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Fine print: customized newsletters and magazines are a cost-effective way for a bank to get its message across. Below are the ABCs of publishing periodicals. (Fundamentals).

Producing a bank-to-customer newsletter or magazine is effective way to communicate with a target audience. Sometimes referred to as "custom" publications, such printed material can increase your institution's visibility, speed up the sales cycle, help to cross-sell additional product lines and boost client retention.

Here's what you need to do to produce a custom publication.

Step 1: Decide whether to publish internally or to seek assistance from an outside provider.

Once you've decided that a custom publication makes sense for your bank, you need to decide how you will get your client newsletter or magazine produced. Some banks rely on internal staff, while others hire companies that specialize in producing bank-sponsored newsletters and magazines.

There are advantages to both options. Banks that produce their publication internally maintain a greater degree of control over the look and content of their publication. On the other hand, banks that outsource benefit from the broader level of knowledge about industry issues and more professional production services generally available from publication providers. The latter banks also free up significant staff resources--resources that otherwise would be tied up in producing your client publication--to focus on bank core functions like customer service and product development.

The decision ultimately comes down to which alternative enables you to produce the most effective client briefing publication. Here are some factors that impact the effectiveness of your client magazine or newsletter:

Regular frequency. Industry experts suggest that a bank needs to maintain a frequency of quarterly or more to maintain visibility in the marketplace and an adequate "share of mind" of both retail and corporate consumers of banking services. Does your bank have the internal resources required to produce a newsletter from beginning to end and publish it four times per year?

Authoritative yet readable editorial content. For your newsletter to be credible and reflect well on your bank, its content needs to provide substantive information that provides real value to the reader. It needs to combine insights into the latest developments in the banking industry with an understanding of the wants and needs of your customers--whether they are retail consumers or business users. And your publication needs to be professionally written in a style that keeps readers coming back for more, edition by edition.

Professional appearance. The expression is true--you never get a second chance to make a good first impression. And it certainly applies to your client newsletter. Your custom publication needs to have an inviting look that causes the reader to stop and take notice of it when it crosses his or her desk, or when viewed online.

Client perspective. To be effective and credible, your client briefing needs to focus on the concerns of your clients. You need to really struggle against the impulse to produce a publication that is written for the interests of fellow bankers.

Step 2: If you decide to seek an outside provider, your next step is to identify and evaluate candidates.

There are a number of outsource providers out there. One place to look for them is in the Service Directory at the back of this magazine. Look under the heading of "Newsletters/Brochures." Another good resource is the Online Bank Supplier Directory at the ABA website, aba.com. (Go to http//buyersguide.aba.com/applications/memberdir/index.asp. Find the "product/service" selection box and scroll down to "Marketing--Newsletters."

Next, visit the website of each candidate provider and see how its strengths and capabilities match up with your bank's needs. If you are looking to produce a bank-to-business publication, look for a vendor having B2B experience. If you want to publish a consumer newsletter, then look for a company with a history of producing consumer newsletters. Also consider technological sophistication. If producing a client briefing online and executing broadcast e-mails to your clients is an important part of your bank's plans, then you ought to consider vendors who have demonstrated a significant online capability.

While you are at it, you might want to do a Web search for custom publication providers. Chances are any new providers you come up with won't have as strong a background in producing banking-related publications, but you might come across a provider that has some other unique capabilities that makes it worth considering.

Ask each outsource provider the following questions:

How knowledgeable are your writers and editors? Do they regularly attend conferences to keep up to date on financial services industry issues and to keep in touch with your target audience? How many years have your writers been covering the banking segment your publication will target?

Do you offer customized editorial content? Are you willing to customize stories, taking time to interview our bank's experts and our clients?

Will you develop a customized design and layout? Are you willing to develop a unique design that reflects and enhances our bank's market image?

What are your capabilities to deliver online communication services? Today, any serious provider of client briefing services ought to have the ability to provide online delivery of client briefings as well as paper versions. Also, can you execute broadcast e-mails notifying clients when each new edition is published?

What is the full range of services that you offer? Many providers can deliver a newsletter or magazine but may not be able to deliver a full range of marketing communication services such as readership surveys, reader response cards, brochures, article writing and placement, client success stories, expert profiles and monthly online news content for your bank's Web page.

Step 3: Establish a newsletter startup action plan.

To ensure that your custom publication is well thought out and well focused, you ought to go through the following exercises:

Establish a purpose statement. A purpose statement defines what the newsletter is supposed to accomplish. When making any major decision regarding your client briefing, you should measure whether that decision is in sync with your purpose statement. A typical purpose statement might read: "The purpose of this client briefing is to educate readers about important industry issues, to make them more aware of our products, services and capabilities, and to elevate their perception of our bank's ability to provide world-class financial products and services."

Define a target audience. Describe your target reader in terms of the type of customer he or she is. You will want to define retail clients in terms of services used, dollars on deposit, and what additional services you hope to sell them. A business client would be defined by job title or function, size of company and type of business (manufacturing, services, retail, wholesale, etc.). Once you have defined your target audience, developing editorial content to match the interests of that audience becomes much easier.

Determine length and frequency. Length: Two-page client communications are a quick read, thus they tend to have higher readership. However, four-pagers, six-pagers and eight-pagers provide more information and the opportunity to promote more products and services. Frequency: As mentioned above, experts recommend at least a quarterly frequency to maintain a significant market presence.

