A newsletter can be a really great way to engage with your audience. It can also seem like a real bind trying to come up with interesting things to write about!
If you’re thinking of launching a newsletter and don’t know where to start, or if you’ve fallen out of love with the newsletter you already have, here’s some food for thought on making the exercise a more joyful one.
Think about your audience
First and foremost, you’re probably thinking of your customers – either those you are currently working with, or those you’d like to attract. There are others too who may be interested in hearing from you – your suppliers, partners and others you may have met along the way – who can help spread the word about your business, and refer others to you.Another important audience is, of course, your internal stakeholders. Your newsletter is a reminder to colleagues of all the good stuff that’s happening in your business, and an opportunity to take stock of the company’s successes.
There’s something about seeing achievements in print that help to reinforce a collective sense of pride. Once you have a clear idea on who you want to engage, you can start to think of content that will appeal to your range of audiences. What might they find interesting, informative or entertaining?
Which questions have they put to you and your team over recent weeks and months? What’s happening in the wider industry that is getting people talking?
What’s your objective?
The content of your newsletter should reflect the overall direction of your business, as well as its brand values. Where’s your focus or direction for the coming twelve months? Which products or services do you wish to promote?
As business owners, we can fall into the trap of believing that our customers know each and every service we offer. Is that really the case? A newsletter can be as useful in reinforcing your existing products and services as it is in promoting any new offer.
Having a clear idea at the outset of what you want to achieve, will ensure that you stay on track with your messaging.
A structured approach to content
Taking the time to put together an overall content plan (i.e., a structured approach to determining topics across all your content – whether that be blogs, feature articles in publications, case studies, videos or social media) brings many benefits. Firstly, it ensures your content is firmly aligned with those areas of your business you most want to promote. Secondly, it ensures you engage with your audience on a consistent and frequent basis, and – perhaps most appealing of all – it saves time! Once you’ve created a core piece of content – let’s say a blog – you’ve got content you can re-purpose in other ways, for example as social posts. The same applies to your newsletter. Choosing to promote a blog or case study in your newsletter gives you two really valuable sections, with very little additional work needed.
Ideas for content
First, your opening section. It need only be short and sweet, but it gives an important round-up of the newsletter’s content to entice your audience to read on.
Thereafter, some interesting additions might be:
Milestones – whether relating to the business as a whole or a colleague’s length of service.
Spotlight on a team member – who might your customers be dealing with on a regular basis? It’s always interesting to know a little more about someone’s background and their day-to-day work.
Product or service in focus – what is it, who’s it for, and how does it offer benefit?
Knowledge sharing – is there anything that you/ your colleagues know that can be imparted to customers to make their lives easier.
Case studies – who makes a compelling story for how your product or service is being used.
Launch of new partnerships, either formal or informal.
Successful grant or award applications.
Recognition of your work in the press.
Launch of a survey or consultation.
Charity or community work.
Requests from your readers for ideas on what to include in future months.
Events/ exhibitions – both those you have attended and those that are planned.
Did you know…? section of random facts about your industry. No-one enjoys scratching around at the last minute for newsworthy content. You can make the process as painless as possible by capturing ideas on a tool like Trello and encouraging colleagues to do the same).
Think too about where else you can get a steady flow of interesting content.We’ve talked about the benefit of repurposing content like blogs in your newsletters but you may also find useful content from other sources. Could your newsletter include a guest blog from a supplier or partner, on a subject of interest or to promote a special offer?
A catchy subject line
An effective subject line is what entices the reader to open your newsletter. Try and be succinct; how can you get your message across in a title of fewer than nine words? If there’s more you want to say, you can add in Preview text (the section of text that appears in a recipient’s inbox after the subject line).
How often is often enough?
How often you decide to send your newsletter is entirely down to you. A weekly newsletter brings the benefits of reminding your audience about your business on a regular basis. If, however, you know you are going to struggle to commit the time or indeed have enough to talk about, you might want to consider a monthly or perhaps even a quarterly send.
There are lots of different choices in marketing platforms that can make sending your newsletter super easy – MailChimp and HubSpot being two notable examples. GDPR is, of course, a major consideration. Using such software will automatically include an unsubscribe link in your email, allowing anyone who no longer wishes to be on your mailing list to opt out. It can also help you to identify your most popular content, allowing you to capture statistics on your audience size, number of opens and click throughs.Useful feedback can be captured too from your colleagues and clients. Is your newsletter being well-received and what could you do better, or offer more of?
