Newsletters still an effective business tool

Updated 8/25/2014 5:16 AM

Back in the not-so-long-ago day, glossy four-color newsletters with high production and mailing costs were an integral part of many small business marketing campaigns.

They still are, delivering sometimes chatty and sometimes thought provoking messages to their intended audiences -- and, thanks to companies such as Constant Contact that provide formatting and email list management support, doing so far less expensively.

Email may be an important cost containment factor, but content -- written to meld the business' communications goals and reader interests -- determines whether a newsletter is effective.

Newsletters "help me stay visible and give valuable information to my clients," says Cathy Leman, whose NutriFit Inc. emails a bi-weekly newsletter to 1,000 subscribers.

Leman's is an intentionally chatty newsletter that, with an open rate ranging between 20 and 24 percent, subscribers obviously like to read. A monthly recipe, which in early August was Whole Wheat Blueberry Bars, generally "is the biggest click-on," Leman says.

Leman, whose Glen Ellyn business centers on fitness and nutrition therapy, works hard to establish a rapport with readers. "Fitness and nutrition need to be positive," she says. "There can be a lot of intimidation and embarrassment, so I want the newsletter to be something personal, something that makes me approachable."

The early August edition talked about Leman's "me and a friend" getaway to Ann Arbor; celebrated birthdays and a client of the month; welcomed new clients; introduced a new personal trainer; suggested a way to relieve neck tension and -- well, you get the idea.

Reading the NutriFit newsletter is like talking with Leman, which is what she wants.

Mike Moebs' weekly monogram is more like reading a textbook -- except the monogram, published 38 times a year, is far better written. An economist and the CEO at Moebs $ervices Inc., an economic research and consulting business in Lake Bluff, Moebs writes for an audience made up of senior executives in banking, credit unions and the investment community.

With a base list of 12,000 C-level people, the monogram "is an educational piece (intended) to get our name out to people," Moebs says. He drafts each issue, which is reviewed and edited by a team of four, including two outsiders.

Much of the content spins from two major research pieces the Moebs firm undertakes annually.

Moebs has published his monogram for 31 years. Clearly, it's effective.

Plan B Consulting's Planning Possibilities newsletter has changed slightly since it first appeared in 2005, which is what Michelle Coussens, owner of the Batavia business, intends.

Plan B's primary clients are nonprofits and small businesses. "I have a lot of long-term clients," Coussens said.

Interestingly, Coussens uses the newsletter to sharpen her own ideas. "I like to write," she says. "This is a great way for me to think about a topic -- collect thoughts (about a subject) I'll be teaching or presenting."

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