It is easy to think of a newsletter as just advertising. Really, it should be a whole lot more. Ailsa Colquhoun explains how to produce one
How many times this week have you received a brochure or
a letter trying to sell you something — an additional credit card,
perhaps? Did you just rip them up without a glance?
Establishing a pharmacy newsletter is a good way to improve your public relations (see Retail Round-up, February 2007, p3). However, it is easy to be concerned that it will just end up in the bin.
to the experts in direct mail, newsletters could be one of your most
cost-effective marketing strategies — provided they are done correctly.
Raj Patel, proprietor of Mount Elgon Pharmacy in Wimbledon, publishes a quarterly newsletter. “I believe in marketing and I think it is a great way to let customers know what we are doing. Through testimonials, we can show people that our services work,” he says.
Today’s consumers are sophisticated, and are extremely likely to
see through something that just advertises your pharmacy.
Whether you decide to print the newsletter or send it as an e-mail, customers need to think they are getting something special from it. Denise Cox, from e-mail newsletter specialist Newsweaver, says the first rule is to ask yourself: what’s in it for them?
newsletter should aim to inform, educate, and also offer something extra,
such as news of in-store
specials, or offers for newsletter readers. “This will lift the
credibility of your organisation and encourage trust,” she says.
Another element of a successful newsletter is interactivity. It can be used to solicit feedback or run surveys,and responses can be encouraged by offering a prize draw.
• The layout of the newsletter should be simple and
make it easy to navigate
One of the main factors in deciding how often to run your
newsletter should be the cycle of your products and services, says Ms
Cox. In the pharmacy,
this may relate to seasonal products (eg, hay fever, sun creams) or
may be based on typical prescribing patterns.
Monthly publication is probably the ideal frequency for customer relationship building, but if you are looking to promote a special offer or event, you may need to publish it more frequently. “In this case, a monthly newsletter, with a bi-weekly special offer may work quite well,” suggests Ms Cox.
When it comes to costs, print is the more expensive option.
As an example, printing 500 four-page A4 newsletters can cost around £1,000 and
that is without the postal charges. If you lack the time or skills to
produce it yourself, you will also need to outsource the editing and
design. Employing a professional journalist and a designer will cost
at least £350 a day.
Mr Patel prefers the do-it-yourself approach (see panel). He comments: “It’s difficult to say whether the newsletter, specifically, is a cost-effective exercise. It’s hard to strip it out from our other marketing. All I know is that business is growing!”
Sending a newsletter by e-mail cuts out printing and postal costs, but may still incur editing and design costs. You may also want to use an e-mail service provider, that will allow you to measure the success of your newsletters, keep your database safe, and also keep track of any unsubscribers. A good, qualified provider will cost you at least £200 a month.
Raj Patel, proprietor of Mount Elgon Pharmacy in Wimbledon, produces his own newsletter four times a year. It is A5-size (A4 sheets folded in half), produced in the pharmacy using Microsoft Publisher.
newsletter is used to inform patients of pharmacy services as
well as offer generic content. Copies are posted to patients,
distributed in the pharmacy and put in prescription bags and
He allocates up to four hours to lay out the newsletter, in addition to the time spent putting together the content and gathering any pictures.
The real value of e-mail is in its measurability and the
customer information it produces. For example, by measuring your e-mail
open rates and most
popular articles, you can build up information about your readers and
tailor subsequent mailings accordingly. However, this does rely on having
the facility to measure and record such information, and on having a
database of e-mail addresses.
Raj Nutan, pharmacy business manager at the National Pharmacy Association, says that establishing a database of e-mail contacts can be expensive if purchased from a marketing company. Instead, customers can be asked to subscribe when they come into the store, or an announcement about the newsletter could be placed in a local newspaper or in the shop window.
warns that there are regulations about storing such information, and
pharmacists should check this with the Information
If you think your customers are too old to appreciate an e-mailed newsletter, think again. According to figures from Wanobe.com, a new website catering for internet users aged 50 and over (“silver surfers”), one 55-year-old in two goes online on a daily basis. In fact May 23 2008 was Silver Surfers’ Day, a day spearheaded by the Government agency Ofcom to encourage even more people to use the Internet.
If you are still unsure, why not do both? People like choice, so why not print out your newsletter as well, and distribute it through your pharmacy.