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Before Publishing a Newsletter, Ask These Questions

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In the current world of marketing – especially online marketing – there’s a lot of talk about the magic of newsletters.

If you listen to the gurus, it sounds like every business should be sending a newsletter, whether printed or electronic, to its customers and prospects on a regular basis. But how can you be sure whether a newsletter is really a good investment or the right decision for your business? Start by asking yourself the following four questions.

1. Do I want to build long-term relationships with my customers? If the structure of your business is simply to serve customers one time and never see them again, an ongoing client newsletter would probably be a waste of time. But if your intent is to develop long-term relationships with the clients you serve, a newsletter can be a perfect vehicle for doing that. Because clients and prospects hear from you regularly through your newsletter, you earn their trust and credibility. They become more familiar with you and your services, and they’re usually impressed by your efforts to keep in contact with them. Soon they’ll feel like you’re more than a service provider; you’re a personal acquaintance – so they’ll call on you when they need your services.

2. Do I have information or expertise that could be valuable to my customers and prospects? Without information that is valuable to readers, a newsletter is useless. But if you’re an expert in your field (and hopefully you are), you probably have lots of information, ideas, resources or advice that could help your clients work better, work smarter, or save money. In fact, if you don’t know anything your clients don’t know, it’s doubtful that they will keep hiring you. The key is to figure out what knowledge or resources you have that could be valuable to your clients, and determine how to deliver that information to them in a way that will be helpful and enlightening – without sharing all your secrets. One way to figure out what kinds of information you could share in a newsletter is to make a list of questions clients frequently ask you. If you have informative answers to those questions, you have information that could be valuable.

3. Do I have the time or resources to produce a newsletter on an ongoing basis? A newsletter is only effective as a marketing tool if it is produced consistently – at least on a quarterly basis, and preferably on a monthly or bi-monthly basis. If you aren’t willing to commit time or resources to making your newsletter an ongoing priority, it’s probably not worth an attempt. The amount of time needed to produce a newsletter can vary based on the method of delivery (electronic or mail), the length of the newsletter, the frequency of publication, and the amount of work you intend to do in-house. Keep in mind that publishing a newsletter can include several steps, such as:

* News gathering and trend-watching.

* Research and interviews.

* Writing and editing.

* Layout and design.

* Printing and/or distribution.

You may outsource some or all of these tasks to an outside provider (such as The WriteShop), or you may choose to produce the newsletter in-house. The method you choose will determine the amount of time and/or money you’ll be investing in your newsletter – but keep in mind that well-produced newsletters usually pay for themselves in long-term relationships that develop into increased sales.

4. Do I know what specific results I want to achieve with a newsletter? As with any marketing program, it’s important to set goals for your newsletter before investing any time or money into it. Think about what you would want to accomplish with a newsletter: Do you simply want to build a larger contact database? Do you want it to help generate more leads? Do you want it to increase sales? If you have specific goals in mind before you launch a newsletter, you’ll be better able to shape your newsletter to the needed results, and better able to measure your success.

Becoming the publisher of your own newsletter can be a significant undertaking. Before you take the plunge, be sure you know what you’re getting into – and what you want to get out of it.

Nancy Jackson, owner of The WriteShop, helps companies
better market their products and services with powerful
written communications including Web content, newsletters,
brochures and publications. Subscribe to her free monthly
newsletter at www.writeshoponline.com.

Before Publishing a Newsletter, Ask These Questions
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