In an article at Emaillabs, Loren McDonald gives 20 tips on better content for B2B newsletters.
According to McDonald, most business-to-business (B2B) companies find email newsletters effective for “building prospect and customer relationships, establishing thought leadership and generating leads.” They are supposed to bring readers to the company website where the prospects or customers take action to go to the next level of the business relationship, e.g. download a white paper, get a demo or call a salesperson.
Such newsletters will not be read, however, unless they have valuable content. The author points out that subscribers opt in to get best practices, tips, trends, news and a viewpoint rather than mere marketing and sales messages. She therefore gives the following tips for format and content:
1. Manage opt-in subscribers’ expectations by describing your newsletter’s content and its value in one or two sentences. McDonald also recommends providing a link to back issues to show prospective subscribers exactly what you mean.
2. Identify the main focus of the newsletter and decide on your editorial approach, then be consistent with it.
3. Publish regular columns and topic features to sustaining ongoing value and enable you to plan focused content. This will establish a real position for the newsletter among subscribers.
4. For newsletters with more than two articles, include a table of contents or “In This Issue” section at the top linked to each article.
5. Introduce articles longer than three or four paragraphs with short teasers to hook readers and encourage them to go to the full article.
6. Put promotional and supporting information such as company and new product information, news, events, resource links, brochure links, etc., in sidebar boxes and columns. This separates it from the primary editorial value of the newsletter articles while still making it accessible to readers.
7. Establish a personality for the newsletter by identifying someone in the company to provide a human face for the newsletter, adding personal flavor and non-offensive humor.
8. Include a “Quick Tip” feature giving practical ideas and best practices that readers can use.
9. Provide benchmarking information and industry statistics to enable your customers and prospects to see how they are doing compared to other companies, and to bring them back regularly.
10. Publish FAQ/Ask The Expert columns that establish your company’s expertise while generating reader interest and feedback.
11. Publish customer case studies showing practical examples of success stories and strategies while proving your company’s value proposition.
12. Monitor and analyze click-through statistics to determine which columns and type of articles are most popular and effective, and then refine editorial focus and style accordingly.
13. Monitor and analyze Web site log files to determine which articles and content are most visited, and then refine your editorial focus accordingly.
14. Conduct reader surveys from time to time to identify your readers’ changing needs and interests. Also do surveys on specific topics as reference for future articles.
15. Solicit ideas for content from sales and support staff who have great insights from dealing directly with customers and prospects on a daily basis.
16. Monitor industry and competitor newsletters and generate future story ideas from interesting topics in these newsletters.
17. Craft a standout email newsletter subject line using the newspaper headline style. Pick up from the article in that issue that will generate the most interest from readers.
18. Very subtly insert supporting references to your company, product or service in articles educating your readers with tips and best practices.
19. Provide your readers with a “Feedback” link after each article.
20. Solicit articles from external sources such as your clients, partners and industry experts to give your newsletter greater value beyond your company’s self promotion.
In other words, make your newsletter worth your reader’s time.