Quick Printing
February 2006
The power of e-newsletters
This is one of the all-time greatest marketing tools. What are you waiting for?
If someone were to ask me to give a simple answer to this question: What’s the all-round best way to promote and advertise your printing firm? I’d say, monthly direct mail advertising, of course. But then I’d pause and say, but if you’re got a few minutes, let me tell you about the online newsletter we send out every month—it’s pretty amazing.

We’ve mailed printed newsletters to customers and prospects for nearly 20 years. We’ve never missed a month. Newsletters have been a cornerstone of our sales and marketing program for so long, I can’t even imagine not using them. We’ve probably sent out more than 800,000 pieces over the years—give or take 50,000. Well, things change. As more and more of our customers began to request estimates and send us orders online, I began to give serious consideration to how I could better connect with my Internet customers.

These customers represented a paradigm shift in how we did business. The traditional method of doing business had a personal touch of some kind. But e-commerce wasn’t so personal. Sure it was efficient, but it seemed a little disconcerting to have a print order go through the shop without ever seeing, or talking to the customer. It was during one of these “But we never even talked to them!” moments that I decided to create an e-newsletter.

We named our newsletter Printer@Work and decided to make it semi-monthly for two reasons: First, we felt this would result in a higher level of front-of-mind awareness without being too intrusive. Second, since the cost of doing online marketing is so low, we could accomplish more without spending a lot of money
We wanted our newsletter to be informative, fun, and colourful. Informative would mean we needed articles that our readers would find helpful. This was necessary to create value. Next, we wanted it to be fun, so that our readers would look forward to receiving each issue instead of hitting the delete key when it arrived. The fun factor was necessary to create and maintain interest. Finally, we wanted it colourful because if we put a lot of colour in front of our online readers, week in and week out, it would hopefully remind them that we do printing in glorious full-colour.

Well, it all came together rather nicely, and we have been sending out our online newsletter twice a month for nearly two years. By the time you read this, we will be on issue #47. It sounds a little boastful to say “Our customers love Printer@Work,” but they do. We get a lot of positive feedback and fewer than five customers have asked to be removed from our e-mail list.

The content for Printer@Work is built around four anchor articles, all print-related: an Idea of the Week, a Marketing Tip of the Week, a Tech Tip of the Week, and an Uncommon Product of the Week. All are informative, and all sell printing products. We also include a letter from the owner titled “The Way I See It.” It’s a short note from my wife Jenny, our customer service manager, that revolves around our values, like dependability, timeliness, and honesty. The fun content is a business-related cartoon, and six short, professionally written articles we purchase from syndication, like your local newspaper does. They cover a wide range of fun topics like: “News of the Weird,” to “Dear Abby.” Each issue has about 10 articles on a variety of topics.

Best of all, it’s free
I really can’t emphasize how effective Printer@Work has been for us. We always ask permission before sending it, and currently 654 customers receive it. We add about one new customer per day. The best part of the whole thing is that it’s essentially free. Can I repeat that? It’s free. No postage to pay, no airtime to buy, no expensive production costs, and it won’t get any more expensive as we add names to our database. It’s been one of our all-time best marketing tools. It’s a great way to create customer loyalty, introduce customers to our printed products, and demonstrate our creativity and resourcefulness on an ongoing basis. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Virtually no one in the printing industry uses online newsletters to market their products. What are you waiting for?
Mike Stevens is one of North America’s most successful small printers. He owns Express Press in Fargo, North Dakota. Starting with sales of $10,900 a month in 1985, volume now exceeds $250,000 per month. You can reach him at mikestevens@expresspressusa.com or visit www.expresspressusa.com.
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