Three Newsletters That Sell

By Paul Soltoff | Posted August 07, 2003

In my last column, I discussed the strategic value of utilizing e-mail newsletters to break through the clutter and develop an ongoing relationship with subscribers. Now, I'll share with you some exemplary newsletters that make the grade. I'll profile three excellent examples: HSI e-Alert, Webmaster Tips & Tricks, and POWEReZINE.

I've selected these because they're outstanding in terms of the quality and quantity of the content, two important factors in keeping people's attention and generating sales opportunities.

HSI e-Alert
HSI e-Alert is a health-oriented newsletter with 275,000 subscribers, published since 2001. According to publisher Jenny Thompson, the goal is to build rapport with people so they eventually become paid subscribers, as well as to sell health products such as books, supplements, and reports. It also sells ad space.

"[The newsletter] has surpassed our goals in every way," says Thompson. "We learned that customers appreciate the contact and the valuable content, and that a deep relationship with your readers is the best resource you can have in our business."

Two other important lessons were learned, she adds. "Be prepared for the customer service demands of going online if you've been in print. Don't assume that people don't want to hear from you often. A lack of frequency is worse for you and your customer."

Each HSI e-Alert issue averages about five pages and includes one or two ads. One of the newsletter's more popular features is HSI Forum, which details real-life experiences of subscribers.

A recent Forum began with this intriguing copy:

If your doctor told you that, "You could have a heart attack tomorrow," and recommended that as soon as possible you should have an angiogram (an X-ray representation of blood vessels made after the injection of a radiopaque substance), what would you do?

If you have any interest in your health, that's almost impossible to ignore.

In addition to the main Forum article, HSI e-Alert runs four smaller headlines, each with a link to the full story. Past headlines include the clever "Lose Up To 5 Pounds A Week With Chocolate?" and "Under The Boardwalk." All the content draws upon member experiences and/or credentialed panelists and contributors, which creates a sense of community.

What stands out is HSI's attention to copy. Instead of, "The results of the latest Women's Health Initiative study were released today," it ran, "The medical mainstream was in for a shock this week when the results were released on the latest Women's Health Initiative study of synthetic hormone replacement therapy (HRT)." How could you not read further?

Other notable HSI e-Alert features: All links are summarized at the end of the newsletter for easy reference. Instructions are provided on how to participate in the Forum and how to search the archives (for members only). There's a well-worded privacy policy, clear unsubscribe instructions, and a phone number. In short, there's every reason to believe you're reading quality content.

Click here to subscribe to HSI e-Alert.

POWEReZINE
POWEReZINE has been published by Tampa Electric for about a year. It provides small businesses in the utility's service area with information about the local business community that can't be found elsewhere, at least not in one place. This in turn helps the utility succeed and aids economic development of the service area.

POWEReZINE's 8,241 subscribers receive a monthly update with links to the Web site, where all content is housed. Tampa Electric doesn't sell products directly, but there are concrete, customer-focused objectives.

"We have had good feedback that indicates [POWEReZINE] is achieving its objectives, and we have good traffic numbers," says editor Dave Szymanski. "People are connecting with people [and] sales are happening because people now know where to go and who to see in the business community to make things happen with their own businesses."

Monthly updates include up to eight headline links to the balance of the article. You're directed right to the story, not the home page, a basic best practice.

Links are provided to other pages, such as Resources and Events. You can easily reach Szymanski. He provides his e-mail address and desk and cell phone numbers, which I find refreshing. Updates are provided in two formats, a digest and an index.

POWEReZINE also includes profiles of local businesspeople alongside hard news and events of local and regional interest. The copy is engaging, and local businesses are encouraged to link to the site. That helps generate traffic and subscribers.

Click here to subscribe to POWEReZINE.

Webmaster Tips & Tricks
Published twice monthly by Bravenet.com, three-year-old Webmaster Tips & Tricks boasts a subscriber base of 1.1 million. Goals of this publication are:

  • Provide useful and functional suggestions and ideas to help new and experienced Webmasters with the construction, maintenance, and enhancement of their own Web sites.

  • Provide a credible venue for partners and advertisers to present their offerings.

  • Provide a venue to promote member feedback that will assist in improving services.

  • Reinforce brand recognition for Bravenet.

"Tips & Tricks continues to meet every goal we set. The feedback from our members helps us to continually raise the bar on standards, relevance, and content," says Steve Dougan, traffic and inventory manager. "By providing a high-quality product, consistently, readers develop a belief and trust for the entire fabric of the business and the business owners. As a natural result, customer loyalty develops with the effect of customers becoming more willing to believe in the products offered and lessen the buying decision anxiety."

This very colorful, stylish newsletter boasts quality content and illustrations. It's integrated advertising in a nonobtrusive manner.

Dougan's advice for newsletter publishers: Listen to readers.

"Listening is the single biggest lesson. We provide a quality product that people want; the success of the product can only improve by listening to the recipients of the product," he says. "Give your members what they expect. If they have subscribed to a specific newsletter that deals with a particular subject matter, ensure you remain true to that. The advertising or products that are offered through the newsletters should be relevant to the subject matter; preferably, tie in your articles directly to the products to achieve better click-through rate and conversion rate."

Click here to subscribe to Webmaster Tips & Tricks.

Great Newsletter Content Creates Valuable Selling Tool
These publishers and editors claim open rates range from 20 to 80 percent, depending on newsletter content. Everyone I spoke to connected with the above newsletters reports program satisfaction, confirming newsletters with great content really are valuable selling tools.

There you have it. Three newsletters, each reaching a different audience, all doing a great job of selling. All three have solid subscriber bases. Their readers look forward to receiving the publications and actually prefer the frequency of information.

If your products or services lend themselves to interesting content, I strongly recommend you develop a newsletter to acquire and retain valued subscribers and customers.

Adapted from ClickZ.com.

Paul Soltoff is the chief executive officer of SendTec, the parent company of DirectNet Advertising (DNA) and iFactz, and has more than 20 years of direct marketing experience on both the client and agency side. SendTec provides results-oriented direct marketing solutions for acquiring, retaining and communicating to customers through digital advertising; direct response television; patent-pending e-mail/Web convergence technologies; performance media, and media buying services. SendTec represents clients and advertising agencies such as AOL, National Geographic, AARP, Grey Worldwide, Cosmetmque, DBD Needham, Shell Oil, National Geographic, and IBM.

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