This content has been independently produced in adherence to a strict honesty policy, but note that it contains affiliate links. When you buy via these, we may receive a commission.
In this post, I’m going to show you how to create a newsletter in 7 easy steps.
Let’s kick things off with a look at why newsletters are still a really important marketing tool.
Why newsletters still matter
Given the popularity of social media and online advertising as ways of generating business right now, it’s tempting to think of the humble e-newsletter as being a bit quaint or outdated.
But this is a big mistake.
Even with the huge range of other marketing and advertising options now available, email marketing can be a fantastically effective way to generate revenue — and one you don’t want to miss out on.
According to inbound marketing experts Hubspot, email marketing has a return of investment (ROI) of $36 to every $1 spent on it; and Statista’s research indicates that the number of email users worldwide is set to reach 4.7 billion by 2026.
Given these sorts of numbers, it’s clear that every email address you capture has a monetary value — and that email is still a highly popular communication channel.
So, follow our checklist below to create the best e-newsletters that you possibly can. The first step involves getting organized.
1. Organize your data
Before you think about ‘how’ you are going to send an e-newsletter, you need to think about the ‘who’ – the individuals that you’d like to communicate with via email.
In order to send the most relevant e-newsletters that generate the most revenue, you need as good a mailing list database as possible.
Now, a lot of businesses have their contacts’ email addresses tucked away in a messy spreadsheet somewhere – or more likely, spread across several very messy spreadsheets.
It might even be the case that a lot of email marketing data has been captured in physical format — for example, via application forms, surveys, customer files and other types of paperwork.
Regardless of where your email addresses live though, it’s a good idea to digitize and consolidate all of them into one clean, well-organized spreadsheet before you try to send any newsletters to the contacts on them.
Next, ensure that this spreadsheet is segmented as well as possible — this means putting a field (column) in it that you can use to categorize subscribers.
For example, you could categorize your subscribers as:
- potential customers
- existing customers
- past customers.
How far you take this process is entirely up to you — you could, for example, segment your mailing list exhaustively, storing detailed information about product purchases, sign-up dates, demographics etc. in it.
Or you could keep things fairly simple and make do with a simple list of email addresses and lead types. Ultimately, the right approach for you will depend on the nature of your business — and how targeted you need your mailouts to be.
Either way, the basic aim of the exercise is to get your data ‘into shape’ — so that you are able to send the right message to the right person at the right time.
When you’ve finished your database preparation, you will have a spreadsheet that contains all your cleaned, segmented data in one place.
This is your mailing list, which can now be uploaded to an email marketing app (I’ll discuss email marketing apps in just a moment).
Remember: you need permission to email people!
Remember that you always need permission from your contacts to send them emails.
When compiling your mailing list, be aware of data protection laws, and only include people who have fully opted in to receive your communications.
2. Create your newsletter schedule
The next step is to plan your communications very carefully.
This means creating a newsletter schedule that maps out:
- what content you are going to put in your email newsletters
- who you are going to send them to
- when you are going to send them.
You can then refer to this schedule throughout the year — and ensure that you have all the necessary content ready to go well in advance of each mailout.
And, because you’ll have segmented your data neatly in advance — see step 1, above! — you will be sending your beautiful, interesting e-newsletters to precisely the right group of recipients.
Tip: use online spreadsheets to manage your newsletter schedule
Email marketing often involves quite a lot of stakeholders — you may need text from one individual in your business, images from somebody else, sign-off from a manager and so on.
To manage this process, it’s usually best to use an online productivity tool like Microsoft 365 or Google Workspace — both let you create shared online documents that you can use to manage your e-communications schedule.
Using online spreadsheets lets all your stakeholders see when your next newsletter is being sent — and gives them a window to provide you with all the necessary content for them in good time.
You can also use this online document to collate and share useful statistics and observations about the performance of previous mailouts.
3. Pick the right email marketing app
Many small business owners still think that sending e-newsletters means compiling a list of email addresses, and then copying and pasting them into the BCC field of a clunky-looking Outlook message.
