Yesterday one of my clients said he wanted to send out email newsletters  (like The Common Sense Internet Gazette) and wanted to know how I could help him.

I assist four organizations send out newsletters using the Constant Contact email service. Another two clients use Constant Contact to write and send out their newsletters without any assistance from me.

The Common Sense Internet GazetteElectronic announcements of sales, new products, and specials is a cost-effective way of getting your existing clients to buy from you more often. Attractive and timely correspondence helps you both serve your clients and sell more! At the very least, a regular newsletter puts your name in front of your clients without being pushy.

But, before I launched into what I could do for my inquiring client, I first wanted to do some reality checking. Just as I cautioned a client about starting her own blog, I warned the client yesterday about spending money before he knew if he was really able to get a return from his newsletter.

Electronic newsletters requires both:

  1. an audience — there is no point in spending hours to write and produce a newsletter if  no one is going to read it
  2. some valuable information to share with its subscribers.  This information can be general tips for their life or business, or it can be coupons or updates on your services.

So, before my client used energy signing up for an email tool and learning how to use it, I suggested that in the next month he test himself to see if he’s ready to take on the task.  I asked him to:

  1. Create of a list of at least 50 email addresses of either current clients or prospects to be his first subscribers. 
    He has to know these people somehow so that they won’t consider his messages spam. (The best emailing services make you swear that you haven’t bought the addresses you’re sending to and that you haven’t used other spammy techniques.) This client provides a physical service and communicates via phone.  He doesn’t collect customer email addresses so I want to verify that he has a critical mass of potential readers before he goes further.
  2. Write the content of the first two newsletters he wants to send out.All marketing efforts require repetition for success.
    A single mailing won’t generate much notice, much less business.  To prove that he was serious about starting an on-going newsletter, I said he should write two of them so he understood the work involved in regular production of his ‘zine. Even if he eventually decides to hire me to write and send out future newsletters, I want to make sure that there is a range of topics for those newsletters that will reflect well on his business.  If there’s nothing to say other than, “Buy from me!” the newsletter will be a failure.

Don’t get me wrong.  I think small businesses should send out MORE electronic newsletters.  B&B’s should send out off-season newsletters telling about local festivals and special room rates.  CPA’s should send out tips on how to improve your business’s profits or personal wealth.  Apartment owners should highlight the benefits of renters’ insurance along with bragging about the latest painting job.

Still, “should send out MORE electronic newsletters” is not the same as having the time to take away from your core business.  A B&B owner runs the inn, the CPA handles your finances, and the apartment owner rents, renovates, and referees.  After handling the core responsibilities, there may be no time or energy left to create and distribute a good newsletter.

I like to recommend “try before you buy” whenever possible.  For electronic newsletters I recommend “try before you promise”.  Before you have a launch party for your electronic newsletter, make sure that you have an audience and that you have something worth communicating.

There are so many good ideas about promoting your business!  A electronic newsletter is one of the great marketing tools.  But, my business mantra is that coming up with good ideas is not where businesses fail.  They fail in execution.

Take my two-step test before you decide to start your own business newsletter.  This test is free, private, and, too often, revealing!