Sending a paper newsletter is like dispatching a message in a bottle: You hope it gets someone's attention instead of drifting in a sea of junk mail. But unless a prospect calls your office asking for a quote or suggesting a referral, you can never be quite sure what happened to the missive. Sending your newsletter electronically not only saves money on postage and printing, it can also let you know whether people are paying attention — and even what sort of information interests them the most.
Just over a year ago, Jeff Petrucci, president of Bloomfield Construction, a home improvement company in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., began sending quarterly e-newsletters (shown). “The first time I e-mailed the newsletter, we had 1,100 hits on our Web site in one day,” he says. The company also has a print newsletter, but the interactive links in the e-mail version, sent to nearly 4,000 subscribers, allow Petrucci to gauge which articles most interest recipients.
Building on the Base Dennis Schaefer, owner of Creative Wood Products, a deck and sunroom company in Fenton, Mich., says he started his electronic newsletter when, after 20 years in business, he realized that his database of satisfied customers is one of his greatest marketing assets. His current subscriber list consists of about 2,800 names. It grows by 300 to 500 names per year, added when potential customers call for quotes or fill out a form on the company Web site.
The e-newsletter leads traffic to that site. “The fastest-growing source of leads for the company has been the Internet,” Schaefer says. “Last year we got more leads from the Internet than from the Yellow Pages.” He also notes that the close rate on Internet leads, which is 45%, is significantly higher than on any other type of lead — at less cost.
Getting Started Numerous companies now offer startup services for e-newsletters. They not only create the pages, but provide real-time tracking of opens, clicks, and conversions.
For content, Patrick Galvin, owner of Galvin Communications in Portland, Ore., points out that there are plenty of ad agencies, PR firms, and free-lance writers that can do some or all of the writing for you. He suggests a mix of custom content about you and your company and more generic syndicated content to fill in editorial holes.
You needn't have a big cash reserve to get started. “Reallocate some existing marketing resources rather than trying to start from scratch,” Galvin suggests.
When assembling an effective newsletter, make sure that while you toot your own horn a bit, you also provide information valuable to recipients — otherwise no one will read it. “You're not selling in the newsletter per se,” Petrucci says. “You're just keeping your name in front of people so that when they think about having more work done, they call you first.” And be sure to include a way for readers to unsubscribe or “opt out.” It's now required by law.