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If you're a service-oriented dealer or manufacturer, the newsletter may be the way for you to stay in contact with clients and build sales.

Most organizations realize that the best business comes from those with whom they have previously done business. At the same time, they want to broaden their customer base Unfortunately, keeping current clients aware of you while trying to develop new clients takes time. However, you can multiply your contact with both of these groups with a newsletter.

Perhaps your newsletter will never have the industry-wide impact that Esther Dyson enjoys with Release 1.0 in the computer industry, but you'll be writing and distributing yours with a specific goal in mind ... additional sales.

If you're going to produce a newsletter, don't try to compete with the business, trade, and consumer publications. Instead, focus on providing news and information that will assist and educate your customers and the prospects you want to sell.

A well edited and produced newsletter (this doesn't have to be translated into expensive) can improve relations with existing and prospective customers. It can also lead to immediate and direct sales. And, it can increase your organization's visibility and dominance in your selected market area. It will help you accomplish this by:

Make your newsletter more than a selling piece that is totally I oriented. Put yourself in your customers' and prospects' shoes when you're writing the newsletter. Ask "What information would they want?" and then prepare that information to assist them.

Encourage customers to share information through the newsletter by highlighting their applications of your products and services. Provide answers to common questions, present service tips, and give enough technical background to help not overwhelm them.

Provide your readers with good, strong facts. The more you tell your readers, the more they will think you know. And suddenly, in their eyes, you're going to be the experts in your market area.

All too often, the first thing management wants to do with their newsletter is to "make it a selling tool."

Make certain that your newsletter is written in a friendly, almost conversational manner, rather than stilted. The friendly style means that you can be approached where as the stilted or formal style puts people off.

The best overall design is a simple one. Don't let design overshadow the information you want to present.

That means you can even start with a typewritten newsletter. And, as its impact and power grow, you can upgrade to a typeset publication that will include photos, diagrams, boxes, and other graphic elements.

Forget the straight sales pitches in your publication. People aren't dumb. They'll get the message. Remove any copy you can't imagine one of your clients would be willing to listen to in person. For real impact, use photos of equipment of services being used by your clients. Articles that should be included are:

But where do these articles come from?

First of all, have only one person in charge of publishing the newsletter, and let him or her assign a specific and consistent publication date. This accountability ensures that the publication will be produced in a timely and quality manner.

Your sources for articles are as numerous as your technical sales staff, senior management, representatives, and others who have a vested interest in seeing the organization grow and prosper. But don't feel that you can ask them to submit an article on X subject by Y date. It just doesn't happen that way ...unless the company president is the editor and the one making the request (demand).

Our experience has been to make the effort of providing news for the publication as painless as possible.

Develop a list of articles from inside and outside the organization that you want included in the upcoming issue. Then, interview the "news" sources, either in person or on the telephone. After you've written the article, submit it to the source for editing and approval.

While the world is full of people who say they can write, it's surprising how few can actually accomplish the task when they face a blank piece of paper. However, you can give them an article to edit, even if it's a little off-target, and they can make the necessary changes to make the article accurate, informative, and interesting.

To gain full value from your newsletter, take a tip from most of the trade publications. Include a response card. We generally have a card inserted in the publication so that the reader can use it to request more information on any of the products or services the client offers. Since few people will read your publication for the fun of it, the response card is the one way of measuring its effective necessary in accomplishing your marketing objectives.

Another method of measuring its impact is keeping track of:

How many individuals ask that others in their organization be added to the mailing list To extend the reach and impact of the publication, periodically purchase a select mailing list from a trade publication, the local Chamber of Commerce, or an area trade association. Then issue a special mailing to these individuals of your publication. Insert a response card in these issues saying that if the person wants to continue receiving the publication, the card must be returned.

Over a period of time you build a good base of interested, informed prospects and customers. The key is to include a variety of applications, product, service, technical, and company news to be as interesting as possible to the target market(s) you are trying to reach. You can't be right for everyone, but if you work at providing a good balance of variety you'll hit all of your customers and/or prospects often enough so that they will read your newsletter from cover to cover.

Assuming that your products and services are as good as your newsletter, you've just expanded your sales force and sphere of influence dramatically.


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