Newsletters: The Most Effective Client Retention Tool – An Interview with Jim Palmer

Jim Palmer newsletter guru
Newsletters: The Most Effective Client Retention Tool – An Interview with Jim Palmer


Jim Palmer is a marketing and business building expert and host of Newsletter Guru TV.  He is known internationally as ‘The Newsletter Guru’- the go-to resource for maximizing the profitability of customer relationships.

In this interview Jim shows why old-fashioned, print newsletters are by far the very best way to retain customers and stay top of mind.

Jim reveals…

  • Why a print newsletter is way better than an email newsletter
  • Strategies for collecting your customers name and address
  • How much it costs to produce a newsletter (and how to make sure you get an ROI that dwarfs your investment)
  • What to say in your newsletter and how long it should be
  • How to sell with your mailings even though your newsletters are 100% pure content and in no way "Salesy"
  • When to mail out and how often
  • And more, just click the play button below to listen to the interview or if you prefer, there is a full transcript below...

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Joey Bushnell: Hi everyone, this is Joey Bushnell. Today I have with me a fantastic guest, he is Jim Palmer the newsletter guru. Jim thank you for being with me today.

Jim Palmer: My pleasure Joey, thanks for having me.

Joey Bushnell: Thank you. Just a quick introduction to Jim…

Jim Palmer is a marketing and business building expert and the host of Newsletter Guru TV. The hit weekly web TV show watched by thousands of entrepreneurs and small business owners. Jim is also the host of Stick like glue radio, a weekly podcast based on Jim’s smart marketing and business building strategies.

Jim is best known internationally as the newsletter guru, the go to resource for maximizing the profitability of customer relationships. Jim is the founder of Custom Newsletters Inc. which is the parent company of No Hassle Newsletters, No Hassle Social Media, Success Advantage Publishing, Concierge Print & Mail On Demand, Custom Article Generator, Double My Retention and The Magnetic Attraction & Retention Training Program.

Jim is also the acclaimed author of 5 great books; “The Magic of Newsletter Marketing”, “The Secrets to More Profits & Customers for Life”, “Stick Like Glue – How to create an everlasting bond with your customers so they spend more, stay longer and refer more”, “The Fastest way to Higher Profits – 19 immediate profit enhancing strategies you can use today” and finally“It’s OK to be scared but never give up”.

Jim welcome to the call, thanks a lot for being with me.

Jim Palmer: Thanks for having me.

Joey Bushnell: Jim, I know that you cover many different areas of marketing but in today’s interview I’d love to ask you some strategies about newsletter marketing. So my first question is how did you first get involved in marketing and how did you specifically get involved with newsletter marketing?

Jim Palmer: I think I did my first newsletter over 30 years ago. Back in my early 20’s, I was managing a bike shop and we were in the middle of a recession back then. We had fewer and fewer customers coming into our store and with less and less revenue the amount of marketing, whether we did radio or things like that was really starting to shrink as well.

What I wanted to do was find a way to keep connected and stay connected to the customers that we already had, people who had already purchased over the last 10 years we had been in business. I figured those people already know, like and trust us. They know who we are so we are over that hurdle. What I figured out is that it is so much easier to sell more to people that already know you than it is to go through that whole dance, where you have to get to know each other before they decide if they are going to give you money.

As our marketing budget shrank I said “I want to create a newsletter so I can send it to all my past customers and then tell them about the different things that are going in the store.” Maybe they haven’t been in for a while so I started featuring some of the different programs and products.

I sent out a very simple 2 page, black and white, 8 1/2 by 11 newsletter. I did not have a computer back then. I basically did it on a typewriter and taped down pictures with scotch tape. Our mailing list had almost 2,000 about 1,850 people on it and immediately after the first issue we started to get people come in saying “I haven’t been here in a while, I didn’t know you were carrying this” or “I got your newsletter” and I was like “Holy smokes!”.

So like any good marketer once I realized I had something that works I did more of them. I started sending out more and more. So for every job I had and every place I worked from then on, typically in a marketing capacity, I created a newsletter until October 2001 when I started my own business creating newsletters.

Joey Bushnell: Fantastic, so what are the benefits of having a newsletter?

