Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Business Chat - Newsletters Part 2

The main point from last week’s post was that it is not the customer’s job to stay in touch with you - it is your job to stay in touch with the customer. The secondary point was that a newsletter is an excellent way of staying in touch.

Starting a newsletter can be a daunting process especially if you’re not that confident as a writer. Or maybe you have a newsletter that isn’t quite doing its’ job and it needs a bit of sparking up. Today we’ll talk about 10 steps to building a winning newsletter that everyone will be lining up to receive.

  1. Set a goal. As with any task you set out to accomplish before you do it you should decide why you’re doing it. What is the purpose? Why are you spending the time to send out a newsletter? Having a goal not only helps you focus on the task it also gives you a benchmark to define if the task is successful. What do you want the newsletter to accomplish, increase sales offline or online, drive traffic to a craft show, drive traffic to your blog or website? The goal for the newsletter can be different every time you send it out so before you write this every time you set your goals.
  2. Brand it. Make sure you use the same logo, colours, fonts, photos and icons that you have on your website, facebook page, business card etc. Remember, branding is all about consistency, consistency builds trust.
  3. Create a template. Writing a regular newsletter is much easier if you use the same format every time. Decide on sections and create nice banners for these. I use Upcoming Events, New and Exciting, and Eye Candy where I show pretty pictures. I also have an introduction and a sign off paragraph.
  4. The subject line. Add your business name to the subject line so that people know right away who the email is from. Make the rest of your subject line something fun so that people want to open it.
  5. Your audience. Define who you are writing for. Picture your ideal customer and write directly to her. Give her a name and imagine having a conversation with her, what do you want to tell her?
  6. A call to action. What do you want customers to do when they read this? Do they visit your blog? Visit an upcoming show? Buy from your online store? If you’re informing them of a new product ask them to click on a link and look. Tell them what you want them to do.
  7. Links. Make sure you include links back to your website, your blog, your online store, your facebook page, anywhere that the customer can bookmark and find you later. If you haven’t yet set up any of these things set up a Flickr site and post pictures.
  8. Bring you to the table. Yes your work is fabulous however that’s only part of the reason that a customer wants to receive your email. They want to know what’s going on in your world. People buy handmade for many reasons and a big one is that they want to know the person who made the work. . If a newsletter is nothing more than a listing of shows and a few pictures it is meaningless. If you have a new piece talk a bit about the inspiration behind it. If you don’t have any new work talk about how you create your work, or show a picture of your work bench, or talk about a class you’re taking. Talk about what you did yesterday or talk about your dog. Give them something of you.
  9. Make it pretty. Include pictures and use colour and nice fonts. Just don’t get so carried away with stuff that they can’t read the content. It’s always good to have a second set of eyes critique it before you send it out.
  10. Test it. Spell check is your friend. Send it to yourself to make sure the images show up and that the links work. Look at it in different browsers. If you’re on a PC send it to a friend on a Mac to make sure it looks good. Nothing is more amateur than receiving a newsletter and then 30 minutes later receiving a follow up saying “oops!”. Make sure what goes out reflects exactly the way you want people to think of you and your company.

Lastly, don’t forget frequency. If you promise a montly newsletter, then come hell or high water, once a month it goes out. As with any other of these business tasks, the first couple of times you do them it’s an ordeal. (The first time I hit the Send button to 800 people I thought I’d throw up, what if there was a huge error and I looked stupid?). It gets easier all the time. Especially when people tell you how much they like it and sales go up!

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