Yesterday, for the first time in over five months, I went running.
This may not sound like a big deal to you. But for me, it was a run I’d been waiting for since March 13th – the day I had the ACL (the “Something beginning with an A, Something beginning with a C, Ligament”) in my knee replaced.
And so even though I was restricted to just eight minutes, it was a thrill.
The truth is, I felt good enough to run way back in May. The stitches were out, the crutches were gone and although at that point it was only about two months post surgery, I felt as good as new.
Fortunately, my doctor set me straight during a spring follow-up visit. Here’s what he told me:
“You, my friend, are in the Danger Zone. From now until August, your job is to not do anything stupid.”
I didn’t know what he was talking about. I’d been given similar instructions before, but mostly from my wife Linda, in the context of child care.
“There’s a 10% failure rate with ACL reconstruction. And 90% of that 10% [English majors, try to stay with us] occurs between months two and four after surgery.
“The exciting part is over and your pain is just about gone. This is when people make mistakes.”
Naturally, this got me thinking about E-Newsletters (I never stop working for you). Because it occurred to me that in this case as well, the same timeline holds true: 90% of E-Newsletter failures occur between months two and four.
Think about this…
Out of all the newsletters I’ve been involved with, I’ve never (ever) had one die prior to launch. Some have taken longer than others to lift off the ground, but eventually, they always do.
On the flip side, most E-Newsletters that get past the first six months or so tend to live on successfully for several years to come.
It’s the ones in the middle, however – the two to four month infants that are just learning to walk – that tend to fizzle, fade and vanish from the face of the Earth.
Which is why today, and despite the fact that I’ve never spent even a day in medical school, I give you “Dr. Michael’s 3 Suggestions for the Recently Hatched E-Newsletter.”
- Don’t do anything stupid. According to my doctor, the definition of “stupid” was any type of running. Jogging across the street ahead of traffic; letting my dog pull me a few steps as she takes off after a squirrel; playing five minutes of touch football in the back yard. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
With a newish E-Newsletter, stupid tends to involve explicit attempts to “monetize the list.” Promoting your products, your services, your seminars, etc. should always be done with a gentle touch, but during these early months in particular, it’s off limits.
At this point, your readers are still watching to see if you’ll really deliver on your promise of useful, interesting, no-strings-attached information. Focus, therefore, on positioning yourself and your company as a trusted, industry expert… and leave the selling for later. (Follow this link for my friend Colleen Wainwright’s account of her recent, off-putting experience as a new newsletter subscriber.)
- Stay with the program. I found it relatively easy to do my knee exercises during those first couple of months. I was visiting the physical therapist twice a week, and progress could be seen almost daily.
After a couple of months, however, it was hard to see improvement. Even though my doctor assured me that lots of healing was still going on, without any outward signs, I found it difficult to keep at it.
Your newsletter follows a similar pattern. In those first few months everyone’s all excited about the new communication tool you’ve developed. Friends, coworkers, clients and others tell you how wonderful it is and you (deservedly) feel pretty good about what you’ve done.
By month three or four, however, they’ve all gone back to their busy lives (ingrates), and it’s easy to feel as if your newsletter is just blasting silently into space. Ignore that feeling – here as well, there is “lots of healing still going on.”
Although you can’t always see it, if you were to X-Ray your E-Newsletter at this point (I don’t recommend this) you would see dormant relationships regenerating, your stature as industry expert growing and prospective clients moving steadily closer to picking up the phone and calling.
So keep publishing. Choose a set date each month (third Friday, for example) and commit to getting your newsletter out the door, on time, for a year (just to be safe).
- Take a long term view. My surgery was completely elective. I could have avoided all the inconvenience by simply giving up basketball, running a little bit less, and finding some way to make up the exercise differential.
But I knew that six months would go by in the blink of an eye, at which point (I was told) my knee would be 110% as strong as it was when I was 25 (I know what you’re thinking: Too bad they can’t do that for all your body parts).
If you think of your newsletter as just today’s marketing tactic, something you do instead of buying some newspaper ads or sponsoring an event, you’re missing the larger point. Over time, a newsletter makes your marketing, prospecting and selling easier and more efficient. It’s not a tactic, it’s a lifestyle. But it takes time.
Bottom line: Most companies assume that getting a newsletter launched is the hard part, and that once accomplished, the gains will be steady and obvious. In my experience however, and while all the things you’re hoping your E-Newsletter will deliver are waiting just as you envision, you need to first run (I mean walk) through the Danger Zone.