blue email icon on smartphone with notification of two messages
PHOTO: Brett Jordan on Unsplash.

Email has been a particularly useful marketing channel for businesses. But in recent times, niche email newsletters have grown in popularity.

According to The Content Marketing Institute, 81% of B2B marketers say their most used form of content marketing is an email newsletter.

Newsletters are a great way to engage with an audience, provided marketers understand how newsletters are different from other forms of email marketing. Here's some advice for companies looking to start their own. 

Email Newsletters vs. Email Marketing

Many people get confused when it comes to understanding the difference between email newsletters and email marketing. The primary difference lies in the purpose, said Gilad Rom, founder and CEO at Huan, a California-based maker of wireless-enabled smart pet tags. 

“Email newsletters are designed to inform the reader about industry or company-related news," Rom said. "Email marketing campaigns are designed to inform the reader about a product or service. The difference is that email newsletters are designed to educate; email marketing is designed to sell.”

Matthias Seidel, head of marketing for B2B software startup Munich, Germany-based Rencore, echoed that distinction. “A newsletter is a marketing format people actively subscribe to, to stay informed on a certain topic, product or brand,” he said.

Related Article: Why Are Marketing Email Open Rates Increasing?

Educate and Entertain Rather than Sell

Whereas an email marketing campaign tends to focus on transactional emails or promoting a company’s products or services, brands can see success with email newsletters when they focus on the educational mission, understanding and delivering on what topics customers care about. 

Wireless power company NuCurrent launched an industry newsletter, The Latest in Wireless Power, in May 2020 with that mission mind. The goal is to educate the audience about advancements in wireless power standards, technology trends and other industry news, said Amaya Adams, marketing manager at the Chicago-based company.

The goal with a company newsletter should be to build relationships with customers and the community they’re serving. Huan's email newsletter covers tips on pet care and general pet industry news but that social aspect of it is key.

“Our newsletter has been a great success with some of our subscribers forwarding our emails to other pet owners," Rom said. "We have seen an increase in customer engagement and growth in our email subscriber count as a result." 

How to Get Started with a Newsletter

Start with specifics. Audiences want to interact with content that is relevant to them and their specific needs. Signing up for a newsletter is a choice and companies can keep in the good graces of their audience by focusing on content that matters most to them. According to Seidel, finding a niche can yield tremendous benefits.

“We have both product-specific newsletters and are currently working on localized newsletters for our core markets," he said. "Compared to less segmented newsletters we used to have, we see a significant increase in both open rates and click rates resulting in a better overall conversion.”

If you’ve already started a newsletter and are looking for ways to improve open rates, segmentation may be the answer. Seidel said the most powerful tweak his company made to increase performance was segmenting. "You should not overdo [it], but segmenting by topics, language, location or industry are low effort and provide high gain,” he said. 

Even if your audience is small, narrowing down your niche can work. “For NuCurrent, the insight and analytics from The Latest in Wireless Power shows us that although our content may be niche-focused (as expected) it does perform well with our readership,” Adams said.  

But don't leave it there. Storytelling is a great way to improve the relationship between a brand and the customer. And if you don’t have enough stories of your own, ask the audience for help.

“We find that including user-generated content increases our email open rate and the number of shares each newsletter receives," Rom said. "User-generated content is effective because it directs the focus of our company onto our customers. Stories about our customers and their pets are always very popular.”  

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

Newsletters Aren’t Going Away Just Yet

Despite the feeling among some that email is on the way out, it’s still a powerful marketing medium. And email newsletters won’t be going away anytime soon, Seidel said.

“Unlike many tools out there, newsletters are something recipients actively request compared to ads for example, which are not exactly what I would call consensual," he said. "Email as a way of communicating is said to be on the brink of elimination, at least if you believe what collaboration experts are saying, but still seems to be very alive and kicking."

"I believe it is not going to go anywhere soon so why not use it as a channel in the meantime?”