Email Newsletter Design: Complete Guide + Examples
Email newsletters have seen a resurgence making email newsletter design a desirable skill across industries.
There are company-operated newsletters for every type of business, national and local newsletters, and informational email newsletters taking the form of traditional media and are funded solely through advertisements.
This article will walk you through setting up your email newsletter step-by-step, from getting started and best practices to design inspiration.
What’s An Email Newsletter?
Not every email newsletter takes the same approach, but in general, email newsletters are emails that present multiple ideas and possibly products to subscribers.
Email newsletters are sent on a set schedule versus promotional emails that are sent based on a specific event. They can be used to distribute content, show off products, or share relevant news.
The Value Of Using An Email Newsletter
A newsletter is like a newspaper, magazine, or catalog in digital form.
It offers your subscribers a way to quickly scan what you’re presenting and choose what they want to engage with.
When you stick with emails that only present one idea or product, your subscribers will tune out if it doesn’t relate to them. A newsletter provides an array of choices, increasing the likelihood that your subscriber will see something of interest to them.
How Email Newsletters Work
The inner workings of an email newsletter will depend on your overall goals.
Some emails provide primarily content that provides information or teaches their customers something with strategically placed offers.
However, a retail or ecommerce brand might opt for their newsletter to be more like a catalog, showing multiple products for their subscribers to browse.
How To Create A Newsletter
Newsletters are actually more curation than creation. They typically consist of compiling assets you already have or are available elsewhere in one place.
You may choose to develop condensed copy and extra graphics that better fit the structure of your newsletter, though.
1. Develop your main value proposition.
When you start thinking about what kind of email newsletter you want to send, you are probably picturing the layout and design, but that’s skipping the most important part.
The first thing you have to do is decide what value you will consistently provide to your subscribers. What is the big picture value that your product or content offers?
You could be helping your customers make better investments, providing user tutorials for your tech product, or sending a round-up of customer favorite products with reviews to make it easier to shop. There are tons of ways to make a newsletter valuable, but you need to choose one a stick with it.
2. Set a goal.
Now that you know your main value proposition, you need to tie it back to your business goal.
Creating a regular newsletter takes time, and without an established goal, that time is wasted.
You have to determine how the value you provide to your subscriber will link back to what you are trying to accomplish.
Your goal doesn’t have to be to generate revenue directly from the newsletter. It could be to provide a better customer experience in the hopes that it will increase retention and referrals. This goal will be harder for you to measure immediately, but if your customers have high engagement with your newsletters, there is a good chance it’s working.
3. Come up with a list of topics.
You need to develop a list of ideas that fall under your value proposition that you can pull from for your newsletters. Every newsletter should follow a set theme to keep the reader engaged.
The theme is meant to be an overarching umbrella, not something that restricts you.
For example, if you teach digital marketing, one of your themes could be content creation. You could include a guide on finding your audience, an article about where to find up-to-date research and a download for 25 subject line templates.
Or, if you sell women’s clothing, you could use the month as your theme and include a roundup of outfits perfect for the time.
4. Choose the right CRM and get familiar with the features.
There is no shortage of email service providers available. Finding the best one to meet your needs will require you to research what similar businesses are using successfully and explore the features available from the different providers.
A quick search for the best CRM for your industry will give you a place to start. You can then look up videos on how to use the providers you think will fit your needs.
If after you do your research, you’re still debating between two, try to sign up for a free trial and test drive the setup and features for yourself.
5. Get subscribers.
Getting subscribers might be the most challenging part of implementing an email newsletter. You have to constantly be growing your list to make it worthwhile.
Convincing your customers and potential customers to opt into your newsletter may take more than simply asking. They may need a little convincing. You can help sell them on the value of receiving your newsletter by providing extra value up from.
Most businesses offer an immediate incentive in exchange for their email.
Product businesses often use a discount. Companies in the information space, consultants, and agencies more often offer a download or mini-course.
6. Choose your format.
You’ll need to establish a format for your email newsletter so it can be appropriately designed.
There are email newsletters that take the approach of a single-column newsletter that’s mostly plain text with clear headlines throughout. Other email newsletters look more like a catalog with images and graphics as the focus and short explainer copy when necessary.
What you should use will be driven by what you’ll be sending.
If your newsletter is meant to be educational, it should be copy-heavy. Whereas if you’re a personal stylist, your newsletter will need to be full of imagery and design.
