Why Print Newsletters Can Be the Secret Weapon in Your Social-Media Marketing Arsenal
The low-tech medium offers something that cannot be replicated online. Find out the secret.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
In their book No B.S. Guide to Direct Response Social Media Marketing, business coach and consultant Dan S. Kennedy and marketing strategist Kim Walsh-Phillips show you how to use direct response marketing principles on a variety of social media platforms to drive real results and profit. In this edited excerpt, the authors explain why print newsletters aren't dead and can bring you the sales results you desire.
Today, the death of "old" media and offline media is wildly and foolishly exaggerated. For a wide variety of businesses, newspapers, print magazines, merge-mail like Val-Pak, the new USPS' Every Door Direct-Mail, printed catalogs, and even the Yellow Page directories not only continue to work but provide improved and improving returns on investment.
A local marketer I know who utilizes FSI's (Free Standing Inserts) in his city and suburban community newspapers consistently gets an 8:3 to as high as an 11:3 ROI from them. That means he gets $8 to $11 for every $3 spent. He can't match that ROI from any online or social media, despite being smart about it. While his two chief competitors exited this "dead media," he stayed and doubled his ROI.
One of the forms of media most vociferously pronounced dead is the printed and mailed customer newsletter. Bloggers and social media experts love to conduct its funeral. But they're dead wrong. Their opinions -- and that's all they are -- are ignorant and dangerous.
My business empire has been built with print newsletters as its foundation and a centerpiece around which everything else orbits. Well over 50% of my high value private clients rise up out of the newsletter subscriber base -- it would cost me a fortune to find them otherwise. You might judge my business "unique," however my model has inspired literally thousands of people in a wide range of consumer and B2B categories to aggressively invest in their own print newsletters for their customers, clients, patients, or donors -- and all report significant improvements in retention, ascension, frequency of purchase or patronage, and referrals. Many are in their third, fifth, seventh, 10th, and even 20th year of continuous use of their own print newsletters, and wouldn't stop their use of this "dead media" under any circumstance.
So in this age of digital media and proliferate social media, with abundant opportunities to post and distribute the same content you'd put into print newsletters or even the exact same newsletters free of cost, why the devil are so many business owners still creating, producing, printing, and mailing real newsletters?
Print newsletters arriving by mail, opened, physically handled, read, clipped from, saved, and shared have positive effects that cannot be replicated online.
First, customers recognize and appreciate the fact that you're investing real money in communicating with them, providing information and entertainment, and expressing appreciation for them. This engages reciprocity .
Second, consumers place a higher value on printed publications. One 2014 survey conducted by a major newsletter publisher found that more than 80 percent of respondents indicate they always read the print newsletters and magazines they subscribe to or receive free, regularly, from businesses they have relationships with. Those same respondents said they read ezines, blogs, and other digital media included in paid subscriptions only about 20 percent of the time. That's a 400 percent differential. You can't win if your output never gets read. Frankly, a whole lot of online communication is killed with the delete button and has no value placed on it whatsoever.
Third, print newsletters have a much longer shelf life. It's very common for me to hear from somebody just getting around to reading one of my newsletters sent months ago or even after re-visiting an issue from years ago, then asking about products or services. How often do you think somebody settles into their comfy chair for an evening and reads email or blog posts from months ago?
Fourth, print newsletters are a great place to profile, feature, showcase and give recognition to customers, clients, or patients. It's meaningful to people to see themselves in print. I get a lot of thank-yous from my clients when I dispense atta-boys and recognition to them in newsletters.
Of course, none of this works if you commit the ultimate marketing sin: being boring. A great newsletter is never much about your basic deliverables, products, services. It shouldn't be technical. Look at what makes popular magazines thrive:
Human interest stories. They can be about your own adventures, about your customers, and about celebrities who somehow relate to what you sell. The long-standing giant Reader's Digest, was built on and lives by its human interest stories.
New, unusual, and fascinating information. You want to provide information that people are motivated to repeat to peers and friends, thereby supporting word-of-mouth advertising for you. It's called a NEWS-Letter for a reason; it's supposed to contain news. If you want to see the most successful newsletters built of "many short bits" of fascinating and new information, look at the publications by Boardroom, notably BottomLine Health (http://bottomlinehealth.com) and BottomLine Personal. (http://bottomlinepersonal.com).
Opinion. Yes, care must be taken. But if you have a personal relationship with customers and your personality is linked to your business or you operate in a business where trust and affinity matter, then people are interested in your philosophy, ideas, and opinions, and can be motivated by shared values.
Useful tips. Popular topics include how-tos, such as "how to" relieve a sudden headache (from a chiropractor), remove pet stains from carpet (from a pet store or a carpet cleaner), ready your car for a long trip (from an auto service shop or an insurance agent), grow giant tomatoes (from a lawn care company), etc.
You also want to incorporate limited but direct promotion, such as introduction of new products or services, lead generation offers of free information about a different specific product or service each month, and seasonal "preferred customer" offers.
It's my firmest conviction, based on solid and overwhelming evidence, that nothing can "glue" customers to your business like a good print newsletter mailed to them frequently, on a regular schedule.
You can, of course, link and integrate it with online and social media in many ways. Extensions of short "teaser" articles, videos, tools, contests, and surveys can be housed online and driven to by the print newsletters. Engagement, comments, and contest participation can occur on Facebook or other social media sites, pushed by the print newsletter and reported in the newsletter. The circular possibilities are endless. Addition, multiplication, and integration are all, as Martha Stewart says, very good things. But subtraction of the proven and reliable print newsletter from your media mix is just dumb.