How to Create a Newsletter (If You Don’t Know How to Start)
How many weekly email newsletters do YOU subscribe to?…
Uh huh… Uh huh (nods head solemnly).
And how many of them do you actually read?
Mmm yes, that’s what I thought…
Me personally? I’m subscribed to over 100 different email newsletters.
I’ve been doing this for years because I like accelerating my knowledge in marketing by studying what other entrepreneurs are doing.
However, out of 100+ subscriptions, I only have time to read a handful each week. And I’m talking about actually reading them.
The ones I do read (and the ones you read too)—they have something very special in common. And if you’re going to write a successful newsletter, you’ve got to understand this one special thing too.
When I tell you what it is, you’ll understand why it’s special. And it’ll probably click for you, “yeah that makes sense, Matt.”
In today’s guide:
- I’ll reveal to you what the “special something” is that makes email newsletters that get read (and that actually grows your leads and sales).
- You’ll learn the easy, 10-step system for writing a newsletter people want to read.
- Plus, I’ll give you lots of examples and tips for how to make sure your newsletter gets seen by more and more people over time.
First, let’s start by answering the most important question…
Does Marketing Via an Email Newsletter Work to Bring In Leads & Sales? (Yes, Here’s Proof)
The short answer is yes.
You’d be surprised to know what a simple email newsletter can do for your business.
Newsletters are a great vehicle for promoting your blog’s content. Because it gives people an excuse to be driven from your newsletter to your article.
And once they land on your blog, they’ll engage with your brand. Because they’re going to see your logo, they’re going to see who’s behind the brand, and they’re going to see what your core offer is.
Whether you send products’ updates, educational resources like articles, or anything in between, you can grow customers by 40X more than Facebook or Twitter, and sales by 333% just by sending your newsletters on a regular basis.
And you can nurture the relationship with your audience until turning them into paying customers.
Email marketing can do way more than just getting your messages into someone’s inbox.
You see, Morning Brew—the daily newsletter that covers the latest news, grew its revenue from $3 million in 2018 to $13 million in 2019.
And during that same time, the company also skyrocketed its number of daily newsletter subscribers by more than 1 million. All by sending a daily newsletter 6X per week.
This represented 95% of the company’s revenue for last year.
But that’s not all a newsletter can do for a business. It not only helps you grow revenue. It helps you create a legacy. Something people will remember and will want to read over and over.
Have you heard about Warren Buffet? You know, that investor who’s worth over $70,000,000,000 according to Forbes?
Of course you have—who hasn’t?
Four decades ago, he sent out an annual newsletter early on his career as an investor. And nowadays, those newsletters are a must-read for anyone in the investment industry.
They’re so valuable that people actually pay to get access to those newsletters.
As you can see, sending out a well-made newsletter is not only about growing sales and leads. It’s also about creating rapport and building trust with your readers.
But in order to build that trust, you’ve got to send your newsletters consistently. Don’t do it only when you have some big news to share such as a new product launch or a massive limited-time discount (more on that later).
This will help nurture your relationship with your audience.
Think of it like a relationship with a friend—if you talk to them 3 or 4 times a week, you end up growing closer. You care more about them and they care more about you in return.
But if you lose touch and only check in once every few years, that relationship suffers. And with each passing year, they’re going to be less likely to pick up the phone and call.
It’s all about consistency.
Plus, a consistent newsletter can do wonders for ROI because email marketing is the most effective digital marketing channel according to Smart Insights.
On top of that, over 3.9 billion people used email in 2019.
And for every $1 you spend on email marketing, you can expect an average return of $42 according to Data & Marketing Association.
Now that you’re tempted to send your own newsletters, here are the exact steps you need to follow in order to make those emails a resounding success!
Step 1: Your Goal Determines How Often You Should Send Your Newsletters
Before creating your email newsletter, determine your goal.
Are you looking to grow sales? Are you looking to get more traffic? Or perhaps converting more leads?
Whatever your end goal is, you should look to stay top of mind for your customers. And most importantly, you should be looking to nurture the relationship with your audience and strengthen your brand.
89% of B2B marketers say that brand awareness is their main goal, followed by sales and lead generation according to Content Marketing Institute.
Plus, ensuring your brand is presented consistently leads to 33% more revenue according to Lucidpress.
And if you want to boost brand awareness and keep your brand consistent, you should send your newsletters as frequently as you can.
Some people ask me “How many newsletters should I send every month, Matt?”
But I can’t really tell them exactly how often they should do it because it’s going to depend on their workload, their availability, and most importantly, their ability to write high-quality content.
