The newsletter as a marketing tool

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

By Mark G. Auerbach

We all get newsletters these days, mostly through email (although the printed ones coming through regular mail exist, they’re becoming a rarity). Some we sign up for, and some just appear. Some provide content that entertains and informs; some just keep our “move to spam folder” or “delete” routines in good shape. Done well, a marketing newsletter can keep your business or nonprofit top-of-mind with your key audiences.

If you’re going to invest the time, energy, and resources to produce a marketing newsletter, realize that someone needs to write it, design it, and mail or email it on an ongoing basis. And, it requires a database to send it out to, and a means to build the database. Plus, you’re going to incur design costs, editorial costs, and distribution costs. That said, why do it?

I have a very small monthly newsletter that goes out to current and former clients, vendors, select colleagues (past and present) and some media colleagues. My sole purpose is to highlight my clients’ events and activities, plus, in a section called “shameless self promotion” highlight my projects in print, radio and TV. It’s actually written as a letter. I don’t expect to build my business from it.

Ruth P. Stevens, president of eMarketing Strategy, a NYC-based consultancy, and adjunct professor at NYU Stern is an expert at building databases. I asked her a couple of questions about newsletters.

MGA: Is a newsletter more effective mailed vs. emailed?

Stevens: Postal mail is likely to get more attention, but these days, most use email because it’s so much cheaper that the ROI turns out to be similar or better.

MGA: What makes a newsletter most effective to you? Graphics, content?

Stevens: There are 3 elements to think about in a digital newsletter, in order of importance:

– The “from” line. The sender should be a name the recipient recognizes and trusts. That could be your name or your company name.

– The subject line. Craft a phrase that will stimulate recipients to open and read.  Appeal to their curiosity, or their self-interest, like announcing some information inside that will solve a problem they are facing, or make them an attractive offer.

– The content. Are you giving them things that really helps them? That is relevant to their lives? Or are you just beating your own chest?

Kurn Hattin Homes, a small non-profit independent boarding school for children in Vermont, sends out a monthly newsletter to bolster its development, marketing, and admissions efforts. The newsletter is emailed (using MailChimp) and posted to the school’s website, according to its editor, Kurn Hattin Assistant Executive Director Sue Kessler. “It includes school news, alumni news, admissions information, and a lot of photos of children,” she says. “It also recognizes donors. We maintain and produce everything in house.”

The Holyoke Civic Symphony in Massachusetts uses its online newsletter to promote upcoming concerts, according to director David Kidwell. “Before the pandemic, we sent out a newsletter a month before each concert,” he says. “Lately, it’s been every other week. We use Mailchimp.”

And, a unique distribution mode for a newsletter! Knowing their niche market, The Westfield MA Council of Aging and its Senior Center publish a free monthly newsletter to promote their programs and services including cable TV schedules, menus, a schedule of fitness, educational and performance programs and more. Staff and volunteers deliver the newsletters to senior housing, local pharmacies and medical offices, alongside curbside meals. They post the newsletter on the city’s website, email it to local offices, and will mail it to those who request it with a self-addressed stamped envelope.

To reach as many people as possible with your newsletter, a good mailing list is essential. Stevens suggests, “Get very active in building your list. Keep a signup message on your website, blog, social media, invoices, everywhere. Mail the newsletter on an opt-out basis to your past customers and prospects. Invite sign up in every in-person interaction, like in store or on the phone.”

Just about everyone uses a program to distribute their newsletters, and Constant Contact and Mailchimp are among the most popular. Stevens recommends the following site for ideas on alternatives: ]

Mark G. Auerbach is principal at Mark G. Auerbach Public Relations, a Springfield, MA, based marketing, public relations, development and events consultancy. You can find more information about Mark at Facebook and LinkedIn. Mark also produces ArtsBeat in print in The Westfield News, on radio for Pioneer Valley Radio and on TV and radio on WCPC15 and 89.5fm/WSKB. His new series, On The Mark, premiered in October.

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