Are You Too  Impressive?

It’s Super Bowl weekend, and you know what that means: Lots of drunken people whose names I can’t remember, standing around and shooting the breeze. It’s kind of like the House of Representatives, with a little football thrown in.

Many of these “fans,” of course (I count myself among them), know next to nothing about the game. The event itself is the draw, and I wouldn’t be surprised if 75% of Super Bowl viewers never watch another game all season long.

So here’s my question for you. Given how many viewers that day are complete football novices, do you think the commentators over at NBC deliberately simplify the way they explain the game? You know, to make sure that the people who can’t tell a clip from a chip (sorry) don’t get lost along the way.

I don’t know the answer. But I can tell you that if I were in charge of game day coverage, and in addition to a massive penguin-themed halftime show the likes of which you have never seen, I would do this intentionally. With the football IQ of viewers considerably lower that day, I’d make sure that the commentary was tailored to match.

Professional service e-mail newsletters, on the other hand, often ignore this essential point. In our eagerness to prove our expertise, justify our fees, impress our colleagues, or maybe just show our staff that the old man has still got it, we have a tendency to aim way too high… We overshoot the target audience.

Remember, we’re not publishing for its own sake. We’re publishing as a means of staying in front of our prospective clients, so that when the day comes that one of them has a need we can satisfy, they call us. If your newsletter isn’t written for said prospects – even if it’s impressive – they won’t keep reading.

Consider this e-mail I received just yesterday from Bruce, a guy who signed up for this newsletter and who downloaded my free thought piece,
“The Five Deadly Fears of E-Newsletter Publishing (and how to overcome them).”

“I didn’t find this real helpful. Pretty rudimentary. I hope your newsletter is also designed for more experienced email and online marketers.”

Unnecessary roughness? Not at all. But I’ll tell you one thing, Bruce is not long for this list. Because this newsletter isn’t intended for “experienced email and online marketers.”

The people who hire me aren’t marketers (let alone online marketers). They’re professionals with an expertise in law or finance or recruiting or some other thing that your mother would be proud of. Marketing is what they do to get clients… a necessary, but not particularly enjoyable process. If they had all the clients in the world, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

So when I write, I write for my target: professionals who want perspective, guidance, best practices and maybe even a little inspiration. Not a PhD in online marketing… a comfortable familiarity.

Here’s the point. In the process of developing a client newsletter, we spend a lot – I mean a lot – of time talking about the target audience. One of the key questions within this discussion is “How much do they know?”

If, for example, you’re a law firm whose prospects are small business owners, you need to explain what “Force Majeure” means when you mention it in your newsletter. (Hint: It’s not a French linebacker for the Saints.)

If, on the other hand, you’re a market research firm whose target clients are corporate market researchers, they’ll consider your newsletter “pretty rudimentary” if you pause to explain how a focus group works.

Bottom line. When writing your newsletter, resist the urge to be as impressive as possible. Instead, focus on being as on target as possible.

Because as that old e-mail marketer and blues man Taj Mahal famously observed: “Many fish bites if ya’ got good bait.”
(Click here to listen; I guarantee you’ll be smiling by the end.)

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