But I always recommend people who are starting out to send newsletters once per week, especially when they’re starting with a cold email list.
With practice, you’ll get better and better and you’ll build a system around it. And eventually, you’ll be able to generate content more often.
Take a look at the study from GetResponse below about the conversions from 1 email sent per week vs. 15 emails sent per week…
As you can see, the open rate and click-through rate both fall quite a bit more emails sent per week. However, the more you send, the more you solidify your relationship with prospects and make it easier to convert them into customers.
But listen, your ability to deliver high-quality content here will help you determine how frequently you can create a solid newsletter with valuable content (more on this later).
Because the content must be valuable. Forget about sending a newsletter with a filler content just to send something.
When it comes to newsletters, if you’ve got nothing to say, it’s better to not say anything at all.
It’s also important to know that you should not only send promotional content (highlighting your products or special deals).
People don’t like being sold on things. They don’t like seeing their inbox full of promotional emails every day.
At most, they prefer seeing these promotions weekly or monthly.
And not only that.
Your email newsletters should go hand-in-hand with a consistent blog posting schedule.
What we do at AutoGrow is, we promote each of our articles with a newsletter sent to our email list.
We’re currently doing this twice per week. But we’re already planning ahead and looking to start posting at least 4X per week this month.
Each of the newsletters we send basically contains the introduction of each of our articles. We don’t really customize the content of the newsletters beyond that.
We just add the introduction, a CTA inviting the reader to read the full article, and we link to our services in a PS at the end of the email.
Sending out newsletters often is a great way to share your content and educate readers on your products or services.
And as an added benefit, creating regular blog articles also helps drive exponential growth in organic traffic and helps you rank in search engines as you can see below.
So with each article, you’re accomplishing 2 things: 1) you’re creating content that your newsletter subscribers will want to read and 2) you’re filling out your site with content that’s going to boost your organic traffic too.
Step 2: Choose Your Email Marketing Tool Wisely (Some Are Better Than Others)
Here are some of the best tools for setting up your newsletters…
Mailchimp (Free & Basic Tool)
Mailchimp is a free and really simple tool to use.
But if you go with their paid plans, prices can vary from $9.99 to $299 a month.
Basically anyone trying an email automation tool can successfully set up their email marketing with this tool because it’s very user-friendly.
ActiveCampaign (Affordable 3 Tools in 1)
ActiveCampaign has marketing automation included which makes it pretty cool.
You can pay as little as $15 for their cheapest package, and $279 for their most expensive.
And for a limited time, they’re offering CRM with Sales Automation for 3 of their packages for free.
They’ve got tons of features and their prices are pretty low compared to other options.
We use ActiveCampaign to create and send our newsletters and email campaigns.
This is one of the best and affordable digital marketing tools we recommend. It’s a bit buggy but, even still, your emails do get sent out.
Step 3: Pick Your Email Design Template (Spend Less Time Here Than You Think…)
Keep your email design simple.
I’ve talked in the past about how you don’t need too many elements in your landing pages to convey value. I’ve also given you the best tips to improve your landing page design and boost conversions.
When you create your newsletter, keep those same design principles in mind.
Because minimalism is often most persuasive. And people associate a higher level of sophistication with simpler design.
Just take a look at these examples of high-ticket products’ minimalist designs…
They all have a simple design while still conveying a lot of value.
And take a look at these newsletters examples…
They’re very simple and don’t have a lot of text or elements.
But minimalism doesn’t only make a high-ticket product brand look more sophisticated.
Take a look at this case study from our Proven Sales Conversion Pack.
A leading volunteer abroad organization simplified and redesigned their landing page’s design.
This resulted in leads increased by 310%.
And this other case study from Skinny Ties shows how by making the design of their landing page a bit more minimalist, there was a 13.6% increase in conversion rates and a 42.4% increase in revenue.
Sure, you can still have a nicely designed email template. I’m not telling you to do something you don’t like. I’m just saying not to overcomplicate the layout of your newsletter.
As a matter of fact, 93% of all communication is visual according to Vengage.
Starting out, try to create or customize a design template that’s simple but still attractive.
But don’t spend too much time on perfecting your template. In fact, doing so can actually be making you waste way too much energy. And focusing on it too much instead of just launching is, to put it bluntly, a stupid waste of time.
What matters the most here is providing readers with valuable content. Design comes second.
We at AutoGrow didn’t even have a template when we first started sending our newsletters.
We used ActiveCampaign’s plain text editor and that’s all we used.
Because when it comes down to it, we knew that people like to buy from people, not big faceless brands like M&Ms or Adidas. And as long as your voice comes through in your newsletter, it doesn’t make too much of a difference what your design is like..
