Thursday, October 19, 2006

Failure-The Boat Motor of Success

Today, I want to talk to you about failure.

John Ortberg, the Senior Pastor at
Menlo Park Presbyterian Church sums up the emotions of the word “failure” better than anyone I’ve ever heard. He said, “Failure is not an event. It is a judgment about an event.” He even goes further to look at specific people in history to show that some of the most “successful” people in the world were wrought with failure all through their lives:

  • Jonas Salk took over 200 attempts to create a polio vaccine. Was Jonas Salk a failure?
  • Thomas Edison took over 10,000 attempts to create a light bulb. Was Thomas Edison a failure?
  • Winston Churchill flunked the second grade. Was Winston Churchill a failure?
  • Abraham Lincoln failed in business twice, filed for bankruptcy, lost elections for state legislature and for congress. Was Abraham Lincoln a failure?
  • The Chicago Cubs have not been in a World Series in 61 years and have not won a World Series in 98 years. Are the Chicago Cubs a failure?
He concludes by saying that his beloved Cubs are not “failures” but have merely experienced what he calls “widely spaced greatness.” Hey, I got a kick out of that one...

In my studies of failure, I’ve learned that there are two basic “old beliefs” of failure and one radical new belief.
Many people cling to the belief that one can either “succeed” or “fail” but they cannot do both—that success and failures are “destinations” that you can arrive at, much like a train arrives at a station or a plane can arrive at an airport.

In 1954, a book was published with the title God’s Formula for Success and Prosperity. This book was compiled by noted evangelical pastor
Oral Roberts and several other authors. In this book we find the following story that supports the idea of “failure is the opposite of success”

The Two Customers: Failure and Success

I have learned that every day of our lives we have two prospective customers who come to do business with us. One of these customers is called “Success” and the other is called “Failure.” Both of them have very attractive offers to make us. In the trial of my faith, referred to in the preceding paragraph, Failure came with a very attractive offer.

He said, “You are against the wall. You can go no further. You have tried and you have failed. Now I am here to take your burdens off you. I will take your business out of your hands and I will take the load off your back. You can give up everything, settle our accounts, get out of debt, get yourself a job, and go to work and support your family, and then all of your troubles will be over.”

I admit that this offer was attractive. The idea of getting out from under that $100,000 delinquent indebtedness was a very attractive proposition. But before I settled with Failure, Success came along and made me this offer. On the surface it was not nearly as attractive as the other that Failure made me.

Success said something like this, “I am here to help you, to see you through, to bring you out on top, but it is going to take a lot more hard work on your part. It is going to take more waiting, more believing, more keeping your chin up, and facing your creditors with a steady eye and a confident voice. It is going to take more faith in God, but if you will hold on I will see you through. I will bring you out on top.”

In spite of the fact that Success demanded harder work out of me, I decided to accept his offer, and to trade with success instead of failure. So I started out to make provisions to succeed. I refused to make provisions for failure.

Here again is a principle I must not overlook in giving you my story. The average person makes far more provisions to fail that he makes to succeed. He goes out in life in a business venture or in some other calling. When he starts out he begins to plan what he is going to do if he fails. He plans to fail, but he does not build a place in which to store his goods if he succeeds. Since God had promised me success and prosperity, I resolved I would make no provisions for failure, but I would make every provision for success.

This belief from 1954 is just as common a belief today—that “failure” and “success” are opposites—that one is favorable and the other is not. Many, many people hold fast to this belief because it has worked for them over the years.

But just because something has worked well over the years doesn’t mean that it can’t be improved upon, right?

Old Belief #2: Failure is the price of success.

Sales trainer
Tom Hopkins teaches us:
• To never see failure as failure but as a learning experience.
• To never see failure as failure but as the negative feedback we need to change course in our direction.
• To never see failure as failure, but as the opportunity to practice our techniques and perfect our performance.
• To never see failure as failure but the opportunity to develop our sense of humor.
• To never see failure as failure but as the game we must play to win.

Motivational author
Napoleon Hill teaches us that one can overcome failure through persistence.

