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The top challenge facingmost businesses is how to acquire new customers in a cost effectivemanner.But while business owners,marketers, and sales people often fixate on this goal (albeit an importantone), they sometimes lose track of their most eager prospects – that is, theircurrent customers.

It’s at least 10 timeseasier to sell something to an existing customer than it is to someone who hasnever done business with you before. They already have a level of trust andappreciation for the work you do, for the value you deliver.

So when thinking aboutboosting sales – why not focus on your current customer base first?

How to connect with your customers

While social mediacertainly garners its fair share of attention these days, we at Chrometa havefound our good old-fashioned e-mail newsletter to be the most effective way ofstaying in touch with our customers. How 2005!

But, we can’t argue withthe facts. The email inbox is still the center of Western Civilization –especially the working one.Professionals still live in their inboxes all day – and increasingly allnight with the proliferation and full-time connectivity provided by mobiledevices.

What content and information should your newsletterprovide?

Ask yourself: “What wouldour clients/customers like to learn more about?” Then write about these topics!

You have some creativeliberty here – write about topics that interest you, as well as your customers.If you’re stumped, you might want to call a few people up and ask them whatthey’d like to hear more about.

We are a product company,so we usually keep our newsletters product-focused.We’ll talk about features we’re working on, suggestions we’vereceived, alternate uses for our product, and the future roadmap.We’ve found this to be a very popularformula with our customers, as this is what they want the inside scoop on.

Or you may want to branchout and talk about broader topics that would be of interest to yourclients.For example, my CPA firm’smonthly newsletter talks about tax-related topics that are relevant to businessowners – because that’s the demographic of their clientele.

You’ve got a choice hereto present news about your company/product, broader news and analysis that maybe of interest to your client, or some combination of both.There’s no right or wrong approach – gowith the one that you think will appeal to your base the most.

How to get started today

The most laborious part ofstarting a customer newsletter is getting the names and email addresses of yourcustomers together.But many emailnewsletter programs have tools that allow you to import this information fromexisting sources, such as Microsoft Excel or Outlook, which can automate muchof the effort for you.So don’tlet this fear stop you!

I’d recommend consideringone of the following three products for your email newsletter – while there areothers, these three are widely known, used, and respected, and I’ve personallyhad success with all three of these products before:

·MailChimp http://www.mailchimp.com

·AWeber http://www.aweber.com

·Constant Contacthttp://www.constantcontact.com

Personally I’m now partialto MailChimp, which is the tool we use for our Chrometa monthly newsletter, butthe others are good products as well. Most start with a very cheap monthly planin the range of $10-15/month, which scales up as you add names to your list.

Onwards

I think you’ll be hardpressed to get more bang for your marketing buck than a monthlynewsletter.It’s an extremely lowcost activity, and one that shouldn’t require more than an hour or two ofeffort to publish on a monthly basis. Get your customers used to hearing fromyou, and you’ll have a captive audience waiting to read your monthly missives –every business owners’ dream!

Brett Owens is chiefexecutive and co-founder of Chrometa, a Sacramento, Calif.-based provider oftime-tracking software that records activity in real time.  Brett can bereached at 916-254-0260 and brett@chrometa.com.