Using Premiums to Increase Free Email Newsletter Sign-Ups

Executive Summary

  • Adding an eBook to your free email newsletter can dramatically lift sign-ups
  • The topic, title and design of your eBook premium is a major variable
  • Offering a free eBook can also increase opt-in confirmation rates

While many publishers assume that giving away a free email newsletter should be enough to maximize visitor traffic conversions, others treat their free email newsletter marketing programs like any other serious direct response program. Over the past 10 years, I’ve seen free email newsletter publishers test creative, placement and premiums to boost conversions rates. One publisher who had never used premiums to “sell” his free email newsletter decided to give it a try.

The Test: He created three eBooks with unique titles that were collections of existing content. His eBooks included 25 to 35 pages of content on a hot topic and were each given a professional cover design using keywords that matched his target audience. The three eBooks were added to the free email newsletter order forms across the site and a post-script announced, “New eLetter subscribers would also get XXXX guidebook—absolutely free.” All four free email newsletter offers were put into random rotation. Only one offer was used inside a unique user session to ensure that a given user would see the same offer throughout the site during their session.

The Results: All three offers that included a free eBook lifted gross conversion rates from a low of 18 percent to a high of 37 percent.

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Unexpected Bonus: Users were sent an email with a link to their free eBook that was also the free email newsletter confirmation. The three tests that included free eBooks saw confirmation rates rise by as much as 21 percent (see chart). The lift in sign-ups and in confirmations for the winning test generated a total lift of 64 percent. Not bad considering the downloadable eBook adds virtually no cost to the acquisition process, except the fixed cost for creating each new eBook.

Increasing Free Email Newsletter Sign-ups
No eBook eBook #1 eBook #2 eBook #3
Gross Sign-ups
Confirmation Rate
Net Sign-ups
Net Index

Lesson: While getting a free email newsletter is enough to get many people to part with their precious email address, a free email newsletter and free eBook will commit many more to take action. It will also cause many more to confirm their subscription request while downloading their free eBook.


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