When I graduated college in 1985 with a degree in Advertising, I had big plans to get a job with an advertising agency and become the next Don Draper. Alas, it turned out the agencies weren’t beating down the doors to hire fresh-out-of-college grads who were very wet behind the ears.

But I did get a job offer from a company that published newsletters, or brochures, or something like that. I wasn’t really sure what they did, but they were offering to pay me (although not very much) to write. I figured I could get a year of two of real-world experience there and use that to get my first agency job.

A Permanent Detour

It didn’t quite work out that way. I ended up working for this newsletter publishing company for 12 years and never made it into the agency world. Looking back, though, everything worked out pretty well: I learned everything you could possibly know about writing and publishing newsletters, which it turns out are a pretty effective marketing tool.

Since taking that job in 1985, I have written hundreds — no, make that thousands — of newsletter issues. I’ve seen the medium shift from basic four-page, two-color print to glossy full-color “maga-letters” to the electronic newsletters that now flood everyone’s in-boxes.

Every now and then, a client will ask me if I think it’s still worthwhile to publish a newsletter. My answer is yes … if it’s done right. Here are what I consider to be the five main benefits of newsletter publishing:

1. It Positions You as an SME

Being known as a subject matter expert, or SME, in your industry is the holy grail when it comes to building name recognition and trust among clients and prospects. Simply put, clients want to hire businesses and service providers who know their stuff — and there’s no better way to demonstrate your industry expertise than by publishing a newsletter.

Each issue gives you a chance to share the unique knowledge you have with people who are thirsty for that knowledge. “But why should I give this away for free?” you might be wondering. “Then people won’t hire me.” Nonsense. The idea is to share enough valuable information to demonstrate your expertise and show prospects that you’re the one who can solve their problem.

2. It Keeps You in Front of Prospects

Newsletter publishing is kind of like dripping water on a stone. It may not result in direct leads or new business right away, but if you consistently publish month after month, year after year, there’s a good chance you’ll be the first company or service provider a prospect will think of when they have a need for your product or service.

I’ve been publishing this newsletter for more than a decade. Last summer I got a call from a business I met with at least 10 years ago and added to my newsletter list. He needed a freelance writer right away and remembered that we met all those years ago. I didn’t ask him, but I’m sure that receiving my newsletter consistently for a decade was a big reason he remembered me when he needed a writer with my background and skill set.

3. It Gives You Flexibility

Before e-newsletters came along, there weren’t a whole lot of options for newsletter publishing. You could create a 4-, 6- or 8-page newsletter and print in two or three colors — or go full-color if you had a hefty budget.

The internet and the emergence of e-newsletters changed all that. Without the limitations and budget restrictions of paper-and-ink, you can design your e-newsletter however you like.

In my e-newsletter, I include one article in the body of the email that takes about two or three minutes to read. Some other good newsletters I receive include several shorter articles, and some require clicking on a link to read the article. Your strategy and goals will dictate which type of newsletter — include good old-fashioned print — is best for you.

4. It Generates Valuable Content

“Content is King!” they tell us. This is kind of a cliché, but it’s also true. Content creation is the number one priority of most marketers today because it takes a steady stream of fresh, high-quality content to achieve most marketing goals.

Your newsletter can be the engine that drives content creation. For example, I publish this blog you’re reading as my newsletter, which I send out each month. Your newsletter content can provide the foundation for a broad content marketing program that includes blogs, whitepapers and other content assets.

5. It’s Easy to Track the Results

The biggest challenge back in the pre-internet days was tracking the results of a newsletter mailing. How many people read them? How many took action as a result of receiving a newsletter? Our best tool was a business reply card, or BRC, included with the newsletter. But the response rate on these was usually miniscule and even the ones that came back didn’t tell you much.

With e-newsletters, it’s super easy to track and measure results. Email marketing services provide detailed analytics and data for each newsletter you send. For example, I’m looking at my email performance page on Constant Contact and it includes email opens, bounces, clicks, unsubscribes and the percentage of desktop vs. mobile opens. Then it compares all this to industry averages. It even has a ”heat map” that shows where in the email people are clicking.

Do It … But Do It Right

You’ll notice I qualified my answer about newsletter publishing being beneficial with “if it’s done right.” Next month I’ll share a few of my top tips for writing and publishing great newsletters.