7. Set a frequency.
Email newsletters need to be sent on a schedule. The majority of newsletters are sent weekly or monthly, with some of the biggest ones being sent multiple times a week or daily.
The right frequency will depend on how much time you have to create the newsletter and how much content you produce outside of email that could be easily repurposed and used.
If you can provide a high-quality email newsletter every week, start there. You can always send your newsletter less often if that’s what your subscribers say they want at a later point.
Don’t assume that your subscribers don’t want you to email too often. Some brands email every day and continue to see success because of the value or connection their customers get from it.
8. Spend time on your subject line.
Your subject line shouldn’t be a last-minute thought right before you send your newsletter.
The subject line is what your subscriber uses to decide to open your email or not. If they don’t open the email, nothing else you’ve done matters.
The wrong subject lines can also send your email straight to the spam folder.
You have to spend time developing your subject line. Think of it as your headline. It’s not uncommon for marketers to write 50-100 headlines before settling on the right one. Don’t be afraid to do the same for your subject lines.
If your CRM allows you to split test your subject lines, you should utilize the feature to help you learn what your subscribers respond to well.
9. Make your CTAs clear and intentional.
Another piece you need to optimize is your calls to action. Don’t assume that a basic “learn more” on a button will get you clicks. Button copy that is vague and implies possible work will not get your subscribers excited.
You should tell your subscribers the value they will get by engaging with any of your CTAs. Try a mix of buttons and links to learn what your customers click more.
If your CRM allows it, you should also split test your button copy. Remember to test only one element at a time, though.
10. Craft your copy and assemble your assets.
Your email newsletter is now ready to be built out. To avoid trying to create every piece in the moment and risk the quality suffering, plan out the assets and the critical pieces of copy ahead of time.
Some CRMs will let you organize your uploaded images and graphics in a file, so you can upload them as they are ready and have them all there when you’re ready. Then you’ll just need to open your copy document and copy and paste it into the email.
You can add your standard newsletter graphics and final bits of copy, and your email will be ready to go!
Email Newsletter Design Checklist
To keep your email newsletter accessible to your readers, you’ll need to put all the pieces together seamlessly, so your email has a consistent flow. By following the steps below, you set up a better reading experience for your subscribers.
Design format and dimensions – if you aren’t using a drag-and-drop template and instead have your emails designed, you need your emails to be no wider than 600 px. You also want your important information in the top 300 px, or what’s known as the “preview pane,” so that if your customer only opens your email and doesn’t scroll down, they will still see the most valuable part.
Choose your template or code your own – most CRMs have a plethora of drag-and-drop template objections that make designing your emails easier. But some brands want a very specific look for their newsletters and opt to build their own layout.
Set up the view in the browser link at the top – because some email services will distort your email (Outlook is notorious for this), you should always include a “view in browser” link at the top of your email. This is also helpful for any email services that block images in emails.
Design your newsletter header – your newsletter will likely have the same header every time, or at least something similar, that reflects your brand. Having the same header will help your subscribers instantly recognize your newsletter when it pops up. You should have this saved in your ESP so you can easily access it each time.
Build the body of the email – as noted above, you should have your images, graphics, and copy pre=developed for each newsletter. If you use a template, this part will be dragging to the right spot and adding small details. If you have your email designed, you’ll pass the assets off to your designer, and then whoever is responsible will load the completed email to the ESP.
Put your social links in the footer – if you are trying to grow your social presence, you may want to include your social links in the footer of your email. On the other hand, if you don’t interact much on social media, you could instead opt to omit the social links and focus on the CTAs in the newsletter or even use the space to link to an offer.
Don’t forget the final step – every email you send has to have an address and option to unsubscribe in it. Just like you can’t send emails without permission, you can’t force a subscriber to stay on your list. Most brands include a simple link to manage preferences or unsubscribe at the bottom of the email.
Newsletter Best Practices
For your email newsletter to get the most sign-ups and improved results, there are some best practices that you’ll want to follow.
1. Make your sign-up page match your newsletter.
The page your subscribers sign up on should match what your newsletter delivers. It should set realistic expectations for what will be sent.
Your sign-up page should display your newsletter value proposition front and center. If you’ve already sent a newsletter out, don’t be afraid to link to a previous version to give potential subscribers an idea of what it’s like.
It is better to have a small list of engaged subscribers than a large list of subscribers that hardly open your newsletter. Your newsletter isn’t for everyone, and neither is your sign-up page.
