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The newsletter is getting better – the why’s and how’s 30 January 2015 | Piotr Koczorowski

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Type, type, type, type, type…


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You love reading your mail; your heart beats a little faster when you notice a new message. But among those private mails you enjoy there is also a different type of mail – newsletters.

The feelings towards them vary. We all receive ridiculous spam, and that is enough for some to associate mass mail with something unwanted. However, studies say that emails actually are still successful when it comes to promoting content and marketing. An analysis of 940 global executives by Quartz proves that email newsletters are number one when it comes to sources of news.

Despite the growing feeling that newsletters should be a thing of the past due to social media development, it is completely the opposite – newsletters are gaining in strength, because they are getting more and more interesting for clients.

We will tell you why newsletters are valuable, and once you understand that we will also tell you how to create a great newsletter, so you can easily use this prominent element of E-mail marketing to increase your conversion rates and page views.

Tell me why (it ain’t nothing but a heartache)

With tons of tabs open in our browsers, surrounded by Facebook updates, Twitter’s tweets and our favorite news sites we are often lost in the continuous stream of information.

But inside our inbox the flow stops and we enjoy a complete reservoir of info that we specifically want. The mails are finite and represent order – an eye of the storm at the raging sea of the Net.

We also love reading messages written only for us, especially emails. The pulse rises when we see a letter from someone, eager to read it. It is a personal moment.

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Newsletters are trying to recreate that personal moment of regular mail by analyzing your choices and tastes and then proposing you content based on them. They are personalized and offer you topics that you could consider interesting, all in a familiar form of a mail inbox.

What helps newsletters is the fact that modern email clients and services are adjusting their form so all mail is intuitively segregated, therefore content contained within is organized in a clear and attractive form (for example Gmail’s design).

Newsletters offering information about sales or news are aimed at you based on your needs. If you’ve bought an MP3 player online, thanks to signing up for a newsletter you could receive a discount on headphones few days later, all because you expressed interest in music gadgets.

But is that the only reason why newsletters are successful? Personalization of mail is incredibly important, but it isn’t the sole reason why newsletters work.

Newsletters easily reach mobile users – according to studies 46% of emails are accessed through mobile phones . Thanks to that it is unnecessary to focus on new technologies or applications – you can use the email. People are keen to check the updates on their phones – for example it is difficult to ignore it when Android sends you a default message buzz when you receive new mail.



Finally, newsletters are incredibly cheap to use, and you can reach a wide range of clients with costs being almost zero. It is especially valuable for small business owners, because they can promote themselves easily. Forrester Research and conducted a study which revealed that 85% of US retailers see email marketing as the most effective marketing tactic.

Personal, cheap and accessible – these are the three tenets of newsletter. By understanding those three principles an aspiring business owner can begin to think about creating successful newsletters.

However, these three rules only provide the right framework for writing newsletters – in order to make them work, you need to learn 3 guidelines, which we provide below.

Personalize (but don’t familiarize with)

The world revolves around me. Me, me, me. My favorite person: Me. I don’t want email from you. I don’t want junk mail from you. I want me-mail. – Seth Godin

This is the ultimate truth about emails – we want to care only if they are meant for us. Once automated mass messages make us feel irrelevant, we stop being bothered with them. So how to make people interested? Personalize.

You can personalize by referring to your customer by name. But don’t do that. Even though many newsletters employ this strategy, we all know that Dear [insert name] is a generated message and it doesn’t impress us as much. Studies confirm that using names in mass messages actually comes off as something uncomfortable.

You need your customers to trust you, and faking familiarity only destroys the trust you’re trying to build.

In order to be trustworthy, you must get to know your customers. For example, Amazon analyzes everything their customers do. Based on customer choices, Amazon recommends items that belong to similar categories or which might come in handy – the aforementioned example of headphones matching your MP3. They display the items on the webpage, but also send offers and discounts on items through the email.



Instances where (…) customers are directed to products that their past purchasing patterns suggest they will like, triggered positive responses in 98 percent of customers, an amazing reaction to the personalized messages.

So, in other words, try to make your customers feel special. They all have their own unique tastes and taking them into consideration will convince them to acknowledge the mail.

The subject line (make it divine)

The subject line is the first thing you notice about the mail, simple as that. Its aim is to convince you to open the message and read it. And that isn’t the easiest thing to do.

It is easier to say what not to do when writing subject lines, and let’s temporarily focus on that.

According to research by Adestra, there is a certain dead zone of length, which doesn’t increase the open rate or clickthroughs. The dead zone is 60-to-70 characters. Subject lines below 49 characters have a high open rate, but lines above 70 appear to be best for the clickthrough rate.

