Newsletters are the most mis-used marketing tool around. That’s because most companies try to combine three separate functions: marketing, support and in-house. You do not need to market yourself to your existing customers; you do not need to provide support to your prospects. And you certainly don’t want to waste time selling to your own staff: that smacks of desperation! There is of course some overlap; but as a basic principle, produce a marketing newsletter for your prospects, a support newsletter for your customers, and an in-house magazine to maintain staff morale. Mixing the three weakens all.
In general, the purpose of a marketing newsletter is to sell product to new customers. The purpose of a support newsletter is to keep existing customers happy, and sell them additional product. The purpose of an in-house magazine is to maintain productivity from your greatest asset: your staff. The mailing lists are different for each category. So ideally, you should produce three newsletters. The best ROI, however, would be to concentrate on the marketing newsletter. These recipients are people with whom you have no established line of communication: you are reaching out to them. Your existing customers already have that line. They will come to you if they have a problem; so you could fortify your help desk for customers and concentrate your newsletter on prospects. And your staff are a captive audience (I’m not saying you should spend less effort on your own staff, but in reality you can get away with spending less money).
This newsletter provides company and product news. So it should include product announcements and newsworthy company announcements.
- Don’t include staff announcements unless a genuine industry figure is joining you. If you’re just taking on a new product manager that no-one outside of your company has heard of, don’t announce it. It invites the response: So what? Who’s that? Haven’t they got any real news? But if an ex-Cabinet Minister is joining your Board – announce that!
- Don’t turn the newsletter into a product data sheet. Data sheets are separate documents with a different function aimed at a different audience.
- Don’t limit the newsletter to news about your own company.
- But don’t knock the competition.
- Remember your audience: this newsletter is aimed at businessmen buyers (not just technical staff). So it’s got to be interesting.
- Include news items such as new products, new sales, presence at seminars, conferences and exhibitions.
- Include ‘features’. Case studies are ideal: they show how your products have actually solved real problems in real life, and any readers with similar problems will know where to turn. Other features could include discussions on how your product solves a particular problem. Don’t try too hard to sell your product: sell the solutions that your product provides. And include photos, graphs and quotes.
- Include industry information as well as your own news. This confirms that you really know what’s going on. It is also an opportunity to include those really interesting little snippets of information that can make a newsletter a must read rather than might read.
- Include relevant contacts for any further information on any of the content.
- Above all, present it well. What the reader thinks of your newsletter is what he will think of you.No typos, no grammatical errors, and no inconsistencies.
A support newsletter is not obviously a sales tool, but is nevertheless a valuable marketing document. It serves two purposes: it engenders and maintains a loyal user base that is likely to recommend you to other companies, colleagues in professional bodies and new employers if they change jobs; and it can lead to direct sales when a happy customer buys additional product or trades up in the product range.
The audience for this newsletter is more technical than the first, and should be given content to suit:
- News about new products, new versions and new features
- News about training classes
- Tips and tricks on how to use your product
- Users’ wishlist: engaging with your existing users will help you make your product more attractive to new users
- Technical case studies: show how a particular user solves a particular problem, but concentrate on how the problem is solved rather than the brilliance of your product
The purpose of this newsletter is to is to improve and maintain staff morale. A happy workforce is a productive workforce. This newsletter talks about staff news: achievements, promotions, new qualifications and anything else that engages your staff. Its purpose should be to turn your company into a second family.
Of the three you should consider using an external source for your marketing newsletter (who, as an outsider, will recognise what you need to do to improve your company image), an in-house engineer who thoroughly understands the product for the support newsletter, and your own HR department for the staff newsletter.
Contact me, firstname.lastname@example.org, for any further information on developing and producing a marketing newsletter.
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