Make the email inbox cool again.

Email newsletters are great for building valuable relationships with prospective customers, promoting brand recognition, and extending your reach. But if your content isn’t worthy of your subscribers’ inboxes, you can do more harm than good.

Create the ultimate newsletter to win over your target audience by including these 10 things:

1. An Incentive to Subscribe

The first step to generating qualified subscribers is building a high-quality listserv. Feature a signup field on your website, so you’re attracting consumers who have already demonstrated interest in your brand. After all, people hate when their inboxes are inundated with junk mail that doesn’t pertain to them specifically.

You may even want to dedicate a landing page that features an example of what readers can expect from your newsletter. If they can verify that your content is actually valuable to them before subscribing, they’ll be more likely to commit. You can even offer an ebook or another piece of premium content to incentivize people who may be on the fence about signing up.

2. An Engaging Subject Line

They say your content is only as good as your headline, and the same goes for subject lines of emails. It won’t matter how great your newsletter is if people never open the email and read it.

Spend some time researching and looking through your own inbox to see which subject lines are most compelling to you. Consider A/B testing to gauge the results of several different subject lines so you’ll know what works specifically for your target audience.

3. A Cohesive Theme

Organize the content in your newsletter in a logical way, with sections that are easy to scan and digest. Focus on creating a cohesive theme that helps communicate your ideas consistently.

It might be a good idea to plan your email drops around holidays or major industry events, reinforcing the theme with supporting visuals and subject lines.

4. Content that Delivers On (and Exceeds) Expectations

Subject lines are the door to your content, so once a reader opens your email you should aim to deliver what you promised as quickly as possible. Your headline should be enticing, sure, but it should also be honest — or your readers will be quick to unsubscribe.

5. Eye-Catching Visuals

Striking visuals are just as important as high-quality content. People’s eyes are naturally drawn to images first, so make sure you’ve selected good ones — and avoid using cheesy stock photos or pixelated screen shots. Incorporate compelling visuals for every story if possible, and certainly for every section of your newsletter to break up the text.

6. The 80-20 Rule

Your newsletter should contain 80% valuable content, and only 20% promotional offers, product offers, or ads. Remember, your subscribers have likely just become aware of your brand. Avoid the hardsell and focus on nurturing a long-term relationship instead.

7. Succinct Content

Keep your copy short and to the point. Email newsletters should be visually pleasing and informative, focusing strictly on providing the most value to your readers. Summarize stories in no more than 1-2 sentences with an option to click through for more information, Include a mix of short paragraphs, headlines, and images to make your content fun and easy to follow.

8. An Enticing Call to Action

While the main purpose of your newsletter should be to inform or entertain your audience, at some point you want to get them to your website to learn more about your products or services. Include a call to action, whether it’s promoting an upcoming event, a giveaway, or an offer.

9. Encourage Social Sharing

Don’t forget to include links to your social pages, whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, or another platform.

Make it easy for subscribers by including social share buttons under each story to encourage sharing and engagement. Remember: more shares mean more chances for your content to be found.

10. The Obligatory Footer

You must include a footer with an “unsubscribe” option, copyright notice, contact link, and privacy policy link. Readers know to look at the bottom of emails for a quick point of contact or to opt out of an email list. As much as you don’t want to see them go, giving them the option is important for promoting a positive user experience.

Longneck and Thunderfoot offer brand publishing services and strategies to transform your company blog into a sophisticated trade publication that drives visibility and influence in your market. Learn more about brand publishing here.

Author Ami Foote

A graduate of the University of South Carolina, Ami is a staff writer at L&T. She has previously written for, Lowe’s Home Improvement, Britax Child Safety, and a variety of non-profits around the country. On a good day, you can find Ami obsessively consuming one or all of the following: folk music, NPR, black coffee, jeopardy, or Guinness.

More posts by Ami Foote