Using newsletters for business development improves your sales and marketing efficiency because they:
- Improve your prospecting by being more focused and personal than a newspaper ad;
- Generate referrals Ask your clients if there's anyone they can suggest who would appreciate receiving your newsletter, as it's much easier for someone to suggest an addition to your newsletter mailing list than to flat out give you a name to call;
- Build walls around present clients A newsletter keeps competitors away by repeatedly reminding your clients of your continued interest in them;
- Recover lost clients Many lost clients would like to revive their relationship with you, but don't know how, so add a personal note to a newsletter, and mail it to them;
- Enhance other practice-building techniques For example, when contacting a client you might mention something from a past issue that's applicable to his situation, and in seminars, speeches and client meetings, use appropriate issues of your newsletter as handouts or to explain certain points.
Think of your client newsletter as an education tool, as well. It's a place to explain to your clients what they should know about your area of expertise, and how it relates to their situation. Look around at what other advisors are doing, and see what you think will work best for you and your clients.
A little help from your friends
When deciding on the type of content you are going to use in your newsletter, keep in mind that you don't even have to write it yourself. The internet is a vast source of all kinds of free content (e.g. EzineArticles.com) that you can cut and paste into your newsletter.
Convinced of the power of this tool yet? Good. The next question is which type to use: a paper version to be mailed out to your clients by regular post or an electronic version to be e-mailed. If you decide on a paper-based newsletter, you may wish to also consider an e-mail version. Why? For starters, it's cheaper.
Paper will cost you at least a dollar for each copy you have printed, folded, stuffed, stamped and mailed. But faxing or e-mailing as many as a thousand copies will cost you practically zilch (word of warning: I would suggest foregoing faxing altogether, as many people on the receiving end resent having their own paper wasted or their phone line tied up). An e-mail version is immediate and "in your face", whereas "snail mail" can take longer to cross the city than the ocean.
As most of the benefits of a paper newsletter apply to an electronic one, why bother with a paper version at all? More people have postal addresses than e-mail addresses. A lot of your prospects and clients may not have fax or e-mail access or might just prefer a paper version.
So go for both, but ease into your electronic version. Take a few months to get your routine established for consistent quality and delivery of your paper version before worrying about creating your electronic version.
Bringing it to life
When starting with your paper-based newsletter, keep it simple. When sending a monthly newsletter, I have always found one page to be enough - anything longer could end up in a pending file to be read later, maybe. Some advisors I know who send out a quarterly newsletter might put three or four pages together.
Whatever your choice of length and number of issues per year is, start by sending your newsletter to your existing client list only. Include a cover letter with your first issue to announce what you're doing, why you're doing it and what to expect (i.e., no sales pitches!). Include phrases such as "let me know what you think of it," and a note to let your clients know they can be taken off the mailing list if they don't wish to receive future issues.
Once your clients begin to receive it regularly (and you get up to speed on producing it), ask them if there is anyone else they know who would benefit from receiving your newsletter. The aim is to develop a relationship so recipients feel they know you as an expert in your field before you actually meet them.
One important point to remember is to create a newsletter you can easily adapt to an electronic version. Then ask your paper-based subscribers if they'd prefer to have it e-mailed. Some may want both versions, which is great. They may want the paper version to take home, to file for future reference or even pass on to someone else.
Always be consistent
It's important that you establish a regular routine. Your delivery and quality of content can't be hit-and-miss, skipping some months because you were too busy or forgot about it. Your newsletter is a projection of you, so commit to getting it out on the same day every month (or three months, or whatever your timeframe may be), no matter what. If you don't do that, you'll just alienate your clients with your unreliable efforts.
So get your preparation and distribution systems for your paper newsletter well established and working smoothly and consistently before you even think about transferring it to e-mail. E-mail requires the same regularity, but a totally different system.
Make text look its best
Here's another decision you'll have to make concerning your electronic version: Will your e-newsletter be plain text or HTML? HTML is what's used on the Internet and can be more graphically sophisticated that plain text. Some pros and cons of using HTML are:
Con: Some people are not equipped to receive their e-mail in this format.
Pro: More options and versatility with colour, font selection.Con: It takes many more kilobytes than plain text, hence possibly longer to load.
Pro: You can "bury" long and ugly links in a simple piece of text such as "please click here."Con: It detracts from your message.
Don't rush into formatting your e-mail newsletter. Get the feel of it by looking at what others are doing. Lots of free newsletters are available from various Web sites - subscribe to a few and see how they're formatted.
Once you've finished with the body of your newsletter, there are two more essential elements that apply to both your paper-based and electronic version - you need a header and a closer.
The header is like a newspaper masthead. It gives the name of the journal, who's publishing it, where to find them, the issue number and issue date. The closer can give a bit more information about you, how to subscribe or unsubscribe, copyright notice, etc. Look at what other newsletters use in their closers to get a better idea.
Extra e-mail element
An attention-getting subject line is the most important part of your email newsletter. It's the first thing the recipient sees to tell them if the message is worth reading. If you don't grab them with your subject line, they may not bother opening your e-mail newsletter and your message will be wasted.
The subject line of my marketing newsletter (TIP) tells them that's what it is, and it points to the title of the lead article (for example, "Your New TIP Asks How Do High Earners Prospect?") so they know it's from a familiar source (and not Spam) and appears to have some useful information inside.
Hopefully, this article will help you get started on assembling and producing your client newsletter, in both a paper-based and e-mail format.
You may be saying to yourself that newsletters you've seen look a lot easier than all of this. A lot of them are - the ones you either delete or toss into your recycling bin.
But you don't want that kind, do you?
Don Pooley, CFP, CLU, CHFC, has built his career as a marketing advisor to financial service providers by working directly with them for over 35 years. He's also been creating offline newsletters since 1976, and and ezines since 2002. Subscribe to his newest, free, marketing ezine from its web site, http://www.eTIP.ca/, and he'll send you his free ebook, "Secrets of Soft-Fact Sales".