Newsletter Marketing: What Works, What Doesn’t Work, and, How to Get the Best ROI

Have you ever wondered if newsletter marketing still works? In this age of social media campaigns, email marketing, and article marketing, will this technique still work to grow your business?

The answer is absolutely, but just like all small-business marketing, only if you do it right. In this article, I’ll show you the dos and don’ts to make sure your newsletter marketing campaign crushes it.

Newsletter marketing is different than your typical direct-response marketing campaign. A newsletter marketing campaign is not meant to be a standalone piece that drives 100% ROI.

For our most successful clients, the primary goals for their newsletter are to accomplish the following:

Newsletters help support all other marketing campaigns and promotions.

According to Tony Robins, it now takes 16 touches to get someone to simply take notice of your products or brand. This doesn’t mean to buy — just to know you exist. I know that sounds like a crazy number of touches, but with all the advertising coming at us day in and day out, there is simply too much noise for our brains to process, so we start tuning some messages out.

It likely takes less than 16 touches for existing customers with whom you have a relationship, but even if it is half the number of touches for an existing customer, 8 touches before they even notice what you’re trying to tell them is not a small undertaking.


So how do we speed up a prospect’s or customer’s awareness of the message we’re trying to put out? We have to send them the information they will actually consume using the media they will consume. That means you should use multiple media channels to get your message out to both prospects and customers to ensure that they consume what you’re sending.

For the extra effort of using a multimedia strategy, you’ll also be handsomely rewarded.

For example, combining your promotions and sending a multistep email marketing campaign with a direct mail newsletter campaign will increases response rates by 118%, according to

Two of the very best ways to make sure your message is seen by as many people as possible is with the use of a newsletter marketing campaign and an email marketing campaign. Direct mail has a deliverability rate of 99.9% and a same-day open rate of 74%. Email has a 99% deliverability rate (including what goes into spam boxes) but only a 12-24% average open rate, depending on a variety of factors. Even with email marketing’s overall low open rate and click-through rate, combining email and direct mail gets you a 118% increase in response rate. It makes perfect sense to use this omnichannel marketing approach to get better results.

Bottom line: Adding a newsletter to existing marketing campaigns and promotions will close more deals, making it a profitable decision.

Use your newsletter to stay in touch with prospects and provide prospect-only offers which will close more sales.

Just like in the previous section where we talked about the increased response you’d get from combining email marketing with newsletter marketing, the same is true if we’re trying to close more prospects and turn them into customers.

In addition, I found out long ago that people are ready to buy when they’re ready to buy, not when you’re ready to sell to them — regardless of how much we all wish that was different. If you’re selling anything that tends to have a longer sales cycle or requires a big decision, you need a marketing strategy that includes solid follow-up on a consistent basis over a long period of time. Even if buying your product is normally a quick decision, we all know people are slow to react, and very few companies are closing greater than a few percentage points of the overall leads they get. So what’s going on with the other 95% of the people who were interested at one point or another?

If your business operates anything like mine, you’re able to drop 10% of the leads because they are unqualified, but that still leads 85% of your leads on the table unconverted.

By using newsletter marketing, you can follow up with those leads for a predetermined period of time and make special offers just to people on that leads list to get them to convert and become customers.

At my company, Newsletter Pro, we were able to add $1.2 million in new revenue from leads who found us over 12 months ago — before they were ready to make a purchase. In almost all cases, the salesperson had long given up on that lead, but my print newsletter and email newsletter had not.

Young casually dressed businessman reading a newsletter in park

In the newsletter, I provided value, built a relationship with the prospect, and showed them success stories of other clients getting amazing results with newsletter marketing.

This allowed the prospect the time to feel comfortable about their decision and investment. Although we could hard-sell more prospects and close people sooner — and in the early days, we did that — I’ve learned that, almost without fail, the prospects I have to hard-close become our worst clients.

By simply using a print newsletter in combination with an email version of the same newsletter, you will close more sales if you follow the simple strategy I laid out above.

One word of caution, though: If you change the strategy — for example, leaving out the relationship-building aspect of the campaign or trying to save money by scrapping the print version and doing a once-a-month email-only version of the newsletter — you’ll be disappointed with the results.

On the other hand, if you focus on creating an amazing print newsletter supported by emails and an email newsletter and send them to prospects with a free-standing insert that has special offers just for them, you’ll close deals you thought you’d lost and ultimately make more money.

Decrease customer churn by building a relationship as part of your newsletter marketing strategy.

When you think about growing a business, it becomes apparent that the most difficult task for any business is getting new customers.

Look at all the things you do to get new customers. Think about all the promos, offers, schemes to get email subscribers, direct mail, trade shows, marketing campaigns, word-of-mouth marketing, referral marketing, content marketing, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Pinterest.

The worst part is that what I just mentioned is the tip of the iceberg. Getting new customers is hard and expensive.

