Most people visiting your site for the first time are not ready to purchase immediately … they are instead in the early stages of testing a potential new relationship.
To start with, they don’t know who they’re dealing with, and are fearful of looking a fool by making a hasty and potentially misguided purchasing decision.
They want to get to know you first … people like to feel comfortable and attain some level of trust and sense of connection with a business before at some point making a further commitment and purchasing something.
Think about your own online purchases …
I’d place a wager that it’s rare for you to go straight to a site and make an immediate purchase, without some sense of connection first.
It probably took a few months before you took out your credit card and decided to commit … and this time frame probably only shortened if you already had a sense of connection before you arrived at the site …
Possibly a recommendation from someone, some great content that drew you in, or a sense of widespread usage of and trust in a particular company.
So how can you develop this relationship with a new visitor, who’s possibly never heard of your business before, over a potentially long time frame, so they gradually gain a sense of connection with you, and come to trust you enough to part with their hard-earned cash and make a purchase?
This can be either online, such as in the form of a regularly-emailed ezine, or offline, where you would post say a monthly newsletter to leads who have left you a mailing address.
Or even better, with email open rates in terminal decline and email boxes receiving ever increasing amounts of email, both!
It’s easier of course to get someone’s email address, and should generally be the default option … but the longer-term, higher value relationship will generally come via direct mail. (And effective online and offline marketing integration will become increasingly key over the next decade or so, even for what are apparently purely ‘online’ businesses. For example, think about the last mailing piece you got from Google.)
But whether you keep in touch via email or direct mail, or some combination of the two, the relationship you have with those subscribers and recipients is much more intimate than the one you have with those who just visit your website and then leave.
Once you have the means of keeping in touch with someone, you can gradually build up that relationship with them, encourage them to return to your site and build familiarity, keep them informed of new developments, and promote products or services that may be of benefit to them.
Eventually … and it takes different periods of time for different people … you close the sale, and convert that visitor, who may have first come across your site some months previously, into a customer for your business, and thereby deepen the relationship into one that’s much more committed and meaningful.
And this is why it’s so much easier and cheaper to sell to existing customers than to acquire new ones – you already have that deeper, relationship with them.
In fact, for this reason alone, it’s more important to maintain ongoing and consistent communication with your existing customers than with new leads … and again, a regular business newsletter fits the bill perfectly.
But, as with any relationship, it comes with responsibilities … it’s important to be respectful of those you keep in touch with, and to be thoughtful with regard to how you communicate with them.
Here are two key elements that can make or break your business newsletter.
There’s no hard and fast rule, but unless you have particularly compelling content, sending out a newsletter too frequently can alienate people who would otherwise have gradually converted over time to becoming a customer or repeat customer with you.
It’s unlikely for example that most businesses will have enough content of genuine value to their subscriber base to send out emails on a daily basis.
The most important factor however is a commitment to be consistent in your frequency of communication.
This consistency, over time, gives your potential customers a sense of reliability and trustworthiness in what you have to offer as a business.
It shows you’re committed to them, and over time that commitment becomes reciprocal – they too, commit to you by trusting you enough to make a purchase, potentially becoming a lifelong customer for your business. And a lifelong relationship that should be mutually beneficial.
For an emailed newsletter, it’s generally advisable to communicate at least once a week to ensure you maintain that connection and remain front of mind for your prospects. After all, you want them to think of you first if it comes to crunch time and they have to make that purchasing decision – and this is the point at which your investment in that communication begins to pay off.
If you mail a newsletter as well, it’s generally advisable to work on a monthly basis, because that’s what most people are used to, for example with magazine subscriptions. But there’s nothing to stop you mailing the odd promotion between each monthly newsletter too.
With the content you put into your newsletter, you need to develop and maintain a professional image, and provide content that offers real value to your readership.
Think about the type of content you want to receive. Nearly all of us are hard-pushed for time … my guess would be you don’t want to waste your time with meaningless, frivolous content, but often open the emails and mail that you know are going to offer you some level of benefit.
That’s how your own readership thinks too. They want to receive regular, informative, quality content that relates to their own interests, and that engages and inspires them.
And providing them with such content is the basis on which your relationship will be built.
You may for example teach them how to do things relating to your industry, share information that might improve their lives or businesses in some way, or simply prove yourself over time as a solid purveyor of information they can come to rely on – an oasis of calm in a world of information overload.
If writing comes naturally to you, then you can of course create such content yourself. Or you might like to use a writer to do some initial research on a particular topic and come up with the bare bones of an article, that you will then be able to flesh out yourself and convert into your own ‘voice’.
But most business owners are not in that position, and, like any other required skill for their business, it makes more sense to hire in the talent and leave the business owner free to concentrate on their own key activities as they see fit.
Just as you wouldn’t attempt to string up a professional-looking website without having the right skills to do so, you wouldn’t attempt to create compelling content unless you had the writing skills required – after all, a business newsletter containing spelling mistakes and readability issues is likely to do more damage to your business than good.
This is even more important if, as many business owners, English isn’t your first language, but you need to communicate effectively with an English-speaking clientele.
Even if you can write reasonably well, it may still be best to leave it to a professional writer to provide the polish required. You could for example write a basic article, but then pass it to a writer to professionalize it and give it the flourish required.
Effective communication is the basis of your whole sales conversion process, and creating a business newsletter that you deliver on a regular and consistent basis is a great way to develop and maintain regular communication with visitors to your website, gradually develop a relationship with them, and build trust and credibility to the extent that at some point they feel comfortable in making a purchase from you.
In fact, I’d challenge you to try it and tell me it doesn’t work!