E-Newsletters Pull at a Lower Cost Than Other Media

In this economy, marketers are being asked to expand their direct marketing efforts with little additional budget. With smaller staffs to implement campaigns, less available postal and e-mail venues, privacy concerns, escalating costs and shrinking response rates, are there any new solutions for direct marketers?

Yes – sponsoring online newsletters. These sponsorships are inexpensive, easy to implement and, most important, work well with results often outpulling postal mail, e-mail and telemarketing for a fraction of the cost.

Online newsletters have become popular among traditional print publishers as a way to increase their audience, among Web site developers to promote their content, among readers as a quick, easy way to get information and among advertisers as an effective channel to generate business.

Newsletters are e-mailed daily, weekly or monthly to subscribers with news, hints, tips and more. They’re short, often produced solely in text and are usually developed for a niche. Typical content may be “Investing for Moms,” “The Latest Telecommunications Regulations,” “Online Marketing Tips,” etc. These newsletters contain quick bites of information, links to more detail on a Web site and usually one or two advertising sponsors.

Online newsletters have advantages over other forms of direct marketing. Recipients subscribe and read them because they contain content relevant to them. Most newsletters need be booked only a few weeks in advance, and all that’s needed for creative is usually 40 to 60 words of text and a link. Most responses are within three days. And sponsorships are cost-effective, varying from $800 to $20,000 per insertion, with most in the $2,000 to $3,000 range for circulations of 10,000 to 20,000.

However, the most significant benefit is the results. I have clients that consistently get the same volume of leads from their newsletter campaigns as they do with postal mail for considerably less. I’ve seen results for business-to-business clients where the number of responses has equaled a postal mail campaign at a cost per lead of $90 versus more than $500 for postal mail.

Here are some tips on running a newsletter campaign:

o To start an online newsletter program, first define your target audience, then determine what types of newsletters are available. See whether the publishers of the magazines that your prospects read offer online newsletters. Surf the Web for newsletters in your market, go to a list broker, agency or consultant with experience with newsletters and then start to gather information.

o Compare what you’ve learned. Comparative information would be circulation, cost per insertion and specs for the ad, as well as carefully looking at past issues of the newsletter for content that is meaningful to your target. Also look for consistent advertising by your competitors, a good indication that the publication is working for them. If a few seem appropriate, test two or three insertions.

o Don’t be afraid of text-only newsletters. My experience has shown that as with postal mail, copy is key. Text newsletter ads (usually 40 to 60 words plus a site link) pull well. And testing for my clients so far has shown that plain text outpulls graphics, HTML, animations and buttons. Strong copy setting up a benefit, offer and call to action works – just like any successful direct marketing.

o Don’t look for segmentation. There are a few huge newsletters that allow two-part testing or let you purchase only segments of the subscriber base, but mostly it’s all or nothing.

o Use an offer appropriate for online newsletters. While you want to encourage response, don’t forget that e-mails are easily forwarded and an offer that is too rich may bring in responses outside of your target audience. For BTB, test a white paper, Webcast or seminar. For consumers, try a discount, free trial or information pack. Save the premiums and sweepstakes for postal mail.

o Use newsletters to test the waters on other direct marketing executions. While results won’t always be predictive, why not buy a $2,000 sponsorship before you test a $30,000 full-color print ad? Or test a sponsorship before you send mail to an expensive postal file?

Online newsletters stretch dollars and fill in other direct marketing campaigns. Though they’ll never replace postal mail or other DM campaigns, they provide excellent results at a great price.

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