Establish the editorial "flavor." Most banks prefer the soft-sell approach. This is where a publication makes readers aware of a significant development in the financial services industry, and also lets them know that the bank can help them respond to that development. Others prefer the direct-sell approach, where stories announce the availability of new bank products and discuss their benefits in some detail. Yet other financial institutions use a generic strategy, in which stories provide information on industry issues but make little or no mention of the provider's products.

Set the design parameters. This includes selecting paper type, weight and color, ink colors and a design "style" (twocolumn format vs. three-column, etc.).

Select a title. Your publication's title should reflect both your institution's style and the target audience with which you are communicating. Ask your bank's attorneys to do the necessary copyright research to clear use of the title.

Establish an editorial lineup. Using your purpose statement as a reference point, establish a story lineup for the first several issues of your newsletter.

Establish your level of online commitment. Today, most banks publish their newsletters online as well as in paper format. Some banks are reducing their print and distribution costs by having their internal bank audience view the newsletter online while sending paper copies to clients and prospects. Some banks have gone a step further and are publishing online-only newsletter editions, and are sending out e-mail notices to clients and prospects whenever a new edition is posted for viewing.

Step 4: Measure results and manage expectations.

Before you move forward with your client briefing, you need to carefully establish specific goals you want to accomplish with the publication, and those goals should be reflected in the mission statement noted above. You ought to state those goals in quantifiable terms. Then, at a future dare, review your results to see how well your publication is measuring up to its goals.

It isn't realistic to measure a publication's effectiveness solely in terms of increased sales, although a comparison of sales before and two years after your publication's launch would be one measuring stick. Your publication should also benefit your bank in other subtle ways. Stories about new product launches and client success stories can speed up the sales cycle, helping you to close more sales, faster, as readers become more familiar with your institution's products. Assuming all other factors remain the same, client retention rates ought to improve as your publication reminds clients that they made the right decision by banking with your institution. Your client briefing should raise your bank's visibility among your clients as you get your name in front of them more often and make them more aware of not only your institution's capabilities but also its unique corporate identity--what sets your bank apart from other financial providers.

Periodic reader surveys can help quantify how good a job your publication is doing. You might want to survey your client base at the launch of your publication and again one year and two years later. Those survey results will give you some indication of how the newsletter is being received and to what extent it is enhancing your institution's image in the eyes of your clients.

If generating increased sales is a major objective, you will probably want to build response vehicles into your publication that will make it easier to identify clients when they are in the buying mode. Including response cards is one option. Another is each time you publish an article related to a specific bank product or service, having available an additional brochure or some other giveaway that readers can call or e-mail to request. The more reasons you give readers to contact you, the easier it will be for you to identify those who are most likely to immediately buy additional services from your institution.

RELATED ARTICLE: Comparison of Alternative Communication Channels

How do the costs of custom client publications compare with other marketing alternatives? When evaluating the cost of your custom publication program, consider not only the total cost but also the cost per contact--and then how that cost per contact compared to alternative means of communicating with your clients and prospects.

Below is a table outlines some "ballpark" costs of a client briefing newsletter--produced in both a paper and online format--as well as the costs of various other vehicles banks commonly use to communicate with their clients and prospects. Don't consider each alternative as all or nothing. Instead, you should consider your client briefing as one element--certainly one of your most important elements--in a client communications program that also includes in-person sales calls and advertising as well as conference participation and other communications alternatives.
Method Breadth of Exposure

In-Person Sales Calls 500 contacts per calling
 officer per year

Publication Advertising Up to 10,000 exposures to
 target clients/prospects


Direct-Mail Ads 10,000 per mailing



Conference Speaking 200 per conference
 breakout session


Conference Exhibiting 1,000 target clients and
 prospects per conference


Article Placement 10,000 target clients and
 prospects per article

Client Newsletter (4 pages) 10,000 target clients and
 prospects per edition



Method Total Cost

In-Person Sales Calls $1 million to make
 2,000 in-person calls

Publication Advertising Total cost for development
 of one ad and four
 ad placements: $34,000

Direct-Mail Ads $16,000 for ad development,
 printing and mailing


Conference Speaking $4,500 for presentation
 preparation plus
 conference expenses

Conference Exhibiting $20,000 total exhibit
 related expenses


Article Placement $2,300 per article


Client Newsletter (4 pages) $15,000 per issue to
 print mail, post online and
 e-mail to 10,000 target
 clients and prospects.

Method Cost per Qualified Contact

In-Person Sales Calls $500 per in-person call assuming
 2,000 calls per year

Publication Advertising $3.40 per contact to reach up
 to 10,000 target readers


Direct-Mail Ads $1.60 per contact assuming
 distribution to 10,000 target
 readers

Conference Speaking $23 per contact assuming
 200 target clients and
 prospects in audience

Conference Exhibiting $20 per contact assuming
 1,000 contacts with target clients
 and prospects per conference

Article Placement 23 cents per contact assuming
 10,000 target readers

Client Newsletter (4 pages) $1.50 per contact assuming
 distribution to 10,000 target
 clients and prospects


Source: Financial Services Publishing Co.


Vince DiPaolo is president of Financial Publishing Services Co., Northfield, Ill., a provider of communication services that specializes in both paper and online bank-to-business client communications. E-mail: vinced7690@aol.com Telephone: (847)-501-4120..Website: www.fpsc.com.

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COPYRIGHT 2002 Bank Marketing Assn.
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Copyright 2002 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Comment:Fine print: customized newsletters and magazines are a cost-effective way for a bank to get its message across. Below are the ABCs of publishing periodicals. (Fundamentals).
Author:DiPaolo, Vince
Publication:ABA Bank Marketing
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2002
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