A female entrepreneur wearing a black turtleneck works on a laptop computer seated at a table in her shop.
An email newsletter is a cost-effective yet impactful way of staying in touch with your customers. Statistics bear out that it is the top channel for customer engagement. — Getty Images/Cavan Images

An email newsletter is an easy, impactful way to keep in touch with your customers. There are plenty of stats that prove email is the top marketing channel for customer engagement; the expected return on investment for an individual marketing email campaign is roughly $42 for every $1 spent.

Newsletters can help you prime your target audience to respond to your next email marketing campaign. They’re also a good way to gain customer insight and learn more about your target customers. To get the data you need, first you need to create an email newsletter that gets opened and read. Pay attention to these five details to build a newsletter that serves your customers and your business.

Great design

The design of your email newsletter plays an outsized role in whether or not it gets read. “Poor email design makes people click away quickly. The second someone opens your email newsletter and sees that it's wordy and designed poorly, they will exit the screen,” wrote Mailchimp.

There are a few best practices to follow when designing an email newsletter. Make sure that your newsletter can be read on any device (laptop, mobile, tablet, etc.). Keep the layout simple: Emails that are cluttered with many different fonts are difficult to read. Include headlines, bulleted lists where appropriate, and other text formatting so users can skim through the content. Add images to break up the text.

Of course, you’ll also want to include design elements that reflect your brand. Many small businesses work off a newsletter template, adding their logo and brand colors to make it unique. Campaign Monitor has a helpful infographic that breaks down every design element you’ll need to customize for your business.

[Read more: How to Create a Newsletter for Your Business]

Keep each email concise but with relevant information someone needs to stay engaged with your brand.


Compelling content

A great small business newsletter must offer value to its readers. “In your email newsletters, get rid of the self-promotion (most of the time) and focus on sending your subscribers educational, relevant, timely information,” wrote HubSpot. “Unless you actually have an exciting, big piece of news about your product, service, or company, leave out the promotional parts.”

Email is a visual medium; although your message will depend on the right copy, images, GIFs, and video will also make your message more engaging. Text-only emails can be boring. Show, don’t tell, and ensure your images are properly formatted for the template and device on which a customer may be reading your newsletter.

Flow

Most people have short attention spans. As you design your business newsletter, keep in mind that readers will drop off the longer your message is. The best practice for keeping your audience engaged is to follow the inverted pyramid design model.

Start with an enticing headline that grabs the reader’s attention. Then build anticipation with compelling copy and an image that continues to engage the reader. Finally, end with a call to action that clearly tells the reader what they should do next. For instance, your newsletter could direct someone to read a full blog post, sign up for a presale, or read more about a company announcement.

As you can see from this format, you should prioritize the most important information at the top of the email. Keep each email concise but with relevant information someone needs to stay engaged with your brand.

Technical considerations

There are a few technical elements you’ll want to consider for your email newsletter. First and foremost, every email has to pass a spam filter. Make sure your subject line is optimized for this test.

“Avoid using exclamation marks or having words in all caps as these things can increase the chances the email will go in the recipient's spam folder,” wrote Huffington Post. “Also try to keep the subject line to 50 characters or less to prevent it from getting cut off when it reaches the recipient's inbox.”

Including an unsubscribe option is another way to ensure your message doesn’t get marked as spam. An unsubscribe button is both a good way to maintain an active reader list and comply with privacy regulations. You can also include links to your social media channels in the footer to build your social media following.

Timing

Finally, finding the right cadence for your email newsletter will ensure that customers don’t get tired of hearing from you. There’s no golden rule about how often you should send an email newsletter. You should test your cadence with different audience segments to find your sweet spot. Once a month or twice a month is a good option, especially if you plan to send other email marketing campaigns.

[Read more: Need a Subscriber Boost? How to Promote Your Company Newsletter and Grow Readership]

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