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Writing your newsletters

Write copy that'll keep your customers coming back

Newsletters rarely sell directly. They are strongest at creating ongoing relationships. Just like a human relationship, that means building friendship and trust. Your best friends probably don't sell to you- rather, they're a reliable helping hand, there when you need them, and always available for good advice. That's exactly how the best newsletters work too. Download our guide on How to Create and Mail a Newsletter.

Make It Useful

Newsletters will work only if customers value the information or features you deliver. You must offer articles or news that they can't find as easily anywhere else. The newsletter should make them feel like an insider. You're asking customers for time and attention, so you had better make it worth their while.

Expert Advice: Says Jakob Nielsen, Principal of Nielsen Norman Group, "The most powerful use of newsletters is to build a relationship between a company and its customers, and so you have to provide advice to the customers beyond pushing products at them."

The CD/DVD duplication bureau run by Steve Bridson sends out an information letter advising clients of what they need to be aware of and things that could help them with their CD business. "It's not just about 'use us because we're the best'. Customers don't want to hear that," says Steve.

Find out more about creating a newsletter here.

For example, the December 2004 issue of The Microsoft bCentral Small Business Issues newsletter includes a Better Business Toolkit, a Christmas competition, plus business advice, software tips and special offers. The key is to provide value with each communication.

New West End Company send out a biweekly West End News HTML email and a monthly interactive version of their printed newsletter "imagine...". The first targets their stakeholders, journalists, the media, residents and other interested parties. The latter contains general news, events, reader offers and editorial.

A good benchmark would be to identify your core audiences (customers, suppliers etc.) and ensure that each newsletter you create informs them of at least one useful fact which they would not have been likely to pick up elsewhere.

So be sure who you are trying to communicate with and what you are trying to achieve and convey.

Make it readable

Besides offering valuable information, newsletters must be well designed and easy to read. If hastily or sloppily produced, with too much information to digest customers will simply disregard it. Your newsletter must be useful, clear and concise.

Expert Advice: Says Jakob Nielsen, Principal of Nielsen Norman Group, In my research on how people use email newsletters, only 11% of the newsletters were read thoroughly. If you send people a novel, it'll be deleted. Send them something that's quick and easy to deal with."

Designing your newsletter with Publisher will help you achieve a consistent and professional result. You can also produce different issues quickly and easily by setting up a template for the first one, then updating articles and images for later issues.

Mailing a newsletter as frequently as every week is liable to dilute your efforts. It's too much too soon. It's about quality rather than quantity. Educate, don't irritate.

One idea is to create a longer quarterly mailed newsletter and a monthly newsletter created in Publisher and distributed by email. Find out how to convert your Publisher newsletter for use on the web.

You can also post the newsletter on your website. Another option is to send out an email blast, headlining the news in the issue, and then follow up with the mailed edition and a posted version on the website. Again, make sure your timing matches customer interest and needs.

Expert Advice: "You can import .csv (Microsoft Excel) files into most email address books - as well as export. This gives you a flexible, cost effective method of maintaining your database," says Ane-Mari, Co-Founder and Managing Director, on-IDLE.

Like all forms of advertising, getting a response is partly down to offering the right product, but equally down to expressing that offer in a timely and relevant way. Now you have some writing tips, consider promotion with flyers, postcards and newsletters; and don't forget to also apply your strategy to your website.

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