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Should Your Business Have a Newsletter?

enews_news
“We need a newsletter.” Perhaps no four words so fill the hearts of marketing communication staffs with dread. That’s because company newsletters always seem to be the spur-of-the-moment brainchild of underutilized executives, who — having left this rotting corpse of an idea on someone else’s doorstep — immediately scurry off to attend their regular duties (probably clogging sinks and putting sugar in gas tanks).

 

Okay, maybe that intro is a little over-the-top and not quite fair (after all, this article is in a newsletter) but we’re trying to flip the mindset on newsletters from automatic “yes” to skeptical “maybe.” They can indeed be worthwhile vehicles for building rapport with customers, channel partners, employees and others, but they can also easily become a burdensome waste of time that ends in embarrassing surrender

 

Here are five questions that must be answered with a solid affirmative before committing to producing a regular newsletter. (And it IS a commitment to your audience, even though 80% or more of them may never read it.)

  • Will it provide ongoing support for achieving your overall marketing objectives? You should think of a newsletter the way publishers think of any periodical: they expect them to run forever. This means you don’t want to create a new newsletter only in conjunction with an occasional or unique occurrence (i.e. new product or service) or business change (i.e. a merger) that takes place within a limited time. Sure, you should publicize such things in email alerts, press releases, ads, blogs, even articles in an existing newsletter … anything … except a separate publication. Newsletters need a permanent theme and then should help you do something that will always need to be done, namely keep vital audiences connected to your organization.
  • Will it always offer value to your audience? If you ask yourself whether someone would be better off by having read your proposed newsletter, you can probably always rationalize a “yes.” (After all, you wouldn’t want anyone to miss out on your weekly sales specials!) But will the audience readily perceive the value of your proposed newsletter’s content? Before you get too far along, ask some objective (and honest) people how they would feel about receiving the newsletter in their inboxes.
  • Will you have enough content? True, there are no rules about how long a newsletter has to be, but realistically, the first one will kind of set the standard. Before starting a newsletter, businesses often have a lot of share-worthy information stockpiled. However, if they get too ambitious with the frequency or amount of content up front, it will evaporate surprisingly fast. Editorial staff will be left scratching their heads as deadlines loom. Make sure you will always have an adequate amount of worthwhile information in the pipeline before going forward with a newsletter.
  • Do you have the resources to produce it? Don’t be fooled, a newsletter requires a real investment. Do you have people with the skill and talent to produce a newsletter? If yes, the second question is whether those people have the time. Then, will you be able to reliably get it to your readership? Finally, what sort of ROI can you expect? If you’re going to publish a newsletter, it should be done well … as it will be a very visible representation of your company. Poor quality and haphazard delivery will not speak well of your business.
  • Will you, personally, enthusiastically read it? If everything is a “yes” up to this point, you have some real momentum going in favor of a newsletter, but before pulling the trigger, pause. Think about your own inbox and everything you are expected to read or want to read every day. Now think of where the proposed newsletter would sit on your list of things to peruse. If you, as a chief executive, won’t read your own newsletter with interest, how could you expect other audiences to do so?

If you answered yes to these questions and are ready to start your newsletter, let’s talk!

 

Building a Reputation Through Volunteering

building-a-reputation

“Oh! I know Ginger!” My team often hears that phrase while talking with people at events around Tampa Bay. When the topic of work comes up and they mention Pinstripe Marketing, they frequently get that response. Years ago, after hearing dozens of those exclamations, our former creative director joked, “Geez, we should have buttons!” A project manager agreed and they decided to arm themselves with a response of their own at the next event. It caught on. Although silly, people would actually wear the buttons, causing others to say “I know Ginger; where’s my button?” or “Who is Ginger? I want a button.”

building reputation through volunteering

I am what many would consider “a habitual joiner.” Perhaps suffering from a severe case of FOMO, I wanted to be involved in everything – professional associations, business organizations, non-profit boards – wherever I could surround myself with people (typical ENFP) and give back to my industry and community. By being involved and serving on boards, I had the opportunity to illustrate my work ethic, organization, communication and marketing skills, and (hopefully) that I was friendly and easy to work with.

Through the relationships I’ve built volunteering, I have met some of my very best friends, business colleagues, and, most importantly for my business, clients. In fact, I can directly trace a significant portion of the agency’s annual revenue to connections made from my volunteer work.

Just recently, we landed a new client in a fast-growing segment of the GPS technology industry. When I asked the vice president of operations how they initially heard about us, he said, “I sent a query out to my circle of trusted associates and your name came back twice.” Similarly, when meeting with a local law firm that week, I asked the same question. The marketing director said, “I asked a group of legal administrators and you were recommended seven times!”

While most professional services firms attribute more than 70% of their business to referrals, I know our involvement in the community is responsible for even more. How do I know? Because we have rarely proactively pursued a client.

