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Choosing the most effective premiums.

There is no real debate about use of premiums in newsletter marketing. Effectively 100 percent of consumer offers and 80 percent-plus of b-to-b newsletters include them. (Actually I haven't seen many of those 20 percent of business packages that don't include them.)

But there is debate over what the most effective premiums are. Here's where I come down: Editorial premiums closely related to the subject area of the publication (and, preferably produced in-house) are the most effective and inexpensive.

Past editorial materials can usually be effectively repackaged as new sub premiums. Newsletters that cover several key editorial areas can often segment them; for example, a direct marketing newsletter could offer a premium devoted entirely to renewal ideas.

One of my mentors, Rene Gnam, told me, "Don't title these 'Best of' and create the impression you scrabbled around in the chaff to find a few gems." I changed the title of my then-current effort from "Best of ..." to "Highlights from ..." the very next time around.

Choice of premiums?

Conventional wisdom says that anything that can create doubt or indecision in a prospect--"Which premium do I want?" --will reduce response. Some publishers make this work. "Take any two of these five ..." Of course the multiyear offer can include them all.

Offering a second premium for cash-with orders has been effective for many marketers. At the newsletter association nothing I did improved the final pay-up rates of our unpaid orders, but adding a second premium for cash-with orders boosted that percentage about 25 percent.

You can use out-of-house premiums. One high-ticket business publisher used a $50 industry reference book. He told me his wholesale price was around $30 and, including shipping, that worked easily at his price level.

But it can create the worry that people are coming in only to get the premium.

My public radio station just gave me a year of Newsweek for my pledge ("at any level"). The station manager explains Newsweek gives copies to them for a penny apiece. One wonders if deals like this are available to for-profit organizations. Of course, if you could include a free sub to The Economist you'd have to worry if the subscribers would have time to even read your newsletter.

Merchandise premiums

Merchandise premiums are usually not a good idea. Richard Ossoff at Strafford has made high quality items work, tied into his marketing copy. Swiss Army knives--"coverage as sharp as. ..."--and high intensity flash-lights--"shine a light on. ..."

Note: Richard says avoid the temptation to put your logo on the merchandise, because people getting these often intend to give them as gifts. But Bruce Levenson at UCG used to say anyone who was interested in testing solar calculators as a premium could get a real deal from him on a warehouse full.


My inclination would be to say that binders work best for renewal premiums, after the subscriber has realized this is a newsletter he wants to save. But they also can work for new orders--many readers just seem to love binders beyond a reasonable explanation (and, of course, you put your logo on these).

Even in these days of online archives, many newsletters lend themselves to print "libraries." Paul Swift tells me that he has had two online subscribers change back to print because, they told him, they like saving back issues--presumably for the timeless advice contained in the DM Notebook.

My favorite was Bob McClelland at Cameron's Foodservice Promotion Reporter, who included with the binder additional tabs for monthly issues running perhaps two years beyond the term of the current subscription--with the hope that it encourages the reader to think. "I have to keep renewing, I already have the space for those issues in my binder."


Discounts are excellent new subscription "premiums," better than extra issues (of something the prospect is not yet completely sure he or she wants). For renewals, the opposite tends to be true.

Renewal premiums?

Which brings us to the subject of renewal premiums. The direct marketing industry truism has always been you needed to renew subscribers the same way you brought them in-house in the first place. So, sold with a premium, renew with a premium. Nonetheless, many newsletter publishers appear to hate this idea--"Just giving stuff away to people who were going to renew anyway because of our editorial."

In an ideal world, your editorial fare alone should drive renewals, but a little incentive to renew early can never hurt.

I tend to agree with an old friend who said a small editorial renewal premium cost him very little to create and fulfill, and his renewal universes were too small and life too short for him to spend time split-testing renewal offers. If I had a consumer title with tens of thousands of renewals, I might think differently about testing.

And then there's the time when Paul Swift included a Newsletter on Newsletters pen in his renewal notices. It cost him, at the time, an additional 12 cents in postage to be hand-canceled. In at least a half a dozen cases, the notices really stood out in the mail because they were mangled by machines and arrived in a plastic bag.

He did get back a couple of paid renewals accompanied by torn pieces of his notice.
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Title Annotation:DM Notebook
Author:Goss, Fred
Publication:The Newsletter on Newsletters
Date:Dec 31, 2006
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