How to Build a Monthly Newsletter That Converts

Monthly newsletters can connect with existing customers, attract new customers, and enhance your brand's perception.

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Quick Summary

Monthly newsletters can connect with existing customers, attract new customers, and enhance your brand's perception.

Why it's a good idea

Running a monthly newsletter is pretty standard, but many leave a lot to be desired. The best monthly newsletters run like a standalone content product, typically with an editorial aspect, not just a sales flyer.

When done well, newsletters can provide the following benefits:

Strategy Analysis

There are three primary characteristics of great commercial newsletters.

Personal, not corporate

Community-focused

Non-promotional

Growing the List

There are three primary ways that newsletters grow:

Segmentation is Crucial

Since you’ll have a mixture of recipients, segmentation is crucial. Non-customers can be delivered CTAs to sign up for the service or purchase the product. Existing customers can receive referral program nags or discounts for additional purchases or other opportunities for expansion revenue.

Built to be Forwarded

Many users tend to be philosophically activated, which means that there is potential for a certain amount of ego reinforcement. By tailoring some of the email’s tone/content, you can appeal to this and encourage them to share with others: both people who share their opinion and those who do not.

A heavy-handed approach could utilize normative statements for sections/content headings:

Seriously, you should be using Duck Duck Go instead of Google.

How to convince your partner that camping is essential.

You can likely be more subtle, but still, plainly establish opinions.

Metrics to Consider

When standing up a monthly newsletter program, you’ll want to keep an eye on these metrics:

For comparison, here are some industry benchmarks:

The Content

Recommendation: Rely on a tried and true format that helps remove friction from the production process and sets expectations for customers. The goal is to provide something useful and interesting, and not overly promotional.

The litmus test is: Would someone who isn’t a customer want to read this?

Sample format:

Pattern Breaks = Easy Reading

Similar to visual design, the copy needs a hierarchy to facilitate the reading experience. When everything looks the same, it’s hard to scan the relevant information. In an email context, where most people have a short attention span, the pattern breaks become critical for retention.

Seek to use images and headlines to break up content.

Open Loops Increase The Activation Rate

In copywriting, open loops are the equivalent of cliffhangers in a Netflix Series. They trigger curiosity and the desire to seek out the missing information, which can be great for activation.

Try using a single, solitary open loop at the beginning that fits in with the overall theme of the month.

Risks and Spam

Email can be a problematic marketing channel due to opaque spam rules at major email service providers.

Every sender has a “sender reputation.” This composite metric (or set of metrics) is the result of algorithmic analysis on previous campaigns.

Broadly, bad campaign metrics (low open rate, low click rate, high unsubscribe or spam reports) lower your sender reputation and will result in emails being filtered into spam folders or not delivered at all.

Gmail, for example, recently began lowering sender reputation on senders who continue to send to recipients who have not opened emails in 180 days. You can attend to this risk by having good list hygiene.

A vital component of a list hygiene routine is to remove recipients who have not opened any of several previous emails. Ideally, you would wash this group into a re-activation campaign: send an email asking if they’d like to continue to receive messages in the future or be removed permanently. Some subset of these users will not be accurately tracked and still engaged, but largely they will be inactive and uninterested. The latter hurts sender reputation, as email service providers can see open activity that otherwise avoids tracking.

Another primary signal is unsubscribe and spam report ratios. You should make unsubscribing simple and obvious. You should make sure that you honor these requests quickly and thoroughly.

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    Tech and Tools

    You should be able to A/b test headlines for future optimization.

    Get a gmail avatar to show up, creating a Google account, and uploading a profile picture. This helps stand out in the inbox.

    An email testing platform: Email on Acid for testing emails before they go out. Alt service is litmus.

    Consider having a landing page for signups/referrals/shares/etc. to sell the newsletter and get an opt-in.

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    I'm a developer, marketer, and writer based in Appleton, Wisconsin.