If you have an email address, you already know what an email newsletter is. A lot of you probably get too many, and leave quite a few unchecked as they go into the trash or spam folder.
On the business side, you don’t want your newsletters sitting unread in inboxes – it means you’re only contributing to the noise. Your newsletter should be driving leads and generating sales. If it doesn’t, it’s time to reconsider your newsletter strategy.
This article will covers key elements of creating a useful newsletter that people are happy to read, including:
- The essential tools and requirements
- Proven tactics for generating leads
- Examples of lead-generating newsletters
Whether you’re just about to send your first email, or your current newsletter isn’t generating the results you require, now is the best time to start building newsletters designed for success.
- Newsletter basics
- How newsletters generate leads
- Before starting a newsletter
- Set goals
- Know your audience
- Curate your content
- Tools for creating a newsletter
- Creating a newsletter
- Essential features
- Best practices
- Going above and beyond
- Which newsletter metrics to monitor
- Examples of great lead-generating newsletters
An email newsletter is a regular email sent to a subscribed audience containing curated content about your industry, company, products, or services.
Newsletters are a popular and effective marketing tool for many reasons, including:
- Engagement – They give you a regular “excuse” to connect with your audience over topics of interest, without overtly selling to them.
- Knowledge – They provide your audience with value through education, which can help them make better-informed purchasing decisions.
- Cost – They’re a relatively low-cost marketing channel, with significant potential for return.
It doesn’t matter how big, small, or established your business is. You can use newsletters to bring readers along a growth journey, keep them informed, or draw people “into the club” of your established brand.
How newsletters generate leads
Newsletters are a powerful lead generation tool that helps to convert prospects, retain customers, and increase CLV (customer lifetime value).
Email newsletters are critical to success, according to 40% of B2B marketers. According to Seattle Times Product Manager Kristi Waite, a referral from their newsletter is 25 times more likely to convert than one from social media.
So, why can a newsletter that doesn’t even include a sales pitch help you sell your products or services better than other channels?
1) Lead magnet
Newsletters are a fantastic lead magnet. Hot leads subscribe to get closer to your brand and benefit from your knowledge, while warm leads subscribe to learn more about your business and services.
Newsletters can gently remind leads about your brand and any incomplete purchasing journeys without shouting: “Hey, come back and buy from us!” Their neutral content can be the subtle push that converts leads into customers.
3) Lead nurturing
For potential customers who need a little more nurturing than a reminder, newsletters are an excellent non-invasive approach.
The regularity of a newsletter provides multiple touchpoints, the consistency increases trust, and the value shared in your newsletters help spark a reciprocity effect that moves your lead through the purchasing funnel.
Don’t forget about your existing customers, especially since it’s acquiring a new customer can cost five times more than retaining one.
Newsletters help prevent churn by providing existing customers with ongoing value and engagement. This helps them feel continually appreciated and interested in your brand.
Newsletters help create new customers with gentle reminders and ongoing nurturing. However, they’re also doing the same to your current customers – which is even better, since repeated purchases (and good experiences) will help put them on the path to becoming loyal brand advocates.
Getting your current customers to make repeat purchases, increase their basket size, or try out new items all increases your customer lifetime value and makes your business more defensible.
With benefits like these, newsletters can play a significant part in your overall sales process. Use them to gain, nurture, and retain leads for your business.
Before starting a newsletter
Despite these benefits, newsletters have gained a somewhat negative reputation in the marketing and consumer arenas.
Irrelevant content, excessive communications, cold emails, and floods of spam means consumers are tired of overflowing email inboxes. Being lumped in as junk mail will hurt your brand, so it’s important to avoid it at all costs.
Despite the risks, many businesses are sending out great newsletters and getting significant results in return. What are they doing to make their email newsletters work?
1. Set goals
A goal ensures your newsletter complements your wider content and sales strategies, and helps you write newsletters that benefit your audience and business.
You should have two goals for your email newsletter:
- A primary, overarching goal – for example, to generate sales leads.
- A secondary, individual issue goal – for example, a 20% increase in sign-ups to your free trial.
Once you’ve created your goals, all newsletter decisions should align within those.
Tip: Get specific when defining your goals. Go beyond open- and click-through rates, and instead aim to make a significant business impact through leads, conversions, and upsales.
