Back in the days when I had a corporate job, I participated in “company retreats” several times each year. Imbedded among the obligatory PowerPoint presentations, name tags and free beer was always some kind of “team building exercise.” And although it’s been about ten years now, one exercise in particular has stuck with me.
We were divided into several groups of about a dozen people each, with each group given a “survival scenario.” You know the kind I mean: “Your plane has crashed in the Antarctic. You have with you half a map; a 16 foot piece of rope; 28 M&Ms and a framed photograph of Winston Churchill. Using only these materials, devise a plan for leading your team to safety.”
I don’t mind telling you that left on my own in this situation, my plan would have been something like, “eat the M&Ms and jump rope with Winston until help arrives.” Fortunately however, my friend Tom had also ended up on my team.
Tom was a Marine reserve, and had just returned from an intensive 6 week training in (I’m not kidding) “Extreme Cold Weather Survival Skills.”“Piece of cake,” I remember thinking to myself. “With ‘Ice Man Tom’ on our team, we’ll be out of here in no time and with M&Ms to spare.”
As it turned out, that’s not exactly what happened. While it’s true that Tom was indeed the most knowledgeable team member on the subject of cold weather survival, at the end of the exercise, our team score was higher than that of any individual (including Tom). In fact, that was the point of the exercise: To demonstrate that in certain situations, many of us are smarter than one of us.(Insert your own Congressional joke here.)
I mention this to you today as background to the launch of E-Newsletter Chat , a new web site with just one purpose: To allow you and your fellow E-Newsletter publishing businesspeople to talk with and learn from one another. Because while it may be helpful to listen to me talk issue after issue, mine is just one perspective. And like my survival scenario experience, all of us talking together are bound to uncover more possibilities for E-Newsletter success than I could ever offer on my own.
And speaking of EnewsletterChat, many of you have already contacted me to ask whether or not launching a “forum” or “bulletin board” site like this is a worthwhile endeavor for your company. The jury’s still out on the effort/reward ratio, but I’m happy to share my reasons for putting this together:
1. It positions me as a trusted expert. As the “host of the party,” I am the de facto leader of the discussion. When one of my forum participants decides that he or she needs to bring in outside help with an E-Newsletter, I’m pretty confident that I’ll be on the short list of those considered.
2. It allows me to listen in. I am amazed at the willingness of companies to spend thousands of dollars on focus groups involving a couple of dozen participants, while many of those same companies question the value in listening in on a 24-hour-a-day, 7-day-a-week “conversation” by users and potential users of their services. The forum will give me a first hand understanding of what clients and potential clients find challenging, confusing or frustrating about E-Newsletters. Guess who’s going to be taking notes and developing services that solve those problems.
3. It provides an endless supply of content for future newsletters. The forum is an organic way for me to learn what’s important to my readers. Topics that get lots of play in the forum are bound to be of interest to the wider newsletter audience, and I can use this as a guide in deciding what to write about.
Bottom Line: No matter how expert you may be in your field, the more input you can incorporate into your thinking (particularly when it comes from customers), the more likely you are to uncover problems and solutions that simply would not have occurred to you.
EnewsletterChat is a golden opportunity for you to learn from other businesspeople with whom you have a great deal in common. I hope you’ll take advantage of this newly available E-Newsletter community, if only to get a look at the three cute little penguins gracing its top page !