How to Create a Newsletter: A Beginner’s Guide

Illustration by Rodrigo Fortes

A newsletter is a great way to stay connected with your audience between promotions. This is particularly powerful for businesses that don’t have frequent promotions, such as service-based businesses.

In this guide, I’ll explore:

  • The benefits of a newsletter
  • How to choose your goal
  • How to create a newsletter schedule
  • How to build an effective newsletter design
  • How to write a successful newsletter
  • How to use analytics to refine your newsletters over time

By the time you’ve finished reading, you’ll have all the knowledge you need to launch your newsletter.

Why start a newsletter

As I mentioned in the intro, a newsletter is a great way to stay connected to your audience between email promotions. A newsletter can also help you engage your audience in a variety of ways:

  • Direct them to your content. A newsletter is a great way to share the most recent articles on your blog with the people most interested in it. You’ll probably also get a social media boost for your articles this way: email subscribers are also 3-4x more likely to share your content on social media than other visitors. 
  • Establish your expertise. Sharing your thoughts on recent industry developments and/or helpful advice through a regular newsletter establishes your brand’s expertise. You can also use this strategy to show people that your brand is adaptive and engaged with your industry as a whole.
  • Make them feel like part of an exclusive club. You can do this by announcing things to your newsletter before you announce them publicly. You can also share updates you might not share with your full audience.
  • Ensure consistency. One of the most important ways to preserve the quality of your list is to send emails on a regular basis. A scheduled newsletter makes it easy to do this month after month or week after week.

A newsletter is also one of the simplest email marketing campaigns to build. So let’s get into how it’s done!

How to create a newsletter

1. Choose your goal

At first glance, this might seem pretty straightforward. The goal of a newsletter is to keep people updated on your business, right? 

In general, yes. But there are a variety of reasons to do this:

  • To keep people updated on the articles being published on your blog.
  • To highlight major events in your industry and discuss how they relate to your business.
  • To let people know about ongoing improvements to your products or services.
  • To provide updates on your recent client projects and availability.

As you can probably already tell, the goal of your newsletter will determine the structure and topic of your emails. If your goal is to share recent posts from your blog, your newsletters should feature images, blurbs, and links for the posts you want to feature. The MailPoet newsletter does this:

Example of a blog post featured in the MailPoet newsletter

On the other hand, if you want to update people on your current projects or improvements to your products/services, you might go for something more like a letter, like the following email from IBM:

Example of a feature update email from IBM
(Image from: Really Good Emails)

Educational newsletters

Many businesses also create educational newsletters. These newsletters focus on teaching their audience new things to help them achieve their own goals. This is a great way to establish expertise and provide enormous value to your subscribers.

These newsletters are often simply formatted, with an emphasis on the information. Take a look at this email to my Author Marketing Club:

Example of an educational email from the Author Marketing club

This email is entirely text based. Instead of images, I’ve used a numbered list and bolded text to organize the information in a visually appealing way.

You’ll also notice that this email links to a full article. This serves a couple of purposes:

  • Allows me to control email length. Everyone’s inbox is crowded, and most people don’t want to spend more than a few minutes on an email. If they decide they want to learn more about the topic, they can check it out separately.
  • Encourages people to interact with my site. By posting a full article on my site, I draw people’s attention to the site. From there, they can look at other things I’m doing, like the events I run. 
  • Encourages people to share the content. People often won’t share a newsletter directly, but they will share the article connected to it. This leads new visitors to your site. With a well-placed signup form at the bottom of your page, you can turn those visitors into subscribers, expanding your audience.

You might choose a different formula, but it’s important to remember that even in an educational newsletter, you always want to give subscribers another way to interact with your brand.

2. Choose your frequency

The other major decision you need to make at the outset is how often you’ll send your newsletter. There are three main factors to consider here:

  • How much time you have to spend on your newsletter. Your newsletter needs to be consistent in both schedule and quality. If you can’t make a weekly appointment to write a newsletter, publish on a biweekly or even monthly basis. 
  • How often you can provide interesting updates. If you’re making consistent progress on something or working on small projects, weekly updates might make sense. Side businesses or long-term projects like books may only have interesting updates once a month. 
  • How many sales emails you send. If you’re also sending multiple sales emails to your newsletter list every week, sending a weekly newsletter as well might be overkill. On the other hand, if you only send occasional marketing emails for product releases or seasonal sales, a weekly newsletter is completely reasonable.

