Sunday, October 23, 2005

Is a Company Newsletter for You?

There are many marketing methods available to you that can be used to generate business. Whether a brochure, web site or other promotional items how do you decide which methods are best suited for your firm? Networking, cold calling, client meetings are all fundamental to business development, but they leave little time to meet the large number of prospects needed to adequately grow your business.

A company newsletter has the ability to expose your firm to more people in less time than traditional marketing methods such as networking or client meetings; and is less expensive than paid advertising.

Newsletters are a good way to communicate with clients and prospects, whether in print or online. They build credibility by making you an authority in your field and help to generate interest in your firm. Most importantly they keep your firm top of mind with customers. Newsletters can be used to highlight the skills and abilities of your firm or showcase individual staff members. They can create customer loyalty by giving your clients the information they need to know your firm, its philosophies, vision and corporate culture. You can also use a newsletter to inform and motivate employees, which will improve staff moral and increase productivity.

When deciding whether this is the right marketing strategy for your firm, consider the following factors.

Before starting this initiative make certain that the members of your firm are on board from the beginning and that once started you continue to publish it for a minimum period of time. You want people to become familiar with your newsletter and turn into loyal readers. This takes time and consistency. Starting one and then deciding to stop after a few issues may suggest to your readers a lack of commitment in other areas of your business.

Frequency and Size
What is the best frequency for sending newsletters? If you send something too often or make it too large, you may be hard pressed to find enough relevant content for each issue. It is better to produce a smaller newsletter (two to eight pages) more frequently than a larger publication at further intervals. You want the frequency just enough that you are brought to mind with clients without inundating them. Many newsletters are published with too much time elapsing between issues giving customers more of an opportunity to forget about your firm when they are looking for your type of service.

The cost of producing a newsletter varies greatly and depends on a number of factors. Online and emailed versions cost a lot less because there are no printing fees, but if you do not have an in house communication’s department you will still have the costs related to hiring a writer and/or designer.

If producing a print version, factors such as: paper stock, artwork, photographs, and colour versus black and white, should be considered; as well as quantity of distribution.

You can circumvent the cost of publishing the newsletter by either printing articles from outside sources (with written consent) or by soliciting other companies to advertise their products and services in it.

The most important component of a newsletter is its content. It is the one element that can either make or break the success of the publication. If you want people to read your newsletter on a continual basis, you must produce interesting, valuable content.

Keep in mind the 20/80 rule. Eighty percent of your content must be informative, whereas only 20% should be advertorial in nature. The type of content and its format depend on your readership. Since the newsletter’s purpose is to generate interest in your firm, you should produce content that highlights your skills, and showcases past projects, innovative solutions and awards. You can also build customer loyalty by including client profiles.

Another important element of a successful newsletter is variety. The content should be displayed in a selection of formats such as: news briefs, event listings, president’s message, announcements, client profiles, expert interviews, Q & A and suggested resources. If your subject matter is dry, quotes, and humour can add levity and create a friendly tone to your newsletter.

Having regular sections allows your readers to know what to expect and gives them the opportunity to look forward to upcoming issues.

Do not forget to include your company’s information throughout the newsletter. Let people know how to get in touch with you and motivate them to do so with draws or contests. Also suggest ways they can refer you to others.

The content should also be well written and error free. A poorly written newsletter and one with errors will actually counteract the effects you want to have. It may suggest that you are not detail oriented and that the work you do for clients will lack this attention as well. No matter who is submitting the content always make sure someone else has looked it over or have a professional edit it.

Style and Tone
Newsletters need to have a navigational structure. This can be achieved using page numbering, headings and sub headings. A table of contents should also appear on the first page in a box or call out so that readers can find the information they are interested in quickly and easily.

For readers to respond positively to a newsletter it should be written in a warm informative style. Make sure your text is written in plain language and avoids the use of jargon. Write as if you are speaking directly to one individual and in the first person (I, we). Using contractions, short concise sentences with few clauses, and words with no more than three syllables will make your material clear and easy to read. As a result your readers will respond to you on a more personal level and trust you. Your readers are more likely to call if trust has been established.

Layout and Design
A company newsletter is a reflection of your firm’s expertise and professionalism. Therefore its design and layout should mirror the image you want to project. Make sure the layout and design is clear, uncluttered and that there is an appropriate amount of white space. Use good quality images and use enough of them to keep the newsletter from being text heavy, otherwise your readers will get bored and frustrated

The publication should match the firm’s corporate image and include its colours, logos and tag line. Once the design and layout has been chosen make sure that every subsequent issue is produced the same way.

In comparison with traditional methods, newsletters are effective marketing tools if they are done well. If you decide that this is the right choice for your firm, you will greatly increase your chance of generating new business by implementing the strategies above. Just remember that the hardest part is coming up with the first issue, but if you stay committed and focused you will soon receive positive results.

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