Email newsletters which engage the reader

Sales emails are a tremendously good investment. Other forms of reaching prospects online come and go (and get publicity), but in industrial B2B marketing, it’s email all the way. But why would we do a multi-subject, less personalised “email newsletter” rather than individual emails promoting specific offers and tailored to specific readers?

The main advantage of an email newsletter lies in its regularity and familiarity. Readers are more likely to accept something which arrives on a consistent date, in a consistent format. If you send out a company email newsletter irregularly, just when it happens to be convenient, you’re wasting your time. However, for most companies, the motivation to produce an email newsletter comes down to comfort – it’s just a more demonstrable product which should keep the largest number of people happy (inside and outside the organisation) in relation to the effort involved.

Now, I’m not going to criticise the customer email newsletter, because good ones can produce great results. But if they’re a chore to produce, they’re going to look like they were a chore to produce. Most of the newsletters I see fall down on three fronts.

1. They contain too much. Email distribution systems are available which allow the contents of every newsletter going out to be tailored to the recipient’s interests. I’m not suggesting you need to go to that level of complexity, but if you sell two ranges of products, you really should be sending out three different newsletters to three different lists of recipients: those who will only ever be interested in Product A, those who will only ever be interested in Product B, and those who might be interested in both (or who you don’t know enough about). Maybe you don’t have the information to divide up the readers this way. Well, start collecting it, and put the existing circulation in the third group for now. Common sense tells you the result will be more people reading your newsletter, and more opting to continue to receive it. Sure, you can “cross-sell” and show how wide the breadth of your company’s offerings are occasionally, but concentrate on what the reader is interested in.

2. They risk being trivial, just to appear fresh. Something I learned to accept long ago as a magazine and newsletter editor was that the proportion which get opened and read is way smaller than even your worst fears. To get a message over, you’ve got to keep plugging away. If 5% of your recipients read every newsletter, 20% read every other one, and 75% read fewer than that, then if you repeat some information in consecutive issues, only one in twenty recipients will see the information twice, and most of those won’t realise that the previous time they saw the information was also in your newsletter. And anyway, is repetition such a bad thing? You’re trying to sell something here, you’re not the programme controller of BBC1. Put your most interesting news in each issue, even if nothing more interesting has come along since the last one.

3. They come from someone the recipient doesn’t know. What are the first – perhaps the only – emails which you read in your inbox? The ones from people you know. So in your email newsletter’s “From” field, it should have the name at your company which your customers know. If you’re a small company and you’re the salesman and the marketing manager, then put your own name in there. For everyone else, put in the name of the relevant salesman (and yes, that does mean subdividing the list further). Never, ever send an email newsletter from “The Marketing Department”. Who wants to open an email which declares up front: “I don’t know who you are, but this is going to try to sell you something”?

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