Personally, I recommend most businesses start with a monthly newsletter. This is frequent enough for people to remember your business without being frequent enough to overwhelm you. You can always increase the frequency, or create different newsletters with varying frequencies, later on.

3. Schedule drafting and sending days

Now that your newsletter template is ready to go, it’s time to schedule when you’ll create and send this content. This means choosing a specific date and time for each part of the process. For example, your newsletter schedule might look something like this:

  • Draft: The 10th of every month at 1PM
  • Send: The 15th of every month at 9AM

This schedule ensures that you’re always scheduling your newsletter in advance, rather than rushing to finish it at the last minute.

Pro tip: Schedule your drafting day as a recurring event in your favorite calendar app and set up a notification on your phone. This will hold you accountable.

4. Design your newsletter template

One of the greatest things about a newsletter is that you can create a single template and use it for every newsletter. This allows you to create a consistent, branded look while also saving an enormous amount of time.

The simplest way to do this is to choose a MailPoet template, then customize it to fit your needs. There are dozens of high-quality responsive templates for newsletters in various industries.

Email templates available in MailPoet

Once you’ve selected a template, you’ll be able to customize it in the MailPoet editor. There are a few ways you might want to do this:

  • Add your logo
  • Placing a specialized newsletter banner at the top
  • Divide your template into the sections you plan to include in every email.

You can even add text that will be reused. For example, in the Author Marketing Club example I shared earlier, I might make the text “For more details and examples, see the full article at Business for Authors” a permanent feature of the template. This saves me from having to type it out every time; I just need to remember to change the link.

When you’re happy with your newsletter template, you can save it by clicking the arrow on the side of the “Save” button and choosing “Save as New Template”. This will make it possible to choose your branded template from the “Saved Templates” section of the template library.

How to save an email template in MailPoet

5. Write your first newsletter

With all of your plans in place, it’s time to write your first newsletter. There are some best practices to keep in mind here:

  • Keep subject lines and preview text short. These appear in a shortened form on mobile devices, so you want to make sure they grab the reader’s attention right away.
  • Personalize when possible. Something as simple as addressing subscribers by their first name can go a long way towards making them feel connected with your brand. If you collect this information in your signup forms, you can add names to MailPoet emails with shortcodes.
  • Use short paragraphs. These are easier to read on screens, especially mobile screens.
  • Write only as much as is necessary. The average person receives 121 emails per day. They don’t have the ability to spend a lot of time on every single one, so shorter emails usually make sense. However, if you release exclusive or educational updates through your newsletter, it may make sense to let your emails run longer. The key is to edit every paragraph so you’re using the clearest, most succinct phrasing possible.
  • Focus on what is most interesting to your customers. Most of the time, your audience doesn’t care for detailed day-to-day updates about the operations of your business. Focus on extraordinary moments, achievements, and business improvements that directly impact your customers.
  • Always include a call to action. A call to action is any word, phrase, or image that encourages subscribers to engage with your brand in some way. For example, you might ask users to visit an article, respond with their comments about your most recent update, or even share your newsletter with their friends.

Most of all, remember that you’re writing to real people. 

6. Use analytics to refine your newsletter plan

The final step to long-term newsletter success is to pay close attention to your email analytics. Specifically, take a look at:

  • The email subject lines that get the most attention. Pay attention to both the topics and the structure of email subject lines that perform well. 
  • When most people read them. You can use this to determine the best sending time for your newsletters.
  • What types of calls-to-action are most effective. This can help you figure out how your audience is most interested in engaging with your brand. 
  • What links get the most clicks. This demonstrates what your subscribers are most interested in.
  • Who is reading your newsletters. You can use this information to fill out your customer profiles. As your business grows, you can also use this information to segment your list and even create multiple newsletters.

Armed with this information, you’ll be able to ensure the success of every newsletter.

Final advice on how to create a newsletter

A newsletter is one of the simplest, most reliable ways to connect with your audience on a regular basis. You can start your own newsletter in six steps:

  • Choose your goal. This will determine the topic and structure of your newsletter.
  • Decide on a frequency. You can use this to set audience expectations and give yourself some structure to work with.
  • Schedule drafting and sending dates. These should be set up as repeat appointments in your preferred calendar app.
  • Design your newsletter template. You can set this up once and save it for reuse in MailPoet.
  • Write your newsletter. Remember to write with a focus on what your audience is most interested in and/or things that directly benefit them.
  • Use analytics to refine your approach. Study your most successful emails to determine the types of content your audience is most eager to interact with.

If you’re building a newsletter for the first time, you may also want to check out our guide to signup forms.