Four Steps to Persistence
1. A definite purpose backed by burning desire for its fulfillment
2. A definite plan, expressed in continuous action
3. A mind closed tightly against all negative and discouraging influences, including negative suggestions of relatives, friends, and acquaintances
4. A friendly alliance with one or more persons who will encourage one to follow through with both plan and purpose
--Napoleon Hill, Think and Grow Rich, page 184

Mr. Hill also gives a very unique perspective on failure, where he says on page 174 of his book,Those who have cultivated the habit of persistence seem to enjoy insurance against failure.”

Note well that “insurance against failure” does not mean that you will not fail. For example, owning car insurance does not keep one from getting in a automobile accident, it merely fixes everything once you do wreck your car! Likewise, the habit of persistence does not prevent failure but will help you to overcome it faster.

This second belief has also served many well. However, I propose a new radical belief about failure. And actually, I’m not the first to say this new radical belief—but I certainly believe it is true.

New Radical Belief: Failure is an Essential Requirement for Success

Noted leadership expert
Dr. John C. Maxwell has a great attitude about failure. In his book Developing the Leader Within You he tells the following story:

“A wise philosopher once commented that an eagle’s only obstacle to overcome for flying with greater speed and ease is the air. Yet, if the air were withdrawn, and the proud bird were to fly in a vacuum, it would fall instantly to the ground, unable to fly at all. The very element that offers resistance to flying is at the same time the condition for flight.

The main obstacle that a powerboat has to overcome is the water against the propeller, yet, if it were not for this same resistance, the boat would not move at all.

The same law, that obstacles are conditions of success, holds true in human life. A life free of all obstacles and difficulties would reduce all possibilities and powers to zero.”

Think of this radical concept—Failure is as much a part of success as flour is an ingredient for baking a cake! Without failure, there can be no success! Without failure, there is nothing to push off of. Without failure, there is no grip. Without failure, there is no possibility.

Without failure, there is no power.

And without power, success is unachievable.

Think about it. With no obstacles to overcome, what would you have success over? Why would anyone climb Mount Everest if anyone could do it? Why would anyone go to the Moon if anyone could do it? Why would anyone win the sales contest or score the touchdown or cook the gourmet meal if there was nothing to it? The mere possibility of failure is what makes success so sweet and savory.

Without failure, there can be no success.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

It's Not What You Sell it for that Counts, It's What You Buy it for

Those of you that know me probably know that I worked my way through college in the music industry. Not as a performer, but in sales. I sold pianos in Manhattan, Kansas. It was fun and I learned a lot.

The owner of Mid-America Piano & Organ was (and still is) Dan Murphy. Dan had two uncles in the area also that were in business—Uncle Charles and Uncle Fred. Charles Schurle owned a janitorial supply company (to my knowledge he has now retired) and Fred Schurle owns and operates Mid-America Office Supply. From Dan, Uncle Charles, and Uncle Fred, I learned one of the most important rules in business—It’s not what you sell it for that counts, it’s what you buy it for.

They called this concept “Buying Right” and it is by far one of the most important lessons to learn in the business world.

The Importance of “Buying Right”

Here’s a real simple example using hypothetical numbers. Let’s say that you and I are competitors, and we’re both in the piano business. You’ve got a prospect, I’ve got a prospect. You got a piano, I got a piano. And let’s say that you got your piano wholesale for $500 and I got my piano wholesale for $400—but for all practical purposes they are identical in features and quality. You might price your piano at a retail price of $1,200 and mark it on special for $1,000. I’ll do the same: I price my piano at retail price of $1,200 and put it on sale for the same $1,000.

Now the real catch isn’t that I’ll actually sell my piano at $1,000 and make $600 compared to your $500—that’s not what’s so special about “buying right.” What really matters is that if I need to, I can come down on my asking price to give a better offer to the customer.

It’s in the Ratios

When I come down on my price to sell my piano for retail, I obviously want to come down as little as I need to in order to make the sale. But let’s say that things are really competitive. I have so much more room to negotiate in price because I have less capital in the original purchase.

Most people would look at this situation and think that I could come down $100 in my price to $900 and make the same amount as you… we’d both make $500. While that math is true, I would be making more.

