Do you issue Newsletters and how do they perform for you?

If you issue a newsletter how does this perform for you in terms of either new client enquiries, more work from existing clients, or referrals from clients?

Do you track newsletter performance and what tips would you share?

Have you recently stopped doing a newsletter in favour of other marketing activity?

Comments
petersaxton's picture

Newsletter seems one of the best marketing tools - but time is n

petersaxton | | Permalink

I'd like to do a newsletter but I used my newsletter software to send out an email explaining I would be away on holiday for a week. It was nice to get a good response from my clients discussing my holiday.

I'm hoping to do a newsletter eventually because it would help my existing clients and remind previous enquirers about me.

bookmarklee's picture

be clear as to your objectives

bookmarklee | | Permalink

You ask some good questions. Many accountants newsletters are less than clear as to what they hope to achieve.

Regular tax and legislative updates for example will remind a client you exist but you really need to add a personal message or some equivalent generic wording to make clear that you invite their queries or that you would like them to forward the newsletter to others who might find it of interest and whom they'd be happy for you to contact.

It's hard to judge the value of comparative efforts to secure referrals (of work or prospects) as much will depend on whether the newsletters are sent hard coipy or by email, the look and feel, the style and relevance to the audience, whether the content is in the email or an attachment that needs to be opened (a waste of time in my view) and so on.

On epoint I would stress is that you should not look to your newsletter to replace the need for you to call clients when you have tax planning ideas that might be of interest to them. making the calls makes clear that you're thinking of them. Sending a newsltter that asks them to contact you if any points are of interest implies that you are 'reactive' rather than 'proactive'.

Mark

www.BookMarkLee.co.uk

davidwinch's picture

I do newsletters and articles

davidwinch | | Permalink

I do newsletters and articles, but in my specialist field.  They are meant to show clients (and potential clients) that I have relevant knowledge (and can write a sentence!) and to keep my name in front of them (as well as being interesting, informative and useful to them).

Example recent newsletter at

www.accountingevidence.com/documents/newsletter/201006%20NewsAlert.pdf

Example recent article at

www.accountingevidence.com/documents/articles/Recent%20confiscation%20case%20law%203.pdf

David

www.accountingevidence.com

SimonH's picture

A sort of guide to newsletters

SimonH | | Permalink

Here are a few thoughts/tips about newsletters and some of the practical approaches I use for writing newsletters, based on my own experiences. I hope it's of some use and not too long! (Although this post is about writing newsletters for businesses, I think the same principles apply for personal clients.)

We have been doing newsletters for quite a few years and without doubt they have been successful. We have clear objectives about what we want to achieve:

- Maintain contact (especially with people we don't speak to that often)

- Build stronger relationships with clients/customers

- Promote and sell new and existing products and services

- Increase confidence in us as a business and show our expertise

We don't send newsletters to get new clients. They only go out to existing ones. Why would a company who isn't a customer be interested in your newsletter.  To get new customers in this way, we would send out sales material of some sort, not a newsletter.

We try to include something that is useful to people, or summarise an area that may be of interest, but we make sure we distil the information to a few key points and avoid technical terms and jargon. We also use plain, straightforward language.

Keep it short and sweet. Articles are usually no more than two or three paragraphs so people can dip into it. Large blocks of text can put people off. We usually include a "call to action" and our phone number to allow people to find out more.

The content must be of interest to the recipient, not to you. Put yourself in their position. They don't really care if someone in your office has done a charity bike ride - what's it got to do with them??

We ALWAYS get a designer to put the newsletters together. In my opinion, 'homemade' newsletters look unprofessional and give the impression you couldn't be bothered to make the effort. Besides, you probably put a lot of time and effort into writing it, so spending a bit extra to make it look really good is worth it. A consistent style actually makes it easier to put together the next one too. It doesn't have to be flashy, just look like you've made an effort. If you have a designer who does your headed paper etc., ask them first. Do not let your neighbour's nephew who's "really good at that sort of thing and a real whizz with computers!" do it!

A few images break up text,, catch the eye, make it look more interesting and mean you have to write less! Pages of solid text look like heavy, dull reading so people won't read it. You can get graphics or stock photos from iStock for less than £20 each (make sure the resolution is high enough). Money well spent! Headlines are essential, but sub-headings work well too.

