In today’s age of information overload, B2B e-mail newsletters can help readers filter out the noise and drill down to what’s most important to them. A recent article by NeimanLab says the value of this powerful communication and branding tool is less about being first with news, and more about helping readers make sense of it all.
With the right content, your audience will look forward to your e-newsletters each week or each month, and might even hold onto them well into the future for reference as well.
If you’ve been tasked with developing an e-newsletter, keep in mind these five best practices:
- Stay True to Your Mission: Before starting your newsletter, create a goal for your initiative. Whether it’s to build brand recognition, educate your audience, or increase click-throughs to your website, writing down your goals will help you create a game plan for your content. Also, those newsletters with the highest open rates maintain a consistent focus on a specific subject area or topic. We always tell our clients, the broader the focus, the less valuable your e-newsletter becomes for each individual subscriber. So determine your “mission” up front, and from there, make sure all your content supports it. Lastly, come up with a name for your newsletter – something that is catchy or notable -- and reflective of the newsletter mission.
- Know Your Audience: Knowing who your audience is starts with an understanding of your customer personas. A customer (or buyer) persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer and can be made up of demographics, behavior patterns, purchase motivations and end goals. All of this information is essential as you tailor your content. Also, consider this: if your newsletter database is primarily made up of entry-level executives, your content should clearly address topics related to their level of expertise – most likely offering more hands-on advice and best practices. On the other hand, the C-suite will want content that reflects issues that impact them, such as ROI, productivity, profits and more. A simple opt-in or registration process can help you gain this insight, and it’s important that you use tools to track changes in your audience over time, too.
- Find Your Voice: The most effective e-newsletters display a strong personal voice. Whether it’s a sense of humor or wit, a relaxed vibe or a conversational tone, take time to determine the voice that will resonate best with your audience and stick with it. And before you issue your first newsletter, do research to determine what kind of information your readers want. If you don’t know, you’re taking a gamble by guessing -- and your entire initiative can suffer as a result.
- Keep Pace: Content is king, and ultimately, it’s what will allow you to maintain and build your subscriber base. But keeping pace with the content that your readers want – as well as current trends -- isn’t easy. It takes knowledge, time and research. How do you stay relevant? Brief subscriber surveys offer one useful way to gather insight. These can be offered both at the time of opt in and on an ongoing (but selective) basis through campaigns and other means. As a marketer, you can also use the analytics that are already available to you – from your customer base and website, across your social media metrics and more – to better understand what matters most to your audience.
- Design Decisions: My best advice is to keep your newsletter brief. Summarize your stories within your email message and use links to take readers to the complete story on your website (or another web page). Do not use attachments: they add steps to the overall open process and people are often wary of them. When selecting a designer, choose one who has experience with email newsletters. Have them create a template that is sure to work with your email automation platform, and ask them to come up with a design that’s in line with your other branded marketing materials. Images and video have been proven to attract attention, but they can also create problems in your subscribers’ email inboxes – so be careful not to overdo it. Keep it simple. And keep it consistent: use the same design template each week or each month so that it becomes a familiar presence in your recipient’s inboxes.
We’ve found these strategies to be effective with our own email newsletters. What tips can you suggest from your experiences in your organization?
Email newsletters can be a key driver for business growth throughout the customer lifecycle. If you need to expand the reach of your e-newsletter to gain more leads, consider giving Outward Media’s business contact data a try. Also, take a look at our complimentary new e-book on building a successful email marketing database.
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