2. Know your audience
A defined audience helps you correctly tailor and target your newsletter. This is vital for increasing engagement and preventing your email from being labeling as spam.
Tip: If you get marked as spam, you risk your email being flagged even in the inboxes of your happy customers. Many email services have options to not send certain email newsletter issues to unengaged subscribers. I recommend using this and only sending vital newsletters (think product release or big announcement) to your full list.
While it can be timesaving and tempting to create a generic audience persona that captures the majority of your ideal customers, the more specific you can get, the better.
If you have enough time and a diverse enough audience (and set of products and services), separating out your newsletter list based on their interests could help you retain ongoing interest to generate opens, clicks, and, eventually, conversions.
3. Curate your content
Newsletters come in all shapes and sizes; yours shouldn’t. Keep your newsletter focused, consistent, and relevant by deciding what content you want to deliver and sticking to it to remain recognizable and familiar.
The key types of content to choose from include:
- Introductions and company updates – Providing relevant updates on the business, your team, events, and customer activities.
- Internal resource sharing – Handpicking your latest blogs and product updates that are helpful and interesting for your audience.
- General education – Sharing industry podcasts, blogs, videos, and webinars.
- Industry news – Providing a breakdown of the latest industry news and updates.
- Combination approach – A consistent blend of news, useful links, future events, and internal updates.
Tip: Curate your content. People sign up for newsletters so they don’t have to sift the Internet themselves. Pick high-quality content that you’d be interested in receiving and reading yourself.
Tools for creating a newsletter
Email marketing has come a long way when it comes to software and services, with multiple great contenders to help you get your business newsletter written, formatted, and sent.
There are various all-in-one tools that cover audiences, design, sending, and analytics, or a selection of ‘do it yourself’ tools.
Email marketing tools
All-in-one email tools make life easier, with little to no switching between software. However, they can come with limitations. The most popular email newsletter tools include MailChimp, HubSpot, and Campaign Monitor.
MailChimp is an integrated newsletter platform where you can capture and manage subscribers, create audiences, design content, send newsletters, and track results. However, basic plans restrict audience numbers and design features.
HubSpot is a robust platform with marketing, sales, customer service, and CRM software, complete with newsletter functionality. Users can design and send newsletters, create audiences, and split test results. Like MailChimp, HubSpot comes with a free plan, but advanced features start at $40 per month.
Campaign Monitor is an email marketing tool with features including a drag-and-drop designer, smart audiences, and email personalization. It has everything you need to get your newsletter campaign on the road, but its basic plan may seem lacking compared to MailChimp or HubSpot.
Do it yourself tools can help if you want a little more freedom in designing, sending, and analyzing your email newsletters.
Although I don’t recommend using these instead of an email marketing tool, they make excellent additions to the tools above, since they can fill out any functionality that may be missing.
Canva is a hugely popular graphic design tool that comes with everything you need to create professional graphics for free. With hundreds of email newsletter templates and a sidebar full of graphic design tools, you have the creative freedom to build the newsletter you want.
However, Canva designs do not download into HTML, meaning that you must embed or attach them to your email.
BeeFree is an online email editor for creating stunning HTML newsletter designs without limitations. While the free version doesn’t allow you to save designs, you can download and save the HTML to use.
Tip: MailChimp’s free version doesn’t allow you to upload an HTML email template. However, you can create an HTML section within a blank email template to add your BeeFree HTML design.
You know SalesForce as one of the world’s largest CRM systems, but did you know you can use it to send newsletters? The email section allows you to create and send newsletters to different audiences, and the BeeFree app powers you to create stunning designs too.
Creating your newsletter
In this section, I’ll make an example of a newsletter I send out each week on behalf of Deliverr. You can sign up for it from our blog page (where I publish 5 articles/week).
Let’s go over essential features of a newsletter, best practices, and how you can go above and beyond.
Before delving into the details of creating a lead generation newsletter, let’s cover some newsletter essentials first.
To send a newsletter, your audience must actively opt-in to receiving it. A newsletter sign-up form can appear on a landing page, website banner, or pop-up, but to be effective it must…
- Be persuasive – You’re asking someone to hand over their personal details so you can appear in their personal inbox; you must be persuasive. What is the newsletter about? What value does it deliver? What will this person miss out on by not signing up? Sell your content.
- Set expectations – If you annoy someone in their own inbox, you’ll be kicked out. Set clear expectations on how often you send your newsletter, what content to expect, and how to unsubscribe.
