Why Email Newsletters Still Matter*


*For B2B marketing next year

I’m not gonna pull punches with you: creating an actionable, useful B2B marketing strategy is not, like, an easy task. What seems like a stellar idea in the brightness of day, can quickly seem dusty and derivative as I shoot awake in a bleary-eyed haze at 3am.

Email marketing, however, doesn’t have to be as hard as we make it. Like, here’s what email marketing doesn’t need to be: email marketing doesn’t have to be flashy. Email marketing doesn’t have to have a voiceover upon open, or a built-in music player. Email marketing -- especially B2B email marketing -- is what happens when you talk and people listen. They opt-in. In this quiet but profound way, they say, “I’ll have what they’re having”.

Why Email Newsletters are Still a Thing

I could make an impassioned argument as to why you should still care to implement an email newsletter and email marketing strategy for your B2B company, but instead, I’ll let the data do the talking.

Screen Shot 2016 12 20 At 9 58 11 Am

We work on the marketing strategies for a few B2B companies. Most of the action items are super content-heavy, building their web-presence from the ground, up. Email marketing, something that at one point could have used a little TLC when we started is now a bit of a powerhouse for them.

So let’s break down what happened here, starting with the basics.

Throughout the 2016 calendar year, for our professional services client shown above, we sent a total of 82 email campaigns, to 394,230 contacts. With that, total opens amounted to 26,845 emails, with an open rate of 29.79 percent. Based on that data, total click-throughs amount to 590, or a click-through-rate of 6.83 percent.

According to SmartInsights 2016 report on email marketing, the industry average for professional services this year looks like a 20.89 percent open rate, a 2.63 percent click-through-rate, with a 0.92 percent soft bounce versus a 0.73 percent hard bounce rate. Unsubscribe averages for the professional services industry runs at 0.30 percent.

For our client, that open rate is a full 8 percentage points above the industry average for 2016, and the click-through-rate differentiation looks similar, a 4.2 percentage point difference.

The Content Strategy

The content strategy that really drove those numbers was two-pronged. It starts with a) personalization. We made small adjustments, such as adding the company president’s name to the ‘From’ line, to give it that human touch. We also added a first name token to the beginning of the email, and signed it as from the president. We segmented our lists out by interest and industry -- and tailored the content specifically for those groups. We also segmented newsletters out by brand warmth, i.e. how well they knew our client. Were they client’s of the company or were they first-touch prospects. Asking those questions and providing answers through segmentation really helped our clients numbers.

Then, we follow that up with b) content leadership. The main reason why people subscribe to B2B newsletters is not to immediately be convinced to purchase more products, but because they’re interested in what the company at hand has to say. So by providing specific thought leadership pieces, whether it was video, blog, case study, white paper, infographic or more, it was with the specific goal to not sell -- and that feeling of not being sold to helped increase trust between consumer and brand.

Why Pretty Still Matters

Pretty does still matter, y’all. Just look at basic color theory broken down: blue equals trust, red equals excitement and passion, yellow equals optimism, green equals peace. It’s because of these connotations that HelpScout released this chart explaining color favorites broken down by gender:

Colors By Gender

Mimicking the above numbers, we’ve found that in our own data, blue is by far one of the most popular colors used to encourage higher click-throughs. Red follows closely in second place. But more than anything, it’s about contrast.

According to the UserTesting blog, “Approximately 8% of men and 0.5% of women are affected by some form of color blindness. While there are multiple forms of the condition, red/green color blindness is the most common. Folks with red/green color blindness have trouble distinguishing reds, greens, and yellows of similar values, especially when the greens have more yellow than blue in them...” so it’s for that very reason that contrast helps out not just the color blind, but also the average user, as well.

If you want inspiration for what really great emails look like, regardless of industry, check out ReallyGoodEmails.com -- they have a continually updating aggregate of functionally popular and pretty emails to use as inspiration.

You can also look at the data for why pretty matters. Campaign Monitor increased their email conversion rate by 127 percent simply by making their copy short and concise, easily readable, and changing it to one-column.

Campaign Monitor Email

So at the end of the day, there are a lot of reasons why email design, email copy, and great thought leadership can increase your email click-through-rate. But if you’re wondering if those details prove that email marketing is still alive and well, they very much do. If you do it right, a great email newsletter and marketing strategy can work for, well, anyone, no matter your industry.

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