For many marketers, the fastest way to build a house list of opt-in e-mail names and addresses—an absolute necessity for online marketing—is with the offer of a free subscription to an online newsletter or e-zine.
A variety of online marketing tools are used to drive potential customers to a Web page where they can sign up for a free subscription to your e-zine in exchange for giving you their e-mail address. You can also ask for their name, which allows you to personalize future e-mails you send to them.
These traffic-building methods include such things as contextual marketing pop-unders, banner ads, online ads in e-zines reaching similar audiences, e-mail marketing, pay per click advertising, and search engine optimization of the e-zine sign-up Web site. The acquisition cost per subscriber can range from $1 to $5 a name, depending on the method used and the market targeted.
Generally, the larger and more targeted your subscriber list, the more profitable your online marketing will be. After all, a clickthrough rate of one percent to 1,000 subscribers will bring you 10 visitors to your landing page; but if you have a million subscribers, a 1% CTR will generate 10,000 visits.
But for your e-zine to work as an online marketing tool, subscribers must not only sign up; they must also read and open your e-newsletters. If they don’t open the current issue, they can’t respond to any of the ads or offers you make in it. And if they don’t read it on an ongoing basis, they will eventually unsubscribe, and you will lose them as an online prospect. In my experience, the best e-zines—those with the highest open, read, and clickthrough rates—are those that present useful how-to tips in short, bite-size chunks, the more practical and actionable the better.
Your e-zine is not the place to pontificate on business philosophy or explain complex technology; you can send your subscribers to Web pages and downloadable white papers that cover those topics.
Instead, readers love e-zine articles that tell them how to do something useful, and do so in just a few concise paragraphs.
A manager for a company that sells information on safety to HR managers publishes a regular e-zine on safety and other HR issues. He reports that his best-read article of all time was, “10 Ways to Reduce Eye Strain at Your PC.”
Here’s what I’ve found makes the ideal e-zine article (many of these ideas are borrowed from my colleague, Ilise Benun, of www.artofselfpromotion.com). Here are Ilise’s guidelines for writing effective tips:
1. Think of yourself as a conduit. Your job is to pass useful information along to those who can use it.
2. Pay close attention to questions, problems and ideas that come up when you’re doing your work or interacting with clients.
3. Distill the lesson (or lessons) into a tip that you can share with your network, via email or snail mail or even in simple conversation.
4. State the problem or situation as an introduction to your tip. Distill it down into its essence.
5. Give the solution. Tips are action-oriented. So make sure you give a couple of action steps to take.
6. Describe the result or benefit of using these tips to provide some incentive to take the action.
7. Include tools the reader can use without doing any work, phrases they can use verbatim, boilerplate clauses, checklists, forms, and so on. 8. List Web sites and other resources where readers can go for more info.
9. Put your best tip first, in case people don’t read the whole thing—because sometimes even really short tips are too much.
Can you stray from this formula? Of course. My e-zine, The Direct Response Letter, uses many different types of articles including book reviews, quotations, news items, and new product announcements.
But take a tip from me: When you’re putting together your next e-zine issue, remember that nothing gains the reader’s interest and attention like solid how-to tips. Bob Bly, a freelance copywriter specializing in direct marketing, is the author of 60 books including The Online Copywriter’s Handbook (McGraw-Hill). He may be reached online at e-mail email@example.com. His Web site is www.bly.com.