As an added point of frustration, I know many entrepreneurs, including myself, who have some of our identity wrapped up in growth and our ability to add new customers. It can be demoralizing when you’re not seeing growth.

The funny part of this issue of growth is that many times, you’re getting enough new customers; the problem is that you’re also losing customers, aka churn.

Churn is the silent killer of businesses. Every business has a day that arrives at a different time each year, but when it arrives, it is one of the single best days for all entrepreneurs. That day is Churn Freedom Day!

Churn Freedom Day is the day when your business has gotten enough new customers to replace the customers you’ll lose each year from churn.

For example, if you have 500 customers and get 10 new customers per month, but you lose 100 customers per year, your company’s Churn Freedom Day is Nov. 1. By doing a little simple math, if everything else is equal, you’ll have 520 customers at the end of the year, or a growth of 4% for the year.

At the end of the day, growth is better than being flat or experiencing declining growth, but 4% growth isn’t much to write home about unless you’re a massive corporation.

With all the effort needed to grow, all the expense and marketing, nearly all businesses will get a better ROI if, instead of creating a new email series or marketing campaign to get more new customers, you focus on decreasing churn.

Newsletter marketing done right is one of the single best ways to decrease churn, but before I get into the companions of a newsletter that decreases churn, let’s look at some of the top reasons customers leave a business.

According to a Rockefeller Corporation study, 69% of customers leave a company because they feel the company is indifferent to them. WHAT? Seems crazy, right? After all these customers literally put food on your table, of course, you’re not indifferent to them.

Unfortunately, at the end of the day, perception is reality, and your customers who leave perceive that you’re indifferent to them. What causes that?

One of the leading causes is lack of communication. Business relationships are not that different from personal relationships; they need nurturing and regular communication.

Most businesses have limited or no regular communication with their customers unless it is a sales message.

Think about the communications you’ve been sending over the last 6-12 months. How many of those emails, social media posts, or direct mail campaigns were simply sales pitches? Or disguised sales pitches? (A dental office sending an appointment reminder email is still a sales message.)

Diverse people shouting through social media platforms

What do you think your number is?

In most businesses, it is greater than 90% sales communication compared to nurturing and relationship-building. If you’re asking for money every time you chat with your customers, and you never call or write just to say hi or share something personal or exciting with them, why wouldn’t you expect them to feel you’re indifferent to them?

The challenge to solving this problem is scale. How do we build relationships and make a large group of customers feel special and feel that we care?

The answer is newsletter marketing. When you send a newsletter in which, rather than selling, you open up, share what’s going on in your life, and take an interest in topics that may be important in your customers’ lives, you now have the start of a relationship. With time and consistency, that budding relationship goes from casual to one where they feel a real connection with you. People who know, like, and trust you don’t churn out.

Not only do they not churn out, but they refer friends and spend more money with you. All of this makes you more profitable.

If we circle back to Churn Freedom Day and our original example business that has 500 customers, gains 120 new ones per year but loses 100, and we add in newsletter marketing and relationship building to decrease churn to 50 customers per year, the business radically changes. Its Churn Freedom Day is now June 1. It now adds 70 new customers per year and grows at 14% per year. If the average customer has a first-year value of $2,000, that is an extra $100,000 per year in revenue, not to mention that existing customers typically have a much larger annual value than new customers do.

Part of your overall marketing strategy must include churn reduction if you want to see real growth, and the single best way is with a print newsletter and using the newsletter marketing techniques we’re talking about here.

Once you have your print newsletter, you should use the custom content you create as part of your overall content marketing strategy. You can easily take the newsletter content and repurpose it for an email newsletter, snippets for email marketing, or articles for your blog and social media accounts. This allows you to get the most bang for your buck and all the content you’re creating.

Want to sell more to existing customers? Here’s how to do it with a newsletter. 

We just talked about building relationships and reducing churn, but another way to reduce churn is to actually sell more to existing customers.

You may have noticed that cable companies always want you to buy an insurance package, or they want you to bundle phone, internet, and cable TV. The insurance agent wants to sell you home, auto, and life insurance. These big companies have discovered that the more lines of service you have with them, the less likely it is that you’ll leave for another company due to the pain-in-the-ass factor of having to switch everything.

The same is true for small businesses: the more lines of business a person does with your company, the less likely they are to churn out. If you use your newsletter marketing campaign to build relationships and then make sure that your customers get a free-standing insert (FSI) that sells other products and services, you’ll see an increase in sales and referrals but a decreases in churn. Those factors combined equal a nice increase in profits.

Below is a simple marketing strategy to make more sales to existing customers.

Step 1: Your Content Strategy

When you’re first starting your newsletter, 100% of the content should be focused on readership. Without readership, you have nothing. I recommend that you spend the first three months building up readership of your mailing list. With few exceptions, you simply don’t want to promote anything during the first few months. After the third month, promotions should happen every month, but with the exception of an event or referral campaign, all promos should be done on your FSI (free-standing insert). Do NOT do coupons or other promos directly in the newsletter, and especially not on the back page.

