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!

Developing an Apprenticeship Program

Historically, an apprentice was someone who assisted a master craftsman and learned his trade by helping and observing. In modern times, this has expanded to include anyone that engages in on-the-job and classroom training to learn a skill or craft. This is usually a formal program that is established by an educational institution or government agency, but can also be an informal program that you organize in your own small business. An apprentice is normally paid a fair wage commensurate with their education and experience.

Purpose

The goal of a structured apprenticeship program is to enable employers to teach applicable industry standards and practices and to achieve improved quality and productivity. Registered programs allow the participants to earn certifications that are recognized within their state or nationwide. This entitles the apprentice to immediate acceptance by the industry as a skilled journeyman. Many apprenticeships feature incentives and wage structures designed to attract and retain the trainees once they have completed the program.

How a Registered Apprenticeship Works

The business owner can do this alone, or a group of businesses can join together and sponsor a program. Registered programs must abide by established standards for the particular job or industry. This ensures a consistent approach so that certifications will meet all the basic requirements for specific industries and occupations.

The sponsors determine the eligibility criteria and content of the program within these guidelines:
  • Identification of skills to be mastered to qualify for beginner through expert level
  • Definition of the selection criteria and process for applicants
  • Duration of the training program (generally one to six years)
  • Number of hours of classroom instruction needed
  • Wages to be paid throughout the program
  • Provide private instruction, or contract with government-funded school districts or community colleges
If the training is conducted through public institutions, apprentices are normally exempted from registration and workshop fees.

There are few limits on what type of instruction can be provided under an apprenticeship program. Some of the more common trades include auto mechanic, environmental analyst, childcare professional, insurance claims adjuster, chef, baker, optical technician, tool and die maker, machinist, firefighter, painter, dental assistant, truck driver, dairy technician, horticulturist, laboratory technician, bricklayer, and computer programmer. In the construction industry, the programs are targeted toward sheet metal and structural steel workers, plumbers, electricians, pipefitters, carpenters, roofers, and heating & air conditioning specialists.

Benefits

An apprenticeship has multiple benefits to both the employer and apprentice:

Employer --
  • Can train the apprentice to replicate their unique processes and procedures
  • Develop employee loyalty which reduces turnover and absenteeism
  • Improve productivity
  • Recruit and retain better qualified employees
  • Reduce overall training expenses by sharing costs and taking advantage of state and federal funding
  • Establish a framework for training employees outside the scope of the apprenticeship
  • Business may qualify for financial incentives such as state tax benefits
  • Allows your business to network with other similar businesses
Apprentice --
  • Obtain specialized, hands-on training for their chosen career
  • Acquire a broad skill level
  • Develop a working relationship with the employer
  • Earn competitive wages while learning on the job, with increased wages as they progress
  • Potential for college credit for completed courses
  • Most programs feature guaranteed employment upon successful completion
  • Establish contacts in the industry
  • Obtain certification that will benefit your career wherever you decide to work
  • Avoid incurring large debts for educational expenses
  • Allows you to focus on long-term career
Registered Program Information

Businesses have the option of sponsoring an existing apprentice program or developing a new one. While a new program will involve more time and effort to set up, the advantage is that it can be tailored to meet your specific needs.

The duration depends on the specific occupation and whether it is competency-based, time-based, or a combination of the two. The average is four years within a range of one to six years. The majority of the training is on-the-job which is supplemented by classroom instruction. The size of the program can range from one apprentice to hundreds.

At the state level, apprentice programs are administered by state agencies such as the department of education, career development, adult education, or apprenticeship programs.

At the federal level, the United States Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration manages the Registered Apprenticeship program from its headquarters in Washington, DC. Its national network extends to all fifty states.

Candidates for registered programs must apply and meet minimum requirements set by federal rules. Selection criteria are job related and are tailored to the specific needs of each occupation.

Summary

An apprenticeship program can benefit your small business in many ways. If you are looking to expand, this is an efficient way of setting up a flexible and customized training program that will benefit both you and the employee. In addition, you may be able to get financial support as well as tax advantages to help fund the program. This is a win-win situation that could be of significant value during tough economic times.

Webinar: Understanding Intellectual Property - Trademarks, Patents, Trade Secrets

As a business owner, it is imperative that you understand the differences between the different types of intellectual property (trademark, copyright, and patents) and how each of these types of protection can offer critical support to your success.

The Personal Care Products Council is offering a 1.5 hour webinar on this topic.  It is titled: 

Understanding Intellectual Property - Trademarks, Patents, Trade Secrets

The webinar is open to association members and non members.    Registration is easy...simply complete this registration form and follow the instructions!


This business lead is brought to you by Debbie May (www.DebbieMay.com), an organization dedicated to helping small businesses succeed.