Small business promotion with retail speaker Tom Shay
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Some great reading material

Staying in contact with your customers

As a retailer, I fully understood the story told of Wanamaker Department Store. It was said that John Wanamaker told of his advertising experience, "I know that half of my advertising does not work. I just don't know which half it is."

Surely this was my experience with advertising as well. However, our biggest response was not to advertising but to our monthly statements. Each month we were usually sending about 150 statements. The problem was that 300 people had charge accounts. So, where were the missing 150 customers?

We triggered the computer to print statements for all 300. For the 150 with a zero balance, we hand wrote this note on the statement and mailed it to them: You owe us nothing.  We wish you did. Please come see us. And lots of folks came in to tell us they had received the note.

We began to include coupons for a free giveaway with the 300 statements we were now sending each month. We continued to see a good response. Some months the response was as high as 40%. Clearly what we needed were more names and addresses of customers. And over the next couple of years, we collected an additional 2,300. Each month we sent them something. Our handwritten notes and coupons grew to become a monthly eight page newsletter.

The idea was "cutting edge" promoting at that time. And while the idea of a printed newsletter is still good, the edge has long since moved.

The electronic newsletter is a great way of keeping your name in front of your customer. The biggest plus to the newsletter is that it has a minimal or no cost for you to produce. Create a format for your newsletter that you will duplicate on a consistent basis and you are on your way to communicating with your customers in a manner that can bring you more business.

Instead of what to tell your customer, what would your customer want to read? This is the real question. When the customer opens your e-mail, what can you interest them with that will make them want to read the entire newsletter, and then decide to do business with you - whether it be in your store, on the phone, or by way of the Internet?

While you will want to put in a statement or two about what is new in your business, the newsletter will need to contain information that the consumer can use every month.

Where can you find the news for your electronic newsletter? One source of news is finding other businesses that have both print and electronic newsletters, subscribe to their material, and then rework parts of their information. Searching on the Internet is another way. Using any of the search engines, look for material using a variety of word combinations and then note which have produced the best results so your job will be easier in the next month.

Look to find other businesses that have newsletters with which you could exchange referrals as well as information in your newsletter. Perhaps there is another business that would appreciate a mention in your newsletter in exchange for a mention in theirs.

What length can the electronic newsletter be? This is going to depend on how interesting your newsletter is. You can test a couple of versions by asking friends and customers to tell you how well your material holds their attention.

The length is also going to depend on the size of the type, the headlines, and the spacing you use. Select a clean and easy to read type such as Verdana and use a 12 to 14 point type size. Another idea that can enhance your chances of getting business is to create active links in your newsletter so that readers can easily get to your website.
Clicking on this active link will immediately take the reader to that location on your site. For example, you may be telling your customer about a new product that you have featured on your site. When the reader clicks on the link, they will see a photo and additional information. In making these links you will also want to make sure that all readers of your newsletter will be able to have the links as workable.

Undoubtedly, your first e-newsletter will not be your most read, or most responded to, piece of advertising. It will however, probably be your least expensive. And like a good bottle of wine, your monthly e-newsletter will become better month after month.

To gauge the success, create a coupon in the newsletter. Or with an active link, take the reader to a spot on your site that will reward the first dozen customers who call your business. Most assuredly, your e-newsletter will assist your business in fulfilling an old adage; "Never forget a customer, never let a customer forget you". I wonder what ol' John Wanamaker would have thought of an e-newsletter?

Tom Shay is a fourth generation small business owner providing proven management and business building ideas through his Profits Plus Seminars, Profits Plus Solutions coaching, books authored, and articles written. Tom can be reached at 727-464-2182 or through his web site:

Profits Plus Solutions, Inc.
PO Box 1577
St. Petersburg, Fl 33731
(727) 464-2182
Fax: (727) 898-3179