Email Marketing

Understanding the Value of Your B2B Newsletter


Online NewsletterUnderstanding the value of your B2B newsletter can be tricky for many marketers.  Newsletters are typically very time consuming to create and calculating the return can be difficult.   While many email marketers just look at open and clickthrough rates, it’s important to know if a newsletter influenced a purchase or nurtured a prospect who buys.  Here are some metrics to help understand the value of a  newsletters to your organization. 

The basics:

Basic metrics for newsletters typically show how many people received the newsletter, how many of those people opened it, and how many people clicked through to read more about a specific topic.  This information is typically easy to obtain from your marketing automation tool and can be compared between newsletters to understand the success.  Additional basic stats include how many people unsubscribed and why those sent the email may not have had it delivered to them (hard and soft bounces). 

The importance of this data is not only the actual results, but how the results changed for different newsletters.  You’ll want to look for changes in any of the data that may show a success or indicate a bad practice.  You’ll also want to compare this data so you see growth in your newsletter subscribers.   Comparing the data from your other email campaigns will provide much more value than trying to achieve results similar to other published statistics because often it is difficult to understand how or when others calculated their information. 

Often marketers will point out that some statistics aren’t truly accurate as offline readers, text messages, firewalls that strip html images, reading panes, etc. will cause you to not get true open data.  But, since this data is consistently skewed you shouldn’t worry about it if comparing against your other newsletters. 

Beyond basics:

Beyond the basic clickthrough you will want to look at the clickthrough for each link in your newsletter.  This will help you understand what information was the most relevant.  Also, you will want to see if the clickthrough led to additional actions, like downloading a whitepaper or other thought leadership on your website.  You may also want to look at the number of people that clicked at articles in the newsletter versus other calls to action like watching a demo or calling a sales rep.. 

Reach is another metric you may want to review.  When calculating reach you will not only look at how many people open a particular newsletter, but how many of your subscribers opened a newsletter over a period of time.  This is often interesting as every subscriber will not open every newsletter, and reach will show you how many different people open a newsletter during a specified period of time. 

Your subscriber data can also be reviewed deeper than just actual list growth.  Instead of looking at the number sent, look at how many people subscribed and unsubscribed during each period.  While you may have 100 new subscribers for every newsletter, you may have gained 500 and lost 400 this period, but gained 99 and lost one the period before.   If you are gaining and losing many people every time you send out a newsletter it may be because the content isn't what readers expect or that it doesn't convey useful information.  Testing can help you figure out causes and improve newsletters when you have ups and downs in your subscribers (discussed later in this post). 

Another way you may want to look at the success of your program is by looking at the average lead score of a reader.  The higher the score the more relevant the newsletter may have been to your target demographic.   By looking at all your basic data of those in your demographic you will have a better understanding of the success of each newsletter and its content. 

You also also look at soft data, like the number of people that email with questions or comments about your newsletter or press/analysts that write about your newsletter articles to help gauge success.  While these are hard to put numbers to, I suggest marketers keep track of these inquiries and look for trends or implement suggestions.  Also, B2B marketers will want to look at referrals received from newsletters or how many are forwarded to friends. 


To improve your newsletter you will also want to test the length, content and frequency of your newsletter. The most simple and impactful piece of your newsletter to test is often the subject line.  Do a simple email test to your subscribers to see what kind of subject line works best.  In the next newsletter you may want to test the length of the email, by having less content in one version and more in another.  Marketo can do this testing for you, but you can do these types of tests manually if you are not using a marketing automation system.  

When you are testing frequency you will want to see if the number of unsubscribes increases or decreases if you adjust how often you send your newsletter.  You can also see if clickthroughs or opens change when making these changes in distribution time. 

Content can either be tested by sending out two different versions of a newsletter, or by simply looking at which types of articles typically receive the most clickthroughs. 

Multivariate testing is rarely useful to B2B marketers for newsletter testing as B2B marketers often aren’t sending the newsletter to enough people to get meaningful data back from their systems when testing multiple pieces of data.  Instead, choose something different to test every time you send out a new newsletter, and use what you learn from these tests in future newsletters.

Understanding the return:

For B2C marketers calculating the return on a newsletter may as simple as calculating the number of subscribers that clickthrough on an email and then purchase a product.   For B2B marketers it is more complicated since the newsletter may just be one contributing factor influencing the sale and may be done months before the actual purchase is made. 

To get true understanding of newsletter ROI, Peter Meyers of ICOM told MarketingProfs readers to compare the revenue created by subscribers to those that are not subscribers.  You would then look at the increase (or decrease) in revenue and subtract the cost of producing the newsletter to get the ROI.  The remaining revenue is the return received for the newsletter over the period calculated.   

Mark Brownlow suggests another way that takes into account that those who are subscribed are also more likely to buy.  He suggests calculating the net profit generated from customers who purchased during similar times after separating ones who were subscribed to your newsletter from those who were not subscribed.  Again, you will need to subtract the cost of producing the revenue from the group of subscribers to come up with actual ROI.

What's important to keep in mind is that newsletters take a lot of time to create so it's worth the effort to follow good email marketing best practices, capture the newsletter campaign results, optimize to increase their success, and analyze their impact on revenue.