Should a Newsletter Be Part of Your Marketing Plan?

    June 13, 2003

For some companies, a newsletter may be an extraordinary way to increase profits. It may lead double customer retention and triple the lifetime value of your customers. But, that doesn’t mean it’s for every company.

How can you determine if a newsletter’s the right choice for your customers? We’ve put together five questions that’ll help you make the decision.

1. What’s your biggest business problem right now? If you have rude customer service reps, a faulty product, or inept sales people, you’re not ready to start a newsletter. If you don’t know what sets you apart from competitors, if competitors offer a better value, or if you don’t know who your target market is, you’re not ready to start a newsletter.

So, if your current business problem is that you simply don’t have time to follow up with every qualified prospect the 20 times it takes to make a sale, or if your tech support team simply can’t answer all the questions they’re asked every day, a newsletter can help. If you’re looking for a tool to explain to customers why they should choose you over the competition, a newsletter’s your answer.

A newsletter is a follow up and educational tool. It can absolutely demonstrate what sets you apart from competitors if customers don’t yet know. But it can’t do a thing for you if it’s you who doesn’t yet know.

A newsletter is the bonus–it’s an extra treat for customers and prospects. Served at the end of a great meal, it’ll improve customer loyalty, deliver more referrals, and increase your profits. Served alone, people will absolutely turn to your competition.

2. Who will you send the newsletter to? Do you have a list of current and past customers and prospects? Do you have permission to send them information? Or will you have to buy a list?

If you don’t have people who are ready and waiting to hear from you, you may want to build the list and then start a newsletter. How large a list you’ll need depends on many things: how qualified the members are, how many contacts it takes before someone buys your product, your profit margin. Some companies find a list of 500 more than justifies the time and expenses involved with a newsletter. You may find a list of 2500 barely meets your requirements.

The most important thing to consider with your list is how qualified its members are. 200 highly qualified prospects is tremendously better than 1000 people who might be interested in your company.

3. Do you have anything to say? Some companies meet all the necessary requirements for a newsletter but discover after going through all the preparatory phases that they don’t have anything to say.

Before you go too far down the newsletter-planning path, make sure you can come up with at least a year’s worth of articles. Then, ask yourself if these articles are likely to be of high interest to your target audience.

People are busy. If your newsletter’s not going to speak to a specific need they have (making more money, being happier, healthier, safer, etc), your time may be better spent with another marketing medium.

4. Do you have the necessary resources? A newsletter requires either plenty of time or plenty of money. If your budget is nonexistent and your team already overworked, a newsletter’s probably a bad choice right now.

You’ll need at least five hours for a short email newsletter to do the writing and design. If you’re planning on a print newsletter, you can estimate your time by allotting at least seven hours per page for the writing and design.

If you’d rather outsource the newsletter production, you’ll find costs (and quality) will vary widely. Spend some time deciding if you’d like to work with a full service newsletter company (like The Write Exposure), a freelance writer, or an advertising agency before you begin your search.

5. What are your numbers? Start by considering the costs of your newsletter. How much money will you be investing in writing, design, layout, printing (for printed newsletters), and distribution? If you won’t be outsourcing the newsletter, remember that the time of any staff members who will work on the newsletter is an expense, even if it’s not one you pay directly.

Next, take the average lifetime value of a customer and determine how many customers your newsletter will need to solicit in order to break even. Given what you know about your sales staff (who’ll still be needed to close most sales), mailing list, and pricing, is this number reasonable?

Also consider how much money the newsletter needs to make to be worthwhile. Is this number plausible (it’s okay if it’s a stretch, but if it seems entirely impossible, you may want to rethink it)? And how much time are you willing to devote to your newsletter between now and the time it reaches your goal?

Under the right circumstances, a company newsletter can be a fantastic tool for company growth. Just make sure you’ve taken a realistic look at the possibilities and work that’ll be involved before getting started.

You see 4000 marketing messages a day. How many do you remember? Stop your prospects from forgetting your message with a company newsletter. Visit today for free tips on starting yours.

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