About Me

Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Len focuses on helping small and new businesses succeed through developing appropriate marketing and sales strategies. Len enjoys mentoring, relishes in getting both arms and feet wet in addressing technology, marketing and sales issues. He understands the drivers impacting business results for today and tomorrow including time-to-market, time-to-revenue, marketing, sales channels and social media.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Creating a Newsletter to Communicate with Customers and Suppliers

There is a challenge in creating a newsletter that will be read by audiences today. That challenge is standing out from all of the other words that crowd people’s electronic inboxes or regular mailboxes. How do you create something original that stands out, that gets read and invites a response?

In this article we will show you:

  1. How to create a one-page newsletter design using the tools you already have purchased or acquired when you bought your computer.
  2. How you can use on-line newsletter services and create targeted newsletters to meet different reader requirements.

Before we show you some simple design tricks, let’s talk about newsletter messages. Too often you want to tell everything when you publish a newsletter and as a result you end up with 2, 3, 4 pages or more. You then have to figure out a design that gets your messages on the front page so that readers can see them. The trick to effective newsletter communication is not to go that route at all. It is better to publish one idea for each newsletter and publish with higher frequency than it is to put all your ideas into a multi-page publication that creates more noise than effect.

When I create newsletters I try to keep my designs simple. I start with the premise that one good idea is better than many and that one page is better than multiple pages. Take a look at the sample below:

This newsletter contains 3 elements:
  1. a banner header
  2. company background information and contact points (sidebar)
  3. one story featured on a single page

The newsletter template in this case is in Microsoft Word with the artwork brought in electronically and positioned on the page using text frames. This type of newsletter is not difficult to create.

In this particular example the newsletter has been saved in an Adobe Acrobat file, a PDF. There are a number of PDF document generators on the web, priced from free to $40 so you don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars purchasing Adobe Acrobat. I tested two of these packages, PrimoPDF and Win2PDF and both were able to generate PDFs with ease. When I used PrimoPDF it provided document security allowing me to password protect the file I created, restricting the reader to being able to view and print only.

It's easy to attach a PDF to an e-mail because PDF files are much smaller than Microsoft Word DOC files. Just to show you the difference, the sample newsletter above as a DOC file was over 1.1 MB. The equivalent PDF file was only 119 KB, one-tenth the size. So in creating PDF newsletter files you won’t be jamming up your readers’ in boxes.

Now let’s talk about a second way you can create and do mass mailings of newsletters using on-line newsletter services. In our last blog entry we introduced you to Google Groups. Just as you can use this free application for sending e-mails, you can also use it for newsletter mass mailings. Just create your message as a newsletter or send it as an e-mail with an attachment.

Another method is to use dedicated on-line messaging services. I triediContact. At this site I could create mailing lists, select a newsletter pre-built template (see illustration below), write my copy, send it and then track responses.

If you want to try it you can test drive iContact for a week, a great way to find out if this gives you the results you are looking for. iContact has a plan to fit almost any budget, starting at at $9.95 a month for mailings to 500 subscribers.

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