Jim Palmer: Newsletters are absolutely hands down the best client retention tool there is because it really makes very strong and well developed relationships with our customers. When you have strong relationships people do stay longer, as I say in the title “Stick like glue”, they will stay longer, they will spend more. They will also refer more which is a pretty cool thing.

One of the reasons newsletters work is that they are read as being informational. So you don’t want a newsletter to be to “salesy” there’s not too much marketing, it’s just informational reading but it keeps your business top of mind.

There are some different strategies we could talk about that when it comes to strengthening and building relationships with customers, after the initial transaction there is nothing better than a newsletter to do that.

By the way Joey, I think you know this but I’m talking about print and mail, paper and ink newsletters, the old fashioned ones not the electronic ones.

Joey Bushnell: Yes. And just one thing that you mentioned there Jim; it’s after the first transaction, so are we only mailing out to people who have previously bought from us?

This isn’t like electronic, where we start to build our own email list (of prospects). This is people who have already spent money with us?

Jim Palmer: Yes, when I said that answer it didn’t sound 100% in my head so thanks for bringing that up.

A newsletter can be a very effective prospecting tool also.

The reason I mentioned after the first transaction, is that is where a lot of entrepreneurs and small business owners drop the ball. In other words, through some of their marketing or maybe through a referral they get a new customer. So they get a new customer by way of a single transaction or an initial transaction. What a lot of companies and business owners do at that point is they celebrate “Yay we got a new customer”.

Then what they want to do is immediately go out and get a new one instead of focusing on and building a relationship with the customers they already have. As I said when we started, you can sell so much more to people who already know, like and trust you than always trying to go out and do more and more initial transactions.

So for me when I do my coaching, I’m telling people when the initial transaction happens that is the start of the relationship.

Joey Bushnell: I’ve also seen some people sell their newsletters as a monthly coaching program. Is that something we can do as well? Can you make money from the front end with your newsletter?

Jim Palmer: Well you can but clearly there are 2 different animals there. There is a subscription based newsletter, I belong to half a dozen I’m sure you do as well, maybe like a Glazer-Kennedy or something like that. There are different newsletters that you subscribe to because you have an interest in what they are saying.

Now a subscription based newsletter cannot be a simple 2 or 4 pages long, it usually has to be something much larger. I think this is someones tag line, but you want to have seminar almost every month come to you in the form of a newsletter.

What I’m talking about specifically for the most part where my customers are, is customer newsletters, relationship building tools. Those can be 2-4 pages and the main job of those newsletters is to build the relationship. So it really is 2 very different animals as I said.

Joey Bushnell: Also 2 different animals would be online newsletters and the kind we are talking about today, offline print newsletters. So could you take us through some of the differences? Pros and cons of why you would want one or the other?

Jim Palmer: Yes, and in reality it’s not necessarily a choice you have to make, smart companies do both. But if you are going to do only one, it needs to be print because the deliver-ability of email is going down every month, it’s going down dramatically.

I was just at an event this past weekend and people are talking about 8-10% deliver-ability rates. It used to be if you got 20-25% you were doing great. But for easy math lets just say you have 1,000 customers you want to stay in touch with and all you are going to do is email.

You’re going to say “Jim I hear you but I want to save paper and postage. I’m just going to do email.” Well if you send out an email newsletter to your 1,000 customers even if you get something outrageous as a 20% deliver-ability rate that means only 200 people are going to receive that newsletter. That means 800, 80%, of your customers are not hearing from you and that is very bad.

Now as far as I know there is no filter at the front of your physical mail box so when your postman goes to post it the bills go through but the newsletter will somehow not fit in there, that’s not true. With all kinds of direct mail at least it hits the mail box your customers are going to lay eyeballs on it, at least they are going to make a connection.

If you do your newsletter correctly they are going to see it and read it.

A couple more things about email is it is a clutter factor or what I sometimes refer to as “noise”. Most people get anywhere from 100 to 200 pieces of email a day. Some of that does get trapped in spam filters but for the most part we have become a society that is on email overload. People are just sitting here scanning with their finger on the delete button click, click, click. Even if it is a newsletter from someone they know and want, it’s probably going to be deleted or go on the “to be read later” pile.

