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7 Ways to Entice Newsletter Sign-Ups

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June 17, 2014

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You’ve probably seen it a million times. “Sign up to our newsletter and get our free (ebook/whitepaper) about (the thing you’re researching).”

You see it a lot because it works. Giving something away to get someone to sign up to your newsletter heightens the value exchange. It says “you give me something of value that I want, and I’ll give you something of value that you want, in addition to the things that will be of mutual benefit.”

Of course one could argue that if your newsletter is so spectacularly useful, you don’t need “bait.” That may be true, but put yourself in your subscribers’ shoes for a minute.

They don’t know what they’re getting. Everyone has been burned on the Internet at least once, and that self-protective distrust of the unknown is one of the factors you’re fighting against.

If you show them a sample newsletter, how do they know that’s not your only good one? If you show testimonials, how do they know they’re all real? If they want to unsubscribe, is it simple and easy or will they feel trapped?

The trust factor isn’t the only problem. There’s information overload – which may lead them to think “not only do I not need another newsletter to catch up with, I’m never going to read this ebook.”

Again, if the offer is appealing enough, and the process of signing up is smooth enough, that self-doubt/mistrust/overwhelm may not happen. Typically people don’t fall into the gap of secondary thought until they are jarred out of being completely engrossed in what they’re doing.

Sometimes it’s as simple as making the offer so exciting and well-timed that they don’t think outside the present moment. Here are some ideas to test:

1. Give them a coupon or discount code

There’s some controversy to this tip. Some studies show having a coupon or discount code increases the rate at which people abandon a cart at checkout. However that’s also balanced with the reason for the abandonment – it’s often to find a code to enter, searching first on the site they’re on.

How many could you recover if you told them directly how to get that information?

The implementation could be somewhere in the middle – have the discount code, but let your customers know they can get it by subscribing to your newsletter, where they can find more exclusive deals that won’t require coupon or discount codes.

Then it’s just a matter of continuing to live up to your word. (People remember. Years later sometimes. Trust me.)

There’s an added benefit, and I’ll put it this way. If I know I never intend to buy something, I’m really not interested in getting 15 percent off that thing.

2. Put the spotlight on them

How can you make your newsletter more about the people who read it? Actually feature them.

It could be as simple as highlighting them in a question of the week. Maybe you print the best blog comments in the newsletter, or have a column of user-generated tips.

This is a more challenging type of bait to create copy about, but the chance at being recognized can be a major draw for some subscribers.

Before it got too difficult to manage, I used to have my subscribers point out typos, mistakes on the site, and expanded it to friendly critiques of any aspect of my first business. In return, I’d highlight them and their website in the newsletter.

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It had the side effect of a certain percentage of my subscribers poring over every word I said. When they read more blog posts, more deeply, I sold more ebooks, video guides and consulting services.

3. Switch up the content type

It may be as simple as periodically cycling between an ebook, a presentation deck or access to a list of related resources.

If you’re upfront about it, you can even get away with presenting a video on the landing page as part one of two. To see part two? Instead of paying, sign up to the newsletter for free.

4. Why stop at one? Make it a library

My key strategy for our flagship site, around the time when blogging was brand new, was to have such a sheer volume of great stuff on our site that no one could consume it all in one day. As the web matured, we tweaked this into a collection that blended both exclusive collections of giveaways. Some we authored in-house, but some were partnership arrangements, or things we found with open licensing as we perused the web.

A few issues in, and once every quarter or so, I’ll remind my group that this library exists by freshening it up with a new title. Any old titles we take out of rotation would go in this one page library of items.

The Top Rank blog has a variation on this that I love. On their resources page, you’ll find a collection of the top marketing blogs. It’s updated periodically, and if you want to see those updates, at minimum you’ll want to follow their blog.

5. Bundle it with a free tool

If you have a demo version of a tool you’ve created that isn’t quite sophisticated enough to be a product, you might use that tool to help increase subscription rates. One of my favorite sites, SEO Book, has several free keyword tools that you can only access if you have a free login.

Though I have access to many more sophisticated tools, when I need to do a quick lookup, after all these years, my instinct is still to go to SEO Book and use the simpler, familiar tool. It made me continue to return to the site, which eventually led to purchases and referrals.

6. Have a quiz or a poll

Have the quiz or poll as part of sign up, letting them know in advance that to get ongoing results, they’ll need to join the newsletter. If you tie the questions into problems your customers have, you can gain remarkable insights as well.

You can also spice this up by offering a random drawing each month for a prize.

7. Create a shared experience

This is a tricky one. But when it works, it can create the kind of deep community bonds that are precursors to fan-like buyers.

Instead of having your prospects sign up to get something, have them sign up to do something, as part of a group. It can be to get a weekly reminder the morning of a Twitter chat. It can be to start a monthly challenge with last month’s group of subscribers.

It could be for a weekly tour to see something neat at your office, the monthly live group demo, or for a live community discussion in your forums.

For years, I’ve been having live marketing experiments which we sometimes turn into case studies. We gather to test whether one hot new trend or classic technique will work in the real world. It gives people a chance to test us in a group environment before they ask for one-on-one help.

You may not need to change your newsletter sign-up offer if it’s working. Just make sure you’re checking both your sign-up rate and the variances in conversion on all your landing pages. If they plateau when no other changes have taken place, perhaps it’s time for you to mix it up a bit.

-Tinu Abayomi-Paul

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