By Harlan West, Design and Marketing Professional with 25 years of experience designing materials for major healthcare organizations, municipalities and large corporations.
As mentioned before in this blog, newsletters have many advantages. But often overlooked is the benefit a regular newsletter can present to a small business or retail store. Many small businesses will not even consider a newsletter because it does not seem as “sexy” as TV or radio ads, print advertisements, billboards or social media promotions. In addition, the proprietor often feels that the monthly cost of printing, fulfillment, mailing list generation and postage, together with the expense and time involved to create content and develop the design, make a newsletter a non-viable option. But small businesses need to start looking at newsletters as a form of advertising rather than just a means for staying in touch with customers. Hence, I encourage small businesses to try instituting a monthly newsletter for a minimum of a one-year period. This should be sufficient time to determine if there a sufficient return on investment (ROI) to support the continuation of the publication.
Here’s some things to keep in mind when developing a newsletter for a small business:
1) Keep the budget in check. Probably the number one reason small businesses do not use newsletters is the cost and the time requirement needed to prepare a newsletter. With online newsletters, the distribution, mailing, and printing costs are eliminated. But if you still want to print your publication, digital printing can give you short-run print options at a cheaper price than traditional printing.
2) Utilize a great way to stay in touch. Newsletters are a great way to connect with your customer base and to keep them up-to-date with the latest products, services or industry developments. Why ignore a great form of communication that is easily within your reach and budget? Keep in mind that the newsletter does not need to be fancy or glossy. Take, for example, Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer. This is a “home-baked” 2-color piece printed on newsprint. Indeed, this is a “campy” piece but it’s one that you definitely remember.
3) Take advantage of a more personalized approach. Newsletters can be tailored to a smaller audience than other forms of advertising. Newsletters can even include articles about customers, employees the local community and local suppliers. Try including “success” stories about happy customers using your products or services. Some laser-printed newsletters could even feature a laser printed section where the customer’s name could be imprinted in an article or addressed as a salutation in a letter.
4) Stay local. Newsletters are a great way to foster a localized feeling and a commitment to the community. “Buy Local,” and “Buy American,” are popular buzz phrases that can attract customers. People love supporting businesses in their community. Think of a home-baked approach to keep your store or business connected with your neighbors.
5) Add a non-profit component to the newsletter—promote a charity or give back to the community. Why not add a column that offers supports a charitable foundation? You will not only be helping others, but your company will go a long way towards building some “brownie points” with the community. You could also promote a recycling e-waste collection or an Earth Day event.
6) Use the newsletter as a means partner with other businesses for the purpose of joint promotions. Share advertising costs with other businesses in your local business district or even partner with competitors in outlying areas. This will help reduce costs. Indeed, even businesses in the same field can have completely different types of clients. But since you both provide similar services, you may find it beneficial and cost-effective to run ads together or to produce a joint newsletter. This will help save time, printing, fulfillment and mailing and costs.
7) Run social-media promotions in the newsletter such as coupons, contests, give-aways. These will help entice people to keep reading. Get people to visit your small business on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or YouTube.
8) Ask for e-mail lists and cell phone numbers when your customers make purchases. This will allow you to gather an up-to-date list from patrons who have already shopped in the store and made a purchase. Having visited the store, they already have a connection to your business. Why not build on it?
9) Run feature articles on regular customers and how they are benefiting from your products or services. Show how the local folk are benefiting from shopping in your retail establishment. You could run special profiles such as a customer-of-the-month profile. Offer the highlighted customers some free services to help compensate them for their time and the use of this information in a promotion.
10) Use the newsletter in place of costly advertising. A regular, and I mean regular, monthly newsletter can include information on new products or services the business us offering, upcoming sales and promotions, staff profiles, updates to hours, new locations and an events calendar. Keep in mind that it does not need to be printed. It can be an online newsletter as well.
Go ahead and develop a newsletter for your small business—its your business! What are you waiting for?
If your company needs an innovative small business newsletter, e-publication, or promotion, please contact HWDS at firstname.lastname@example.org. We make beautiful things happen. To find out more please visit westdesign.com
Harlan West is the author of successfulcorporatecommunications.com and has been working as a creative director and design professional for more than 25 years and has designed and art directed hundred of publications for both print and online purposes.