Make sure your newsletter doesn’t remain your best-kept secret. Once it’s been published, let your customers know through other channels, such as through social media, in any customer ‘Welcome’ emails, and in your email signature. Motivation to invest time and effort in your newsletter will come easily once you see your audience starting to grow…
There’s nothing quite like the euphoria of winning an award. It’s recognition of the blood, sweat and tears that have gone into building your business – often over many years.
Whilst you’ll never know who or what you’re up against, you can significantly increase your chances of winning by finding and choosing the right Award, preparing your submission well in advance, capturing appropriate evidence, and honing your writing so that it achieves maximum impact.
Applying for awards makes perfect business sense.
Of course, it presents an excellent opportunity for PR. It’s a morale boost for your team who are all personally invested in your business. It gives your customers, suppliers and partners the conviction (if any were needed), that you are at the top of your game. Whilst an Award submission reflects past achievement, the application process in itself sets a strong foundation for the future. It presents the opportunity to compile vital evidence on business performance and impact, which helps to strengthen your proposals, marketing activity and grant applications; as well as present you an attractive employer.
It also gives you the opportunity to assess the direction of travel within your business, and audit what’s going well.
Find the right Award
There are some free-to-access Award lists out there which can be identified using a simple Google search. Whilst they present a useful starting point on the breadth of national and regional awards available, they’re not always up to date. Joining the mailing lists of the awards you’re most interested in ensures accuracy.
Setting up your own Google alerts, for example “manufacturing” + “award”, and scanning the local and trade press for Award wins help to extend your net of opportunities.
There are many different Awards to choose from. Common examples include: Business Woman of the Year; Corporate Social Responsibility; Customer Service; Export; Innovation; Marketing; Sales; Small Business; Technology; and Training; as well as industry-specific awards like Manufacturing. Where you have particularly excelled – or what you would most like to be known for – are a good indication of where to point your energies.
Even if you haven’t yet put the legwork into finding the right award, there’s a lot you can prepare in advance; even if your intention is to apply next year, rather than this.
What are your most impressive achievements over the last year? There’s the obvious ones like revenue or profit growth, job creation and, as importantly in the current climate, job retention.
Beyond financial success, how has your product or service impacted lives? Think not just of your customers but their customers, your suppliers, your staff, and the wider local community.
Information that’s useful to weave into your submission regardless of the award scheme you choose:
Boilerplate: who you are, where you’re based, what you do, who you help, and why that should matter to anyone else.
3-year revenue and profit figures.
Research that reinforces your services are needed. If, for example, you help people to retrain, you might want to refer to unemployment rates in your region.
Results of customer surveys.
Previous achievements and accolades whether they be awards or grants.
Favourable recognition from governing, regulatory or accrediting bodies such as Ofsted or ISO.
Memberships which demonstrate you are serious about having a voice within your industry or local community.
Capture your evidence
Every Award submission should be supported with strong evidence.
Three questions to ask yourself:
What do you do differently?
How can you evidence that?
Why should anyone care?
Which evidence you supply will of course be influenced by the questions you’re asked on the submission form.
Excellence in Customer Service could be demonstrated by customer retention rates; user testimonials; and on the impact on up-sell and cross-sell sales.
If you’re asked to evidence your impact on the community, you’ll want to cover your Corporate Social Responsibility. What commitments do you have in place to source and trade ethically? Can you cite particular fundraising activities? Do you commit support to a chosen charity each year? Are your staff encouraged to volunteer by being given time in lieu? Do you donate in kind? A potter may wish, for example, to gift some of their handmade mugs to a local hospice, a baker their cupcakes to the NHS.
Innovation can often seem a tricky one to navigate for companies that don’t feel they have invented a product. Consider instead the wider definition of innovation as the creation or implementation of a product, process or service that has improved, efficiency or effectiveness, or helped you gain advantage in some way.
Write with impact
Once you have all relevant background material and evidence to hand, you can start on the writing process.
At first glance
Read and re-read the guidelines to make sure the Award category is a good fit to your business; if not, there’s little point trying to shoehorn your work to meet the criteria. Check too for eligibility in terms of your size, location and industry.
Highlight relevant points that, should you forget to adhere to them, may dilute or disqualify your application. Failing to meet the deadline date is an obvious one but consider too:
word count (both on particular questions and on the submission as a whole);
how many and what type of attachments are considered acceptable, so too their file size; and
the submission process itself.