Keep doing them. We don't send them out regularly, just when we have enough interesting things to say or find the time, but they do keep going out.  Whether you send them regualrly or not, keep doing them and keep the content relevant and of a good quality.

Get it proof read. Over and over again. And again. And you'll still miss something. But the less typos the better!

Feedback is good. We have, over time, changed the style and content of our newsletters based on feedback from clients who are honest with us. Sometimes the feedback is conflicting, so we take a view and change things accordingly.

Resist the temptation to put in jokes. We've all done it, but clients don't use you for your sense of humour. And some jokes can offend.

Let your personality shine through...a little. Like blogs, a newsletter is informal and personal, but it should reflect your professionalism. Your style of writing and content are part of your brand. Does the newsletter reflect how you want to promote yourself? (See "jokes"!)

We always try and sell or promote something. We are a business after all and clients are genuinely interested in our products and services and how we can help them.  People expect to be sold to by a business, it's just a question of how you do it. It doesn't have to be "Buy This Now!" It could be something like "Call for our simple guide to Capital Gains." An important aspect of this is that it gives you something more concrete than perceived 'feel-good factor' to judge whether it has been a success. This will encourage you to do the next one too. It's very discouraging to work on a newsletter (or anything else) and feel like no-one has read it.  Yes, sometimes there is a fine line between it being a newsletter or a sales flyer, but if your content is consistently good and the promotion is actually news, I think it works.

Email or hard copy? We used to do four-sided newsletters that were posted to customers. These took a long time to create and were expensive  but were very successful. We now email a single-sided A4 PDF. They are easier to write, much less expensive and people are used to receiving documents in this way now. Ten years ago it wouldn't have worked. We stick to a single sheet so people can print it and read it later, which is what people tell us they do. I take Mark's point that opening attachments might put people off, but so can downloading images into an HTML template and paper versions can still get thrown out or buried under other paperwork. If the client trusts you and knows the content is good, they will look at it. The email subject is simple as is the text in the body.

Send it to all the people in the business who will be interested, not just a single contact. Then everyone feels included and the relationship you are building is with everyone, not just an individual. Not all the content has to be of interest to every person, but think about what people will want to read.

I'm not a natural writer, so I have to work hard to get my copy clear and concise. This can be daunting sometimes so I just 'brain dump' all the things I want to say and keep editing and refining it. After the first edit, I get the designer to drop the copy into the newsletter template to see how it looks. This tells me how much I've got to add or cut out to fill the page. The good news is that you usually have to cut some out so you get some content for the next newsletter. Realising how little space you have makes you quite strict in cutting out waffle and anything but the key messages.

Like many things in business, I have found writing newsletters to be a continual process of change and improvement. I've written some that I think were awful and some I'm pleased with. But I keep writing them. One very useful side effect of sending them out over the years is that our customers now trust what we send them and so take the time to look at any communications from us. That is worth a lot.

Newsletters are, in my opinion, an essential part of communicating with clients and for us, have achieved all the objectives I've listed. No question.

If you haven't done one, give it a go - it's much easier than you think. Just make sure you keep doing them!

Simon

www.benchmark-software.co.uk

Newsletter Headlines

Anonymous | | Permalink

Thanks for this great discussion and all the tips here.

To add something new to the discussion what do you think about headlines ?

I do a regular newsletter and have experimented with headlines.

I read (on MailChimp's website I believe) that the "boring" headline such as "Effective LinkedIn Update" gives better % read results than the sales type headlines or the kind of eye catching headline you may right for a blog post.

In my experience this is true. How about you ?

Phil

 

Bob Harper's picture

Headlines

Bob Harper | | Permalink

@Phil – I don’t know what you mean by the “sales type headlines” - I assume you are referring to direct response marketing methodology of using "sales" words and phrases like unique, limited time, discover and free?

Anyway, headlines are selling someone to read the copy so it helps to understand the link between language and behavior, so you can influence and persuade the reader to read.

