7 Tweaks to Transform Your Email Newsletter to a ‘Must Read’ That Converts Subscribers to Buyers and Advocates

Despite what the naysayers say, email is definitely not dead.

In 2019, Litmus reported that the average ROI of every dollar spent on email is $42.

But, email is not a juke box that plays the $42 money song for every dollar you feed it. You need to first attract subscribers and then build a relationship with them.

Easy peasy, everyone knows this, right?

That’s what I wanted to find out when I signed up for the email newsletters of 100 B2B SaaS companies in 23 different sectors and with a G2 rating of more than 4.0.

In true Method Copywriter fashion, I went undercover, and then I waited to see what would come in through the doors of my inbox.

I got see everything: the good, the bad and the downright ugly.

I saw what’s working, what’s not working and the opportunities for improvement.

 And today, you also get to peek behind the curtain.

You get to see that many email best practices are actually not being practiced.

You get to swipe the strategies of the newsletter stars and gasp at the epic fails while avoiding them.

In this article, you’ll see my findings plus the insights that I got from the results that can help you transform your newsletter stat.

About the 2020 State of Email Newsletters Study

This report analyzed email newsletters from 100 B2B SaaS companies with a G2 rating of more than 4.0 between the months of April and May 2020. These companies were from 23 industries.

Industry Breakdown
Industry Breakdown

Key Findings Plus Tweaks to Transform Your Email Newsletter

  1. 29% of the opt-in boxes were on the footer, 26% on the sidebar, 14% on the header, 10% at the end of the blog, 9% inline, 7% on the hello bar, and 5% on popups. 

Tweak: Have a prominent, easy to find opt-in box with a clear promise.

2. 74% of the B2B newsletters did not have a welcome email.

Tweak: Have a welcome email that starts the relationship between your subscribers and your brand. Set expectations, restate the benefits of joining your newsletter, explain the next steps and show them your best content or product features.

3. 89% of the B2B email newsletters did not personalize their emails.

Tweak: Personalize your emails. Refer to subscribers by their first names.

4. Only 10% of the B2B companies segmented their lists

Tweak: Segment your list according to your subscribers’ industry, interests, or role at work.

5. 54% of B2B companies used their brand names as their ‘From name’ while 27% used personal names plus brand names and 19% used personal names only.

Tweak: Have a clearly identifiable ‘from name’ that is context specific and builds a relationship.

6. 26% of B2B companies did not email me at all. The highest number of emails sent by one company was 35 and the average number of emails sent was 3.59.

Tweak: Email your subscribers! Do it as often as they allow you to.

7. 47% of B2B companies did NOT sign their emails, 35% used individual signatures and 18% signed their e-mails as a team.

Tweak: Sign off your emails either as an individual or as a team.

We’ll look at each of these findings and tweaks in depth.

1. The Email Newsletter Opt-in Box

The truth is, nothing else in this report matters if:

  1. Potential subscribers cannot find your opt-in box
  2. The opt-in box does not convert them

The success of your email marketing efforts depends on the location and prominence of this little box and the promise that it offers.

Let’s dig deep into each of these factors.

Prominence of the opt-in box

The most frustrating problem I encountered when creating this report was finding the opt-in box.

I had to hunt for it. Could it be buried in the footer? Or is it at the end of the first page of the blog which has like 40 posts? Oh, it might be at the end of a blog post, have you checked there? Or maybe they don’t have a newsletter.

If it’s so hard for someone who wants to sign up to find your opt-in box, then what about someone who just casually lands on your website and is just looking around? What are their chances of signing up? Your guess is as good as mine. Zilch, zero, nada.

Before we discuss opt-in box location best practices, let’s look at how B2B companies fared.

29% of the opt-in boxes were on the footer, 26% on the sidebar, 14% on the header, 10% at the end of the blog, 9% inline, 7% on the hello bar and 5% on popups. 

Email newsletter Opt-in location
Opt-in location

Some opt-in boxes are easier to find than others. Headers are easy to find, you can’t miss this opt-in box from Privy:

Opt-in in the header
Opt-in in the header

Don’t bury the opt-in box. No one will go hunting for it in the deep corners of your website. Andy Crestodina suggests the following best practices for ensuring that your opt-in box is prominent enough.

  • Color contrast: Using different colors and backgrounds helps your opt-in box stand out. Ensure that the subscribe button has a color that pops and stands out.

