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What’s old is new again in small biz: How to stay in front of your customers with newsletters

What's old is new again in small biz: How to stay in front of your customers with newsletters

FINANCIAL NEWS

What’s old is new again in small biz: How to stay in front of your customers with newsletters

Rhonda Abrams
 |  Special to USA TODAYTop Chef Carla Hall is prepared for anythingCarla Hall’s advice for entrepreneurs: be proactive.Entrepreneur staff, EntrepreneurI’m about to start something new – that’s also something pretty darn old for small businesses. I’m launching a newsletter, and you should have a newsletter for your small business, too. (If you’d like to sign up for my newsletter, please go to www.RhondaAbrams.com)I’m a big believer in newsletters for virtually all small businesses. Newsletters are having somewhat of a renaissance. Individuals are launching subscription-based newsletters to share their expertise, and some companies substitute newsletters for websites or social media.   Though my publishing company has had an email newsletter, I’m launching a more personal one that will enable me to engage closely with readers (I’d love to hear from you!). I’ll help small businesses keep up to date on successful business tips, provide detailed info on government programs and policies and share insights into small-business pursuits and pleasures (including where to travel).Small-business owners: Here’s why you need an accountant even if you do your own taxesMore: How small restaurants can still get assistance from the Restaurant Revitalization FundI’ve been around small-business life so long that I remember when newsletters were actually printed. They’d come in the mail, have info relating to the company’s area of expertise and would keep the small business’s name in front of its customers.Email newsletters accomplish much of what old-fashioned print newsletters did. Do people get tired of email newsletters? Yes. Do people open only about one of every five they get from a business? Yes. Will some people unsubscribe? Yes.But will regular newsletter emails keep your name in front of prospects? Yes. Will they encourage some people to buy? Yes. Will they help people remember your name to give for referrals? Yes. Are emails fairly easy and cheap to do? Yes.Thanks to a profusion of web-based email newsletter services, it’s easier and cheaper than ever. Some of them are even free for very small mailing lists. Here’s a shortlist:These automated online email newsletter services perform all the technical aspects of sending out your newsletter. They continually clean up your mailing list, deleting people who unsubscribe, evaluating any “bounce backs.” They’ll give you links you can put on your website (and/or others’ websites), so people can sign up to receive your newsletter, making it easy to gather and maintain your mailing list. And they’ll give you analytics, so you know what’s working and what isn’t.Newsletter checklistIf you launch an email newsletter: •Give readers a reason to open it: Include meaningful, useful content, discounts or notices of sales.•Keep it relatively short. People have limited time. The recipient should get something valuable from your newsletter in less than a minute.•Send it regularly. Once a week, or once/twice a month is ideal. Though some newsletters are daily, that’s a lot of work and will probably increase your “unsubscribed.” Any less than quarterly, they’ll forget about you.•Make sure your subject line promises value to the reader. The value can be a financial incentive ($25 cashback) or, more likely, it can be information a reader might find useful (seven weight-loss tips).     •Avoid subject lines that will get you blocked. Spam filters block subject lines with words such as “free” or dollar signs $$$ or all caps. Be careful or your mail won’t go through to the inbox folder.•Keep your branding. Make sure your company name is very visible. Use the same colors, fonts and taglines you use in the rest of your branding. •Send it only to people who signed up. This is called “Opt-In,” and most newsletter services will send to an email list only if people signed up to receive it.•Provide an “unsubscribe” option. This is required by law and embedded in newsletter services.•Give it personality. Though many – if not most – newsletters may have only product information, if you want to engage with readers, add a personal touch. Give a look behind the scenes of your company, or, as I’m going to do, reflect on your personal experiences and expertise.Email newsletters are an easy and inexpensive way to keep in touch with customers and prospects. Try it for your company – and please sign up for mine!Rhonda Abrams is one of America’s leading small-business experts and author of the book “Successful Business Plan: Secrets & Strategies.” Connect with Rhonda on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Register for Rhonda’s free business tips newsletter at www.PlanningShop.com.The views and opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.


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