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How to use Newsletters to Build Customer Relationships

By Rob Lee
A monthly newsletter can be one of the most effective methods available for marketing your business and expanding your brand. Even more importantly, if done correctly, your newsletter will build an ongoing dialogue with your customers and prospects that allows you to refine your marketing message and gives you guidance in adding or modifying products or services according to the desires of buyers.

And the best part is that this marketing vehicle is 100% free for an email newsletter or in the case of a print newsletter your costs are limited to printing and postage. Compare this to thousands of dollars for a Yellow Pages ad that can only be modified once a year or media advertising with high costs, and hit or miss effectiveness. If you aren't communicating with your customers and prospects with a newsletter you are in essence throwing away money and ignoring new business.

Don't worry about being a writer, you don't need to be. The following guidelines will show what type of content to include and how to find this content already done for you. You can easily put together a simple newsletter template that includes a few types of information and then fill it in each month with new content.

What Do I Write About
Let's start with what you don't write about. Do not produce an advertisement. What do you do when you open an email and see "This Month's News-15% Off Our Two Room Carpet Cleaning Package!!!"? Well, your readers will react the same way; straight to the trash folder and maybe even block the sender's address.

Instead, you will provide valuable information that is actually interesting to your readers and in the process establish yourself as an industry authority in your particular field. Here are a few of the subjects that you can select from each month.

A calendar of upcoming events and activities for your industry
Reports on recent events
Your industry in the news
Case studies showing either good or bad practices in your field
Customer questions and answers

Where Do I Find My Content
Ninety percent of your content can be done for you with just a few minutes of work each month. If you aren't using Google Alerts already you need to start. Google Alerts are updates of Google Search results including all news and web results related to a specific query. You can customize these results to include only news, blogs, videos , books or discussion forums and have these emailed to you as they occur or daily or weekly.

When you find items that would be of particular interest to your readers you will apply what is known as 'blog curation'. This is basically the format of the well-known website The Huffington Post which simply provides links to various news articles (mostly political in their case) and adds a few sentences of commentary about the article as an introduction. This simple technique allowed founder Arianna Huffington to sell her site to AOL for $315 million so maybe we should pay attention.

Simply go through your Google Alerts information, find a few articles that are of interest for the current month and write a couple of sentences to introduce the reader to the story along with any opinion you may have on the subject at hand. Provide the first paragraph or so of the article along with the link to the original source so your readers may go to the entire story if its of interest to them. Do a few of these each month and your content is finished.

The second and even more important content source is your readers. The best way to find out exactly what your audience wants to read about is to ask them. You should invite questions or feedback in every issue. Occasionally post a survey on an industry issue or product asking for their opinion. You will be surprised at how enlightening the responses are. Often you will get multiple comments about a particular issue that never occurred to you. Keep in mind that for every one question or comment that you receive on a particular subject, there are 100 more readers who have the same concern. Tailor your content to the subjects your readers provide.

Your business's newsletter will turn out to be one of the more enjoyable, and profitable, parts of your business as it develops. There is no reason that you can't produce a simple newsletter template and begin work on your first issue this week.

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