A whole industry has built up around the discipline of ‘search engine optimisation’. Some very clever people are spending a lot of time (and quite a lot of their clients’ money) to improve results in web searches. It may well be worth looking at what they can do for you … but first, think about what you can do for yourself – with the help of our Ten Top Tips for improving your search engine appeal.
To maximise your opportunities, there are two key points to keep in mind:
• Spend time on the newsletter’s design and copywriting. Your newsletter design is a branding and image opportunity for your company or organisation. Correct grammar and spelling are also important. Mistakes detract from your message and image.
What’s a newsletter actually for?
The big question has a simple answer: it’s a marketing tool. It probably won’t get you any sales directly – but it will help to make your selling easier.
A newsletter is a form of contact, just like a phone call, visit or direct mail postcard. Your business and any messages you want to get across will be in front of your current and prospective clients each time you send out a newsletter.
People are also more likely to read a newsletter than a sales letter because they see it as less threatening and more likely to tell them something that might be useful to them.
The thing is, people have different and largely predetermined reactions to what they perceive as different marketing materials.
A sales letter is Ïeasily regarded as junk mail -it’s personalised (hopefully) so it has a head start (someone is talking directly to me about something that will be of value to me) but because of that it’s also wide open to disappointment.
Newsletters are all about building relationships with your customers. Crucially, newsletters can help build brand recognition and keep your name in front of your existing and potential customers. The newsletter should reflect the branding messages you want associated with your business – key descriptions such as friendly, informed, comprehensive, professional, and so on.
A flyer is likely to be seen as more trivial, with lower expectations on the recipient’s part.
And the newsletter fits somewhere inbetween – with a reasonable expectation of value, but without the pretensions to personal contact of a letter.
What’s in the newsletter?
The basic content could include …
• Product information: Especially for new products – and especially if they can be supported by independent assessment (your own comments in the case of new phones you’re stocking, for instance, or perhaps reports from customers)
• Promotions: Including short-term money-off and deals
Much of this information can be reused on your website, which is a convenient way of keeping the web content fresh.
Producing the newsletter
The newsletter can be produced on your own inkjet or laser printer, but that is not recommended – the results can look amateurish. It will difficult or impossible to print on two sides of the pages, you’ll have to staple sheets together or leave them loose, there will probably be too many copies to justify the cost of ink, and you’re almost certain to run out of ink and/or paper at the most inconvenient time.
Far better to produce the newsletter yourself using something like Microsoft Word or Publisher and save it in a form that can be sent to a jobbing printer. It’s worth installing Adobe Acrobat and outputting as a PDF file; there are low-price alternatives to the pukka version of Acrobat that will do the same job. Most print shops will be able to take PDFs, some can work directly from Microsoft Publisher documents, and a handful are prepared to work with DOC files. (But don’t try to save your text in JPEG format and send that – it won’t reproduce well.)
This will get you a professional job, and most printers seem willing to advise you about layout tricks and cost-cutting ideas.
Newsletters on a shoestring
• Send all recipients a message containing the whole newsletter in plain-text format. It makes for a long message (so warn them in the title line that this is indeed a newsletter rather than a conventional message) but the absence of formatting and colour means it’s easy to do (though you do need to be a little clever to avoid ending up with a dull-looking screed of solid text).
• Send a message containing the whole newsletter in HTML format. This means the newsletter is produced using a web page editor, so you get the full range of web formatting options – columns, tables, colours, changes of typeface and so on. The downside is that some email readers can’t cope with HTML, so they just see a messy plain-text version. Others have set their email programs to reject HTML messages, because they’re so often junk mail.
• Send a short message with the newsletter included as an attachment. In this case the format doesn’t really matter – it could be a PDF, a Word document or even plain text. You just have to be sure that the recipient will have some software that will be able to read the format you send. The slight disadvantage is that the viewer doesn’t get to see your newsletter immediately, and they may well put leave it till later and then forget to open the attachment.
Send a short message telling the recipient that a copy of your latest newsletter is available to be read at your website. There it’s held as just another web page. This is the shortest, least intrusive option; it’s also the one that’s least likely to result in your carefully crafted newsletter being read.
Next month: More about emailed newsletters
What you can do with a newsletter:
• Promote your credibility. Provide relatively unbiased and reliable information, and your readers will come to associate the quality of the information you provide with the quality of your products and services.