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The Art of Writing Successful Newsletters

By: Debra A. Jason

Debra Jason is an independent copywriter and Web marketing consultant. Owner of The Write Direction in Boulder, Colorado, she has 14 years of experience in the field of direct marketing. As a freelance copywriter she specializes in writing brochures, catalogs, direct mail packages, Web sites and more. As a Web marketing consultant, she helps maximize her clients' Web sites for maximum positioning in the leading search engines. For a copy of her free pamphlet entitled, "Four Ways To Get Great Results From A Freelance Copywriter" call her at (303) 449-0815, e-mail debra@earthlink.net or visit her Web site at www.writedirection.com.

Newsletters can be great direct marketing tools for promoting your product or service. By combining a little public relations, image-building and selling, they provide your audience with useful information. However, information is the key word here.

A good promotional newsletter offers mostly valuable, worth- while information to its readers. Maybe one-tenth of it is geared toward promotion (as reported by Robert Kesner in his article, "What About Newsletters?" --DIRECT magazine). As far as direct mail goes, newsletters are not as aggressive at selling as other forms of the medium. Yes, they may promote your business but, they're not hard core sales tools.

Before you ever begin producing a newsletter you must be clear on its purpose. First of all, who is it going to?
  1. Your customers & prospects.
  2. Your sales force.
  3. Your employees.
In this article you'll be reading about those newsletters that are targeted to customers and prospects. Here are some reasons for developing a newsletter to that market:

To follow-up on inquiries and qualify potential customers. Let's say you have the world's best widget to sell. However, experience has shown that usually 6 months to a year may pass between the time of a prospect's first inquiry and the time they actually buy. Do you just sit back and wait? NO.

Stay in touch with your potential customers and determine if they are indeed serious buyers. How? Put them on your mailing list and begin sending them your newsletter.

To increase perceived value of a membership. Do you belong to a business or community organization? If you do, chances are they're probably sending you a newsletter on a monthly or quarterly basis. Here in Colorado, the Denver Advertising Federation, Rocky Mountain Direct Marketing Association and Boulder Chamber of Commerce all offer newsletters to their members. A free subscription is seen as an added value of membership, especially when the newsletter communicates clearly and is comprehensive in scope. It is also beneficial in influencing the opinions and attitudes of its readers.

To establish positive, long-term relationships with your customers and stimulate repeat sales. After a customer has purchased your product or service, don't just shake their hand and send them on their way. A newsletter is an excellent way to stay in touch-- emphasizing how you value their patronage. And, you can encourage repeat sales by recommending accessories that enhance the performance of the product they bought or introducing new products available since they were last at your place of business.

To uncover new leads. If you're a member of a fund raising organization or a professional association you may already be receiving newsletters from various companies, whether you requested them or not. These companies rent the organization's mailing list to prospect for new business. Chances are if you are in the least bit interested in the topic of the newsletter, if it's information that you find valuable, you'll hold onto it. And, when you finally need the services of that company you may actually call them. Through their newsletter they've proven themselves knowledgeable so you've already developed a sense of trust in them.

Choose stories that interest your reader.

Remember you're talking to customers and prospects. Keep their needs and interests in mind at all times. They probably are not interested in reading about the employee of the month -- they do want new information that helps them on a daily basis. Give them:
  1. Product information/application stories--any success stories about an old or new product. It shouldn't be a hard core sales pitch (unless you want your newsletter to be more of a catalog). Tell your customers and prospects about other people's positive experiences with the product.
  2. Company information--stories that acknowledge your achievements lend credibility to your business. Customers/ prospects read about how others respect you and therefore, begin to look at you as an expert in your field.
  3. Related interest stories--is there something happening in current events that relates to your business (i.e. printers are addressing issues on recycled paper and soybean inks)?
  4. "How to" features--10 steps to better health, 14 guidelines for investing your money, 4 ways to get great results from a writer. . .
When choosing a story keep your schedule and deadlines in mind. Remember that it takes time to research a story, interview people, write the story, take photos if needed, etc. It's important to leave enough time for each step to be completed efficiently, not rushed.

Writing copy that's easy to read.

KEEP IT SIMPLE!!!

The difference between conversation and writing is that during a conversation we give the other person time to understand what we've said. We pause between sentences, repeat ourselves and space our ideas apart.

The secret of writing is to leave space. Using some steps outlined by Rudolf Flesch in "The Art of Plain Talk," this means:
  • Write short sentences-- average sentence length in words:
8 words or less - very easy
11 words - easy
14 words - fairly easy
17 words - standard (AVERAGE READER)
21 words - fairly difficult
25 words - difficult
29 or more words - very difficult
  • Two short sentences are easier to read than one long one. In direct marketing the rules of grammar don't always apply. (i.e. One word sentences. Sentences that are not necessarily grammatically correct.) Break long sentences into shorter ones.
  • BE PERSONAL. USE YOU. You're writing a newsletter to a reader -- one that's a current customer or prospect -- so talk to that reader. Avoid mentioning "the client". Let your prospect know you're talking to him or her.
  • Whenever possible, talk about people -- tests show that we enjoy, and are better readers when, reading about other people more than about anything else. Sentences can be written so that the logical subject is a person. Use personal pronouns (theirs, yours, you) or human interest words (woman, man, child, boy).
  • Use active verb forms that have life in them (dance, sing, add, run, etc.). These words make your sentences 'move.'
  • Punctuation makes reading easier -- it gets pauses down on paper and stresses important points (use hyphens, dashes, ellipses).
Whether you already publish a newsletter or you're putting one together for the first time, keep these helpful writing hints in mind. And, work with a graphic designer to create a high quality design for your publication. With these creative building blocks you'll be better prepared to start developing the newsletter that best meets your company's needs.

© Copyright 1993-1999 Debra Jason dba The Write Direction. All rights reserved

The author assumes full responsibility for the contents of this article and retains all of its property rights. MarcommWise publishes it here with the permission of the author. MarcomWise assumes no responsibility for the article's contents.

 

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