A successful newsletter is a skillful blend of information and promotion and can be a useful marketing tool to generate new business. A powerful newsletter compels your prospects to read and take action through an enticing combination of copy and design, and an effective matching of your message to your target audience's wants and needs.
It is a known fact that customers are more apt to buy from companies that stay in close touch with them. And, a newsletter offers a unique vehicle for you to keep in touch -- communicating a personal feeling and useful information about you and your business.
You may have thought about creating a newsletter and, for most small business owners, that's as far as the process gets because of the time commitment to start such a project. Effective up-front planning can make the production of each issue a breeze, and once the planning process has been broken down into a few manageable steps, the task doesn't seem so overwhelming. The following planning checklist can help you get started in planning your newsletter:
• A value to you and to your readers: To be valuable to your readers, your newsletter must be written so readers perceive it as a benefit and not as a sales pitch. Information must be interesting, timely, educational and relevant to your audience. At the same time, for the newsletter to be beneficial to you, it must include promotional content (for example, incentives, special offers and coupons) to attract new business. A successful newsletter must walk a fine line between too much and too little promotional hype and too much and too little information to be valuable both to your readers and to you.
• Your target audience: Spending time up-front when determining your target audience -- the primary prospect you want to reach and sell to -- will help ensure the article content, the look, the offers and the feel of each issue matches the needs of the prospects you most want to add as new customers. Think about these factors to determine your target audience:
• existing customers versus potentialnew customers
• residential versus business customers
• geographic reach
• demographics (income, age, home location, education, home value, etc.)
• interests and decorating styles
• do-it-yourselfers versus full-service clients
• Your purpose: Think carefully about what you want your newsletter to accomplish for your business. Always consider your newsletter goals in conjunction with your marketing objectives for the year. Your newsletter should work consistently along with all of your promotional efforts to help you attain your annual marketing objectives.
Determining a tight focus now will help simplify the creation of every issue. Here are a few purposeful ideas to get you started:
• introduce new products or services
• educate readers about products and services
• generate leads
• demonstrate design or installation expertise
• increase sales of specific products or services
• increase sales of all products and services
• gain new customers throughout your selling area
• gain new customers in a specific neighborhood or community
• increase sales from existing customers
• describe unusual product uses or special areas of expertise
• inform readers about design trends
• announce sales and promotions
• publicize charitable involvement in the community
• introduce new staff
• present customer testimonials and case studies
• provide technical support or do-it-yourselfer tips
• Your image: Consider the feeling you want your prospects to experience when they read your newsletter. Defining an image up front will help with the writing and design of each issue. Think about which of the following words you'd like your audience to use when they describe your newsletter:
• Frequency: Many first-time publishers opt to be vague on a defined frequency for their newsletters, and this is OK. First, this flexibility can let you play it by ear. If business is booming, you can skip a month on the next newsletter, or if you need new business quickly, you can rush to get out the next issue.
Second, many new publishers fear they won't have enough information to fill a newsletter on a regular schedule. From past experience, I can virtually guarantee you that, once you start contemplating a regular newsletter, you'll have an excess of information for each issue, rather than a lack of ideas for articles.
• Response mechanism: Because it's important that your newsletter have value to you, as well as being of benefit to your readers, it's critical to motivate your readers to respond. In each issue, you should include:
• a reason to respond -- a special offer, new product, sale price, free upgrade, free designer's time
• a deadline for response -- sale ends Friday, call before Jan. 31
• a method of response -- call for in-home appointment, visit our store or showroom
Make sure your response mechanism is bold and very clearly stated, and include all necessary contact information including telephone numbers, addresses, store hours, etc.
• Delivery method: Most newsletters are delivered by U.S. mail, and even within this method you have the options of first class or bulk mail (if you have a large enough quantity for this method). You also can deliver your newsletter as an advertising insert in the local newspaper, hand it out at networking events and business mixers, make it available on the counter of your store or showroom, or include it in a mail program.
Solo mailing your newsletter provides the greatest amount of control as to hand-picking your audience; however, it is usually the most expensive method. Alternative methods are more reasonable in cost, yet constrain your flexibility in choosing a target market.
• Joining with another business: Creating a newsletter with another business can help you in several ways. First, it provides you with added visibility because the newsletter will be distributed to your partner's mailing list in addition to your own. Second, you can share the costs of producing and distributing the newsletter. And, third, you'll be providing your readers with a greater range of useful information because articles will be contributed by your partner as well as by yourself.
If you decide to go this route, choose a business partner with the same target audience and similar (but non-competing) products; possibly an architect, general contractor, kitchen and bath remodeling company, etc.
• Tracking your success: It's important to set up a system to measure the success of your newsletter. Because the effect of your newsletter will be in combination with other promotional techniques you use, it's impossible to accurately determine its selling impact. Methods that can help you measure your newsletter's success include:
• tracking the number of orders and/or leads generated from specific offers in the newsletter
• asking everyone who comes to your store or calls for an appointment where they heard about your business
• requiring customers to bring in a coupon from the newsletter when they place their order.
A newsletter's unique look and information-promising appeal can help break through the clutter of other direct mail and advertising. At the same time, it can be a superb way to keep in touch with your existing customers and familiarize potential customers with your expertise.
View your newsletter as a long-term, soft-sell marketing tool and use it as an added tool to work with your other promotional methods including advertising, direct mail and home shows. Good news! You're ready to start planning your newsletter!
Kay Pegram is founder of Kaymar Communications, a Playa del Ray, CA-based independent marketing services firm for companies in window fashions and other industries. Pegram's previous window coverings industry experience includes serving eight years at LouverDrape and as director of marketing for the Tempo companies.