Over the past few years, the trend has moved from newsletters to blogs to Twitter. It’s hard for companies to stay on top of what they’re supposed to be doing. If you open a business magazine or visit any marketing website, you will experience “social marketing guilt.” Everyone seems to be hyping the next big thing you should be doing. Trade publications show your competitors tweeting or having thousands of “friends” on Facebook.
Forget the Social Networking Guilt
Companies should not forget the most elemental social networking tool: newsletters. To this end, I’ve come up with my own list of five reasons why newsletters matter. My hope is that my ideas will perhaps help foster some creative thinking about how your company or clients can use newsletters as effective public relations tools.
Before there was an Internet, there was electronic mail. Email is a natural metaphor for actual mail. It’s quick, easy and natural. The learning curve is minimal. In fact, my seven-year-old daughter took to email within minutes of instruction … when she was just five.
Don’t discount the lowest common denominator. It’s where you can rest assured that your message won’t get lost in translation or technology. Putting together an email newsletter can be simple (plain text remains my favorite way to receive content-rich newsletters) or sophisticated with graphics and lots of stylistic elements. Don’t overthink it. Start simple. The focus should be on the content.
One of the first things an agency will tell you is that a single ad won’t work. It’s about frequency — getting your message in front of an audience several times within a specific period of time. Whether you choose to send an email newsletter each week or each month, the important thing is to consistently communicate information of value.
I once bought some t-shirts with my company’s logo on it after seeing a special online promotion. I then started to receive special emails twice a year with a special offer to stock up on a single product with my company logo. Each time, I bought … a lot. The price was so good I figured I could find a use for them at a later time. The value was the offer. However, your messages don’t have to include a special offer. In fact, I think that this company’s message worked because it was only twice a year that they held this special sale. The company could have emailed more frequently and established a rapport with its customers.
What’s the right frequency for your newsletter? That’s up to you and how valuable building a relationship is to your business. If you’re selling a commodity built on affordability (like a promotional t-shirt), you probably don’t have to build or keep trust as much as reward customers with deep discounts through special promotions. Finding that balancing act is the key.
Grabbing the spotlight and making yourself an expert seems like an impossible task. However, that’s exactly what you will do when you get in front of current and prospective clients and communicate tips, ideas, and expertise. If you sell spa products, you know your industry. You know what customers want and what manufacturers are doing to differentiate their products. As you communicate trends in the spa industry, like aromatherapy and technology, you will establish trust and credibility. When a subscriber decides to make their next purchase of body lotion and bath oils, chances are they will look at your website during the purchase process.
I was at a business meeting in Chicago three years ago when I heard someone in the room say the easiest customer to obtain was someone who had already bought from you. It made sense. I went home with a mission: to create a customer newsletter to speak to my customers and provide them with deep discounts twice a year. That single action has consistently added more than 15 percent in additional revenue for my company. A newsletter can help inform customers better and turn them into repeat customers.
The great thing about a newsletter is that you can have a message in front of subscribers in minutes. I spend just ten minutes putting my written email into a web-based newsletter template. I recommend starting with a plain-text newsletter. The learning curve is greatly reduced and it removes anything that might get in the way of your message. Once you master the message, you can experiment with graphics, adding your logo, etc.
I bought a car several years ago. I get an email every once in a while reminding me to get an oil change or tune-up. I also know the dealership is struggling because all dealerships are struggling. Imagine what would have happened if I had received this email back in June:
- You’ve probably heard about the government’s upcoming Cash for Clunkers Government Rebate, which is detailed at CARS.gov. What does this mean for you? Our records show your 1998 Honda Accord has a trade-in value of just $1795. Under this program, your trade-in value jumps to $4,500 towards the purchase of a qualifying vehicle — a qualifying vehicle being sold at historically low prices. We’ve received lots of calls and inquiries about how this program will be implemented. The short answer is we don’t know yet. We do know the number of clunkers we will accept will be limited in number and timeframe. If you want to determine your eligibility and be given “first in line” status when our dealership begins participation in Cash for Clunkers, you will need to call today to make an appointment.
Imagine being able to schedule appointments weeks in advance where people just show up with their checkbook. These leads will be qualified because they will only schedule an appointment if serious about trading in their used car for a great price on a new car. I did not receive such an email. The dealership had my information. Do they value the sale of a $24.99 oil change over the sale of a $20,000 new car?
I have just a few companies to which I would say I am deeply loyal. One common factor among them is that they keep me in the loop. I might not buy from them on a regular basis but when I do need to purchase a new product, I find myself migrating to them over all other companies. Two of them are companies that send expensive, glossy catalogs. In the end, it might be cost-effective to do that, but the fact is I would buy from them even if they simply did what Eddie Bauer does: send me an email every fall and spring inviting me to check out the new lineup, plus a special discount on my next order.
Remember that company I mentioned above that sent me the twice-a-year special offer for logo-imprinted clothing? They must be hurting. You see, about eight months ago they started to send two to three email offers a week. One day it’s a special offer on hats. The next day is an offer for aprons. About once every other week they send out the special 42 percent off your entire order offer that I used to always buy. Guess what? It has been more than a year since I bought. Why would I stock up if I know the sale is always around the corner? I would have unsubscribed from this newsletter except for one reason: I am curious if this company will continue to devolve or recover from its abuse. My loyalty is merely academic.
I asked my wife about her favorite newsletter. My wife is big into crafts. She smiled and went into great detail about a weekly newsletter put out by Joggles.com. She said the newsletter focuses on new products released that week and the owner places herself in the newsletters, sharing what she’s working on, what’s going on in her life, etc. In an industry that is predominately women and where people buy not on price, this is exactly the right balance to gain and keep trust. Best of all, it’s genuine and real. That is something you can’t learn in a marketing class.
The ironic thing about email newsletters is that they are no longer core to my business. I have branched out to blogs, sequenced courses (autoresponders), and Twitter. However, I am not about to abandon my foundation. Each week I send out a free newsletter to my faithful subscribers. Every month (or two) I email my customers. Once you’ve mastered the basics, you can then venture out into other social marketing efforts. At the very least, newsletters can be a great customer retention tool, and if successful, newsletters can drive sales, create brand awareness and attract new customers.
This article is written by Mickie Kennedy, founder of eReleases (http://www.ereleases.com), the online leader in affordable press release distribution. To subscribe to PR Fuel, visit: http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel/subscribe/.