A 12 step programme for email newsletters

I’m a big fan of email newsletters. I think they’re a great way for companies to keep in touch with customers and prospects.

Sophisticated, and often free, mailing platforms give you data about what readers like, and maybe don’t like. And if they are opening, reading, forwarding and clicking, and at what time. So, in my opinion, it’s a no brainer to use newsletters as part of your marketing efforts.

I’m free and easy when it comes to signing up for newsletters. I like to see what people are up to, and how they do it. I’m also free and easy when it comes to unsubscribing. I take no prisoners. Some of my most recent unsubscriptions have been due to:

  • salesy content instead of the tips I was promised
  • people SHOUTING
  • too many colours, fonts and italics in the copy
  • use of ‘hun’
  • use of ‘kickass’
  • ending with an x (now that’s being too free and easy)

6 years ago, I wrote a 12 step programme about what makes a good newsletter and I’ve revisited it for this post.

1. Timing

Accept that you need to send it out when your customer would like to receive it, not when it’s convenient for you. Friday afternoon is a rubbish time in my opinion.

2. Content

Reflect on why you decided to send a newsletter and stick to your principles and core messages. Make it interesting for the reader, and relevant to what you do, and the product or services you offer.

3. Grammar and punctuation

Speak clearly. Double and triple check your spelling and grammar before hitting send.

4. Subject line

Be mindful. Make sure your subject line has the click-through factor, and make sure the reader knows it’s from you. Avoid trigger words that might get it caught in a spam trap, such as ‘free’, ‘sales’, and swear words

5. Data

Respect your audience. Have the people on your list opted in? Have they asked for the newsletter? Don’t assume, ask for permission explicitly. If you’re not sure, check the guidance from the Information Commissioner’s Office.

6. Frequency

Keep your promises. If you say you’ll send a newsletter daily, weekly or monthly, then honour that commitment — people will expect it. Same time, same day, regularly.

7. Easy unsubscribe

Honour those that want to walk away. Easy in, easy out. Captchas are annoying – FACT. One click unsubscribes are not. If you are using a manual system make sure you honour the unsubs and take them off your list, again see the guidance from the Information Commissioner’s Office.

8. Size

Respect readers’ space. Don’t overload them with large images (file size) that take an age to download. A lot of people check their emails on the go, on smartphones and tablets. So sluggish, slow newsletters won’t cut it.

9. Sent from address

Be open about who you are. There is no need for anonymity with your email address. You want readers to see who is sending them a newsletter. A user friendly email address looks much more appealing than something like

10. Reply to address

Be open to feedback. Ideally your ‘reply to’ email should be the same as the ‘sent from’. Think of the reader, not your ability to manage the replies.

11. Check your stats

Examine past behaviour. Do people open your newsletter? What are they clicking on? How do your open rates compare with industry norms?

12. Watch and learn

Learn from others. Seen a brand or business that you admire or connect with? Sign up to their newsletter and see how they do it.

A version of this post first appeared on the Dead Good With Words blog.

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