The key is to focus on the outcome people want and the headline is the advert for the newsletter article.  I saw an advert from a train operator recently with the headline “30% off hugs”  - there was an image of two grandchildren cuddling their grandfather who just stepped off the train.  Nice!

If you turn this into written copy then it could be “Want 30% more hugs from your  grandchildren?”.  This type of langauge creates an image in the “mind’s eye” of the reader which creates emotion and that leads to motivation.  It is also a question which the reader must answer as soon as they have read it.  I'd suggest this answer would be "yes" which is a good start when you want to presuade someone, isn't it?

When writing headlines keep in mind we are all selling feelings.

Bob Harper

Portfolio Marketing

maxxy's picture

Newsletter Tips & Headlines

maxxy | | Permalink

Thanks for all the comments on this thread, it's great to get other peoples views on what works for them.

If I were to pick up from a few things so far it would be to challenge the use of newsletters just for existing customers as this need not be the case.  A slighly different version can work well for prospective clients ... does anyone have any views on this?

As for headlines, I do believe a "salesy" type works better but only where it gives an indication of the benefits of the content and is not too spammy.  A lot of bulk email tools will have a "spam score" feature and headlines that use words such as "Free" will get a high spam score and likely to be blocked by filters.  I would be interested hear of differences in Open rates for say budget newsletters titled "Budget Update" versus "Budget Tip in your sector" or something indicative of relevance to the recipient.

I would also be interested to hear if anyone consults their clients asking for feedback on the newsletters

 

Does anyone get feedback?

chatman | | Permalink

Maxxy - Yes, Simon (benchmark-software.co.uk) does. He says so in his post, above "We have, over time, changed the style and content of our newsletters based on feedback from clients", although admittedly he said he gets it, not that he seeks it.

SimonH's picture

Some more practical issues about newsletters.

SimonH | | Permalink

Following on from Chatman's comment, we do seek feedback, but it tends to be informal. I can't ever remember someone giving us feedback without being asked though. However, this is not the same as getting a response to an item in the newsletter, which simply shows that the items has worked in getting them to respond.

How I usually get feedback is, when someone rings up about a different issue after we have send the newsletter out, I will ask if they've seen it, what they thought, if there is anything they would like to see, that sort of thing.

Over time, we build up a picture of the kind of things people are interested in, but other factors like time dictate what you can put in. I wouldn't say the whole thing is driven by feedback though. You know for the most part what will be news from you.

Going back to the issue about sending newsletters to get new clients, I think the newsletter format is fine, just that the content has to be different as maxxy says. It has to introduce you and what you offer. I've received newsletter from people and found it hard to work out what they do. I think it's very much a question of degree.

One additional thought I had that might be an idea for anyone wanting to get started is to have a regular feature where you share knowledge. This could be in a specialist area or even just explaining accouting terms to non-accountants - the level will depend on who your audience is. e.g. "Accounting Terms Made Simple - Trial Balance." For one thing, this is one less bit of content you have to think of for the next one. You just have to choose the next accounting term you want to explain. We used to have one called "Beyond the Manual" that gave people tips about IT and explained things. It was well received.

I was also thinking about the jokes subject. We used to quotes from people that could be 'humorous', but weren't jokes. This added a lighter aspect to the newsletter without being jokey.

On the subject of headlines, I don't think I write very good ones (I couldn't even think of one for this), but I try to make them succinct and clear about the subject.

A book about copy, sales literature, adverts etc. that I recommend is "Does Your Marketing Sell?" by Ian Moore. It's a very good, easy read (as you would hope!) and can give you some great ideas. A lot of it may not be relevant to everyone, but it does make you think differently about how you communicate with clients and potential clients. His section about "Fog Index" i.e. clear writing, is particulalry interesting.

www.benchmark-software.co.uk

Alison Wallace's picture

The why and how of e-newsletters

Alison Wallace | | Permalink

Only just seen this discussion thread and thought this Extravision article of ours may be of interest?

e-newsletters have emerged as the most popular of email tactics in recent years, with almost one in eight marketers regularly sending them to customers and prospects. One of the main reasons for doing this is the potential that email newsletters have for building and maintaining rewarding relationships.