- Drive action – While you’ve got their attention, increase your newsletter’s success by asking them to perform a double opt-in (a requirement for many newsletters), and whitelist your email. It’ll help ensure your first issue lands in their inbox and gets seen.
A great newsletter subject line is your fast pass to it getting opened. There’s a lot of research and content out there on what makes effective subject lines, but consistent tips include:
- Use clear and concise wording that gives a snippet preview of the content.
- Use identifying information that triggers recognition, such as your business name.
- Use emoticons and humor when they suit your brand and style.
- Use preview text to lure readers into opening you email.
The top of your email newsletter is the first thing readers see. For mobile users, it could even be the only thing they see – so you need to convey information quickly to let people know if they want to keep reading.
Instead of filling the screen with an image or logo, add a quick text summary of what to expect. Use links to direct people (and hint at the promise of more info), and then go into the details (and any images) mid-newsletter instead.
Tip: Your opening sentence sets the scene to the rest of your newsletter, so it better be good.
Call to action (CTA)
Newsletters typically have multiple calls to action throughout, such as Click Here, Read More, or Sign Up. However, each newsletter needs an overall goal and a primary CTA. This could be a prompt to read on, or something more tangible with a link.
Unlike traditional marketing emails where the CTA comes towards the end, this CTA should appear first. The beginning of the email is where you hold the most amount of attention.
The further down the newsletter, the more likely that the reader has seen something of interest and clicked to read more, or seen nothing of interest and left.
The bulk of your newsletter contains your content. This is where you deliver the value your audience signed up for.
Learn what your audience finds valuable, and do your homework with your subscribers.
Beyond that, here are some simple guidelines:
- Stick to around five pieces of content to keep readers interested.
- Keep text short and sweet to make it easy to scroll through and skim.
- Use tracking URLs for your hyperlinks. This will help you confirm your newsletters’ business value.
- Hyperlink any images.
- Don’t use too many images.
And finally, the finale. The end of your newsletter is the ‘make it or break it’ point – readers either scroll here to get to the unsubscribe button, or because your content has enthralled them to the very end.
A few tips for closing out you emails:
- Sign off with a name and a thank you (now is a good time to use your logo to remind readers it’s you).
- Provide links for getting in touch, including social media icons.
- Add quick links to relevant areas of your website, such as the home or login page.
- Include a clear unsubscribe link.
With the newsletter essentials out of the way, let’s look at enhancing your newsletter performance.
The first hurdles for your newsletter are getting past the spam filter and into the inbox as intended.
The best tips for achieving this are:
- Sending your email from a reputable domain.
- Addressing your email from a human being.
- Avoiding words that sound like spam, such as “free” and “promo.”
- Not using oversized images (or even worse, only images).
- Sizing your email right (60px wide with 30px padding on the sides) and optimizing for mobile and tablet. *Most email tools will take care of these aspects for you.
The timing of your newsletter can determine whether it’s opened, left as unread, or even seen. The regularity, day of the week, and time of the day that generate the most opens depends on your audience.
Your target audience might be night owls, early bird, or lunchtime browsers. Find out with split testing (more on that below).
Your newsletter design should showcase your content; it shouldn’t be the focal point. In fact, many high-converting newsletters use a simple text format.
Pick or create a template that’s easy to skim and click. Then stick to it. A consistent format builds trust, and you can make simple color or image edits to keep each edition fresh and exciting.
Tip: If you include an image alongside first article of your newsletter, this image will change with each issue and provide a fresh look.
A newsletter is not a sales pitch, and it’s crucial you don’t exceed the recommended balance of 90% educational and 10% promotional unless absolutely necessary (i.e., a product update). Your focus is relevant, educational, and interesting content.
A newsletter that you cannot read or make sense of is useless and will get you marked as spam.
Keep your newsletter accessible by:
- Adding alt text to images in case they don’t load properly.
- Providing a plain text version for those unable to access HTML.
- Ensuring your newsletter renders properly on different devices and browsers.
Last but not least, your newsletter must legally comply with GDPR, CAN-SPAM, and any other relevant rules or regulations. This includes providing location information and an easy way to unsubscribe in the footer.
Going above and beyond
So far, we’ve covered the newsletter basics. But you don’t want a basic newsletter, you want a newsletter that generates leads.
