Guest post: "Can I replace my paper newsletter with an e-newsletter instead?"
Are you considering scrapping the newsletter you send via U.S. mail in favor of a newsletter delivered via email? If so, please read the guest post below by Tom Ahern of Ahern Communications, a specialist in fundraising, advocacy, and “persuasion” communications. It is excerpted with permission from his Love Thy Reader newsletter.
Ahern writes from the perspective of non-profit organizations seeking donations. But most of what he says applies equally well to investment and wealth managers seeking to retain existing clients and attract new ones through communications with clients, prospects, and referral sources.
Can I replace my paper newsletter with an e-newsletter instead?
This is the most commonly asked question at my workshops. My considered answer has stayed the same for the last five years: “Ummm…no. You really want both.”
A well-done paper newsletter can produce significant revenue. Witness the Gillette Children’s Foundation in Minnesota, which went from generating $5,000 per issue to $50,000 per issue just by changing a few things.
Understand, too, that paper and electrons are two very different media.
Paper is slow — the good kind of slow, the kind that’s made the “slow food” movement so popular among the health-conscious. Paper is a reader’s medium, a relaxing place where you, as the writer, have the elbowroom to tell stories, show terrific pictures and report results.
An emailed newsletter, on the other hand, is fast. It’s an ACT NOW! medium. Words are kept to a minimum.
In December 2008, Jeff Brooks shared with me some conclusions from his company’s ongoing research into e-newsletters.
“I had a hypothesis,” he wrote, “that e-newsletters were radically different from print newsletters. Not about story-telling,” Jeff clarified, “but about the actions you can take. We’ve tested that notion a couple of times, and so far, that’s proving to be true. It seems what works is to have one topic with 3 to 5 actions a reader can take, at least one of which is to give a gift, but the others aren’t.”
A fully firing communications schedule stays in touch with the donor base at a minimum once a month. Electronic newsletters help you satisfy that torrid pace. But if you pull the plug on paper and switch to utterly electronic, your donor income will almost certainly fall.
Here’s a tantalizing bit of confirming data from Convio, via Ted Hart: Donors you contact with BOTH email and conventional mail give $62 on average annually versus a $32 average gift for those donors whom you contact ONLY through postal mail.
In other words, it’s NOT an either/or situation, paper or electronic. It’s a BOTH situation: paper AND electronic, if you want to maximize results.
Of course, that assumes you are actually getting results.
If you aren’t currently making money with your paper newsletter, don’t expect to do any better with an e-newsletter. Really good donor newsletters are few and far between, in my experience. Most nonprofit newsletters sent to me for audits are unwittingly built to fail, due to a variety of unguessed fatal flaws.
* Should you drop subscribers who don’t open your e-newsletter?
* Boost readership of your e-newsletter with powerful subject lines
* Three tips for how often to publish your newsletter
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