The ideal source for this information is your client: the product manager, sales director, editor, owner, or someone else in the company who is knowledgeable.
- PROJECT FUNDAMENTALS:
- What is the product’s Unique Selling Proposition?
What is your publication’s concept? Its aim, function, unique selling proposition? How is it “positioned”? Ask the client to complete this sentence: “This is the only resource that …”
- What is the competition for this product?
Who are the major competitors? What are their failings? Is there a gap in the marketplace? If so, how does your product fill that gap? What do you offer that’s exclusive?
- Who is your market?
Who is the target subscriber or user? What are the ages and gender of the users, their income level, etc.? Such demographic data is an important starting point for getting to know the prospective buyer. But go beyond that, into attitudes, motivations, emotions, behavior, etc. For example, does the prospective investor favor gold? Is he a conservative who is suspicious of big government? Ask the client about the attitudes and mindset of the subscribers. Even better, ask some subscribers directly.
- What are the prospect’s biggest concerns, emotions, and needs?
This may be the single most important question to ask. Determine your prospect’s biggest concerns and problems. What keeps him awake at night? What questions, complaints, fears, threats, mistakes, and opportunities does he face? What information or help does he need to deal with them? If it’s a B2B product, what’s the industry climate? What trends, events, hot issues, and new developments are occurring in this field?
- How does the product help the reader?
How does it fill a compelling need in your prospect’s life? What are its features? What concrete benefits will he realize?
- What is the product’s name?
If this is a new product, you may have a hand in naming it. Find out how the name, subtitle, slogan, and logo reflect its goals.
- What are the product’s origins?
Is this a brand-new product or does it have historical roots? Who first created or developed the product? Are there any interesting or compelling stories about its start?
- Is there an editorial/marketing plan?
Does your client have any internal documents about the product, its development, its marketing? Ask him to share them with you, in confidence. The more you know, the stronger the promotion you can write.
- Can you supply me with back issues?
Ask to see a year or two of back issues. If it’s a launch, ask for a list of article titles and synopses that are planned for the new publication.
- What is the content?
What are the current and planned articles? What are the regular departments, columns, standing features? Does the newsletter emphasize specifics, so the reader can take action and realize concrete benefits? Does the content suggest surprising or little-known facts that can be cited in the promotional copy?
- What is the editorial policy?
Is the newsletter independent? If so, is this a selling point in contrast with the competition?
- Does the newsletter offer exclusive content or benefits?
Can it boast “scoops”? Accurate predictions? What is its track record?
- What are the newsletter’s sources?
How does the editor/staff obtain information? Do they have “inside” sources? What is the newsgathering process?
- What items have generated a strong reader response?
Was the response favorable or unfavorable? Why did readers respond that way? Can this knowledge be applied in the promotional copy?
- Who are the people on the editorial staff?
Who are the editors and writers? What are their biographies and qualifications? Any anecdotes or special stories? Do you have photos?
- Does the newsletter have a board of advisors?
Again, what are their biographies, qualifications, stories? Photos?
- What mailing lists will be used?
What are the mailing lists, list brokers, and/or media? Is the client targeting the right audience? Are prospects already familiar with the newsletter? With the publisher?
- Are there testimonials or similar materials?
Does the client have testimonials (from subscribers or authorities in the field), anecdotes, or success stories? Press clips? Awards? What special achievements can the client boast? Proof of authority?
- What is the circulation?
What is the publication’s circulation and renewal rate?
- What market research has been done?
Is subscriber survey data available? May I look at the subscriber list?
- What are the results of past promotional efforts?
What type of testing has been done? Split-tests? Please supply copies of past promotions, and the results. The renewal series and results. Any lessons to be drawn from this data? Is a “welcome” letter sent to new subscribers?
- Competitive products?
Do you have samples of competitive publications? The promotions for them? Should competitors be mentioned or named in copy?
- What type of package will this be?
Any “mandatories” re the concept, format, structure? Who is the graphic designer?
- Are there any copy caveats?
What legal constraints, if any, do we face? Internal policies?
- What is the newsletter’s subscription price?
What is the regular price? Can we offer a discount? A “Charter” offer? If a launch, can we promise to deliver “all issues from #1”?
- What are the ordering options?
Does the client prefer a soft or hard offer? Billing? Credit cards? Can the prospect order via phone, fax, online?
- What is the frequency of publication?
How often is it published? Will the subscriber receive alerts between regular issues?
- What are the terms of the guarantee?
How long is the guarantee valid? Is the refund full or pro-rata?
- How is the product delivered?
Is it mailed First Class? Delivered via email? Other method(s)?
- Is the publisher offering a premium?
What is the basic premium? Early-response premium? Prepayment incentives? Additional bonuses?
- Finally, do you have any additional background material that can help me write the strongest possible copy? Subscribers or experts I can interview?
The last word: Although I often used this checklist while interviewing clients by phone or in person, in other cases they completed the answers themselves and sent me the resulting document. Not surprisingly, I heard occasional complaints about the work I was asking them to do. But, more often, they told me afterward: “You’ve made me think through issues I needed to address in order to improve my business. Thank you!”