So how do you take your newsletter to that next level?
Personalize your content
A perfect newsletter feels like your best friend sent you an email full of things they know you’ll enjoy. And who do you trust most in this world? Your best friend.
Personalized content drives customer behavior in a way that no other content does, and is achieved by thoroughly researching and segmenting your audience down to a T. It makes your readers feel recognized, appreciated, and happy, which creates trust and favorability towards your brand. Great for generating leads.
Tip: You can personalize your CTAs, too. Try out different CTAs for leads and customers.
Find your tone
Another thing a best friend does is talk like a person. Not only should your newsletter come from a human being, it should sound like a human being too. That includes using friendly language, a personable tone, and a more relaxed style.
A warm tone feels more genuine, generates trust, and creates positive associations with your brand that helps nurture leads.
This may differ if your business is largely formal, such as a legal or government firm. So find the right tone for your brand and audience then stick with it.
Target a niche
Niche content is hard to find, so when someone finds your niche newsletter, they become an instant fan.
Creating a newsletter to cater to a niche interest can quickly attract warm leads. Even better, with little competing content out there, your newsletter is more likely to retain subscribers and increase CLV.
Fun fact: BuzzFeed has 49 different newsletters, including “This week in cats.”
Upskill readers to your product level
People often sign up for newsletters to learn more about a topic or develop a skill. By providing your audience with educational content, you can grow them into leads who need your product.
For example, many business owners sign up for the Moz newsletter to learn more about SEO. Once these subscribers learn the basics of SEO, they soon realize that they need an SEO tool to further advance their knowledge and website ranking. Who do you think the first tool in mind is? Moz.
Maintain the need for your product/service
Similar to upskilling people to become leads, you can also use an educational newsletter content to develop existing customer requirements, so they become recurring customers.
For example, a B2B email marketing tool that shares tips to grow an email list can indirectly result in customers requiring the next tier package. Likewise, a cookware brand sharing baking skills and recipes can increase the tools customers want to buy.
Expertise attracts leads. It gives people confidence, fosters trust, and highlights personal knowledge gaps. By using your newsletter to demonstrate expertise through comments, curation, or advice, you attract subscribers who want to learn more about your industry and can turn them into leads who want to learn more about you.
Split test your emails
Different tactics work for different audiences.
Use split testing, also known as A/B testing, to discover what works and what doesn’t.
Great places to start testing include:
- Subject lines – Try using emoticons or personalization
- Content – Change up the images, font, and layout
- CTA – Test different designs, copy, and placement
- Header – Change up the links you use and size of your text
Tip: Only test one aspect at a time. For example, the color of your CTA button.
To really stand out and engage your leads, add a little interactivity to your newsletter.
GIFs, embedded quizzes, and videos can all make your newsletter a bit more fun and friendly, which makes your business feel a little more fun and friendly too.
This can lead to more people sharing and recommending your newsletter, which generates more leads.
Which newsletter metrics to monitor
To determine the success of a newsletter at the end of a campaign, you must think about the metrics from the beginning of the campaign.
Today’s newsletter tools drill down into an endless list of analytics, with some of them being vanity metrics. However, for the purpose of generating leads, there are a few crucial things to look at.
(Number of emails sent – number of bounced emails) / number of emails
The delivery rate tells you how many emails landed in the inboxes of your audiences – important for identifying potential spam or audience list problems.
Number of opened emails / (number of emails sent – number of bounced emails) x 100
Your newsletter’s open rate is useful for tracking the performance of your newsletter subject line, sender name, and timing.
(Number of clicks / number of emails opened) x 100
The click-to-open rate shows the percentage of people who clicked your newsletter CTA after reading your newsletter. This metric gives you insight into your content’s performance because it ignores those who didn’t open the email (and therefore didn’t see your content).
(Number of people who performed a specific action / number of emails opened) x 100
The conversion-to-open rate tells you how many people who opened your newsletter then performed an intended action, for example, signing up for a free trial. This metric is crucial, because it tells you how well your newsletter generated leads.
Other metrics that you may find useful include:
- List growth rate
- Sharing rate
- Unsubscribe rate
- Engagement over time
- Revenue per email
- Device-specific metrics (e.g., mobile open rates)
Examples of great lead-generating newsletters
We’ve covered the why, the how, and the how to do it better of newsletters; it’s time to spread your wings and fly. But, before you do, let’s look at six real-life newsletters and explain why they’re so effective at generating leads.
