Do you ever feel like your clients are having parties and you’re not invited? That’s exactly what happens to many companies when it comes to staying top of mind. They are simply not part of their customer’s “in” crowd.
Too often companies remain outside the circle of influence because of an inability to establish personal customer relationships. It’s easy to fade into the background after the sale, missing opportunities to cross-sell, up-sell and generally deepen the relationship.
Think you have nothing to say? Customers actually do care about issues like:
Marketplace trends that impact their lives or businesses
Pertinent new product developments
Products that enhance the performance of what they purchased from you
News of how other customers are using your products
Your company initiatives from sustainability to community involvement
Loyalty discounts and offers
So How Could a Newsletter Improve My Social Life?
The truth is a newsletter won’t help much if the entire focus is on you. If you want the cool rich kids (translation: leading customers) to notice you there has to be some credibility established.
A well-positioned newsletter can help make the case that your knowledge extends beyond the manufacturing of your product to an understanding of your customer’s desires and challenges. And if you are in a business-to-business environment, you can send the newsletter to C-level execs who set strategy and influence decisions but are not part of your everyday contact base. Consumer marketers can benefit from pass-along circulation and offers to sign up friends with similar interests.
How Do I Communicate the Product Message?
The best way to promote the value of your product is by providing content that lures customers while still weaving in the product message. For example, a feature article about asthma sufferers who successfully compete in endurance events might be appealing for a pharmaceutical company.
A secondary article by a member of the company’s physician team might talk about how asthma patients can participate more safely in athletic endeavors by following a certain preparation regimen. Then the copy introduces the effectiveness of the company’s asthma drug.
Who Will Write the Articles?
The obvious answer is to go outside if you don’t have the inside expertise. Check with your media contacts for good freelance writers. Or contact Larry Bauer and the Mondovox® Creative Group. We write and design award-winning newsletters as well as provide support services ranging from managing your marketing database to electronic distribution and real-time results tracking.
Regardless of your approach, the takeaway is that you need to build credibility by demonstrating knowledge of the issues impacting your customers. Then you have a chance of making your customer’s “A” list of companies with which they prefer to do business. Newsletters can provide the vehicle.
Try to forget for a moment whatever preconceived ideas you might have about print and electronic communications. If you were developing a newsletter, you would want to use the most effective means, right? So let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of each channel:
Ability to reach everyone in your database
Easier to rent print lists for expanded circulation
High resolution reproduction that delights the eye
Portability—easier to take to a coffee break, read on an airplane, etc.
People tire of reading computer screens all day
Less competition—fewer print newsletters being produced
Research shows that people enjoy receiving relevant print publications
Slower production and distribution process
More difficult to present timely news
Limited tracking ability for generating marketing metrics
Virtually instant distribution
Easier to present timely news
More interactive capabilities—instantly link readers to deeper, related information or direct contact with you
Superior tracking ability for better marketing metrics
Email address availability tends to be spotty even in customer databases
Limited list rental options for expanded circulation
Easily ignored, deleted or canceled
Lots of competition
And the Winner Is…
There is no winner. They are different channels with different sets of pluses and minuses. The answer is a milk toasty “it depends.”
What is clear is that different channels work best in combination with one another. Our most successful newsletter clients use a blend of print and electronic media to communicate their message.
They produce quarterly print versions, usually in 8-page formats, then provide short, one- or two-topic HTML editions on a bi-weekly schedule. This approach not only allows the companies to communicate important information on a timely basis, but also demonstrates that they are multichannel players who understand today’s media environment.
You may be the best player in your region or niche, but it won’t matter to prospects and clients if you don’t appear and act credible and knowledgeable. Good newsletter content is only half of the equation. Without equally good design, your newsletter won’t instill a favorable impression, get read and ultimately help you get that foot in the door.
Design is not about using favorite colors and looking trendy. It’s actually a complex outcome of the same marketing information you use to create your key sales messages and expand your service offerings. Design deftly applies that same information to the components of your newsletter (and all your sales tools for that matter).
Keep the following in mind when planning and designing your newsletter:
Know your target audience and tailor your newsletter design to their needs. This includes aspects such as making sure type is legible for the age group of your list and selecting colors that are suitable for their demographic.
Design to support your market message without over-designing or losing yourself in a plethora of trendy design motifs. Make sure the newsletter’s design supports rather than upstages your message.
Look strategic by using images and copy that focus on solutions for your customers rather than your products, building or warehouse. This will position you as a company that thinks strategically and can contribute to their bigger picture and ultimately, yours.
Differentiate yourself from your competitors by purposefully designing to NOT look like them. Being different and distinctly recognizable allows prospects to spot you a mile away.
Don’t be a copycat by using the same stock images that all your competitors are using. These won’t reinforce your brand or your need to be seen in a different light than your competitors. Remember, when all things are perceived as being equal, price wins.
Be consistent by always using the same high-quality design for your newsletter. Consistency reinforces your prospects’ expectations of you.
Follow through on your design promise by acting the part. Once you have a well-designed, well-written newsletter based on a solid communications platform, you must have the ability to follow through. Make sure your sales staff is sending both verbal and written messages consistent to the quality and content of your newsletter.
Instill trust by consistently integrating your newsletter into your overall brand image. This will visually link the publication to your other customer touchpoints, creating cross-media recognition that reinforces your sales messages to everyone—prospects and existing clients.
Increase accessibility by using design to improve the reader’s experience. Articles should be easy to find and clearly differentiated from each other. Landing pages are helpful for extended articles but keep links under control. Five to seven jumps is a good number to shoot for.
Use Good Design for Every Touchpoint, Including Newsletters.
Good design gives you the power to change, reinforce and expand positive perceptions of your company. It also shows that you pay attention to detail and are able to understand the precise nuances of your customers’ needs. Customers want to know that important details won’t escape your discriminating eye when you’re part of their team. The design quality of all your sales and marketing literature creates as much of an impression as the suit you wear to that first meeting. And if done really well, good design will differentiate and position you more favorably than the next guy, giving you the edge.
What’s the bottom line?
It’s simple: Good newsletter design creates distinction between you and your competitors while consistent design keeps you visible during long sales cycles. Good design does matter.