Let’s throw politeness out the window: Emails from B2B brands stink.

I know this because I’m the recipient of them. I downloaded a white paper or had my badge scanned at a conference. The brand acquired my email address and has been sending me stuff ever since.

With few exceptions, these emails are brand-centric: they’re all about their next webinar, their new eBook, their fabulous case study.

What’s missing from this picture?


That is, a focus on me, the subscriber. I only care about your next webinar if it solves a challenge I’m having right now. 

In a prior piece at CMSWire, I wrote that B2B marketers can put the trust back in email marketing by modeling personal newsletters. 

In this piece, I’ll get prescriptive and share simple tactics personal newsletter writers are using. B2B marketers: steal these tactics and put them to use.

Ann Handley: The Welcome Email

Ann Handley writes the Total Annarchy newsletter, which comes out every other Sunday. Ann is a best-selling author and chief content officer at MarketingProfs. One of Ann’s secret weapons is her welcome email.

Most welcome emails say something along the lines of “thanks for subscribing. Here are links to recent issues.” While Ann does include a list of her newsletter’s popular issues, she focuses the welcome email on soliciting input.

Ann asks:

  • Why did you sign up?
  • What do you hope to learn here?

I like this “ask” because it establishes a trusting relationship from the get-go (i.e., Ann is demonstrating that she wants reader input to guide her newsletter).

According to Ann, the responses she receives tell her two things:

  1. Who is sharing and recommending her work.
  2. Who her audience actually is.

Ann calls this real-time market research, and she tracks responses in a spreadsheet, looking for trends over time. 

According to Ann, “Isn't that unscalable? Yes. That's the point, because building audience means building relationships with individual people. And the key is that first touch, that 'Welcome' email.”

Ann sees a 65% open rate on her Welcome email and just over a 30% reply from those sharing their thoughts with her! I count myself as part of the 30%, as I replied back when I subscribed to Total Annarchy. I have that welcome email saved

ann handley

Advice for B2B marketers: Take a fresh look at your "Welcome" email and consider asking a question to learn more about your latest subscriber.

Related Article: B2B Marketers: Make Your Email Newsletter a Thing

Joe Waters: Send Again to Non-Opens

Joe Waters writes the Selfish Giving newsletter, which comes out weekly. Joe is a speaker, writer and consultant who shows businesses and nonprofits how to build win-win partnerships.

Learning Opportunities

While Joe writes a single newsletter each week, he sends it out twice: the first to everyone and the second to those who didn’t open the first. Joe tracks the most-clicked link in the first newsletter and makes that the headline for the second newsletter. 

Joe found that people are busy and might just miss the first newsletter. Don’t give subscribers an excuse to say “no,” says Joe. Sending them a second time gives them another chance. And it works!

According to Joe, “On the second newsletter, I generally get an additional open rate of 10-15%. Because of this bump, the open rate for my newsletter is over 50%.”

Advice for B2B marketers: Try this out, but test it first. B2B marketers already carry a reputation of sending too many emails. Even if subscribers don’t open your emails, your unread emails might collect in their inbox. And if they see you “sending twice” often, they may mark your email as spam. So test first and assess results. If you see results like Joe is getting, keep doing it.

Related Article: 7 Burning Questions About Email Unsubscribes

Use Transactional Links to Get Clicks, Deepen Engagement

I write the “Content Corner” newsletter, which comes out every other Friday. I curate marketing-related content, highlight interesting people in the industry and share an original thought or two about marketing.

I feature three “transactional links” at the top of each issue:

  1. An article on the origin story of the newsletter.
  2. A link to subscribe (i.e., in case someone forwarded the email).
  3. A link to the last issue.

These three links receive the highest clickthrough rates in each issue. One factor might be that they’re listed before anything else. Another factor might be that newer subscribers (i.e., who don’t know me as well) want more background on the newsletter. And finally, people might have missed the last issue, but want to read it.

Here’s the copy I use to present the links (with links removed):

Recent subscriber? Here's some background about this newsletter. Was this email forwarded to you? Then you need your own subscription. Please tell the person who forwarded it that I said thank you! 

If you missed the last issue, I shared a few marketing rants.

For me, these clicks signal deeper engagement from readers. There’s also a web analytics analogy for people who click to read my last issue: it decreases the “bounce rate” of my email and increases the “pages per session.”

Advice for B2B marketers: Make your newsletter issues viewable as web pages and write the origin story behind your newsletter. Insert these links at the top of each issue. Check analytics to see how often they’re receiving clicks.