Hi. I'm Neville. I'm a professional newsletter writer-er.
My words have been featured in literally hundreds of millions of emails.
I tell you this for two reasons:
1.) To brag.
2.) To show you that I've learned a thing-or-two through loads of experience, and this guide is my utterly complete guide to writing a newsletter.
Please grab a beverage, put this window in full-screen, and reserve about 12 minutes to read this article. If you're in charge of writing an email newsletter, it will be highly beneficial.
1.) People read a newsletter for the content, not the layout.
Your newsletter will NOT be defined by the way it looks.
If all you've got in your newsletter is a slick design, no one will read it.
More than 65% of emails are now read on mobile....so all those pretty email elements pretty much get chucked anyway. For example, look how any type of layout formatting gets mostly stripped from this email when it gets shrunk down:
Full desktop version:
It gets shrunk down to this:
Essentially all the "design" of the newsletter gets stripped away down to its bare elements.
About 90% of the larger companies that consult with me about their newsletters get SUPER STRESSED about the visual layout of their newsletter.
Here's the secret: It nearly 100% doesn't matter one rat's ass.
In my personal experience there's only two types of newsletters that have success:
TYPE 1.) The "Visual Product Newsletter" Email Style:
This is for businesses who sell products that are dead-simple to understand and very visual-based. These are mostly eCommerce websites that sell standard products.
This means there's not much to explain about the product, like selling t-shirts or shoes or clothing. You don't really have to EXPLAIN what a t-shirt or product does. It kind of sells itself just through the picture.
RageOn.com sells custom t-shirts/shoes/stuff that is a good example of "Visual Product Newsletter" because everything they sell is SUPER visual. You can take one look at their t-shirts or shoes and see if you're interested or not:
Literally in a split-second people can decide if they want (or don't want) the products being shown. The visual medium is great for this style of product, so you can send a newsletter like this to generate interest in the products over time.
Another example of the "Visual Product Newsletter" style is TravelZoo. They are essentially a "daily deals" company that sends travel deals everyday, so it's their prerogative to JUST SHOW THE DAMN DEALS!
Here's an example I got that's customized to my area:
I'll be the first to admit I don't carefully inspect each TravelZoo email.....but I usually do a super-quick scan. If something catches my eye at the time, I might buy it.
During summer if I see a really cheap boat rental or fun activity in Austin, I'll click the email and inspect the deal further on the TravelZoo website.
The email newsletter is just a place to give me a "quick blurb" about each deal, not the full details. That's better shown on the website.
The downsides of this "Visual Product Newsletter" is they are not very good at "selling" the products.
All they're doing it slapping some products on an email and hoping for the best. I actually used to do this years ago when I owned a drop-shipping company. I would get really high click-through rates on the emails because they were visually really pretty, but really low sales.
Until I went onto the next style of email did I have a lot of success selling through email:
The "Simple-Yet-Informative" Newsletter Style:
This is where you have a newsletter that is ultra simple in it's layout, yet super informative. Here's some of the characteristics of the "Simple-Yet-Informative" newsletter:
- The "layout" is pretty much just a blank page.
- The text is a basic font humans can easily read and all devices can easily read. Arial 12pt black font is an all-time favorite.
- Uses very few "brain cycles" to understand what's going on. No complex layouts, no disorienting design.
- It's easy for a user to just scroll down the page and read. Everything flows nicely.
- It's goal is to get people to READ THE CONTENT, not be impressed by its design.
If you're trying to sell products that need to be explained, then the "Simple-Yet-Informative" newsletter style is what you need.
See how dead simple the layout is? It really is just a blank page with some text on it. One of the benefits of this style is that it really looks the same on any device. Even if someone reads this email on the toilet in the morning, it will still have that same Top-to-Bottom linear reading style as on the desktop version:
Here's another one "Simple-Yet-Informative" newsletter I made with a bit more content sprinkled in the email:
Once again, this email only gives people the option to pay attention to the content, not the layout.
The "Plain Template" email:
These "Simple-Yet-Informative" emails are my favorite for several reasons:
- Don't have to worry about design.
- Don't have to worry about fancy layouts getting squished or showing up weirdly on different devices.
- Readers on every device can read the content in a top-to-bottom linear fashion.
- Less distracting to the eye.
- The simple format looks WAY more personal (how many personal emails do you get that have fancy templates? Zero.)
- They tend to convert a lot higher.
- Less spam filter triggers.
- Lower rendering times across every device (this matters when people have really slow connections).
- Focuses on content, not design.
- They are first and foremost informative, so people look forward to them.
Ok.....now that we've established that you should not stress too much about fancy layouts, and just keep it really simple
Let's figure out what exactly to put inside your email newsletter:
2.) What to put in a newsletter?
If you've been tasked with sending out a newsletter and you're staring at a blank page, it can be super daunting.
