By Kate Schultz
When you think of your subscriber base, do you have loyal e-zine readers or just a bunch of subscribers?
You can develop legions of loyal readers by developing an interactive relationship with your readers through the use of some proven reader response mechanisms.
A "Reader Response Mechanism" is merely a tool that encourages your readers to respond to your messages by sending you requested information.
1. LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Ask your readers for opinions and then feature one or more of their opinions in your newsletter. Pretty soon you'll be getting letters to the editor about letters to the editor. Always ask, "So, what do you think?"
2. ASK THE EXPERT
This type of column provides you with the opportunity to find out exactly what your readers want to know. Answer your readers' questions and then carefully consider how to best use this information when developing material for future issues. By providing the answers to these questions, you also present yourself as an expert and boost your credibility with your readers
3. SURVEY YOUR READERS
This can be done easy enough by sponsoring a "Question of the Week," or placing polls or surveys on your website. I often hear publishers lament their poor response from surveys. Perhaps this is because they are asking for too much too soon. For best results, follow these four simple rules:
1. Keep it short: Even your loyal readers are busy. Don't make them jump through a lot of hoops. Completing the survey should take less than 30 seconds or you've lost them.
2. Make it easy to use: If it's an email survey, give them a separate email address to use. If it's a link to an online poll or survey, limit it to three multiple-choice answers -- click three times and submit.
3. Create an entertaining survey or poll. Think "Cosmo Quiz!"
4. Keep it anonymous: Always provide the option for your readers to submit their answers anonymously if they choose.
Post the results in every newsletter. If you have a question of the week and post your results, sooner or later even the diehards will be curious enough to participate.
4. HOLD CONTESTS
Offer a valuable prize in exchange for demographic information. Put an entry form on your site and try to gather some basic demographic information such as: age, gender, and zip code. Always include an area for free-form comments. Of course, you need to collect their email address so that you can notify the winner. Be sure to disclose what you will do with the information provided. Popular contest prizes are books, videos, CDs and software. Choose one that will be of interest to your readers.
5. MEET AND GREET
Get out and meet your readers face to face. If you are attending trade shows, events, demonstrations or workshops, use these events to meet with and talk to your readers. Participating as a guest on radio programs is another excellent way to actually get to know your subscribers.
When you ask for feedback from your readers, you learn about their passions and interests. Armed with this very specific information ABOUT your readers, FROM your readers, you can present them with high quality relevant content. The more they like your e-zine, the more likely they are to go from passive readers to active participants in your newsletter community.
Kate Schultz is the founder of the renowned Ezine University, and the co-founder of E-Zinez -- the premier newsletter for e-zine publishers. Her new book, "Ezine Adrenaline: How to Create, Publish and Market A Profitable E-zine on the Internet" is the definitive guide to high-octane e-zine marketing, and contains the fastest cash-producing e-zine tactics that give a dose of adrenaline to any Web business.