Things That Go Thud in The Night

Did you hear the noise? It arrived this past Wednesday at about 11 a.m. Eastern Time. It was kind of a loud THUD and, I’m sorry to say, I caused it.

Here’s what happened…

One of my clients is a large company (HUGE). So large, in fact, that I write the first draft of its monthly newsletter a full two months before it’s actually sent. With all the people involved and all the approvals required along the way, the long lead time is a necessity.

And it’s not usually a problem. Other than the fact that I’m forced to perpetually live two months out into the future (no, I don’t have any stock picks for you), it works pretty well.

Back to the Thud. While writing the July issue this past May, I made reference in the newsletter’s introduction to the fact that “summer was well underway” and “how nice it was to be spending so much time outside.”

Not exactly what you’d call “going out on a limb” for a mid-July newsletter.

But this summer, things have been different. Indeed, unless you’ve been living under a very wet rock, you’ve probably heard that here in the Northeast, we’ve had about six weeks of nearly nonstop clouds and rain. Around here, nobody thinks summer is well underway and nobody has been spending much time outside.

And so when my client’s sun-drenched newsletter jump-roped its cheery way into a few hundred thousand in-boxes on Wednesday, it missed by a mile. Thud, thud, thud.

Fortunately, there was some good news.

They’d already paid me. Ha, ha! I’m kidding. The good news was that my misstep served to remind me how important these kinds of specifics are in newsletter writing, particularly if yours is a small or solo business:

Reminder #1: Specifics feel authentic.

Yes, your newsletter needs to contain useful information and no, the people who sign up to receive it are not doing so because they want to get to know you better.

But if done well, that’s exactly what happens. They come for the information, but it’s the individuality that comes through in every issue which helps them hear you and which eventually drives some of them to pick up the phone and consider hiring you.

If you leave out the references to today’s weather (sun), to what’s happening in the news (Michael Jackson), to what you did last weekend (mowed lawn), you’re leaving out the part that feels real and relevant. And that’s the part – not your 25 years of industry experience, blah, blah, blah – that helps strangers from miles away feel like they know you.

Reminder #2: Specifics are a small company competitive advantage.

Large companies don’t have two month lead times because they want to, there’s just no other option. You and I, on the other hand, have the freedom to cut things much closer. (I started writing today’s newsletter at 9:22 a.m., not that I recommend cutting it quite that close.)

So not only do specifics help your readers get to know you better, in this regard, your large company competitors have a lot of trouble keeping pace with you.

But when you leave out these timely, personal specifics, whether in the name of “professionalism” or because you wrote 12 newsletters back in January and you’ve just been letting them fly one at a time each month, you’re giving away an important, natural, small company advantage.

Here’s the bottom line. From a marketing perspective, your newsletter isn’t really about giving away information – that’s just the promise you keep to readers so they sign up and keep coming back.

Your objective is to move the conversation – the connection – beyond that point by wrapping the information you offer within an authentic, human and yes, timely wrapper. That’s when readers will take notice of it, and in turn, of you.

Because the only thing worse than a newsletter that thuds, is a newsletter that makes no sound at all.

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