Published August 2018, updated July 2019
Successful digital marketing requires a solid strategy. But with the flurry of new digital tools and platforms landing in marketers’ hands every day, it’s easy to overlook one of the original digital communication channels: email.
There are over four billion active email accounts around the world at this very moment—and that number is projected to grow to almost 5.6 billion by the end of the decade. That’s a huge opportunity to find new customers, create awareness around your brand, and engage.
In fact, email is 40 times more effective at acquiring new customers than Facebook or Twitter. It’s also the channel generating the highest ROI for marketers—for every $1 spent, email marketing generates $44 in ROI.
That’s some serious bang for the buck.
But how do you begin turning all of those inboxes into an opportunity for your business? That’s where a clearly defined email marketing strategy comes into play, and an email newsletter should be one of the first tools in that well-rounded kit.
But before we explain why an email newsletter needs to be part of your digital marketing strategy, let’s talk about what differentiates it from other types of email messages.
What exactly is an email newsletter?
An email newsletter is used to inform your audience about the latest news, tips, or updates about your product or company. They come in many forms, designs, and layouts, as you’ll see in the examples below.
Some are weekly digests of content, like Rolling Stone’s roundup of recent articles. Note how each article on the list only previews a small snippet of information. It’s the proverbial carrot on the end of the stick, enticing the reader to click the link to view the full content and while simultaneously driving more traffic to the site.
Others email newsletters are used to promote new products or events. Storq, a line of maternity basics, does a great job of building a community of moms (and moms-to-be) by balancing their email newsletter with fun advice, helpful articles, and sale promotions.
Newsletters are also a great tool for internal communications. This one from Discovery Creative uses recurring columns so that employees know what to expect in each edition, making the email easier to navigate. Doing this through Campaign Monitor is actually really simple—using the drag-and-drop email builder, you can present information in a compelling and engaging way that doesn’t feel like you’re info-dumping on people who might feel they already know the premise behind the story in each column.
Ultimately, the point of an email newsletter is to keep your subscribers connected, engaged, and informed about what’s new with your organization or business.
Why email newsletters are crucial in a digital marketing strategy.
Out of all the digital marketing techniques in your toolkit, email is the most successful strategy, hands-down. Here’s why:
1. Email connects you to your customers.
An email newsletter gives you the opportunity to showcase your brand’s personality, helping distinguish you from your competitors. And much like meeting people in the real world, the more they get to know you, the more trust and loyalty they’ll feel toward your brand. And that’s a sweet spot for marketers—it’s where repeat sales happen.
Resy does a great job of connecting with their foodie audience by portraying their brand’s hip, humorous and self-aware personality through their weekly roundup of hot restaurants recommendations.
2. It offers you a way to send tailored messages to new and existing customers.
Advances in email automation have made it easier than ever for marketers to personalize their messages. Personalization goes way beyond adding a subscriber’s name to the subject line.
Now, you can segment emails, create tailored messages, dynamically change content based on the subscriber’s preferences, and insert more personal fields like job titles and locations.
This kind of personalized marketing is the best way to attract new customers and delight existing ones. Knowing your customer and sending relevant messages has become the ultimate benchmark of a successful marketer.
3. Email newsletters can drive traffic to your website.
Relying on people to organically land on your site can be frustrating. It’s kind of like looking for a gas station to fill a nearly empty tank with Google Maps or Waze on the fritz. Instead, use your email newsletter to direct people there. Invite them to view your content or provide them with an incentive to stop by your site. Make sure to use a strong call to action, like in this example from nonprofit Parkrun:
Not only are they using a “teaser” to entice you to read more, but the actual CTA button stretches the length of the message in a can’t-miss-it shade of orange.
4. They can drive sales.
Here’s an encouraging stat: 68% of millennials stated that promotional emails influence their decision to complete a purchase.
Along with presenting your customer with relevant and useful content, use your email newsletter as a chance to bring one of your products or services into the limelight while listing its benefits and driving consumers to a point of sale—whether it be on your site or at a brick-and-mortar (and in some cases, both). Essentially, you have a captive audience here—carpe diem!
You can also help the transaction along by providing an incentive for your customer to purchase the product. Discount codes and promotions can go a long way toward making it a successful sale.
5. That uptick in social media followers? Thank your email newsletter.
If you think of your digital marketing strategy as a conversation, your email newsletter is the icebreaker. It’s where you can first start to engage with your customers before taking them to social media, where more meaningful interaction can be had.
