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Why Your Newsletter Incentive is Repelling People

Posted By Guest Blogger 17th of March 2011 Blog Promotion 0 Comments

This guest post is by Amy of Harrisonamy.com.

We’ve seen recently how you can help pay the rent using your email list, so making sure that as many people as possible sign up is critical to increase your earning potential.

Most bloggers know that one way to encourage people to sign up to their blog is to offer an incentive. Some kind of free report, or ebook or other gift that is a tempting reward for a visitor to transform into a newsletter subscriber.

But having a gift isn’t enough. And what’s more, all free gifts are not created equal.

If you’re struggling to create your incentive, or your incentive doesn’t seem to be converting well, read this article. We’re going to look at how to quickly create an incentive that works as hard as possible to get you the right audience—and get them wanting your freebie.

Don’t give them what they need

It goes without saying that your freebie needs to be valuable to the customer, but giving too much can overwhelm them to the point that they can’t be bothered to sign up for it. Even if it’s something you know they desperately need.

For example, let’s say you run a blog that teaches people how to create a business from making homemade gifts. You know that people who come to your blog really need to know about how to sell their gifts, the best places to source materials, and a great-looking website to showcase their designs.

So you decide your incentive is going to be an auto-responder course over ten lessons, covering a different business foundation subject in each lesson.

Sounds great. Sounds useful. And it would be.

But it also sounds like a heck of a lot of work, which means you’re more likely to procrastinate over it. And it doesn’t take into account what most visitors want when they come to your site.

They want something quick that can potentially solve a problem there and then.

So don’t base your sign up incentive on what they need, base it on what they want.

Make it quick (to create and consume)

Valuable content that can be applied straight away is a very attractive offer for someone with limited time, but with a problem that you can solve.

Think about the kind of quick freebies you’ve signed up for in the past. Which ones have really stood out to you as being valuable?

It’s probably one that solved a specific problem there and then. So you might want to reconsider developing an in-depth product, report, or course for this kind of freebie.

What problem do you pick to solve?

With your visitors all having slightly different interests, and with you knowing so much about your chosen subject, how on Earth do you decide what problem to solve, and what kind of freebie to give away to encourage people to give you their details?

Well you might be surprised what “off the top of your head” knowledge you have that is valuable for your audience’s most common kind of problem.

To identify the perfect subject for your sign-up incentive , the first step is to write down the top five problems you see your audience having.

Ask yourself why your audience is coming to your site and what information are they looking to learn.

For example, if you teach social media marketing for small online businesses, your customers might be coming to you because they want to:

  • get more clients
  • build brand awareness
  • improve customer loyalty
  • increase viral marketing for the company
  • learn more about social media for businesses.

Once you have your top five, pick the one problem that you feel 70-80% of your target market is having. Let’s say in this instance it is: “getting more clients.”

Now you ask: what are the most common questions or problems surrounding this problem in relation to your business?

For “getting more clients through social media,” the most common questions might be:

  • How can you use social media to get clients?
  • What are the most popular social media sites for businesses?
  • How do I find my target market using social media?
  • What is Twitter and can I convert customers with it?
  • Is FaceBook advertising worth the investment?

Now you have five starting points for possible products, which are probably quite “basic” questions for you, but really useful to your customers.

For each of the above, you could create one of the following products for your sign-up incentive:

  • 10 ways to attract clients through social media
  • The top five social media sites for business (and how to use them for your business)
  • 12 steps to simple market research using social media
  • Understand how Twitter can add to your profits (in under 20 minutes)
  • 7 ways to profit from Facebook advertising

The incentive doesn’t have to be a lengthy report. In fact, checklists, bullet points, simple steps, and quick how-to guides are very attractive for people who are interested in your subject area, but want a solution there and then.

If you create your incentive this way, you’re coming from the core problems your target market is probably always going to have, and you’re giving them a short, sweet fix that makes them more likely to sign up for your content.

That means they can become more familiar with your expertise, and are likely to remember and recommend your site because of the instant value they received in your newsletter incentive!

What about you? Have you experimented with sign up incentives? What have you found working for you? What has been your favorite sign-up incentive that you’ve registered for?

Amy is a copywriter for entrepreneurs and in addition to writing for clients, she coaches others to smash through their copy obstacles and get their message out to their audience. She provides free copywriting and content marketing advice on her website Harrisonamy.com

About Guest Blogger
This post was written by a guest contributor. Please see their details in the post above.
  1. Hi Amy, these are some interesting points. As much as a quick fix can get more people interested and signing up, it also has the ability to turn people off. People are inherently skeptical when it comes to such things, and even if something’s free many of them will still avoid it. The other issue is that people sign up for your quick fix and you never hear from them again, or they sign up hoping it’s going to solve a problem without any effort on their part and it doesn’t so they unsubscribe. It all comes down to what sort of list you’re building, but if you want people that are going to stick around then you want to make sure that the ongoing updates are the main reason for signing up – rather than purely for the incentive.