At least with a print newsletter it is on the counter, coffee table or in your brief case and it’s got a much better chance of making that connection.

Joey Bushnell: So how do we get people signed up to our newsletter? Any strategies as to growing our database?

Jim Palmer: Let’s assume you are a brick and mortar store so in most cases you should be collecting names and addresses from your customers. If you are some sort of boutique shop where someone walks in and makes a quick purchase or a candy bar or a small purchase, I would still have some sort of sign up form.

The business salon that I go to up the road, he now has an iPad stationed at the front counter. He makes an offer where you can get a prize or produce something for signing up. He emails out his newsletter.

If you strictly are an online business, you could promote in your emails or on your website “Get a 1 year free subscription to our print newsletter”. Call it a print newsletter so they don’t think it’s just another ezine and have people give you their name and address that way. The strategy there is that it’s a free 1 year subscription even if it wasn’t free, so give it some value so if it was $70 or $90 a year just put a value on it even though you are going to send it out for free.

Joey Bushnell: Brilliant, I like the idea with the iPad. Ive actually seen someone doing that over here in the UK so these things are maybe catching on, that’s a great idea.

How much does it cost to print and produce a newsletter? Am I right in thinking this is the biggest objection you get when telling people to do this? They say “Oh Jim. That’s going to cost me a lot of money”?

Jim Palmer: Yes exactly and there’s a few different components to that objection. People may say I don’t want to put that money out. First of all that’s very bad thinking from the position of being a marketer and business owner.

One of the things that every business owner needs to know is “What is the average life time value of a customer?“. Everyone should know that. I know exactly to the penny if I get a new client in one of my programs I know based on the average its worth $1842.

So what that tells me, once you know that number if somebody comes in my program I know that I can spend $1841 to get them and I’ll still make a dollar. Now trust me I want to make more than a dollar but my point is if you know that number then suddenly saying I’m going to spend $12 a year to keep that customer, keep them engaged and buying more it seems like a complete no-brainer.

Now you asked me how much and that’s a very hard question to answer because with different sized mailing lists and things, the more newsletters that you print and mail the less expensive it’s going to be but I’m going to give you a number just for the sake of discussion.

I think with the average sized mailing list you could send out a 2 or 4 page paper and ink newsletter for approximately a dollar and that includes a standard rate postage. So if you have a smaller mailing list maybe it’s a $1.25 or $1.50, if you have more you might drop that to 70 cents but let’s say it’s a dollar.

What I tell people is you should be willing to invest a dollar a month or $12 a year to nurture, develop and grow the relationships you have with your customers.

If you mail all of your customers, the next thing people do is the math. If it’s $12 a year and I’ve got 500 clients that’s $6,000 and they go “Oh my goodness!” But in reality how many clients does it take to come back and buy more of your stuff? How many clients does it take to refer a new customer? Because you’ve built up that relationship to be much stronger to make that $6,000 just go away and you’ll dwarf it with new revenue.

Joey Bushnell: Totally agree with you Jim that’s some great advice. So obviously we need to make sure we get a return on the investment. What things can we do to give ourselves that best possible chance?

Jim Palmer: The best thing you can do is have stronger relationships with the people who become your customers. I don’t know too many businesses that don’t offer a number of different products. If you are a service based business, let’s say a carpet cleaner, I guess you also might do hard wood floors, maybe you have a residential home cleaning business. Even a business that is as niche as a carpet cleaner probably has different services that they offer.

So one of the things when somebody comes in and buys a product or hires you to perform a service, that is a customer who now says “OK I trust you here is some of my money”. So over the next few months you want to stay in touch with them so your business stays top of mind and then you want to introduce them to all the other products and services that you carry.

When I do a lot of speaking, one of the questions I will get is… “How do I know what to put in my newsletter?”

There is a very simple exercise and I would tell people… Take out a sheet of paper and draw a line down the middle. On the left hand side of that line write down all of the products and services that you carry and sell. On the right hand side of the line you should write down all of the frequently asked questions that you normally get. That simple exercise gives you a really good idea about some of the content that will be in your newsletter.

