Newsletter trends we think will crush it in 2021

What’s up, you gorgeous grow-getters?

It’s officially 2021 and wow, have so many things cha— ok, fine, we know it just feels like the 13th month of 2020. But with a new year comes the opportunity to reflect, reset, and reemerge a bigger and badass-ier newsletter creator.

As we’re whippin’ up some more growth experiments that will be hitting your inbox soon, we thought it would be worthwhile to take a look at a few of the hottest newsletter trends from last year and make some predictions for what will have lasting power and impact in the new year.

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1. Divide & conquer

If the enormous success of Morning Brew has taught us anything, it’s that diversification is everything. What started as one single newsletter turned into three industry-specific newsletters, plus a lifestyle newsletter, and then a podcast. Why? Because a really good niched newsletter is going to have more engagement. It’s kind of like when you go to a restaurant and the menu is 18 pages long... with pictures 🤢 — you get overwhelmed and don’t know if you should choose between the Double Bacon Cheeseburger and the Shrimp Pad Thai (never both, trust us). But if the menu is targeted, with attractive options, you’re going to feel a lot more confident in your decision.

The main takeaway here: Double down on what’s working and diversify once you reach success. Don’t try to do everything with your newsletter.

2. Refer a friend, earn swag

You may have had a friend (or seven) ask you to become a Skimmbassador in the last five years. The Skimm perfected this strategy of using existing subscribers to refer new ones for incentives like shoutouts in emails, exclusive content, and swag like stickers or mugs.

Pro tip from our team: Make the first referral tier something free or low cost. We suggest creating an exclusive newsletter or digital content, or giving out something really cheap like a sticker. You’d be amazed what some people will do for a sticker. Unrelated: if you know any companies giving out good stickers, let us know.

If you’re looking for a good email referral platform, we like Viral Loops.

3. Dank memes > everything

Sure, we’re the most evolved species on the planet, but show us a good meme and we immediately regress to howling five-year-olds. Why not leverage some of that social capital in your email newsletters to get more engagement and psychological staying power? Robinhood Snacks does a great job of blending pop culture with finance news, take a page out of their book:

In a story about Tesla, Robinhood Snacks featured an image of Hamilton, which is just about anything anyone would talk about when it hit Disney+ on July 3rd. We’ll have you take a guess at when this newsletter was sent...

Answer: July 6th.

4.  Speaking of revolutionary energy…

Making your content relevant is more important in 2021 than ever before. We don’t have to tell you that things are changing fast (remember last year when you went to that concert full of strangers?), and a surefire way to stick out in the inbox is to anchor your content with something topical. That’s a big reason that NEWSletters are so popular. But if reporting the news isn’t your vibe, like it definitely isn’t ours, you can still talk about what’s going on in the world—just make it relevant to your audience and niche.

Our favorite example of this is Marketing Examples. Take this article about Lil Nas X, for instance:

See? We told you about the memes!

This article is for marketers but harnesses the power of Lil Nas X, of Old Town Roadfame, to make a point about virality. You may not open an email that says ‘How to Create a Viral Email’ but you’re probably intrigued by ‘The Marketing Genius of Lil Nas X.

5. Thank you, text

Who says that newsletters are reserved exclusively for email? Companies like The Nudge are turning to exclusively sending SMS newsletters. This is an especially good option if you’re not as keen to write a lot and have concrete calls to action for your audience. Plus, engagement rates for SMS marketing are a whopping six to eight times higher email. Here’s an example of how The Nudge markets itself:

The important thing to remember with SMS marketing is you need express consent, and each message often costs money to send. If you’re interested in learning more about SMS marketing, check out this article here.

We’re calling it, folks! These are top five trends that we think will thrive in 2021. Any that we missed or that you feel strongly about? Please comment and let us know, we’re curious!

Get it growin’,
Ilona, Codie, & Olman

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