I was talking with our copywriter John here at eBridge and a number of years ago he wrote for a marketing newsletter in a natural resource industry. At various times the publisher would approach him to tell him that he needed more subscriptions in order to keep paying the big bucks.
These were the days before the Internet, so everything he tried had to be based in direct mail, faxes and phone calls. Not a cold caller by inclination, and most businesses resented receiving “fax spam,” so that left mail.
He had good success with strong letters pitching the uniqueness of the newsletter, and offering discounts and simple premiums (“Use the enclosed pen to sign up”). This industry was often embroiled in lengthy labor disputes and, over the years, he had gotten to know the economic researcher for the trade union. One day he sent me a report he had just finished on North American markets for the commodity his union produced, asking if John would give it a quick edit.
After reading it, John saw at once that it contained much information about the industry and its markets that would be of great interest for his readers. John sought and received permission to prepare a special edition of this report and offered it as a premium to new subscribers. He was astonished by the demand. In fact, in less than three months, circulation doubled, based on offering this special report.
Special reports are not something you can write in a few hours. They require research, interviews with experts and are best if they are written by an expert. At the very least, your expert should at least supply an outline and bullet points for your writer to use.
When planning a special report, keep in mind that they require lots of detail, charts, illustrations and references. The only connection to your company is that you have either commissioned the special report, or have made special arrangements to distribute it. If readers detect an obvious sales ploy, you and your report will lose credibility. You can prepare pitches for your company around the report, but the report itself should not attempt to sell your company.
A very good report is Eyetrack III: Consumer Behaviour in the Age of Multimedia. Published by the Poynter Institute, it is an astonishing and detailed look at how people look at websites. The report is presented as a multi-layered website and as a PDF for download. As with the white paper I referenced in my last blog, we have no connection with Poynter.
You can have a look at Eyetrack III here:
– Link no longer available –