Newsletters are one of my favorite ways to receive information tailored to my interests. Instead of relying on news websites that cover a range of topics that I don’t always want to read about, subscribing to newsletters lets me control what I give my attention to.
This is one of the reasons why companies like Substack are doing so well. Independent thinkers and creators are producing content that people are willing to pay for.
B2B marketers should be asking, “How do I get people to want to hear from me?”
That isn’t the case right now. Is it?
We hope that website visitors will subscribe to get our latest blog updates or hear about an upcoming webinar, but most people don’t care about that.
On rare occasions, they might care, but that’s if you’ve demonstrated that your content and webinars are valuable and not purely self-promotional.
So since email marketing is often a crucial part of a B2B company’s digital marketing strategy, how should you think about producing a successful newsletter?
We’re considering these things as we build our newsletter, Becoming Omniscient.
Decide the type of newsletter you’ll send
Newsletters come in various forms depending on the purpose of the newsletter and your target audience. Some common types of newsletters include:
1. Promotional Content: This is what we commonly see in B2B SaaS marketing. These newsletters promote the latest blog post, a webinar, a new product, product updates, or something else about the company, but there isn’t any personality behind it. For some reason, folks in B2B marketing tend to play it safe with their newsletters, and this often means boring newsletters people unsubscribe from. Let’s change it up.
2. Roundups: These newsletters usually provide a curated list of links to content. That could be industry news or generally exciting things in the world. They’ll include short blurbs about each curated piece and their thoughts.
3. Educational: Many newsletters provide general educational information. These emails are often long-form or link to long-form podcast or blog content.
4. Personal interests or updates: These are the opposite of typical B2B SaaS newsletters. People will subscribe to newsletters just because they want to hear from that person and what they’re paying attention to. People who write these emails might share personal details about what’s going on in their lives and businesses and share links to things that pique their interest. You might even find that some people will take what you posted on social media channels like LinkedIn or Twitter and turn them into a newsletter. Or vice versa, write a newsletter, then break it into smaller chunks for social media.
5. Hybrid newsletters: Some newsletters share personal stories and anecdotes while tying those stories into educational and actionable information.
What to include in your newsletter
Ultimately, what you include in your newsletter depends on your target audience.
Who are you trying to reach? What are they interested in? Whatever those things are, make sure you share relevant content with them.
For example, if you want to speak to VPs of Marketing, you wouldn’t share information about a marketing career fair or beginner guides. Instead, you might write about or share an interview about how demand gen teams are evolving.
If you want to speak to developers, you wouldn’t share information about no code editors. You might instead share content from engineering blogs or about how a developer built a tool using an API.
Regardless of what you write, aim to make it helpful and entertaining for your reader. There’s enough bad content on the internet.
How to design your newsletter
There are two strong opinions on this:
- Make it simple and plain text.
- Make it eye-catching and aesthetically pleasing.
What I’ve found over and over again is that plain text emails have better open and clickthrough rates. They also take significantly less time to produce and send. This is why I love ConvertKit. The tool intentionally provides only a handful of newsletter templates and limits the amount of customization so you can focus on the content instead of spending hours on newsletter design.
In some cases, you may decide you need a beautifully designed email. In my experience, I’ve found emails with many fancy design elements tend to have lower open and clickthrough rates. Perhaps because they tend to have many images, unclear calls-to-action, and in some cases, aren’t mobile optimized.
You typically see a lot more thoughtfully designed emails in ecommerce or B2C companies compared to B2B software.
If you plan to create a newsletter with more design elements, check out Really Good Emails for some great email newsletter design inspiration.
The two most important things to consider related to your newsletter design are:
- Readability. No one is going to read your newsletter if the font is too small or if it’s a huge wall of text.
- A clear call to action. If you’re a business, you likely want your reader to take some action. It might be to read a blog post or attend a webinar. Whatever the case, make sure it’s clear what they’re supposed to do next. It’s as simple as including a clear CTA button in the email.
How to measure the success of your newsletter
The number one success metric in building a newsletter is your number of subscribers. That’s followed by open rates and click rates, in that order.
The number of subscribers is the simplest measure of your reach.
Your reach ultimately determines if you can parlay the audience into products and/or services. It also determines how much you can charge advertisers if you decide to sell advertising spots.
