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B2B e-newsletters: Three bits of advice

A client just asked me, "What are the three best pieces of advice to give to companies that embark on an e-newsletter for the first time?"

Here’s my answer:Woman reading laptop

  1. Useful, relevant content is essential to get readership, and to avoid opt-outs. (I recommend aiming for 80 percent or more useful content and 20 percent or less promotional content.)
  2. Make sure compelling copy is visible in the upper left corner. (When viewed as HTML with graphics shut off, as well as when viewed as a text email or via a PDA/phone.)
  3. Including fewer, shorter articles in more frequent e-newsletters is usually gets better results than including more, longer articles in less frequent e-newsletters. (E-newsletters with fewer, shorter articles are easier to get completed and sent out, and more frequent newsletters help keep your company and its products or services in sight and in mind.)

What best advice would you give your fellow B2B marketers about e-newsletters?

Please add your recommendations by clicking on the word “Comments” in the line below the Share button.

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Comments

Here are few suggestions about being consistent. By creating interesting content within an expected framework, the more likely that subscribers will look for the newsletter in their inbox and read it. And the easier it will be to write the thing.

– Find a voice you’re comfortable with, whether it’s humor, formal, academic, quirky or conversational

– Establish a format for the letter. For example, start with a personal anecdote or use an example from a customer’s experience.

– Send the newsletter out on the same day of the week – every Tuesday or the second Friday of the month. Try to send it within a span of a few hours, keeping subscriber time zones in mind.

– Writing an e-newsletter is like writing for the web. Make it scanable with sub-headers, boldface and bullets. Keep words, sentences and paragraphs short.

 

If I had to give three pieces of advice, that would be:

1. Listen first. It’s great that you’re ready to start an eNewsletter, but I believe that the best way to share relevant and meaningful content is to listen first to what other people are saying, especially those who are writing to the same audience as you. It will give you an idea of what people respond to. You could subscribe to three eNewsletter and learn from people’s best practices or mistakes.

2. Resist the urge to sell. That is in line with Mac’s #1 recommendation. Your content needs to be relevant and useful. Think Top 5 tips for…, 10 steps to…, Guide for…, etc.

3. Don’t mix prospects and existing customers. There are exceptions, but generally speaking, they have different needs. Your existing customers may be looking for tips & tricks re: how to get more value from your existing products/services. They may also be eligible for special Thank You events, etc.

 

Michael, those are great suggestoins.

Geraldine, Thanks for adding to the advice about e-newsletters. You first two recommendations are right on, but I’m not sure I completely agree with your #3 about not mixing customers and prospects. Often prospects are trying to understand what it is like to be a customer, so the information you provide customers is often of interest to them too. However, in today’s world of technology it is easy to have two version of an e-newsletter, each sharing some content with the other and each with some of their own content.

– Mac

 

I agree with all three of Mac’s points. I might bump up the useful content percentage from 80% to 90%, but that’s a minor point. In the main, I agree. My only addition or suggestion would be, don’t call it a newsletter. Your eyes are not deceiving you, I just said to drop the term “newsletter.”

The word newsletter is more appropriate for paper and has long since lost most of its appeal as a word that can help you get your prospect’s attention.

To take up valuable space in an email subject line with the work “newsletter” is a waste. The word is not a grabber and will not move people to click on and open your email. It’s boring.

 

Mitsu, I can’t resist pointing out that the word newsletter in the subject line can be a positive thing in regard to some spam filtering software. -Mac

 

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