Bottom line here, trying to keep the design right is more of a stupid detail.
Step 4: Before Writing, Center Your Mind on What Works (This is That “Special Something”)
Creating your newsletter is not sitting down and writing anything that comes to your mind.
Every single sentence you write down must convey value to the reader. Otherwise people may get bored and will put your emails into the trash or spam folder.
For instance, when you create your newsletter, stop after every sentence you write and ask yourself, “Is this sentence actually adding value to the reader?”
It’s funny because I’m actually doing that right now. I’m questioning if every single sentence I’m writing in this article will add value to you =)
But anyway, you won’t believe how effective this best practice is.
It lets you determine if what you’re writing is worth mentioning or cutting out entirely. It lets you send your email list only high-quality content—all by simply being critical and judging the messaging you’re creating.
Because in the end, what determines whether or not people will read your stuff is if it’s high quality and valuable. And this is the “special something” all newsletters must have in order to get read.
Remember, don’t send bland content. Or filler images. Or random emails asking your email subscribers to just buy from you.
The content of your newsletter must be valuable to the reader.
For instance, don’t include cookie-cutter content that no one wants to read and no one cares about. Be authentic.
As a matter of fact, 90% of millennials say authenticity is important to them when deciding which brands they support.
But despite that stat, some brands aren’t authentic, though.
They just send automatic email newsletters without realizing that a human will actually be reading them. And this exactly what makes them not get more email engagement.
Be especially careful to understand your audience. Because when you don’t, you could be creating content you think is authentic and meaningful for them but really you’re just alienating more of your audience.
According to Stackla, 51% of consumers think that less than half of brands actually create authentic content (meaning most marketers actually aren’t doing as good of a job creating authenticity as they think).
Only use unique content that speaks to people and that is relevant. And think about the 92% of millennials when doing so.
That’s the only way you’ll make your subscribers actually read your emails and eventually convert them into paying customers.
Step 5: Choose What the Heck(!) You’re Going to Write About (Make It “Repeatable”)
In order to send out newsletters on a regular basis, you must build a system.
What exactly does this mean?
It means you can’t afford to wonder every week what to send in your newsletters. You need to create something sustainable and that can be repeated over and over.
Marketers waste nearly 25% of their time per week on duplication of work. That’s 328 hours annually they could be putting into something else.
And the more you can systematize your newsletter, the more time you’ll be saving.
For instance, one way to speed things up is by building a system where you send a newsletter to promote each single article you write for your blog.
We actually have a calendar where we write down all the articles we’ll be publishing in one month.
Yes, this means you need to build a system too for writing those articles. But who said it was going to be a piece of cake?
It’s certainly easy, but still requires some time and effort.
Starting out, just write an article each week. Write about anything you think can add value to your audience.
No matter if you’re a startup, entrepreneur, or business owner, you know your stuff. You built your company, didn’t you?
No one knows your products or services better than you do.
So what you’ll do is grab a pen and put all that knowledge into a paper. Well, it’d probably be more efficient to type it on a computer, huh?
But you get the point.
Gather all the information you know about a specific topic related to your products or services.
Do some research and gather some data. Interview other entrepreneurs in your business industry. Make a podcast.
Then put yourself in your readers’ shoes and ask yourself, what would they want to read about? What problems do they need to be solved? What are the tools to help them solve those problems?
Put all that information into an article and promote it via your newsletters.
That’s exactly what we do at AutoGrow.
We create valuable content each week that educates our audience about relevant topics and helps them solve certain problems.
Take as an example the article you’re reading right now.
It’s meant to help you (the reader) solve a problem (how to create a newsletter) while providing you with tools, examples, and stats on how to do so.
What we always do is, we take the introduction from the article and turn it into the newsletter.
Just take a look at the intro from this article in the screenshot below…
We added it to ActiveCampaign and turned it into the newsletter that was sent out to promote this post.
It’s the exact same content from the intro. We just added a CTA button to read the full article, a PS plugging in our services, and the same header image from the article.
Step 6: Create Your First Draft & Edit It With These Free Tools
Draft your newsletter and make sure you use a clear and simple vocabulary and easy-to-digest text.
Don’t use jargons or fancy words that’ll only make the reading experience for the reader more difficult.
Write in first person and in a conversational tone.
Just write like if you were talking to a person. Avoid using a super formal tone because people prefer a casual one.
For this, there are 2 tools we at AutoGrow simply love and use all the time. They’ll help you nail the perfect tone, and make your writing easier to understand.