Compare these two opt-in boxes

Opt-in box 1
Opt-in box 1
Opt-in box 2
Opt-in box 2

It’s easy to miss the first opt-in box because its font and background are very similar. As for the second one the opt-in box has a different background color form the main page and the submit button has a brighter color. As you can see from this example, the colors don’t have to be garish or gaudy, they just need to stand out as compared to rest of the page.

Multiple locations: To increase the chances of visibility and signing up, you can put your sign up form in multiple locations. For Privy, the form is on their blog homepage and in the middle of their blog posts.

Sticky forms: These opt-in forms always remain visible to the user regardless of where they scroll on the page. You can use a sticky footer or a sticky header.

Sticky sign-up footer
Sticky sign-up footer

Pop-ups: These can be annoying if they prevent the user from getting a great experience on your site. Make pop-ups less annoying by using exit intent pop-ups (they come up only when users hover over the exit button) or setting the pop-up to come up only when the user has scrolled to the end of the page.

The promise of the opt-in box

Have you ever had a quiet moment and thought “hmmm, I really need to increase my sales at work, I think I should subscribe to a newsletter so that I can get updates, tips, and tricks?”

Me neither.

And yet, after looking at hundreds of B2B opt-in boxes this is what was promised:

Insights, tips, resources insights, updates, trends, did I say insights? I’ll say it one more time i-n-s-i-g-h-t-s.

The problem? These promises are super vague and after a while, your prospects have seen them thousands of times and are probably immune to them.

Yes I understand that most B2B companies cannot give the super enticing optin freebies like:

How to lose weight fast: no crazy- restrictive diets, no pills, no exercise.

But it doesn’t mean that you can’t offer a clear and direct promise that:

  • Solves one problem (common problem that your reader faces)
  • For one reader
  • And offers a specific benefit (that is delivered by your product)

A good example is ChurnZero, a B2B SaaS company that helps its customers fight customer churn. Here is its opt-in pop-up:

Churn Zero Pop-up
Churn Zero Pop-up

If was worried about my customer churn rate then I would subscribe to this list because I know that I will specific info about customer success, retention strategies and churn management. This is a solid start.

To make this stronger, I would do away with the ‘tips, news and insights’ and make it more ‘you’ centric by saying:

Sign up for our Weekly ‘Fight Churn’ Newsletter

Learn how to improve customer success, retain your customers and reduce churn.

See that’s better than a vague promise of insights, tips, and tricks and joining 50,000 other marketers.

Don’t get me wrong, social proof is a powerful persuasion strategy but it cannot be the only method that everyone uses.

2. Welcome email

The welcome email is the first email that you send to your subscribers as soon as they click subscribe.

Welcome emails are the real life equivalent of telling your guests:

“Hi! I’m so glad you came!”

“Let me give you a tour of the house”

“Here is the snacks table”

Welcome emails are more than just a polite courtesy to your new subscribers. They have:

Pretty useful, right? Let’s see if the B2B companies whose newsletters I signed up for know the benefits of sending welcome emails.

I found that 26% of the B2B companies that I surveyed sent me a welcome email, 74% did not.

Welcome Emails
Welcome Emails

Gosh! That’s 76 B2B companies that invited subscribers into their homes and did not even bother to welcome them and show them around.

More than just having high open rates and click through rates, welcome emails can help you:

  • Build a relationship with your subscribers by introducing them to your brand.
  • Train your subscribers to open your emails.
  • Delivering on your promise (Lead magnets, free reports, checklists, etc.)
  • Set expectations (what subscribers should expect to get from you and how often)
  • Restate the benefits of joining your email list
  • Explain the next steps or actions that you need them to take (whitelist you, try the most useful product features)
  • Show them your best content or product features.

Here is Privy’s welcome email that checks all the right boxes.

Privy welcome email
Privy welcome email

Plus notice the personality in that email? Lauren sounds like a real person*gasp* talking to their friend.

This goes to show that you don’t have to sound like a corporate automaton in your B2B copy. You can be real and still make impact.

How to storyboard your welcome email

A storyboard helps you visualize your welcome sequence. It helps you define the jobs that you want your welcome sequence to do so that you don’t miss anything.

