Make Your Newsletter the One They Can’t Live Without


By Robert W. Bly




            As Bill Bonner of Agora Publishing is fond of pointing out, nobody wakes up in the morning, taps his or her significant other on the shoulder, and says, “Honey, let’s go out and buy some newsletters today.”

            People may read books or magazines for entertainment, but they rely on newsletters to deliver tangible value far in excess of the subscription price.

            How then do you make your newsletter indispensable (or at least less dispensable) to your subscribers -- the one publication they must have, even if they let all their other subscriptions lapse?

            I put the question to a group of successful newsletter publishers and marketers. Here are a few of their answers

            1. Generate a tremendous ROI (return on investment). The more benefits subscribers get from the newsletter, the less like they are to grumble about your high subscription fee come renewal time. “Find ways to make your product worth many times the subscription price in money generated, cost savings, time savings, freedom, peace of mind, fun, energy, and inspiration,” advises one publisher.         

            2. Make your credibility beyond question. Subscribers who have faith in the editor, writers, and publisher stick with the newsletter. “The information source must be someone I respect as an expert in their field,” says one subscriber.

            “Never let the customer down,” advises John Forde, a copywriter with Agora Publishing. “We stick with people because, net-net, they honor the trust we have placed in them.”

            Business-to-business newsletters can establish credibility by closely aligning themselves with major associations in their industry. “Partner with a high-profile industry association,” advises Tom McCave of Melcrum Publishing. “As long as editorial integrity and independence aren’t compromised, you can be seen as the industry mouthpiece and significantly increase your standing in the market.”

            3. Avoid the “information trap.” Too many promotion packages boast about the “information” the newsletter delivers.

            But that’s the last thing people want. We’re already drowning in information. And we can get all the information we want on the Web for free.

            What newsletter subscribers want is actionable ideas. Savvy strategies. Techniques that work. “News you can use.” Analysis and interpretation.

            Tip: Consider publishing case histories. “I meet with many Fortune 1000 CEOs and senior executives, and almost without exception their first question is, ‘So what’s my competition doing?’” says management consultant David Frey. “People want to know how other people have solved the same problems they are facing and what the post-implementation results were.”

            4. Appeal to the reader’s self-interest. As has been observed many times, everyone is tuned to the same radio station in their heads: WIIFM -- “What’s In It For Me?”

            When marketing a business-to-business newsletter, don’t just show how the publication benefits the subscriber’s company by increasing profits, boosting productivity, or controlling costs. Also show how doing these things helps the subscriber advance in her career, earn more money, and make her job more secure.

            Give subscribers what they want, not just what they need. According to copywriter Parris Lampropolous, “The newsletters that get read first and the ones that have the highest renewal rates are the ones that deal with interests and hobbies.”

            5. Differentiate yourself from all other competitors. Being different or unique is a powerful strategy for acquiring and retaining subscribers.

            “The secret is to provide something that no one else can provide,” says publisher Buddy Hayden, “or short of that, to provide a rare something which you do demonstrably better than anyone else.”

            “You’ve got to make the information you present each month seem like they’ve never heard it before,” says Sandy Frank, an investment newsletter publisher. “You’ve got to find a way to present copy that seems different than everything else they see in their mailbox.”

            6. Give the subscriber an incredible value.  Infomercial producers know they get more orders when it looks like the viewer is getting a lot of stuff for his or her money. The same technique can work in selling newsletters.

            “If you are not in a specialized vertical market, I have a feeling that adding ancillary products and services is the best way to make yourself indispensable to the subscriber,” comments Brian Kurtz of Boardroom.

            “Offer extra bonuses or benefits that would cost as much as the subscription price but are offered for free as part of the subscription,” advises another consumer newsletter publisher.

            The most common premium in newsletter publishing is a free special report. But paper is cheap. Why not offer several reports, each on a different topic of vital interest to your subscribers?

            Free information premiums can be packaged in many different media, including directories, software, CD-ROM, audiocassettes, video tapes, and resource guides.

            Thanks to the Internet, you don’t even have to print your ancillary products. Increasingly popular in newsletter publishing is to include access to a subscribers-only Web site as part of the subscription. Another common technique is to send supplemental e-mails alerting subscribers to important news that takes place between regular issues.

            7. Prove that the value far outweighs the cost.  Copywriter Mike Pavlish says that a critical step in closing sales is making the customer perceive that the price you are asking for your product is a “drop in the bucket” compared to the value it delivers.

            One way newsletter publishers do this is by comparing their newsletter to more costly information resources. American Speaker, a loose-leaf service for executives on how to be a more effective speaker, compares its $297 annual subscription fee to the $5,000 a professional speechwriter would charge for just one speech.

            Another technique is to restate the price in terms that make the cost seem more reasonable. By dividing its $297 subscription fee by 365 days in a year, American Speaker tells readers that they get continuous advice on how to be more effective speakers all year long for a very reasonable fee of only 81 cents a day.

            To sum it all up:

·        Make the information in your newsletter different, unique, useful, and difficult to get elsewhere.

·        Include content that delivers tangible benefits, such as cost savings or increased profits.

·        Show that the value of what you deliver to your readers is a drop in the bucket compared to the price you are asking.


Bob Bly is a freelance copywriter and the author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Direct Marketing (Alpha Books). He can be reached at 201-385-1220 or at