Imagine if somebody calls a carpet cleaner and they come out and do a good job. Then a few weeks later or month later they get a newsletter from “Johnny’s on the spot carpet cleaner”. It’s just a little bit about Johnny, maybe with a good tip in there or a recipe, keeping it light. But there is also a little profile, I call it a success story, so you do a little article about how your company helped a home owner. We do their hardwood floors or we save them money in the residential home cleaner business etc.

So each month you do that, it’s telling those customers about something else that you do. I think everyone could relate to this example. How many times have you been in a room where there is a networking event, maybe a cocktail party and one of your clients say “Oh by the way I just got X,Y & Z installed in my office” and you say “Oh, that’s cool how come you didn’t give me a chance to bid on it?” What do you think his answer is? It’s “I didn’t know you sold that”.

So a newsletter is a great way to stay top of mind, keep your name in front of them and also introduce them to the other ways that you can help them.

Joey Bushnell: So do you give them a strong call to action at any point? Do you actually give a firm offer or do you keep it more editorial and slip it in under the radar?

Jim Palmer: Yes, here’s my expression “Great newsletters tell, they don’t sell”. So again it’s all about the relationship.

One of the areas where I see people slip, is they will turn their newsletter into a monthly mailer like advertorial or coupon clipper or something like that. You don’t want to do that.

One of the ways that you can use a newsletter to sell or to promote is using what I call a free standing insert.

So imagine if you had a 4 page newsletter so that’s 11 x 17 folded once, that’s 8 1/2 x 11 that’s a 4 page newsletter. So in that newsletter you want to keep the content kind of light and entertaining but what you can do is on a free standing insert which would be an additional 8 1/2 x 11 piece of paper usually something very canary, yellow or light green. That is where you can promote so maybe its an event, a customer appreciation day or a teleseminar that’s a good opportunity.

They call it a free standing insert because it stands free of the newsletter and falls out if you open it. Also it rides along for free because it doesn’t really increase the postage but it’s a way to promote. So you have your newsletter and this promotional piece. It’s almost magical in the way it works. It’s being able to promote but still have your newsletter be fun and informational.

Joey Bushnell: Assuming someone hasn’t seen one of these before what should it look and feel like? Is it in color or just black and white? Any tips on how a standard newsletter should look?

Jim Palmer: Yeah great question, I get that a lot. I’m probably starting to sound like a broken record but it’s all about the relationship. So I think 80-90% of the companies who are listening or reading this can get away with a black and white newsletter.

It is a touch point, it is a monthly touch point. Here I am, remember me. I’m the guy who did this or company who did that. So that is how the news letter reads.

By the way it’s a lot cheaper to produce a black and white newsletter but you get the same bang for your buck if you do it correctly.

Now I say 80-90% because there are some industries and types of businesses that really need a color newsletter. Off the top of my head, if you are a dentist who is doing restorative work or teeth whitening, you would probably want to show that in color with a before and after. If you are a gardener or landscaper and you are showing a beautiful lawn with flowers and trees you are going to want to pop that in color.

If I really struggle I could  name 5 or 6 businesses that need color but the majority of the others can get away with a black and white one, kind of like reading a newspaper.

Joey Bushnell: How long should it be?

Jim Palmer: 2-4 pages. So a 2 page newsletter is 8 1/2 x 11 printed both sides. A 4 page newsletter is 11 x 17 folded to 8 1/2 x 11 that’s a 4 page newsletter.

I have a rule of thumb and it’s called “The newsletter gurus readability factor” and that is when the customer gets the newsletter in their mail box and they look at it, they are going to quickly make an assessment “Can I read this in 10 minutes or less”. If you can read it in 10 minutes or less, the chances are very high that they will breeze through it and read it.

If you send them a 10,12,16, 20 page newsletter they absolutely can’t read it while they are standing there or whatever they are doing, they are going to have to put it in their “to be read later folder” and only half of that stuff usually gets read.

So again keep in mind this is a monthly touch point, keeping your name in front of them, a quick “Hello, how you doing? by the way did you know this and that and the other thing. OK see you next month” That’s a verbal example of what a good newsletter is.

Joey Bushnell: OK, and does consistency or frequency of when we mail out have an effect?

