Seven Ways Newsletters Make Infrastructure Firms Money

Newsletters have been around for a while, they’re effective, and they’re easy to produce—see below. But many firms, even fairly big businesses with good customer lists, don’t publish newsletters and I’ve often wondered… why? Why not use a simple, inexpensive, low-pressure marketing technique that is nearly guaranteed to bring in new business, not to mention keeping existing customers loyal?

I finally realized that many businesses think of newsletters as a ‘nice extra’, a way to keep in touch with clients but not necessarily a way to bring in sales and/or new projects. But newsletters are definitely more than a nice way to keep in touch. In fact, they can easily turn out to be your most effective sales tool. Here are seven ways newsletters can make you money.

1) Law of Reciprocity: The law of reciprocity is one of the most studied principles in social science, but it certainly isn’t hard to understand. Basically, the law of reciprocity states that humans tend to return favors. If you do something for someone, they will be motivated to do something for you. It’s the reason you get free calendars and other gifts in holiday season, it’s why you get free product samples in the mail, it’s why writers like me send out useful free articles like this one. Marketing ploys like these are common because they work; in fact, sociologists tell us that a gift or a favor creates a sense of obligation, conscious or unconscious, that a recipient is eager to act on.

Giving someone a free newsletter is a perfectly honorable way to make the law of reciprocity act in your favor, if it contains information that is genuinely useful to the recipient. More on that below. Bottom line? Help out the readers of your newsletter, and they’re far more likely to return the favor by turning to you for a solution to their problems.

2) Educate and Build Trust: Unlike donut shops, infrastructure firms rarely benefit from impulse purchases. In most cases, before a product is purchased or a consultant is hired, the purchaser has done due diligence. If you are viewed as a trusted provider, your firm is likely to benefit. And one of the best ways to build trust with a newsletter is to educate your readers. You can do this in many ways: for example, you can include case studies that demonstrate a novel use of your solution—if the reader is dealing with a similar challenge, this alone might be enough to get him or her to pick up the phone. You might also include charts or graphs that can be kept as references, articles that compare types of products or services, or short ‘white papers’ that discuss the pros and cons of a technology you offer. If you actually teach the reader something they need to know, they’ll view your firm as an expert to turn to when they need help.

3) Show Off All You Do: Clients tend to pigeonhole vendors. That is, if they use you for flood plain analysis they may not think of you when they need soil testing, or if they buy manhole risers from you they may not even know you also sell catch basin risers. Your newsletter is a good way to let existing clients know all you do… and that’s a good way to get new business. After all, your clients already trust you to do good work, so why wouldn’t they turn to you for help with other projects?

For example, a case study (a brief article that describes a successful project or sale) may make the reader realize that your firm is a good choice for a challenge they’re facing. And that might get them to pick up the phone.

4) Discovering a Need: It’s perfectly possible that your clients have a need for your technology and don’t even know it. For example, they may be dealing with microbiologically-induced corrosion (MIC) in their sanitary sewers, and just assume that it’s a problem without a solution. If your sewer rehabilitation contracting service has just started offering a way to repair MIC-damaged structures, and they learn about it from your newsletter, you might be asked to submit a bid the next day.

The world is changing fast these days, and even experts can’t keep up with all the advances in their field. If your firm is offering a new solution or a new product, a newsletter is an effective way to get the word out.

5) Your Name on File: If your newsletter is genuinely useful—if your readers feel they are likely to learn something from every issue—then it is likely to be kept around, even filed. They’ll also pass it around internally, to others in their organization who may have a need for your service. And that’s a very good thing, because when the need arises not only will they know who to call, they’ll know how to call—after all, your contact information will be in their files, or on their desk, or on the break room table.

Think about it: business cards get lost, brochures get thrown away, but something useful like a newsletter hangs around for a while. It’s not a huge advantage, but it is a meaningful advantage. And on the day they decide to call someone, it can mean the difference between a call to you or a call to your competitors.

6) Justifying a Purchase: Many infrastructure solution purchasers, probably most infrastructure purchasers, have to justify their decisions to some third party, whether it’s a board of commissioners, a department head, or some other supervisor. And sometimes, the decision of what to purchase comes down to how easy a purchase is to justify. That’s where your newsletter comes in: if a purchaser has a ready source of case studies, graphs, and other supporting information for a particular solution, information that he can copy and pass around to whoever needs to be convinced, then he has a strong incentive to choose that solution over something else. After all, it’s easier!

If this is the only thing that moves your hypothetical purchaser to choose your company, then there’s something wrong with your solution. But let’s face it: sometimes there isn’t a clear differentiation (at least in your client’s mind) between you and the next guy, and making it a little bit easier to choose you can be the difference between choosing you… or the next guy.

7) More Referrals: Your existing, loyal, clients should be your best source of new  clients, and newsletters help with that. For one thing, they’re an occasional, gentle reminder of your existence and by the same token, they’re a reminder that they have friends and business associates who could also make use of your services. Newsletters should also remind your readers that you may offer services or products that that they don’t need… but maybe they know someone who does. And who knows? If they really like an article they might even send a copy along to someone who needs the information, or suggest that they subscribe themselves.

But the best way to get referrals by newsletter… is to have a referral policy, and publish it in every issue of your newsletter. The details of your policy are up to you, but at minimum it should materially reward both the referred and the referrer—after all, how much is a new client worth? And if your readers are reminded, monthly or quarterly, that there’s something in it for them when they refer a client… don’t you think they’ll be more likely to refer clients?

One mistake that many infrastructure firms make with newsletters is to write about internal matters, like promotions or new offices. But here’s a newsflash: your clients don’t care about you, they care about themselves. They’ll only read your newsletter—and you’ll only develop new business—if it contains information that they find useful and interesting.

The good news is that newsletters don’t need to be lengthy to be effective, and they don’t need to be printed in color on glossy paper to get attention. They should look good, but even simple tri-folds, printed and labeled in house can get the job done.

They do, however, need to be written well. It makes no sense to spend money and time getting a message into the hands of your clients and prospects if the message doesn’t get the job done. Your newsletter content needs to clear, informative, and interesting, and the newsletter layout should be pleasing and organized. To do the job right, it may be a good to hire a writer and editor… maybe someone who has experience in infrastructure… someone who writes well, and who’s produced hundreds of magazine and newsletter articles… someone who’s reasonably priced… someone like me!

If you’d like to know more about newsletters and how they fit into your marketing program, please call me today.


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Angus W. Stocking

Angus W. Stocking, L.S., is a licensed land surveyor who now prepares information marketing content for the infrastructure industry.


Angus W. Stocking, L.S.
P.O. Box 872
Paonia CO 81428
270.363.0033 office