The Fifth Commandment of Ezines: Obey the 40% rule
Last month, we talked about the importance of focusing your ezine’s content on a well-defined subject (or set of subjects). But how much self-promotion can you do? Quite a bit, actually – but, yes, there is a limit. Now we’re going to talk about what’s called the “40% Rule.”
Commandment #5: Thou shalt not overwhelm thy reader with promotional content; yea, prosperous be the man or woman who observeth the 40% rule.
Earlier this year, I received another monthly issue of a popular copywriting ezine. I eagerly opened it, and before long, my “spider sense” started tingling. Something was not quite right. And I had to figure out what.
Just to satisfy my curiosity, I copied the text into a word processor and did a word count. But it wasn’t just a total word count – it was a comparison of “useful” content to “promotional” content.
And when I was done counting, I reluctantly unsubscribed.
Why? Over the course of several monthly issues, the ezine had pumped up the promotional content and decreased its more useful content. Just to be sure I wasn’t imagining things, I compared the last issue’s promotional/useful ratio with an issue from a year before. The difference was startling.
My “spider sense” had been right – he’d just broken the 40% Rule.
Any permission marketing vehicle, by its very nature, promises to deliver something of value to its recipients. It’s all about reciprocity – you give me permission to email you, I send you something you can use.
But when an ezine becomes mostly promotional – “Buy my ebook! Register for my seminar!” – it violates subscribers’ trust. Granted, it’s not as bad as selling or giving away subscriber email addresses. But it’s still a violation of an implied agreement.
With that in mind, here’s the 40% Rule:
Purely promotional content in your ezine should never exceed 40% of your total content in any given issue. And if you can keep it closer to 20-30%, so much the better.
So what constitutes “promotional content,” you ask?
- “Buy my _____” or “register for my _____” or “hire me” messages
- Testimonials from satisfied customers or case studies/white papers on work you’ve done
- Promotional offers (limited time offers, discounts to subscribers for particular products or services, etc.)
- Announcements of new products or services
- Affiliate promotions (i.e., promoting others’ products or services in a way that scores you a sales commission)
Remember, you’re in their inbox by invitation because they’re expecting something of value. Be a good guest. Deliver what your readers signed up for with a minimum of “salesy” content.