2. Keep your newsletter valuable, not just promotional.
Newsletters are not traditionally meant to be sales emails. They are intended to offer more to your customers.
Your newsletters can teach your customers about your products or show them how to get more use out of them so that customers who own them will find the emails valuable and may still result in sales from interested subscribers who haven’t bought.
Wouldn’t you rather buy from a brand that gives you the information and lets you make your own choice when you’re ready over the person who just keeps telling you to buy now?
3. Stick to your chosen theme.
Earlier in the article, we talked about the need to develop an overarching theme for each email.
You need to do your best to actually stick to the theme you choose. It may be tempting to toss a few random things in there, but that would be a waste of space in your newsletter.
If there is something you know would provide value to your readers but doesn’t fit, you can always send a separate email, or you could pick the following newsletter’s theme with it in mind.
4. Pick the right time to deliver.
You don’t just want to send your newsletter whenever you get it finished. You have to consider when your subscribers are most likely to check their email.
Say you’re a B2B company and your subscribers are mostly high-level professionals. You probably don’t want to send your email newsletter on a Monday morning when they are busy jumping into the week.
You want to think about a day in your subscribers’ lives and test sending your emails at different times where a gap in their schedule may occur.
5. Optimize across devices.
Email newsletters are going to be viewed on desktop and mobile devices. You need to test them on multiple devices before sending them out to your list to make sure they look how you want them to across them all.
As you send your newsletter, you’ll begin to learn where your subscribers are opening your emails. If you see that they open more on mobile, for instance, then you’ll want to adapt your email newsletters to look better on mobile and worry less about how they look on desktop.
6. Make your newsletter easy to scan.
Newsletters are longer than many of the other emails you send, so you want to make them scannable.
You’ll need to have clear breaks in your design when you start covering something new. Crossheads that introduce each section help break up the copy for your reader as well.
The buttons you use should stand out against the rest of your newsletter, so your subscribers always know exactly where to click.
7. Test your emails.
Before you hit send to any of your subscribers, you should be testing your emails. You want to test for deliverability to ensure that your emails aren’t going to spam in one email service or another.
You need to view the email newsletter across as many email services as possible to see how they are rendering and that everything is easily readable.
Don’t forget to test all of your links before sending them. Test your CTA links, buttons, view in browser, and footer outbound links.
8. Segment your list.
Sadly, some of your readers won’t want to receive your newsletter. But you don’t want to lose them entirely over it.
You should let the reader choose if they want to receive your newsletter. Give them the option to opt-out of your newsletter, but remain on your list for other emails like any promotions you may be running.
Suppose your subscribers don’t choose to opt-out, but you notice that they never open your newsletters that are sent. In that case, you can choose to remove them from your newsletter list yourself to improve your overall open rates and deliverability.
9. Analyze, split test, and tweak as needed.
Last but not least, you need to be monitoring your email metrics after each newsletter that you send. It will tell you what your subscribers want to receive and what they don’t.
By watching your metrics and split testing, you can end up with the most optimized email newsletter to help you achieve your goal.
10 Newsletter Design Examples
Still not sure what’s the right setup for your email newsletter? Here are some examples to use for newsletter design inspiration.
MEDIA: APPLE NEWS
If you’re an Apple News+ subscriber or just browse the news on your iPhone, you’re likely familiar with these daily newsletter emails from Apple.
Apple provides a round-up of top stories and other stories they recommend with a short explanation or excerpt, like a condensed version of a print newspaper.
Notice how Apple doesn’t produce any of the content in its newsletter. It simply curates relevant topics and shares them in a convenient way.
BUSINESS: MORNING BREW
Morning Brew is a massive business newsletter. In fact, this newsletter is the product, and the model is funded through advertising and sponsors. It turned its newsletter into a media business.
The Brew always starts its newsletter with a quick market update from the day before then moves onto other stories covering topics across the industries, but generally with a business or financial twist to them.
This newsletter is more than a curation of the news, though. Morning Brew finds relevant happenings and stories, but instead of sharing the stories from other outlets, they write their own piece. Sometimes it’s simply the abbreviated run-down of need-to-know information in the newsletter, and other times it links out to a longer article.
TECH: THRIVE THEMES
Thrive Themes offers WordPress themes and templates to help you optimize your site to get more conversions. But it doesn’t stop at providing the product.