I would make a greater percentage on the sale. A higher “cash on cash” return. At your price of $1,000, you are doubling your money in the transaction. If I wanted to match you for profitability, I could lower my price to $800, or be 20% less than your retail price and make the same return!

More Customers

Make no mistake about it, if you sell your piano for $1,000 and I sell the same piano for $800, I’ll make more sales than you. Although I make the same ratio of profit per sale as you, I will have more overall profit than you because I make more sales. I’ll also get more referrals than you. And, of course, I’ll make more money than you.

Less Risk and Less Capital Tied Up

But that’s not all. I’ll have less risk than you. I’ll have less money tied up in inventory than you will, thus allowing me to gather more inventory for a wider selection or otherwise use that capital in fixtures or other areas of the business. I’ll have less money sunk into inventory for the same amount of inventory, and any business owner will tell you that’s always a good thing.

Greater Flexibility in Bad Times

I can be more flexible on my prices if the market turns sour (as markets tend to do from time to time) because I have less tied up in each product. If we both have to liquidate product due to any number of business reasons, I can lower my price to your cost and still be making a small sliver of gross profit on the sale.

Let’s suppose that both of our delivery vehicles wear out and we need to replace them, and we decide to pay for the new vehicle by quickly selling inventory. If you have 20% more tied up in each inventory unit, your “super-low sale price” is not nearly as profitable as mine. Therefore, I can provide operating capital for my business through sales much more quickly and easily.

Faster Inventory Turn

Because I have the ability to lower my prices more, I can sell more quickly and thus turn my inventory faster than you. The faster I turn my inventory, the more return I can get in a year’s time and the greater profitability I have in business.

How to Buy Right

Here are some pointers on learning to “buy right.”
1. Ask. Don’t be afraid to ask for a discount. Once, Charles Schurle got Wal-Mart to come down on their price of garbage cans (he was buying 20) and I have gotten Sears to come down on the price of clothing (a sale was starting the next day and they gave me tomorrow’s sale price). If they will do it, so will others. You won’t know if you don’t ask.
2. Shop. Shop around with other suppliers. Get bids from other suppliers. Have them submit those bids in writing. Also, look for alternate sources (auctions, classified ads, even other businesses in your industry—you might have the buyer for a product that they can’t seem to sell.)
3. Pay Cash. There is no substitute for cold-hard cash in negotiating power. I’m not saying pay by check—use actual cash. Buying furniture? Wave about three thousand in cash in front of the store manager. Say something like, “I know you are asking four thousand for this furniture set. Which would you rather have, this furniture set or this three thousand dollars in cash?” You’ll probably get the deal.
4. Buy in Volume. You’ll be more likely to get a discount if you buy large quantities (either immediately or over time) than if you buy only one.
5. Be Prepared to Walk. This is harder than it sounds sometimes. If they don’t take your offer, be prepared to walk away. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you do walk away—just that you know that you can at any time.
6. Move quickly. The longer you take to negotiate, the less likely they will be to come down in price. Offer a low-ball price to move fast so they can move on to another customer.
7. Give them a good reason. Maybe you heard that they are looking to buy a new delivery vehicle or they are re-locating the showrooms. They can turn their sitting inventory into cash quickly to get what they want.
8. Barter or Trade. If you’re a car dealer and I’m a piano dealer, and you want a piano and I want a car, let’s make a deal!
9. Consignment. If you are buying a product for resale, offer to sell on consignment. This means that you don’t pay the seller until you sell the product for them. This way you are not “out-of-pocket” for any cash and you can offer a higher return to the seller if they are willing to wait for their cash.
10. Be a Great Customer. Offer to give referrals to your supplier—actually give them right then if you can. Pay on time, as agreed. Promote your suppliers business in any way that you can.
11. Play Fair. If you don’t play fair, they won’t want to do business with you long-term. Sure, you might take advantage of the moment, but you might also burn your relationship with the supplier. They have to make money too.