A 50% click rate or 80% open rate is less impressive if you have 50 subscribers.
Those two metrics matter more at a larger scale, so focus on growing your email list.
If you want to get aggressive with growth, focus on increasing the number of new subscribers every month or even every week.
If you produce a great newsletter, you may experience a referral loop where each reader enjoys the newsletter so much that they recommend it to others. To ensure your awesome newsletter reaches the subscriber’s inboxes, follow DMARC reports and avoid email security threats.
How frequently should you send your newsletter?
This is one of the questions that can be easily answered, but sometimes people overthink it.
The easiest answer is to choose a frequency that you can come up with and stick with it.
I’ll tell you that if you’re in a marketing role, which you probably are, then you want to stay top of mind with your audience. That means an annual, quarterly, or monthly newsletter may not be the best option.
However, you also don’t want people to get tired of your emails or stop reading them. So daily is way too frequent – though some people will opt for this.
I’ve found that many newsletters opt for weekly and some twice weekly.
I recommend a weekly newsletter.
9 of (in my opinion) the best email newsletter examples
Instead of sharing the typical newsletters you might see get recommended, I’ll share a mix of popular and smaller newsletters with high-quality content that I’m subscribed to. These are emails that I look forward to each week.
I’ll point out that if you subscribe to any of these newsletters, you’ll find that they don’t change up their subject lines much. Often, it’s just the newsletter’s name and the edition number. They aren’t overthinking their subject lines, and I’ll open and read them. Every. Single. Time.
I can’t get away with not promoting our weekly newsletter. It includes three elements:
- Field Notes. We share personal stories and a behind-the-scenes look at how we do SEO and content strategy and how we’re building the business. This often ties to how we believe B2B software companies should be thinking about marketing. We call these Field Notes because they’re inspired by actual thoughts and notes from our experience “in the field.”
- 3 Reads. These reads are often related to what we discuss in our Field Notes, so you can dig deeper into what we discuss.
- Upcoming events. We regularly host Office Hours with industry experts who we admire and hope to learn from and open it up for others to attend and learn from them as well.
Chartr is one of my favorite email subscriptions that I look forward to and read from top to bottom. They share interesting data related to news going on in the world (I love data). Their copywriting is also fantastic. It’s clear that the team behind the newsletter really put time and effort into crafting an educational and entertaining newsletter.
Benedict’s Newsletter by Benedict Evans
A great weekly newsletter on what matters in tech. I look forward to this email every week because Ben shares a bunch of links about interesting things happening in tech and his take on them. I love his pithy and witty remarks about the industry.
Consumed/Created by Peter Kang
Peter shares short anecdotes from his life and reflections on building a design agency. As a founder of an agency, I appreciate the candidness with which he shares his experiences. I’ve learned a lot from him and have shared his newsletter with my co-founders.
The Commonplace Newsletter by Cedric Chin
You know that feeling when you start hearing the same recommendation from multiple people? That’s what happened when I kept hearing about Cedric’s newsletter. He sends one weekly email sharing insights about building a career and better decision-making.
Content Folks by Fio Dossetto
Fio shares wisdom from her experience working in B2B content for companies large and small. Her newsletters will often pull in valuable introspections for people in content marketing to ponder.
Love Mondays by David Kadavy
I get this short newsletter from David every Monday for one big idea to ponder and an inspirational quote to start the week.
Contentment Newsletter by Tracey Wallace
Tracey’s emails go against what people typically say about email content best practices. Her emails are valuable but long. People I admire and learn from subscribe to her newsletter because it’s clear she put a lot of thought into her roles in content. She goes beyond the surface and discusses topics that aren’t talked about enough in content, like how content should be measured by more than traffic 🙂
3-2-1 Newsletter by James Clear
A household name for people interested in productivity and personal Growth, James Clear sends a weekly email with 3 short ideas from him, 2 quotes from others, and 1 question for you to ponder. I’ve forwarded many of these emails to friends.
Hopefully, this gave you some newsletter ideas for you to implement on your own. Remember:
- Don’t overthink your email design
- Don’t spend hours looking for the best email newsletter template
- Don’t worry too much about subject lines
- Do focus on producing and sharing helpful, educational, entertaining newsletter content for your audience