This free tool is perfect for simplifying your vocabulary.
It shows you which sentences are hard or super hard to read, and which words or phrases could be replaced with a simpler alternative.
See how this tool highlights with different colors the text that should be improved?
Very simple, user friendly, and useful tool.
This one is really easy to use and super useful too.
It’s basically a grammar corrector.
By simply pasting the text, it checks for typos and it points out the words that have grammar errors.
See how it highlights the words that have typos and suggests you the right word to use instead?
Every single piece of content you promote via newsletters must be proofread for typos. And don’t forget to write in crisp sentences (1-2 sentences per paragraph max) like this…
This’ll make the reading experience smoother rather than having to go through long paragraphs like this…
Also, don’t assume that just because you wrote the newsletter, it won’t have any grammatical errors.
The truth is, even professionals who failed to progress to a director-level position within the first 10 years of their careers made 2.5 times as many grammar mistakes as their director-level colleagues. This according to Harvard Business Review.
That research also states that fewer grammar errors correlate with more work promotions. And professionals with 1 to 4 promotions over their 10-year careers made 45% more grammar errors than those with 6 to 9 promotions in the same time frame.
Grammatical errors are associated with low perceived credibility, so proofread and edit your content before sending it out.
Step 7: Segmentation: Figure Out Who to Send What (The More Segmented, the Better)
Start by sending out your newsletters to everyone on your list.
I practically launched my business by promoting it via newsletters.
I sent my newsletters to the email list I had built in college with contacts I made at that time.
And I ended up making 2 sales with that first newsletter.
You can start out by showing people what it is you’re doing in that first newsletter. Show them what you stand for, where you want to take the business to, and what you’re selling.
People want to buy from people. The more relatable your business is (who you are, what you stand for, etc.), the more likely people will be to buy from you.
And later down the road when you get more and more opt-ins to your newsletter, you can better segment your audience and send content that’s actually relevant to them and personalize it.
What I mean here is, put your email subscribers into different buckets based on their preferences as they opt-in for your newsletter.
The better segmented your audience is, the better you’ll understand their needs and what they’re looking for. And of course, this’ll let you send them exactly what they’re looking for.
A study from Mailchimp shows the difference between segmented vs non-segmented campaigns.
The differences are pretty obvious. The segmented campaigns performed way better than the non-segmented ones.
For instance, consider adding some questions in your opt-in form.
That’s exactly what we do at AutoGrow.
When a prospect is about to subscribe to our email list, we ask them what their biggest marketing challenge is…
And we give them the answers to choose from so they don’t have to type a random answer.
Then, depending on their answers, we send them an email automation more relevant to their interests.
This is simply a great way to segment your email list.
Also, you can offer different lead magnets to segment your readers’ interests (which lead magnet did they download? Which topics are they interested in?).
As a matter of fact, 77% of email marketing ROI came from segmented, targeted, and triggered email campaigns in 2015 according to DMA.
So don’t miss your chance of sending more relevant content to your audience.
Step 8: AB Testing Subject Lines & Pre-Send Checks (Once It’s Sent, You Can’t Undo It)
The best way to engage your audience with your newsletters is by writing compelling subject lines.
Subject lines are super important for getting people to read your stuff.
In fact, a reader’s behavior and whether they open your email or not is largely based on subject lines.
Research by Invespcro shows that 47% of people opened an email based on subject lines alone. And 69% of recipients reported an email as spam based only on the subject line.
As a result, it’s important that you put some time into writing down compelling subject lines that’ll make people actually want to open and read your emails.
And consider adding emojis to them. Because adding emojis to your subject lines can actually lead to a higher open rate.
You can also write different variations of your subject lines for each newsletter too (we write 20 for each one).
This is a really good exercise for nailing the right subject line. See the 20 variations I wrote for this article?
Then, find the subject lines that work best by A/B testing them.
A/B testing your subject lines lets you determine which of your subject lines has a higher open and click rate. And with that data, you’ll be able to optimize and improve your future subject lines.
Try to start by A/B testing 2 variations at first if you’re sending your emails to 1000 people or less. Above that number, you can experiment with 3 or more.
Below 500 contacts, optimize your results by measuring the open rate, not the click-through rate.
In our experience, around 75% of the time, the email with the highest open rate would actually end up getting the highest click rate.
Now, once your list grows even bigger, you can start testing more variations against each other.
For instance, we at AutoGrow always choose 4 subject lines from the 20 and run an A/B test.
One way to help pick out which of your variations to test is by using the Advanced Marketing Institute tool—a headline analyzer.
