Making Your Company Newsletter Stand Out

Developing a successful newsletter is like a marriage. With a strong foundation and the proper nourishment, a newsletter will grow and prosper, bringing with it new opportunities for your company. Unfortunately, not all newsletters, or marriages, are successful.

Too often, when alarm dealers first decide to send out a company newsletter, they start off with lots of excitement and high hopes—but little else. Fast-forward a year. Without a strong foundation, the enthusiasm that marked the first issue diminishes, and putting together the newsletter soon becomes a drag. Instead of four issues a year as originally planned, the company is lucky if even one goes out the door.

However, it doesn’t have to be that way. Well before the first issue of your company’s newsletter rolls off the presses and into the hands of everyone on your mailing list, you should understand the commitment involved in putting together and sustaining a successful newsletter, and then plan ahead.

Here are seven key tips that will help you create an effective newsletter that best represents your company.

1. Decide Why You Want a Newsletter

The first step is to determine your purpose. Will you be using the newsletter as a sales tool for potential customers or as a communications tool to keep existing accounts? Will the newsletter help generate revenue by offering new products and services? Newsletters that have no clear purpose will have no real impact.

According to Howard Himmelman, vice president of sales for Bay Alarm Co. Inc. in Walnut Creek, Calif., and finalist for the 2000 Security Sales and Integration Sales and Marketing (SAMMY) Awards, awareness of the Bay Alarm name and logo is the company’s main objective.

For David Merrick, marketing director for Vector Security of Pittsburgh, it was a conscious decision for the newsletter not to be a promotional piece for the company. Vector Views, the winner of the 2000 SAMMY, and a finalist in 2001, is targeted to loss prevention specialists. To make the newsletter objective, all the articles are informational pieces written by consultants in the industry.

2. Choose Your Target Audience Carefully

Hand-in-hand with deciding on why you want a newsletter is choosing your target audience. These decisions will help form the basis for the types of stories and other future choices you’ll have to make.

Bay Alarm targets only its account base, not prospective customers, while JMG Security Systems aims at both groups.

In addition to Vector Views, Merrick is currently working on a smaller newsletter, called Vector Customers for Life, designed specifically around retention. “Newsletters can be different depending on what you want to accomplish,” says Merrick. “You don’t approach all markets in the same manner.”

3. Consider All the Costs Involved With the Project

With a purpose and target audience decided, now consider how much you will spend. High ideals can be quickly dashed by reality as tight budgets compete against the number of colors, types and sizes of paper, mailing considerations and the actual production process.

With desktop publishing, alarm dealers can produce their newsletters in-house, but the outcome might not live up to their expectations. Computers and software are just tools, and like any tool, the user must know how to use them. Time is also a factor.

At Vector Security, even though the newsletter is written by outside consultants, all the stories are assembled internally and then sent out to a design company. “We went out of house because we wanted a very rich looking magazine piece and I didn’t [believe] we could do it ourselves and get the same level of success,” Merrick admits.

1999 SAMMY winner Chuck Granberry, executive vice president of A-Com Protection Services in Columbus, Ga., says the company did try to produce its own newsletter in-house for a while. “We looked at what we were doing and decided that we could not be consistent. So, we contracted with a company that does the main production work.”

4. Choose Format That Works for You

Other considerations include the size of the printed piece, number of pages, type of paper, color and quantity. Each one factors into printing and mailing costs.To keep those expenses down, Bay Alarm uses only two colors. Schmidt also uses two colors, one being in the company logo.

Granberry says that, while the newsletter company they use offers several color options, he chose four-color. “We believe that full color has the best impact and best represents our company with what we are trying to convey to the customer,” he says.

“Don’t be afraid, even if you’re small, to do a first-class newsletter, because it makes you look big and puts you on a more level playing field,” suggests Jacobs. “Even if it costs you more money than you’d like, a quality newsletter helps promote your company in a very professional light.” Saving money is moot if your newsletter isn’t read and, of course, costs can be relative.

Postage can often be the biggest cost, which is why many alarm dealers choose to send the newsletter with their invoices. If you’re mailing the newsletter by itself, you can save postage, labor and envelope costs by making it a self-mailer and keeping it to a standard size. With your own postage indicia or even using a mailing house, you can also take advantage of special postal rates.

5. Select Stories That Involve Your Readers

Newsletter stories can create in readers a desire to contact your company for information, an appointment, equipment or services. They also help establish your company as an authority and leader as well as improve name recognition and set your company apart from the competition.Himmelman suggests selecting articles as if you were a newspaper reporter looking for a story.

“Most of our articles center around making sure that customers use their security system and have it professionally serviced at least once a year,” says Granberry. “All articles help to hammer home the importance of monitoring and maintenance.” Getting ideas for the articles benefits both the company and customers.

Including new products in the newsletter not only increases sales but may also prevent a lawsuit. For instance, according to Granberry, many alarm customers are not told by their salesperson and are not aware of line backup until they experience a loss. He says that including that type of information educates customers and may limit liability.

6. Commit to Publishing Your Newsletter Regularly

One reason why a company newsletter is often discontinued is that whoever is in charge of it is typically given this responsibility in addition to his or her regular job. Never having produced a newsletter before, these employees, as well as their bosses, generally don’t realize how much time, knowledge and talent is required to produce a quality piece.

That’s why a company should make sure that any person devoted to the newsletter has enough time freed up to produce a quality newsletter on time. If that’s not possible, the company should assign other employees to help. If all employees are too busy to set aside enough time to help, the company should consider, as many SAMMY winners and finalists have, hiring an outside company to produce all or parts of the newsletter.

7. Always Be Professional

A newsletter represents the professionalism of your company to prospective customers. Whether or not your newsletter is produced in-house, you’ll want to make sure it looks impressive, is well written and is free of typos and grammatical errors. Proofreading, revising and rewriting are absolutely necessary.

So before you say, “I do” to a company newsletter, know that, like marriage, a successful newsletter doesn’t just happen. While you can learn from other companies, discovering what works best for your busine

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