The 5-part anatomy of a successful email marketing newsletter

Simon Slade, CEO of SaleHoo, breaks down the anatomy of a successful B2B marketing newsletter

Email marketing newsletters are a major part of B2B marketing, but they are often done half-heartedly or not at all. To write a successful newsletter — i.e., one that will get you a hefty return on your investment — it’s important to know exactly what makes up a newsletter and how those parts work together.

Access to someone’s inbox is like access to the inner sanctum. Businesses (and business owners) don’t have time to deal with spam and they’re very selective about what gets to stay in their inboxes. To remain in someone’s good graces, your newsletters need to be friendly in tone, informative, and only occasional promotional. By carefully structuring each of these five vital parts of your newsletter, you are sure to stay relevant and make more sales.

Part 1: The all-important subject line

The subject line is the first impression in newsletter marketing, and we all know you only get one first impression. The three most important traits of a successful subject line are short, direct, and numbered. Keep your subject line in the sweet spot with a length between six and 10 words. This will look best in both web and mobile inboxes.

The key is taking this small space and using it well: be direct and clear about what benefits and information your newsletter includes. Don’t use anything spammy to get your reader’s attention or be dishonest about what is in your newsletter.

Numbered subject lines perform well, much like numbered titles for blog posts, because they promise to be easy to read. If you can find a way to throw a numbered list into your subject line, do it!

Part 2: The greeting

Since there is no 'tone of voice' in email newsletters, you have to select your words for greetings very carefully. These powerful words can make or break your newsletter because they directly affect how your reader perceives you. Are you being professional, friendly, empathetic? All of this can come through in just a word or two at the beginning of your newsletter.

To decide on the perfect greeting, it’s important to consider your audience. Often, in the B2B field, professionalism is going to be a must, but that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice character. “Hi” is often better than “Hello,” but “Hey” is probably a little too casual for most audiences. Professional doesn’t always mean formal, but for more up-scale markets, formal greetings will be in order. A timely greeting, like “Happy Friday!” or “Happy Summer!” can be both cheerful and appropriate. Always try to personalize the greeting with the recipient’s name when possible.

Part 3: Powerful content

At the heart of any successful marketing newsletter is solid, informative, valuable content. If your newsletter doesn’t contain this, no other part of it will make a difference. The blog reports that “content beat promotion by a 2.2x on open rate and a 6.0x on click rate.”

By offering your readers valuable content, you can establish yourself as friendly and helpful — the first step towards a trusting relationship with your reader. Avoid the hard-sell in your early communications. First you need to establish a mutual give-and-take with your readers.

Eventually, when you do make a tactical hard sell, it should feel more like a suggestion from a trusted buddy than a sales pitch.

The key to powerful content is good research. Stay apprised of industry news and trends to keep your newsletter relevant. Pay attention to niche forums to find out what people want to know about your industry in your newsletter.

It’s all about providing value. This isn’t something you can skip, so if you can’t create good content yourself, hire someone who can.

Part 4: Distribution

There is a perfect distribution schedule for your newsletters, but you need to find it first. Too often and you annoy your subscribers, too sparse and you seem inconsistent (or worse, they forget about you). You want your subscribers to anticipate the arrival of your newsletters. A safe range is one to two newsletters per week. Any less and you fall off your subscriber’s radar, any more and they might throw you into the spam box.

Part 5: Follow up

You can’t just be a robot churning out newsletters — that will quickly kill any trust you’ve built with your subscribers. If your subscribers respond and solicit more information from you, let those requests shape your future newsletters. Make your subscribers feel heard. Occasionally, it might be a good idea to directly request their opinion with a survey. Get information from them about how you can improve your newsletters.

Even if you execute each part of the newsletter with perfection — from the subject line all the way to the follow up — there will always be people who aren’t interested. Let them unsubscribe and be done with it. Though there might be a few who want out of your newsletter series, there will be many who are enthusiastic about it. Make sure each part of your email serves a clear purpose and is carefully crafted, and you’re sure to have some fans who will eventually become customers.