How useful are newsletters as a marketing tool? Are they worth the effort and expense?
Newsletters, if properly done, are very much worth the effort and expense. Not only can you make a newsletter into a very effective marketing tool for customers, but you can also use it to involve your employees, local media contacts and even your suppliers into taking an active interest in your business.
And as you are in the process of creating it, a newsletter will help you refocus your attention on setting goals, planning strategy and communicating ideas anew with each and every issue.
A newsletter can be a real "value added" component of a product or service line often indistinguishable from a competitor's offerings. When one widget is pretty much like another, you need to create something unique in order to build a lasting relationship with your customers. Periodically communicating useful information can give you a real edge over the competition.
Whether you produce a traditional (print) newsletter or choose an e-mail format, keeping your name in front of your customers on a regular basis and in connection with valuable content is what counts.
The printed format has some advantages not offered by the electronic method in that you can enclose your newsletter with your billing statements, shipments, payments to vendors, and even employee paychecks if you like. However, a print format costs more. You might also choose to distribute your newsletter on your web site or by fax.
When planning your newsletter, keep your customers' interests firmly in focus, make sure your logo and location stand out, and leave lots of white space around your text and graphics so that it's easy to read.
Determine what interval you'd like to use for publication. You could start by using a quarterly issue and, as you gain experience and confidence, increase the frequency to monthly, for example.
What to include. You'll want to include helpful tips for small business, ideas for using your product or service without blatantly promoting it in the newsletter, newsy highlights or interesting factoids you've come across and would like to share, or maybe a profile of a key employee or a community service group. Featuring a community group can be excellent PR, and it will get your name out to their constituents without appearing to be trying to sell them anything.
Be sure to use a standard logo and, if you can, some color. You can start modestly with an oversized postcard and grow to a two-page format. Or if you really get good at being a newsletter editor, go to an 8-page book. Keep in mind that size and frequency aren't what counts--it's communication with customers and potential customers--and good communication doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg.
Leverage canned content. If writing and producing your own piece seems daunting, even with the new and easy-to-use publishing software available these days, there are many "canned" newsletters that can be customized to suit your goals. Check with your trade association to find a list of providers or look in your Yellow Pages under "public relations/communications." And the folks who edit and print these can also maintain your mailing list and handle distribution for you. It costs more than doing it yourself, but if you take into account your time and effort, an outside provider might just be a bargain.
Maintain your mailing list. At first, assembling your list will be a chore, but once it's set up, you can easily add and delete addresses before each mailing. E-mail addresses tend to change more often than snail mail, so if you use the electronic format, be mindful of the need to update more often and also be sure to give your addressee a way to cancel his subscription if he'd prefer to no longer receive your offering.
Remember, if you are using electronic delivery, you will need to provide opt-in and opt-out features. You can learn more about these requirements in our article, "Reach Customers Using Email Marketing."
Remember that it costs anywhere from five to eight times more to get a new customer than to get a current customer to do another transaction with you. Your newsletter should be viewed as a relationship-building tool to get future business from existing customers, not to mention referrals of new customers.