Here are the steps to help you create your storyboard:

  • Define the goals that you want your email to achieve
  • Audit your content to find the most useful content that would suitable for new subscribers
  • Define the next action that you want your subscribers to take (whitelisting your email, replying to your email)

Here is a sample story board:

Day #Email typeSubject line
1 (immediately after subscribing)Welcome + Self segmenterWelcome to {company name}! You’re in!  
2Best of no-1{Relevant, curiosity driving blog post/webinar title}
3Best of no -2{ Relevant, curiosity driving blog post/webinar title}
Welcome emails storyboard

Welcome email example template

Here’s a welcome sequence that you can totally swipe. It’s based on the following assumptions:

  1. The subscribers come from your website/blog.
  2. You offered a newsletter, not a lead magnet on sign-up.
  3. You will swap out the ‘best of’ with the most relevant piece of content (bonus points for using results from the segmentation to tailor content).

Day #1 (Immediately after subscribing)

Subject: Welcome to {Company name/newsletter name}

Hey {Firstname}!

You’re officially part of the {Company name} family and we’re so stoked to have you!

As an insider, you will have first dibs on {restate benefits of joining newsletter}.

Oh, I’m {name of company representative} and also the chair of your welcome committee.

We’ll send you {type of content} every {frequency}.

Before I start sending you awesome content, please let me know what you are interested in so that I can only send you relevant content. {Link to self-segmenter form}

Please hit reply and let me know about {industry specific challenge in their business}. I reply to every email.

{Your Signature}

P.S Look out for my email on value propositions tomorrow {Interchange with relevant content}

Day #2

Subject: Swipe my value proposition templates

Hey {Firstname}!

Yesterday you signed up for our newsletter (yay!) and I promised you a resource to help you write attention-getting and conversion-making value propositions.

I’m delivering on that promise.

Think of your website as a physical store in a square with thousands of people walking around.

And your ideal customer is also in the crowd……what would make them walk in?

A sign. Not just any sign but a sign that clearly says:

  • What your business does.
  • Who your business serves.
  • The main benefits that your ideal customer gets.
  • What differentiates your business from your competitors.

Here’s how to write that sign.

{Your Signature}

Create a welcome sequence for all your new subscribers using the templates and examples above and segment them if possible.

3. Personalization

Email personalization is the process of creating an email or a campaign that is tailored for each subscriber. Emails can be personalized using data points such as first names, age, gender, location, purchase history, industry and role at work.

Why is personalization important? Research shows that personalized e-mails have higher open and click-through rates. Additionally, personalization has a direct impact on revenue with Rich Relevance reporting personalized emails generate 5.7 times more revenue that impersonal ones.

A simple Google search will show you that personalization has moved beyond first names and is now on more complicated factors such as browsing history, geographical location or purchase history.

In short, everyone knows to and should at least personalize their emails by first name. But do they? Let’s find out.

I found that only 11% of B2B companies addressed me by my first name, 89% did not.

Personalization by first name
Personalization by first name

It appears that I am just another e-mail address on file. Nothing more.

When sending emails to your subscribers be sure to do the following:

  1. Address them by their first names
  2. Use their first names in the subject line of your emails.

Here is a great example from Aweber:

Because, most companies did not ask for my first name there were a lot of impersonal salutations such as Hi Friend, Hi there, Friends, Hi everyone  and no salutation at all such as this:

Aweber personalization
Aweber personalization
No personalization
No personalization

However, the worst offender was this webinar invite that addressed me ‘Hello webinar attendee.’


Awkward personalization
Awkward personalization

Don’t be the person who uses awkward phrases to address their subscribers or doesn’t address them at all. Ask for their first names in your subscription forms and use those names to personalize the email.

4. Segmentation

Email segmentation is the process of breaking down or segmenting your e-mail subscribers into different groups. Subscribers can be grouped according to their:

  • Demographic information (age, gender, geographic location, role at work, industry, company size)
  • Interests
  • Position in the sales funnel (Top, middle, bottom)
  • Past purchases

The aim of segmentation is to deliver content that is suitable and relevant to the specific needs of the subscriber group. For instance, most B2B SaaS companies cater to different industries, and segmenting email subscribers enables B2B marketers to deliver relevant industry specific content.

Customer research has found that segmented email campaigns “get 14.37% more opens and 64.78% more clicks” than those that are not segmented.

Segmentation works very well because it is in line with real relationship building principle: talk to people about their interests. If you look at your relationships outside of family, you’ll see that most of them are built because of shared interests be it work, sports, parenting, hobbies, or religion.

As a B2B marketer, you can segment your list using the following tactics:

  • Quizzes
  • Sign-up forms
  • E-mail surveys

I found that only 10% of the B2B companies surveyed segmented their lists by interest or demographic factors.