    • Hey Brent, thanks for your comment. If you offer a “quick fix” to an entry problem, it’s a good way to introduce people to your content, and show that you can help them. So for example I offer help with writing headlines when people sign up because I know it’s a problem that lots of people struggle with. This will help them make a start with headlines, but if they’re writing their own copy there are still a number of other challenges that I can help them with which is what the rest of the newsletter is for. It’s more about giving them a really good tip that they can apply straight away rather than something that is going to solve a huge problem straight away which, as you say isn’t likely to work. Thanks for your thoughts! :-)

  2. Maybe I’m weird, but I never liked email newsletters. I love reading books and blogs for my education, but I can’t see myself learning from a newsletter. Email is for one-to-one discussions. Nothing more. (my opinion)

    • Hey Raul, fair point and you’re right, you also need to know what how your audience likes to learn. Although if you can offer different ways to engage and help those people you’re going to have a higher level of reach with your audience. Thanks!

  3. I give away my free ebook that’s filled with info on the seo subject..so people love thing like this so it prompt them to take action..

    “Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”

  4. This post came in time. Though, I’ve not started sending my newsletters, i’ll keep this in mind. Thanks for sharing

  5. I believe in how Smashing Magazine produces and publishes newsletters. It gives a glimpse of what they are including, they’ve archives and they have a pretty much very useful information.

  6. Hi Amy,

    These are some interesting points, tanks for sharing.


  7. I haven’t tried anything yet. But I do like the how-to guide. I have to read the link about paying the rent from the email list next! So much to learn!

  8. This gives me a lot to think about. I am in a bit of a different spot. My blog is purely for entertainment and the thought of creating anything digital makes my head spin. Since I just started and most of my readers, at least I think are:
    1) my family
    2) totally new to blogs
    3) live near me
    I was thinking about tempting them with a cupcake or something to get them to sign up. I am just trying to get some more followers. My readership is doing well, I think. I’m 6 days in and just hit 750 page views. Is that ok?

    • Hi Sarah, I think it depends why you want to build your followers and to make your sign up relevant to the conversation you want to be having with those people when they do read your blog. So have a think about why people read your blog, what enjoyment they get from it, what they’re interested in and gear a sign up incentive based on that. Good luck!

  9. Thanks for sharing these interesting points Amy. Email/newsletter marketing is good for announcements or self promotion, albeit not a great platform for any discussion :)

  10. I like your unconventional approach to E-mail Marketing. I guess it could work better in some niche markets than others. Will definitely try to see the results. Thanks for a great post.

  11. Thank you very much for posting it.
    Newsletters – is a form of telemarketing … for me. They might annoy people – as they iterrapt people with offering them information that they did not ask for. Out 100 newsletters I get a month – i probably pay attentioin to just one…

    • Hi Paul,

      That’s interesting that you say that – would love to know the difference in the one that you do listen to. For the ones I sign up for, I continue reading if I’m offered information relevant to me and in a format I like to get. If it’s just offer after offer then I will tune out as well or become desensitised so that I might miss something that could be a good fit. There’s a real responsibility to your audience if you have a newsletter I think! :-)

  12. This is SO valuable; thank you Amy. I have signed up for these ten part courses in the past, and you’re right – it just gets overwhelming. But as the person giving something away I want to give people EVERYTHING and solve ALL their problems and offer value .

    Excellent advice about the ‘top of your head’ information too. from giving numerous interviews I guess I should know that by now as all journalists ask the same questions, which I guess translates into ‘all readers of my site have the same questions’! Breaking down the most frequent issues and FAQs in the way you described is very helpful and empowering.

    Interestingly, I’ve realised while reading this that I have become overwhelmed at starting my list because I don’t know what to offer – I want to offer too much perhaps, but also a good point from Brent is that people are wising up to quick fixes. I wonder how we strike a balance…

    Once you have a list, how often do you suggest mailing them?

    • Hey there Mrs Green!
      Thanks for the comments. I know exactly how you feel, you want to give give and give and don’t realise you might be scaring people away. I’ve done the same in the past.

      Another thing which will really open up your mind to how much you know is if you do a Q and A call or a teleclass for someone else. YOu’d be surprised at just how much of an expert you are and also realise that a lot of people will continue to have the same questions again and again in your niche.

      I think quick fixes like “get to 1,000 subscribers overnight” is easily going to tune people out, but if you can offer a specific solution to a specific problem, for example “10 things you didn’t know you could recycle in your household” speaks directly to your audience AND it gets them interested in your content.

      I currently mail my list once a week and it’s a short newsletter called Fast Copy Fridays. It’s a quick snippet of something people can use to improve their copy without being overwhelming. for em it works well, but the best way is to test :-)

  13. You’re so right about keeping it short — particularly for you, the creator. I can’t tell you how many times (damaging admission ahead) I’ve started to write a free report or giveaway and it has ballooned into something monstrous. It was supposed to be 10 pages, but 3 weeks and too much coffee later I’m up to my ears in a 100+ page ebook, which is nice but now I still don’t have that free report I wanted.

    It’s Parkinson’s Law: the size and complexity of the project will expand to fill the time allotted for it.

    Great post today, Amy, loved the examples.


