Happy New Year! I hope you all had a happy holiday season and now that the festivities are behind us it’s time to turn our attention back to business. With the New Year here, have you thought about how you intend to remain top of mind with your customers?
Throughout my career I’ve had to learn to do more with less. One very effective way to get your message out is to create your own company newsletter. I know, I can hear the objections already, you don’t have the time to write a newsletter, you don’t have the computer skills to email it to your customers, it takes a lot of effort to publish a newsletter, I don’t know what to write about, I’m not a writer, and the list just keeps going.
Newsletters don’t have to be long in fact shorter is better. A one-page newsletter is perfect. In our “sound bite” world, people are used to receiving information in easily digestible chunks. The first question that you want to ask yourself is, “What is the purpose of my newsletter?” Is its purpose to inform, is it to teach, is it to motivate, or is it for promotional purposes?
The most popular newsletters teach or inform. Many people will subscribe to a newsletter to learn how to do something or to brush up on their skills. In our industry, we sell what is probably the most neglected system in the home, until it stops working, of course. Research has shown that customers that buy high-end systems tend to be more involved in the process and have more of an interest in the product after they have purchased it, making them ideal candidates for your newsletter.
When you decide to write your newsletter, keep your audience in mind; think about what is relevant, and what is important to your audience. If you want to be effective, look at what industry publications do; they create an editorial calendar. Decide what you will write about each month in advance, so you can coordinate your messages. Be realistic about how many articles you can write each month, remember to be consistent in the length of your newsletter.
A basic newsletter will have a lead story, shorter news items, and a personal message from you. You could create a more developed publication that might include features, departments, columns, an editorial, a cartoon, in-house news, news tidbits, regional round-ups, etc. but that would probably way overkill for your purposes.
The most important thing is to be consistent about when you send your newsletter out. If you plan to send it on the first Wednesday of the month, do so consistently. That way your subscribers will grow accustomed to receiving it on a regular and consistent basis.
An important consideration is many people only read their email in the preview pane in Outlook, which means they only see a small portion of your message at a time. Optimize your newsletter for people who only read email in the preview pane. Do this by being aware of what you put on the top of your newsletter, for example don’t put a huge graphic at the top of your newsletter, or that is all your reader will see. It would be better to put a table of contents there so the reader will know topics for the newsletter.
If possible, use links to your articles, which you could host on your website. Publish the first paragraph in your newsletter with a link that says “read more” that takes you to the full article. This way you have more room in your newsletter to include several articles or news briefs without taking up a lot of space.
If you plan to use your newsletter as part of your marketing efforts, remember to use testing to determine the effectiveness of your titles and headlines. You do this by creating two different titles for your email. Send one newsletter to half of your subscribers and send the other to the other half. Monitor your results so you learn which titles produced the most opens and the most click throughs.
On what topic should you write? The very last thing you want to do is make it all about your company. What do you mean don’t write about my company? If it sounds and looks like advertising, in the minds of your readers that’s all it is. So focus roughly 50% of it on your company and 50% on related topics. You can include information on some interesting aspect of your company or a new service that you offer, but don’t make the whole newsletter about your company. Educate your customer.
In our industry, there is a need for marketplace education, and it has been my experience that an email newsletter is one good way to address that need. When you consider the complexity of the systems we sell, and you consider how little the average homeowner really knows about heating and air conditioning systems, it makes sense to include information in your newsletter on the care and operation of an HVAC system. Your customers will appreciate the information.
Tell your customers about the latest innovations in HVAC technology and tell them what’s in it for them. Talk about geothermal heat pumps or solar water heaters if you offer them. Tell them the greatest thing about indoor air quality.
It’s important to keep in mind that successful newsletters need external content. The problem with many newsletters is that they are boring; they focus on such a narrow subject range, that eventually the most dedicated reader will stop reading them. Successful newsletters have varied content. Your off-topic content does not have to relate to the actual purpose of your newsletter. Think of it this way, even the golf channel has room for the weather and the occasional unrelated story. Add good external content to your newsletter to keep your readership engaged.
The question that hangs out there like the proverbial elephant in the room is what other content should you include in your newsletter? Keep the content personal, people like to hear or read stories about other people. You can create real interest by letting your readers know about you and your employees.
David Letterman is famous for his top ten lists. Think about creating your own top ten lists it could be fun. People like entertaining or heartfelt stories; make your readers smile. They won’t forget that your newsletter entertained them and it will continue to increase the chance they will remain on your subscription list. Don’t forget feedback. After all one of the main reasons to write a newsletter, is to get that valuable customer feedback. It lets you know how you’re doing and it provides valuable information. You might decide to create a poll and ask your readers to vote on something. Ask your readers to contact you with questions and suggestions.
A newsletter is a great idea, if you can’t write one yourself a marketing professional can assist you by helping you map out a year’s worth of articles and content that you can release monthly. If you are interested in receiving assistance with your newsletter, feel free to contact me at [email protected]. You can sign-up for my newsletter by following this link: http://www.fracicaenterprises.com/newsletter/.
Andy Fracica is president and CEO of Fracica Enterprises, Inc., a consulting firm specializing in marketing, PR, social media, and lead generation strategy. He has over 30 years of sales, marketing, and product management experience in the heating ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) industry. He concentrates on helping manufacturers, distributors, dealers, and startup companies do more with less. Contact him at 260-338-4554, [email protected] or visit the website www.fracicaenterprises.com