Like.....where exactly do you start?
- Re-cap of the year.
- Best article of the month.
- Bring up an interesting comment left on a post.
- List of cool tools you use on a regular basis.
- Format one of your most popular blog posts as an email and send it out.
- Make a multi-part series (Ex: A 6-series email story about how you started your very first business, with step-by-step instructions).
Now these are just interesting things to send out on a regular basis, but.......
We want our own newsletters to pop.
We want people to look forward to reading them.
We want people to stop what they're doing and read.
....and simply sending out re-cap emails isn't going to blow any minds. So let's use this little formula I developed to flesh out some much more interesting topics to write about, but that's still relevant to our products.
Go to the next section to see it! -->
3.) The "Endless Emails Formula" for endless newsletter content
This is a simple formula I've had a lot of success coming up with tons of ideas for newsletters and blog content. It goes like this:
Here's what each part of the Endless Emails Formula represents:
- [Life]: Concepts that happen in life (such as love, kids, tragedy, making a living).
- [subject]: The topic you talk about (such as eCommerce, email marketing, blogging, knitting, dogs).
- : The email subject you come up with by smashing [Life] and [subject] together.
See how quickly we can come up with a topic whenever we give ourselves a "prompt" to follow?
In fact here's a whole Email Newsletter Topics Idea Generator you can use to instantly generate 125 email topics of your own!
4.) What makes a good newsletter? It's 70% content, 30% sales.
You see my child, when Information has sex with Sales, a baby dollar comes out.
People like lots of information.
People dislike lots of sales.
However people don't mind 70% information, and 30% sales. This seems to be the happy-magical compromise between sending out great information and also running a business:
If you're planning on sending out a lot of emails over the years, this is a good rule of thumb to follow (haha get it....."rule of thumb".....and above there's a picture of a thumb)??
If you keep hard-selling people all the time, your newsletter will either get trashed or unsubscribed to quickly. It has to serve some inherent value to stay around for a long time!
"Value" can mean many things:
- Entertainment value (A newsletter they signup for entertainment).
- Educational value (A newsletter they signup to for learning something).
- Notification value (A newsletter they signup to for hearing about events, or deals, or news).
Preferably your newsletter does all of the above over time. This is a great way to ensure people look forward to your newsletter, and will follow you (or your business) on any medium.
5.) The different parts of an email newsletter
There's lots of different ways to layout an email, but in my professional experience as a copywriter, I've only seen two work.
Like we discussed in Section 1, there's only two main email templates:
The "Visual Product" Newsletter Style:
The "Simple Yet Informative" Newsletter Style:
These are the main two layouts I've seen work. Anything that has 3 columns, or way too much "design" added into it often just distracts readers, shows up weirdly on different devices, and adds a whole level of complexity to your emails that you don't need.
6.) Samples of good email newsletters
For the sake of not over-loading this post with tons of long-ass email newsletter samples, I'm just going to direct you to a site that compiles lots of email newsletters:
If you ever feel like browsing different styles of email newsletters, that's a great place for inspiration.
7.) Let's build a newsletter together!
It's just me and you my friend.....together we have been tasked with making an email newsletter:
A.) Let's get a nice fresh blank newsletter:
We're just using a standard Gmail web composer for our first email since our email list is small:
B.) Fill in the basics.
This means specify who we are sending the newsletter to (in this case our Daschund Lovers Facebook Group members who also signed up to our email list). Then write a subject line related to the topic. In this example newsletter we are going to teach our readers how to get their Daschund doggies to sit down:
C.) Start off in a catchy way
I'm personally going to start off with a quick story about how I got my own Daschund to sit down (this is an example....I don't actually have a Daschund)!
D.) Add some good content they can learn from
Now we're going to show them the process used to get Pinky to sit down:
E.) End the email in a personal manner, and even ask for interaction
I like to pretend all my emails are going from me to ONE other person. Even if it's going out hundreds of thousands of people I really enjoy making them personal sounding and friendly.
Sometimes this means even interacting with the people on the other end of the email.
F.) You have now created an informational and fun email newsletter!
Look what we did together my old friend....our first email newsletter! Look how beautiful and informative it is:
And all we did to complete this beautiful piece of work was just a few quick steps:
Note: This example newsletter is pretty short just for readability reasons. Feel free to add more commentary, pictures, and helpful information in your own newsletters.
Download this "How To Make A Newsletter" post:
The download includes:
- All images and examples shown in post-
- Template for filling in the "Endless Email Formula" -
- Download as a PDF, Word Doc, or Google Doc -
I sincerely hope you learned and enjoyed!
Neville Medhora - CopywritingCourse
Wanna read more?
Here's some good stuff:
How to become a copywriter | Headlines that sell | Freelance Writing for Beginners | Writing effective sales pages | Copywriting Books & Courses