However, now is the time to leverage that reputation and implement a business development campaign to strategically target new clients. We’re looking forward to growing the business and building relationships with new clients who will ultimately make new referrals.

I understand that we’re all busy, and over the last several years, I have become more selective about where I spend my time. It’s important to identify what organizations will provide what you’re seeking – more knowledge, more connections, or more passion for a cause. Getting involved and serving in trade associations or volunteer organizations is an excellent way to build a network, particularly for introverts who may cringe at the thought of attending a big networking event or non-profit fundraiser. The idea of “working a room” is unappealing to most, but getting to know a small group of like-minded individuals working toward a common mission creates bonds that last.

I wrote this article because we have been planning for 2017 and analyzing many aspects of our business. This year especially, my involvement in the community has really paid off. So whether you are making resolutions or just looking to approach business development from a different perspective, hopefully this is a good reminder. We always recommend to our clients to stay heavily involved in trade associations and the community – for many reasons. Best of luck capturing more of an audience for your business in the new year!

Oh, and let me know if you want a button. 🙂

 

Below are some resources for getting involved and building your own reputation.

Find a Trade Association

Networking for Introverts

Fundamentals of Serving on a Board

 

Proposals – Advice from the Selection Committee

proposal-tips-website-heroRecently, Pinstripe Marketing attended a webinar hosted by the Society of Marketing Professionals (SMPS) Tampa Bay called “Secrets of the Selection Process,” by Gary Coover. The course was designed to enlighten us about creating a proposal as well as presenting the proposal to the selection committee, and we came away with a few great tips that we thought we would share.

  • Ask yourself if it’s a good fit for you. If it’s not, why waste the time and money?
  • Make it about the client, their problems, their pain points. It’s NOT about you, so be brief and to the point when you’re talking about your company.
  • Dress similarly to your audience. I.e. if you’re in Texas, do your research, they may be wearing cowboy boots and a hat. Don’t be inauthentic and go overboard so you look like you’re in a costume, but in this case, you could wear a western style shirt to the meeting instead of suit and tie. If you’re in Hawaii, don’t be afraid to don a Hawaiian shirt in lieu of your starched shirt if that’s the client’s style. Be subtle and respectful, but show that you are aware of their culture and are willing to assimilate.
  • Include only the most relevant information, don’t stuff the proposal full of useless information – long, hefty proposals work against you.
  • The RFP doesn’t tell the whole story, so make sure to get ahead of it. If the RFP is the first time you’ve seen or heard anything about the project, it may be too late.
  • Know everything about the project and the client.
  • Call the number on the RFP to ask questions – if you don’t have any, think harder.
  • Make the information in your proposal jump off the page. The committee has a lot of proposals to review and they don’t want to spend weeks or even days in the process, so they will be skimming and cutting frequently. If the info and graphics in your proposal stand out, you have a better chance of making it to the final cut.
  • Go above and beyond – if you really want the project and you know you stand a chance, go the extra mile and make a mockup or rendering for the specific project. Show them how you would solve their problem.
  • Bring your doers – the client doesn’t want to just see the president and vice president of the company. They want to meet the team that will be doing the work. Bring any willing team members and key players to the meeting to show your team’s solidarity. However, no more than five people should be in the room, and you don’t want your team to outnumber the selection committee, so do your homework.
  • Simplify it!
  • Bring extras, backups, anticipate all problems, check everything three times
  • Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse! Preferably in front of a committee of your own to get feedback and critique.
  • If you don’t get the work, request a debriefing so you know where you can improve next time.

Many of these tips seem obvious, but cannot be repeated enough times. Others are not so obvious and may provide you with the small, unique edge you need to win against a close competitor. Remember that the selection committee members are people too and use the power of empathy to imagine their job of reading through potentially hundreds of proposals (which, let’s face it, can be rather dull), and decide which company is best for the project. That’s a tough job, so go easy on them. Think about what you would like to see if you were in their position.

Check out some of our other articles for more tips on relationship building and business development.

How to Speak to Your Ideal Customers

ideal customer relationship
Earlier this year, we shared our thoughts on how to identify your ideal client. This month, we’re going to consider what to say to them once you know who they are.

Speak to their concerns – Whether from surveys, conducting focus groups, or simply talking with a sizable portion of your client base, you’ll have developed a fair understanding of what the majority of your customers have in common. Most importantly, this intelligence should include understanding problems that you can help them solve, or goals that you can help them accomplish. Your messaging needs to speak to these concerns at the very outset of a communication in order to get their attention quickly. Then once a prospect is paying attention, don’t beat around the bush in stating how your business can meet their demands.

Impress them with your expertise – If you’re conducting a business-to-business campaign, you want to show that you understand your client’s livelihood. Therefore, in the course of explaining how your own company will meet their needs, throw in some terminology or phrases that are specific to their industry. Don’t overdo it (and for heaven’s sake, verify that you’re using your ‘key words’ correctly!) but demonstrating familiarity with your customer’s industry will increase their confidence in you. Additionally, and for any sort of customer, be sure to mention any awards, designations, or professional qualifications that you have as an aside to your main message.

