Should You Write a Newsletter for Your Business? Part I

I started using a newsletter in our business about eight years ago.  Initially, it was just a bit of a lark, it seemed like a fun thing to do to stay in touch with our clients and customers.  I had been looking through a newsletter that came as a result of my daughter’s involvement in the local symphony.  It was a fun read, some great articles, and I sensed that it was accomplishing something that we were lacking in our business.

It was a way to develop community.

If you have a business where you have a lot of clients and customers who come in, but not always in a really regular basis, using a newsletter can help to accomplish two things:

  1. It will keep you at the “top of their mind”.
  2. It will make you appear friendlier and more approachable.

Here is an example of a four-page newsletter we created a couple of years ago…because this was for our gift shop, we chose a style that was in keeping with our image:

This is the front page of the newsletter:

    • As you can see, it has a title,
    • The name of the business,
    • A table of contents,
    • A letter from the owner,
    • and a picture.
People LOVE to know who they’re doing business with.

Most businesses think they are in business to sell things.

Actually, you’re really in the relationship business!

Because our demographics for this business include 95% female, we always include a fun, original recipe for them to try out at home.

Sometimes we would incorporate something we sold at the shop, but most of the time, we did absolutely, positively  NO ADVERTISING on the FRONT PAGE!!!

This is really important. I can already hear some of you saying, “WOW! A 4-page newsletter, can you imagine all the ads I can put in that thing????!!!!”

Hold on. A newsletter is to be of service to your clients.  This means you have to give them something meaningful, something they can use in their lives.  You want them to say, “This is really great!  I NEEDED to know that right now!”

What business are you in?

Do you think you can’t use a newsletter to help your clients and customers be better informed?

I write newsletters for a LOT of businesses, and there isn’t a single one who hasn’t benefited from writing a helpful newsletter.  Why? Because it made their clients and customers feel like they were special.

Once we started our newsletter, people would come into the shop and rave about the newsletter.  They said it made them feel so special and they loved the articles and recipes, and timely/helpful tips and hints that we always tried to include.

The next post will show you the inside of this four page newsletter, providing more examples of the type of things you may wish to include in your newsletter.

Until then…think about your clientele.  What do they want from you?  How can you help them best?  Is your competitor doing anything that you’re not? How can you change that? What do you wish all your clients knew?

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Writing a Newsletter for Your Business

Did you know that for every month you are NOT in contact with your clients and customers, you lose about 10% of the value of your relationship with them?

How often are you in touch with your clients and customers?

A monthly newsletter is an ideal way to stay in touch with clients and customers, it is inexpensive, and really is not that hard to do.

Remember, it is much more cost-effective to do whatever it takes to keep your current clients and customers than it is to try to woo new ones.  Your current clientele is like gold! Even if they only buy a one-time item from you, don’t forget that they are excellent sources of diversified marketing strategies or for referrals.  Referrals are not to be discounted.  Without referrals, your business influence is severely limited.

A newsletter should consist of five major components:

  1. A personal touch from you, the owner of the business.  Some people write a quick note to their readers.  Others place editorial comments throughout the newsletter with their name after the comment.
    *****
  2. Educate your clients and customers. This is a great place to let people know how best to use your products and services.  You might even consider highlighting other clients and customers and how they are using your goods and services.  While you can’t be everything to everyone, you can certainly let them know what you do well!
    *****
  3. Inspirational articles that give people something to think about and feel good about themselves.  The better people feel after reading your newsletter, the better the impression they will have of you and your business.  Remember, you want them to associate a “feel great” mentality to you! You might include inspirational quotations, or articles about ways to improve their performance, health, or attitude.
    *****
  4. Testimonials that reinforce the idea that you are the best person to be doing business with. This is a huge point.  People like to be part of the “in crowd”, and testimonials further cement the idea that doing business with you is the right thing to do.
    *****
  5. Use your newsletter as a direct response opportunity.  While your newsletter should not be filled with ads and information about you and your company, you should not be shy about asking for referrals, providing special offers to people who refer other customers to you is just good business.  Go into partnership with another small business.  Combine your efforts.  Is there a restaurant nearby?  Can you purchase discounted gift certificates from them, and give them to customers who refer paying customers to you? Get creative.  Unite with other small businesses and make it worthwhile for clients and customers to do business with all of you.

Start off with a page or two…the important thing is to just get started today! You can pretty things up later, consider it to be a “work in progress”.  The next several postings will cover newsletter creation ideas in a lot more detail.

Stay Tuned!

Social Media as Advertising for Small Business

The times…they are a-changing!

It used to be that you had to market to your customers on a regular basis, reaching out to them at regular intervals with more and more messages about how and why they should do business with you.

Let me tell you my friends, things are changing!

With the advent of social media, and by that I mean…

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Blogging – WordPress, Blogger, etc.
  • LinkedIn
  • and many, many more…

…customer behavior and expectations are changing, moving from the “old way” to the new way.

When people look to shop for something these days, they don’t open a catalog, or yellow pages the way they used to.  Now, they ask their friends for advice (not so different, right?) but they do it through social media now.  They aren’t just asking their coworker or next door neighbor…they are using Twitter and Facebook to ask, “What do you think?”

And this is powerful!

If you aren’t a presence on the internet, you are MISSING OUT ON A LOT OF MONEY!

A young woman wanted a camera to take on vacation and so she asked for advice from her friends on Twitter.  A CMO (chief marketing officer) for Kodak was on Twitter, monitoring for this type of query.  He reached out to her and suggested one of Kodak’s least expensive cameras that might be a solution for her situation.

