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Jill Whalen

Eight Ways to Earn Subscriber Trust
By Jill Whalen

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From the editor: Search-engine-optimization specialist Jill Whalen knows a few things about this topic, too, because she is a veteran newsletter publisher. Her current ezine, High Rankings Advisor, goes out weekly to more than 13,000 subscribers. She is planning her first SEO seminar for November 18 in Boston. See more at

Why Trust is Important

At some point in your newsletter's existence, there will come a time when you want your subscribers to take action. It may be as simple as providing feedback on how you can improve the newsletter or as important as making a purchase from you. Regardless of what it is, your subscribers are much more likely to take action if they trust and respect you.

With that in mind, here are eight simple ways to earn and keep your subscribers' trust:

  1. Be a good writer.

  2. One would think that this goes without saying; however, there are enough poorly written newsletters out there that prove otherwise. Nothing will lose subscribers faster than a newsletter that is hard to read. If you're not a good writer, then hire a ghostwriter to convey your message in an easy-to-read, intelligent manner.

  3. Be yourself.
    This is a difficult concept for some to get a handle on because many find it hard to mix a business message with a personal tone. Your best bet is to not think about it and just to do it. Readers like and trust real people, not words on a page.

    Unfortunately, many can't figure out how to let their personality shine through. It really is okay to go a bit off topic at times and mention what you did for the weekend, what kind of beer you like, or even something your kid did in school. If you can somehow tie it in with the topic at hand -- all the better!

    To be sure, there will be a few "cranky" subscribers who don't want to hear about your personal life, but the bulk of your audience will enjoy it as long as you use it judiciously. Even if you're the cranky one, it's okay to let this shine through in your writing. Anything that makes you memorable and gives you your own unique voice is a good thing; it's what sets you apart from your competitors.

  4. Ooze honesty and integrity.
    If your company makes a mistake, whether in your newsletter or some other area, be sure to own up to it. Apologize to your customers/subscribers as soon as you realize what happened, even if it means sending out a special edition. Never try to cover up or ignore your error; it will only leave doubts about your integrity. It's easy to pass the buck, but it takes someone with real character to admit when they've goofed up.

    One of the worst things you can do is try to put a positive spin on an obvious gaffe. People aren't fooled by marketing hype. All it does is insult your readers' intelligence, which in turn loses their trust. It's a lot harder to gain back lost trust than it is to obtain it in the first place.

  5. Hire a proofreader.
    When writing all day, it's easy to make typos and grammatical errors. Your eyes and brain can be so bleary that you'll miss even the most glaring mistakes. Spell checkers and grammar checkers help, but they're no substitute for a good, human (anal retentive) proofreader. This will cost you some bucks, but it's important to have another set of eyes reading your work.

    Newsletters that are riddled with typos and bad grammar (or even just one or two once in a while) give the impression that your readers are not important to you, and/or that you're not a true professional. Even when working with a proofreader, mistakes may happen at times. (Trust me: Your readers will point them out!) Do your best to keep these to a minimum.

  6. Give information away for free.
    This one is a hard concept for many people because they're afraid of "giving away the farm." Don't be. You can never tell everything you know, because most of your knowledge is wrapped up in many years of experience and expertise.

    In a newsletter, you can give away lots of useful nuggets of information and not lose sales over it. Doing this proves that you know what you're talking about, which greatly enhances your credibility.

    There will be people who read your newsletter simply for the free help and information, and have no intentions of ever buying from you. That's okay; you still want to be as helpful and informative as possible. These folks may eventually come around, but even if they don't, there are plenty of others who will. By letting your knowledge shine through, you become the clear choice for those who are ready to buy.

  7. Be upfront about what youíre selling.
    Your readers are not dumb; they know when you're trying to sell to them. If you want to sell stuff in your newsletter, that's fine -- just don't try to hide it. Simply come right out and ask for the sale. Explain why the purchase would be in their best interest, and let them know that you will indeed profit from it.

    This won't stop people from buying from you. In fact, your honesty has the potential to make you more sales.

  8. Use self-promotion in small doses.
    A little self-promotion is fine; it makes your readers aware of your products or services. Just beware of creating one gigantic, self-promotional ad disguised as a newsletter. Use moderation and common sense when promoting yourself. Itís fine to provide a bit of promotional information, but donít make it the central focus of your newsletter. Let people contact you if they want more information.

  9. Don't get discouraged.
    Building trust and credibility with your subscribers can take a long time. In fact, it can take as long as a year or more. Don't get discouraged if you feel like you're pouring your heart and soul into your newsletter and aren't getting any return on your investment.

    It takes time to build up a large-enough subscriber base to see results. It also takes time for your readers to learn what you and your company are all about. If you have patience, and truly do a good job, eventually your labor will bear fruit.

    It helps if you enjoy what you're doing. Sometimes it might feel as if all you do is give, give, give, and the readers just take, take, take. But, don't forget about the perks that can come from having a successful newsletter -- things like speaking engagements, requests for articles and interviews with reporters.

    Eventually, everything will come together into one complete package and before you know it, your subscriber numbers and sales will soar.

Ezine-Tips for October 21, 2002

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