News you can use

jon_mohrThere's a dinner tomorrow night for the Sea Ray Owners Club at a restaurant on a lake near Austin, Texas. No RSVP is necessary. Members just need to show up and a seat will be waiting for them, courtesy of Sail & Ski Center - a dealership based in Austin - and each table of Sea Ray owners will receive a free appetizer platter. I'm not one to pass up free chicken wings, but I'm also not a Sea Ray owner (and I live in Minnesota) so I won't be able to make it. But thanks to an e-mailed newsletter I received from Sail & Ski on the last day of April, I now know about the dinner; a boating lifestyle expo the dealership is hosting this weekend; a maintenance seminar on Saturday; and every other event the business has planned for the month of May.

If you're reading this, chances are you already understand the value of online communication. But if your business doesn't have a database of e-mail addresses and a systematic plan for interacting with those people via e-mail, please consider creating both as soon as possible.

An e-newsletter is one of the most cost-effective tools available for staying in touch with your core audience. Do a Google search for "free newsletter templates" and you're well on your way to getting started. Even if you hire a third-party provider to create a template and distribute the e-newsletter for you, the cost is still minimal.

The bi-weekly e-newsletter we distribute from Boating Industry costs us one-third of a cent for each copy we send. Now, that newsletter goes to more than 13,000 recipients two times per week, so the costs do add up - we also pay a fee to the provider each month. But we sell advertising to help offset those costs. And, if your circulation grew large enough for those costs to become an issue, chances are you could too.

The provider we use gives us the ability to track how those who view our newsletter read it. We can tell how many people clicked on a given item and we have the e-mail addresses for each of those people. This lets us know what most interests our readers. With the same information, you would not only know what products and events interest your customer base as a whole, but which appeal to specific individuals.

Any tool that allows you to better understand the wants and needs of your customers, especially one that is so inexpensive, should not be ignored.

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However you decide to do it, don't pass up this simple, effective way to let people know what you've got going on.

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