Subscriber segmentation
Subscriber segmentation

This means that all the subscribers get the same content regardless of their industry, role at work, location, or interests. The spray and pray approach does not work in the highly competitive SaaS environment.  In fact, 64% of people unsubscribe from newsletters because of irrelevant content.  This gap is a huge opportunity for B2B marketers to build stronger relationships with their subscribers by getting more information from them and delivering the content that is aligned with those interests.

For example, Aweber uses an email survey to segment their customers according to their interests (pain point) and then delivers specific content. When a subscriber clicks on any of the links say, ‘grow my email list’, they get tagged and added to an automated series. As a bonus, they add an incentive of a free guide to entice subscribers to share their interests and thus segment themselves.

Aweber segmentation email
Aweber segmentation email

Surveys are another method that you can use to segment your list according to their role at work, the industry they are in their location and the number of employees that they have. While adding an external survey can increase friction, it’s worth giving it a shot.

Intercom does this by explaining to their subscribers the benefit of filling out the survey which is getting only relevant e-mails. Additionally, Intercom asks their subscribers to fill in the survey in their welcome email which is a good idea.

If I were working on this campaign, I would look for an interactive tool that would enable subscribers to fill out the form within the email.

Intercom segmentation email
Intercom segmentation email

Another way to segment your list is to ask them to fill out a form so that they can provide details that help segment them. Here is an email from Sales-I asking me to fill out a form.

Sales-1 segmentation email
Sales-1 segmentation email

I like this e-mail because it calls me out by name and uses social proof (Your peers are learning and accelerating their sales performance) and then it explains the benefits of filling out the form (information on selling success for my role and industry).

This email leads to the following form:

Segmentation form
Segmentation form

5. From Names

This is how the average inbox looks like:

Inbox screenshot
Inbox screenshot

Notice how prominent the ‘From names’ or sender ID/names are? This means that they a play a significant role in determining if your email gets opened or not. Yet, many B2B marketers focus on subject lines and preview texts at the expense of ‘From names.’

If you are like me, this is sometimes is the biggest determining factor. If I know the sender of the email and I find their content valuable, I will open their email. If I don’t know them, I often wonder if this is an email that has miraculously escaped the spam folder or if someone sold my email. I typically don’t open it.

From the image, there are three types of ‘From Names’

  1. Brand names (like Mailer Lite)
  2. Personal names (Amy Fischer)
  3. Personal names from brand names (Aarron from DesignB)

From my research this how the B2B companies I subscribed to addressed themselves.

From names
From names

54% of B2B companies used their brand names as their ‘From name’ while 27% used personal names plus brand names and 19% used personal names only.

Let’s examine each of them.

Brand name

This type of ‘from name’ is very common because it creates trust and consistency. Brand ‘From names’ are also ideal for sending transactional emails such as password resets, receipts, payment confirmations and account verification among others.

It is also useful to use descriptors for the different transactional activities to increase open rates. For example in the picture above, Zoom uses a ‘Blog’ descriptor to show that the email is for the blog updates that I subscribed to. Additionally, if it was a response to a support ticket I had sent, the ‘From name’ could read as ‘Zoom Customer Support’ and ‘Zoom Billing Services’ for a payment receipt.

Personal names + brand name

These types of emails have the name of a team member plus the brand name. The rationale behind this ‘from name’ structure is that it humanizes a brand. It shows that the subscriber is communicating with an actual person which makes relationship forming easier.

In real life situations, people often introduce themselves and then give context. If it is in a professional networking setting, one might introduce themselves as ‘Patrick from Google.’ In a social setting people introduce themselves with reference to the host by saying: ‘Hi, I’m Erica, the groom’s sister’ or ‘Hi, I’m Wallace, I live next door.’

It is important to introduce the company member who will be the face of communication with your subscribers. Privy does a great job of this in their introduction email:

Privy email
Privy email

Using team member’s names is perfect for onboarding emails because they act as guides and a personal point of contact for subscribers.

When use team members names, it is good practice to have real ‘from addresses’ that match the sender’s name that subscribers can respond to.

Finally, these ‘From names’ should not be used for transactional emails. Their effectiveness is based on the assumption that their content is useful, conversational, friendly and personalized.

Personal names

When brands send emails with the names of their team members only without descriptors, it is likely to lead to low open rates.

A subscriber is likey to wonder who ‘Amy Fischer’ or ‘Tom Higgins’ is if no context is provided and delete the email without opening it.