A Few More Tips

Here’s a few more tips to put into practice when making business purchases: Remember the words “too little” and “too much” when negotiating. Let the other party talk as much as they want while you talk as little as possible. Listen as much as you can and then listen some more. Don’t be afraid of silence. Be very calm and never get angry. Get them to move first. If you can, get them to move second… and maybe even to move third!

Now it’s your turn

Now it’s your turn to be the business owner that buys right. Negotiate. Ask for a lower price. Shop with other suppliers and get quotes. Take a course on negotiation.
Sure, every business could use more sales and more sales skills. Selling is important, and no profit will be made until a sale is made. But BUYING RIGHT will allow your salespeople to be more competitive, more flexible, and more profitable in the marketplace. There is no substitute for buying right.

It’s not what you sell it for that counts, it’s what you buy it for.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

How to Establish Business Credit in 90 Days

Business Credit—every small business needs it at some point in time. Unfortunately, the age-old rule so often seems to be true—the only way to qualify for a loan is to prove that you don’t need it.

But that isn’t necessarily the case… here are some simple strategies that will help any small business move toward a good, strong credit relationship with a bank.

I am speaking from experience here. One of my major mistakes early on in business was not creating and working a plan to have established business credit. Had I taken these measures I could have avoided some hard times through the early years of my business.

Be a Good Customer of Your Bank

Remember that if you apply for a business loan at a bank where you have your business checking account, the first thing that the loan officer will do is call up your checking history. If it is constantly in a state of overdraft or is very low, they are unlikely to consider a loan proposal any further. However, if your account shows a regular inflow of cash from many customers, that is much more appealing to a loan officer.

There is another reason to have an account at the bank where you are taking a loan—you can have several months payments at that bank ready to be transferred over at any time. Make arrangements with your loan officer to set up such a program if you can—this can help you to avoid late fees from forgetting to make a payment.

Have Great Financial Records

Get your financial records in shape. Have a nice summary booklet prepared to show to your banker. Include a brief confidentiality statement. Also, have a brief description of what you do, how business has been, and what your future plans are for your business. Include some photos of your business and work. While these measures aren’t really required for a bank loan, they do show that you are serious about your business and help the loan officer to more understand your business.

Letters of reference also help a lot. Ask a few of your best customers to write letters for you to include in your record book. Ask them to state that they intend to continue to do business with you in the future, and at what level they expect to do business. Letters like this will go a long way to convincing a lender to work with you to set up a line of credit.

Most loan officers like to see at least six months history for new businesses, but one banker commented that two years is much better. But wherever your situation is right now, be sure to show summaries for every year you have been in business—even the “bad years.” This disclosure goes a long way to helping a loan officer make a decision about lending to your company.

Establish Secured Loans

This method is widely taught to help people establish credit. You’ll need about $1,000 to start—go to your bank and set up a $1,000 Certificate of Deposit (CD) and use that CD to secure a line of credit for the same amount. You can then use that money borrowed to complete the same move at a second, and then a third bank. You’ll have $3,000 borrowed at with $3,000 on deposit to secure those loans.

Pay the loans as agreed and in about 90 days you should have a good working relationship and history with three banks for your business line of credit.

If you want to improve your position, start with more than $1,000. In fact, one banker I spoke to suggests starting at $3,000. “Most banks do not like small loans (under $3,000 to $4,000) because they are not very profitable.” Because of the fixed overhead of the loan, smaller loans tend to have higher rates even when secured by a CD. The banker concluded by saying: “One $3,000 loan would probably be better, especially if it was paid off early.”

If you don’t do anything else, do this step.

Establish a Floor Plan with Wholesale Suppliers

I’ll be the first to admit that this isn’t always the best idea. In fact, I know of several businesses that went completely under by having too much money and profit tied up in their “floor plan” of products with their vendors.

That’s the key phrase, though… “too much.” If you are in a business that sells products that can be acquired by a floor plan, those items in your inventory are used to secure the credit. While I don’t recommend having 100% of your inventory on a floor plan, it is a good idea to establish some credit with one or more wholesale vendors.

Buy a Company Car on Credit

Sure, if you have cash then sometimes it is a good idea to pay in full for a car… but this isn’t about being debt-free, it’s about establishing credit. Get a company car from a dealer and arrange the financing through your business. Many automotive financing companies and banks will issue business loans for automobiles because the loan is secured by the vehicle.

