You may not think a pre-school can teach you much about marketing, but the Creative Play Center, a co-operative preschool and junior kindergarten in Pleasant Valley, Calif., has the newsletter to do just that.

That wasn’t the case a year and a half ago.

“We had a newsletter, but no one was really reading it, and it wasn’t the resource we thought it could be,” explains volunteer Espe Greenwood, who has children attending the Creative Play Center.

So, she decided to shake things up for the 70-year-old school by completely transforming the online newsletter, called The Chatter. The transition made a huge difference — a once little-used resource was suddenly being opened by up to 85% of contacts.

And it’s because of that growth that the Creative Play Center was named a 2011 Constant Contact All Star.

How did Espe manage such a sharp transition? In part, it’s because she diligently followed the ABCs of email marketing.

Asking members about newsletter content

The tagline for The Chatter is: “Creative Play Center’s Newsletter & One Stop Information Resource!” Since Espe took it over, that’s exactly what it has been.

“It’s become the number-one resource for information for parents and families,” she reports. “We have a website with plenty of information, but for parents who are sending their children to the school every day, it’s where they can find out what’s going on and how they can help.”

To make sure parents know that this is their resource, the Creative Play Center recently sent out a survey to all of its contacts to ask, “What do you want to see in yournewsletter?”

The response was phenomenal, and The Chatter has even become a topic of discussion at PTA meetings for the school.

“We include everything from information about events and parties or festivals, to class and meeting schedules, to membership information, and phone numbers and contact information,” Espe says. “Parents like to be able to stay connected.”

Building relevant newsletters

One of the problems that Espe identified with The Chatter was in the length of the articles and the amount of content.

“One of the first things I did was to streamline the size of the articles,” she recalls. “We want it to be a one-stop place for information, but it also has to be readable, so we keep articles short and to the point.”

Espe cut down lengthy articles to only include the most pertinent information, and then linked readers to websites and online flyers for more info and details. She also inserted a sidebar with schedules and “quick links.”

The Chatter (February 2012): Espe always includes a helpful introduction for readers and quick links in the sidebar that connect parents with helpful resources.

Controlling a contact list

Every year, classes at the Creative Play Center come and go, and Espe updates her list accordingly, moving older students to an “alumni” list, and segmenting other contacts by grade levels.

Last Fourth of July, the Creative Play Center sponsored a float in the town’s parade. Wanting to make sure that everyone had a chance to participate in the festivities, Espe reached out to all parents whose children had gone to the Creative Play Center, and she saw many families were excited to come back to represent the school.

The Chatter is only sent to the parents of current students, but we have a tight community and we always like to keep all parents involved,” she says. “Plus, a lot of these young parents might grow their families and could come back to the school five years later.”

Learning your A, B, Cs

As you can see, sometimes it really is as easy as A, B, C!

Still don’t think a preschool can teach you anything about email marketing? Identify three things that you can improve on your next email and see how you score. Stick to your ABCs, be creative, and see how many people start reading and sharing.

Lessons we all should have learned in preschool.

What lessons have you learned from your own email marketing program? Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below.