Design lesson : How we increased our email newsletter subscriber base by 4X

NextBigWhat sends out an email newsletter every day and in the last couple of months, we have grown our newsletter subscriber base by more than 4X.

Importantly, our open rate stands at more than 60%  and a very healthy CTR (varies on a daily basis). So how did this happen? Well, we thought we will share some of our learning and iteration experiments.

Email subscriber List
Email subscriber List

First, we moved (new subscribers) from a style heavy newsletter (think mailchimp) to a very simple and basic one, as we ourselves realized that there isn’t any point in stuffing newsletters with way too many links and content.

We are still using mailchimp to send newsletters to subscribers who subscribed before Sep, 2012, but plan to move everybody to SES service by end of this month.

Given the target audience of our newsletter, that is early adopters (across the globe, including CXO of big billion dollar firms), we realized that:

A) we can either build a amazingly looking, very stylish newsletter theme


B) simplify the overall experience and give them what they want.

The challenge with the first approach is that you need to ensure that the newsletter is also mobile-friendly, as most of our TG have been asking for a *responsive design* newsletter.

We did try creating an awesome looking newsletter and the response was this:

“What happened to you guys? Big media co. huh?”


We then iterated through different designs and let me share some of the good, bad and ugly designs:

Wow! The Good looking Design:

The Good Looking Newsletter
The Good Looking Newsletter

The audience voted it down, much to our disappointment.

Hello Ugly!

Ugly Design
Ugly Design

Aha! The *WORKING* Design

WORKING Newsletter Design

The above screenshot is the one which has worked wonders, i.e. a texty-yet-not-too-bad-on-your-eyes design that worked for us.

We aren’t saying that all newsletters should be texty, but given our target audience, we found out that a simple and to-the-point design works much better than run-of-the-mill design, which is often promoted by email marketing companies.

Plus, it is responsive by nature as well, so fits in any screen size! 🙂

Having said that, we will continue to experiment with the design (especially colors), but the lesson learnt is this:

“Understand your audience and work for them. Make their life easier.

Given them what THEY want and NOT what you have.”

And let me also add that the newsletter is (manually) curated and we do not send out each and every post we write – the key is create an impact and not cut back on a our task (RSS to newsletter integration is damn easy, Curation is NOT).

To experience the simplicity of our newsletter, just fill-up the subscription form below (we also experimented with single vs. double opt-in and have mixed results, so will share more data at a later point).

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