Everything Else

It’s unsexy but it may save your business

Focusing on the basics, like customer service, will make a big difference to how your business survives the current financial crisis. Email newsletters may not be exciting, but they keep customers engaged.

Like most of you reading this piece, I run a small business. We have 10 full-time staff and about 30 contributors. I do quite a bit of traveling that takes me out of the business on a regular basis.

When I got back from an extended visit to the US and Korea in January, I sat down with the staff to brief them on product trends and what I felt might be the ‘next big thing’ in consumer electronics. However, the conversation soon turned to what we would be doing as a company and individually in the face of what would clearly be a worsening economy. I told them I felt attitude would play a huge role in small business survival in the coming months.

The US is in the grip of a media-driven view of the world undergoing financial Armageddon. Every newspaper, radio show, and TV news report is loaded with negativity. I stopped watching American TV on my second day in the US.

There is an old adage in the media that reporting on a train wreck will earn double the ratings of a good news story. This is the state of the US media and it is infectious. We need to be careful that the Australian media doesn’t go down the same path.

My staff strongly advised me to cancel future trips and stay working in the business as well as on the business. Most importantly, the company and I should focus our attention on three things:

  • Customer service
  • Customer service
  • Customer service

The component that has worked for our suppliers and customers has been our web newsletter. We send weekly email updates to 250 suppliers and more than 45,000 gadgetguy.com.au subscribers, and it has been a tremendous boon to the business.

The newsletter is one of the most efficient ways of communicating with customers. It’s not sexy and it’s not new by any means, but an email newsletter might just work for your business, too.

As business analyst Sarah Lacy says in Business Week, “Of course, we’re all waiting on companies like YouTube, Facebook, Slide, and Twitter to come up with the next great Google-esque plan to make money from social media. Meantime, why not reap some low-hanging fruit with a newsletter? No, it’s not likely to make your company a billion-dollar Web powerhouse. But it just might help you eke a few more months — if not quarters — from your potentially dwindling capital dollars.”

Lacy explains the value of a newsletter succinctly: “It may sound odd that space on a low-tech newsletter could be so desirable to advertisers… But remember that signing up for and opening an email newsletter is a much bigger commitment than passively clicking on a link that takes you to a blog post.

“Advertisers eat up that kind of engagement because it’s different, tangible, and more likely to result in an action such as making a purchase.”

The content has to be just right: light, tasty 150-word morsels with links to more information on the website.

The regular Gadget Guy newsletter has made a huge difference to our business.

As for me, I’m visiting customers on both sides of the business equation; making myself more accessible, and thinking about what’s needed in the business while developing new strategies for working on the business.

###‘Gadget Guy Peter Blasina is a small business owner and technology reporter on Seven’s Sunrise.

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