When people first start doing email marketing, they often assume they need an email newsletter. "It'll have everything our customers care about, all in one place," they rationalize. "Our list will be different -- people will actually look forward to getting our newsletter," they argue. "Since we're only sending it once a month, it'll be a breeze to put together," they say.
And while all of those things may become true for a few lucky individuals, lots of email newsletters flop. They become an uninteresting mush of content people automatically ignore, archive, delete, or straight up unsubscribe from. And this isn't great for you, your metrics, or your company's success.
So if you're thinking about creating an email newsletter, check out this post and think really hard about whether that's the right move for you in terms of your marketing strategy.
If you've decided that you want to start an email newsletter, or you want to revamp one that's not performing well, keep on reading.
Then, to help inspire you to make the best email newsletter for your company possible, we've compiled some of our absolute favorite email newsletters. They are all fabulous for different reasons -- some have exceptional design, some have exceptional copy, some have exceptional calls-to-action ... but all are exceptional at solving for their subscribers' needs. Check 'em out!
15 Email Newsletter Samples to Inspire Your Own Email Newsletter Design Ideas
If you want to stay up on what's happening in the world and have some delightful writing delivered to your inbox first thing in the morning, look no further than TheSkimm. It's a daily roundup of what's happened in the news in short, punch paragraphs. Bonus: You don't have to click out of the email to read the news if you don't want to.
For your own email marketing, TheSkimm is the place to go if you're looking for writing inspiration or for emails without much visual content.
2) Austin Kleon
Not to play favorites, but this is perhaps the newsletter I most look forward to for a couple of reasons.
First, I love the simplicity. It's not flashy, nor is it overly promotional. That's the hallmark of a successful email newsletter: most effective newsletters aim to educate, not sell.
I also love the overall informal tone of this newsletter as it makes it feel as though you're hearing from a friend. If you're looking to lower the barrier between your company and your audience, consider using language that is friendly and inviting, not buttoned-up and jargony.
Community.is is a handcrafted newsletter created for people who "put people at the center of their work." This unique concept attracts a variety of readers from executives at ad agencies, to community managers at startups, to marketers and creatives of all shapes and sizes.
In an effort to cater to their melting pot of subscribers, Community.is adopted a 3-tier format -- Short, Mid, and Long. While an executive may only have time to skim the short stuff, a marketer might be looking for a more in-depth read to spark some inspiration for their next campaign.
Organizing a newsletter in this way helps ensure that you are serving the distinct needs of your audience without it being too confusing.
NoshOn.It's email newsletters are insanely well-designed and supplemented with helpful visual content -- just what the aspiring foodie needs. I love how the layout goes from having one column to having two -- a perfect way to balance a featured piece of content and all the supplemental stories in one email. The red boxes with short, one-word article summaries are also eye-catching, making it really easy for you to find the content you need.
You'd hope that an email marketing testing company would have great emails ... and Litmus definitely does.
While the content of the emails is certainly interesting, I'm especially digging the design -- the blocks of color help break up the newsletter into sections that are easy to differentiate.
6) Very Short List (VSL)
Very Short List (VSL) is a playful newsletter that delivers “cultural gems” to your inbox every day.
What’s unique about VSL is that every day they invite a different guest contributor (or two) to curate the entire newsletter (fresh faces and fresh content). Each contributor is then tasked with serving up three short pieces of content related to a given theme.
This is a great way to publish a variety of content and develop brand loyalty at the same time. Win-win?
7) Hacker Newsletter
Many marketers don't frequent Hacker News, but they should still check out this hand-picked curation of the social network's top stories of the day.
The newsletter is clean and minimal, but still sends a ton of really great content its subscribers' way. The way it distills potentially overwhelming information is by bucketing content into sections. The newsletter also looks very similar to the site, so for those who love the site and how it's laid out, the newsletter feels like a comforting, familiar way to consume content.
NextDraft's minimalist design is fantastic.
Not only is content delivery is clear, organized, and digestible, but also the inclusion of social share buttons underneath each story is brilliant. Rather than assume that the reader is going to make it to a social sharing option at the bottom of the newsletter, Pell provides them with multiple opportunities throughout.
Social engagement can play a big role in growing your newsletter, as every share on social opens up a valuable opportunity to attract more subscribers.
9) General Assembly
There's lots of creative things you can do with images in your emails -- such as using animated GIFs.
Check out the newsletter from General Assembly, an organization that helps expand professionals' skill sets, to see an email's animated GIF in action (the screenshot below just doesn't do it the justice it deserves). Prominently featuring the GIF at the top and having an otherwise minimal layout makes this newsletter attractive and incredibly scannable.
If your subscribers are just looking to get some quick info in a newsletter format, think about how you could replicate some of General Assembly's newsletter elements.
10) Muck Rack Daily
Within an hour of subscribing to Much Rack's email list, I was hooked.
Just 60 short minutes after hitting submit, I received my first email from them with the subject line: "MRD: 'Funny, clever and not full of gifs.'" Obviously, I like all three of these things, so I click through. I see the email below.
The design is gorgeous -- the bold fonts and colors are striking, but not distracting. The copy is flawless (what else would you expect from a company catering to journalists and content creators?). It's scrollable and engaging. Just the perfect example of a classic email newsletter.
Medium is a blog-publishing platform that has been continuously building momentum since it's launch in 2012. As a result, they have a ton of people publishing posts on their site every day -- which is a lot of content for the average person to filter through.
To help bring great content to the surface, Medium uses email newsletters. And after I open this newsletter every day, I end up going to visit several Medium posts without fail. (Mission accomplished for Medium, right?)
Here's why: The newsletter feels pretty minimal. Because of the way that Medium uses colors and section dividers, they're able to give you a ton of content in one email without it feeling overwhelming.
12) Think Clearly
Think Clearly's newsletter is the closest thing I've gotten to snail mail in a long time -- and I love it. This unique format strays away from what we've all come to expect from a newsletter, which feels refreshing. There's just something really personal and intimate about Mathias's handwritten delivery that makes you look forward to seeing it in your inbox. And the doodles he sprinkles throughout function as an effective humanizing element.
It's likely that your subscribers already receive a fare amount of robotic emails in their inbox, and this example serves as a reminder that you shouldn't be afraid to incorporate a little personality in your content.
13) SaaS Weekly
While his approach is simple, this roundup is packed with value and organized in a way that makes it easy to discover content around your specific interests. Shah does this by breaking the list of curated posts into different sections (Business, Product, Sales, etc.), which makes it easily scannable.
Visual learners, this newsletter is for you.
Sketchplanations employs visual interpretations of a variety of interesting topics such as the impact that font size has on the way we perceive value or why vulture have bald heads or how to read the Scoville scale or ... you get the picture.
This newsletter serves as an interesting alternative to the text-based approach that most newsletters adhere to, and in turn, helps them to differentiate themselves from everyone else in their subscribers' inboxes.
If you want your newsletter to rise to the top, consider incorporating an unexpected element like a video or visual to pique people's interest.
Vero's newsletter is straightforward and easy on the eyes (which makes sense given that they are a software company).
If you're looking for inspiration on how to fuse great content with company news, you'll want to make note of their approach below. Vero does a great job of leading with "housekeeping" updates and following with an interesting, value-packed piece of content to create an all-encompassing experience.
Which email newsletters do you love? Share your favorite ones with us in the comments so we can keep the inspiration going.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in December 2013 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.