Newsletters – Why, When and How

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Is your newsletter getting the results you desire? Do you know what results you want? That is the question you should first ask yourself. Why. "Why do we need a newsletter and what do we want it to do for us?" So many companies produce or buy a newsletter simply because the competition does. If this is your modus operandi, scrap it in favor of strategy. Your newsletter should be a tool you use to connect your clients to your business goals. Once you've decided what your goals are, clearly map out how the publication will help you carry out those goals and what content will do the job.

Now that you've decided that a newsletter is a worthy marketing expenditure, when are you going to send it and how long will it take to produce? If you are producing an in-house publication that is an average length of four to six letter-sized pages, give yourself at least two to three days per page for writing. That time approximation includes editing and rewrites. Then, depending on whether you are a graphics guru, plan on another one to two weeks for a designer to lay out the copy and for you to review and make edits. Of course, then the newsletter needs to go to the printer. Depending on the printer's schedule, this could take anywhere from two days to two weeks. As you can see, this is a lengthy process that requires advance planning and strategy. If you are just starting out, it may be wise to stick to a quarterly distribution schedule rather than a bi-monthly one.

So how do you put all of this together? It's pretty easy if you are linking to business objectives. Your goals act as your road map. From this map, you make a list of recurring columns or features you want to see and then schedule them over the four or six newsletter issues. It's not a bad idea, either, to schedule writers at the beginning of the year for all of the issues. This will give them plenty of time to tackle their article. Change the subject according to what is going on in your clients' lives. If it's nearing the end of the year, for example, you might want to incorporate estate planning advice that they won't want to miss because of end of the year deadlines. And, don't forget to offer free tip sheets or schedules that will allow your readers to phone in (or e-mail) and request one –this will give you an idea of how many people are really reading your newsletter. You might also use a fax-back page to request information from your clients. What articles do they want to see? How can your firm serve them better? You might be surprised at the responses.

Last, but not least, think about the newsletter's writing style. Your newsletter is competing with lots of other newsletters jamming your clients' mailbox. Your newsletter's writing style should be aimed right at the reader – not over or under their heads. It should be light and easy to read (think short articles). It should match the tone and personality of your clients. Only you know your clients. And when it comes to technical issues, remember that you need to talk benefits, not how-tos. For example, you don't need to tell them how a tax deduction works, you need to describe whether or not the tax deduction affects them. That way, they can come in to see you so you can show them what you can do for them!

Follow these guidelines and when in doubt ask. Ask your clients how they feel about your publication. Do they read it? Is it helpful? Do they recognize it when it comes in the mail? Take your last newsletter and ask yourself how each article helped fulfill a business objective. How does your newsletter measure up?

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