The rise of newsletters like Morning Brew, NYT's The Morning, and countless Substack projects all tell us that demand for newsletters is at an all-time high.
With publishers reporting an increase of up to 103% in newsletter revenue, the newsletter boom might even save what's left of the independent media industry. Sadly, this doesn’t make anyone more likely to read a B2B newsletter.
Statistics like marketers returning "$36 for every $1 spent on email marketing" (Litmus) might trick you into thinking newsletters are an easy win. That is true overall. Litmus averaged out returns for over 2,000 marketers to get that finding. But what's more relevant for your business is that some brands win very big with newsletters while others (i.e., most) don't.
Right off the bat, people will not want to read your B2B newsletter because:
a) their inboxes are already full.
b) most B2B newsletters are boring (i.e., press releases, links to blog posts, “catch us at x trade show,” etc.).
The vast majority of B2B newsletters read like they were thrown together last minute as a way to "distribute content." Not as something people might want to read.
At the same, there are lots of amazing B2B newsletters out there. I personally love Courier, Mailchimp's flagship newsletter, which they bought from another brand. I know that for Mailchimp, their newsletter is a way to sell me (and other readers) the idea of using their email marketing platform. But I still enjoy their curated selection of stories.
Ahrefs’ newsletter is also good. It's packed full of deep dives into marketing topics and is an interesting read.
Great newsletters like these delight a brand's existing customers and nurture leads over long periods. And in the B2B world, where sales cycles can sometimes be measured in years, that is a powerful thing to do.
However, to make a newsletter an effective tool for engagement, it needs great content. Here are our five top tips for writing a B2B newsletter that people will actually read (plus, here's a blog on where B2B newsletters fit into a wider B2B SEO strategy).
Who is your target audience? Can you answer questions like:
What are their biggest challenges?
How do they feel about controversial industry topic x?
What motivates them to do well at their job?
What does a "win" or success look like for them personally?
You need to know the answers to these questions to write content your audience will care about. Talk to your sales team and, if possible, customers to figure out who will be reading your B2B newsletter.
Then, put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Get ready to write something they want to read.
For example, after some research, you might discover that your newsletter will be read primarily by people who manage their companies’ accounts department. Therefore, many of your readers will be accountants who might not appreciate or understand TikTok slang.
At the same time, it also pays not to overdo formality or be standoffish. Your audience may appreciate something that breaks the mold a little bit. Your accountant customers might like some funny cartoons where non-numerical people try to get to grips with basic accounting techniques and fail. Maybe even a weekly haiku about using Sage 50?
Don't forget your audience is human. They come across a lot of boring content in their everyday jobs. Give them something that's not boring, and they will appreciate it.
The core purpose of every B2B newsletter is to create and nurture relationships with existing and/or potential customers.
Set an on-brand tone with your newsletter from day one. Decide on a style of voice and a level of quality that your content will aspire to. Then, keep it consistent.
It pays to put in place a process for ensuring quality content. To do this, bring in a reputable agency to help you or allocate enough time for your in-house team to write and review your newsletter. Then find others in your organization willing to proofread it.
Create a newsletter editorial committee that will take ownership of the B2B newsletter. Nothing looks worse than an email blast filled with grammatical errors and written in an inconsistent voice. If you compromise on quality, people will unsubscribe.
Back in 2014, the social media management tool Buffer wanted to know the best way to get people to read their blog posts. To find out, they ran an A/B test.
They wrote two identical versions of the same blog post. The only difference was that version A started with a story and version B had a generic introduction. Everything else (i.e., content, format, promotion) was identical.
After publishing both blog posts, Buffer discovered that:
People were 300% more likely to read blog post A than blog post B.
Readers spent five times as long on blog post A than on blog post B.
Buffer's test was based on a single blog post, but its finding is a powerful reminder of an ancient truth. People love stories.
If you want people to engage, i.e., read, consider, and maybe even share your newsletter, you have to tell them stories. These stories don't have to be narratives, but they do need to be able to bring readers into your world in a way that doesn't feel like a chore for them.
The internet might be full of lists of "amazing newsletter templates," but there is no 100% perfect layout for your newsletter. However, there is a 100% bad layout: one that is a wall of text.
To find the best design fit for your audience, experiment with different image/text layouts.
Keep your brand consistent, but A/B test different layout variations.
There are tons of different formats that work well, but, as a rule, try to avoid filling large spaces with stock imagery. At best, stock images used this way look like filler. At worst, they can be weirdly comical. Does your audience need to see a photo of a man frowning at a computer?
Use images to support points, not to distract your readers from them. Can you create some original image content or graphs? If so, create images that help time-poor readers grab the main points as fast as possible. If they want more information, they can go to other content you link to.
It's satisfying when your newsletter's subscriber count starts growing. However, don't be put off if the growth rates aren't quite what you thought they would be. Or if people unsubscribe. The reality is that not all of your audience will like your newsletter. Some might even hate it.
But if you can speak to a core group of readers who like your newsletter and get them to engage with it, or at least read it more than once, you've done something good. A newsletter with a small loyal following of readers is far more potent than one that goes out to gigantic mailing lists that are pretty indifferent.
Focus on engagement, not growth.
The key metric here is how many readers have opened your newsletter multiple times.
A great B2B newsletter is a customer engagement machine with benefits that compound over time. A regular monthly or weekly bulletin gives leads an intimate look at your brand and you a way to talk directly to them.
However, to be effective, a B2B newsletter has to:
Have a clearly defined audience in mind.
Stay true to the brand of the company sending it.
Be continuously assessed based on engagement.
Get these things right, and your newsletter will be a success.
Need help with your B2B newsletter? Contact us today to see how we can help.
Written by Laura Martisiute