It analyzes your subject lines and gives you an overview of the Emotional Marketing Value (EMV) score.
And finally, check your newsletter before it’s sent. Because once you hit “send”, you won’t be able to undo it.
You can send a test email to your email address to make sure everything’s in place. It’s what we do with every newsletter we send.
For this, make sure there are no typos. Make sure that the link on the CTA button leads to the right article. And make sure that you’re sending the newsletter to the right list of contacts.
Step 9: Track the Success of Your Emails & Pick Out Insights You Can Use to Optimize Later
This step is really simple.
You’re going to check the stats of each newsletter you’ve sent.
Sure, there are plenty of metrics to check like:
- Click-through Rate
- Conversion Rate
- Bounce Rate
- List Growth Rate
- Email Sharing/Forwarding Rate
- Overall ROI
- Open Rate
- Unsubscribe Rate
But to start with, you’ll check the click and open rate of each email. It’s not only what we typically check for at AutoGrow, but what most people surveyed below claim to be their key performance indicators.
For example, for this newsletter we sent in the past, ActiveCampaign gave us a report of how many people opened the email.
In the screenshot below it shows 15.26% of open rate.
And it also shows the percentage of people who actually clicked to read the full article.
In the screenshot below it shows 1.38% of click rate.
Open and click rates are the metrics we always focus on. And then, we take that data and optimize upcoming newsletters.
For instance, check on the subject line variation that had a higher open and click rate. This’ll help you write your next subject lines because you’ll be taking the “feedback” (open and click rate) into consideration to write a better subject line.
For example, we’ve found that subject lines that start with “How to Create a Sales Funnel” and “# Steps to Create a Sales Funnel” perform better than the ones that start with “What Is a Sales Funnel.”
Another great way to optimize the content of your newsletters is to add a section where people can comment on your blog post.
This way you’ll engage them in a “discussion” that can potentially attract more readers to participate in it.
Each of our articles end with an invitation for the readers to leave any comments or feedback.
And of course, most of the time, this section incentivizes people to ask me any questions or to just leave a comment.
Step 10: Rinse & Repeat (Do You Want Sales Always—or None Next Week?)
Aha. Do you want to always make sales or just once in a while?
I’m guessing always.
So be consistent. Publish consistently and send your newsletters consistently.
Follow the system you’ve built with your posting schedule.
Rinse and repeat. Do it again and again. And never stop providing your audience with valuable content.
This’ll ensure they will always be constantly updated on your brand, products, or services.
Just take a look at the graph below and see how the best results are achieved when companies send between 4 and 8 emails per month.
Bonus Step: 11-Point Checklist to Continuously Growing Your Email Newsletter Audience
Here are 11 tips you can use to build your email list:
- Add a Scroll-Box
- Lead Magnets (like a free tools report or a free course)
- Do Guest Blogging
- Host a Webinar
- Offer Content Upgrade
- Add an Exit-Intent Pop-up
- Require Emails for People to Leave Comments on Your Blog
- Blog Post by Line
- Create a Simple Form to Collect Emails
- Offer a Free Course
- Create a Self-liquidating Offer
Sending email newsletters is a cost-effective medium for nurturing relationships with prospects and converting them into paying customers.
No matter if you’re a startup, entrepreneur, or freelancer, if you’re looking to increase awareness and understanding of your business and the products and services you sell, sending newsletters to your email list is the way to go.
For creating your newsletter, go step by step in the process…
- Step 1: Your Goal Determines How Often You Should Send Your Newsletters
- Step 2: Choose Your Email Marketing Tool Wisely (Some Are Better Than Others)
- Step 3: Pick Your Email Design Template (Spend Less Time Here Than You Think…)
- Step 4: Before Writing, Center Your Mind on What Works (This is That “Special Something”)
- Step 5: Choose What the Heck(!) You’re Going to Write About (Make It “Repeatable”)
- Step 6: Create Your First Draft & Edit It With These Free Tools
- Step 7: Segmentation: Figure Out Who to Send What (The More Segmented, the Better)
- Step 8: AB Testing Subject Lines & Pre-Send Checks (Once It’s Sent, You Can’t Undo It)
- Step 9: Track the Success of Your Emails & Pick Out Insights You Can Use to Optimize Later
- Step 10: Rinse & Repeat (Do You Want Sales Always–or None Next Week?)
- Bonus Step: 11-Point Checklist to Continuously Growing Your Email Newsletter Audience
Now tell me something, have you ever created a newsletter before? How often do you send them to your email list? Is there a step you think it’s worth including in this list?
Let me know in the comments below.
Keep AutoGrowin’, stay focused.