Leasing a car is sometimes better than buying a car for a business. You can generally write off all the lease costs which is usually greater than depreciation and deducting the loan interest. Business owners considering this move may want to ask their accountant which option works best for them. However, there is no need to worry about which option is better for establishing credit. Leases are usually reported the same way bank loans are for credit purposes.
Include a photo of the vehicle in your financial statement.

Get a Line of Credit Established BEFORE You “Need It”

This is the most important step. You have to be prepared in advance. Establish business credit before you need it for your business. Have a strategic plan to establish credit for your company and work that plan. Don’t be afraid to meet with your banker and discuss the plan—their job is to loan money to good credit-worthy low-risk businesses.

I have never found a business of any size or profitability that didn’t need credit at some point during its growth stage. Plan ahead, establish your business credit as soon as you can and you will not regret it.

Work with More than One Bank

In his book Sharkproof, author and businessman Harvey MacKay explains one of his business mistakes. He had given all of his banking business to one and only one banker for many years. When the market turned hard on the bank and on his business, his one and only bank had pulled his line of credit and it severely hurt his company’s operations.

He continues to explain that he “should have taken his own advice” and spread his business around to several banks. While you may not have a company the size of Mackay Envelope Corporation, it’s still good advice for something as critical to your business as banking relationships—spread the business around.

But remember not to go too far with this idea. It is a good idea to have a couple of banking relationships, but too many makes the other banks nervous. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, but don’t have too many baskets either!

Refer Business to Your Bank

When you go about your daily business, it is not uncommon to find people who have moved to the area or are unhappy with their current bank. Recommend your bank to them. Write them a great note and tell them how you really do like your bank. Include a business card of your banker for them to contact. You then should send a copy of that note to your banker with another note attached stating that you are truly happy with them and that you are always looking to help their business as well as your own.

Is this sneaky? Maybe. Do it anyway—your banker will love you for it and will remember you when the time comes for you to increase your business with that bank. One banker I know made the comment that referring business to your bank is a very good idea and will pay many dividends to the person making the referrals.


Not every strategy listed here will work for every company and with every banker or lender. Nothing works 100% of the time, but these eight ideas are enough to get any profitable business started toward establishing good business credit.

Monday, March 06, 2006

How to Prepare an Effective “30 Second Commercial” for Your Business

“What do you do?”

This is the question that every business owner or sales person wants to hear—permission to tell someone what they do possibly make a sale (or at least a valuable contact).
The problem is that many business owners and sales people are not prepared for such a simple question. Errors usually show up on two sides: either talking too much, or not talking enough. Both of these problems come from not being prepared to give a simple “30-second commercial” about what you do.

Prepare in Advance

It is critical that you prepare in advance to give a 30-second commercial about what you do. It should take no more than 15 minutes to prepare a great message, and it will probably be the most valuable 15 minutes you ever spent in preparation to sell your product or service.

Tips on Making a 30-Second Commercial

Tim Strahl (Business & Information Technology Agent of Oregon State University-Harney County Extension Office) has some experience with this topic. He regularly attends the Harney County Business Roundtable, and they regularly have a “30-second commercial” segment at their meetings. In these segments, members are invited to stand and give a simple explanation of who they are and what they do.

After his experience, Tim gives the following advice of creating and preparing a 30-second commercial for your business:
1. Get (grab) our attention. Do this with a question, visual, humor or whatever else works for you, your personality and business. (Assume they are as preoccupied as you were during their commercial).
2. Say the name of your business and product or service.
3. Toot your horn
4. Identify what your business can do for us. Make sure you include what is unique about you and your business. Remember, we do NOT care what you do; we want to know how you will help us.
5. Repeat the name of your business and product or service.
6. Tell us where your product or service can be purchased.
7. Close by asking us to take an action. You want to be remembered.

Tim continues to give the following advice for a one-on-one conversation:
“…insert a question and answer period between items 2 and 3 to formulate items 3 and 4 to meet the needs of your audience. Use open-ended questions to gather information to lead your prospect to that all important next step.”

