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September 17th, 2007

What Napoleon Knows About Newsletter List Growth

“A man will give his life for a simple bit of colored ribbon.”

Kindergarten-teacher Katrina decided to hold an awards ceremony mid-year to encourage great behavior during that time of year when kids tend to climb the walls.

She announced the ceremony a few weeks before it was to happen and told the kids about the different awards she’d be giving out–things like “Most imaginative color-er” and “Best at hand-raising.” As part of her announcement, she highlighted five specific awards.

“The student who does the best job finishing their homework between now and then will receive the “Homework Good Do-er Award,” she said. She had one student who struggled with his homework considerably. He often brought it back incomplete, usually a mess.

But something about her announcement inspired him and after the rest of the class had gone out to recess, he announced that he planned to win the homework award. For the next two weeks, he consistently presented Katrina with completed homework assignments–still with many cross outs and erased mistakes, but complete.

Two weeks later, he did indeed win that award–accepting it with a huge grin (and bow).

Everyone Likes to Win

Most people have way too much experience with failure. Maybe the boss requires too much. Or maybe a client’s upset because of a misplaced order.

We get home after a long day at work only to find more stuff to do–the house needs cleaning, dinner needs cooking, the kids need help with their math, the dog needs a bath… And since it’s impossible to get it all done, we go to bed thinking we “failed” at our day.

Is it any wonder we relish crossing things off our to-do lists? Is it at all strange that we pursue easy tasks that bring big rewards?

When you create a situation for your readers to win at, you brighten their day. Instead of your newsletter being yet another task “to be done,” it’s a bright spot in their days–something to look forward to.

Select Awards Right for Readers

Holding an awards ceremony for your readers might be a little tricky (after all, if your newsletter’s a typical email publication, you probably have readers all around the world). But that doesn’t mean you can’t let your readers win.

The Certain Way publisher Rebecca Fine holds a monthly contest for readers. The secret to making it work for her is that each entrant must read the newsletter in order to be able to enter. To see how she manages this, check out her newsletter.

Publisher Scott Stratten has run several promotional contests. He gives out points to subscribers who help him find new subscribers and the subscriber who wins the most points in the end receives a prize.

The trick is to think of a reward that will really be valued by your subscribers–however you choose to award it. For Rebecca, these rewards are often related to her readers’ financial education, while Scott often makes prizes of his products.

How Does This Grow Your List?

If you reward subscribers based on their helping you grow your list, clearly giving awards will help you add subscribers.

Even if your awards aren’t related to growing your list, though, they’ll still have an impact.

Remember, people like to win. And when you give them ways to win, it gets them talking about your newsletter. Get them talking about your newsletter, and you’ll see more subscribers joining your list.

When you let readers win, you’ll win too. Your subscribers will delight all the more in your newsletter which means they’ll actively work to get you new subscribers.

How might you set up your newsletter so that your readers can win? I’d love to hear from you! Post your thoughts here!

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