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Better Business Idea #37

Build Customer Relationships With A Newsletter

© 2000 by Michael C. Gray

May 30, 2000

Many business owners have found having a newsletter is a valuable tool in building relationships with their customers and prospective customers.

Think back over history. The greatest leaders and personalities developed a relationship with people through regular personal communication. Franklin Roosevelt had his fireside chats. Mayor LeGuardia read the funnies to the kids during the New York newspaper strike. Will Rogers had daily columns in the newspaper. Walt Disney (and now Michael Eisner) made personal appearances on the Disney show. Lee Iacocca made personal appearances on Chrysler commercials, explaining the company's new car developments.

In building a business, the bottom line for success is that people must want to do business with you. People want to do business with people they like and trust. In order for people to like you and trust you, they have to get to know you. For a small business, one of the best ways for them to get to know you is through your newsletter.

In order to satisfy this purpose, emphasize the letter in newsletter. The newsletter must have a personal communication from a focal person in the business. To the customer, this person "is" the business. For a small business, this is usually the business owner. It may be the President, CEO or Partner In Charge. Every newsletter should have a personal communication from that person. The messages should be "I" messages, not "We" messages.

The messages don't have to be technical. They can be "gossip." Did someone get married or have a birth in the company? Did company employees participate in a fundraiser or a community service project?

That regular personal message is the most important part of the newsletter, and should be the first item of the newsletter. Customers or prospective customers should eventually feel they are receiving a personal letter from a friend.

Your newsletter should also include other information your customers or prospective customers will want to read. What are the new developments relating to your business? Are you offering new products or services? How are other customers benefiting from your product or service? Do you have a favorite recipe to share? Perhaps you can have a feature about a "customer of the month" or an "employee of the month." Use your imagination.

There are services available to provide some "filler" material, such as clip art or cartoons.

How often should you issue the newsletter? I suggest at least quarterly. If you're not contacting your customers at least every three months, they're probably forgetting you. Monthly is much better. More frequent contact helps to keep you on the front of your customers' minds and helps make them more resistant to your competitors.

How can you keep your distribution costs down? We send our newsletter by email and local fax. We mail them to clients.

Should you charge for your newsletter? I can tell you from my experience it's a hard sell.

Writing and distributing our newsletter is a time-consuming process that we are committed to. It takes self-discipline to issue it monthly.

It is paying off. People are calling or writing and saying, "I talked to you a year ago and I've been receiving and reading your newsletter. I'm ready now to become a client."

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