This is a very time-consuming way to go about things, and it’s also very ineffective, because:
- it doesn’t allow you to send very professional-looking e-newsletters
- it prevents you from accessing important stats like open rates and clickthroughs
- it increases the likelihood of your email triggering spam filters
- it means that you’re not availing of sophisticated email marketing features like autoresponders or split testing.
Accordingly, it is a much better idea to use a dedicated email marketing tool for sending your e-newsletter — one that lets you send ‘HTML newsletters.’
HTML newsletters, as their name suggests, use HTML code to display text and graphics in an attractive way.
All the apps mentioned above allow you to:
- import the database that you created at the outset of this process
- make use of a range of attractive newsletter templates that will display correctly across all device types
- send out proper HTML e-newsletters that stand the greatest chance of being delivered (and crucially, read!).
Now, it’s important to note that these tools don’t require you to know anything about HTML code to use them. You simply use a drag and drop tool to design your newsletter, and the app writes all the necessary HTML code automatically in the background for you.
(Most professional email marketing tools let you edit your HTML if you like, too — but unless you have very specific design requirements, there isn’t usually a need to).
Now, there are pros and cons to all of the apps I’ve mentioned above — so if you’d like to research them further, do check out some of our email marketing app comparisons:
You may also find that your website building or ecommerce platform may facilitate some email marketing.
For example, if you use Wix or Shopify to manage your online store, you’ll find that both platforms now offer built-in email marketing features; an add-on for Squarespace is also available (Squarespace Email Campaigns) that lets you send newsletters too.
These website builder-based solutions tend to be much more basic than the email marketing apps mentioned above — but if your needs are simple, they can definitely do the job.
Let’s move on now to newsletter templates.
Don’t miss out on our free Business Growth E-Kit
For a limited time only, we’re offering our readers some excellent free tools to help them grow their business. Sign up free to immediately receive:
- downloadable cheatsheets on how to grow an online business
- an exclusive discount code for email marketing app GetResponse
- a 30-day free trial of Canva Pro
- extended free trials of essential growth-hacking apps
- ongoing free tips and advice on digital marketing
We respect your privacy, and you can unsubscribe any time. View privacy notice.
4. Choose or design an e-newsletter template
Once you’ve decided on which email marketing app you’re going to use, you need to consider how your newsletters are going to look.
The good news is that all the solutions mentioned above provide a wide range of professionally-designed newsletter templates that you can use as the starting point for your e-newsletter design.
When you’ve picked a template, you can then tweak its design elements using a drag and drop editor. This ensures that your e-newsletter design is consistent with your brand. You can then save this as your own template, and use it for future newsletters.
Now, if your design skills are not particularly strong, you could consider hiring a designer to code bespoke e-newsletter templates.
But in most cases, you should be absolutely fine with using one of the designs available from your email marketing app’s template library.
Do you need graphics, or will text do?
Something thing worth remembering when creating a newsletter is that you might not always need a graphics-filled template.
Sometimes simple text-based templates — i.e., ones that look like regular emails — work better, because when these are used, your newsletter is perceived as being more personal (and as less of an advert!).
Interestingly, a lot of leading digital marketing gurus — including Brian Dean, Jeff Walker and Neil Patel — now only use text-based templates to send e-newsletters, as they find them more effective.
I generally use them myself for Style Factory mailouts too.
5. Add your content
Once you’ve settled on a template, it’s time to add your content!
Most of the major email marketing tools make it easy to do this — usually via a drag and drop editor (see screenshot below for an example of one being used to design a newsletter).
These drag and drop editors tend to be fairly user-friendly — if you’ve got experience of laying out content in Microsoft Word or Google Docs, you’ll probably be fine with using one.
Here are a few tips for adding content to your newsletter:
- Keep things short and to the point. Use simple, clear language.
- Try to settle on one call-to-action (CTA) rather than lots of them — decide what you’d like your users to do and focus on writing copy that encourages them to do precisely that.
- Ensure that any images you add to your newsletter are not too large in size (for most templates, an image width of 600-800 pixels is usually best). Newsletters that contain very large image files can get flagged as spam by email programs (or take a long time to display correctly).
- Use buttons where appropriate to make it easier for users to click on your key calls-to-action.
