Marketing newsletters are highly effective for engaging customers and continually delivering value to them outside of transactions. They’re also a particularly popular content form with online audiences and can allow you to cultivate a dedicated network of readers.
But before you can reap those benefits, you need to know what makes a good email newsletter.
And, if you need some inspo to start off your brainstorming, we’ve collected some of our favorite newsletter examples that demonstrate exactly what to do right.
The characteristics of a good marketing newsletter
Before we dive into the examples, let’s take some time to go over the shared qualities of highly effective company newsletters. These factors range from strategy to email design and mobile responsiveness, so be sure to sit your marketing team down to hammer through each point.
In particular, focus on:
- Mission and message: These are basic concepts, but twin pillars to newsletter success. You need a clear mission and message behind every email you send. You can draw on your brand identity here to help inform what you want to say and why you’re sending an email about it. Your mission should reflect your brand values and the message should align with your marketing efforts to engage customers. For example, a business that sells subscription beauty boxes may want to project an uplifting mission through messaging that emphasizes personal care and well-being.
- Design elements: Newsletter design factors heavily into how likely your emails are to be read. You need visuals that pop and attract the eyes of readers who may be scanning their inboxes. Like every good newspaper, your email newsletter should have a masthead with your newsletter name. From there, you should consider including design elements like pull quotes, illustrations, graphs, photos, GIFs and memes. Don’t forget that formatting is also functional, and should structure the email copy in a way that’s easy to read on both desktop and mobile. Don’t have the internal resources to design a newsletter from scratch? There are plenty of newsletter templates available on the web that you can leverage.
- Clear calls to action: This point is more geared toward the content marketers in us, rather than online readers. Ultimately, the goal of your marketing newsletter is to drive traffic back to your site, resources and product or service landing pages. To that end, your email newsletter design should feature clear calls to action, whether those are CTA buttons or a quick link at the end of the email. However, the implied agreement is that your newsletter content has to be relevant and valuable for CTA buttons to stand any chance of being clicked.
- Optimized emails: The technical aspects of email marketing can also influence the success of your newsletter. Simply, you need good emails. What’s a good email? It’s personalized, sent to an active address and it has a relevant subject line. This means you’ll need to continuously ensure your email lists are clean, as well as any emails you newly acquire. In terms of a subject line, it’s always good to have a unique subject line for each email to preview the content for readers. However, you can still make your newsletter emails recognizable by including your newsletter name in the subject line.
Lastly, the best newsletters are well-known.
Not just because they’re widely read, but because they’re promoted effectively. Your newsletter is just one cog in your overall digital marketing strategy. Your marketing team should have a plan for how you’ll distribute and promote the newsletter outside the email channel (like on social media or in blog posts). Also, be sure to define your metrics (e.g., open rates or CTA button clicks) so you can track, test and optimize your newsletter.
Now that we have an idea of all the elements that make up a good marketing newsletter, let’s take a look at some of your favorite newsletter examples and why we love them.
Audible has grown to become a household name, offering all sorts of book recordings including fiction, biographies, nonfiction, romance, sci-fi, young adult literature and more — sometimes with the help of a famous voice or two. Audible is a veritable online library catering to all sorts of readers, and it even segments them with targeted newsletters on the genres they most prefer.
Consider this nonfiction newsletter from Audible (which is available in addition to newsletters for thrillers, memoirs and more).
First off, the name is an absolute hit, playing on the fact-based nature of nonfiction writing. The stylistic illustration in the masthead is also simple but effective, transitioning seamlessly into the opening copy.
An anonymous newsletter is a missed opportunity. Readers crave personalization or brand personification, and Audible delivers this expertly by weaving in their editor throughout the content. The blurbs about featured books are easy to read and scrollable, plus they also act as CTA buttons, with each thumbnail image linking to that book in the Audible store. Altogether, this newsletter example belongs in an email marketing textbook.
Trading stocks and investing in the market has never been easier, thanks to the rise of apps like Robinhood that have democratized trading technology. With a clear focus on millennials and younger investors, the Robinhood Snacks newsletter aims to keep readers up to date on the latest market news, while also still being culturally relevant. What that amounts to is a mix of financial metrics and “have-you-seen-this?” type content that’s designed to engage readers.
