Here's what I will tell him. Of course, this applies to any business – not just insurance.
Why Newsletters Work to Bring in New Business
Newsletters are most famously used to keep in contact with past clients. That remains an important role.
Less well understood is why they work to bring in new business.
Newsletters' success is down to two factors: platform and relationship building.
Success in business these days is more about being perceived as a trusted expert rather than a salesman. People are jaded with the old model of cold calls, persuasive closing techniques and the general push push push of the old style of sales.
It's much better to be seen as an expert in what you sell. Instead of just being someone who sells stuff, you are instead is a trusted adviser.
Most of your competitors haven't grasped this yet, so it puts you ahead of them all.
After all, who would you rather do business with: a salesman or an expert?
Newsletters act as a platform to prove your expertise because they allow you to write about what you know – to serve your readers by sharing your expertise.
On top of that, newsletters build a relationship with your prospects over time. And, as you know, relationships are at the core of most business transactions – especially in tough economic times. People want to do business with people they know. It's safer and more rewarding that way.
By providing them useful information as a trusted adviser, you are growing a relationship of trust. That relationship will pay off when the client is ready to buy.
Finding New Prospects
So, what you are doing with your newsletter is using it to build relationships with prospects by using it as a platform to distinguish yourself as a trusted expert.
As there is a cost involved to producing and sending newsletters, it's important to make sure you go where the customers are and make sure your newsletter meets their needs.
It's wise therefore to make a profile of your ideal customer: Where do they live? What do they read? Where do they hang out? Who do they do business with? What are they wanting? How can I serve them? What issue (about what I offer) keeps them up at night – with either excitement or fear?
When you have done that you are better positioned to know what to write about and how you can best serve them with your newsletter. You will also be a better position to make them aware of you (and your newsletter) in the first place.
The bottom line is this: you need to be where customers are with information that answers the questions and concerns in their heads.
Bringing Prospects into Your Realm
It is seldom cost effective to mail your newsletter right away to prospects – either by direct mail or by a door-drop. (The exception to this might be a real estate agent or local merchant who is using newsletter to farm a very small neighborhood – after all, he knows where is prospects are!)
A better way is to give prospects a reason to raise their hands – a reason to say "OK, I'm open to what you offer. I might even buy one day!"
By doing that, you'll be using your newsletter budget effectively – marketing to those who want to hear from you.
(Sidebar: This is the concept of Permission Marketing, used most famously by Seth Godin in his book of the same name. The idea is that you will more successful by marketing to people who want to hear from you rather than interrupting people who don't want to hear from you. It's the difference between receiving a newsletter from someone you know and getting a telemarketing call from someone you don't – about something you don't care about. And it's the foundation of all good email marketing, where anti-spam laws make it illegal to email people who haven't expressed an interest in hearing from you.)
So how do you bring them into your realm? How do you get them to sign up and receive your newsletter? Here are some ways:
Go where your clients are: It's better to distribute your newsletter with a rifle rather than a shotgun. It's more efficient that way. So think of all the places your client is likely to hang out. And think off other (non-competing) vendors with the same clients. Leave your newsletter in their offices and stores; do reciprocal advertising in their newsletters. Distribute your newsletter in the "social nodes" – the daycare centers, social centers, sports venues – in your community where your clients are likely to be.
Always be signing up: You've heard the motto – always be closing. Instead, always be encouraging people to sign up to receive your newsletter. When you have a good conversation on the phone or meet them face-to-face, ask them if you can put them on your distribution list. Put a sign-up box on your website. Put a link to your newsletter on your email footer.
Add "bait" to encourage them to sign up: It's not always enough to "just" sell your newsletter; you often need to give them an extra reason to sign up. That reason might be a special report on a subject they will find interesting and that is relevant to what you offer, or it might be the promise of discounts on future purchases. Always tell them how useful and entertaining your newsletter will be. Also assure them that they won't be spammed, either my email or postal mail.
Turning Prospects into Clients
The idea, of course, is to grow a large list of high-quality prospects. So how do you turn those prospects into customers?
For many businesses, customers only come "into heat" once in a while. If you're a real estate agent, for example, the average family moves home only every seven years. That can mean a long cycle between them joining your newsletter and hiring you. (Of course, keeping in touch throughout that times pays for itself – it's justified by the commission you will receive.)
Other clients will come into heat more frequently. Indeed, they might already be shopping for what you offer, so you just need something to push them over the edge.
In most cases, this means you need to give them an offer – a reason to buy something or contact you today.
Never send a newsletter out without an offer, even if that offer is just to receive further information.
The reason for this is that people
are – to be frank – lazy. They need something to push them to take action and they need to be led to do what (in many cases) is good for them.
Most advertising doesn't have an offer (just leaf through the Yellow Pages to demonstrate that), so you will put yourself ahead of the competition by including one.
Also give them reasons to contact you – to have a conversation; create a dialog. The more person-to-person dialog you can have, the better. Often it's just this contact that tips them over into buying.
Finally, don't give up. If you are contacting good prospects, don't give up too early. It would be a shame to contact them four times when they were ready to buy on the fifth.
This is just a brief summary of how to use a newsletter to bring in new business. Browse through the rest of this blog for more ideas.
[Picture by joanie]