Make The Water Wetter

As I washed my hands in the kitchen sink yesterday afternoon, my 14-year-old son, Evan – a guy who collects interesting, yet useless facts at roughly twice my own frantic pace – hit me with the news: “Did you know that soap works by making the water wetter?” he asked.

I’m sure you won’t be surprised to learn that I did not know this. Although I did take a chemistry class in high school, my friend Andy Mattson and I spent most of our lab time trying to melt plastic objects we found on the street, an all-consuming passion which left little time for actual learning.

In any case, and according to Evan, “Soap reduces the surface tension of water, allowing it to spread more easily.” In effect, it makes the water wetter, and therefore, more effective.

Here in E-Newsletter-land, I think the analog to soap is emotion.

Not to say that emotion makes your E-Newsletter wetter (that would be of no use to anyone). No, what I mean is that emotion makes your E-Newsletter more effective.

Consider this real life example: My last newsletter, on the subject of how to become a successful solo professional, resulted in an avalanche of e-mail responses (and even a few phone calls) from people who said the message of the newsletter resonated with them. Readers used words like “inspiring,” “encouraging” and “genuine.” Clearly, it was the emotion – much more than the “here’s what I think you should do” aspect of the newsletter – that struck a chord.

But here’s the kicker… In the last two weeks, my phone has practically rung off the hook with people and companies asking for my assistance in setting up a company newsletter.

Think about that. I wrote a newsletter that had nothing at all to do with newsletters, and it caused people to pick up the phone and call with a request for a newsletter. (Take a minute, I know that last sentence has your head spinning like a first year philosophy student.)

Why would this happen? Good question. I think the reason is that getting people to hire you is only partly (maybe half?) about the work itself. The other half is about you. More specifically, how they feel about you.

When you say something authentic – something that exposes who you are or how you think or what you believe in – you reveal the human being(s) behind the service you offer. As Evan might say, you make the water wetter.

For my money, most professional service companies (and the marketing people within them), labor under the mistaken belief that getting somebody to hire you is a function of pounding away on credentials and accomplishments.

These are important, no doubt about it. But if that’s all you put out there – and in the process, you ignore the human element that necessarily goes into the decision to hire a professional – you may be waiting a long time for the phone to ring.

With that in mind, I offer two suggestions for improving your E-Newsletter:

  1. Show some emotion. Speak as genuinely and as plainly as you can; write as if you’re writing to a friend; talk to me about what you really think or believe or care about. Be anything but a bland, vanilla, middle-of-the-road-lump wrapped within an e-mail. (I’ve already got an in-box full of those.)
  1. Remember the source of a newsletter’s power. The most effective newsletters see themselves as an ongoing relationship – not a single event. So while it may be true that a direct mail piece or a newspaper ad needs a call to action and a strong list of benefits to be effective, in the case of a monthly newsletter, the opposite is often true: It’s the human side, the side which may have nothing to do with your expertise at all, that prompts people to finally pick up the phone and call you.

Bottom Line: When it comes to getting hired, I think most professionals place way too much emphasis on highlighting their capabilities. In my experience, getting the call has at least as much to do with top-of-mindedness (which is why you need to publish regularly), and likeability (which is why you need to reveal enough about the people in your firm to allow prospects to make a determination).

One more thing. If you’re afraid that “revealing too much” will scare people away, you’re paying attention to the wrong side of the equation. An effective newsletter is supposed to scare away the potential clients who wouldn’t like you if they met you.

But don’t worry… that same genuineness that sends some people running in the other direction is equally powerful in attracting the “good clients.” An outcome which, after all, is the point of this entire exercise.

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