Why Choose Newsletters?

When it comes to business marketing outreach tools, it just doesn’t get much more venerable than the newsletter. In fact, some even describe the newsletter as the perfect intersection of tradition and technology.

Indeed, it’s hard to top a well-designed newsletter that’s filled with useful, relevant information and thoughtful graphics and images, especially when it’s printed on attractive paper. A well-done newsletter simply screams “high-quality,” an impression that rubs off on the business that distributes it.

The newsletter’s history itself is inextricably entwined with commerce and marketing. Let’s delve into the background of this classic marketing tool — and explore the new ways that newsletters meld tech and tradition.

Newsletters: The Early Days

Historians believe that the first newsletter was created in 1538, decades before the advent of newspapers, but the first documented newsletter appeared in England in 1631. Titled “The Continuation of Our Weekly News from Forrain Parts,” this newsletter disseminated news of happenings in foreign lands.

Across the pond in the New World, the “Boston News-Letter” made its first appearance in 1704. Many other newsletters followed, and the medium grew popular through the 18th century. By the mid-1800s, many newsletters had morphed into newspapers, a trend that continued until the 1900s.

In the early 20th century, businesses sought a new way to communicate with their customers, stakeholders, and other businesses. Though they’d long been placing ads in newspapers, companies needed a way to disseminate long-form information. Newsletters filled this gap.

The first business newsletter is believed to have been published in 1904. Known as the “Babson’s Report,” this newsletter provided financial and investing advice. It was soon followed by the “Kiplinger Letter,” which provided business and economic forecasting trends. It still does today.

These early newsletters generally consisted of a single, typeset page that read like a letter from a financial institution to potential investors. Over the next decades, the trend continued to grow as businesses recognized the power of newsletters to build a customer base, serve as cost-effective advertising tools, and improve brand loyalty.

By the 1930s, the corporate newsletter craze was in full swing. A range of industries, from fashion to finance to farming, embraced this powerful marketing tool as a way to drive sales. In some cases, the newsletters themselves were used as moneymakers; for instance, paid subscriptions to stock market tip newsletters still exist today. In most cases, however, marketers realized the value of newsletters in building relationships with customers.

The Rise of Relationship Marketing

For decades, newsletters have been used as an essential tool in what’s known as “relationship marketing,” a method that emphasizes developing loyalty, retention, and long-term relationships by providing customers with solutions and information they actually need and can use. In today’s marketing world — which sometimes feels like it’s characterized by an overwhelming amount of digital noise — the classic printed newsletter stands as the iconic relationship marketing tool.

Why? The newsletter offers a level of practicality and usefulness that customers value, especially in an age of “interruption marketing.” Consider that the newsletter:

  • offers practical, relevant information that customers can actually use; in other words, they see the newsletter as a benefit.
  • is long-lasting; unlike a TV or banner ad, the newsletter can be perused at a person’s leisure, placed on their desk, and taken up again when the time is right.
  • provides credibility in a way that only printed materials can.
  • melds seamlessly with digital marketing by complementing online campaigns and pointing customers to websites.

As evidenced by its long, rich history, the newsletter is here to stay. Are you taking full advantage of this powerful marketing tool?

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Building a Community No One Can Resist

People enjoy feeling as though they belong. It’s a part of our universal desire to form strong bonds with other people and feel connected to those around us. From student clubs to neighborhood organizations, this desire plays out across our nation in a variety of settings.

This desire also has a firm place in marketing. One of the best ways to encourage brand loyalty involves encouraging customers to feel as though they’re part of an exclusive group when they use your brand. When people feel connected to your company and to other users, they’re more likely to become repeat customers and even recommend your brand to others. Few companies have enjoyed the success Facebook has in this regard.

The early days of Facebook

Back when Facebook was first developed, it was available only to users at colleges and universities, and they had to have a .edu email address to register. This effort to create a distinctive market resulted in a very strong community among Facebook users. Many users today still reminisce about the early days when their parents and grandparents weren’t registered and it was just a way to communicate with their college friends. In many ways, the desire to belong to this exclusive ‘club’ of Facebook users helped the company grow exponentially.

Revising the Facebook exclusivity

After a few years of immense popularity with the college-age crowd, Facebook began to open registration up to people outside their original targeted demographic. At first, this upset many people who had eagerly waited until their college years to join, only to find that everyone else could now, too. In recent years, there have been some reports of the younger generations leaving as they search for a platform that allows them to converse with their friends without their parents and grandparents seeing their comments. Overall, however, the platform has continued to grow. This is because the developers have taken the time to still encourage feelings of community among users, even though everyone can now join.

How have they managed to maintain this feeling?

  1. Newsfeeds update users to their friends’ activities as soon as they log in. This offers a unique way to stay in contact with friends and family. Users know they would lose all this information if they were to leave.
  2. Games and similar activities encourage users to work together on the platform for entertainment, connecting people by common interests within the platform.
  3. Since Facebook use is so prevalent, the default is to use the platform. People expect to be able to connect and communicate with others through it. Those who don’t have a page risk losing out on a key form of communication.

How businesses can learn from Facebook

Facebook has managed to build a community so strong that it appeals to nearly every demographic. Few companies will have the reach to accomplish this, but they will be able to strengthen their own connections to encourage customer loyalty and retention.

For example, try building portions of your company website that allow and encourage communication between customers. You can occasionally interject advice as needed, but in general try to keep the conversations between end-users, to encourage a connection between your customers.

Loyalty programs and rewards programs are also helpful. By offering prizes to those who use your products and services regularly, you’ll show your appreciation and encourage customers to return to earn more. Publicly rewarding customers, such as showcasing particular people for their loyalty, can also help enhance brand loyalty. Even promotions such as free t-shirts can help customers feel connected to your company.

