Nine Things to Get Your Newsletter Read--and Remembered

August 1, 1996

Your newsletter can make you a household name in your community. I've received many unsolicited compliments about my newsletter from prospects and other professionals. People do notice if you do it right. Here's what it takes to produce a winner:

1. Know your mission and your audience

I want readers to relate the newsletter to me, and that means real estate information. But I also want to respect their needs. So I keep the focus on

  • Home-oriented subjects---Since my business is real estate, articles on car repair, for example, won't do.
  • Professional, businesslike advice---It enhances my image as an experienced, service-oriented professional.
  • Positive content---Don't discourage them.
  • Quick reading---Busy two-income families make up most of my service area.

2. Local content

I ask my editor-designer to relate every possible story to Tulsa or Oklahoma---tips to remedy drainage problems caused by our local clay-based soils, a new local service offering no-sorting, curbside recycling---to tie myself and the newsletter to the community. This strengthens my image as a person who works for the community, rather than someone who's pushing houses.

3. Useful information

If the content is useful, you'll build loyalty, and people will keep the newsletter or pass it along, giving you a run for your marketing dollar. For topics, I recall the questions I've been asked and the advice I've given. For example, I've provided information on chimney cleaning and guidelines for selecting a remodeling contractor. When needed, the editor conducts library or on-line research to supplement my comments.

4. Recipes and giveaways

To involve readers, I publish a reader-furnished recipe with my name and phone at the bottom. If someone clips the recipe, my name goes along with it. Each issue also features a drawing. An area business contributes a home-related item as a prize and gets a write-up in trade. We include a coupon for readers to send in for the drawing. One popular prize was an Oklahoma state tree---a 10- to 12-foot redbud---professionally planted in the winner's yard. I received more than 500 responses for that drawing. I usually include the winner's picture in a subsequent issue.

5. The soft sell

I sell myself in the newsletter, but I leave the hard sell for my other personal promotions. A newsletter needs to look and read like news; otherwise, it might be perceived as junk mail. To promote myself indirectly, I make certain I'm quoted throughout each issue. And I tactfully remind readers at least once each issue that I'm a top salesperson in Tulsa.

I also include a few of my listings organized by school district with no mention of price. That puts the focus on community and not on selling or dollars per se. At the bottom, I include a simple, service-oriented statement: For a personal tour of these or any area homes for sale, or for marketing information on your home, just ask for Sandy at 918/492-4145.

6. Eye-catching design and good writing

I hired the best talent I could afford so that I could keep doing what I do best--sell homes. The experienced editor-designer handles the job from original interviews with me to printing a finished issue that's ready to mail. Before the issue is printed, I read the entire thing to ensure that nothing in it runs counter to the ethics or laws of our profession.

Ask a journalism department at a local college or a printer to recommend someone who can write and design newsletters.

7. Consistency

As with all advertising, publishing on a consistent schedule is a large component of a newsletter's success. For manageability and cost, and to avoid any competition with my other direct mailings, I publish quarterly.

8. Format and color

For printing cost-effectiveness, my newsletter is 8.5 inches by 11 inches, then folded to 5.5 inches by 8.5 inches, and printed on four sides in black and another color ink. The other color changes with each issue so that readers know they're getting something new. The 5,000 copies of each issue, including research, editorial, design, production, and printing---but not postage---average 30 cents each.

9. Proper mailing

I send my newsletter as third class bulk mail, a sometimes complex process. Check with the post office for specifics before you print a newsletter. For instance, new regulations don't permit stapled bulk mail material.

Keep in mind that doing your own newsletter may be more expensive than buying an off-the-shelf version that contains useful information, offers ready-made convenience, and may use four-color, which can be cost prohibitive for the do-it-yourselfer. The newsletter that I bought prior to doing my own cost about 10 cents a copy for 5,000.

On the other hand, by publishing your own newsletter, you'll have the opportunity to talk about---and sell---yourself and your community.

Sandy Jarvis, of RE/MAX---Classic, Tulsa, Okla., was one of three winners in the Residential Sales Council's promotional materials contest, newsletter category, this year. You can reach her at 918/492-4145.

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