What’s the first thing you think when you hear “B2B newsletter”? If you’re like most people, it’s boredom. Let’s face it, email newsletters don’t exactly have a rep for being riveting entertainment. Neither does most B2B marketing. Pair the two, and some of us can already feel our eyes glazing over.
It’s time to change that. B2B newsletters definitely don’t have to be dull – at least for their core, intended audiences. They can have valuable information, genuine personality, and even be downright remarkable.
In order to give you a few ideas for how to make your newsletters worth reading, I’ve rounded up 10 ideas for B2B newsletter content. You don’t have to stick with just these, of course, and by the time you’ve read through this list, I hope you’ll have even more inspiration.
1. Social media content
This one’s so easy. And you’ve already got the content. Just grab whichever post or tweet did best on your social media accounts this week, and put it in your newsletter. (Want extra credit? Include a prompt to follow your company on that social media channel.)
Or try a contest. B2C companies do this all the time, but B2B companies tend to hold back, maybe because a photo contest feels too personal. So change that. Three Deep Marketing turned a baby photo contest into a clever recruiting promotion.
2. The most recent post from your blog.
Okay, not the most creative suggestion, but blogs take a lot of work to maintain, so when you publish a new post, the best promotion you can do for it is including it in your email newsletter. And yet … quite a few of us are still not doing this on a regular basis.
This new blog post announcement from Alexa is nice and simple, but it covers all the bases. Note the embedded, pre-formatted tweet in the postscript. If I could add just one thing to this email, it might be to add “Or forward it to a friend” right after the embedded tweet.
3. Staff profiles.
These are especially good if you include customer-facing staff, like customer service or sales. And don’t just give a corporate profile of them – include a bit about their lives (‘cause that’s what people are most interested in). For example:
- Did someone get just an advanced degree? That’s definitely newsletter content.
- Did someone have a baby? Welcome the new kid!
- Did someone just achieve an interesting goal, like running a marathon or winning a barbecue competition?
- Is someone contributing to a local cause or non-profit? Is anyone a Big Sister or a Big Brother?
- Does anyone have an interesting hobby? Growing roses? Mushrooms? Raising award-winning koi?
You get the idea. Every one of your employees has something interesting about them. It’s the sort of thing you might never know until you go out for a beer with them, but it’s there. Finding those things out is great content for your newsletter – both so your clients and prospects get to know you better, and so other employees get to learn about each other.
Want an example? The analytics company Parse.ly has added a nice article about their employees to one of their recent newsletters. You don’t really need a full article – just a good photo of one of your employees doing something interesting outside of work is enough. It works because it’s interesting – people love to read about other people. But it also humanizes your company, which can make people more receptive to your messages.
4. Industry profiles.
These are similar to staff profiles, but maybe just a wee bit more formal. They’re a great way to applaud work or ethics in your industry. They’re also great for getting more exposure for your newsletter.
How? Well, it works just like influencer marketing. If you do a profile of someone in your industry, and they’re noteworthy enough (and the profile is interesting enough) they might mention it to their company, or to their audience online. That’s a great, free promo for your newsletter.
5. Customer profiles and case studies.
If you can make your customers into heroes, you’ll make yourself look good too.
- Do a customer profile. You could spotlight people who use a particular product or live in a particular location, or people who have a particular non-standard use for your product.
- If you have customer training or customer appreciation events, take pictures and use them in the newsletter.
- Run a contest for best or most creative or most … something … use of your product or service. Promote the contest in your newsletter, then run the winners.
- If a customer wins an award or gets great press or does something notable, mention it.
- Do an excerpt of a case study in your newsletter, and link to the rest of the study where it’s posted on your site.
6. Curated content.
Curated newsletters are becoming a bigger thing all the time. They’re also a fantastic way to beef up interesting content for your newsletter.
Here’s how the social media app Buffer handles their curation. At the close of each newsletter, they’ve got a “What We’re Reading” section. It’s just two links – not a lot of effort required here.
