Client Newsletters for B2B Firms is Content That's Dead on Arrival
Updated: Nov 10
Client newsletters are one of the most widely used, and often abused marketing tactic for B2B firms of any size. Here are three myths and realities to help your firm determine whether it’s a worthwhile tool, or how to improve your current newsletter.
MYTH #1: Your B2B Firm Needs a Client Newsletter
Marketers want you to believe that your firm needs a newsletter. But traditional newsletters – containing commentary ranging from client alerts on tax legislation, to "best of" awards, or who’s joined the firm – are not a marketing necessity. In fact, at many firms their client newsletter is a marketing albatross. Each issue involves a frustrating hunt for timely information of genuine interest. Some firms avoid this pain by slapping their logo on boilerplate content purchased from a 3rd party, but those firms can pay a bigger price, in terms of brand damage. It says to target audiences, “We value our relationship, but we don’t really care enough (or know enough) to showcase our own intellectual capital in a newsletter.”
REALITY #1: Your Firm Needs to Drive Top-of-Mind Awareness
The intrinsic purpose of tactics that communicate with clients, prospects and referral sources is to reinforce the perception that your firm is smart, trustworthy and prepared to help. Beyond keeping and growing existing clients, (and because less than 5% of your target market needs your firm's services at any time) the primary marketing goal is to drive top-of-mind awareness with target audiences. That way, when a prospect is seeking assistance, there’s a greater likelihood your at least will be put on the “short list” of candidates. If that’s the goal, then consistency and quality of the communication are critical; neither of which necessarily require a newsletter format to accomplish.
MYTH #2: People Want to Learn About Your Firm’s Success
It’s nice to think that clients and prospects really care about your firm’s growth and accomplishments. The sad truth is that your firm's success is more important to your competitors, and to current and prospective employees, than it is to your clients. Blowing your own horn can also backfire. When your firm touts that a senior partner has just published a book and was a guest on CNBC, your target audiences may wonder why that partner isn’t focused on client matters, or whether the cost of his publicity tour will result in higher hourly rates.
REALITY #2: Your Clients, Prospects and Referral Sources Care about Themselves
Understanding that all people are self-interested can make you a better marketer. Rather than creating newsletter content that’s based on what you know, on what you’ve done or on what you can do, focus instead on the ideas, talents and accomplishments of your target audiences, regardless of whether your firm played any role in their success. This is a very tough concept for many B2B firms to understand and embrace: that the most powerful form of thought leadership does not involve pushing out your own ideas. Instead, it involves deciding what ideas merit the attention of your target audiences, as well as what voices are worth listening to. True thought leaders seek to manage the conversation, not to control it.
MYTH #3: A Newsletter is a Cost-Effective Marketing Tactic
The old saw, “Cheap is dear” rings true when it comes to newsletters. If it’s created in-house, few firms actually track the hours required to research, write, edit, approve and publish their newsletter. If it consists of cut & paste content, few firms consider the inherent opportunity loss in producing a newsletter that very few people will read or respect. Regardless of its content, only a small number of professional service firms proactively work to expand their newsletter’s reach, to maintain an adequate CRM capability, or to proactively leverage readership analytics from open and click-thru rates, if their newsletter is delivered online. Even fewer firms ever survey their target audiences to ask if they find the newsletter of value.
REALITY #3: Your Marketing Requires More than a One-Way Conversation
Newsletters often are one-way conversations. A fundamental marketing objective is to engage clients and prospects in a conversation regarding their specific needs and opportunities. Despite all the buzz regarding social media, that channel also falls short in terms of engagement, as most blog posts go unread. If your firm’s traditional and social media marketing tactics do not serve as catalysts to drive face-to-face discussions and word-of-mouth referrals, then their “cost-effectiveness” can never be measured on any meaningful basis.
Here's the acid test to determine if your client newsletter has any marketing value: stop publishing it...and see how long it takes for anyone outside of the firm to ask why they haven't received your firm's latest issue. Chances are that no one will.
If your B2B firm is seeking to showcase its intellectual capital, and drive market engagement, the traditional "all about us" newsletter has a low marketing ROI, and is not the most effective way to accomplish those goals.