In the same report by Adestra they reached a conclusion that subject lines with fewer than 10 characters long had an open rate of 58%.

The famous US President Barack Obama’s fundraising campaign immediately comes to mind. In 2012 his emails started with subjects such as “Hey, I need to talk to you about this”, “Thankful every day” or simply “Hey.” The last one proved to be most successful from the whole campaign.


To sum up, the only question you need to ask yourself when it comes to length is whether you want clicks (make them long) or opens (make them brief).

But there is more to subject line strategy than it appears.

Unbounce lists elements you need to do in order to flesh out a great subject line.

Be specific – state your business clearly; people want to know why they are opening the mail, but also try to pique users curiosity

Personalize – use past actions to create an email suited to the customer’s needs

Build momentum – send emails in coordinated series instead of doing it randomly

Think of mobiles – be sure that the line will be readable on a mobile phone display

But there is much more to the subject line science than you think! If you aren’t already overwhelmed with the data and tips, check out these cool articles for some inspiration.



Calls to Action (increase production)

The newsletter has been opened. But it isn’t the time to rejoice – yet. Besides reading what you want to say, the client must also act upon the mail. You want them to come to your page and do something, be it read an article, buy something, do a short survey, participate in discussion, anything. If they simply open the mail, read the message and ignore it, then we will never achieve the aforementioned goals.

It is your goal to convince your users to move forward. How do we do that?

With Calls to Action. They are a collection or a combination of words which will urge the reader to take the described action – Click Me, Subscribe Now, Buy Now, and so on.

We’ve all seen them and slowly we are becoming numb to their message, as they are usually too simple and too overused. We do not click, subscribe or buy.

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That is why we need to forge an interesting CTA button, to which your users will react in two ways. They will need to see and understand.

See – the button must be visible. Copyblogger addresses the issue of visibility by covering the idea of a “Lizard brain”. Basically, it is a remnant in our brain from prehistoric times, when survival was crucial. We still have this “survival instinct”, and it manifests itself in the fact that we tend to observe our environments and notice differences.

We always notice something that is different.

In the examples provided by the Copyblogger it is shown that the button which stands out is the one which provides greatest conversion rates.

You can make your button stand out in 3 ways:

a) Operate with color – by using complementary colors you can make your design coherent, but at the same time your CTA button will be visible

b) Work with placement – your CTA button should be placed where the decision making process is currently in progress. That means your button should work with the message and not force, but coerce the user to use it. The provided link illustrates an example in which the placement of the CTA button at the bottom of the newsletter actually increased the conversion rate.

c) Experiment with shapethe same case studies prove that larger CTA buttons are actually less effective, as users feel like they are overwhelmed and forced to take action. Moreover, rounder, organic shapes are more friendly and provide a higher conversion rate.

Following those 3 aspects will certainly make your users see.

Understand – your user must be able to understand what they are supposed to do with the CTA button.

You need to explain what should they do and why should they do it.

Avoid using banalities like “Submit”, “Click Now” and so on. Not everyone will know that by pressing the “Click Now” button they will, for example, receive a discount, even though it is clearly stated in the remaining part of the newsletter.

Truth is, if you make your button stand out, it will be the first element noticed, and therefore the first message you convey.

If you want your customers to understand the CTA button, use this one weird trick:

Finish the following sentence: I want to _________.

Let’s say “I want to break free.”

Now imagine a totally fictional company called “Queene”, offering bailouts for people in jail. By sending their friends and family members a newsletter with a CTA button stating “Break Free”, those poor chaps will be inclined to click the button and use the service to help their closest ones, because all they want is some freedom on their plates.

Answering the “button question” in the first person is also very important, as it personalizes (and merits of this technique are already listed) the button and provides a solution to the needs of the customer.

To sum up, by focusing on the two aspects of seeing and understanding one can create a great CTA button, which will ultimately lead to the landing page, the land of purchases and signups.

If you need some more inspiration and follow up information, go to these links as they will provide you with some peripheral vision on the subject.

The letters aren’t new

We’ve done it – we’ve given you the basic elements of a good newsletter. They are still useful, despite the ambiguous feelings towards them, and you can make them even more useful by understanding why did they work in the first place.

Know your clients, know their needs, keep them close and make sure that they understand and want your product – that’s how you will produce successful newsletters which will cause people to click those links like crazy.

Piotr Koczorowski

Written by Piotr Koczorowski

Quirky, funny and energetic young blogger from Poland with a passion for video games, contemporary American literature, chillwave music, and pizza. Between studying Translation Studies at a Polish university, Piotr works at UsabilityTools where he blogs about UX and goes overboard with puns and cultural references. In his free time he dreams of space travel (and pizza.)

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