- Use personalization tags where appropriate. Email marketing tools let you perform ‘mail merges’ that insert names, company names, product details and just about anything else into your newsletters (using tags that correspond to fields in your mailing list). You can use personalization in subject lines and email copy to create much more ‘targeted’, relevant newsletters.
- Make your newsletters easily shareable — add forward to a friend buttons, social media icons etc. to them, and encourage readers to share your content.
- Add engaging preview text to your messages — this is the text that appears beside your subject line in an inbox.
6. Test your e-newsletters
By now you have:
a clean database
an e-communications schedule
an email marketing app
- superb content
…so it’s nearly time to send your newsletter!
But before you do that, it’s really important to test it carefully.
There are generally three steps that need to be taken here.
Step 1: Check that your e-newsletter is arriving safely
The first test you’ll need to perform with any newsletter you create is a simple one — make sure that it is arriving safely in inboxes (and not in a spam folder!).
Professional email marketing solutions always let you send test versions of your newsletters, so use this functionality to send a test message to a few different email programs – Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo etc. — and check that it’s not being routed into a junk folder.
Now, some email marketing apps also provide you with a ‘spam score’ for any newsletters you create. As the name suggests, this indicates how likely it is that an email service provider will put your newsletter in a spam folder rather than the main inbox. You need this score to be as low as possible.
Typically, apps that provide a spam score also give you suggestions on how to improve your newsletter so that the chances of a safe delivery are maximized — follow them!
Step 2: Check that your e-newsletter is displaying correctly
How your e-newsletters display in different contexts can vary considerably.
Sometimes an email that looks great in Outlook can look terrible in Gmail, or the desktop version of a message can look fantastic, while the smartphone one is all messed up.
As email marketing apps have become more sophisticated over the years, this is less of a problem than it used to be — but consistency issues can still crop up.
So, always check that your message is displaying as intended across a wide range of devices and email programs — and edit your template accordingly — before hitting the send button.
(If your email marketing tool has an ‘inbox preview’ feature, you can use this to help with this).
And finally, if you’ve used any personalization tags in your messages (for example, inserting a subscriber’s name into your e-newsletter’s content or subject header), ensure these are displaying correctly too. There’s nothing worse than an e-newsletter that starts ‘Dear [First Name]’…
Step 3: Split test your messages
Split testing (also known as ‘A/B testing’) involves trying out different versions of your message on a small sample of your data before sending it to most subscribers on your list.
You could, for example, create three versions of the same newsletter, each with a different subject line, and send it to 1,000 people on your database. After a few hours, you’ll be able to identify which subject line led to the best open rate, and then send an email with the ‘winning’ subject line to the remainder of your list.
Helpfully, a lot of email marketing tools do this automatically for you.
7. Measure success using email analytics
Most e-newsletter tools come with extensive reporting features – after sending an e-newsletter, you should be able to access statistics that let you measure the performance of your e-newsletters and email marketing campaigns.
The key things you usually need to look at are:
clickthrough rates (CTRs)
You can use these statistics to help you create better e-newsletters that generate more conversions in future.
you might notice that a particular type of email subject line results in more opens of your e-newsletters
you might discover that buttons drive more clickthroughs to your site than text-based links (or vice versa)
you might find that emails about certain topics lead to a lot of unsubscribes
- you might notice that a plain text email generates more sales than one filled with images.
- you might find that a particular sender name results in better conversion rates.
These sorts of findings can really help you understand what’s working and not with your e-newsletter campaigns — and ultimately improve their effectiveness.
Tip: because not everybody will open your newsletter at once, it’s best to leave a bit of a gap between sending your newsletter and reviewing the statistics for it. Don’t draw any conclusions from your e-newsletter data until you’re confident that you’ve got enough of it!
Bonus email marketing tips
The above steps will help you send newsletters. But to create a great email marketing campaign, you’ll need to grow your list and communicate with your audience in smart ways.
Growing your list
To make the most of email marketing, you need to have a great (and growing!) list. Ways to do this include:
- making the most of ‘offline’ data capture opportunities (i.e., ensuring you are giving people the opportunity to sign up to your list on paperwork and at face-to-face events)
- incentivising data capture (i.e., giving people access to exclusive resources or tools when they sign up to your list)
- using popups
- creating engaging blog content that drives traffic and sign ups
- ensuring data capture forms are present throughout your site, and in the most effective places too.
