By Stacey Piper
Celebrating Mother’s Day this month, my daughter and I looked through old pictures of my mother, remarking on how she always made everyday life appear so glamorous. It’s hard to remember a day when she hung around in sweatpants; in fact, I’m not sure she even owned a pair. She held onto closets of clothes and shoes in the belief that yesterday’s style would be tomorrow’s trends, and she was right. According to Vogue, the flared pants, bohemian (“boho”) dresses, and platform boots of the 1970s are making a comeback now thanks to shows like Prime Video’s Daisy Jones and the Six.
Everything that’s old becomes new again, and eNewsletters are making a reappearance, too. In this age of social media, it’s tempting for marketers to focus solely on their online presence. But when you’re posting on social media, you’re competing with other companies for attention and with algorithms that can limit your reach.
On the other hand, when someone subscribes to your email list, you have a direct line of communication with your audience—and complete control over who sees your messages. This makes email newsletters an incredibly powerful tool for nurturing leads and strengthening relationships. So dig them out of your marketing closet, put on your dancing shoes, and get ready to go retro.
You’re the One That I Want…to Read
According to the B2B Content Marketing 2020 report, the top three types of content used by B2B marketers are social media (95%), blog posts/short articles (89%), and email newsletters (81%), with email newsletters reportedly the top content type for nurturing leads. And the odds are in your favor when marketing to government, which has the highest email open rate across all industries of 46 percent in 2023.
As of Q3 2022, LinkedIn reported that 28 million members subscribe to at least one newsletter on LinkedIn. In Q4, LinkedIn enabled an in-platform electronic newsletter capability that makes it easy to design an easy-to-read, mobile friendly layout. You don’t need to be a Premium subscriber to use the LinkedIn capability, but you do need to have a company page with at least 150 followers and a track record of posting original articles, videos, and other shared material.
Unlike blogs or other types of LinkedIn content, newsletters are sent directly to your followers’ inboxes—they don’t just appear in your company feed. Your readers have already opted in by indicating an interest in what you’ve posted on LinkedIn. The newsletter feature also provides a higher character limit of 125K versus 3K for a typical article or post. Another advantage of using LinkedIn for your newsletter is deliverability. You have the advantage of meeting your clients where they are, rather than trying to overcome firewall issues typical in emailing to .mil and .gov customers and prospects.
The Way We Were: Back to Storytelling
Nonetheless, the email newsletters of yesteryear will need to be savvier to stand out among all the other communications competing for attention. Quality content is still king, and a powerful narrative—complete with an engaging subject line, relevant graphics, and persuasive calls to action—is essential to capture your readers’ attention and appeal directly to their interests. Storytelling is a natural way to build a strong emotional connection with your clients, no matter where they are in the marketing funnel, so focus on people and company culture to bring your brand to life, even sharing employee spotlights, corporate news and awards, and hot jobs.
Just the Way You Are: Showcase Your Brand
Since you’re writing for a range of clients, rather than targeting content specific to a single audience, focus on the Middle of the Funnel (MOFL) stage to develop a knowledge of your brand with prospective clients while maintaining a presence with clients who already know you. The newsletter format means you can offer a variety of content—think email newspaper—so there’s something for everyone.
Email newsletters are a great way to illustrate your thought leadership and industry expertise. One of my most successful early e-newsletters was a bi-monthly enewsletter for USAID, in which we demonstrated the depth and breadth of international development experience with stories in all areas, including project highlights. By sharing relevant news and insights, you can position your company as a trusted advisor and build credibility among your audience. Plus, by including calls to action and promotional offers, you can drive traffic to your website or generate leads for your sales team.
As with all marketing content these days, don’t forget to feature curated content. This can include “newsjacking”—capitalizing on a trend or breaking news item to help ride the wave and lessen the content lift on your own team. In fact, you could become viewed as a source for relevant industry news if you do this well and are not seen as too salesy, always pushing your wares (don’t leave them singing You’re So Vain).
Let My [Email] Open the Door: Vary Your Content Types
Since an email newsletter needs to apply to a broad audience, consider applying the 5-3-2 rule to include a mix of curated, created, and “connected” material. This will improve the odds that at least one item resonates with the needs of each reader.
- Product- or service-related updates: news about upcoming launches, new features or releases, success stories, promotions or discounts
- Industry information and insights: news and updates: relevant events, current trends and topics, helpful tips and advice, expert interviews, reviews and ratings
- Content that forms connections and humanizes your brand: employee spotlights, community relations, company values in action
- Interactive content: polls and surveys, videos, contests or games
Subject lines are just as essential as the content of the newsletter. Think of them as headlines, and follow these guidelines:
- Keep them short and concise, with the most essential information near the beginning, since most email clients truncate longer ones.
- Avoid “spammy” language and excessive punctuation, such as all-caps, exclamation marks, and words like “free” and “new,” which will reduce open rates.
Knock Three Times (at least): Distribute
The beauty of newsletter publishing is that it doesn’t have to be Throwback Thursday to make the most of your messaging. You can distribute your email newsletter on a consistent basis (weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc.) or run special alerts to be timely and newsworthy. Focus on a mix of informational and reference-worthy, such as industry news, event news, case studies, company awards, and educational resources.
Think of your email newsletter as a catalyst for engagement in other ways. For example, a call-to-action (CTA) can lead to a gated white paper or webinar. While dedicated emails with a single CTA typically have higher conversion rates, your newsletter is a more traditional way to get the word out, a low-cost dissemination channel.
Higher and Higher: Analyze & Optimize
Track your opens, clicks, bounces, and unsubscribes, as well as pass-alongs—customers forwarding your fabulous eNewsletter content to colleagues—and note the most effective day of the week and time of day for optimal engagement. Add social sharing buttons to your separate enewsletter articles so recipients can re-share your content. And be sure to audit which content types are getting the most clicks and shares so you can evolve your content mix to include more of the types of articles that have higher engagement and retire the ones that get little traction.
Evergreen: One Size Fits Many
While most email marketing strategies focus on segmentation, email newsletters are one of the best mediums for a small company with limited resources. Larger companies are likely to support the content and staff to develop separate newsletters for audience segments, including their candidate pipelines. But it’s okay to repurpose blog content and make the most of what you have at your fingertips, giving new life to longer-form content in newsletter form.
Take a Chance on…eNewsletters
So how can you incorporate email newsletters into your marketing toolkit? First, make it easy for people to subscribe to your list by including sign-up forms on your website, social media profiles, and in relevant content (like blog posts). Then, create a content strategy that aligns with your business goals and audience interests.
Email newsletters are making a comeback for a reason—they offer a direct, low-cost, and measurable way to communicate with your audience. By incorporating email into your marketing toolkit, you can nurture leads, build relationships, and demonstrate your thought leadership…all without the dance moves and big hair.
Learn more about email marketing in Government Marketing Best Practices 2.0: What You Need to Know for Accelerated Success, one of GovBrew’s top govcon books.