Facebook has shown the business world what is possible when a brand manages to build such a strong sense of community that users cannot imagine doing without it. Companies of all sizes can take some of the lessons to heart and begin to build their own communities. If you’re interested in developing materials to help reach your consumer base and encourage them to be a part of your community, reach out to us. We’d be happy to help you!

Business Card Marketing: Evolution of the Smallest, Most Versatile Marketing Tool

Quick: Which single piece of marketing collateral combines two old adages — “first impressions are the most important” and “a picture is worth a thousand words” — and proves them both true?

It’s the trusty business card, of course! Given the wealth of information this compact little marketing tool holds and delivers in just a few inches of space, it’s no surprise they’ve been popular since the 1400s. Today, business cards are still evolving, with ever-more creative designs and options.

A Rich Past: The Social History of the Business Card

The forerunner of the business card stretches back to 15th century China. At that time, royals and aristocrats would send their servants to the homes of other members of the upper classes, bearing “visiting cards,” announcing their intent to pay a visit.

Two centuries later, the practice caught on in France. During Louis XIV’s reign, visiting cards became all the rage in high society circles. Proper gentlemen and ladies handed out “calling cards” as a means of social introduction and as a way to request a meeting. Over time, the practice became more formal, and many rules surrounding the use of calling cards came into play.

The practice made its way to England and across the pond to the U.S. in the mid-19th century, bringing a strict etiquette along. For instance, a married woman had to hand out her husband’s cards along with her own, in order to avoid seeming risque. Also, the way a card was folded conveyed a message. These early cards were usually engraved on glossy paper and, along with the caller’s name, often featured a design such as a family coat of arms, flowers, or hearts.

Reaching Into the Business World

Around the same time, calling cards began making their way into the world of commerce. Known as trade cards, these early business cards were used both as advertisements for businesses and as maps to point the way to stores. Trade cards were usually printed using woodcuts or engraving and used monotones. They featured the name of a merchant, their address, directions to the business, and often a reproduction of the store’s sign.

Unlike social calling cards, the use of trade cards wasn’t limited to the upper classes. After the widespread use of the printing press created a boom in print advertising, trade cards became less of an advertisement and more of a way to introduce oneself and one’s business. Most were printed on white card stock with black ink, a trend that continued until recent decades.

Today, business cards are just as ubiquitous as ever — but much more creative in design.

The Boom of the Creative, Innovative Business Card

As digital and printing technologies continue to improve, so do business card designs. Long gone are the days of monotone cards with little to no personality. Instead, many people choose to create business cards that truly reflect their business and their own unique personality. In doing so, they make their company stand out to potential customers.

Some of the most innovative and clever cards integrate functionality into the card itself; for instance, a jeweler might create a card that folds into a ring sizer, a tire company might print a tread gauge on the bottom of the card, or a tailor might choose a folded card that can be unfolded and cut into a measuring tape.

Some modern business cards are just plain fun, such as restaurant cards that can be folded to look like little menus, or cards with cut-outs in the middle to create finger puppets.

Of course, your business cards don’t have to be over the top to show creativity. Just a little something different can make them stand out in a sea of traditional (boring) cards.

Connect With Your Customers


No matter how great your product or service is — and we know it’s great — customers still make buying decisions based on emotions. Sadly, most businesses don’t strive to create that personal connection that influences buying behavior. When it comes to effective sales and marketing approaches, building relationships with customers is key. But how can you bring that all-important personal touch to every transaction and really make your business stand out?

These best practices will help you nurture personal connections with customers and build brand loyalty.

Ask First, Sell Later

Before you jump right into a standard sales pitch, take the time to ask your customers a few questions. More importantly, really listen to their answers. A bit of gentle probing will help your customer articulate exactly what it is they need. That, in turn, will allow you to clearly explain exactly how your products or services will solve their problems.

This way, you’re not simply pushing something that they may or may not really need or want. Instead, you’re taking their unique situation into account and providing a personalized, customized solution. At the same time, you’re building rapport by creating a personal interaction that’s so important.

Again, really listening is key. While your customer is speaking, stop what you’re doing, take a breath, and simply listen. Don’t attempt to think ahead and formulate answers before they’re finished talking. Remain in the moment, and place your full attention on them. They’ll notice the difference!

Quid Pro Quo

Keep on building that relationship by offering some personal information about yourself, too. Don’t worry. You don’t have to give out your Social Security number or your home address. In fact, avoid TMI at all costs. Sharing just a bit will humanize you to your customer. Talking about where you where born, a common hobby, a sports team, or even a recent movie you watched or book you read can make a real impact.

Scientific studies support this strategy. A 2009 study in the Journal of Consumer Research found that customers were more likely to buy — and to be happy about their purchase — when a salesperson shared personal info like a birthday or a birthplace. But don’t fake it; the study also found that creating similarities where none really exist simply to make a connection tended to backfire, especially if the customer found out later that the salesperson wasn’t being forthcoming.

Keep in Touch

Regular newsletters are a great way to keep in touch with your customers — with the added benefit of keeping your brand in the forefront of their minds. CIO recommends sending a newsletter at least 10 times per year. Make it simple to scan and read, with short, concise articles and a prominent table of contents so customers can find what they’re looking for with ease. Focus on relevant content that your customers can use, making your newsletter something to look forward to.

That Personal Touch

Sending a handwritten note or postcard is a great way to ensure that your business stands out. Handwritten communication proves beyond a doubt that you’ve taken the time to sit down and make an effort, which makes your customer feel valued. Try to include personalized content in each note to really make an impact.

These simple steps will help you build that human connection that’s so key to driving sales and customer loyalty.