What We Were Thinking When We Redesigned Our Newsletter

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If you haven’t noticed, we’ve been making a few updates here at Burns Marketing. With a more modern visual identity and a brand-new website behind us, we recently turned our attention to an instrumental piece of our marketing strategy: the newsletter. (Cue the dramatic music.)

Goals and metrics 

Before unleashing our team of hipster creatives to tear apart the existing, dated newsletter template, we set out to align on our goals and expectations. Along with aiming for an uptick across the board in our core engagement metrics, we also decided to attack the industry averages. Not sure what your industry benchmarks are? IBM’s 2016 Email Marketing Metrics Benchmark Study is a solid resource to see how your marketing efforts measure up.

Side note: If you’re not already doing this, use Google’s Campaign URL Builder to create custom links for your calls to action (CTAs). The URL Builder provides visibility into how your website traffic behaves after they click through from the newsletter.  

The key takeaway: Before doing anything, define what success will look like as well as what needs to be accomplished in order to get there. Otherwise, if you don’t have a destination, how will you know if when you’ve arrived?


After reviewing our past newsletter performance, we identified one overarching need: We had to simplify. We transitioned our text-heavy links to large, scalable buttons with clear distinctions between the primary and secondary CTAs so that readers know exactly what you want them to do. We also limited the number of CTAs because too many can leave the reader feeling confused. 

The key takeaway: When in doubt, use more buttons and less text. Because big buttons = happy mobile users.

Newsletter Mock up on desktop computer


The use of imagery in newsletters is still up for debate. Some will stick with a lone hero image, while other brave souls avoid images altogether, preferring to the let the text do the heavy lifting. Though we do love a good dose of white space, a plain-text newsletter was simply not an option with the creative talent we have on hand. Also, we like to look at pictures. 

So we opted for large, full-width imagery that adds intrigue and visually separates each piece of content. Aside from being aesthetically pleasing, each image is a link, making much of our newsletter real estate clickable.
The key takeaway: If you choose to use them, be strategic with your use of images, but don’t depend on them. Your newsletter should still look great if/when images are blocked. 


From an editorial perspective, we narrowed our content into monthly themes targeted around our personas’ pain points. The argument could be (and was) made that this limits our spontaneity and shackles our creative writing team. But being able to align our monthly newsletter themes with our editorial calendar allows us to plan ahead and fosters collaboration between our creative and social media team, streamlining our content creation process. 

The key takeaway: If you have the creative bandwidth to craft content on a whim, use that flexibility to your advantage. If you’re like most and can never to seem to find enough time in the day for content creation, consider using monthly themes. 

Avoid newsletter neglect

We get it: most newsletters aren’t inherently sexy. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t an important tactic in your marketing strategy. 

Driving followers to a newsletter subscription can be critical for converting your audience from paid and earned channels to a media property that you control. Remember, content marketing is ultimately about the audience you own, not “building your content house on rented land…” 

Do you have great email content that no one seems to open? Learn a few killer tips to writing eye-catching subject lines here