Smash or trash?! How to write email newsletters that your customers will love

Want your email newsletters to go into the brilliant bucket rather than the bin of boredom? Here’s some tips on how to get it right…

I bet you can name the best and worst emails you subscribe to. The worst are those ones that you just can’t get rid of. They’ve been boring you to death for years but no matter how many times you unsubscribe, they mysteriously keep coming back. Or you reach the point when you just don’t notice they’re there anymore. They might as well be thin air.

The best ones are your guilty pleasure. You actually look forward to seeing them arrive in your inbox because they’re useful, funny, or make you feel special. They’re a welcome distraction from the office grind or daily commute. You miss them when they don’t come and maybe even tell your friends about them. That’s how it should be done!

So how can you make sure your email newsletters go into the brilliant bucket rather than the bin of boredom? Here’s some tips on how to get it right…

  1. Be clear on the WHY?

    Many companies feel like they should be doing an email newsletter and that’s the only reason they do one. They never actually think about their objectives or what they’re trying to get out of it. This is mistake number one. You need to have a good reason for clogging up your customers’ inboxes. Is it that you want to sell more products? Get more people to attend your events? Or keep your existing customers informed? Clearing this up will ensure your newsletters are doing their job (and not spamming your customers!)

  2. Only email when you have something to say:

    That brings us on to point deux. If you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all. There’s no point scraping the barrel of company news or fabricating any excuse for an email, just so you can send something. It’s a waste of time and effort for everyone concerned. Better to wait until you have something better that will wow them.

  3. Take a walk in your reader’s shoes:

    I’m sure you know by now who your audience is, but it’s time to use your powers of telepathy. Try to imagine what they’ll be doing, where they’ll be and what they’ll be thinking about when they receive your email. Then use that to inspire your copy. It could be as simple as mentioning the time of year, the weather, the day of the week, or something that’s recently happened in the news. It will seem more natural, relevant and show you understand where their head’s at.

  4. Up, close and personal:

    Email communication is one of the most direct ways of reaching your customers. So even though your newsletter might be going out to a database of 100s or 1,000s, you need to make everyone feel like you’re speaking to them individually. That begins with segmenting your data efficiently, so you’re only sending your readers stuff they’re interested in. It also means writing in a chatty, conversational tone, using ‘you’ a lot and generally sounding like one of their mates. No corporatese please!

  5. Keep it snappy:

    It’s best not to waffle on. Nobody is going to spend longer than a few minutes on your email newsletter, however awesome it is. So it’s best to get to the point with short, crocodile-like sentences. And don’t forget the call to action – make sure it’s clear and appears early on – even better, repeat it a couple of times – so your readers don’t miss it.

  6. Sensational subject lines:

    I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that the subject line is super dooper important when writing email newsletters. You need to find a balance between being catchy and clever, while also being clear. Giving your readers an idea of what’s in the email, while also showing off your astounding wit and wordsmithery. BUT if you’re too clever then you might lose them altogether. What works and what doesn’t depend on your brand, tone of voice and reason for emailing. Testing various options is the best way of hitting the sweet spot.

  7. Make your readers feel special:

    We all want to be part of the inside crew, so every now and then offer your readers something exclusive. It could be a discount, an early invitation to trial a new product, a cool competition, or funky event dedicated to loyal customers. Whatever it is, they’ll love you for it… and will stick around for more in the future.

  8. Be funny and/or quirky… but not salesy:

    Humour pretty much always goes down well in email newsletters. Chances are your readers get enough formal business emails already, so if you can put a smile on their face with some light relief, all the better. Same goes for quirkiness if it fits with your brand. It’s about being human. And whatever you do, no sales speak. That’s the quickest way to get binned.

  9. Don’t be needy:

    There is nothing more frustrating than an email newsletter that you can’t unsubscribe to. So, make it super simple for readers. One click and you’ll never bother them again. Otherwise you could lose a customer for life.

  10. Break the rules and TEST:

    And finally… there are no hard and fast rules for anything in life, so test, test and test again. Don’t be scared to try something different and mix it up. For example, can you try changing the position or wording of your CTA to see what difference that makes? Or use different images and formatting? There are loads of variables to play around with, so if it doesn’t work first time, don’t be disheartened. Just try something different.

As always, good luck! And if you need any help creating email newsletters that are a smash (not trash), just give me a shout at or on 020 8144 9229.

You might also like my blog on … what’s tone of voice all about then?