Deliverr is an eCommerce fulfillment service that runs a weekly newsletter for online sellers, comprising both existing customers and potential customers.
There are three things that Deliverr does particularly well.
- Education – All of the newsletter’s content helps readers to become better sellers. The more Deliverr merchants sell, the more use they have for Deliverr fulfillment.
- Website linking – Every link in the newsletter directs back to Deliverr’s website, where readers embark on a journey to conversion.
- Main CTA – The primary CTA appears highlighted at the beginning (here a webinar sign-up), and the following CTAs are all accompanied by a clear link and introductory text.
2) Refinery 29
Refinery29 is a young womens’ digital media and entertainment website and is an outstanding example of how to retain interest when sending a daily newsletter; no mean feat.
Here are some things that make Refinery29’s newsletter particularly effective.
- Layout – Each link is identified by a topic, relevant image, and clear headline, making it easier for readers to scan for relevant content.
- Footer – Since readers will be quickly scrolling through the newsletter, Refinery29 saves its branding and social media links for the footer where people are most likely to stop.
- Relevance – Refinery29 opens with “today on R29” because it knows that people don’t want to read about last week’s news in a daily newsletter.
3) Emerald Street
Emerald Street (since rebranded to Stylist Loves) is a monthly fashion newsletter by Stylist Magazine.
Emerald Street does three things brilliantly:
- Hook – The opening headline immediately grabs attention because it’s relevant to the audience (fashion), it appeals to their interests (something is going out of fashion), and it gives them a curated list of solutions (what’s coming in to fashion).
- Interactivity – In the middle of the newsletter, Emerald Street asks readers to vote what they think of the newsletter with a thumbs up or down. Great for engagement and great for useful feedback.
- Balance – The significant majority of the newsletter links are to external content, either products, websites, or Instagram accounts. By curating and linking to relevant and helpful third-party content, Emerald Street presents itself as a hub of fashion knowledge, which indirectly promotes its magazine.
Flywheel is a managed WordPress hosting site that sends a weekly newsletter aimed at designers and agencies.
Here are a few things that make this newsletter perfect for lead generation.
- Useful content – The content is curated specifically for designers and agencies, making it immediately relevant for the audience.
- Upskilling – The topics curated are aimed at upskilling readers to win more clients, manage more websites, and finish projects faster – giving them an increased need for Flywheel’s services.
- Simplicity – The newsletter gets straight to the primary CTA and follows with four clear and relevant pieces of content, making it enjoyable for readers to engage with.
Tock is a restaurant reservation service that also offers diners a to-go platform where they can order and pick up food from local businesses.
Its weekly newsletter showcases some lead generation best practices that we’ve covered.
- Relevance – Tock tailors its newsletter to the reader’s location, recommending local restaurants. This makes the newsletter highly relevant and makes readers much more likely to interact as intended.
- Concise – Each restaurant recommendation is clear and to-the-point with details on name, location, and specialties, as well as a link to make a booking. This is ideal for retaining interest and making it easy for leads to convert.
- Format – The format is clear and consistent, making it simple for readers to scroll and click on what interests them.
6) Kid & Coe
Kid & Coe is a kid-friendly vacation platform that sends a weekly newsletter full of travel advice, last-minute deals, and special offers.
Here are a few impressive things from the Kid & Coe’s newsletter.
- The header – The header jumps straight into an exciting topic for the audience (budget family holidays), immediately pulling the audience into the rest of the newsletter.
- Value – The content delivers value to the audience with cheap, kid-friendly holidays – precisely what they signed up for. This establishes Kid & Coe as helpful and the go-to resource for relevant bookings.
- Added value – Finally, it brings added value at the end with a competition that involves users and gets them onto the website.
To summarise, newsletters are a magnificent tool for generating leads, keeping customers, and increasing CLV.
To be successful, they require:
- Planning – A goal, an audience, content, and metrics to measure.
- Tools – An efficient email marketing tool and separate DIY tools to help build out your capabilities.
- Basics – A sign-up page, subject line, header, CTA, solid content, and footer.
- Best practices – Deliverability, timing, design, accessibility, and compliance.
Outstanding newsletters can help you take your audience from a subscriber, to customer, to fan.