Running a Newsletter: Seven Things You Can Do to Increase Your Audience

From November of 1998 until the end of 2001, I ran a pretty popular online stock market newsletter. Back then, I had no clue about SEO and PPC; I didn't spend a dime on marketing costs. I grew the newsletter from no subscribers to over 800 subscribers in under two years, strictly from word of mouth. I had a very low cancellation rate, and my numbers just went up every month. Here are seven valuable tips that I can give you that helped me tremendously along the way:

1. Make yourself available to people. Sounds simple enough right? Well if you are like most newsletters out there, you probably have a free newsletter that you send out, in order to entice people to sign up. In any communication to either paid members or potential members, be sure to indicate that you are always available to answer questions by email, whether someone is a member or not. People love this, and if you take the time to give a potential member a thoughtful e-mail response, they will likely sign up one day. I can't remember how many times I had someone say to me "You know what, since you took the time to respond to me, I will sign up for your newsletter." Give people a little personal attention, even if they aren't members. And of course, if someone is a paying member, be sure to answer all of their email questions. The easiest way to lose a paying customer is to ignore their email questions.

2. Underpromise, overdeliver. It is easy to promise the world when you are just starting out. Make sure that you don't bite off more than you can chew. If you will not have the time to send out a daily newsletter, then don't promise one. Make it twice a week. It is easy to try and overpromise because you want to sound like you are providing exceptional value to the potential new members, but you have to make sure that it fits within your time constraints. Not delivering what you promised is a surefire way to lose those hard-earned members.

3. Be prompt. Be prompt in your email responses, and make sure that you always send out your newsletters on time. I always told my members that I would get them their newsletter by 3 am EST every night, and they always got it. If people get into the routine of reading your newsletter at a certain time, they will also get into the routine of renewing their membership.

4. Charge less than the market average for your newsletter. When I started my newsletter, I surfed around to get an idea of what similar newsletters were charging. The prices varied, from $29.95 per month all the way up to $499.95 per month. People love value, and if they think they are getting a good deal, they will sign up and stay signed up. I charged $19.95 a month for my newsletter, and although I easily could have charged more, people signed up because they thought they were getting a great deal (they were), and because of that, my cancellation rate was almost zero. If I charged $499.95 per month, my cancellation rate would have been astronomical, and I wouldn't have made any money. 800 people times $19.95 a month wasn't bad money at all.

5. When someone cancels, treat them with respect. I can't tell you how many times someone would cancel and then come back a few months later. Whenever someone cancelled, I would always send them a nice email, thanking them for signing up in the first place, and wishing them the best of luck. Normally they would be cancelling because they would want to try another newsletter out, and anytime they would return to me, they would always say that the reason was, I treated the members with a certain level of respect. Even if someone would send me a nasty email when cancelling, I would bite my tongue and send them a pleasant email back, wishing them the best and luck and that I was sorry that it didn't work out.

6. Make your personality shine through. Don't think that you have to be boring and dry in your email. Have your personality shine through. Crack jokes. Make fun of yourself. Not only will it make the newsletter much more fun to write for you, but your subscribers will get a kick out of reading your newsletter, and your retention rate will be sky-high.

7. Be nice. There seems to be a growing trend with some newsletter writers: cockiness. Maybe it all started with the "Rich Jerk", but people liked me because I was pretty nice in my newsletters. I certainly didn't come across as a "jerk." Be nice in your newsletters, and be nice in your personal emails that you send out to people. That was my biggest weapon in running my newsletter. In my industry (the stock market), there were lots of people running newsletters that were just complete egomaniacs. This turned a lot of people off of their newsletters, and I would like to think that I picked up a lot of these subscribers.

Running a newsletter can be very fun and fulfilling. My biggest overall piece of advice would be: treat your customers like solid gold. Make yourself available to them, and don't let your head get too big when your subscriber numbers start ramping up.


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