Sending out a regular e-zine/newsletter is an effective way to keep in touch with your customers, and is a useful tool to recruit new ones too.
I often hear people say "But I don't write," or "It seems like a lot of work," but it doesn't have to be. In fact the simpler and shorter it is, the more likely it is that it will be read. So how do you start? Here's some pointers to get you going.
1. Check out the email marketing programs. I found using a program such as Constant Contact makes it much easier. They have templates you can use and they manage the contact list for you, as well as letting you track response so you can determine what is popular.
Using a reputable program also helps protect you from being considered spam. These programs are inexpensive and many let you have a 60 day trial, and then there's MailChip, and it is free.
2. Develop your database. Once you have determined which program you are going to use, start developing your database. Have a section on your website where people can subscribe to receive your newsletter.
3. Get permission. With all the new laws around privacy and spam, make sure you have permission from people to add their name to your list. You can't just take the business cards of people you just met at a networking event and plug them in. Ask first.
4. Content. Have regular sections in your newsletter so people know what to expect and it is easier for you to plan. If you don't write, consider having a guest column and invite one of your peers to submit an article.
5. Information gathering. Set up a file where you can collect information throughout the month -- latest research, practical tips, newspaper articles that you can refer to, or interesting websites to which you can link your customers. Then when it comes time to pull the next newsletter together, you have some material on hand to use.
6. Themes. You may want to establish an editorial calendar and focus on a set theme with each issue. This can make it easier to plan ahead and you can be on the look out for relevant material.
7. It's not all about you. Provide useful information. Make sure that the newsletter is not just about what you offer, otherwise it will seem self-serving and you will lose readers.
8. Keep it short and simple. Make articles short and consider just having a snap shot (one or two paragraphs) of what it is about, with readers having to click through to read more. Articles should be no more than 300 words.
9. Use pictures. Having photos draws people in. Make sure you have permission to use photos -- check websites like www.istockphoto.com where you pay a minimal license fee or www.freedigitalphotos.net where they are usually free.
10. Call to action. Make sure you have a call to action in your newsletter, whether it is to contact you for a consultation, a coupon or registration for a program.
11. Include your blog. One way to increase your readership is to include your blog if you have one. Again, just give an extract to entice readers to read further.
12. Sell advertising space. Work with others in your industry to promote each other. For example, if you are in the interior design business, perhaps a professional organizer who wants to reach the same audience would be interested in running an ad.
13. Set a schedule. Determine when you are going to send out your e-zine. Once a week, a month, every two months? Make it consistent because then if your clients love what you send, they will start to look forward to receiving it. One of the benefits of using an emailing program is you can program it ahead of time, so if you are away, the newsletter still goes out.
14. Track your results. Ask people how they heard about you.
And if all this seems too much, you can always hire someone to do it for you!