94gt334: “I was curious if anyone makes company newsletters and sends them to their customers. I thought this might be a good way to stay in touch with my customers and show them they’re more than a paycheck. I hardly ever lose customers, but with the way the economy is I want my customers to remain confident with my company. Anyone do that, and do they get good responses?”

JimLewis: “Yes, there are many of us who do this, and for good reason.

“First, you have to understand that the main reason for sending out a newsletter isn’t necessarily to create sales from the newsletter itself. The main purpose of your newsletter is to make contact and keep your company name in your client’s head, so that when it is time for them to buy some additional landscaping, hardscaping, irrigation, lawn mowing, whatever-you-do, then they will think of you first! It’s more of a client retention tool than a sales tool. Keep that in mind and you’ll be successful with newsletters.

“The secondary purpose of a newsletter is to maybe get some sales as a result. Reminding customers of seasonally important services that you offer may result in some of them calling you right now for those services. Every time I’ve ever sent out a newsletter, we got several calls and landed a few jobs. Not always as many as I had hoped, but it does generate some calls instantly, if there are enough customers on the list.

“The third purpose for a newsletter is to inform customers about products and services that you offer, that maybe they didn’t know that you offered. I find that if we don’t tell our lawn maintenance customers that we do other types of landscaping, they just assume all we do is maintenance. So from the very beginning when I land the maintenance account, we start reminding them that we perform other services. Nothing sucks worse than showing up to your lawn maintenance client’s house and seeing that they’ve hired another landscaper to install their retaining wall or paver patio or sprinkler system when you also perform those services. Similarly, nothing sucks worse than driving by a home where you did a one time clean-up a year or two ago (and you know they were very happy with your work) and then you see another company working there. What you don’t realize is that they probably would have hired you back, but they lost your card, forgot your company name, never got any follow up, and so since they couldn’t remember what company they hired last time, they just went with a new one. That could have been your job! And, you should have been on top of staying in touch with them!

“So now as to how to create newsletters. I used to do really nice full-color glossy magazine-style newsletters, four pages, and then I’d send them in the mail to anyone who we were currently doing business with or had done business with over the past two years. That worked fairly well, but it was inordinately expensive. I can honestly say we got our biggest job ever ($200,000 landscape installation job) because of one of those newsletters. But, regardless, it was still a little too expensive to keep doing a seasonal newsletter like that four times a year. I got lucky with that big job, and I knew I couldn’t count on the newsletter creating leads like that every time.

“So these days the way most professional companies do it is to use an online newsletter building service. It has a lot of advantages over doing one yourself and just sending it out via email: it looks a lot more professional; it tracks your responses for you (e.g. how many people opened and read the newsletter, how many people clicked the ‘subscribe’ button, how many people clicked on a link in the newsletter, allow you to create surveys, see how many emails bounced, etc.); and it keeps your email address list for you, so you don’t have to sit there and cut and paste 1,000 email addresses into your email program. You just upload those email addresses once (and add new email addresses for new clients as needed), and then when it’s time to send out a newsletter, you just click ‘send’ and they do all that for you. The only reason someone wouldn’t want to use a service like this is if you just didn’t want to spend the money. And I got news for you: if that’s your mentality in this business, you’re not going to get far. You need to invest money in looking professional or else you’ll never be seen as one of the pros.”

“In Your Own Words” is contributed from the lawn care and landscape forum at www.lawnsite.com, which has been named one of 10 Great Media Sites by Media Business magazine and was chosen as a winner of the Most Engaged Media Brands for 2010 by min, a firm that tracks the media industry. Visit them, and join in the discussions.