Starting a newsletter from scratch may seem a bit daunting. If you’ve never made one before, or you feel like your current newsletter campaign is in dire need of an overhaul, this post is for you. With a few tips and best practices from this two-part post, even as a first-timer you can create a successful email newsletter campaign that keeps readers engaged and eager for fresh content.

Before you worry about the design of the newsletter, determine the type of content to include. Ask yourself, “What is the purpose of my newsletter?”

Depending on your business, industry, and time of the year, this answer could vary widely. Your goal may be to increase traffic to your online store or blog, direct readers to a landing page for an event, make an appointment, or some combination of the above. If you’re stumped for content, we’ve got a few ideas to inspire you.

Once you’ve determined the goal, follow these three tips when creating content:

1) The 80/20 Rule

Your newsletter should strike a balance between educational content and self-promotional content (and yes, the 20% part is for promotional content). Why so little promotional content? Because your readers may become overwhelmed and annoyed if the majority of your newsletter is telling them to buy, buy, buy.

Subscribers want educational or informative value. That can come in the form of breaking news about your company, product, service, or industry. If your content leans too far to the self-promotional side, you may risk burning out your list with higher than normal unsubscribe rates and spam complaints.

2) Set expectations on the Sign up Form

Tell new subscribers exactly what they can expect from your newsletter. You can provide this information on your sign up form page. It’s helpful to include both the type of content they will receive (product updates, industry news, informative blog posts, etc.) and the frequency in which they will receive it.

As long as you set newsletter expectations, you can take rule #1 with a grain of salt. Let’s say you have a daily deals site. If you explain to potential new subscribers that they’ll receive a weekly newsletter chock full of nothing but sweet savings and promotions, then it’s OK to offer up less educational content.

3) Use a compelling subject line so subscribers want to read your content

The subject line is perhaps (after deliverability) the most important aspect of your email content. After all, if they aren’t compelled to open your email after reading your subject line, then they won’t see all of that great content you put together!

You can find a ton of information on the art and science of writing subject lines. We frequently blog about it. You can find a few posts herehere, and here. Most importantly, use a creative and unique subject line for each and every newsletter. In other words, don’t start every subject line with “This Week’s Newsletter.” Instead treat your newsletter like an actual newspaper and your subject line as a headline that inspires readers to read on.

That wraps up part one of Tips for Email Newsletter First-timers. In part two, we’ll dive into design fundamentals so your email layout supports your content. Stay tuned for more!

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