“Company newsletters can go a long way in educating and persuading your clients and prospects to work with you.” So says Benchmark. They tell you a newsletter increases brand recall and association. They say it’s easier to personalize and target your customer communications. It prepares you for quicker and wider market penetration when you introduce something new. It’s cost-effective and even leverages today’s concern with ‘green’ ways of doing business.

Let’s assume you’ve already committed to this ‘essential’ communication method. If so, you probably already know whether your email newsletter is accomplishing what you had hoped for. Good for you, if it’s gaining revisits to your website. Click-throughs are a sign your newsletter is thriving.

But what if people are unsubscribing—especially right after they partook of the juice-dripping Honeycrisp-offer you enticed them to grab in exchange for their email. Sounds like your email is either slugging or slogging through the muck of some the common mistakes people make when they start a newsletter.

Changing your email newsletter into a thriving part of your marketing strategy rarely requires huge changes. It primarily requires effective changes. Many are incredibly small to make.

Stop writing blah subject lines and headlines.

On many email viewing screens, the subject line is the only thing your newsletter readers see. It’s what entices them to open the email. That makes it ultra-important. The headlines you use within the body of the email should also be engaging.

At the same time subject lines and headlines that scream, “I’m trying to sell you something,” lead to unsubscribes, especially if you haven’t established a value relationship with the newsletter recipient. This means your goal must be to avoid overhyped subject lines while still sending an engaging message.

Then you want to be sure the headlines within the email are tightly correlated with the deliverable associated with the links in your email. Dan Norris of WP Curve warns against false promises. “When the headline implies something and when you click through, you find out that it's not the same thing. This kills trust and isn't worth the click.”

Dan Oshinsky of Buzzfeed, known for sensational subject lines, also warns against tripping up in the subject line. He uses one of their most opened subject lines, “Hi, You’re Fired” as an example. Even though the line matched the content of the newsletter for the day, it broke trust with many who opened the email thinking they had just lost their jobs. He says, “Since that email, my team's had a simple policy: Always do what's best for your readers and your subscribers, and delight them with every email. Do that every time, and your open rates will be strong in the long run.”

Another subject line mistake to avoid is repetition. Yes, you may only send out your newsletter once a month. That’s all the more reason to give each newsletter a unique subject line. Whether you send your newsletter daily, weekly or monthly, invest time in customizing the subject line. Syed Balkhi of OptinMonster warns, “As email providers try to clear the inbox, emails with repetitive titles often start to go under Promotion tabs or in the spam folder.” This is especially true for Gmail users!

Stop focusing on selling.

Jonathan Long of Market Domination Media hits this point twice in his Huffington Post article 5 Mistakes That Cause Poor Email Marketing Performance. He warns of promotional titles first, and then warns that emails lacking in useful information lead to high attrition.

He promises, “Once you switch from promotional emails to useful information you will experience a consistent growth in your open rate because the list begins to see value in your emails and will open them rather than ignoring and trashing them.”

You’ve taken the time to write enticing subject lines and headlines. Now, follow through so you are drawing your readers into an email that’s full of substance that’s dedicated to their needs, not yours.

Resistance is high to excessive CTAs (calls to action). In a short email, one is sufficient. The Director of Marketing at Unbounce, Georgiana Laudi, says, “One CTA linking to one landing page… clarifies your offer and makes it easier to convert.” She also warns that it’s foolish to try to do too much with one email.

Keep your messages short and focused.

First, recognize your readers need to grasp the value of your newsletter in seconds. When you focus on one theme for each newsletter, you meet this need.

While it may feel counterintuitive to single-focus each newsletter, your click-through rates will increase. While not every reader will show an interest in that specific newsletter, focusing sends a positive message. Readers say, “Even if today’s topic doesn’t interest me, tomorrows just might.”

Choose themes that resonate with the person you want to attract. Know who your perfect reader is and what interests him or her. When you stop trying to interest everyone, you reduce unsubscribe rates. Write your newsletter so each headline covers a related topic. Then pack the first two to three paragraphs with your best information on that topic. You’ll be able to gauge how well you’ve accomplished this by the click-through rate you get with your invitation to read more.

Use HTML as your primary format, plain text as your backup.

This recommendation is contested. Hubspot tells us that 88% of your readers like HTML. They prefer a visual experience over text-heavy emails. So balance text with visuals such as pictures and video.

Segment’s Director of Marketing, Diana Smith, says their plain text emails get a 60% open rate. However, these are short messages, not newsletters.

The advantage with HTML is the ability it gives you to include pictures and video links. Marketo and Clearfit both report that video in “email messages increases open rates substantially.”

Keep your newsletter open to responses.

Zapier Marketer Joe Stych is one of many experts that warn that ‘noreply’ email senders deliver a negative message to their newsletter readers. It says, “I don’t want to talk to you.” It clearly conflicts with any social media presence a company is seeking to achieve.

In addition to using an email address that receives messages, also include contact invitations within your newsletter. Offer to help your reader in a meaningful way.

Get on schedule.

You’ll hear some email marketers claim every day is essential for success. Others say once a week is okay. Ros Hodgekiss of Campaign Monitor told Zapier.com that one of their internal studies suggested that every two weeks is a sweet spot.

Ultimately, set a schedule that accomplishes three goals:

  • Fits your reader’s needs
  • Meets your ability to maintain
  • Never trips over itself with multiple same-day deliveries

Protect your newsletter readers from spam and attacks.

The flush of suspicious, attachment containing emails has grown significantly. Good spam filters block them. Your email will never slug or slog its way out of the spam folder once it’s sent there. Most people just ignore this danger zone. If you want to make a downloadable version of your newsletter, use the technique from #3. The link can take them directly to a PDF within their browser.

One way to represent security is to use double-opt-in services such as aWeber, GetResponse or MailChimp to manage your email list. This automates opt-out so your readers know it’s safe to click on that unsubscribe link. Otherwise, they may just mark your email as spam, which isn’t good for you—especially if your reader uses Gmail, Yahoo or Hotmail.

Using an email management service offers additional advantages. All your newsletters will go out blind carbon copy, and you can track open rates.

Watch for low response rates.

Do you have email addresses that never open your emails? Be aware that some email services begin identifying emails as junk when the open rates are low.

It’s better to do one of two things when you see open rates drop significantly. Either remove these emails from your list or send out an email asking for confirmation of continued interest.

Match your emails to customer behavior.

This is a data-driven approach, so you will need data capturing power in your email marketing solution. Jimmy Daly of Vero says you need more than optimized subject lines and better copy. You need to use your reader’s behavior to tailor their experience. He says, “If a user is inactive, they get a nudge to come back. If they are active, they get emails about features they haven't tried yet or inspiration to engage at an ever higher level.” Reward people who open consistently with special content.


The biggest obstacle to a thriving email newsletter is a lack of focus. If you don’t know who your audience is, they can’t respond to your messages. They receive too many from everywhere else.

So choose strong headlines and deliver on what they promise using short messages and appropriate visuals. Do this consistently and in a way that avoids ‘spam-like’ practices.

Finally, adjust your newsletter frequency and messages to customer behavior. It improves their experience, and often benefits you with higher response rates.

PS - If you are using creating better newsletters and increasing your open rate; download our free eBook: How To Create Newsletters That Don't Suck below.

How To Create Email Newsletters That Don't Suck

Sources: How Important Is It To Have A Business Newsletter / Email Marketing Mistakes / Reasons For Bad Open Rates / 5 Mistakes Tat Cause Poor Open Rates / Email Best Practices / Email Video Have Higher Video Open Rates / The Ultimate Guide To Email Marketing Apps