When you are asked, “what do you do”, the next 30 seconds may determine whether you get funding or make a sale. Prepare for this opportunity. Craft your message carefully. Write it down. Test it on a friend or associate. Practice, practice, practice. Have fun, it will show!

Sample 30 Second Commercials

Business Sample

Ever wish you had more time at the end of the day? Or how about at the end of the year?
My mission is to give time back to people so they can focus on what is important to them. My name is Paul McDonald and I am an Agency Vice President with HBW Insurance and Financial Services. My clients love the simplicity that I bring to them and enjoy the idea of having one advisor coordinating all financial matters.

I coordinate all the details of the finances of my clients—paperwork, meeting with accountants, speaking to attorneys—whatever they need. In turn, they have more time to put in to what is important to them. I research all the fine points and report back to them with the suggestions.
Again, my name is Paul McDonald at HBW Insurance and Financial Services. I can be reached toll-free 1-877-711-1264. I encourage you to call and find out more about how I can handle the details of your life so you have more time in your life.

Non-profit/church ministry sample

Acts2 is a mid-week service at our church. We want to re-create the atmosphere, the environment, and the sense of awe of the Church of Acts Chapter 2.

At Acts2, we seek to do the following:
1. Produce a high-quality mid-week service at our church for our members and regular attendees,
2. Bring our surrounding community closer to living like Jesus
3. Pioneer the path for mainline churches to ease the process of adding a mid-week church service.

We are in the very beginning stages of this ministry. We are seeking volunteers of all spiritual gifts, but presently have strong needs for those with the gifts of leadership, administration, giving, and prayer.

Learn more about this ministry by contacting Mike Smithers at (913) 555-1212. If you are ready to get involved or just want to check out the idea, come visit us on any Wednesday evening from 7:00 to 9:00 in room 104.

Conclusion--Prepare now!

Prepare your 30-second commercial now! Nothing is more important than being able to give a short and fluent description of exactly what you do so that anyone can understand it and become excited about it!

Monday, February 27, 2006

5 Steps to Successful Small Business Promotion Through Newsletters

Virtually all small businesses need to create new customers and strengthen their bonds with existing customers. One very effective way to do this is through the use of newsletters.
I have found that there are five simple steps to creating a successful small business newsletter.

1. Get a Mailing List

If you have been in business for a length of time, you probably already have the workings of a mailing list through existing customers and prospects. If you are new in business, there are many suppliers of mailing lists in the marketplace. It’s a good idea to start small and test the receptiveness of your newsletter and your current client and prospect list is a great place to start.

Mailing List Suggestions
Accountant, Attorney, Financial Planning: Small Business Owners, Families, or companies
Residential Real Estate Agent: Geographic Section / subdivisions
Funeral Directors: Churches and Pastors, Hospitals
Music Stores: Music Teachers
Auto Dealers: Anyone local
Dentists: Anyone local
Restaurant: Local Patrons
Home Inspectors: Real Estate Agents

Get creative! Who would benefit from regular contact, and who would your business benefit from regular contact?

Contact me if you need any help in creating a list. I have software that can generate lists easily and will be happy to help you for a nominal fee.

2. Have a Newsletter Template

Microsoft Word is a very easy way to create a newsletter. The attached sample newsletter (Annuity Opportunities) was created exclusively in MS-Word. If you desire to create a more robust newsletter layout, Microsoft Publisher is also excellent. Contact me for a copy of the template and I will send it to you by email (, or you can easily create your own.
The mailing method that I recommend involves uploading documents to the United States Post Office website. This service requires either Microsoft Word documents, or Adobe Acrobat Reader documents. If you mail the newsletters yourself, you can choose any method you desire.

3. Get Some Articles

Where to Get Articles: “Where am I going to get the articles?” That’s always the question for small business owners. Generally, small business owners don’t have time to write the articles themselves because of the time demands of their business.
There are many great sources of free and low-cost articles that you can obtain the rights to re-print. One easy and free source is GoArticles ( that provides free to re-print articles on a variety of topics. When you choose this approach, you will need to include a “resource box” with your article that contains contact information of the original author. For a start-up newsletter, this is a great way to go because it keeps the cost down, but be sure to read the articles closely—some of these articles are very good and some are not. Remember, it’s YOUR newsletter, not theirs!