Including social sharing buttons on your email newsletter can help increase engagement on social media by reminding subscribers that your brand has an active social community.
Fruit of Loom created an email entirely devoted to creating awareness around their social media channels. What’s really nice about the example below is the ample space each social media platform was given along with a brief description of what customer can do there—which help to set expectations—and a clear call to action.
How to implement an email newsletter
Technology has not only given us the capability to effectively market using digital channels, it’s made it simple. Yes, we’re in the era of the DIY marketer. Today’s email service providers make it easy to create eyeball-grabbing emails through intuitive, easy-to-use tools.
But first: Build a quality email subscriber list.
Include a signup form on your website or incorporate a pop-up that can collect contact information and any relevant data that can be used for segmentation purposes. (Pro-tip: Try not to use more than three fields in your signup form.)
Design an eye-catching email using a template.
Instead of creating a new email from scratch every time, use a pre-defined newsletter template to save time and help maintain a consistent brand image. When someone selects a template to use as the basis of their email design, they are free to make changes and edit as they see fit—however, those changes will only take place in that email, they do not affect the original template.
Use email automation tools.
While you can use the old batch-and-blast method to send out a mass email to your subscriber list quickly, email automation can help make your newsletter relevant by targeting interested customers. Email automation tools allow you to pre-make emails and schedule them, or deliver emails to subscribers based on their behavior, which is definitely a more desirable—and more successful—option than batch-and-blast.
Reap all of the data rewards.
Email newsletters can provide a wealth of data about who your customers are and offer insight into their preferences. By importing your transaction data to your email service provider, you can identify who your best customers are, who’s about to lapse, or who hasn’t made a purchase yet. You can also round up crucial behavioral metrics through your email newsletters open/click rates.
Gathering this data can help you make informed decisions about segmentation, personalization, or automation.
How do I make a good email newsletter? More great examples
If you want to learn what makes a great email newsletter, look at how the pros do it. Even if you’re a seasoned email marketer, it helps to look at the ways others in the industry make their newsletters stand out.
Creating an email newsletter is similar to developing any type of content marketing material: You should be mindful of the design, the copy, and most importantly, the connection the message makes with your audience.
Leesa offers a little of everything
Source: Really Good Emails
Leesa shows what it means to have a holistic newsletter in this example. Their content, at a glance, has everything. The color scheme is diverse but still cohesive. The unique mixture of text and images keeps readers engaged as you scroll through. That’s especially impactful for longer email newsletters like this.
It also shows the effects of the readers’ previous engagement. This comes in counts of items donated, trees planted, etc.
These days, people are more likely to engage if they see positive results from your marketing and your mission.
Takeaway: This newsletter shows balance. It’s not just balanced in terms of graphics and text—which is good content marketing etiquette—but the information is balanced, too. You can see the impact of engagement and then find CTAs that allow readers to act. The various opportunities maximize the chance of engagement.
Vimeo’s themed newsletter reads like a good book
Source: Really Good Emails
Longer newsletters need two things to keep them fresh: a theme, and a differentiating factor. In this case, Vimeo’s theme is the number 18. Choosing the list’s total number based on the year is a clever way to make the content relevant, and give this edition of the newsletter a unique spin for the end of the year.
The differentiating factor here is the nice use of color to separate each entry into its own section. Content is better when it is digestible. Small bits of information win out over massive walls of text. Just like breaking down a job into smaller tasks, breaking down big blocks of content make the newsletter less intimidating.
Takeaway: It’s like turning from page to page in a book. Not only is the presentation inviting, but the content builds on itself, making it more likely the reader will continue on. Even though the newsletter is a little on the lengthy side, it works.
Filson makes you feel like you’re in the workshop
Source: Really Good Emails
Our final example of a newsletter we love comes from Filson. Immediately, the images in this one jump out. Good visuals are a part of good newsletters.
However, this newsletter shows off a few different types of visuals. The first a behind-the-scenes look at the work being done in the Filson workshop. The second is a creative background that consists of their materials; the images are so close you can see the textures. The final is to include a shot of tools. All three make the reader feel like they’re right in the factory.
Takeaway: Creative images are a sure way to spice up any email newsletter, and make a reader feel more connected to the brand. Peppering in high-quality closeups of the merchandise doesn’t hurt, either.
A great digital marketing plan relies on a solid strategy made up of various communications channels. However, email continues to be the glue that holds these various channels together. In fact, a well-designed newsletter that offers targeted messages to customers based on their preferences and behavior can be a powerful driver of sales and ultimately, brand loyalty.