wisdom to set you on the right path, “When designing mobile email, we try to follow the mantra: one eyeball, one thumb and arm’s-length.”

To put this mantra into practice:

  • Create a responsive email template that displays well on the smaller screens of smartphones
  • Don’t use too much text -– a small screen makes it difficult to digest. Instead focus on short, snappy messages with prominent calls to action (CTAs)
  • Use a single visual with a single call to action
  • Use one click buttons

Create A Sense of Urgency

Creating a sense of urgency is a tried and tested way to up the ante and get customers engaged in what you have to say. In email marketing, injecting a sense of urgency into your subject line can make your recipients that much keener to open your email newsletter and see what you have to say.


Campaigner advises using this tactic to increase open rates because, “Urgency in a subject line will ensure that there is an incentive for the recipient to open the email. You want to give your readers the impression that there is a time limit on your products/services.” The email experts also warn against using trickery, though, so you’ll want to avoid any vague or directly misleading subject lines. (After all, you don’t want your audience to read your newsletter once, regret it and then unsubscribe because of a sub-par experience.)

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Segment Your Email Lists

It’s virtually impossible to put together an email newsletter that appeals to your entire audience in one fell swoop. Within your opt-in subscribers, create segmented lists using parameters such as location, industry or purchase history. Once you have your subscribers grouped by relevant segments, you stand a much better chance of creating content they actually want to read because you can cater the content to each individual interest. If you have your lists segmented by location, creating an email your recipients actually want to read could be as simple as swapping in the relevant location for the subject line of each send.

And here’s some good news if you’re a small business…American Express Open Forum says you may have the advantage over bigger rivals, explaining, “To help achieve high levels of engagement, email marketers may want to consider diligently managing and cleaning their lists. This is an area where smaller businesses can set themselves apart from large chains. It may be easier for smaller businesses to segment their lists and continuously refine them based on personal engagement with customers.”

List segmentation makes it possible to send tightly targeted, highly relevant and personalized emails, helping to improve your email open rates and create campaigns that your subscribers actually want to be a part of.

 Mine Your Blog and Social Data

Creating email content that your subscribers want to read doesn’t need to be a dark art. In fact, if you have Google Analytics (or some other analytics software tool) installed on your blog and are active on social media, you already have a wealth of inspiration at your fingertips.

Check your blog, tweet and post stats to narrow down which posts performed the best, got the most views, likes and shares. This content should be repurposed into email newsletters. It will also give you lots of clues as to the type of information, subjects and angles your consumers are most likely to interact with.

Let Us Know What You Think

Do you struggle to create content that your email subscribers want to read? What tricks do you have for creating compelling email newsletters? We’d love to hear your advice for upping open rates and tapping into the huge ROI that email promises.

Sherry Bonelli
About the author
Sherry is the former Local Search Evangelist at BrightLocal. She led BrightLocal's Research and Content programs and championed the needs of their SEO Agency and SMB customers. Having worked in digital marketing since 1998, Sherry has a Master’s Degree in Internet Marketing along with numerous digital marketing certifications.