Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Expand Your Reach with Print Newsletters

One of the oldest and most effective ways to stay in touch with existing clients, prospects and donors is with printed newsletters. Arriving by snail mail, they contain valuable, information-rich content and are an effective complement to online promotions. They also serve niche markets where print is a preferred format. Due to the decrease in postal mail, print newsletters stand out, unlike email newsletters that tend to get lost in the inbox or deleted.

Many businesses understand the value of direct mail as a marketing tool. But have you ever considered using a newsletter as a sales-related publication? A newsletter can help your business or non-profit generate new customers or increase your donor base, cultivate loyalty, increase repeat sales or continued giving, and boost referrals.

How can a newsletter accomplish all these objectives? By communicating useful information in an easy-to-understand format. And when we say useful information, we mean not only facts, tips, and expert advice, but also new product or service information.

In this issue we’ll provide some guidelines and suggestions to help you launch a customer-centric newsletter and realize its benefit as a powerful sales tool.

Newsletter Size

A fundamental decision when starting a newsletter is how it will look. A very popular newsletter format is a tabloid size (11”x17”) sheet of paper, folded in half to produce four letter size (8.5” x 11”) pages. To create a longer newsletter, include additional tabloid size sheets to add four pages or include one letter size sheet to add two additional pages.

The same technique can be used with a letter size sheet. Folded in half, it becomes a four-page half letter size newsletter that measures 5.5” x 8.5”. Add more letter size sheets, and the newsletter page count increases to 8, 12, 16 or more pages.

The popularity of these newsletter sizes is linked to the fact that letter and tabloid sizes are readily available, ream-wrapped papers that come in a wide variety of colors, finishes, and thicknesses. This availability allows newsletter editors a good bit of creativity in selecting paper.

Here are some creative suggestion for consideration. Instead of folding the tabloid sheet in half, fold it in thirds, creating a large trifold, which is a six-page newsletter. Alternately, trim the tabloid sheet to legal size, then fold in half and you have a four-page newsletter with a finished size of 7” x 8.5”. The benefit of these suggestions is that they take advantage of the standard sheet size, yet produce a newsletter that is an unusual size, making it stand out in the mail.

For a truly unusual format, consider a postcard newsletter. You will be amazed at the amount of information you can fit on a postcard. The key is careful design and concise content limited to the essentials.

How much copy does it take to fill a newsletter? Typically it takes 400 - 600 words per letter size sheet, assuming there are a few graphic elements like photographs on each page. We suggest enlisting help from colleagues and other experts in your company to write an article or two.

Recurring Elements

Every newsletter has elements that recur in each issue. The two most common are the nameplate or banner and the masthead. The nameplate is at the top of the first page and contains the name of the publication plus information about the issue. In this newsletter, the nameplate is the blue block at the top of page one containing the publication name, CreativeBrief.

The nameplate is often mistakenly called the masthead. The masthead is actually the list, editor names, contributors, and other information about who produces the newsletter. A masthead rarely appears on the front page. More commonly it is located on the second or the last page and usually in the same position for every issue. Other recurring elements of a newsletter could include:
  • Message from the President or Executive Director 
  • Dates for Upcoming Events 
  • New Product or Service Announcements 
  • Table of Contents for publications longer than 6 pages
     

Design

The overriding consideration for a successful design is that it appeals to the audience and is consistent with your branding. If you are intending to design the newsletter template yourself, we urge you to give much less weight to the opinions of co-workers, executives, and owners than to what you know about the preferences of your audience. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if you, your company president or your board members like the newsletter design. What really matters is that the design appeals to the people receiving your newsletter.

Good design – and especially design that helps convey a sales-related message – follows basic rules of organization and artistry. We recommend using columns rather than lines that run the entire width of the page. Reading is faster if the eye can move vertically from line to line. In addition, all newsletters should have an underlying organization structure (or grid). Columns allow you to create a more interesting layout. If you use three columns, for instance, you can vary the layout with graphic elements like photographs that span one, two, or three columns wide.

Keep in mind, columns don’t have to be of equal width. In a two-column grid, one column can be twice as wide and produce a pleasing layout. Similarly, a three-column grid could have two columns of equal width and one very narrow column.

Newsletter Schedule

After good design, the next best thing you can do to ensure the effectiveness of your newsletter is to publish it on a regular, recurring basis. This requires a firm commitment to maintaining a schedule. To determine the schedule, start by picking the date you want the newsletter delivered to the post office and work backwards. The time frame for printing and mailing services depends on factors such as the quantity needed, number of pages, type of paper and how the newsletter will be printed (i.e. in full color, black only or a combination of 1 or 2 colors).

Call Us for Help

A newsletter can be a very powerful tool for two reasons… to keep current customers buying or current donors donating, and to peak the interest of prospective customers or potential new donors so they will become customers or donors. Put this advantage to work for your business by calling on us. We are newsletter experts. We have been helping businesses and organizations design, print, and mail newsletters for 21 years. We can provide a complete turnkey production including copywriting, or work cooperatively with you on any part of the process. For more information, call Marya or Brigid at 215-923-2679 or email info@creativecharacters.com for an appointment. It’s time to get started!

Q&A: What is a bleed, and how do I indicate one in my file?

A bleed is any printed element on the page that extends beyond the edge of the page. A full bleed means the printed elements extend beyond all four edges of the page. We do not print to the edge of the paper; instead, we print 1/8” beyond what the final size of the newsletter will be. Then we trim off the excess 1/8” to produce a bleed. This is called trimming to the bleed. Naturally, this means that the paper must be larger than the finished size of the newsletter.

If you want to include a bleed in your design, you must extend the image or graphic element by 1/8” (0.125”) beyond the edge of the paper and include crop marks to indicate where to trim your layout.

Group Photo Tips

Most newsletters include photographs for design interest and to illustrate the narrative. No matter who in your company is responsible for taking photographs, everyone should be using the same guidelines for getting the best shots.

When taking photos of groups, consider the goal is for readers to be able to recognize each individual. When a group photo includes more than ten people, it is nearly impossible to size the photo so all faces are recognizable. When a group includes more than ten, consider ways you can organize individuals into subgroups – the Audiology Division or the Western Region staff, for example.

Insist that everyone in the group stands close together, and consider arranging the individuals yourself. If people are standing, place them so their shoulders are overlapping, not side-by-side. When arranging people by height, start with the taller people. Once the photo is taken, use judicious cropping to remove extraneous background or foreground objects. Besides allowing you to change the focal point of the photo to the people, you may be able to enlarge the photo, and in doing so, make people’s faces larger.

Engaging Prospects

In a world of e-everything, many companies have shied away from newsletter printing in favor of email newsletters. While email newsletters are good marketing tools, they do not equal the power of a printed newsletter. Printed newsletters have lasting value and cannot be simply deleted without being looked at. They can be casually read, without an internet connection, at the readers’ convenience.

Newsletters go a long way in educating and persuading prospective clients to work with you or potential donors to join your cause. One of the best ways to develop a relationship with your customer/donor base is to send regular updates about your business via newsletters. It’s a more personal way to communicate than through email blasts, and it helps establish long-term customer loyalty.

So if you’re trying to find ways to engage prospective clients and donors, look no further than the company newsletter. And if you need help getting started, just give me a call at 215-923-2679 or email me at brigid@creativecharacters.com.