In one form or another VFC develops a newsletter for just about all of our clients.
It could be an annual collection of content developed for an annual report, a monthly printed piece or a periodic graphical email but they all understand one thing— staying in front of potential customers leads to business growth.
In fact, one consumer-focused client of ours just decided to send out shorter, weekly email newsletters to a growing list of potential customers. As they put it, “when the time comes for them to make a choice, we want to be on their minds.”
Newsletters are about informing people— providing them with news— but, just as importantly, they are more and more about keeping your offering, your message and your brand on their minds. Mindshare is one of the most critical objectives of any marketing campaign, and newsletters have become a cost effective way of growing increasing percentages of your market’s mindshare.
To many of you, a newsletter is an outmoded way to communicate and low on your list of priorities when it comes to marketing activities. In its broadest definitions, however, a newsletter is an extremely powerful marketing tool.
When done right, newsletters are regular, direct conversations between your company and your customers. This means your current customers, lost customers, old customers, new customers and potential customers. It’s a way to have a regular, standing meeting with them all at regular intervals. When you get the content right— together with a professional and competitive presentation— that conversation can be incredibly persuasive.
The advent, or recent improvement, of social media as a marketing tool allows you better interaction with your customers. Additionally, as you focus on reducing costs, creating an electronic newsletter that integrates with your website, blog, Facebook or Twitter makes even more sense.
It’s difficult to think of any other marketing vehicle that can be as precisely targeted as a newsletter, especially when combined with social media.
The newsletter goes right to your intended targets— your actual customers— with very little waste. This means that your newsletter’s mailing list is as critical as the content and format.
These are people who know your company, know what you sell and are interested in what you do. It’s a captive audience of people you’ve already treated right with your product or service.
There are a lot of ways to grow your list beyond existing customers and we will touch on them in future Marketing 101 columns.
As we’ve discussed, creating an interesting, relevant and memorable newsletter is the ultimate opportunity to inform and remind your customers about your offering and your company. So why does it seem that many newsletters set out to bore their readers to death?
Boring, unreadable, verbose and poorly executed newsletters work against your marketing communications efforts just as effectively as compelling, organized, exciting newsletters helps your cause. When you remember several newsletter development tips, your newsletter can become a compelling read for your customers and, quite possibly, something that they actually look forward to receiving.
Remember that VFC client who recently started a weekly version of their email newsletter? Now their most loyal customers clamor for it and, when they receive it, they respond with back and forth dialog on our client's web blog.
It’s a marketing tool! Tell your story as compellingly as possible using client testimonials, endorsements and anecdotes. Be sure you have an equitable mix of sizzle and steak and, if you can, include exclusive offers and services that are solely for the readers of your newsletter. At the least, include information that readers can only find in the newsletter.
Create trust! You’ve created a position for your company in your market as the best in your category. You’re an expert and you need to convey that position in the newsletter so that readers continually trust your expert opinion. Don’t come off as heavy-handed–all marketing is based on trust and careful development of content will have readers looking to you for answers.
Give the people what they want! You can create news and tell stories that interest your readers without continually spotlighting your company operations. Readers are less interested in the new equipment that you purchased than they are on how that equipment helped a customer like them. The majority of readers don’t really care how your business operates but are interested in how it might help them operate!
Be engaging and appealing! Showcase topics and creative content that grabs the reader’s attention and won’t let go. Newsletter content should be relevant to your business but more importantly, should involve the reader and speak to their individual need or motivation. The goal of any newsletter is to create involvement and the more time that your customers spend reading your newsletter, the more likely they will be to take action.
Be consistent! VFC has a newsletter called The Crop where we highlight recent case studies and reveal creative marketing solutions (you can subscribe to it at virtualfarm.com if you’re interested). We call The Crop, VFC’s “occasional newsletter” so that we’re not pressed to develop content especially when we have client deadlines on which to focus. If you tell your customers to expect a newsletter every month, make sure you can deliver every month.
Style counts! Whether you’re delivering a very basic printed newsletter or a stylized email blast featuring exciting color and images, or even an email attachment, be creative and professional and consistent with your company’s other marketing materials.
We’ve discussed standards in previous Marketing 101 columns and applying them to your newsletter is a must. Have fun writing arresting headlines and brief, punchy copy supported by images that support the content and your mission to present a competitive newsletter.
Don’t overdo it! You want your customers to think of you as often as possible, especially when it comes time for them to make a purchase in your category, but there is such a thing as being overly aggressive, saturating the market and turning people off. If you start to see a significant number of people unsubscribing from your newsletter and you’re doing everything else right then the issue could be frequency. If you can present a monthly, well-crafted newsletter your customers will anticipate its arrival just like they do their favorite monthly magazines!
If your company follows these simple guidelines, your newsletter can become an important marketing tool, capturing the priceless attention of your customers, informing them and, most importantly, building continual trust and mindshare.