You have grown your e-mail list and built a world-class e-mail lead-nurture program. Now it's time to scrutinize your venerable B2B (define) e-mail newsletter.
If you want to determine how it is truly performing, ask these questions:
Traditionally, a B2B e-mail newsletter has been a passive exercise. You develop your content and mail it out every other week or so to your entire list. As social media rises in popularity, your newsletter's role must also change to better drive conversation across multiple digital channels.
What you communicate in your newsletter will drive conversations on Twitter, Facebook, your LinkedIn group, or your blog. This leads to a new goal for your newsletter: to drive engagement across all these channels.
Consider these steps as you redefine, redesign, and breathe new life into your B2B newsletter:
Step 1: Understand Your Audience
The more targeted your e-mail, the better. Do your homework and truly understand who is receiving and engaging with your newsletter.
What do you know about the people receiving your message? Are they mostly customers or mostly prospects? What topics make open rates and click rates skyrocket?
Track link clicks, use a heatmap service, or look at reader comments, if any, to see which parts of the newsletter are most popular. Ask your sales reps what questions they hear time and again from customers.
This information will offer clues to the kind of content likely to drive the highest engagement with your subscribers.
Step 2: Define Your Content Approach
Your B2B newsletter should start with the important stuff first. The featured article should compel readers to read the rest of the content.
Strive to inform your readers and not hard-sell them. No one is sitting at his or her desk anxiously waiting for you to extol your key product features and benefits.
Most business professionals are looking for information to help them be more effective. Focus on citations from analysts or articles about their industry that show your products or services in a good light. Become an authoritative source of information about your industry or profession, one who helps them do their jobs better.
Consider these content ideas:
Familiarity breeds expectation. Establish a regular set of features that a reader can look forward to every other week. Your subscribers will become comfortable with expecting content on a certain schedule.
This familiarity and routine will help build trust that will lead to more sales. Once that happens, you can lead them to your lead nurture program and showcase your products.
Offer the highlights of an article and link to the article on your website. This will help you avoid overwhelming your readers with large blocks of text in the e-mail body content. This approach will also allow you to feature more content in the newsletter.
Step 3: Make Your Content Share-Worthy and Drive Engagement
The ultimate goal for your content is to start conversations in multiple digital channels. The more sharing you can encourage, the more positive revenue results you will see.
Cross-pollinate your e-mail newsletter channel. Post links to the online version in Twitter tweets, in discussion groups and forums, on your Facebook page, and in your corporate blog.
Also, encourage your subscribers to share your content on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn groups, and other public forums and make it easy for them by including linked icons in your newsletter.
Enable public comments on your corporate blog. Track who is sharing, and measure the influence this shared content has on lead generation and sales.
To be effective, you must go beyond just including social media icons in your e-mail. Focus on content that will naturally drive discussion and interaction on other interactive channels. Keep in mind the social networks your subscribers use regularly, and tailor your content accordingly.
The Last Word
Designing a B2B newsletter that informs your subscribers and helps them improve their job performance will go a long way in establishing you as a source of authority in your industry and building a meaningful relationship with them.
This will help keep you firmly in the consideration set as they move through the buying cycle.
Monitoring their interaction with your newsletter content will allow you to identify key prospects and "sales-ready" leads for your lead nurture program that you can readily convert into sales revenue.
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Mike Hotz is a senior strategic consultant for Responsys, working with clients to design, develop, and execute cross-channel digital marketing strategies that contribute to their cross-channel digital marketing success. As an industry veteran, Mike has worked in e-mail marketing since 1998, designing, building, and executing e-mail and multichannel direct marketing strategies focusing on increasing customer engagement, nurturing leads, supporting sales organizations, and driving revenue for companies such as CDW, OfficeMax, Grant Thornton, and Digitalwork.com.
December 5, 2013
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