Bredin Report: Engaging SMBs with Email Newsletters

Have you left your email newsletter strategy on autopilot? If so, you aren’t alone. With all the innovations in marketing technology, social media, content marketing and mobile, many marketing teams are focused on what’s changing, and have taken an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach to email marketing.

But perhaps your newsletter is worth a lot more attention than you’re giving it. Our latest survey of 312 principals of small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) shows that they strongly prefer email newsletters for keeping in touch with vendors like you – much more than social media. Email newsletters can play a surprisingly important role in building awareness of your offerings.

The topics SMBS want most: Technology and industry news

SMBs are most likely (46%) to go online to look for news about their own industry, and to learn about technology. They are next most likely (40%) to look advice on sales and marketing. After that, they are equally likely (34%) to seek out financial planning and management advice, and content on business operations. However, the topics that SMBs want from their vendors vary by category. For example, in an email newsletter from a SaaS provider, SMBs most want technology advice and trends. From their bank, they want information on financial management. They look to you for expertise first and foremost in your brand domain – such as tech, finance or marketing.

Email newsletters rate high

Email newsletters may not be flashy, but SMBs consistently rate them highly as a way to engage with their vendors. 33% rate email newsletters highly or very highly as a way to get business management tips and advice from vendors, tied for second place out of the 19 different content formats we surveyed.

SMBs most want an email newsletter from…

Their CPA and their cellphone service provider (tied at 39%). Software and hardware tech providers, office supply companies and local banks are tied for third – 34% of SMBs are interested in an email newsletter from vendors in those industries.

Combine advice and promotion

Many marketers assume that SMBs only want business management advice – and no product promotion – in an email newsletter. The reality is that they want a mix. In fact, the plurality (36%) of SMBs prefer an equal mix of business management advice and product information in an email newsletter. Only 7% of SMBs want email newsletters with business management advice only. SMBs want to know how your offerings can help them achieve their business goals – so don’t be afraid to promote them.

How SMBs read email newsletters

In this age of mobile devices, the big screen still dominates. Fully 66% of SMBs receive and read email newsletters on a desktop or laptop computer, compared to 15% on a smartphone and 11% on a tablet.

That said, email newsletter reading habits vary widely. 22% of SMBs read most of their email newsletters in full as they come in. 27% read some email newsletters in full when they come in, and the rest later. 36% of SMBs skim all email newsletters when they come in, half returning to read all, half only reading the interesting ones later. Be sure your headlines and sub-heads are as interesting and attention-grabbing as possible to turn skimmers into readers.

About Stu Richards

Stu is responsible for setting Bredin strategy, as well as day-to-day management of company operations including marketing and business development, partnerships and alliances, product development, finance, operations and HR. A frequent speaker on marketing to SMBs, Stu has more than a decade of technology sales and brand marketing experience at IBM and Nabisco Brands. Stu holds an MBA from the Amos Tuck School at Dartmouth College.