This is a 6+ billion dollar company!  And they are on Twitter, chatting with their customers about the pros and cons of an inexpensive camera.  How incredibly powerful is that?  It used to be that to get in touch with the executive of a huge corporation, you really had to have connections.  Today, if you want to stay in the running for business, you need to be using social media.

A recent article caught my attention about a local Phoenix restaurant, Z-Tejas.  One of their customers was really unhappy with a recent visit to their restaurant and tweeted about it.  Instantly, one of the owners of Z-Tejas contacted their unhappy customer and sorted out the matter.  Had they not been monitoring Twitter, they would have NEVER known how unhappy this person was, and that they were tweeting about it to anyone on their list.  I’m not as active on Twitter as a lot of other people, but my list is over 400 people.

Would you like 400 people to read about a bad experience?  Or would it be better to have 400+ people see that you appreciated how much of a problem this was for one of your guests, and you actually took steps to fix the problem? Believe me…negative advertising can cost you a LOT of money.

By monitoring Twitter, being attentive, and alert to a problem Z-Tejas was able to reach out to this unhappy customer and fix the situation.  This kind of advertising is worth its weight in gold!

Today, people Google everything. According to the February 2010 study from Compete.com blog, 3 out of 5 customers all use search engines when shopping for something, and that includes when they are shopping locally.  They want to know who has what they’re looking for. Not using social media can be killing your business.

Everyone who knows me understands how important shopping locally is to me.  If you don’t let your local customers know about you, how interested you are in them, their concerns, and how you might be able to help, they will find someone else to solve their problems.

And, very often, that is money you won’t be collecting, and if it isn’t local, the entire community suffers.

To that end, I can be found on Twitter as @KathleenBirming and @SmallBizBits.  I can also be found here on Facebook as Kathleen Birmingham.  And if you want to stay up on my Small Biz Bits, please “like” my page here.

What Makes for a Good Entrepreneur?

There are a lot of “beliefs” about what makes for a good entrepreneur. Here’s a great article talking about the 5 Myths About Entrepreneurs that should either support or dispel most of them.

Are you an entrepreneur?  Or are you a victim of circumstance? Did you choose the biz you’re in or did it somehow choose you?

Some might say that doesn’t matter, but I think deep down, everyone knows that it does matter.  Some of us find ourselves running a business that we somehow inherited, and we’re not really even sure we like it.

The problem is, if you don’t like it, your lack of passion and interest can impact how your clients and customers see you and your business.  So you’re going to have to ask yourself a really hard question: “Do I stay in this business or not?”

If you decide to stay in the business, then you somehow have to figure out how to fall in love with it and your clients and customers. Is there a micro-niche that you could serve that would be more interesting to you than those you currently serve?

Could you put a slightly different spin on the business, making it uniquely your own? Can you educate yourself about your business, products, and clientele so that you become the expert they’re looking for?  Once people begin to come to you as the expert, helping them to solve their problems, you might change how you view yourself and your business.

If, however, you answered, “No!” to the above question…the why are you still in business?  You really should either sell the business, or get someone else to run or manage it for you, because your lack of interest and desire to run it will eventually drive it into a slow death spiral.  Without that spark of entrepreneurial enthusiasm, innovative thinking, and deep interest, the business is lifeless.  Your clients and customers know that, too.

This isn’t something you need to decide in the time it takes to read this article. But you do need to do some heavy thinking. Seek guidance from someone who is not financially or emotionally involved in the business.  A business coach is a good place to start to see if you are in the right place, or if you need to make some big changes in your life.

Scary thought, but in the long run, life’s too short to do something you hate for the rest of your life.

Say it Isn’t So!!!

I have committed one of the worst sins in the blogging world there is…I haven’t blogged on this site for over six months.

Ridiculous!

Horrifying!

What was I thinking?!!

Guess what…it was an experiment.  I wanted to see what happened when I left a blog to just “be” for a long period of time, completely unattended, uncared for, and lost.

Consider what would happen to a beautiful rose plant, you put it in a gorgeous pot, you use the best potting soil, you fertilize it, you water it, you weed it, (for a few days) and then life happens, you get busy, and you FORGET you have a rose plant out there on the patio, and whether the temperatures are cold, blowing, and freezing, or they’re hot, still, and drying…the same result occurs…

…the rose plant dies.

I checked my site stats…let’s have a recap here…I started this blog in November 2010, and I posted a total of fourteen posts, my last one toward the end of December…so I didn’t even blog for two full months.

As you can see from the following table, I had about 40 hits  for November, December, January, February, and March…and then things really tumbled…until I got to, well…FIVE! in June 2011.  Six months and my blog is virtually dead!

What this tells me is that you can’t just start a blog, put up a few articles (even if they’re REALLY, REALLY great articles) and expect anything to happen.  I have my Twitter account connected, and that seems to continue to grow slowly (very slowly) because I’ve let that go as well just to see what happened…but the hypothesis has been proved.

I think we all knew it…we just needed the proof.

There you have it, folks. Your blog is an excellent marketing tool, ONLY IF YOU USE IT!!!!!

I’ll be working with one of our local Chambers of Commerce, talking about this very topic…teaching small biz owners how to promote their own business.  Everything I cover with that group, I’ll be posting here for everyone to learn from.

Hey, this is going to be a really GREAT ride folks.  Stick around and prepare to take notes that will take your business to the next level.

Until then,

~Kit Birmingham