The clean layout creates a very modern aesthetic that helps to keep the reader’s attention trained on the nuggets of information. Plus, the green and red accents on links give the email design a bit of color to liven it up.
Like Audible, Autodesk is a business that’s active in multiple verticals. Instead of book recordings, however, Autodesk is a leader in computer-aided design (CAD) software and other solutions for architecture, engineering and construction. That variety in business units also allows the company to craft targeted newsletters for each audience.
An example of this is the newsletter for Autodesk Forge, a cloud data visualization platform.
Notice the prominent CTA button after a reminder about an upcoming event. Also, the mission of the newsletter is included just below the masthead, which gives a reader everything they need to know about what to expect. In this case, platform updates, coding resources and community announcements.
The spotlight on community is a big differentiator to the Forge newsletter. The audience for your marketing newsletter is a dedicated and active readership that wants to be involved. Forge mobilizes that reader base with customer stories that feature personal stories as well as product testimonials. Giving your customer community a central place in the newsletter lets you recognize valued customers and potentially cultivate a network of brand evangelists.
CBInsights has a vast database that collects all sorts of intelligence to be used for market research or company analyses. It also has a well-regarded email newsletter that’s read by hundreds of thousands and contains some of the juiciest bites of information. But most of all, what’s apparent on the surface is that despite having a professional/B2B-leaning readership, the newsletter employs a relatable and friendly tone.
In terms of newsletter design, CBInsights does something particularly interesting. Its newsletter is chock full of graphs, charts and other data visualizations, but with portions of the image slightly blurred. What does this do? It creates incentive for the reader to progress to the site and get the full insights. It’s a rather clever way of leveraging visual aids, but not giving away the full store in the newsletter. The newsletter also utilizes branded CTA banners and other images to convey announcements or other information.
5. The Ready
Organizational agility and resilience don’t simply come by nature. The companies that succeed do so because of their approach to organizational design, which is something The Ready consults on. Driving business change and innovation isn’t easy, so The Ready helps out by publishing Brave New Work, its email newsletter rounding up the latest in business leadership and organizational design.
The masthead is a powerful brand statement and succinctly conveys the mission and message that readers can expect. The newsletter also understands the newspaper adage that every story should come with some type of art, as it places an image next to every linked article.
To wrap things up, the newsletter has a couple of quick hits of links to helpful resources, both external and internal. Once again, the email design sets the newsletter example apart by clearly delineating each element of the content. The external links are set in a shaded box while links to an associated podcast and playbook are broken out on their own.
6. Smashing Magazine
The world of UX and front-end web development and design is fast-paced, and Smashing Magazine helps its readers keep up with the latest in a weekly newsletter. Detailing all things to do with editorial, UX techniques and related subject matters, the Smashing Newsletter is a resource-rich email that readers can count on.
While the content of the newsletter is great, really the best thing about the newsletter is the cat mascot who makes appearances throughout. In terms of actual content, however, Smashing doesn’t disappoint. The newsletter provides both company news and announcements, as well as trending topics and think pieces from around the web. The design elements here reinforce how readers are supposed to approach the content. Certain phrases are bolded in announcements, while the numbered list of shared links makes the newsletter easy to read.
This newsletter example is perhaps the most impressive when it comes to design elements. The Litmus newsletter is filled with original illustrations that bring a truly unique atmosphere to the content.
But the newsletter design isn’t solely for aesthetic’s sake; it’s also highly functional. As you can see, CTA buttons are clearly distinguishable and the content is organized to be scrollable. There is no one chunk of text that disrupts the flow, keeping the reader on a linear path.
The above picture demonstrates how the copy and design elements are in near-perfect balance. The writing is also highly motivating and inspiring, which is something that likely resonates with newsletter readers who are looking for exclusive insights or information.
Choose a design that works for you
In the end, the design of your newsletter is highly reflective of mission and message. Once you have the latter two sussed out, you can begin expanding on your design approach, giving nuance and character to your newsletter.
Have any of these examples given you a creative kick-start? Or are there other marketing newsletters you’ve seen that you think are the cream of the crop? Drop a comment below to share with us.