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Tailoring a Newsletter to Fleets and Insurers

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For 15 years, Angela Chmura, owner of Goff’s Collision, a six-location collision repair business located in the Milwaukee area, has been mailing out a quarterly newsletter. Chmura decided that a mailed newsletter was a great way to get referrals through repeat exposure and appealing to potential customers on a personal level.

Goff’s Collision’s newsletter is primarily sent out to insurance agencies, car dealerships and potential fleet accounts in the region. These newsletters have been an integral part of attracting the Goff’s 30 fleet and 30 DRP accounts by spreading the word and getting the company’s name out there.

Newsletters are a great way to attract customers, but only if they’re executed correctly. Here are a few key considerations that a shop should make before creating a newsletter to be sent out to potential clients.

Decide Who Will Produce the Newsletter

Before getting down to what makes a good newsletter, it’s important for shop owners to first decide whether they are going to create the newsletter on their own or work with a company. Chmura enlisted the help of Jon Swanson, owner of Client Contacts, a customized newsletter creation company. Swanson has a background in the collision repair industry and owned and grew his own business. Now, he creates newsletters for several hundred clients, most of which are in the collision repair industry.

“Each quarter, he’ll email me a template that I can update or leave as is,” Chmura says. “I change the front page and personalize it, but for the most part it stays the same.”

Swanson says he knows what it takes to put together an effective newsletter and says he knows what shop owners want and need, even if they don’t know it themselves. However, he understands that not everyone will choose to go through a company. For individuals that decide to go at it on their own, Swanson advises having an arsenal of ideas for articles before they start.

Consider the Cost

When deciding between producing your own newsletter and working with a company, it’s important to consider the costs associated with each. For example, Chmura pays Swanson $600 a quarter to produce Goff’s newsletter. That may seem like a lot, but Chmura doesn’t have to worry about purchasing supplies to make the newsletter. Swanson says that another advantage to working with a company is that you can use the company's bulk mailing rate, which will save money. Otherwise, the price of mailing all of these newsletters will add up quickly.

Define the Audience

After a shop has decided how it wants to go about creating its newsletter, the next step is to decide who to send it to. Chmura decided to target companies in the area that would refer work to her shops. By reaching out to insurance agents, businesses with fleets and car dealerships in the area, Goff’s Collision is always top-of-mind when these businesses need to refer someone to a collision repair shop.

Spread the Word

Once a newsletter has been created, it can be distributed.

When Goff’s recently opened a new location, Chmura made sure to add dealerships, insurance agents and possible fleet accounts to the mailing list. Chmura’s primary way of getting the newsletter out is through Goff’s mailing distribution list, but she goes beyond that.

Chmura will bring the copies of the newsletters into local businesses, like dentists office or mechanical shops that she has a relationship with. “We’ll put out coupons for them and they’ll hand out our newsletter,” Chmura says. “It’s a great way to cross-promote.”

Swanson says this technique is effective because in many local businesses, people will scan things while they’re waiting and will remember the company name when they need a collision repair shop.

Keep it Consistent

Swanson says that sending it out quarterly is ideal because it’s not overkill, but people still get reminders often enough to remember the business. Whatever time table you choose, Swanson says stick with it or readers will become confused.

Choose Your Method of Delivery

Swason’s business, Client Contacts, takes a unique approach when it comes to newsletters—the newsletters are mailed. With an envelope and a stamp. Isn’t that more expensive? Yes, says Swanson, but it’s more effective.

“I receive 1,000 emails a day,” says Swanson. “A hand-delivered note on the other hand, that has to be handled. It’s more likely to get picked up and scanned. It’s also more likely to be passed around.”

For shops that want to go the digital route, Swanson advises to keep the content relevant and find a way to make it stick out from the masses when sending it out.

Provide Content that Matters

Every quarter, Swanson sends out a template to his clients that they can customize or leave as is. The template he has created works for most shop owners and attracts everyday customers. Swanson says a blend of timely automotive news, car care tips, jokes and quips works well.

Swanson says that he’s seen some collision repair newsletters that include recipes, crossword puzzles, and other various filler material. He advises against that approach. Swanson says that people need to make an association with what they’re reading and the business that is sending the newsletter. That doesn’t mean the content should be aimed at gearheads. It’s important to make sure the information included is not too technical.

“I include an interesting or funny story about the automotive industry from somewhere around the world,” Swanson says. “Then I’ll include something they can use, like a bullet-point list of ways to get your car ready for the winter.”

Chmura says the part of the newsletter that resonates the most with her customers are the jokes. Swanson includes jokes, which he tries to make automotive related, as a way to bond with customers and give shops personality.

Swanson says that promotions can be included, but sparingly.

“A newsletter shouldn’t look like a weekly flyer,” Swanson explains.

Choose Graphics Wisely

Use images when they add value. Avoid overloading your newsletter with unnecessary graphics that are only there to fill space.

“If a newsletter is overloaded with images it’s great to glance at,” Swanson says. “But beyond that, it’s no good. You want to have picture but keep it looking clean.”

Add a Personal Touch

Even though Goff’s uses a premade template for the most part, the name of the company is woven into all of the stories and Chmura writes a personalized letter that goes on the cover page. She’ll add local information about the weather, a new location, or update readers on an event the shop recently participated in, like Recycled Rides.

“I think when people read something they can tell whether or not it’s a canned letter or if it’s personal,” Chmura explains. 

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