Tell your story
Whilst your submission needs to be written with confidence, it also needs to be real and human. If could be that your revenue or profit performance hasn’t been stellar. Your financial position may be better described as standstill or, even worse, in reverse. If you can attribute this to factors outside your control, you can still make a compelling case.
Award judges like to hear how real people have overcome real problems. Where and how did you start? How have you adapted? How have you worked with others along the way?
Write clearly and concisely
One of the best ways to structure your writing is to jot down your keywords before you put pen to paper. Committing to no more than one idea per paragraph will make it easier for the judging panel to follow and digest your submission.
Meaning and impact can get lost in long sentences. Aim for no more than 15 – 20 words, choosing short words where possible. You can make your writing more concise by removing hidden verbs (verbs which have been turned into nouns). You might spot them as the words in a sentence that end in -ment, -tion, -ance, as exemplified by the following two sentences where a technology company describes its services.
We help businesses to implement improvements to their performance through the introduction of clear business processes.
We help businesses improve performance by implementing clear business processes.
Frontloading and active language
What is the most important point you want to make? Each sentence – and particularly the sentence that opens a paragraph – should start with your most important point.
‘We give confidence to vulnerable young people trying to find work.’
‘Vulnerable young people are given the confidence to find work’.
The second example puts the focus firmly on the beneficiary.
The power of three
Signed. Sealed. Delivered.
You’re The First, My Last, My Everything.
Liberté. Egalité. Fraternité.
Whether they are song titles, national mottos or public information campaigns, there’s something about the symmetry of three words or messages that makes them memorable. The addition of the fourth one to this well-known recent example arguably dilutes its impact:
Hands. Face. Space. (Fresh Air.)
Where you’re faced with the question, ‘Why do you consider your business is worthy of this award?’, you might want to open your response with the three areas where your business has the most influence. A children’s coaching company might describe their work as ‘Empowering children. Supporting parents. Transforming futures.’
If not, why not?
There are so many business people out there who are worthy of recognition yet shy away from applying for an Award. There’s an assumption that the approach your business takes – whether that be to quality, mentoring, staff empowerment, business development, partnership building, or your unshakeable approach to constant improvement – is somehow common to all other businesses. Why not let an Awards panel be the judge of that?
Looking for support on penning your Award applications? Drop us a line to find out more.
A copywriter writes copy that influences readers in some way. It could be copy that entices them to find out more about you or to buy your product; that educates them about a particular subject; or that entertains them. Whatever the desired outcome, there’s a common theme: that of making something memorable and building trust with your audience.
A good copywriter will help you identify what to write about (and what not). In a manner and tone that’s true to your business. They will take into account your wider business strategy and ambitions. They will relish the challenge of writing for channels as wide ranging as websites, magazine articles, blogs, newsletters, brochures, case studies, press releases, speeches and whitepapers.
Isn’t it easier to write my own copy?
Writing your own copy is often seen as the most appropriate way to engage with your audience. However, it can soon become a painful, never-quite-finished task. There’s a number of reasons why.
Firstly, time. Even for those who really enjoy writing, it’s an activity that often gets pushed to the back burner.
Secondly, perspective. When you’re so passionate about your business, it can be incredibly difficult to write about it both objectively and with your customer, not your business, in mind.
Thirdly, knowledge. When you are expert in a subject, there’s a tendency to live in the detail which can easily overwhelm or confuse your audience.
With an aptitude for assuming the client’s perspective, an external copywriter can work at pace to capture your expertise in compelling headlines and clear copy.
Adding regular and engaging content to your website is not only good SEO practice, it also helps reinforces your brand and shows your clients you’re engaged in subjects they care about.
I love writing copy. I get paid for what I love and have the opportunity to work on a completely different subject every day. When I’m writing for my clients, ideas on what to write about next come easily. When it comes to writing content for my own business, however, it’s often a job that’s forever on the longlist…
Do you too struggle to come up with content ideas? Or maybe the ideas are there but you never find the time to make a start? Here’s five pointers to help you create great written content for your business:
1.What are you going to write about?
Before you start to write, think about what you know about. Where do you and your company add value and how might you reinforce that through useful content (and definitely not as a sales pitch)?
What advice or thought leadership might you offer to customers to improve their understanding of a particular topic? How might that understanding then save them time, money, help them implement new processes or efficiencies, offer better customer service or win new business? What questions might they be seeking answers to?
A good starting point for coming up with your list of topics is answerthepublic.com which identifies search terms related to your topic posed via Google or Bing. A search on ‘photographer’, as an example, (more…)
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