Night of the Living Newsletter

I’m sorry; I just don’t like scary movies. I’m intrigued by them, but I’m scared by them, so I generally just stay away.

The other night, however, I was surfing through the channels before going to bed, and I walked into the middle of “The Sixth Sense,” the 1999 movie starring Haley Joel Osment as a boy with a unique, but dare I say, unfortunate ability to see dead people, still up and walking around.

Scary stuff. But I kept watching. And each time the temperature dropped and the background music got creepier, I stared at my TV screen, waiting for the next all-too-animated dead person to pop out of the closet (or wherever).

And then, most terrifying of all, I started thinking about how all this relates to your E-Newsletter. Stay with me (if you dare).

Earlier this week, I attended a free, two hour presentation by Zak Barron of Constant Contact, on the subject of relationship marketing. I’m a reseller of the Constant Contact service (click here to sign up and pay for my lawn mower), and I wanted to see what he had to say.

If you’ve ever attended one of these company-sponsored, “no cost information sessions,” you know that like a scary movie (ah, finally the connection), there’s a certain tension in the air. You drinks your free coffee, you eats your free donut, you consumes your free information, all the while waiting for “the pitch”… the information marketer’s equivalent of a dead person jumping out of the closet.

In other words, you know that somewhere, somehow, during this presentation, there will be a promotion for whatever the company has to offer. And until that happens, everyone in the room sits on the edge of their seat.

Most companies in this situation try and subtly weave it into the presentation, usually waiting until near the end, when they know that your guilt over having eaten so many donuts compels you to sit quietly.

Zak, on the other hand, did something entirely different (and in my opinion, brilliant). He began his presentation with the obligatory company promotion, and simply said, “Here’s the two slides that pitch our product.” After a 10 minute explanation, and with everyone in the room now visibly more relaxed, he spent the next hour and 50 minutes giving away useful information.

Here’s the point. While it’s certainly true that giving away useful, interesting, targeted information is an enormously effective way to market a professional service, it’s important to remember that those who come to your “seminar” (i.e. read your E-Newsletter ) are bound to be suspicious. They want the information, but they’re afraid – especially at the beginning of their relationship with you – of somebody jumping out of the closet.

In the case of your E-Newsletter, the solution is to do as Zak did:

  1. Make it clear where the promotional information is. It’s fine to promote yourself and your services in your newsletter, but put it in its own clearly-labeled section(s) and make sure people don’t confuse it with the useful information.
  1. Make it clear where the promotional information isn’t. In your main article – the one that contains the information they came for – don’t promote your business. Give them a pure nugget of immediately useful, no-strings-attached, expert opinion that they can take to the bank, whether or not they ever decide to buy anything from you.

Bottom Line: I understand the marketer’s bias towards pouncing (I’m a recovering marketer myself). It’s logical to think that the more you can shift the conversation in your direction, and position your business as the solution to the topic at hand, the more likely people are to pick up the phone and call you.

It’s logical, but it’s dead wrong. Biased, self-promoting, promotions disguised as “information” only push prospects away. Instead, recognize that a commitment to helping people do their jobs, run their companies or live their lives better – without demanding anything in return – is a frighteningly compelling way to grow your business.

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