One sport I wish I had played as a kid, is lacrosse. My 8-year-old son Jonathan is learning, and I have to tell you, it’s a blast. Lots of running, plenty of action and very cool equipment (more on that in a minute).
At Jonathan’s age, they don’t play “real games” so much as learn the fundamentals and practice with each other. Occasionally, however, the coach arranges a scrimmage with kids from another town and we parents get to attend and cheer wildly like the idiots that we are.
Last weekend we played against kids from Bolton, Massachusetts, a town about 30 minutes away. It was a beautiful, clear, Saturday morning and you could feel the excitement and anticipation as we stood on the sidelines, getting the kids’ equipment on and waiting for the previous game to end.
Lacrosse requires a lot of equipment – elbow pads, shoulder pads, cleats, gloves, a mouth guard, etc. – and it’s quite the process getting the kids suited up. The last, and most important piece of equipment, of course, is the helmet (Notice: here comes the punch line). When I reached into Jonathan’s bag, however, we realized that his helmet was nowhere to be found.
Uh oh. We were too far away for me to run home, and helmet-free lacrosse is about as much fun as anesthesia-free surgery. We walked over to the coach to see if he had any suggestions.
Jonathan’s lacrosse coach, a man with 12 of his own children (not a typo) and the coach of several teams, has seen and heard it all. “Tough break kid,” he said, as he began to walk away, “looks like you’ll be cheering from the sidelines today.”
And then, before the disappointment could even sink in, he whirled back around and said, “Wait a minute, Jonathan. I forgot that you’re our goalie. Wait here.”
Two minutes later, the coach was back, carrying a helmet that he had borrowed from the other team. Handing it over to Jonathan he said, “Good thing you play goalie; the only essential position on the team.”
And that, my essential (and patient) reader, is the point. When you’re essential, all the doors swing open.
Many of the E-Newsletter-related questions I receive from readers, seminar participants, clients and the guy who fixed my lawn mower last week (never mind) begin with the phrase, “How do we get people to ….”
The end of the phrase takes many forms, but here are some popular examples:
“… forward our E-Newsletter?”
“… open our E-Newsletter?”
“… read our E-Newsletter?”
“… subscribe to our E-Newsletter?”
“… reply to our E-Newsletter?”
What these questions have in common is an interest on the part of the asker to “get people to do something.” It’s a worthy objective, however in my experience – and I don’t think you need 12 children to appreciate this – you can’t consistently get anyone to do anything that they don’t really want to do.
Instead, a much more productive approach related to your E-Newsletter is to figure out how to make it essential. So essential that without it, like the lone goalie on the team, the game just ain’t happening.
Four suggestions on becoming essential:
- Narrow your subject matter. Writing a newsletter about marketing or law or gardening is nice, but there’s lots and lots of other people writing about the same thing. Narrow it down, however, to E-Newsletters or small business law in Massachusetts or chemical-free lawn care in San Diego and suddenly, you’re the only goalie in town.
- Narrow your audience. I know, your clients and prospects are a diverse group and you want one newsletter that will be of interest to all of them. Me too, but it’s not going to happen. The broader a range of people you try to satisfy, the less interesting, less relevant, less authentic and yes, less essential, you become (can anybody say “Presidential Candidate?”).
Choose the audience that’s most important to you and make it as narrow as you can stomach. In the world of E-Newsletter success (i.e. new client leads), being essential to a few people is much more valuable than being pretty good to many.
- Narrow your time frame. If you want to be essential in my life, you need to show up on a fairly regular basis (i.e. monthly). Four times a year isn’t going to cut it – not only won’t I remember you, at some point, I’ll just go find myself another goalie.
- Share your point of view. Professionals (at least the well paid ones) are hired for their expert opinion and insight. Any of your competitors can perform the mechanical aspects of your profession (e.g. write a will, check job candidate references, design a logo).
To be essential, you need to wrap your “skill set” within a unique point of view — one that demonstrates an understanding of the issues (e.g. “Do you even need a new logo in the first place?”) and has your readers living in fear that if they give up your newsletter they’ll be missing something important.
Bottom Line: What was most intriguing to me about Jonathan’s lacrosse experience that day, was that his coach was uninterested in Jon’s skills as a player, how hard he tries, or even how nice a kid he is – three things which parents think make all the difference. All that mattered was the fact that Jon’s position was irreplaceable.
So, how about your E-Newsletter… are you the only goalie in town?