 However, it requires a great deal of time and thought to achieve these results. A poorly constructed or ill-thought-out e-newsletter will do more for damaging relationships than building them, potentially costing you sales in the long-run. Whereas, a campaign that is well-conceived and professionally delivered can bring excellent long-term rewards, especially when supported by other marketing tools.  Why should I use email newsletters? A survey of email users last year found that 59% spend 20 minutes a week with permission email, while a further 27% spend an hour or more. This is valuable time that a customer or prospect could be spending with your brand.  However, e-newsletters are not a short-term strategy to driving sales. They are most effective when part of a company's long-term strategy to build its brand, by adding genuine value to its customers. This, in the long-run, should lead to a more significant rise in revenue and return on investment. Here are just some of the benefits an email newsletter can deliver:      Helps to develop more leads     Builds company reputation and brand values     Builds longer-lasting relationships with clients      Provides trackable results     Drives more traffic to your website     Builds intelligence about your customers     Allows for personal interaction with customers     More cost-effective than a printed newsletter     Supports other marketing activity     Increases sales For a marketer, email newsletters are a cost-effective, convenient and timely brand tool that connects them with their customers.   How do I launch an e-newsletter?  Like with any other marketing activity you might invest in, you need to think about what your business objectives are before planning an email newsletter campaign. Consider carefully what the function of the newsletter will be and to whom it will be sent, then use this to determine a focus for the content. Without clarity of purpose, there's a danger that newsletters will become irrelevant to those receiving them. Niche targeted newsletters tend to be the most successful, so segmenting your contacts list and personalising the content may be a worthwhile task. Content The content you provide must provide some tangible value to the recipient. Get this wrong and the number of unsubscribe requests will increase with every mail out. Get this right, however, and you'll be well on your way to building a loyal customer base who actively seek out your newsletters. So plan your content carefully and be deliberate with what you include. Any old article won't do! Put yourself in your customer's shoes. Their thirst for content will fall into two camps - what they want to read and what they need to read. Striking a balance is no easy feat, but it is the secret to an extremely popular newsletter. The latter is obviously the most important, though. If you provide content that can genuinely help them and might help their closest rivals, you are guaranteed an avid reader. The window that people have for reading promotional emails is slim, so avoid long blocks of text. An e-newsletter is perfect for providing small, digestible chunks of information, so be selective with what you include. Mix smaller articles with mini-features, for instance. And combine details of your products and services with industry-related content, so you're making the most of the promotional tool without bombarding the reader with sales messages. Here are just some of the most popular ideas for e-newsletter content:      Industry news     Interviews     Case studies     Success stories     Tips     Letters to the CEO     Frequently Asked Questions A good blend of articles is often the most successful, but don't mix too much. Create a content formulae and stick to it. Limit the newsletter to five types of articles and this will make your life easier as well as maintaining consistency. If your first newsletter contains useful and relevant content, the customer will want to know exactly where to head next time for more of the same. Too much disruption and they'll quickly get bored. Once you've decided on the type of articles you'll be including, develop a calendar of content that allows you to plan out the next few newsletters. You may want to introduce particular themes, so know where your content is coming from well in advance of your deadlines. While consistency is vital, it's important to review your plan on a regular basis - especially if you're generating high levels of response to one particular item more than others. Give the customers what they want! Copy We've already mentioned how 'less is more' when it comes to article length, and it's important that the copy reflects this. It should be customer-centric, pithy and quick to take in, as your customers and prospects may well be reading on the go. The voice should also remain consistent throughout, even if you have more than one contributing writer.  Like other forms of email marketing, an e-newsletter should be personalised and friendly. Take advantage of any customer data you have at your disposal and make the newsletter as welcoming as possible. This is the best way to encourage interaction, which will strengthen the bonds between the customer and your brand. A welcome email to new subscribers should let them know what to expect - including the topics the newsletter will cover, how frequent they are and how to unsubscribe.   Want to know more? 

A well-planned e-newsletter can have many long-term benefits for a business, including building loyal relationships with customers. These tips are meant to clarify the level of work that goes into an email newsletter, while highlighting the benefits that are possible to achieve

Thanks Alison

Alison Wallace Marketing and PR Manager Extravision awallace@extravision.com 0161 817 2938

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