a dripping spigot
Editorial

B2B Marketers: Make Your Email Newsletter a Thing

5 minute read
Dennis Shiao avatar
Marketers think of their email lists in a transactional manner: a sea of names to guide down the sales funnel. Here's how (and why) we should fix this mindset.

Here’s a dirty little secret about B2B marketing:

We think of our email list in a transactional manner: A sea of names to guide down the sales funnel. A vehicle to turn leads into opportunities.

An avenue to revenue.

As a result, we create a drip campaign or an email nurture that goes something like this:

  • Set up a sequence in your marketing automation platform.
  • Send email one, “Thanks for downloading our white paper” right away.
  • Wait for three business days, then send email two: “Here are additional resources that you might find useful.”
  • Wait another three business days, then send email three: “Register for our live webinar (a few seats remain).”
  • If there are zero opens or clicks, recycle this lead so you can try again six months later.

These sorts of campaigns don’t work. In fact, I believe they only serve to damage your brand’s reputation. One could even go so far as to call it an abuse of email.

Why Marketers Do Drip Campaigns

So why do we do drip campaigns? Well, first consider the circumstances in which we acquire email addresses:

  • Booth visitors had their badges scanned at an in-person conference.
  • We received the full contact list by being a platinum sponsor of that same conference.
  • People registered to attend last month’s webinar.
  • People downloaded our latest white paper.
  • We have legacy email addresses from when we used to purchase names from list brokers (gasp!).

These activities were all focused on lead generation. So our natural inclination is to take a cold lead, warm them up about what we offer, then move them along to the next step in the buyer’s journey.

At no point did the user ask to receive emails from us. Yes, the fine print on your landing page says that you have the right to send emails and yes, people understand that downloading a white paper will result in emails from the associated brand.

I contend that most people who attend your webinar or download your white paper are early in the sales cycle. They’re interested in the topic you chose, but are not in the market for the products and services you provide. They’re not ready to buy.

So what if we flipped the model?

Make them ask you to send them emails. Create the industry’s best email newsletter. One that genuinely serves an audience, rather than pitching your product. Use email to gain the trust of subscribers, so you’re the first choice they think of when they’re ready to buy.

Stop “blasting” your list. And make your email newsletter a thing.

Related Article: Drip Campaigns Are Wearing Me Down

Email Newsletter as a Thing

Here’s what it looks like when your B2B email newsletter is a thing:

Learning Opportunities

  • It has a name.
  • It has a well-publicized frequency (e.g., every week, every other week, once a month, etc.).
  • It has a landing page for new users to opt in — bonus points if you provide links to past issues on this page (to give potential subscribers a taste).
  • The “From” line has the same person in each issue (i.e., your newsletter has a “host” or “curator”).
  • Your team takes pride in saying “Subscribe to our newsletter.”

You see how this model creates a healthier email relationship? First, you can stop calling it your “email list” and start to identify these people — human beings, after all — as “subscribers.” You no longer send “email blasts,” you curate and send “issues.”

Subscribers know when the next issue comes out and hopefully, they look forward to receiving it. If your newsletter is doing a good job of serving your audience, you eventually earn the right (i.e., via the trust you gained) to occasionally mention your products and services. Yes, occasionally.

Related Article: B2B Brands: Steal These Personal Newsletter Lessons for Your Email Marketing

What Happens Next

You’re 6 or more months in with your new email newsletter. How can you tell if you’re doing things right? If unsubscribes bother you.

Back in the days of email nurture, you were too far removed from your audience. If you had 10,000 people in a nurture sequence and saw a 0.1% unsubscribe rate, you’d look at the percentage and feel comfortable with the result.

In other words, an unsubscribe rate of 0.1% isn’t as bad as 0.2% or 0.5%. But nowadays, you have an email newsletter with a genuine desire to serve an audience. You don’t look at 0.1%, you instead realize that this is 10 people. Ten people who previously asked to receive your emails and now decided they’d rather not.

Perhaps your newsletter wasn’t what they expected. There could be a completely valid reason why they don’t want to hear from you anymore. But still, it should bother you.

Try an optional prompt on your confirmation page that asks why people unsubscribed. Then, feed that input back into your newsletter creation process.

Make your email newsletter a thing — a thing that works.

About the author

Dennis Shiao

Dennis is founder of B2B marketing agency Attention Retention, where he works with clients on content marketing, product marketing and social media marketing. Formerly, Dennis led the content marketing function at DNN Software.