All Your News That's Fit to Print

Converting your customer contact information database to loyal, interactive readers of your personal newsletter is easier than you may think.

At the last show or two, you put out a pad of paper that invited passers-by to “sign up for our mailing list.” And they did.

Now what?

The most important thing to consider when doing a customer communication newsletter, be it in print or, more economically, via email, is the message you want to get across to readers. Have something newsworthy to share, or else it’s going to be lumped in with the rest of the junk mail that they are bombarded with daily.

On the other hand, don’t let the fear of rejection prevent you from trying it at all. Keep in mind that they wouldn’t have signed up in the first place if they weren’t interested in what you had to say. Potential topics include:

1. Your upcoming show schedule. Let them know where they can find you at your next event.

2. Your upcoming promotions. Some readers might just need that little extra push to open their wallets, and a coupon for buy one, get one half-off or something similar just might do it.

3. A behind-the-scenes exclusive. Don’t let your newsletter be all sell, sell, sell — readers tire of being pitched to constantly. Show them why they liked your business enough to sign up in the first place. Share a couple photos from your studio, so they can see where the inspiration comes from. Discuss a recent charity project, which has the added benefit of getting the word out about the charity itself. Describe a sneak peek of what you’re currently working on, to get them curious about what you might be debuting in the near future.

4. Survey their opinions. Feedback, both good and bad, can help guide your business into becoming the best it can be. While there’s no reason to completely shift gears for one person’s dissenting opinion, it is worth considering a change if a certain criticism rises again and again — about your packaging, for example. Plus, the power of participation cannot be ignored. If you ask your readers for input about what to call your new holiday line, for example, you’re getting them thinking about your products and to have a deeper connection with them.

5. A call to action. A solid newsletter would contain elements of all of the above, always focused on what the reader can do in return. For your next event, for example, give readers an exclusive “Word of the Day” that they can mention to you at your booth for a small discount or free sample. Invite readers to email you if they know of an upcoming show that might be a good fit for you, a charity auction that might benefit from a donated gift basket of your products, a scout troop that might love to have you as a guest instructor for their next meeting.

It’s easy to think of newsletters as a one-way form of communication, with you controlling the message you want to get to readers. But it’s a better business move to think of them as a two-way form of communication: You tell them something that elicits a response. It’s just as much of a relationship builder as being in person at a show or a networking event.

Getting started
With the holiday season under way, there’s no better time than the present to gather your thoughts — and your customer database — for an introductory newsletter. Just a couple of final tips before you begin:

1. To comply with the CAN-SPAM law, make sure that your e-newsletter has an opt-out feature for readers who wish to unsubscribe. Third-party newsletter mailing sites like iContact.com and ConstantContact.com, which do charge a small monthly subscription fee, not only help you easily design a customer newsletter from one of their many templates, but help you track who is opening your newsletter, who has unsubscribed, who has forwarded it to someone, etc.

2. Be consistent in the look and feel of your newsletter. If you don’t have a logo already, now’s the time to create one. Base your typeface font on something that compliments the logo. If you like to keep things casual, reflect that in the tone of your newsletter. Likewise, if you cultivate a romantic, Victorian image in your products and branding, make sure that carries over to the newsletter content and imagery.

3. Use the newsletter as a jumping-off point for other social media. Make sure your website, Twitter and Facebook profiles are listed in the newsletter, and vice versa — that your Facebook, Twitter and website fans are aware they can sign up for a free monthly newsletter bursting with special announcements, updates and exclusive discounts just for them.

Your newsletter doesn’t have to be lengthy, and it doesn’t need to change the world. All it needs to do is reflect who you are and what you do. It builds your reputation and keeps your business top of mind for your readers. Everyone benefits!