For our full set of tips for increasing your subscriber count, do check out our full guide to growing an email list, or watch the video below.
A fantastic way to send e-newsletters involves autoresponders or ‘drip’ email marketing campaigns — automated emails that you can program so that when somebody signs up to your mailing list, they automatically receive messages of your choosing, at intervals of your choosing, based on rules of your choosing.
For example, a subscriber could get…
- a welcome message immediately upon signing up
- a special offer one week later
- an encouragement to follow your company on Twitter two weeks later
…and so on.
Recently, some of the major email marketing app providers have taken autoresponder functionality to a new and far more sophisticated level, providing ‘marketing automation’ functionality that allows you to use user behavior to trigger emails.
For example, you can instruct your email marketing software to automatically send a follow-up email if a subscriber…
purchases a product
opens a particular email
clicks a particular link
visits a particular web page
…and so on.
Some email marketing tools even allow you to move a subscriber along a CRM sales pipeline automatically if they take a particular action.
It’s amazing, if slightly scary, stuff!
Follow best practice
Every time you create or send an e-newsletter, you should ensure that you are…
Obeying the law and
Not over-communicating with your subscribers.
Otherwise, you risk a high unsubscribe rate — or even see your email marketing app account being suspended. If you don’t respect data protection laws, legal action against you is also a possibility.
Here are some key suggestions on how to follow best practice and the law when sending newsletters and working on email marketing campaigns:
When you capture email addresses, make it clear on any sign up forms and landing pages that people are subscribing to your mailing list.
Don’t spam: always ensure that anyone on your list has actually signed up to it.
Don’t over-commmunicate: leave decent gaps between messages.
Always send relevant, interesting content to people on your mailing list: this will minimize unsubscribes.
Always make it easy for people on your mailing list to unsubscribe.
Add an email signature to your messages — this can reinforce your brand identity and build trust.
Be very aware of data protection legislation (particularly GDPR and CCPA).
- Back up your mailing list regularly — so that if you ever lose access to your email marketing tool account, you’ll still have a copy of it!
- Ensure that your website can handle large volumes of traffic caused by newsletter blasts. If you have a large number of subscribers on your list, or are using it to promote an offer that you know may go viral, you may experience a surge of traffic to your website when you send a newsletter campaign. And, if your site or its hosting is not configured correctly, you may find that your mailout crashes your website! Accordingly, always check that your site is technically capable of dealing with large traffic spikes caused by email marketing campaigns.
I hope you found these tips on how to create a newsletter useful — and that you’re now in a better place to create your own fantastic email marketing campaigns!
How to create a newsletter FAQ
What’s the best app for sending newsletters?
Can I make email newsletters for free?
Yes — several of the most popular email marketing apps now let you send email newsletters for free to small lists (500-2,000 subscribers). Well-known solutions that provide users with a free account include Mailchimp, AWeber and GetResponse.
How do I create an interesting newsletter?
The key to creating an interesting newsletter is to give your readers valuable content rather than a sales pitch. By sharing relevant tips, resources and information with your subscribers, you can keep them engaged, drive more traffic to your site and ultimately generate more sales.
How do I get more people to subscribe to my newsletters?
The two main ways to increase subscribers to your mailing list are through online advertising (where you run ads that offer something in exchange for an email address) or through creating great blog content that draws people to your website (where your site visitors are given the opportunity to sign up to your mailing list). If using the second approach, always ensure that your mailing list sign-up forms are highly visible and consider using popups or exit-intent forms to maximize the number of email addresses you capture.
Can I create a free e-newsletter in Word?
Yes — but it’s not a great idea to do so. Microsoft Word is an app that is primarily designed for creating printed materials, and doesn’t give you the sophisticated e-newsletter creation and sending tools that a dedicated email app equips you with.
Now…over to you!
Did this post answer all your questions about e-newsletters? Got any questions about email marketing? Just put them in the comments below — I’ll do my best to answer!
And of course, do make sure you subscribe to our mailing list 🙂