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You’ve got Mail – 7 Tips On How To Become a Newsletter Guru

Natalie Ediger, September 1, 2017· Digital Learning

Newsletters are often underestimated and with this valuable format we don’t invest enough time or the right amount of effort that we should. If done right, your newsletter can be your strongest communication tool and your best tool for building and expanding your community. Any other app or social network where your community talks to you can be outdated, bankrupt or disappear within seconds. The database of your email contacts belongs to you alone and therefore your newsletter is your only independent channel. And that’s how it should be treated. The average opening rate of newsletters is around 20%. The lucky exceptions, which are far beyond that, have done everything right. Our opening rate varies between 35-40% – not so bad, is it? We definitely still have room for improvement, but these are the lessons we have learned in recent years:

Subject: Subject: Subject:


Let’s start with the subject line. Creating one that really works helps the opening rate, informs your readers about what to expect and makes them curious about the content. Optimonster has some great tips on how to create a unique subject line. Remember: keep it short, about 30-40 characters, personalize it, use humor when you need it, and above all: get to the point.

We are creatures of habit: routine is important to us


It’s tempting to ignore the dreaded newsletter until the copy deadline and press send Sunday night at 00.04. Set an exact date and stay consistent. Regular intervals and similar transmission times are advantageous because we humans are creatures of habit and love consistency. What matches your content? Monday morning news or a Hump Day update? You decide – but make sure you create a ritual.

Human Centred Content so ask Why?


As a design agency we preach “Human Centred Design” and apply these principles to our products and services. However, we often forget to use them for our own tools and processes. Remember that with your newsletter you are actually creating a product and added value for your readers. So ask yourself: Who is my audience? What do my readers want to see? What is their added value? Give them something they will actually need, share, or simply enjoy.

Look at your role models (or the non-role models)


A good exercise to start with is to look for companies that do their newsletters really well (or not at all) and wonder why. Which newsletters in your mailbox do you really like? When was the last time you smiled about a newsletter? When was the last time you unsubscribed from a newsletter? And why did you do that? Ask yourself these questions and try to use the insights gained to make your own newsletters better.

Our favorites are:

Friday: short and sweet, with cool photos, links to videos and a good mix between their local and global activities.

Invision: In our team we have mixed feelings about the Invision newsletter. Often used as a “good case study” because they have useful links, tips and resources for anyone working in the design field. For those of you who aren’t fans, here’s a tumblbler blog about Clark from Invision.

Unstuck: The Unstuck Newsletter always has the best advice. They pack their newsletter with an illustration and a link to an online tool.

School of Life: As video fans this is a must-have for us. For those who don’t know it, sign up here.



Yeah, we’re a design company, so we have to deliver. But even if you don’t work in this area, see your newsletter as your business card. Reduce to the essentials, add targeted images and leave enough whitespace. For newsletter design inspiration, browse the Really Good Emails website.

Mobile first


Since we are on the subject of design, don’t forget to design your newsletter mobile. When do you check your mails? On the train? On the bus? Exactly, so do we. On which device do you do it? The little portable one from Steve Jobs? Exactly, so are we. Make sure your newsletter is compatible and looks good on a small screen. Mailchimp has a super simple function to test this, so no excuses!



As boring as it sounds, check the spelling. Twice. Every newsletter we write is checked by our copywriters. It’s worth it, because nothing is more embarrassing than a typo.

So before we run the risk of making a typo, we better stop here. But we would like to know what your favorite newsletters are? Do you have any tips for our newsletter? Do you want to see more on a particular topic – or less?