Much has been made about the death of email and the importance of social media, but let’s be clear: the rumors are not true. Email marketing still is the channel of choice for most marketers at the end of the day.

This is borne of countless studies that have shown that email newsletters still, in fact, deliver the best marketing return on investment. Some studies, such as the one recently conducted by the consultancy McKinsey & Company, even put email newsletters at 40 times the effectiveness of social media.

That could be why roughly 83 percent of B2B companies currently use email newsletters for marketing. Not all newsletters are equally successful, however. So here’s a primer on the essential elements of newsletter creation that lead to results.

1. Deliver value and not just a sales pitch

The readers who subscribe to your newsletter are most likely not signing up because they want marketing and sales messages. Yes, they know that you’ll include some product pitches and offers from time to time, but they likely signed up for another reason.

Understanding that your newsletter must deliver value to the reader and not just a sales pitch is the most basic and essential element that separates successful newsletters from those that fail. Go light on sales, heavy on giving value to your readers. Include a call to action, but don’t focus on it as the reason for the email.

The value you give in your newsletter should be specific to your audience as well. The landing page or WordPress email subscription blurb that promoted your newsletter during signup set a tone for what the reader will get when they subscribe, and you must deliver on those promises or plenty of unsubscribes will follow after the bait and switch. Use these promises as the focusing point for what to include in your newsletter.

2. Focus on the subject line

Speaking of subject lines, give this almost as much time as the body of your newsletter itself. Nearly 33 percent of emails get opened because of the subject line, and 69 percent of readers assess whether an email is spam based on its subject line. So you have to win the subject line.

Make your subject line direct and short, and employ the same techniques used for creating a good blog post title: strong word choice, a tease the reader will want you to answer, clarity on what’s to follow. And not clickbait, because Millennials and Gen Z just won’t go for that anymore.

When creating your subject line, also consider personalization and emojis. Even if you are not a teen yourself and don’t use emojis, they draw the reader’s eye to your subject line and are generally accepted now. So use them when appropriate.

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3. Style the newsletter but keep it simple

Newsletters should have appropriate and consistent branding so they immediately signal that the email comes from your business, but resist the temptation to over-design your newsletters. Email now routinely supports HTML and images, but email client support varies and your message can get lost if there’s too much styling or lots of stuff happening in the email.

Simple design is particularly important now that more than 40 percent of emails are opened on mobile devices. The email marketing software provider you choose might offer a number of fancy-looking layouts to show that they give you options but stick to simple layouts that highlight your core message.

This goes for how much you put in your newsletter, too. Keep the number of sections to under five, and ideally one main idea with a few short blurbs at the end. This way, the reader is getting the main idea outlined in the subject line, not a generic newsletter that looks to deliver the same value each time it arrives in the inbox.

4. Send consistently but don’t overload readers

One of the most common questions asked about newsletter marketing is how often to send your newsletter to subscribers. This matters for the success of your newsletter, too.

While there’s no hard and fast rule, a best practice for frequency is one mailing per week. If you send less, your readers will forget about you. If you send more, you’ll become a nuisance for most subscribers and lose your audience from thinking that the world revolves around your brand.

Tailor your sending frequency to your audience and your content marketing operation. If your audience is fashionistas, for instance, they just might appreciate frequent updates on the latest styles. 

You also might want a weekly email newsletter, but your brand doesn’t produce that much content and you aren’t willing to invest in a content marketing creation partner. Obviously, you will have to scale back your newsletter frequency in that case, because you must deliver value with each mailing.

5. Give an incentive for engagement

One of the best tricks for creating a successful newsletter that is consistently underused by the vast majority of marketers is the incentive for reading. Don’t be one of those businesses that are missing the boat.

The idea is simple: there’s a treat inside for anyone who actually opens and reads your email. In addition to serving up value in your newsletter—offering a perk or incentive that’s only available to readers helps your mailings differentiate themselves from sales blasts.

There are many incentives that you can offer in your newsletters. It could be a limited edition product and a time-limited discount. A piece of exclusive information that’s available nowhere else or access to a special event or webinar. It could even be something simple like a survey or an ebook that isn’t generally available elsewhere.

Continue to refine your newsletter creation

If you include these essential elements in your email newsletter planning, you’re well on your way toward a successful newsletter marketing program. But don’t stop there; the final trick for winning the newsletter game is iterating and evolving your approach as you go along. Experiment and test things. If you keep at it, you’ll have a successful email marketing channel before you know it.

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AvatarJT Ripton

JT Ripton is a business consultant and a freelance writer out of Tampa. JT has written for companies like T-Mobile and others. You can follow him on Twitter @JTRipton.