5 Steps to Successful Small Business Promotion Through Newsletters
Author: Paul D. McDonald, MBA
Virtually all small businesses need to create new customers and strengthen their bonds with existing customers. One very effective way to do this is through the use of newsletters.
I have found that there are five simple steps to creating a successful small business newsletter.
1. Have a mailing list
If you have been in business for a length of time, you probably already have the workings of a mailing list through existing customers and prospects. If you are new in business, there are many suppliers of mailing lists in the marketplace. It's a good idea to start small and test the receptiveness of your newsletter and your current client and prospect list is a great place to start. Contact me if you need any help in creating a list. I have software that can generate lists easily and will be happy to help you for a nominal fee.
2. Have a newsletter template
Microsoft Word is a very easy way to create a newsletter. The attached sample newsletter (Annuity Opportunities) was created exclusively in MS-Word. If you desire to create a more robust newsletter layout, Microsoft Publisher is also excellent. Contact me for a copy of the template and I will send it to you by email (email@example.com).
The mailing method that I recommend involves uploading documents to the United States Post Office website. This service requires either Microsoft Word documents, or Adobe Acrobat Reader documents. If you mail the newsletters yourself, you can choose any method you desire.
3. Get some articles
""Where am I going to get the articles?"" that's always the question for small business owners. Generally, they don't have time to write the articles themselves.
There are many great sources of free and low-cost articles that you can obtain the rights to re-print. One easy and free source is GoArticles (http://www.goarticles.com/) that provides free to re-print articles on a variety of topics. When you choose this approach, you will need to include a ""resource box"" with your article that contains contact information of the original author. For a start-up newsletter, this is a great way to go because it keeps the cost down, but be sure to read the articles closely--some of these articles are very good and some are not. Remember, it's YOUR newsletter, not theirs!
Another free source is to network with a local college and offer unpaid internships for writing articles through the school's advertising department. You could also offer a stipend if it is in your budget. Many students will be happy to write for the experience and even more will write for a very small amount of money.
A third source is to hire someone to write the articles for you. While this is more costly, you will most likely get a better article. Part of the fee you pay will be that you own the ""rights"" to the article and do not have to list the contact information of the original author and it appears as though you are the author yourself. This is called ""ghost writing"" and it is very popular among many famous authors.
A fourth source is to contact your vendors. Often times, they have ready to print what are called ""byline articles"" that you can add in your newsletter.
Or, you could write the articles yourself. This is really not the preferred way for small businesses because of the time involved. However, it is an option and does bear mentioning. If you use a re-print service like GoArticles, you might want to have at least one of the articles written by you and two or three other articles by other people.
4. Create a schedule
How often do you publish? This is up to you, but most studies show that a monthly newsletter works well. This keeps your business in front of your prospects and customers once a month in a non-threatening manner and at the same time allows for a month to prepare the publication. Choose a schedule that works for you, but remember that it is far more important that you stick with that schedule! Creating a monthly newsletter for a few months and then stopping may have the opposite effect.
How many articles per newsletter? A good and simple newsletter can work with three or four articles on three or four pages. In the sample I give, I use three pages and reserve the fourth page for the mailing information at the printer. You don't need to ""cram"" the newsletter full of information--just give a newsletter that is easy to read and has useful information.
5. Send the newsletter out
I use the United States Postal Service website for uploading the newsletter and mailing. It is easy to register an account and upload not only the newsletter but also the mailing list. They print it, they send it. I can even schedule when I want a newsletter to go out--with this tool, I can create three or four monthly newsletters all at once and schedule them to be mailed out several months in advance. This way, I don't miss a scheduled mailing.
On Friday, March 03, 2006 (after a recent postal increase), I ran a simple quote of a 3-page newsletter in black and white on 8 ½"" x 11"" paper--the sample ""Annuity Opportunities"" newsletter. I can send this newsletter to 100 recipients for $43.30 or to 1,000 recipients for $433.00. That averages out to just over $0.43 per contact, including printing costs.
There are other options with this service, including color printing, more pages, etc. The option selected is what they call ""Flyer"" or ""Self-Mailer"" and it is usually the option I use. You can also send these newsletters out by fax, e-mail, or create a blog on the internet either in addition to or instead of mailing through the post office.
There you have it--5 steps to successful newsletter creation and business promotion!
About the author: Paul D. McDonald, MBA, is in business in Overland Park, Kansas. He specializes in Life Insurance, Annuities, and Long-Term Care Insurance. He welcomes contact at 1-877-711-1264 (phone or fax). He maintains several financial and business websites at http://seniorfinances.blogspot.com/, http://smallbizfinance.blogspot.com/, and http://small-biz-center.blogspot.com/.