This year marks 35 years since I walked across the stage at the University of Florida in Gainesville to receive my college diploma. Ironically, this is also the year that my daughter Natalie will walk across the stage to receive her college diploma from Georgia College University. Natalie has a double-major in mass communication and French and hopes to get a job as a radio DJ.
While I was thinking about these milestones this week, I also thought back to my first job out of college in 1985. I was hired by a publishing company in Ft. Lauderdale that created newsletters for banks and credit unions. I remember getting the call offering me the job and thinking, “What the heck is a newsletter anyway?”
I found out soon enough, spending the first 12 years of my professional career learning everything there is to know about how newsletters can be an effective marketing tool.
E-newsletters Overtake Print Newsletters
By the late 1990s, the explosion of the internet had most marketers rethinking traditional newsletters. Digital technology had made it easy to produce and distribute newsletters via email at a fraction of the cost of print.
With e-newsletters, there’s no postage, paper or ink. The only real production cost is creative, along with an internet connection that you already have and an e-newsletter management system like Constant Contact or Mailchimp. So it’s not too surprising that e-newsletters soon started proliferating while print newsletters became scarcer.
Of course, e-newsletters are commonplace now. In fact, when they hear the term “newsletter” today, most people think of something they receive in their in-box like you’re reading right now.
But what about print newsletters? Is there still a place for them in your marketing quiver? Absolutely, positively yes.
Think about it. Everybody today is bombarded with email and e-newsletters. Chances are there are several sitting in your in-box right now that you haven’t read yet, assuming you didn’t just delete them as soon as they came in.
Campaign Monitor performed comprehensive research to generate a bunch of email marketing benchmarks. According to their report Ultimate Email Marketing Benchmarks for 2020, the average open rate for e-newsletters across all industries is 17.8%.
This varies by industry, but on average, you can expect fewer than one out of five people who receive your e-newsletter to open and read it. Frankly, I’d be surprised if it’s that high for many of the e-newsletters I get.
I receive two or three e-newsletters that are exceptional, such as this one published by Michael Katz and this one published by Peter Bowerman. But other than these, I just hit delete on pretty much every other one I get. This includes the e-newsletter sent to me by my bank — which I won’t name but it starts “Bank of” and ends with the name of the country we live in.
So What About Print Newsletters?
Now think about the last time a print newsletter landed on your desk. Chances are, you don’t get nearly as many of these as you do e-newsletters so they’re probably much more likely to grab your attention.
A financial consultant I know mails out a simple, two-page print newsletter to his constituents two or three times a year — and he has for almost two decades. Why? Because people read it!
Does mailing a print newsletter to a couple thousand customers and prospects cost more than hitting the “send” button in the Constant Contact or Mailchimp platform? Sure it does. But as the consultant told me, cost is a relative concept. Whether it’s print or electronic, sending out a newsletter than nobody reads is very expensive.
I used to get a really nice print newsletter in the mail from a local financial advisor. It was well-written, well-designed and had lots of great content and I read every issue. Then they decided to save money by sending it out as an email PDF attachment — and I haven’t read an issue since.
E-newsletters Have Their Place, Too
I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t send out an e-newsletter. After all, I send out this blog every month as an e-newsletter.
But I am suggesting that if it’s been awhile since you thought about publishing a print newsletter, maybe you should reconsider. Of course, budget is an issue — so is the size of your mailing list. If your list is fewer than 1,000 recipients, sending out a print newsletter might not be cost-efficient.
If your budget allows, the best solution is to send out both a print and electronic newsletter. This will double your exposure and the chance that your content gets read. This is a no-brainer if you’re producing a print newsletter already since it will cost little if anything to send it out electronically.