Businesses that are marketing to other businesses can have a difficult time coming up with the right content for their email newsletters. It’s a little harder to think of articles for email marketing when clients rely on you as a resource for professional advice and services, rather than a source of coupons and giveaways. Offering a discount on your services can be impractical for every email, and “10 Ways to Market Your...” articles only go so far.
Without great content, people won’t feel inclined to open an email, much less follow up on a B2B’s services. That can make sending out an engaging newsletter a challenge each time, particularly because people often react quite differently to an email advertising a free sandwich than they do an email advertising your expertise.
Quality newsletter content is something that Stephanie Royal, the marketing director for the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at the University of North Florida (UNF), has been determined to provide her clients. Without a lot of budget to spend and a lot of different interests to highlight, she had to get creative when connecting with subscribers and ended up discovering two key steps to keep people reading: segmenting her contact list and showcasing client businesses.
Making a List and Checking It Twice
The SBDC at UNF serves one of the larger regions in the state of Florida, covering 18 counties that range from rural areas to big cities like Jacksonville. Most businesses seeking the services of the organization have fewer than 100 employees and, according to Stephanie, “run the gamut of industries.” Last year alone, the SBDC at UNF consulted almost 1,900 businesses and conducted nearly 150 training events that attracted just under 3,000 attendees.
When it comes to marketing, Stephanie says she’s a “one-woman show.” Before turning to email marketing, the SBDC at UNF relied on word of mouth recommendations and community boards. When the organization did start marketing, there was a problem from the start: the SBDC’s diverse range of clients. The veteran business center wouldn’t necessarily want the same information as a county commissioner, and SBDC clients in Gainesville weren’t likely to be interested in events in Jacksonville.
Stephanie knew that she needed to segment subscribers into different groups, so they would only receive relevant information. Nowadays, the SBDC at UNF has 22 lists for more than 9,000 contacts. To refine the lists throughout the year, she uses Constant Contact’s Online Survey.
“We send out three or four surveys a year, because they’re really effective at pinpointing our different readers,” Stephanie explains.
The SBDC at UNF uses surveys to better segment its contact list.
Stephanie adds that her first newsletter through Constant Contact was a big hit. People enjoyed the professional appearance and that success eventually Stephanie to stop sending newsletters through snail mail completely. “More people started coming to events, too,” she reports. “I don’t think we would get nearly as many attendees if we relied on newspapers and fliers.”
The Content Conundrum
With the first hurdle of lists cleared, Stephanie started thinking about what to include in her emails. The first few only included information about different events, but, over time, more and more features were included. Inside each “Spotlight Newsletter,” for example, subscribers can find a calendar of workshops and training sessions, articles that discuss taxes, marketing, and business plans, and links to the SBDC at UNF’s social media channels.
The most noticeable feature, however, is the spotlight section itself, where, every month, a small business that benefited from the SBDC at UNF’s services is featured. These concise profiles help showcase the different marketing and business planning available through the organization, and put a face to the people who are directly benefiting from it.
In addition to the spotlight on small business, there's an in-depth article about an upcoming event.
Spotlight stories are inspirational and upbeat, which make them fun and interesting to read each month. While many other B2B emails may have marketing tips and news about workshops, the SBDC at UNF provides real stories about small businesses that are working hard to keep growing, a topic that’s dear to all of their subscribers’ hearts. The section adds a unique touch to each newsletter and, given that studies claim the average working professional receives 140 emails a day, that unique touch may be the difference between an open and an unsubscribe.
What other things does your B2B do to engage email subscribers? Let us know here or on our Facebook Page.
I'm interested in all things content marketing, especially how they relate to good writing. I'm an author at heart and I think that the internet and quality books and articles have a healthy future together.