RENTAL COMPANIES ARE making big news with e-mail newsletters — a cost-effective way to get news to clients quickly.
M&M The Special Events Co., based in Carol Stream, Ill., switched from its quarterly print newsletter to a monthly e-newsletter for a raft of reasons, explains president Mike Berk.
“We can get a newsletter out immediately if something important happens,” he notes. “We can send out pictures of a recent event that can be timely, as opposed to waiting 60 to 90 days when that event is old news. It enables us to give timely ideas and suggestions regarding holiday events, new equipment, promotional ideas and so on.”
Not only does the format save time, but also money. “It is significantly less costly than having something printed and mailed, and I believe it has more impact,” he adds. And though Berk says it's easy for an e-mail newsletter to be overlooked or discarded, “so can a printed piece.”
Although it's only six months old, the “Linen Trends” newsletter from Spring Valley, N.Y.-based Cloth Connection (at right) has received a “tremendous response” from clients, notes vice president Michael Davis. The newsletter showcases additions to the company's inventory and offers gossipy tidbits about celebrities who have used the company's linens, such as mogul Donald Trump for his January wedding. It also offers an array of links back to the company's Web site, helping subscribers quickly open an account, order a catalog and answer FAQs.
Cloth Connection sends its newsletter on a flexible schedule. “The newsletter is published at least once a season, sometimes more often during busy parts of the year,” Davis explains. But that flexibility is crucial: “We need a medium to convey instant information about our business,” he adds. “Being in a business that is on the cutting edge of fashion, we come out with on average 75 new linen styles a year. Rather than making customers wait for a swatch update once a year, we are able to advertise a few styles at a time.”
Although the newsletter requires an investment of time and money — Davis strongly recommends hiring a professional to handle deployment — he says the ability of e-mail to offer an interactive experience is worth it. His other piece of advice: “Always be sure to give your end-user an easy way to opt out of your e-mail campaign,” he recommends. “It doesn't benefit anyone to send out unwanted e-mails.”
Some 4,000 customers of Edison, N.J.-based Miller's Rentals & Sales receive its e-mail newsletter four to six times a year. The company has been producing its “e-mail blast,” as president Steve Kohn calls it, for 2½ years. The subscriber list is updated monthly because the subscriber base is so fluid: For each edition, “about 10 percent to 15 percent opt out — we give them this option at the bottom of the blast — and we drop another 15 percent because many clients change their e-mail addresses,” Kohn notes.
When developing content, Miller's sticks with a “simple is better” approach. “Keep in mind that many clients don't have high-speed connections, or they are using AOL, so content has to be kept simple and designed to load quickly,” Kohn explains. “The idea is to get people to your Web site, where they can spend more time and do their research. The e-mail blast just serves as a medium to get them there.”
But even though developing the newsletter is simple, deploying it takes the proper program. “Don't attempt to do this with a stock software product such as Outlook or Outlook Express,” Kohn notes. “There is specific software on the market that will streamline the process; we use a product called E-campaign.”
Kohn brings his staff in on the process, looking to them for suggestions on what to include in each edition. “I like an e-blast because it's cost-effective — imagine snail-mailing all of these! — it's to the point, it allows you to keep in touch with the customer, it's not complicated to produce, it gets your staff involved, and you can test-market ideas before implementation.”