The One Mistake Your Newsletter Can’t Survive

Spring arrived in New England this past Tuesday morning. It showed up as it always does — unannounced and unexpected, like a long lost relative that you discover sleeping on your couch when you get home from work.

And as usual, spring had just one thing on its mind — to flood my basement. My house backs up to a hilly, wooded area, and when the warm weather finally arrives each March, the ground thaws and water comes rushing down the hill in search of our old photo albums and tax returns.

Luckily, the previous owner of my house attempted to solve this problem by installing a water pump. It’s nothing fancy, just a two foot square hole cut in the foundation and a pump that sits at the bottom. All I have to do (he assured me) is plug the pump into the wall outlet and toss the hose out the basement window.

And so when I came home to find the water level rising one evening after we first moved in three years ago, I did just that. Sure enough, the pump kicked in and the water started flowing.

Feeling very proud of myself, I ran upstairs, through the kitchen (high fiving my entire family along the way) and out the back door, with the goal of adjusting the hose so that the water would flow away from the house. But there was a problem: When I got outside, the hose had stopped.

I ran back down to the basement. Mysteriously, I found the pump working just fine and the hose gushing water onto the back lawn(something I confirmed by pointing a flashlight out the basement window).

So I ran back outside again. You guessed it. . . pump not working. Inside again, pump working. I have to confess that I did this back and forth routine three or four times, even stopping once to look around and make sure that Allen Funt wasn’t hiding in the bushes.

It was frustrating, and for the longest time I couldn’t figure out what was happening. Finally, after taking a break and drinking half a beer at the kitchen table, the solution dawned on me: Sell the house. No, ha, ha! I’m kidding. I suddenly realized what the problem was (stop here if you need a few more minutes to figure it out). . .

The outlet that the pump was plugged into was connected to the light switch in the basement! Each time I went downstairs I turned the switch on; each time I came back up to go outside I shut it (and the pump) off.

Unlike home ownership, one of the things I love about marketing in general and E-Newsletters in particular, is that there are few individual mistakes that all by themselves can shut you down cold. It’s mostly a matter of moving steadily in the right direction month after month, and whomever it was that described effective marketing as the art of being “vaguely right” knew what he was talking about.

There is one thing however, that will cut the power on your E-Newsletter results like a darkened light switch — not publishing. You can have the most tightly focused, beautifully designed, logistically perfected, well written newsletter in the world (like this one), but if you don’t get it out the door, it’s all for naught.

I mention this today because January is the most popular month of the year for E-Newsletter launches. That means that here on April 1st, many of you are staring month four in the face, and wondering — particularly if you haven’t seen any tangible results yet — if it’s time to give up. Don’t.

There is no other marketing tool on the planet capable of doing so much for your business with so little effort and expense. It’s forwardable, archivable, scaleable, trackable and interactive. It’s as effective for staying in touch with existing clients as it is for prospects. It forces you to clarify your thinking about your industry and company, and in the process positions you as a believable expert in your field. It grows hair on your head (OK, clearly not the case).

But here’s the key point: Relationship marketing takes time. And while you can improve, change and recover from just about any tactical error regarding your newsletter, everything we talk about here each issue assumes you’re publishing a newsletter in the first place.

Like exercise, publishing for just a little while may not yield visible results. However, like exercise, it gets easier and more productive over time. Nothing correlates more highly with the long term health of your business than the ongoing maintenance of your relationships.

So get out there and pump them up (sorry)!

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