One of the most powerful ways for small businesses to increase sales and keep customers coming back for more is to mail them a newsletter periodically.
Why is this such a powerful tool? It's because if done right, a newsletter automatically separates you from the big box stores like Best Buy and Toys 'R Us, and can help you even compete successfully with the giant online retailers like Amazon.com and Overstock.com.
How does this work?
You might not be able to compete with these giants on price but you can beat them by offering great personal service. And one aspect of this service is a newsletter just chock full of helpful information geared to your customers' interests. For example, suppose you have a fishing tackle store. How about a monthly newsletter that includes information on the week's fishing "hot spots," and the lures that are just bringing lunkers in by the basketful? Do you suppose a Sports Authority or and Amazon.com could compete with that in terms of personal service?
A newsletter can be one page, printed on both sides or four, six or eight pages, depending on your customers and their interests. For example, that fishing tackle store might send out a four-page newsletter with lots of fishing tips, news about fishing hot spots and information on the newest and best lures. On the other hand, a jewelry store might mail just a single-page newsletter with pictures of interesting new necklaces and earrings, and tips for cleaning and storing jewelry.
One newsletter I get that I really like is from a store here that sells good wines. I get their newsletter quarterly and it always has information on new wines that have just arrived from France, etc., case prices and sometimes even wine country travel tips.
How do you do a newsletter? If you are a do-it-yourselfer, you can use a program like Microsoft Publisher to create it. Publisher comes with a bunch of templates that totally eliminate the need for you to be any kind of a designer. Just pick a template and start filling in the blanks. You can go to the Microsoft web site and download free pictures and illustrations for your newsletter. The one downside of this is that your newsletter could end up looking just like a lot of other newsletters. If you want a truly unique newsletter that will stand out from the pack, you might try to find a high school or college student who would be willing to design your newsletters for $50 or $75 each.
What should be in your newsletter? Put yourself in the place of your customer. Who are they? What are their interests? What information would they find of value? What problems are they trying to solve? A carpet cleaning service might want to include information on do-it-yourself furniture cleaning or housekeeping hints. If most of the company's customers are women, it might want to include information on new, anti-aging medications or child care tips. By now, you should have the picture ? write to your customers' needs, interests and problem.
What do you do if you're not much of a writer? Again, you should be able to hire a high school or college student to write the newsletter for you. Just make sure you provide good, tight direction so that your newsletter will reflect well on you and your business.
Also, don't bite off more than you can chew. Once you tell customers you will be sending them a monthly newsletter, you will have to send them a newsletter monthly. I know of many businesses that started out with monthly newsletters and then ran out of steam (and article ideas) after three or four months. If you have any doubts about the time you can spend on a newsletter or how much helpful information you can provide, it's better to either do it quarterly or whenever you have enough articles to warrant doing it. Just try to make sure you mail your newsletter often enough that customers don't forger who you are.
Finally, never and I do mean never, send out a newsletter without including an offer that will bring customers into your store or have them calling you for an appointment. Make the offer as powerful as you can and make sure your customers know it's only available to those who read your newsletter.
Creating and mailing a newsletter requires time and effort. But I promise you this: If you do provide good, helpful information in each newsletter, your customers will not only read it, they will start looking forward to receiving it each month or quarter.
For more information on building a mailing list for your newsletter, be sure to look for my article, "Small Business Power Tool: Direct Marketing."
Article by Douglas Hanna. Douglas is a retired advertising and marketing executive and long-time Denver resident. He is the webmaster of http://www.all-in-one-info.com, a free resource for information on a variety of subjects. Please visit his site to subscribe to his free newsletter, "Tips & Tricks to Save Money & Live Better."