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Sample issues marketing makes (a bit of) a comeback. (The DM Notebook).

In newsletter marketing, the sample issue question has always been debated. Consumer titles almost never use them, but business-to-business marketers go both ways-it seems to be almost a theological debate between believers and others.

Marketers who don't use samples cling to the thesis of "no single issue can convey the editorial benefits of a full year's subscription as well as a good sales letter," while conceding a few narrow "exceptions" such as titles where every issue is basically the same (such as price report newsletters) or, as Howard Penn Hudson, publisher emeritus of The Newsletter on Newsletters, liked to say, titles where "every issue shows the prospect how he will make or save money.

For the publishers who tend to favor sample issues, here's a resume of their reasons for including samples issues in newsletter marketing packages:

* Sample issue have a higher perceived value ... a sample issue is less likely to create the dreaded "junk mail" reaction in recipients. (This could also be a factor in overcoming "anthrax scare mentality" when you can print "Your Newsletter Issue Enclosed" on the carrier.)

* Sending a sample issue is similar to any other type of "sampling" as a marketing strategy After all, why do marketers work to put mini-bottles of shampoo in your hotel room or Sunday newspaper except with the hope that you will like it and buy the big bottle in the store? As one veteran publisher says, "If we are confident our newsletters are as good as we say they are, why are we so reluctant to allow the prospect to examine it for himself?"

* Sample issue mailings pre-qualify subscribers. Higher pay-up rates on bill-me's and better eventual renewal rates come from prospects who saw what they were going to get. Andrew Harper always did this with The Hideaway Report even though that one good issue, devoted entirely to Australia and New Zealand, might be of no interest to all but a certain percentage of prospects.

* Sample issue mailings are thought to have a long tail; that is, orders come in for a longer period of time as issues get saved to be read later or passed along to colleagues (which also reinforces the argument for including a second order form within the pages of the sample newsletter).

* Folklore, if not test results I've seen, holds that some b-to-b markets-libraries and law firms, for example-simply will not order a publication for which they have not seen a sample.

* While some markets eschew sample issue mailings in the classic form (sales letter, sample, order device), a couple of very popular b-to-b marketing techniques in recent years have really been sample issue mailings in different formats. The "wrap" package is a sample issue (almost always compiled) wrapped in a 4page outer combining sales letter and order form.

And what is a forced free trial but a series of sample issue mailings? Practitioners of FFTs note that the design of the series should reinforce the prospect's knowledge that he is not a subscriber. They use "Free Sample Issue" notices on the carrier, sales letters previewing the contents of this issue and the next one, and a selling point that emphasizes that "this is just a sample of what you can expect...."

* Live issue vs. compiled issue. Most marketers use a compiled issue technique. It saves on postage by not needing to be mailed First Class for "timeliness." It also allows the insertion within the text of selling blurbs such as, "Case studies like this in every issue."

Some go so far to use a "truncated sample" where the restaurant owner prospect only receives some of the "9 Surefire Ways to Build Lunch Traffic" in the premium report he receives when he subscribes.

Compiled issues also have the advantage of making sure that practically every topic covered over the course of a year is included in some way-and that there's something in the issue for everyone, not just those interested in Australia or New Zealand.

It should be noted, though, that compiled issues can be an expensive enterprise unless you produce one that has a long shelf life.

Others point out that compiled issues also present a welcome opportunity for marketing and editorial personnel to sit down and work together-which may produce other benefits for both editorial fare and promotion strategies.
COPYRIGHT 2001 The Newsletter on Newsletters LLC
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Goss, Fred
Publication:The Newsletter on Newsletters
Date:Dec 31, 2001
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