B2B newsletter best practices: Even your mother doesn’t want to read your company newsletter

Every morning when I check my email, I’m always surprised by how many companies seem to think I want to read their company newsletter. Most people (usually 80-90%) don’t read their own company’s newsletter. Why on earth would I want to read someone else’s?

Your own employees don’t want to read your “newsletter”

If employees don’t want to read anything that smacks of a company newsletter—why on earth would you send it to your prospects? You’re just training them to treat email from your company as spam.

Got a new VP of Customer Success? Just released version 2.4 of your product? Was your CEO featured in the WSJ? Great. BUT YOUR PROSPECTS DON’T CARE. They’re just not that into you.

Don’t believe me? Go home and tell your spouse, heck tell your mother, that same information. Watch their eyes glaze over. Your mother loves you… but even she doesn’t care that your company is excited about the new customer support center in Scottsdale.

Are You Saying that I Shouldn’t Send Out a Newsletter?

No! Your newsletter can be an incredibly powerful tool for lead nurturing. Just don’t call it a newsletter and don’t make it about your company or even your solutions. Use the information you have about your prospects to bring them content that they do care about (in B2B that’s information to help them do their job in a very broad sense).

B2B newsletter best practices:

  • Whatever you do, don’t call it “XYZ Co’s Monthly Newsletter”.
  • Segment your audiences and tailor each version to them.
  • Make your newsletter about what your prospects care about… industry news… deep-dive thought-leadership pieces… not your product lineup!
  • Don’t just rely on the content your company produces… lean heavily on curated 3rd party articles… they add interest, credibility, and (bonus!) you don’t have to write them.
  • Don’t make your newsletter sales-y. Hopefully, your sales team sends out a lot of those already. You can simply add your company touch by having a relevant offer and/or a polite footer along the lines of “Sponsored by ABC Company serving XXX market segment with innovative stuff. We hope you found this collection of articles useful. To talk to us about our stuff– send us an email.”
  • Aim for engagement… not direct sales… a good newsletter keeps your brand top of mind and brings prospects closer to being sales-ready.

Where’s the proof?

According to MailChimp, the average click-through rate hovers around 2% for most industries… that’s not just for newsletters but for more targeted emails too. In contrast, glassCanopy’s monthly prospecting newsletters average 8% click-through rates. Most of our clients enjoy similar stats in industries with really hard-to-reach audiences. Those newsletters are moving the needle on taking marketing qualified leads to sales-ready leads.


But… my newsletter has a 20% open rate, so my audience OBVIOUSLY cares

I hate to break it you, but a 20% open rate does not mean 20% of the people receiving it opened it.

It’s not even a good approximation. Many marketers use open rates because they sound both straightforward and better than single-digit click-through rates. But open rates are highly misleading and are not a good way to compare the performance of two different email lists.

Here’s why open rates are misleading:

Open rates are calculated by how many times an image is fetched from a server. It’s essentially the equivalent of a “hit” from old-school web logs. Theoretically, a tracking pixel (essentially a tiny image) is embedded in your email and every time someone opens your email, the email client fetches the “image” from the server. The server then reports back on the number of unique users who fetched the image and this number generates the open rate. That’s great in theory and maybe it worked in 1999 when this method was engineered, but the real-world complicates this because:

  • Some email clients fetch every image whether you look at it or not
  • Some email clients (like Outlook) will fetch the image during the “preview” stage—even if the user is just in the process of deleting the email without looking at it
  • Some email clients (like Gmail) only fetch the image once for every recipient on their system

Bottom line is: Open rates make for useful stats for A/B testing if the recipient list is fairly stable between sends. But, it’s pretty much useless for calculating how many people are actually engaging with your content. Click rates are MUCH more reliable for gauging relative engagement rates between two different lists.

But… I want to announce Important new products

“Our 2.4 release includes important support for Oracle APIs that will be a deal-clencher for some prospects…”  That’s great but your prospects will never know it if you bury that information in a newsletter. If you want to communicate that you’ve got to segment the customers that care about that new feature and send an email with a subject line of “XYZ now supports Oracle APIs”.

But… We just closed a big funding round, went IPO, <insert important milestone here>

Congratulations. But your prospects aren’t going to cash in on stock options. What you really want to communicate is that the sector you’re in is important and your company is a leader in that sector. Better to find a third-party article talking about how your sector is absolutely killing it… and that cites your company’s milestone as proof. More people will read a third-party article on the sector than a press release on your company’s specific win… and you won’t need to turn your newsletter into, you know, a “newsletter”.

B2B newsletters are just one part of the puzzle

Of course, B2B newsletters are just one part of the entire marketing puzzle. To effectively move the needle, you’re going to need to support your newsletter efforts with other types of content and calls to action. That could include eBooks or blogs, or you could use direct CTAs. We recommend taking on a comprehensive marketing strategy to gather leads from your target audience to make sales.

For more information on a comprehensive content marketing strategy check out our blog What the Hell Is: Content Marketing.

Or, if you’re ready to get started, drop us a line to see how we can help.

Rich Quarles

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