Business newsletters can be tricky. Done well, crafted in the right hands, a business-to-business email newsletter can be a highly effective means to warm up a cold mailing list and to maintain a steady trickle-type contact with hundreds or thousands of customers and prospects. Done poorly, you're just cranking out more email traffic that no one is going to read. So how do you make your newsletter shine?
I write several successful newsletters on a regular basis for my clients. When I begin a new newsletter project, I start out by asking the following questions. So should you.
Are you rolling out any new products or services in the near future?
A good B2B newsletter is informative and insightful, but it also has to bring customers through the door. No matter how educational or erudite your newsletter is, it's practically worthless unless the ultimate end result is a higher conversion rate.
Don't pitch your topics in a vacuum - instead, make sure they're associated with what's new and interesting and topical in your business. Are you rolling out any new products or services in the next few months? What market trends make you confident that they represent sound forward strategies for your business? Focus on those trends when you select your newsletter topic list for the next few months: those are the issues you want your customers to be thinking about, right up to the day you choose to roll out the new solutions that capitalize on them.
What is no one else in your market segment covering?
Are your competitors putting out newsletters? If so, are you subscribed to and reading them? If not, you should: very likely, subscribers to your newsletter are probably reading those as well. You should always be up on what the competition is doing.
As you consider your newsletter article topics, consider carefully the topics covered in these other newsletters. Usually, the big and obvious topics are also the ones being firmly hammered into the ground by everyone. Don't join the herd: find an issue that's slight, subtle but pivotal that announces to the world that your team actually spends hard time thinking carefully about your customers and the future of your industry. Be different - don't cover the same ground that everyone else has trampled flat.
How does this issue fit into the next two?
Starting a newsletter is easy. Keeping it going is hard. Without a question, the reason why most business newsletter failures happen is a lack of planning - not having planned the next several issues in advance, instead slapping every new issue together at the last minute when no other pressing tasks are at hand. And the newsletter then looks exactly like what it is: a random afterthought.
Always start a business-to-business newsletter project with a production schedule, preferably for at least the first three issues. Plan the topics around seasonal business concerns (bold initiatives in January, for example). And have a clear idea about how you intend the issues to relate to one another. Don't just write another great first newsletter issue: instead, plan to be around for a while.
What are your calls to action (CTA)?
Like I mentioned earlier, education is not enough. You want the reader to do something after reading your newsletter: call your offices, talk to a sales rep, visit the website, download a brochure. Don't, under any circumstances, end your newsletter issue with a cheery "Thanks for reading!" bookended by a cold dropoff.
Instead, tell your reader what to do, and exactly how to do it. Then thank them for reading.
Why are they reading it?
The people on your mailing list get a lot of email. A lot. Most of it goes unread, either unopened in their inbox or quickly shuffled away as spam or deleted outright. The ones who do read your newsletter are probably people who have been reading it regularly. So why do those people keep coming back?
This isn't a question that you ask once and never ask again. It should be lingering in your mind with every story, every issue, every word. Why is the reader reading this? Why should they? What about this issue is going to make them want to read the next one? Even better, why are they keeping these issues for future reference? Why should they?
Never assume that an email newsletter is just being read because it's there. It probably isn't. Instead, approach each issue from the standpoint that you have to win readers, conquer an audience, build a loyal subscriber base that will in turn become a steady stream of satisfied customers. Then and only then will your business-to-business newsletter become the marketing dynamo that draws in prospects and helps to build long term customer relationships.