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How to reach customers with your newsletter

A newsletter for customers can be a great marketing tool but you have to consider carefully what content you will use.

Unlike employee newsletters, an external newsletter has a larger community or audience and demands a more generalized content.

A surprising strategy?

For example, one PAGES subscriber has published an external newsletter for 24 years aimed at customers and potential customers of its auto dealership. The editor's content strategy may surprise you: She prints NOT ONE WORD about cars. That's right. Not a single word.

When you think about it for a second, this isn't so unusual. The auto manufacturer fills the air waves with advertisements about its cars, but the car dealer is interested in forming a relationship between its salesmen and its customers. It is this relationship that ultimately sells cars.

The editor keeps her audience (the customer) familiar with events in the small community and keeps them interested in receiving the newsletter by printing items of general interest, including a recipe each month that she tries out herself.

Sometimes the external newsletter reaches a large, but closely knit audience of people in an industry. An example from a number of years ago: A film development company in a large city had a primary customer base of professional photographers (and serious amateurs) who need special color and black-and-white film development services. This company had a newsletter that reached every advertising, design and related industry group (like professional type-output service bureaus), along with professional photographers. The newsletter mainly reported on who was doing what in advertising and design. It focused very little on the intricacies of film development.

Although the company was located in a large city, the customers of the company knew each other or knew about each other and were part of a small, and close-knit group of creative individuals in the city. They were curious about each other's activities and this company's very successful newsletter satisfied that curiosity.

The newsletter was highly designed and packed with information on the people and the business of advertising. It did offer photography information, but the goal of the newsletter was to make this particular business a player in the overall industry. It succeeded.

Do your customers want to really read about your industry?

The question any newsletter for customers has to answer is simple: Do the customers want to read about the nature of this business? In the case of the film development company, the answer was 'Yes,' but this company did not make the mistake of reporting too much information about the technical aspects of its work.

However, for many companies that try external, customer newsletters -- maybe even most of the companies -- the answer to our question is NO. Customers do NOT want or even need to read about the work of the company. An example of this is a newsletter that goes from a doctor to a patient. In this case, detailed information might be too much information. Such a newsletter might need to stick with light health tips and strive to establish a warm relationship with the patient, not be a medical journal.