Ignore My Advice

I came downstairs the other morning to find my three year old son Jonathan eating a waffle for breakfast. He was sitting up on a chair balancing a plate on his lap, a good three feet away from the nearest table.

I asked him, “Jon, why are you sitting way over here, instead of over at the kitchen table?”

He just smiled and said, “That’s where my chair was.”

At three years old, most of your world is arranged by others. The clothes you wear, the food you eat, the places you go, and yes, even which chair you’re supposed to sit in, is determined by somebody else, and pretty much just handed to you.

Although a necessary part of parenting, the unfortunate side effect of teaching, “this is the way we do it,” is that kids tend to over generalize and often don’t understand when it’s OK to paint outside the lines. All alone at breakfast that morning, Jonathan could have sat in any chair.

As business newsletter publishers, I think we’ve all got some three year old in us (and not just because we whine a lot). We spend so much effort reading and listening and watching everybody else to figure out, “the way to do it,” that we forget that one of the most effective things you can do for your company newsletter is to do it differently.

Don’t get me wrong. I spend the majority of my work life telling other people, “how to do it,” with respect to E-Newsletters, and there is an ever growing body of knowledge concerning what works and what doesn’t. The companies that approach their E-Newsletters with the attitude that, “It’s no different than our (fill in the blank: print newsletter; web site; other email marketing; etc.),” waste a lot of time and money before either giving up or throwing everything out and starting again.

That said, there is one significant thing I can’t tell anybody else, and that is the answer to the question, “What makes you different?”(Although I do ask my clients over and over and over until they’re sick of hearing it).

The reason I focus so much on this question is simple. If you can figure out what makes your company genuinely different from its competitors, and bring that across in your newsletter — whether in the way you write, the things you write about, your unique point of view, whatever — then you’ll have something that nobody else can imitate, and that will make your business stand out from the crowd (most of whom are simply watching and copying each other anyway).

But you’ve got to spend some time thinking about this question, before you just jump in and start publishing.

Bottom Line: Whether you’re a three year old or not, the temptation to just grab your waffle and sit in the chair that’s been provided is great. Your challenge as a newsletter publisher however is not to get on, “the right path.” It’s to look at what others are doing and have done, and then make a path of your own.

Remember, when it comes to creating a newsletter that stands out from the crowd, the secret ingredient is you! Feel free to sit anywhere you like.

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