Newsletters as Marketing Tools
by Chad Rueffert

In 1993, it was estimated that more than 50,000 corporate newsletters were published each year.  Though I’ve not seen a recent statistic, I’d guess that number has tripled by now due to the proliferation of personal desktop publishing.

Newsletters are used for a variety of purposes, usually determined by the audience they reach.  For the purpose of this column, we’ll focus on newsletters designed to reach customers or prospective customers.  Newsletters that are designed to SELL.

A newsletter is one of the most versatile forms of marketing communication.  It can be produced daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly.  It can be one page or many, black and white or full-color.  The ease with which a newsletter can be produced, and the ability to target it to any audience, large or small, makes the newsletter an attractive form of communication.  And, there are benefits to a newsletter not found in many other forms of communication.  You have direct communication to your target audience.  You have a longer format with which to convey your message.  You can have multiple messages in one publication.  You can reach your audience more quickly than nearly any other form of communication, especially with fax or email newsletters.

However, like every other form of marketing communications, your newsletter (remember we’re talking about customer newsletters) should enhance your brand image, further your marketing strategy, and accomplish the goals you set for it.  If your goal is truly to use your newsletter to generate sales or sales leads, here’s some general advice:


Be Informative

This holds true for every genre of newsletter.  If your audience gets nothing from reading your publication, they will stop reading it.  If you find you don’t have enough good stories to fill the pages, reduce the frequency of publication.


Keep It Simple

Write short stories.  Make sure the graphics and photography are appropriate to the story.  If your story doesn’t call for a photo, don’t include one.  Get right to the point so readers can quickly decide if they want to read an article.  You are competing with every other drain on your reader’s time, so make it easy on them.


Write It As A Story

Your newsletter should not read like a product brochure.  If you want to tell the benefits of using your product, write a customer success story.  If you want to discuss a new product feature, or new service you provide, go in-depth and explain the process you used to make the decision.  Good stories cover not just what but who, how, why and when as well.


Avoid the Obvious

Tell your readers something they don’t already know.  Your newsletter will then be an added value to your product or service.  Position your newsletter as a place to turn for the answers to questions about your product and the industry.


Avoid the Personal

Creating a personal relationship with your customers is a reasonable goal for a newsletter, but be realistic.  It’s unlikely that the CEO of your major distributor is interested in the shipping clerk’s new baby or the trophy your softball team won last summer.


Research, Edit & Proofread

You would never let a brochure or an ad go out the door with misinformation or typographical errors, so don’t let your newsletter, either.  If you can’t maintain high quality standards, do not publish a newsletter.  Sloppy editing and poor research reflects on your overall business style.


Manage Your Database

Send your newsletter to a name, not a company.  Otherwise it may get read by the guy in the mail room.  Provide an easy way for someone to remove their name from your list and make sure it happens immediately when requested.  Keep your address list updated to reduce postage costs.  These mundane things will greatly improve the effectiveness of your newsletter!


Focus On Substance – Not Style

Some of the best newsletters I’ve ever received were done in full type format.  Too many companies fall into the trap of creating a colorful, stylish publication that nobody reads.  If your audience can come away with one good idea for improving their business, you’ve done your job and solidified your position as an expert in the industry.


Properly done, a customer newsletter can have an ongoing impact on your sales.  To keep a customer, you must provide new reasons to buy on a continual basis, and a good newsletter can easily and cost-effectively accomplish that goal.  If you’re thinking of starting a newsletter of your own, promise me you’ll do two things.  First, buy a copy of “Fundamentals of Successful Newsletters” by Thomas H. Bivins and read it before making a decision.  Second, use a professional writer and designer, whether it’s your in-house public relations and graphics department or an outside agency,  This will ensure that the time and money you spend producing this communication tool create a positive impression on your audience.