THE NEWSLETTER FROM Spaceworks Furniture Hire, Surrey, England, illustrates the power that the old-fashioned newsletter still has over a new-fangled Web site: “It puts updates about what we can achieve, our latest products and our staff in front of targets without them having to go look for it,” notes Spaceworks managing director Paul Turney.
The three-year-old newsletter features high-quality paper stock, full-color photographs and crisp copy. Spaceworks mails roughly 5,000 copies quarterly to its existing customer base and targeted prospects. Production is contracted out at a total cost of about £5,000 ($7,300) per four-page issue.
“We find the responses are extremely good and [the newsletter is] generally welcomed by our audience,” Turney says. “It's a welcome relief from sending product brochures.”
REMEMBER THAT NAME
For Cleveland-based Event Source, The Source quarterly newsletter is part of an overall campaign to “keep our name in front of the customers,” president John Bibbo Jr. explains.
The four-year-old newsletter goes to a reader base of 4,000 created from outside sales calls, attendance at industry meetings such as NACE, and a database of existing and targeted customers, Bibbo says.
Event Source finds it cheaper to outsource production. “We used to complete it in house; we now send it out,” he says, noting it costs roughly a dollar per issue to produce and mail. Outsourcing also relieves Event Source from having to track changing postal rules. “We one time did the mailing in house and when we went to the post office to make sure we proceeded in the correct manner, one week later, the rules suddenly changed, and we had to start over.”
Bibbo has confidence in the newsletter's pull, based on “the feedback we receive from customers about topics that are included in the newsletter, and a spur of questions that revolve around the topics discussed in the newsletter.”
North Vancouver, B.C.-based Lonsdale Event Rentals tracks the impact of its newsletter by building a measurement tool into each issue. “We always include contests in every issue so we can measure the number of entries,” explains Frances Horner of Vancouver-based Turtle & Hare Creative, public relations agency for Lonsdale. Further, the Lonsdale team watches sales throughout the year for spikes surrounding publication of the newsletter. It also includes information about seminar opportunities and then tracks seminar attendance.
The year-old newsletter goes out three times a year to a database of 1,300. The company promotes its newsletter in many ways: through its Web site, as a value-added option for new customers and on its “hold” recording on its phone system.
Lonsdale keeps the price of production low — about $1,500 per four-page issue — by using a barter system with printers, working with a designer in Montreal rather than Vancouver (“Prices for design services in [Montreal] are cheaper than in Vancouver,” Horner says) and reining in postage. “We utilize bulk postage rates and try to encourage e-mail distribution,” she notes.
Lonsdale sees its newsletter as a multipurpose tool. Not only does the newsletter keep customers up to date on new inventory and special offers, it also publicizes the events of its clients. Lonsdale even reaches out to other companies to promote their products in the Lonsdale newsletter — such as a coupon for gardening tools — in exchange for exposure in that company's newsletter or other marketing materials.
“Most importantly, the newsletter is a communications tool that enables us to increase our readers' knowledge and understanding of event and party rentals and position us as the experts in the marketplace,” Horner says. “We know from our customer surveys that many people don't fully comprehend the value of event rentals, and this is the perfect medium to increase understanding of the industry while developing ownership of this space.”
How to Get Read All Over
All the work you put into your newsletter means nothing if your customers toss it without reading it. Here are tips for creating newsletters that grab readers:
Put the reader first.
An adage in public relations says that the only person who wants to hear how great you are is your mother. Instead of using your newsletter simply to tout your company's new products or personnel, focus instead on how new developments at your company serve your reader. For example, rather than just announcing a new line of tables, explain how they reduce setup costs.
Beware of do-it-yourself design.
The slew of desktop publishing programs has led to a slew of amateurish newsletters. Good design holds the reader's attention and helps get your message across. Further, the sophistication of the special event industry demands quality design. At the least, it's worth spending the money on a design template from a graphic artist.
Keep it short and sweet.
With so many marketing materials competing for your readers' attention, don't risk losing them at the start with a weighty tome. A short newsletter packed with valuable information will make them eager for your next edition.
Cut the deadwood.
Make sure your circulation list is current. Invest staff time in calls to names on your mailing list to ensure that your newsletter is landing on the right desk. It not only prevents waste but also strengthens the bond with your customers.