Think Like a Publisher, Part 2

I last supplied a little perspective on how thinking of yourself as a publisher lends more validity to your newsletter efforts. What follows are a few more tidbits to tuck under your publisher’s hat.

Tidbit No. 1: Define Your Priorities

When I worked in the print world, I lived by three words as a publisher: attract, acquire, and retain. The online world is no different. Every publisher must focus on attracting, acquiring, and retaining subscribers not only to survive as a publisher but also to give momentum and ongoing life to a newsletter.

It’s critical to keep updating your marketing plan with ideas on how to add fresh prospects to your subscriber base, with the ultimate goal of turning those you attract to your business into customers. Once you’ve convinced these potential prospects to subscribe (and you’ve acquired their names), the goal then becomes retention. This is the essence of newsletter strategy and planning. The only way you can turn readers into customers is by retaining their interest by understanding and respecting their priorities, needs, and expectations.

How do you retain your readers’ interest? Supply the content they want.

Tidbit No. 2: Retention Through Content

I’ve said it before: Too often, content is treated as an afterthought, something to fill in the gaps between graphic design elements and online order forms. It’s regularly not considered worthy of strategic planning and careful consideration, let alone a significant investment of money or other resources.

Newsletters that stand out from the crowd come from publishers who place the very highest priority on addressing these interests and needs in the meat of their newsletters and companion microsites. Thoughtfully planned and prepared content makes a major difference in how readers view your site. It’s no longer an advertisement. It becomes a critical resource for readers, one that retains and builds loyalty over time.

Online audiences instinctively perceive slapped-together, superficial, or marketing-focused newsletters as inferior options for their precious time and attention. Such newsletters reflect poorly on the organizations that publish them. They don’t retain readers for long.

How do you serve up a meaty, well-thought out, comprehensive newsletter that keeps your readers coming back, issue after issue? Put a plan together that includes a handful of these formats:

  • Backgrounders: Backgrounders give you an opportunity to discuss nuts and bolts from an in-depth perspective, focusing on how different products work or perhaps how various technologies or services compare.

  • Case histories: Customer-focused stories explain how various types of businesses use your services and products to make a difference in their business and how to make them succeed.
  • Surveys: Surveys help you keep in touch with readers and understand what keeps them up at night. When you ask readers’ opinions, surveys let your audience know you care about them.
  • Letters to the Editor: This format is a great way to let readers share their enthusiasms and concerns others, and it helps build community.
  • Quizzes: An educational quiz, such as “Guess why this product is better for promotions?” challenges as well as teaches readers.
  • Free advice specifically for you: An “evaluate your product or service needs” questionnaire can be used to help readers determine what product might work for specific situations. After filling out the form, they receive a list of options to consider.
  • Market or statistical information: A pie chart can show which products are most commonly used in different market segments.
  • Pure entertainment: Everyone likes a little comic relief. A daily or weekly joke can be a successful attraction. It can prove particularly helpful drawing repeat visitors. Jokes can be archived in a humor library.
  • Helpful advice: These articles should be useful to a wide audience without being so basic as to condescend to most readers.

A final thought on retention and content: To really hold onto readers, don’t be afraid to take a bold (but smart) risk on the content you offer and the formats above, as well as others. Try something that virtually demands experimentation, that gets you beyond brochureware and blatant commercials. It’s a risk that always yields rewards.

Have a safe and happy holiday! Be sure to email me any comments.

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