Eyes On The Prize

“Candy-coated popcorn, peanuts and a prize, that’s what you get in Cracker Jack!”

I ate a lot of candy when I was a kid. Halloween, birthday parties, trips to the corner store… if there was candy to be had, I was there.

Granted, this was in the days before it was well understood that too much sugar can turn even the most docile child into a foul-mouthed psychopath (or, over time, a marketing consultant). Either way, I couldn’t get enough.

One of my favorites was Cracker Jack, a disturbing conglomeration of candy-coated popcorn and peanuts, which was consumed in three distinct phases:

Phase 1: Eating the Cracker Jacks.
Phase 2: Wiping your hands on your pants to remove the “candy coat.”
Phase 3: Opening your prize.

Looking back, I realize now that Cracker Jack – and I haven’t done any research, this is just my personal opinion – stunk. Compared to the celestial fluffiness of a Three Musketeers, or the inspired pairing of chocolate and peanut butter that is the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, Cracker Jack, and all its related gooeyness, should rightfully have been wiped off the face of the Earth sometime back in the Nixon administration.

But it wasn’t, and kids still want it. Why? You know why… it’s the free prize! Like the annoying guy you hung around with in college simply because he had a car, kids hang around with Cracker Jack for the prize.

And it’s not just kids – we all like getting an unexpected bonus. It makes us feel special, it adds some excitement to our lives, it gives us something to talk about.

Which is why, whether or not the content of your E-Newsletter is also a sticky mess, I recommend giving something of value – instantly and at no charge – to new newsletter subscribers.

Not so much as an incentive (i.e. “Sign up for the newsletter and we’ll give you this special report”), but more as an unexpected thank you for those who have already signed on.

Is it a high value gift? Not in particular, but then again, neither is a plastic whistle in a box of candy. The high value is in the gesture itself; a welcome aboard and hearty handshake to those who have chosen to join your list of esteemed readers.

Here are the steps involved:

  1. Write a brief (one or two page), useful, evergreen (i.e. something that you won’t need to update very often) giveaway on some topic related to your company’s expertise. It doesn’t have to be ground-breaking, just something that a person with an interest in your newsletter would find valuable. Here’s a link to a few that I’ve done to get you thinking.
  1. Post the document on your web site.
  1. When you send a welcome e-mail to new subscribers, include a short description and a direct link to the document on your web site. I include it as part of the welcome e-mail “P.S.,” so that it stands out a little bit more.

That’s it. It costs you nothing, is entirely automated, and is sure to lift the spirits of your sticky-fingered readers.

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