By Mike Hotz, Senior Strategic Consultant, Responsys
A regularly published B2B email newsletter is a staple of most B2B digital marketing strategies. They are a cost-effective, if inefficient, way to nurture prospects and help maintain a relationship over a client's lifetime.
Unlike a typical B2C email message with its strong, conversion-driven focus, the B2B newsletter usually serves multiple purposes, including:
- Attract prospective leads.
- Nudge prospects already in the pipeline closer to a sale.
- Connect with customers and reinforce their decision to buy from you.
- Establish or reinforce the company's authority as a thought leader.
This can be unfortunate for recipients because catering content for multiple audiences often forces readers to scroll through your content to find the value meant for them.
Make your newsletter more effective by thinking like a B2C marketer instead, to sharpen your focus and create a more reader-centric newsletter.
I talked about this strategy in an earlier column, "3 B2C Marketing Tactics to Improve Your B2B Newsletter" Here, I'll share some B2C tactics that can help you build a more focused and readable B2B newsletter.
- Don't put everything you know into each newsletter
This leads to "kitchen sink syndrome," where you toss in "everything but..." to cover all of your audiences. You might turn off readers who don't have the time or inclination to scroll through all of your prose.
Be selective in your newsletter content. I recommend using dynamic content to change at least one article in each issue to best target a specific audience.
If you must appeal to multiple audiences - prospects and customers, for example - select a primary article that would appeal to both, such as a case study showing how you saved money or increased business for a client or a trend story with information readers can use in their own businesses.
Secondary articles can appeal to particular segments, but your showpiece copy should have the broadest appeal.
- Provide a synopsis of each article in the newsletter and link to the full version on your website. This will boost traffic and lengthen engagement time with the content.
- Offer "share this content" opportunities in the email or on the landing page.
- Balance editorial copy with related curated product selections to enable conversion opportunities on both the landing pages and email.
- Target product merchandising by leveraging behavioral data.
Repurpose and highlight quality content that you have previously used in blogs, traditional newsletters, social media, and other sources to help keep this content approach scalable.
How-to tips, news stories regarding hot topics, and expert advice are some of the most effective types of content for this purpose.
- Move readers to your website
Be brutal about how much copy appears in your newsletter. Email readers have shorter attention spans and stricter standards for deciding what to open. Requiring a click also allows you to determine which articles engaged your readers and which ones flopped.
A 1,000-word article is too long for a multi-purpose newsletter. The typical reader spends three to five seconds with your email. If you can't tell your entire story in 250 words or less, put the salient facts in an introduction and link to the main story on a landing page on your website.
- Create a unique landing page for each article link
Too many newsletters drop readers onto the website's home page. That's the worst place to send them. They are more likely to get lost and click away than to hunt down the right article.
Set up informative landing pages that also link to related areas of your website, such as other case studies, press releases, etc. These can send the reader deeper into your site.
These links give readers something else to do besides read your content or click the "unsubscribe" button.
- Design your newsletter for scanning or mobile reading
Redesigning your newsletter in a simpler, more streamlined format will benefit readers on every platform.
These features enhance scanning and mobile reading:
- Vertical format
- Clear preheader with a call to action
- White space to separate articles
- Shorter line lengths
- Smaller images
- Shorter paragraphs
- Fewer items in each newsletter
- Bulleted lists
Test your email template frequently on various mobile platforms - iPhone/iPod Touch, Android phone, or tablets - to stay on the right track.
Although B2B newsletters typically aren't as image-heavy as B2C messages, optimize your design for reading with images off, because at least a third of your readers don't enable images in HTML by default.
Finally, consider "fat finger syndrome" when planning links or navigation to avoid misdirected clicking on mobile devices. As an example, Apple's ideal "tap target" for the iPhone is 44 pixels high by 44 wide (about a quarter-inch each way).
- Rethink your frequency
Does a monthly newsletter give you enough contact with your subscribers? Or, could you break one big newsletter into two or more issues?
Sending two shorter, distinctively different newsletters might give you more immediacy with subscribers and allow you to specialize each issue.
The subscribers have the last say on this topic as relevancy dictates frequency. Compare open, click, and complaint rates to see whether subscribers react or even notice the change.
- Use behavioral data to inform editorial decisions
Your email tracking and web analytics tools tell you which content categories your readers are clicking and/or browsing in your email and on your website. Use this data to guide your story choices for the newsletter as well as your inline navigation.
It can also drive dynamic content modules or help you create different versions of your newsletter, targeted to different audiences, customer segments, etc.
The Last Word
Your company newsletter is likely the first place you contact potential customers. It must convey your authority, expertise, and company personality in a relatively small space. The right design coupled with the right content can be far more informative than a content-heavy "kitchen sink" approach.