Another free source is to network with a local college and offer unpaid internships for writing articles through the school’s business or journalism departments. You could also offer a stipend if it is in your budget. Many students will be happy to write for the experience and even more will write for a very small amount of money.

A third source is to hire someone to write the articles for you. While this is more costly, you will most likely get a better article. Part of the fee you pay will be that you own the “rights” to the article and do not have to list the contact information of the original author and it appears as though you are the author yourself. This is called “ghost writing” and it is very popular among many famous authors.

A fourth source is to contact your vendors. Often times, they have ready to print what are called “byline articles” that you can add in your newsletter.

Or, you could write the articles yourself. This is really not the preferred way for small businesses because of the time involved. However, it is an option and does bear mentioning. If you use a re-print service like GoArticles, you might want to have at least one of the articles written by you and two or three other articles by other people.

What Kind of Articles: Most of the time it makes sense to have the articles be about your line of business—for example, financial planners can create articles about financial planning. However, that doesn’t always have to be the case. I know of one financial planner that has a very successful newsletter that contains articles about health, spirituality, and career—but never about the finances!

Another successful music store added a feature to their newsletter—a calendar of music events in the area. This simple one-page newsletter had on one side the calendar of events of all music concerts and on the other side a list of every used piano and price for sale at the store. Every piano teacher in the state got a copy and kept it pinned on the wall next to their calendar all month long—it became a regular resource.

Here’s two more examples of off-topic newsletters: one very successful newsletter for an Italian restaurant contains articles about travel to Italy and Italian history. Another real estate agent sends out emotionally positive pictures of his family and local events. Great ideas, both!

4. Create a Schedule and Prepare Newsletters

How Often Do You Publish: This is up to you, but most studies show that a monthly newsletter works well. This keeps your business in front of your prospects and customers once a month in a non-threatening manner and at the same time allows for a month to prepare the publication.
Choose a schedule that works for you, but remember that it is far more important that you stick with that schedule! Creating a monthly newsletter for a few months and then stopping may have the opposite effect.

How Many Articles per Newsletter: A good and simple newsletter can work with three or four articles on three or four pages. In the sample I give, I use three pages and reserve the fourth page for the mailing information at the printer.

You don’t need to “cram” the newsletter full of information—just give a newsletter that is easy to read and has useful information.

Prepare Newsletters: With a proper template and Microsoft Word, you can just drop the articles in place using basic word processor skills. Once the articles are chosen and edited, a simple three or four page newsletter can be created from a template in a matter of minutes.

5. Send the Newsletter Out

I use the United States Postal Service website ( for uploading the newsletter and mailing. It is easy to register an account and upload not only the newsletter but also the mailing list. They print it, they send it.

I can even schedule when I want a newsletter to go out—with this tool, I can create three or four monthly newsletters all at once and schedule them to be mailed out several months in advance. This way, I don’t miss a scheduled mailing.

The cost? On Friday, March 03, 2006 (after a recent postal increase), I ran a simple quote of a 3-page newsletter in black and white on 8 ½” x 11” paper—the sample “Annuity Opportunities” newsletter. I can send this newsletter to 100 recipients for $43.30 or to 1,000 recipients for $433.00. That averages out to just over $0.43 per contact, including printing costs. I find that the print quality is very good.

There are other options with this service, including color printing, more pages, etc. The option selected is what they call “Flyer” or “Self-Mailer” and it is usually the option I use. Also, there are many fine mailing houses to complete your mailings for you—or you could do it yourself. The advantage of doing it yourself is that if you use a first class stamp, studies show that it is more likely to be opened.

Summary—You, Too Can Make an Effective Newsletter Easily

These five simple steps show a simple process of creating an effective newsletter. Find a list, get a template, get the articles, schedule and assemble the newsletters, and then mail them out. You’ll find that newsletters are a very effective and easy way to keep in touch with your prospects and customers.