Now that you’ve got a newsletter with a few hundred (thousand?) subscribers, how do you turn that into an attractive marketing opportunity for sponsors to reach your readers?
For more information about publishing your own newsletter, check out these other articles from Alexis Gutzman’s ongoing weekly series:
Publishing Your Own Newsletter
Publishing Your Own Newsletter: Part 2
Publishing Your Own Newsletter: Part 3
Publishing Your Own Newsletter: Part 4
Publishing Your Own Newsletter: Part 5
Publishing Your Own Newsletter: Part 6
Publishing Your Own Newsletter: Part 7
Publishing Your Own Newsletter: Part 8
Publishing Your Own Newsletter: Part 9
Publishing Your Own Newsletter: Part 10
Publishing Your Own Newsletter: Part 11
Publishing Your Own Newsletter: Part 12
Lining up sponsors isn’t just about putting ads in your newsletter, it’s about cultivating an entirely new set of customers: sponsors.
Sponsors Are Your New Customers
The first 11 parts of this series have been about making your newsletter attractive to readers and informative and profitable for you. Sponsors have entirely different demands from your customers. On the practical side, sponsors will expect your newsletters to go out when you promise they will.
Sponsors will typically pay more for double opt-in subscribers than for single opt-in subscribers. Double opt-in is what Internet.com uses – after providing an email address on the Web site, subscribers have to reply to an email message in order to be subscribed. This way no one can inflate the list by subscribing friends. Single opt-in simply requires subscribers to leave an email address on a Web site, or send a subscribe message to the administrator.
Subscribers will want to know who your audience is. To some degree, this will be obvious from the content of the newsletter. A newsletter about having a healthy pregnancy is probably going out to health-conscious pregnant (or trying-to-get-pregnant) women. On the other hand, an e-business newsletter might be going to senior executives with Fortune 1000 companies, or middle managers, or even students in business school who want to learn more.
In order for you to tell sponsors who subscribes, you have to ask readers. There are several ways to go about collecting this information. You can require subscribers to give you some personal information when they subscribe – perhaps company name, industry, and size, and their own title and department. However, this might keep some people from subscribing in the first place. You can also run promotions and sweepstakes in exchange for extensive personal information. For example, offer an eBook chapter on a book that’s relevant to the newsletter or a chance to win a PDA in exchange for full contact information.
What Do Sponsors Want?
Sponsors want to reach an interested audience in their target market. There are many ways to keep an audience engaged. The best way is to offer high quality writing on topics that are relevant to the readership, with specific, actionable advice in every issue. Another trick (notice that this is Part 12 of this series) is to publish multi-part series so that readers will anticipate the next issue, save them all for later reference, and anyone who comes across one part will naturally go looking for the rest of the series.
An engaged reader will open the newsletter, trust the writer, and be likely to take the advice of the writer. Any ad that appears in this context is going to have more credibility than an ad that appears on a page with an article that’s unattributed. Readers assume that the publisher they trust wouldn’t run ads for lousy products or services.
How to Deliver Maximum Value to Sponsors?
Are you going to promote the sponsors’ products? What would that do to your credibility? Would it really make a difference to the sponsor? Chances are they don’t expect you to plug their solutions. On the other hand, if you have the opportunity to set up a free trial account with them (or they send you a sample of their product) and you like it, you can certainly mention it (occasionally) in context, without risking your credibility.
The value you provide your sponsors will be getting their message in front of a qualified audience in a credible format. Your sponsor will want to see open rates and click-through rates for their ads, but the success of the ad can’t be based on a single click-through number. I heard from Brett Hurt, Chairman of Coremetrics, after a prospective client told him he had heard about his solution from my book The E-Commerce Arsenal. Would that be the publishing equivalent of a click-through? How many companies’ purchase decisions has the book influenced? It would be impossible to count, since in many organizations the decision maker wouldn’t even know how his staff came up with a short list of vendors.
For larger solutions and most B2B applications click-through rates aren’t the goal. Most large B2B sales require either on-site visits or at least conversations between multiple parties in both organizations. If you’re selling digital music, count click-throughs. If you’re selling enterprise solutions, the math is more complex than that. Sponsors should know that.
Where to Find Sponsors?
You should have three criteria in mind when you line up sponsors:
- Their target audience overlaps with your subscribers.
- They have a product or service to sell.
- They have a marketing budget.
The first two are easy to discern. The third is much trickier. Even if they don’t have an online marketing budget, you can get them to move money between media, but if there’s no money for marketing, then you can’t get a slice of it.
Think of the kinds of problems your readers need to solve in conjunction with the problems your newsletter helps them solve. If you write about CRM, approach CRM vendors. If you write about gardening, approach garden-supply vendors.
The Media Kit
The standard format for selling your sponsors on your newsletter is a media kit. Check out the ones available from other publications in your industry. A typical media kit will show statistics about the readership, provide the number of subscribers, the specs for submitting an ad (text or graphics), the deadlines, and the cost. Expect to negotiate on cost. Most media kits list wildly inflated prices for running ads, and then are willing to negotiate (buy two, get two free or buy a subscription, get banner ads included, etc.) in order to avoid having an issue run without any ads at all.
Don’t be afraid to give some ad space away to convince potential sponsors of the value of the space. Make sure, however, that the space you give away is going to someone with a marketing budget. Otherwise, you’re just giving the space away.
Conclusion to the Series
In September of last year, I thought I would write a three-part series on publishing a newsletter, capitalizing my own experience launching a newsletter over last summer. Three parts quickly grew into twelve parts. I know many of you have used this information because of all the quality newsletters that have started appearing in my inbox!
Alexis D. Gutzman is an author, speaker, and consultant on e-business and e-commerce topics. She’s the producer of The Online Marketing Report. Her most recent book, The E-commerce Arsenal: 12 Technologies You Need to Prevail in the Digital Arena, was named one of the 30 best business books of this year. For up-to-date information about her research and speaking engagements, visit The Alexis Gutzman Group’s Web site.
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