Newsletters continue to serve as an effective way for businesses, from retailers to B2B services, to stay in touch with their customers. In my last column, I shared the simple but powerful technique of using point-of-action assurances to convert more visitors into taking the actions you want them to take - such as using the words "we value your privacy" anywhere you want someone to provide you with their e-mail address. Here are some other tips you can use to increase and retain newsletter subscribers:
Provide a sample: Add a link that opens up a sample newsletter like CafePress.com. It's a great way of setting expectations of what your subscribers will receive.
Acquire subscribers at seducible moments: One of the best times to capture that newsletter opt-in is immediately after your visitor has taken an action they found valuable. Too few retailers use their "Thank You for Ordering" page to acquire subscribers. Instead, many retailers add it as an option in the shopping cart; that adds friction and one more decision in the checkout process that can give visitors pause. By the way, ensure you test variations of this call to action.
Offer a bribe: Don't just ask them to subscribe; give them a valuable reason why. Offer them a free white paper, a super coupon, an exclusive invitation, etc. Make sure you establish the value of this offer as well. Notice how my friend Larry Chase offers you his Social Media Marketing Guide and established a $29.95 value for it.
Remember, segmentation and relationships are key: One newsletter rarely fits all. Your visitors have different interests, different threshold requirements for taking action, and different moments in their buying process. You probably shouldn't send your previous customers the same newsletter you send people who have never bought from you. You must nurture relationships and provide key content and offers at the right times in the visitor life cycle. One easy segmentation for existing customers is to use RFM analysis to send out different offers. You can also offer different newsletters related to different product categories or business roles. You can see how ClickZ offers several different options here. Although, for your business you may want to test capturing the e-mail address first and then offer them the segmentation to a separate newsletter on the next step.
Ensure your e-mail preview is engaging: If you want to retain your visitors, you must ensure they open and read your newsletters. An easy approach is to make sure your e-mail template is formatted well for preview in the various e-mail clients. If your e-mail looks like a bunch of empty boxes with red Xs, fewer people will open it and read it. In the one to two seconds that a person scans an e-mail, if she can't figure out the value she'll delete it. Compare the two e-mails from my inbox below and decide which one you are more likely to allow the download of images.
It's not all about offers; it's about great content: Want the secret to keeping thousands of subscribers for years on end? Look for those that have successful mailings. You must think like a publisher, whether you are a retailer or a B2B (define) service or a technology provider. Newsletters like ClickZ, Ralph Wilson's Web Digest for Marketers, or Larry Chase's WDFM are newsletters that I've maintained my subscriptions to since the mid to late '90s. Why? Since they focus on providing excellent relevant content, they have changed formats over time and they allow me to get the content in the way I want to get it. I don't need to remind you of the expression that "content is king." But keep in mind: If you provide me content related to a topic I am interested in, I am more likely to open your newsletter on a regular basis than if you only send me offers that I will open only when I am in the market for your product.
If a subscriber opts out, offer to change frequency: There will come a time when your subscriber has had enough of your mailings. Make it easy for her to unsubscribe, but when she arrives at your unsubscribe page offer her the ability to change the frequency from a weekly mailing to a monthly mailing. Offer her to opt in to a more "select" or segmented newsletter. Give one last chance to stay engaged.
Use these seven simple tips to increase your newsletter subscribers, keep producing valuable content, and find ways to engage people where they are in their buying process and building long-term relationships instead of focusing on your sales and one-off offers. You'll build a newsletter list to rival your competitors. Remember, the money is always in the list!
Bryan Eisenberg is coauthor of the Wall Street Journal, Amazon, BusinessWeek, and New York Times bestselling books "Call to Action," "Waiting For Your Cat to Bark?," and "Always Be Testing." Bryan is a professional marketing speaker and has keynoted conferences globally such as SES, Shop.org, Direct Marketing Association, MarketingSherpa, Econsultancy, Webcom, SEM Konferansen Norway, the Canadian Marketing Association, and others. In 2010, Bryan was named a winner of the Direct Marketing Educational Foundation's Rising Stars Awards, which recognizes the most talented professionals 40 years of age or younger in the field of direct/interactive marketing. He is also cofounder and chairman emeritus of the Web Analytics Association. Bryan serves as an advisory board member of SES Conference & Expo, the eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit, and several venture capital backed companies. He works with his coauthor and brother Jeffrey Eisenberg. You can find them at BryanEisenberg.com.