Where Thrive Themes stands out to its customers is the education it provides not only about its products, but about ways to improve your site overall.
What you should note about Thrive Themes newsletter is that it isn’t super fancy. The design is rather plain, but that doesn’t take away from the value the subscribers get from it. Remember when you are setting up your newsletters, your subscribers care more about value than perfection.
Klaviyo is a robust email marketing platform that’s particularly popular among ecommerce brands.
Klaviyo keeps its newsletters focused on providing valuable insights to its users. They send out training notifications, user interviews, case studies, benchmarks, and data they compile from their users.
The newsletters are always concise and scannable with clear CTAs. Klaviyo’s goal is to get you to click-through if you are interested, and they do an excellent job of providing copy that compels you to find out more.
Hubspot is a CRM tool that’s known and loved for the training and content it puts out.
Hubspot knows that their users won’t be successful if they don’t understand how to get customers, so to make sure they will continue to need their software, they provide resources to help. Genius!
Even if you don’t use Hubspot’s software, you can access their resources, though. In the newsletters, Hubspot provides guides and industry data that you can use to inform your marketing and business strategies.
The newsletters are formatted with primarily short, easy-to-digest text and a graphic strategically placed as needed.
Target sends a few different types of newsletter emails. It sends weekly ads, and every so often, it sends a themed newsletter like the one below. The theme for this newsletter is “90’s accessories”.
Given that Target is a retail brand, they use mostly product images with links to product categories that fit the newsletter theme. There is very little copy, but what is there fits the 90’s newsletter perfectly.
Target uses the pull of nostalgia to convince its customers to take action, and each element does just that. This is an excellent example of how having one theme can make your newsletter stronger.
Rewind sells flavored green drink mixes and supplements that fight inflammation and help you feel good.
Rewind’s founder does something unique to make his brand stand out, and he writes a daily letter to subscribers.
The newsletters are mostly copy with a GIF or product image added strategically.
Rewind knows that most of its customer base fondly remembers their younger days in the ’80s, and they incorporate the ‘80s in their branding. Aside from the products, that’s the common theme.
Rewind uses the power of story and other copywriting techniques instead of design and imagery. That’s a very different approach from most retail and ecommerce brands. If you are a product-based business with a story to tell, don’t be afraid to use it in your newsletters.
Adobe uses its newsletters to announce products and deals, distribute content, and sometimes, to introduce events.
In this newsletter, Adobe is promoting an upcoming event. You’ll notice that the newsletter has very little copy, which makes complete sense for a brand like Adobe, whose users are creatives and designers with an eye for visual elements. It wouldn’t fit Adobe’s audience to send emails with minimal design.
Adobe instead uses eye-catching colors and photos to catch the reader’s attention. This newsletter promotes creativity and makes the event feel fun and exciting. The key takeaway: know your audience.
Copyblogger is a content marketing business, so of course, they use their email newsletters larger as a way to distribute that content to their subscribers.
Copyblogger sends content round-ups, training, and event information out multiple times a week.
Instead of summarizing the content like many other newsletters, the copy is a well-written teaser copy for whatever is being promoted. This approach builds anticipation that makes you want to know more versus feeling like you get the gist of it and scrolling on.
CONSULTING/COURSES: DM INSIDER
Digital Marketer is hyper-focused on training its readers to be better digital marketers. Its newsletter continues to demonstrate that.
Digital Marketer has a themed newsletter that deep dives into one marketing topic at a time.
The layout of the email newsletter makes it easy to absorb so that readers learn some things within the email itself then can click-through for more information on anything they want to dig into. This is a terrific format for any educational brand.
Should I Create An Email Newsletter?
You may be wondering if an email newsletter is worth the time investment for your business. In most cases, it’s almost always worth trying because the costs associated are lower than other marketing methods.
But the answer is definitely yes if:
You already have subscribers or a plan in place to get them.
You have current engaged customers.
You have content or information about what you offer to help your customers get more from the products.
You understand the value of building long-term relationships with your audience.
If you want to set up an email newsletter and are looking for help to get it started, check out our email marketing services. We can help you not only set up a newsletter but improve all of your email marketing efforts.
An email newsletter is a valuable asset for most companies. Plus, your email newsletter design can be streamlined once you have a plan and schedule in place.
Email newsletters can help you improve your customer’s experience with your product and help distribute your content and resources. They build another level of trust between your brand and customers.