Recently, Susan Daffron announced that her weekly Publishize Newsletter would be no more. The consultant and author of several books relating to self-publishing said she has decided that her highly informative e-letter has proven to be a waste of time and has failed to attract any new business.
In shutting down the e-letter, Daffron tackled of challenge many marketers and consultants: When does giving away valuable information and insights help to build credibility and trust and when does it just result in giving away your services for free with no value to your business?
In a guest posting on The Solopreneur Life blog, When the money isn’t in the list: The case against freebies, Daffron writes:
We sell our own books and offer conferences and training for people who want to write and publish their own books as well. It seems that at least in this market, people don’t value free.
Although almost everyone says they want to write a book, the reality is that almost no one actually does. Gazillions of wanna-be authors will never, ever do anything. They are not my customers. Thinking that they could become my customers was my mistake.
Realistically, idle dreamers can consume free stuff forever, without actually ever doing anything with the information. In contrast, those people who are motivated do spend money to solve a problem and move forward. Asking for money acts as a filter.
Another online marketing truism is the concept of “know, like, and trust.” The theory is that if you give away free stuff, people will be more inclined to buy from you. I got countless “love notes” from my readers, but when they were asked to buy something, they said they “couldn’t afford it” no matter how inexpensive. These people are clearly not my customers.
I’m starting to think that “know, like, and trust” is basically a bunch of hogwash. Realistically, it’s easy to do a search online and buy from companies I’ve never heard of, didn’t know, don’t like, and don’t really trust. But if they have something I really want that solves a problem, I’ll buy anyway.
Contrast these observations to Brian Hill’s More From Less blog advice in a posting headed: “How to use an email newsletter to build relationships with clients and prospects”.
By continuing to create compelling content, and by continuing to engage readers, you will continue to build relationships. Relationships lead to business. And to emphasize the importance of continually working to build relationships, I’d like to point out the following: in order to convert a prospective client into an active client, it takes an average of 20 to 25 touches (or contacts with that prospect). Unless you have the time to personally visit and/or call each and every prospect on your list each and every month, building relationships that will lead to future work will take years. Starting now with an email newsletter will help you to save time and to improve the quality of the contact that you do have with your prospects and clients.
Who is right here and who is not?
Well, the answer may be a little bit of both.
Consider Susan Daffron’s argument. I’ve been reading her newsletter for close to two years. I discovered it when I started researching the writing of Construction Marketing Ideas: Practical strategies and resources to attract and retain profitable clients for your architectural, engineering or construction business. Then, I faced the daunting challenge of writing my first book. Even though I have years of experience in periodical publishing and journalism, I simply didn’t know how to get started.
Her newsletter provided some valuable insights and resources, but guess what — when I needed a consultant and writing coach, I didn’t call her — I phoned someone who I discovered though another Google search. However I enjoyed reading her newsletter and learned from her about Smashwords, which enables publishers to manage electronic book publishing without stress. Yesterday, Smashwords sent the first royalty payment for e-books sold around the world to my Paypal account. Daffron, alas, didn’t earn a cent for her useful advice.
So she may have a point. Let’s contrast her observations to the counter argument about the value of newsletters in cultivating relationships. You might recall my recent posting where I discussed Matt Handal’s observations that he finds it crazy to argue that marketing is “all about relationships” and then proceeds to debunk the “relationship” myth. These observations seem to back up Daffron’s observations — and suggest that Brian Hill and other e-letter proponents’ perspectiveve is off base.
Thinking back over the last few years, I, too, am starting to wonder how much direct business the weekly Construction Marketing Ideas newsletter generates. On reflection, I’ve noticed an interesting quality about the newsletter. When it is new and fresh — or there is a significant format redesign — for a few issues, I seem to receive a “bump” in inquiries (though I can’t track much direct business from it). Then things settle down. Could this because there is no surprise in the story, that the newsletter has become an expected “gift” much like the “free estimates,” which consume time and energy but which provide little direct marketing value?
However, I know there is another side to the story. Business is not always about direct sales and cash revenue though obviously you need to generate revenue to stay in business. Blogging clearly has value in the search engine optimization space, and that generates valuable leads. Brian Hill also points out that linking your blog to your e-letter serves a dual purpose. You can recycle and provide tidbits of your blog within your newsletter, directing traffic and inquiries back to your site (in highly measurable ways), without stressing out and spending too much time on the actual writing process.
Daffron, in fact, is not opposed to targeted e-letters to existing clients. She has simply thrown in the towel of trying to “build relationships” with strangers through the e-letter format. In place, she will provide highly focused and specific communications with current and previous clients.
I will continue my Construction Marketing Ideas newsletter for now. You can request your subscription here. However I’m thankful to Susan Daffron not only for the free advice she has given me about book publishing, but also for her free advice about e-letters. What goes round may (eventually) come round.