Photo by RP Blakely
(Side Note: This is sort of a continuance of the list building theme from the last post. What can I say, I’m on a kick.)
If you’ve been observing the online business community these past few years, you immediately notice that the power of the Internet has been spreading like wildfire when it comes to entrepreneurs and small business owners getting their ‘message’ out to the world.
It’s almost like a bad rash, only without the itchy red part.
Hmnn… OK, so perhaps that analogy belongs in the recycle bin. Anyhoo…
From branding to marketing to customer service to advertising, faster and more innovative means of letting your market know about what you have to offer are being created or conceptualized every day.
One thing that I’ve been really interested in lately is the boom of corporate newsletters.
No business (big, small or anything in between) can now survive without launching a newsletter to help them retain their current clientele and expand their customer base even more.
OK, perhaps I shouldn’t say NO business. (How about ANY business? No? Means the same thing but with better grammar?) OK fine… MOST businesses then.
But really… if you’re not incorporating list building and email marketing into your business, you’re almost akin to a freakin’ dinasour! And I say that in the nicest possible way.
With email as an entrepreneurial biz’s primary form of communication these days, it’s become easier than ever to build a relationship with existing clients and readers, and attract new clients and readers by offering cool freebies, or what’s known as the ‘ethical bribe’.
But launching the newsletter is only the first part of this incredibly challenging (yet rewarding) task. As an entrepreneur, you have to know the tips and tricks to keep the little ‘newsletter machine’ running smoothly and your clients and readers eagerly awaiting your next message.
Often you find yourself feeling your first few newsletters are spectacular, with spiffy content, great graphics and an amazing layout. Your clients might even gush about how wonderful your newsletter is and how they’re so glad to have signed up to receive it.
Then, a few weeks into the game, you figure out that more than half your newsletters are never even being opened by your subscribers.
Why? Because all that fanciness you put into it is a trigger for their spam filters, and away your little newsletter goes… right into the trash bin. Luckily Jonathan Beebe has a great solution, especially for those of you who like to keep things as simple and non-techie as possible.
And it’s free, which is even better.
And if you’ve overcome that particular little hurdle, low and behold a new one pops up. A few months into your newsletter and suddenly you find yourself wracking your brains for new things to talk about and new ways to say it.
And that my friend, is one of the banes of a serious bloggers existence. Yes, even mine.
See, that’s the problem with newsletters, blogs, websites and other online material that your clients, suppliers, competitors and basically the whole fracken world has access to. The potential of lots of people seeing it is great… but the potential of running out of things to say to those people is just as great.
With that said, there are three main problems with running an email newsletter (as I see it):
Disclaimer: This is of course, assuming you already know how to do all the other nuts and bolts stuff of creating your newsletter and sending it out to your subscribers.
1. Too little time.
2. Too little inspiration.
3. Too little material to work with.
If your biz has run smack into a dead end with any or all of these problems, don’t despair just yet.
There is a way to salvage your newsletter and get your communication groove back on. You can attract new customers and you can retain your old regulars, just by putting that noggin’ of yours to work, reading a few of the ideas below, and then implementing a few changes to your current strategy.
Sound good? Alright, onward and upward!
Have a Purpose
First off, you have to keep in mind what your newsletter is all about, what its purpose is and why it even exists in your organization. A newsletter is a way for you to reach out to your customers, employees, prospective clients, suppliers, competitors, stockholders (if you have any) and the rest of the world at large that decides to become a subscriber.
It’s NOT meant to be a way for you to brag about your achievements, tout your superiority, and ram how spectacular you are down your subscriber’s collective throats.
Keep it Quality
Quality content is what your readers are looking for, and you can only do so much with ideas and news from within your organization or business. And besides, if you only talk about your business in your newsletter… isn’t that a bit like the aforementioned thing you should NOT do? Just sayin’.
You’re better off expanding your horizons a little and telling your subscribers about what’s happening in the industry you work in, the latest developments in technology related to your niche and anything else that you think they will be interested in or might find useful.
Put yourself in your clients’ shoes and stop stuffing useless content down their throats. Ask yourself: If I am my client, what would I want to know?
If you have a T-shirt printing business, for example, maybe you can tell them about the evolution of the T shirt printing industry from screen printing to direct-to-garment printing so they’ll understand how the entire process works.
Or you can talk about choosing the right fabrics and where to get them at the lowest prices. I’m not a t-shirt printer, so I have no clue what readers might be into. But hopefully you get the picture.
Let Others Do the Talking
Yes, I know that part of the reason you want to issue a newsletter is to build a relationship so you can sell stuff. I get it, I’m a marketer too. And your readers really won’t mind an occasional pitch here and there if you keep it honest, keep it quality, and keep it useful.
Here’s the thing … pitching your business with a self-serving narrative is not the smartest move you could make. Not even a little.
The smarter way to do it is to get someone else to do it for you—namely, contact some of your long-time suppliers and regular customers and ask them (nicely!) if they can put in a good word for you in the newsletter.
Your readers are more likely to believe in someone who’s actually tested your products and services, seen the nitty-gritty, and dealt with you for a considerable length of time themselves than they would you or your editorial staff.
Nothing beats good feedback from satisfied customers and happy suppliers. Honest testimonials are the way to go if you wish to expand your market reach and boost your brand name. (Key word there being honest people! I know it’s tempting to slip in a few words of false praise about yourself, but c’mon. We WILL know it’s fake.)
Ethically of course.
If you’ve already run out of in-house ideas that you think will hook your readers, there’s no harm in looking for content and inspiration elsewhere. Like I said, newsletters suffer from having content recycled over and over again until your readers can recite different versions of the same core message with their eyes closed.
Not a good scenario wouldn’t you agree?
Challenge yourself and go on a hunt to find suitable content to put in your newsletter from outside your company. I’m sure that there are hundreds—if not thousands—of blogs, news articles and other printed materials you can get your hands on that talk about the exact same topics you discuss in your newsletter.
You might be in the lights and sound system business and you stumble across some teenager’s Tumblr post about a homemade sound system from repurposed audio devices. That’s content that fits your newsletter like a glove, so why pass up on the chance to include it in the next issue?
It’s not—I repeat, NOT—a sign of weakness to ask for/adopt/borrow an entire article from somebody else’s site or blog and put it in your newsletter.
Just pul-leez don’t forget to ask permission to reprint the article before you go ahead and copy and paste the whole darn thing… and always provide attribution when you’re using someone else’s content.
Plagiarism is a no-no, even in a newsletter. It’s cowardly to NOT acknowledge the fact that you’ve run out of things to talk about, then pull content from some obscure website and pass it off as your own.
So don’t be a coward OK?
Personally I prefer to draw inspiration from other peoples content, and then use that as a basis to formulate my own thoughts and ideas into something entirely unique.
After all, your newsletter is an extension of your business… you don’t want your readers to think you’re just another throwaway publication that doesn’t offer anything amazing or compelling right? (Hint: This is where you say RIGHT!)
Much better to be the one publication your readers can’t wait to receive… and the first order of business when receiving it is to print it out so they can read it over their morning coffee. Right? (Hint: This is where you say RIGHT again!)
So don’t be cheap. Or cowardly. Or plagiarize. Not necessarily in that order.
How about you? Have some innovative ideas about creating a winning newsletter for your business? Got some ideas you’re not sure about using and want some feedback? Drop your thoughts in the comments below and let’s chat.