My advice: avoid personal ‘From names’ without descriptors unless you’re a personal brand.

6. Frequency

How often should you email your list? That’s the big question. On one hand, the number one reason why people unsubscribe from lists is too many emails. On the other hand, if you don’t email your list often enough they will forget about you and possibly mark you as spam or simply become unengaged, both options are not good for your sender reputation.

Before, we get into email send frequency best practices, let’s look at how often the B2B companies I subscribed to emailed me over a one month period.

I found that 26% of B2B companies did not email me at all. The highest number of emails sent by one company was 35 and the average number of emails sent was 3.59.

Number of emailsNumber of companies sending them
Send frequency

So how often should you email your list? The answer to the question is the most common and most annoying answer in marketing (it depends). It depends on your niche, the needs of your audience, the length of your sales cycle and the objective of your email marketing.

Here are a few ways to help you determine how often you should email your subscribers:

  1. Send them a survey asking them how often they want to hear from you. Here is a great example from BigCommerce:
Send frequency questionnaire
Send frequency questionnaire

Actually asking your subscribers how often they want to hear from you removes all the guesswork and helps you serve your subscribers better. As a bonus you can use the findings of such a survey to segment your subscribers and have emails go out to subscribers according to their preferences.

  1. Have them choose how often they want to hear from you when signing up

You can also gather data on how frequently a subscriber wants to hear from you when they are signing up for your list and segment them immediately.

Here is an example of how Air Squirrels does this. Even though they segment according to content, it can be pretty easy to swap out the content types for email frequency:

Sender segmentation
Sender segmentation

The secret to avoid unsubscribes and being marked as spam is setting expectations and delivering on them consistently. The best place to set expectations is in your welcome email (you have one of those right?) and then deliver valuable content to your subscribers.

If you are planning to increase the number of emails you are sending out to your subscribers, ramp up the emails slowly. Test email frequency until you find a cadence that is right for your list.

7. Signatures

Remember when we used to get actual letters? Oh, the good old days of snail mail. The best part was the signature, every person who was close to me has their special way of signing off their letters.

Loving dad


Your dear aunt

Signatures are important part of personalized human communication even in B2B communications. Just like you sign e-mails to your friends, coworkers and family members so should you sign your emails to your subscribers.

Signatures, especially individual ones, make your subscribers feel like they are communicating with a real person which makes them more likely to engage with your emails and reply to them.

Just to be clear, footers and other GDPR mandated information are not email signatures.

So how did the surveyed B2B sign their emails?

47% of B2B companies did NOT sign their emails, 35% used individual signatures and 18% signed their e-mails as a team.

Email signatures
Email signatures

All emails should be signed, don’t just leave your subscribers hanging, you can sign your emails as an individual or as a team. Make sure that your email signature does the following:

  • Contains only the necessary information, don’t overcrowd it.
  • Is professional and friendly so that your subscribers can feel comfortable enough to reply and give feedback.

Individual email signatures

These are emails that are signed by specific team members. These signatures feel personal and they go well with team member ‘from names’ to create a completely personalized feel.

You can use a personal signature:

Personal email signature
Personal email signature

Or use the team member’s picture, preferably one with an open and friendly smile.

Team member email signature
Team member email signature

A text only signature works too.

Text only email signature
Text only email signature

Team signatures

If you are not yet comfortable displaying team member names and photos, you can sign your emails as a team.

Team signature
Team signature

If you don’t yet have an email signature, be sure to add. If you have one, keep up the good work!

Next Steps To Transform Your Email Newsletter

An email newsletter is a very efficient way of connecting with your target audience, building a relationship with them, and selling your products. If done right.

Here is a recap of the 7 tweaks:

  1. Have a prominent, easy to find opt-in box with a clear promise.
  2. Have a welcome email that starts the relationship between your subscribers and your brand. Set expectations, restate the benefits of joining your newsletter, explain the next steps and show them your best content or product features.
  3. Personalize your emails. Refer to subscribers by their first names.
  4. Segment your list according to your subscribers’ industry, interests, or role at work.
  5. Have a clearly identifiable ‘from name’ that is context specific and builds a relationship.
  6. Email your subscribers! Do it as often as they allow you to.
  7. Sign off your emails either as an individual or as a team.

There you have it, 7 tweaks to transform your email newsletter into a human, warm and friendly must-read.

Did you learn something new? What finding surprised you? Let me know in the comments below.

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