Publishing a regular newsletter is one of the best things any company can do to retain current, and attract new, customers. It's a shame so many companies get the fundamentals of the newsletter so wrong. In order to give your customers what they really want out of your newsletter, you must first drop the dogma that newsletters are advertisements. They are not. Instead, newsletters are relevant, informative, entertaining and useful publications that have value for your readers.
All of these things lend credibility to your message and your company, which in turn motivates your readers to come to you when they're ready to purchase what you sell. When you put together a newsletter with those goals in mind, the advertising practically takes care of itself. This is when you include a box ad or two with an offer and call to action. Otherwise, your contact information and other resources such as a web URL, address or phone number will suffice.
The following are tried-and-true editorial offerings that your newsletter recipients want to read:
Relevance is key to attracting attention and engaging your readership. Consider your target audience, and carve a well-defined niche for the most impact. Sometimes it's best to publish multiple newsletters according to your audience. A real estate agent, for example, could send one newsletter to commercial property investors and another to first-time home buyers. In most cases, it's safe to assume that these two groups would be interested in decidedly different articles. Your readers will respond if your newsletter content is important to them.
The very best newsletters are written like a newspaper, as though by a journalist. When you approach your newsletter content in this fashion, you're able to craft rich, well-researched articles that hit home with your readers. Focus on news that directly concerns your readers and they'll pay attention. Do this newsletter after newsletter, and they'll look for your newsletter in the mail. What else could you ask for?
This is related to useful information, but deserves its own heading because opportunities are what will turn your readers into customers. When you deliver factual articles and useful content devoid of hype, your readers will trust you. When you take note of opportunities that your readers can take advantage of to make their lives easier/better/happier, they'll be more than willing to jump on board. This is how great newsletters differ from traditional direct-mail advertisements.
Entertainment doesn't mean that you have to include comics or movie reviews - skip those! It doesn't mean all of your articles have to be fluff - you can cover serious topics. It does mean that your newsletter should be written in a light, easy-to-read manner so your readers can skim your articles and still get the key points. In short: Your newsletter should be an enjoyable read.
Spotlight your customers' accomplishments with photos and short stories about them. This is especially true when you've helped them achieve their goals, as with a real estate agent or mortgage broker helping a down-on-their-luck family get into a new home. This is also a great way to "sneak" testimonials in through direct quotes that appear honest and forthright (because they are!).
By now, you should understand that a great newsletter becomes an invaluable tool to your target audience, much as the Wall Street Journal is to investors. If all you're going to do is advertise your services, stick to postcards; but if you're willing to put the time and effort into developing a truly exceptional newsletter, go for it! With a regular newsletter and a bit of time, your rewards will be handsome.