How To Make An Effective Email Newsletter

The bar for the effectiveness criterion of an email newsletter is not at its highest today. As a matter of fact, it comes down to whether people open it or not. A good way to revive email marketing strategy is by creating an engaging experience. But first things first.

Finding a good email marketing service is the first significant challenge

There is no universal newsletter engine but some services offer a sweet spot you want to be in while investing into your email marketing.

Here is our top 3 email marketing tools for small to medium businesses and startups:


mail chimp
Perfect for small business marketing & personal use.

MailChimp has been around for over 15 years and managed to generate quite a following. They say, every day MailChimp sends a billion emails. They use a flexible, integratable technology which makes them one of the best choices.


  • Free plan up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month.
  • Prolific email template library.
  • Customizable HTML and CSS.
  • Integration with Facebook, WordPress, Instapage, Hubspot, and so on.


  • Double subscription confirmation.
  • Questionable restriction list.
  • Limited metric and analytical options.

get response
Medium & large company territory. All business here.

GetResponse is one of the oldest players. Serious management effort and a ton of experience in email marketing. The impressive client list adds to their credibility big time.

  • Affordable & no hidden payments.
  • Tremendous library of themed templates (over 500).
  • Flexible API allowing different integrations.
  • Optimized for business purposes.


  • Basic automation.
  • Drag-and-drop design experience is not so smooth.
  • Overall dated design.

active campaign
Extensive CRM and email marketing platform for small businesses.

ActiveCampaign does it all. Email marketing is just a part of their modus operandi and it makes a solid impression. They also deliver CRM & sales automation, and marketing options.


  • Super-affordable starting at $9.
  • Integrated marketing automation system is extremely helpful.
  • Email content personalization tools.
  • Zapier integration.
  • Well-established UI.


  • Dated email builder.
  • No third-party integration possible.

While all of these services provide you with different level of customization of templates, for a design company like ours it is extremely important to have a 100% control over what we produce including our emails. This brings us to the question of…

Email newsletter design tips

An email has to be engaging, once opened it has to present the visual info that can inspire a user to keep reading.

Have a unique and powerful image to open for you. A hero photo, bold illustration, or some sharp infographic. It has to be compelling and fresh. No stock photos.  A better way to do it is putting emphasis on one stellar image per email. Select the image to deliver your message in the best possible way.

imgeryLet the images contribute to the goal of your email.

However, it is all fun and games until you realize half of your the images in your email are blocked. Whether it’s users preferences or email software settings, the result is failure.

What are the ways to fight image blocking?

Being prepared and keeping the problem in mind is the first thing. Being aware of the desktop, web, and mobile email client behavior and having the statistics of the majority of your email openings is another. To help you, there are some strategies available:

    • ALT text & styled text. With the help of properly styled ALT text, you can work around the problem by substituting images with calls to open an email in the browser, or some other interaction.
      alternative text Image is obviously blocked, but it doesn’t mean the estate must be lost.
    • Unbreakable CTAs. If an image is the bait, a CTA (Call-to-Action) is the hook. Regardless of the circumstance, CTAs must work any given day. That means being noticeable, clickable, and bulletproof.
      CTAThe reason to keep CTAs vivid is to make them visible no matter what.
  • Whitelisting. This is perhaps the hardest one, but also the most effective. Once you convince your audience to whitelist you, there is a guarantee of your emails reaching the goal. Here are the ways to get into the sweet spot. The toughest part, however, is convincing them to “friend you”

Headers and Subheaders
Once the image has done its job, the user’s natural follow-up is figuring out what the email has to offer. This is where a subtle header can shine. Just like a photo, a header has to be a team player and add to the email purpose.

A subheader is the Robin to your header’s Batman. You can come up with a smart header which might not be very self-explanatory but you still want to keep it. Use a subheader to help it.

This one does it all – bold header, clear subheader and some custom typography.

Another thing to keep in mind is iWatch. As people get more and more exposed to the magic of iWatch, it presents a significant challenge for email marketers.

Ever wondered how your email looks in the smartwatch?

Truth is they all look the same. iWatch email interface only displays a sender, a subject line, and a couple first words of the email. So the only pressure point here is your subject header and the opener. Pick them carefully because this tiny 42mm devil may send your email straight to trash without a chance to commence!

There is also a way to trick the device into displaying the content you need. This method is about adding the “text/watch-html” part to your message allowing the Apple watch to display the specific information. Read more

Shakuro Mail on Apple Watch
This is what an email notification looks like on the Apple watch. Not a lot of space, so have to be sharp. 360mockup for Apple Watch.

Textual Content
Reality is simple. People don’t like to spend time reading texts. Best case scenario is they read headers and scan the text, more often they scan the headers. Every word you put in must count and add value to the message.

  • Group the text chunks by their significance and priority.
  • Emphasise the parts packing the most value, yet don’t make them too aggressive.
  • Use one-liners. They have a perfect balance of short form and a lasting aftertaste.
  • Eliminate extra information like disclaimers, company info, and slogans. Those who are interested can surely handle a bit of research.
  • Make use of estate wisely. Don’t clutter but don’t waste.

Aesop email This email has its main part accentuated by placing the main text above the imagery. The rest of the text is grouped and the footer contains all the junk.

Note: having a “View this email in the browser” is important if you design a custom email as some email services tend to block images and stop the loading of the entire page which takes a swing at the experience.

In the age of tailored content it makes no sense to generalize email marketing. While general guidelines may be fairly same, the essence of marketing requires deep personalization. Personalization produces more meaningful relationship and better understanding. Not to mention the fact that personalized emails produce 6-times higher transaction rate!

60% of marketers struggle with email personalization

The abundance of information available about each and every of us through social media, output, and volunteered categorization is the ultimate source. In order to strategize your email marketing follow these tips:

  • Make surveys to analyze your audience.
  • Segment your subscriber base.
  • Use timestamps and locations to target your emails.
  • Automate email event and behavior triggers.

Using all the information and technology to leverage the reaction you strive for might change your numbers drastically.

To sum this all up: email marketing is alive. Provided good design, well-thought-out text, and consistency, it can and will aid your business. Combining technology, psychology, and honesty in personalization of your email marketing can be your serious advantage against competition.

Written by Moses Kim
October 10, 2016