Jim Palmer: It matters greatly. The people who are most successful as newsletter marketers mail monthly. You have to mail monthly. Quarterly is not enough and even every other month is not enough.

You just have to think about how many marketing messages you receive every single day. You are bombarded with them in every shape and form; electronic, print, those little TV’s on top of the gas pump. There’s ads on the back of the hotel card you stick in the door. You are getting bombarded all the time with marketing ads.

When your company name is out of sight, you are completely out of mind so you must mail monthly. Then I’m going to give you a secret weapon to power boost that strategy… You want to mail your newsletters the same 2-3 days every single month.

It doesn’t matter whether you mail the 1st, 2nd, 10th, 12th whatever but whenever you mail your first issue then what you want to do is make a recurring appointment with yourself in your calendar which say newsletter mails here so you are always seeing it.

When you think about it when you go to your mail box you get what is called an “A pile” of mail and a “B pile” of mail. The A pile is all your important mail. So it would be your bills or insurance things like that. It is also going to be your magazines that you subscribe to. If you think about it all of those things I’ve just described they come to you every single month on the same 1 or 2 day period, it’s clock work.

Mail that arrives sporadically through out the month that is generally classified as junk mail. So don’t say I can’t get the newsletter out I’ll do it next week or do it next month, No way! Consistency is hugely important. Mail at the same 2-3 day period every month and your simple little newsletter will have a higher perceived value with your customers.

Joey Bushnell: Would you label them Jim, like newsletter 1,2,3 or maybe August 2012 edition, etc?

Jim Palmer: You should definitely do that and you can do it either way. You can say the month that it is or it could be volume 1, number 1. You should do that. It’s not 100% extremely important but it can definitely work.

Joey Bushnell: Finally Jim, for the first timer what do you think is best… Doing it yourself or finding a company that will take care of most of this work for you? How would you go about that?

Jim Palmer: This may sound a little self serving but my main business is no hassle newsletters. What I figured out is I got talking about newsletters and what I learned from new people is 2 things.

They say it takes too long and I never know what to put it in.

That is why I created my business because with No Hassle Newsletters we provide 24 pages of fresh content every single month. We provide done for you newsletter templates. Templates for 2-4 page, black and white or color already filled in with content.

So business owners and entrepreneurs are very time strapped. I’m sure you are, I know I am. So a newsletter seems to always get put on the back burner or never get done. For that reason whether you use a service like mine or someone else, you should definitely do that. Whatever you are going to pay for a month to have that done it’s going to allow you to focus your time on other things yet the newsletter still gets done and out the door.

Joey Bushnell: Is there any sort of restrictions there Jim? Is it just North America that you serve or UK or world wide?

Jim Palmer: Yes I have clients for no hassle newsletters in 9 different countries. We are obviously big in the States, Canada, Australia and I think UK is 3rd or 4th.

The 24 pages of content that we generate every month, I think it’s about 8 pages of that are content for my international clients and I use writers in the UK to produce that. I know there are a couple of things like the word color is spelt with an “our”, you guys say holidays instead of vacations. I actually produce content specifically for the UK in my program.

Joey Bushnell: If for example, a business like mine Jim where my customers are in the United States, Canada but also in the UK, can I split between different countries when mailing out? Is that possible?

Jim Palmer: Yes you can absolutely do that and it’s not that difficult. The templates that I provide are word documents, they are great looking, we designed them in design software then turned them into word documents.

Anyone no matter what kind of computer you have, can open up these newsletter templates and what you can do is, it’s so easy to edit you just copy and paste. So you can say I’m not sure that article fits for this market or client so you can then copy an article out of the 24 pages of content that I give you and paste it back into the template. Now literally in about 30 seconds you’ve customized your template to fit your market precisely.

Joey Bushnell: Very cool so where can we find out more about this Jim?

Jim Palmer:

Joey Bushnell: Great and where can we also get your books and any other sort of content and information from you Jim?

Jim Palmer: is probably a good starting point, from there you can get to my blog, my TV show, there are links for all my products and all of my books.

Joey Bushnell: Jim I just want to thank you so much that was a really cool interview.

Jim Palmer: Thanks Joey have a great day.