Getting Started And Is A Newsletter For You?

By Clint Hawkins
Owner Hawkins Arms LLC,
AGI Pro Course Graduate, GCA Member

Four years ago, while taking a SBA (Small Business Administration) course conducted by our local community college called the SBDC (Small Business Development Course), one of the key things promoted by the mentor working with me on my business plan was this:

Publish a newsletter for your potential and existing clientele.

When I got associated with Gene Kelly and the great staff at the American Gunsmithing Institute, the word I heard from Gene was this:

Publish a newsletter for your potential and existing clientele.

When I finally got my business going, I looked at lots of ways to advertise. Phone book yellow pages were expensive. The local Penny Saver or Thrifty Nickel papers were not cheap. Word of mouth is great, but it needs clientele to do it. I didn’t want to get a phone company business line to get a “free” listing because those are expensive, too. In other words, I was cheap. Well, let’s just say my budget was limited. So I decided to:

Publish a newsletter for my potential and existing clientele.

(I’m starting to see a pattern here — ed.)

hawkins1So, how did I get started? First of all, computers with the new high-resolution printers are wonderful. I design and print all my letterheads, envelopes and business cards on my computer. Avery makes a clean break business card sheet that produces a card that looks as if it were cut. It looks very professional. To get started, I published a flyer announcing my new business to distribute to all the sporting goods stores that included firearms and/or ammunition sales, pawnshops, and other stores that supported shooters. I printed about a thousand one-sided sheets that briefly told who I was, what I did, where I was and that I was ready for them to give me a try.

After about three months of being in business, I decided it was time to publish my first newsletter. The masthead, or banner, was loosely based on my stationary letterhead that I also printed from my computer. Several things seemed to be important to incorporate in the format. I include these, though not necessarily in order of importance.

First was an editorial to give my views on current subjects not ordinarily in the news, but nonetheless newsworthy that seemed important at the time. Second was to provide timely tips to hunters in preparing their guns for the season, or considerations on self-defense. Third was to bring out points of law affecting gun owners. A little humor here and there might make it a little more enjoyable. Art, graphics and photographs would add a splash of variety and color. The Internet provides a terrific source of material to facilitate these ideas.

hawkins2Here is a sampling of a couple of newsletter front pages.

In addition to these ideas, was another problem that I needed to solve. How was I going to distribute these newsletters? My clientele was too small to consider bulk mailing. First class postage would be too expensive. Remember, I am cheap! I needed help!

Well, the obvious answer was putting them out at the counters of the businesses related to firearms. Why would they want to do that? Hmm. Why, do some advertising for them. In return for their being willing to carry my business card and newsletter, I would offer them a free spot in my newsletter. So, a Merchant Page came into being, made up of copies of their business card or what such a card might look like if they had one. At the bottom is a phrase asking my clients to patronize these businesses. Each merchant’s spot has a space for their own specials should they choose to do so. Not many have, but all of them like the idea of this consideration. A few have even thanked me for sending business their way.

I knew I was on the right track when, shortly after the first edition was out, a new client came in and said, “I just read your newsletter. When are you coming out with the next one?” I replied that they would come out about every three or four months and reminded him that the banner said, “Published Occasionally”.

Several months ago, I was testing some guns at the range when a man came up to me and asked, “Aren’t you Clint Hawkins?” I told him that I was, whereupon he exclaimed, “I’ve read your newsletter. I figure that anyone who would publish a newsletter has got to be a good gunsmith!” Who was I to argue?

hawkins3Other sources of material are the Department of Natural Resources or Fish and Wildlife Department or your states equivalents. I cut and paste pertinent information straight over and reformat font and point size to fit my allowed space. I also have gotten permission from Gene Kelly to use some of his editorials as Guest Editor. I always send him a copy for approval before publishing. I am now inviting reader’s input as contributing authors.

It is fun to do. They are published as I have the time to put them together. I use two sheets of paper, making three pages plus the merchant’s page. I print about 250 copies and take them to a local copy shop to have them collated, stapled and folded. The last page always has a list of my services, certifications, memberships, etc.

Have fun with yours, I think you will find them profitable.

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