A Customer Newsletter is one of the most effective ways of enhancing a company’s image and consistently keeping its name out in the competitive marketplace. The publication can offer employee or customer profiles, news, current events, advice, educational material and photos, and its target audience varies depending on the company.

In an industry where job performance standards are high, standards for newsletters are rising to match them. Building service contractors are among those putting a lot of effort into creating print and electronic newsletters that shine — and they’re attracting attention. The Building Service Contractors Association International (BSCAI) gives out annual awards to members for internal and external newsletters.

“It gives us something to talk about with our clients — for us to be consultants as opposed to ‘just the janitors,’” says Barbara Whitstone, vice-president of business development for CleanPower in Milwaukee.

The standard newsletter is four pages long, but depending on a company’s creative preference and publishing schedule, it can run much longer. Varsity Contractors of Boise, for example, prints eight to 12 pages. Many newsletters are printed quarterly, and others, such as FBG Service Corp. in Omaha, publish monthly.

The Approach
Different companies approach the newsletter in their own unique ways. Some target current customers, others target prospective customers.

Bee Line Building Service’s award-winning marketing pieces include a letter-sized brochure and a small tri-fold brochure. The company now includes its green cleaning logo — as well as its services, credentials and associations — to promote the company’s image, says Jamie Van Vuren, president of the Schaumberg, Ill., company.

FBG prints one newsletter for both customers and employees, with content focusing on the latter.

“With 1,500 employees, we get a lot of opportunity to show what they have done well,“ says Barbara Luna, marketing director.

The news ranges from client or management praise to awards for employees demonstrating one of the company’s values — a focus customers like, Luna says. The newsletter also highlights various customers. Each month’s issue has a theme, such as education or health care, and will focus on affiliated customers and employees who work in that segment, says Luna.

Managers at CleanPower, however, have learned that the newsletter’s company and employee focus was not such a hit with customers.

Years ago, the newsletter was filled with information about CleanPower happenings, but company managers scaled back on that content after realizing customers didn’t have much interest in it, Whitstone says.
Instead, the back page was devoted to CleanPower with profiles of employees, but the bulk is now devoted to subjects of client interest, such as green cleaning, environmental sustainability, germ warfare or flu outbreaks.

Another approach is to use the newsletter to update customers on company business.

At Varsity Contractors, for example, the newsletter’s intent is to inform customers about the previous three months concerning new growth, new company initiatives and new quality assurance techniques, says Jim Doles, vice president of marketing.

“We inform them on our progress, our continuous improvements and the new items and practices that separate our companies from others,” he adds.

Varsity’s newsletter serves to introduce the company to prospects by explaining “quality standards and the management philosophy,” Doles says. It also highlights company developments that benefit the customer.

Customer Communication
BSCs have found the newsletter opens the doors of communication to customers, as it can generate helpful feedback.

“Most [feedback] is pretty favorable,” says Doles. “[Clients] like knowing about the company, its culture and the philosophy that the company has under which we work.”

CleanPower’s newsletters generate positive customer feedback, especially since the company changed its publication’s format to full color, with content emphasizing topics rather than employees.

Often, clients will ask cleaning companies to print specific information in the newsletter. For example, a CleanPower customer requested information about hand sanitizers, which was displayed in the newsletter. As a result, the client was convinced of the product’s usefulness and asked the company to stock her building with a number of hand sanitizer stations.

At Varsity, there have been inquiries from customers for information addressing the continuing concern of avian flu.

“We’ve had customers ask us to describe our process for responding to that situation and also how we would respond in case of an epidemic to protect their employees and managers,” he says.

A newsletter can also serve as a sales call, and has become an effective marketing tool for many companies, giving employees a reason to approach prospects, Doles points out.

In fact, Varsity’s current customers expect the salesperson to bring the latest newsletter on sales calls.

“They’re anxious to hear about new developments,” Doles says. “We encourage our salespeople and district managers to make a concerted effort to get new copies of the newsletter out to the customer.”

Carol Brzozowski is a freelance writer based in Coral Springs, Fla.