Notice anything else interesting here? There’s a cool forwarding prompt: That highlighted sentence asking if the reader knows anyone else who might like this email. Then there’s an elegant email frequency control right below it. It’s just one line asking if the reader would prefer weekly instead of daily emails.
7. The best of the month.
This might not work for every business, but with a little creativity, it will work for most. Just pick something related to your business (directly related), then make a roundup list of the best examples you’ve come across in the last month. Or find just one or two examples, and include the best in your weekly emails.
Here’s how the email marketing agency AlchemyWorx does it. They “select six of the best emails from last month,” add some commentary, and then publish the round-up as a blog post. It also makes for interesting and engaging newsletter content. (Oh – and you can get more attention for these sorts of emails if you notify everyone who made the “best list.” Often, they’ll share it with their audiences, or sign up for future editions.
8. Question of the week.
Ever heard of Marcus Sheridan? He’s the guy who launched our current round of content marketing by using content marketing to turn a swimming pool business, River Pools, around at the peak of the recession. (Read the case study.)
How’d he do it? Marcus answered questions. Every night, on his blog, Marcus picked a question he’d gotten over the years and answered it with as much detail and utility as he could muster. Over time it turned his business around.
You can make this principle work for your newsletter, too. Sales or customer service are usually the best sources for the most common questions. Then just add a section to your newsletter with the question and a two- or three- paragraph answer. If the answer is longer, include the first two paragraphs in your newsletter, then continue the rest of it on your site.
9. Quizzes, polls and surveys.
These tend to get great engagement, and they’re especially effective if you don’t show the results until someone has participated in the quiz, poll or survey. We have a strong interest in seeing how we compare to others, so withholding the results until someone has completed the poll is a great way to boost engagement.
The answers to these polls can also help your company, even if it’s for minor things. Just don’t make the polls too self-serving, or always business focused. They’re entertainment for your readers, so keep things light.
10. Company news.
Surprised? I held this one back, to be last on the list, for a reason. It’s because most company newsletters include nothing but company news. And that’s part of why people think most company newsletters are boring. It’s because … (forgive me) … they don’t really care.
Don’t get me wrong. Your subscribers aren’t bad people. They aren’t especially self-obsessed. They’re just human. They care about what matters to them … and not so much about anything else. Especially if it comes across as self-centered.
We’ve got an acronym for this in marketing. It’s called WIIFM – “what’s in it for me”. Your subscribers are always listening to WIIFM. If you can’t broadcast on that channel, they probably aren’t willing to listen.
Bonus: Add old content that did particularly well.
Whether it’s an old article, a photo everybody loved, the results of a poll or anything else, it is okay to sprinkle in some “oldie but goodie” content here and there. Let’s face it: Many of your subscribers probably missed it the first time around, so re-publishing it just means they get to see it for the first time.
Bonus-bonus: for customers only
Everything we’ve talked about could be interesting for either prospects or customers. If you’ve got a customer-only newsletter, then you can offer some things that might not be right for prospects:
- New release information that affects the product or service they pay you for
- Webinars or other training events that explore specific product usage
- Promotion of any customer-only events you might do
- Invitations to take a product survey
It’s time to think way outside the box for B2B newsletters – to smash through the status quo and be as weird and geeky and enthusiastic as you can be. Don’t fear offending people (though I don’t recommend you deliberately try) – fear making people yawn. Boring newsletters don’t get read … and that’s a big missed opportunity.
Another way to make sure you aren’t boring your audience is to leverage interesting subject lines that will get your emails opened. Subject lines can be one of the most important elements of your email program. It’s your first (and maybe your last) impression on your recipients. It’s what determines your email response and engagement. Download Act-On’s eBook, 12 Tips for Amazingly Effective Email Subject Lines, to learn how to create amazingly effective subject lines that will get your email opened.