Fixing Your Biggest Problem

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but here in America, there are two distinct types of holidays.

First, you’ve got your “A-list’ holidays. Days like Labor Day, New Years, 4th of July and Thanksgiving. Among their fellow commemorative events, these are the heavyweights, the celebrities. If there were a People Magazine of Holidays (not that I am suggesting this), you’d see New Year’s Day on the cover frequently, looking thin and pale while entering a rehab facility in Arizona.

Next, and much lower on the celebratory totem pole, are the auxiliary holidays. These are the guys – Columbus Day, President’s Day, Veteran’s Day, to name just a few – who, while certainly more famous than you or I, still have to keep their day jobs to make ends meet. They’re the everyman’s holidays, perpetually in the shadow of their sunglasses-wearing, paparazzi-attracting, A-list counterparts.

Here in Massachusetts, a place that has always celebrated the hard-working underdog, we decided many years ago to take it one step further and conjure up our own, proprietary, secondary holiday. We call it Patriots’ Day.

Patriots’ Day commemorates the battles of Lexington and Concord, which took place on April 19, 1775, and whose occurrence marked the beginning of the Revolutionary War.

For most of its history, Patriots’ Day was celebrated on April 19th, to honor those who fought that day for our county’s independence. Back in the late sixties, however, it was decided that Patriots’ Day would always fall on a Monday, to honor those who needed a three-day weekend.

Patriots’ Day is also known around here as “Marathon Monday,’ since on it, every year, the Boston Marathon is run. And, as luck would have it, the start of the marathon occurs not 100 yards from my office window, here in Hopkinton, Massachusetts.

So, you’re probably wondering, “What’s the best thing about having an internationally acclaimed, world class sporting event take place in your town each year?’

“Is it the thrill of seeing the fastest runners on Earth set off on a heroic, 26.2 mile journey?’

“Is it the chance to rub elbows with celebrities and dignitaries who arrive for the event?’

“Is it the mind-boggling-ness of seeing your high school football field covered in wall-to-wall porto-potties?’

No, no and definitely not.

It’s none of that. The best thing about living in the town where the Boston Marathon starts is that every year, no matter what, the place gets spruced up from top to bottom.

We sweep all the streets; we repair and touch up all the statues; we repaint all the crosswalks and parking spots. It’s like having your daughter’s wedding in your backyard… every year.

In fact, having now lived here for eight years, I’ve come to realize that what I’m witnessing each spring, in the days leading up to the marathon, is the benefit of a firm deadline.

Unlike neighboring towns that debate when and how much of this kind of routine maintenance to perform, in our town it happens every year NO MATTER WHAT. The marathon date is in stone and everyone does what it takes to get ready.

Your E-Newsletter, unfortunately, has no such deadline. It’s never due today, and the truth is, if you publish one day late, or two days late, or a week late, few people will notice.

So you keep putting it off for other priorities. You’ve got a proposal due… newsletter gets put off. You’re waiting until your new web site launches so you can announce it… newsletter gets put off. You don’t have a good enough topic to write about… newsletter gets put off.

It’s a mistake. It’s a mistake because if you truly believe (as I do) in the magical marketing magnificence of staying in frequent contact with the people you know, then you need to actually stay in frequent contact with the people you know (still with me?). You need to publish regularly.

Two suggestions:

  1. Set a deadline. Third Friday of the month; second Wednesday of the month; one day before the monthly networking meeting you never fail to attend. It doesn’t matter what your deadline is, so long as you have one. My most successful client newsletters are published by companies with a deadline that we never miss.
  1. Publicize your deadline. Promote it on your newsletter sign up page; specify it in your newsletter’s welcome letter; mention it in the e-mails you send. Do whatever you can to paint yourself into a corner so that you have no option but to publish on time.

Here’s the bottom line: Among the top five reasons that E-Newsletters fail, three of them are “not publishing regularly.’ Pick a date, give it the respect it deserves, stick to it. Don’t make me send New Year’s Day to your office.

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