Step 2: Mail Monthly

If you can’t mail monthly, you may as well skip the newsletter marketing strategy as a whole. You can’t build a relationship with quarterly communication, and without the relationship aspect the newsletter provides, you’ll cripple every other benefit to the point that, for most readers, it has no value.

Step 3: Omnichannel Marketing With Offers.

You want to make sure you’re sending the same offer that’s in the newsletter in emails, on social media, and via direct mail as well. Combining the powers of these medias will make your efforts much more effective.

Step 4: Give the Offer Time

Newsletter marketing isn’t like social media marketing or email marketing, because the media isn’t consumed the same way. With email, people are just trying to get through the 147-plus emails they get a day. With social media, people are really looking to see what their friends and family are doing and don’t care much about the ads. With a newsletter that is done right, people actually look forward to getting it and set it aside to read when they can focus on it, which sometimes means in bed, in the bathroom, or at the dining room table. It is a much more intimate media, and in turn, you can’t expect they will get it and consume it straight away, so make sure your offers take into account how customers consume the media.

Step 5: Rotate Your Offers

You can’t show the same offer month in and month out without “offer fatigue.” You need to have multiple offers, and make sure you rotate through them for the best results. If you don’t have multiple offers yet, you’ll have to rest offers periodically, or they will lose all effectiveness.

Using newsletter marketing to promote and generate new referrals.

One of my favorite newsletter marketing strategies is to get more referrals using your newsletter. We’ve found that simply sending a newsletter that is personal and filled with useful content will get an increase in word-of-mouth marketing and referrals because you’ll get what we call “pass-around value,” which is where one person reads your article and then hands the newsletter to a friend or family member they feel the article would be useful for. Recently, we had one dentist get a referral that resulted in an $8,000 partial restoration. It came because the dentist sent his newsletter to a client, who had it sitting in his car when a golfing buddy said he needed dental work. The customer gave the newsletter to the patient and told him to call the dentist.

Studies have shown that you only get top-of-mind awareness with customers for a maximum of three days after each no-sales contact with them. Each day after the third, they are thinking less and less about you. This is one reason you should mail monthly and communicate 2-4 times per month at a minimum. It is during this top-of-mind awareness period that you’re most likely to get a referral.

There are three factors that will help you increase referrals.

  1. Content: Is the content relevant, and does it build relationships? Do people consume it? All of that matters.
  2. Frequency: In a perfect world (for me), all of my customers would wake up and want to help me grow my business, but that is not the world we live in. Instead of wishing for that to happen, my goal is to provide value on a regular basis, which is why I recommend monthly print newsletters and weekly email newsletter marketing to make sure you’re in your customer’s thoughts. Of course, the only way a customer is going to be willing to consume all this content is if you’re not boring. You have to build a relationship, and you should help them with their problems and issues. Don’t make the content all about you. Remember what the great Zig Ziglar said: “Help enough people get what they want, and you’ll get what you want.”
  3. Ask for referrals and have a great offer: One simple rule for getting more referrals is to simply ask. That seems obvious, but few people ever ask. Many times, people don’t ask simply because it feels uncomfortable. One way to bridge that gap is with an amazing offer. One of the most successful marketing campaigns we’ve put together to generate referrals was for a doctor, who gave away a trip to Disney World for a family of four. Over a seven-month period, we generated 348 new patients, who all showed up for appointments and paid for services. By having an amazing and exciting offer, the team and doctor didn’t have to simply ask for a referral; they could tell the patients about the contest, instead, and then ask them for the referral.
Male boss give business card to excited female worker or employee, exchanging contacts or information with partner, businessman introducing present identification ticket or record to woman colleague

If you’re a small business, you may think you can’t afford a trip to Disney World, but one of the best reasons to offer an amazing referral program with a gift is that you get paid before you typically have to give away the prize. In my above example, this dentist got 348 new paid patients before he had to cut a check for a trip.

One big mistake I see people make with a referral campaign is they get cheap on the gift and then wonder why it didn’t work.

Another rookie small-business mistake is to send a bulk email once and then complain about not getting enough referrals. A simple marketing email isn’t enough to get people to take notice. In my above example, we advertised each month in our print newsletter, sent emails, and promoted the referral contest in-office.

Having a killer newsletter marketing strategy that integrates print, email, and social media can easily be one of the largest home runs for any small business.

Now that you have a clear plan as to how to ROI your newsletter marketing strategy, the next thing you need is a step-by-step guide for creating a newsletter that can get results as we’ve talked about in this article. The single best guide for that is my book on newsletter marketing, and the good news is that I’ve already bought you a copy! All you have to do is tell me where to mail your book. Send me “The Newsletter Marketing Book.”

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