A few businesses and nonprofits I know of still offer email newsletters as a paid membership benefit. I’m not against that at all … as long as there’s a free version of the newsletter too. Sure, maybe don’t give away the specialized info or the special deals paying members get, but – why would you turn down the opportunity to get an interested consumer’s email?!
Email is one of the most personal ways to stay in touch with a customer (other than face-to-face interaction or calling them on the phone). Despite all the great ways businesses can now connect with customers through social media, email still is king in that regard. Someone can Like your Facebook page and never see a single thing you post (because of Facebook’s ever-annoying Edgerank algorithm). I don’t know about most people, but I check my email probably 50 to 100 times a day.
I understand if a business wants to share “premium” content via email to paid members, but, in not capturing a potential customer’s email, they miss a chance to try to sell that membership … along with whatever other product they are pushing … to that customer on a weekly basis. And on the flip side – customers deserve a bit of a trial sample of what you are going to offer through email. Will you provide me with interesting, relevant information and good resources? If so, I may just sign up for one of your paid memberships. But I’m not going to pay you to send me emails right out of the blocks. And I don’t think many other people would either.
This comes back to the most essential tenet of successful digital marketing: give good content away for free. A great example of a local business that does this right is Tattered Cover Bookstore. They send me monthly emails with interesting news about the latest books that are out, in-store author readings and all sorts of other events. I’ve ended up back at that bookstore more times than I can count because of something I saw in an email they sent out.
They send me emails for free, and in return draw in my business time and time again. And that’s how it should be. Because the goal is not to sell people emails but to sell them your product.