Recognize their individuality – You’ll be assuming members of your target audience have many things in common, but don’t forget what folks say about the word ‘assume.’ Craft your mass-audience message to acknowledge that no person or organization is exactly like any other. One of the easiest and least obtrusive ways to do this is by using the word ‘you’ in your advertising copy. (FYI, the individuality-vs.-mass-appeal conundrum is why you often see phrases like “if you …” or “whether you …” in marketing copy.) And anytime you can easily customize communications with a client’s actual name, do so.

Acknowledge (and defend against) objections – If you’ve spent any time at all your business, you already know why a good portion of your prospects are hesitant to become customers. There’s no use pretending these objections don’t exist, so the best course is to meet them head on. (This will also reinforce that you understand their interests.) Be first to cite their concerns. and explain how much better off—overall—they will be once they decide to do business with you.

Offer proof of your value – As one excellent way to defend against objections—as well as show that understand your customers—is to provide them with real-life examples of your success. This could be as simple as brief customer quotes, or as detailed as a lengthy case study. And while you may not want to prominently include this element in all of your communications, we do recommend letting prospects know that such testimonials are easily available for their review.

Presume a long-term relationship is in the making – This is not something that you should necessarily spell out in your marketing communications. Rather it’s a thought that you should always keep in the back of your mind. That is, speak to your customers as if you both want and expect to serve their needs for years and years to come. Maintaining the mindset of an enduring relationship is a very good way to witness a happy self-fulfilling prophecy.

Below are some more resources on building client relationships:

 5 Tips for Building Strong Relationships with Clients

10 Steps for Growing Your Keys Accounts Infographic

Relationship Building for Business and More

relationship building for business
Relationship building is a fundamental facet of life – we meet people, we connect with them, we become friends with them. Building relationships happens over time, and as time goes by, acquaintances become friends through common interests and shared experiences. Perhaps we’ve known a person long enough to have watched their children grow or were present during tough life events. The longer you know someone, the more you share. These shared experiences form bonds and serve as the foundation of a more profound friendship, but this type of relationship affects our professional lives as well.

Friendships and business relationships overlap fairly often. One of the things we have learned over time is that business relationships often evolve into friendships, and vice versa. Someone who has been a friend for years may one day open a door that you never knew was there.

Case in Point

This is a story about a small network of three people who were connected in different ways, with names changed for anonymity.

September was on the hunt for a job, and her first search terms pulled up a website for a company that she had never heard of, despite the fact that it was right down the street from her old photography studio. She looked over the website and thought the company looked interesting, so she prepped her cover letter and resume and thought she would give it a shot. Sending an unsolicited resume is often fruitless, but September knew that sending hundreds of resumes out would be more likely to yield a collection of viable results. She sent her resume to every single email address she could find.

Diana received September’s email and read over the cover letter with curiosity. She was intrigued, so she decided to do “the search.” First, she went to LinkedIn and discovered that she and September shared a number of connections, although she had never heard the name before. One friend in particular was William, who was a good friend of Diana and whom she had met years ago through a leadership program. She immediately called William to get the scoop on this mysterious September. William, always one to chat, was instantly excited. He told Diana that she had to hire September, sang her praises almost endlessly, and almost kicked himself for not having made the introduction himself, much earlier.

On the other end of things, September continued her search and had sent her resume to a few more places, not expecting immediate results, but diligently focused on acquiring at least one or two responses within a week. To her surprise, she was to receive a response within minutes of sending out that first resume, certainly a personal record. The phone rang and it was William. It had been quite some time since September had seen or even spoken to William, but he was one of those timeless friends who you pick up with wherever you left off. She was happy to hear from him. William instantly began talking about Diana, the owner of the very company September had just sent her resume to. He was ecstatic for the connection, and told September that he thought it was the perfect fit. He told her that he had just gotten off the phone with Diana, and had a really good conversation.

September emailed Diana when she hung up with William. They set up a time to meet, and their first meeting was such a success that September knew almost instantly that this was where she would end up. William was right. He had seen something in these two women that he knew would bring them together. September accepted Diana’s job offer, and the rest is history. The three of them still have lunch on a regular basis, and September and Diana both are grateful to William for bringing them together.

As you can see from the story, there was one small hole in this network – the connection between September and Diana had not yet been made. Now this web is complete, and they have connected other parts of their web as well, through friendships, business partnerships, and acquaintances. It is quite interesting to think about the vast network of people that we have in our lives, especially for those who are involved in many community activities. Your network could extend much farther than you even realize. Sometimes it takes only one person to bridge the gap, as in this case. Once September and Diana’s gap had been bridged, they realized how many other friends they had in common.

Have you had a similar experience? We would love to hear your stories about networking surprises.