Although numerous websites and e-commerce businesses today still earn tons of money from their newsletter subscribers and mailing lists, it's getting harder and harder for small business owners to successfully use the same newsletter strategy for marketing.
Moreover, if you consider the fact that by 2017 two-thirds of the world's mobile data traffic is projected to be video (Cisco), that doesn't bode well for those hoping to build a customer base from their newsletter subscribers.
Even so, you shouldn't conclude that newsletter marketing is inevitably losing its effectiveness. Rather, it simply means you need to be more resourceful, creative, and goal-oriented with your approach.
Pay Attention to Your Wording
Many terms frequently used in reference to newsletter marketing have been replaced with those less reminiscent of spam.
- You don't opt-in or sign up. These days, you register.
- You don't just passively receive emails when you join a mailing list. Instead you acquire access.
Such changes are meant to imply that the newsletter you're offering is different because it's rich in value and substance. It's something your target market would be eager to take advantage of rather than take for granted.
My Newsletter Experience
I started offering a newsletter in December 2012, just a little after my first four romance novels came out in Amazon. At the time of this writing, seven months later, I have more than 600 subscribers. It may not sound much—especially if you compare it with the subscription lists of industry giants—but for a mid-list author like me, it's a pretty good figure, especially if you consider the following:
- New subscribers frequently email me to send them old issues.
- I have only had one subscriber opt out, and that was the time when over a month had passed by without a new issue.
- I receive immediate and positive feedback from subscribers via comments on my website and Facebook page.
My Target Market
I have to say up front that readers are not your ordinary kind of consumer. After all, you don't hear consumers waxing lyrical about, say, the latest SEO technique. Or at least they don't do it the way bibliophiles can go on and on about their favorite books.
Yet, at the end of the day, readers are still consumers. It's more than possible that the factors that made readers look forward to my newsletter may also be applied to your own subscription list—regardless of what business or industry you are in.
One of the reasons subscribers or readers have wanted to receive old issues is that they contain exclusive sneak peeks, excerpts, and other types of information that you wouldn't find anywhere else online.
Since I'm the author, I'm automatically in control of what kind of information about my books may be available on the Internet—and it's the kind of information that people would literally have to steal from my computer just to get access to.
Of course, the situation gets tricky when you're offering the kind of content that's available elsewhere. You can't very well say you're the only florist offering a newsletter subscription that's chockfull of advice about floral arrangements. What you can say, however, is that you're offering a unique or fresh spin on the usual tips and tricks.
For example: other florists may also talk about floral arrangements in their newsletters, but you could be the only one at present discussing floral arrangements reminiscent of Ancient Greek weddings or floral arrangements that also make use of ornamental rocks.
How unique your spins are will depend on your expertise, creativity, and your willingness to research. Be diligent in finding unique and refreshing spins for newsletter content, and you'll never have to coerce anyone to joining your mailing list.
If you can't promise exclusive access, then maybe you can promise subscribers the next best thing: the privilege to be one of the "first" to enjoy access to your content.
I've done this myself by doing cover reveals on my newsletters. Obviously, I can't promise to make my book covers exclusive, but the results are the same, with my readers more than happy enough to be one of the first to see and talk about my covers online.
But, again, it all depends on the quality of what you're offering; if it's not something your subscribers would be excited about, then they won't care about being the "first" to see them.
Incentives and Bonuses
Another promise I made to subscribers is that by simply joining my subscription list, one of them automatically stands a chance of enjoying a free copy of my latest release. Once again, incentives, bonuses, freebies, and gifts work only if they're something your subscribers truly want. It's even better to give away stuff that your subscribers would still actually buy if they don't win in your contest.
In my case, I gave away free copies of my e-books because they are what readers wanted. I also think that e-books, modules, or online courses are the best incentives to offer because...
- They are free to develop and distribute.
- They can be used to further promote your brand or business.
- They can be considered valuable even if they didn't cost you a penny to develop.
Of course, it's great if you have a marketing budget that allows you to offer cash prizes, gift certificates, and product samples. However, you shouldn't do that all the time. If you do, it could backfire: Your subscribers might become so used to such giveaways that they're no longer excited about it. Having readers think of your giveaways as routine defeats the purpose.
If you are concerned about the quality of the digital product you'd be offering as incentive, keep in mind that you always have the option of outsourcing your needs. Hire professionals to come up with first-class exclusive digital content for your business.
Always Tempt, Never Force
Subscribers should never be forced or pressured into registering. They're only likely to unsubscribe after one or two issues if you had to twist their arms before joining. With my newsletter, I made sure to sum up the various reasons signing up would be beneficial for them:
- A promise not to bombard their inboxes with emails
- A commitment to delivering quality content (I can't emphasize enough the need for providing readers with information they'd otherwise actually actively search online for.)
- A chance to win free e-books as well as enjoy exclusive access or "first" privileges
Make It Easy to Register
Don't be satisfied with having a sign-up button on your website. If possible, include a link to the sign-up page for your newsletter on all your signatures, resource boxes, and author bios online. If you can integrate the sign-up form with your Facebook page, then so much the better! (Note: I've done all of those things with a free account from a popular newsletter service provider.)
When you combine all the tips above, coming up with a successful newsletter marketing campaign may seem like a tall order. However, it all boils down to one thing: The most popular newsletters always deliver high-quality content that meets the needs of the market. Do that, and people will realize the value of what you're offering sooner or later. They'll not only register for your newsletter's subscription list—but they'll keep asking for more!