    • Ha, Daniel – I know that ballooning feeling! It’s great though that you have that content. you could even think about giving the first chapter away as your freebie if it will stand alone as something useful to your audience.

      Let us know how the monster eBook does :-)

  14. You’re so right about keeping it short — particularly for you, the creator. I can’t tell you how many times (damaging admission ahead) I’ve started to write a free report or giveaway and it has ballooned into something monstrous. It was supposed to be 10 pages, but 3 weeks and too much coffee later I’m up to my ears in a 100+ page ebook, which is nice but now I still don’t have that free report I wanted.

    It’s Parkinson’s Law: the size and complexity of the project will expand to fill the time allotted for it.

    Great post today, Amy, loved the examples.


  15. I am always so glad I stopped by to read these articles. I absolutely love the fact you mentioned this today. I always feel like I’m clogging up their email boxes, no matter how good the content, People have so much going on these days, I feel guilty for sending another “newsletter” or “sale coupon” on top of it. Definately some new things to think about. Thank you for that..

    • You’re very welcome Cindy. As long as you’re providing value (and on a topic that they subscribed to in the first place) then you should feel happy to let them know about how you can help them out!

  16. Wow, thanks for a great post, Amy!!

    I was thinking about creating an auto-responder with a couple of free lessons but was on the fence about it. Your post really helped me re-think that. I agree with you when you said that it’s much better to create quick but valuable freebies instead. I my business is fairly new and just got the website up and running, but this post definitely gave me some ideas on some action steps I can take next. Thanks again!

    – Bianca

    • Hey Bianca – am so thrilled the post helped and gave you some practical tips that you can use for your incentive – good luck with it!

  17. Those are some great points. Thanks Amy! :)

    I haven’t experimented with the incentive before, but I think it’s a good idea to do so.

  18. Nice move that get idea from customer question. Most of the time , i always over sold all information in a newsletter until i saw the mistake. We only show what they can get directly from us and call to action for them to go in our website for more information.
    We have use open ended question as a title in newsletter, allow more click into our newsletter rather than direct show the promotion wording in the title which sound spam..

  19. I am currently using a 20 page ebook based on a very simple concept that was created start to finish in about 6 hours and it works great. I agree totally regarding the make it quick (for both me and the reader)philosophy. Personally though I do try to meet a need.

    • Hey Steve,

      I think you need to meet a need in that it has to be something they want, but quite often we can create products that we know our customers will benefit from, but don’t think they want. Hence why weight loss products focus on you looking and feeling hot rather than looking and feeling healthy which is what you really need. :-)

  20. Offering something a bit unique as a free incentive is likely to provoke more interest than the typical free stuff. Make what you’re offering different in some way by making it different than most of what they’re already seeing out there on the web. Get creative!

  21. Hi Amy, fellow third triber here. I just put up my “NON* Manifesto” (Now Or Never) and I have had a fair number of takers. The ebook is also a work book for boomers and other people in transition as well as a statement about who I am and how the blog can benefit my readers – but I don’t touch any of that in my aweber ad on my site. Thanks for this helpful post.

  22. Ooops, the other part of my reply is that I don’t think it converts ‘enough’ – that’s where your post is helpful.

    • That’s awesome to hear Mike! I really enjoyed your blog post today about the number of possibilities available to us. Hope my post has helped get your message out there and into the hands of people who need to hear it.

  23. I agree with Lea. If you can make people feel that they have to read it or have to have it.Or they will be missing out on something.

  24. The “Get My Free E-Book” when you sign-up offer is getting outdated.

  25. Thank you so much for these tips. I can’t wait to bring them to our next business meeting!

  26. I’m not a fan of the newsletter pop up; it distracts from the blog that I’m trying to read and, so far, only a couple of websites have managed not to inundate me with emails. Their newsletters are short and sweet. Love it.

    The others who are long, rambling emails are unfollowed quickly.

  27. I agree with Justin’s comment above: the e-book when you sign up is getting old. I understand that you need an incentive and a call to action but I’m not sure what the answer is.

    • For me, it’s the title that’s getting old. “Free eBook” is outdated, but a title that solves a problem such as “I have is going to get my attention.

      for example, I thought your “6 Tips for Selling Your Older, Slightly Out-dated Home” blog post on your site would have made a great incentive sign up.

  28. These are all such great ideas. I recently downloaded a free ebook and learned something new. I am going to try to implement this.

  29. Amy, great tips. I read this from two perspectives, 1. As a marketing manager trying to grow my audience, and 2. As a voice in the email marketing industry.

    When it comes to my own marketing efforts (#1), this was great to read (including the comments) in that you got me thinking more about the quick solution, rather than the weekly email campaigns or longer eBooks. I like the idea of offering something quick, simple, and easy, yet extremely valuable.

    And as far as talking with our email marketing clients and prospects (#2), I want to add that there doesn’t always need to be an extra incentive. The biggest draw/incentive should be to promise and follow through with valuable, timely, relevant, targeted email communications. Promise that on your opt-in form and in your promotions, and it should be incentive enough to sign up!

    Amy Garland
    Marketing Manager, Blue Sky Factory

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