The Unwritten Rule of E-Newsletters

I got a call yesterday from Carol in Nashville.

She was convinced of the value of an E-Newsletter for her business (smart woman) and she was thinking about picking up a copy of my E-Newsletter System to help her get going (she may even be a genius).

But … she hates writing.

“I’m great with a microphone,” she said, “but when I write it sounds stiff and formal – I absolutely hate doing it.”

Given all that, Carol wanted to know if I recommended her publishing an E-Newsletter.

Granted, that’s a bit of a loaded question. Asking me if I recommend a newsletter for your solo professional business is like asking McDonalds if they recommend that you have fries with that.

So yes, I’m a big – huge, gargantuan, elephantine – fan of e-mail newsletters. So much so that you may have assumed that I tried to talk Carol into moving forward.

But here’s the problem: E-Newsletters only work if you keep publishing.

And you’ll only keep publishing if the act of writing is somewhere south of extremely painful.

And so I said to Carol, “You know what, if you’re great with a microphone, why don’t you record yourself (audio or video) offering a brief, useful insight, and make that your newsletter? All the basics still apply, the only difference is that instead of doing what you hate (writing) you’ll be doing what comes naturally (speaking).”

Quick story: A few years ago I joined a health club for the first time. I was just getting over knee surgery and the doctor told me to start using an “elliptical” machine.

But when I got to the gym I noticed that there were three different types of ellipticals and I wasn’t sure where to start.

So I asked the guy behind the desk, “Which machine is the most effective?”

His simple reply? “Whichever one you’ll stay on the longest.”

As he explained, it’s not really about slight differences in efficiency; it’s about finding a machine that you prefer and are therefore more likely to commit to over the long term.

It’s the same with marketing. Whether we’re talking about newsletters, social media, public speaking, networking, or whatever, the goal is not participation – it’s results.

And if you hate and/or stink at the process, you won’t experience much of either.

Bottom line: The reason I love newsletters is not because they’re in written form.

It’s because this one simple tool has the ability to position you as expert, provides an opportunity to make an authentic connection and keeps you in front of prospects, referral sources and clients.

But you need to make it work for you. If speaking – or singing or dancing or hand-drawing … whatever it is you send to your list of interested followers on a regular basis – comes more naturally than good old fashioned writing, feel free to follow your instincts.

Focus on having an impact, even if it means finding your own, unique way.

17 thoughts on “The Unwritten Rule of E-Newsletters

  1. Nancy Marshall

    Well said, Michael! And yes, enewsletters ARE indeed like exercise. It only works if you stick with it over the long term! I also like another thing I’ve learned from you: that putting out your enewsletter on the same day of the week or the same day of the month, and ideally at the same time every time, helps contribute to your brand as being trustworthy and dependable. That’s why I publish “The NMC Report” every other Tuesday, rain or shine, around noontime!

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      The routine definitely helps. But I’m not as good as you on the time of day, Nancy. Sometimes I don’t start writing until that morning and it’s 4pm by the time I push send!

  2. Jean Gogolin

    Michael, I’m so glad you redesigned your newsletter to allow comments, since like you, I love to write.

    I loved the story about the ellipticals. I once “ran” a half marathon because my husband, a born runner, urged me to do it. I hated it – it took me about three weeks. (I exaggerate a little, but not much.) Needless to say, that was the end of that. It’s yoga and blogging for me.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Funny you mention yoga, Jean. I did it for about a year and hated every minute. Felt great when I was done but I just couldn’t keep it up! I’ll take running instead!

  3. Linda Barling

    Michael, Love the audio part of your newsletter, at the end of the day my eyes feel like they ran a marathon. I can sit back with eyes closed and LISTEN while giving my eyes a rest! Thank you!

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Glad you enjoy the audio, Linda. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how many people enjoy listening instead of reading to my newsletter that way.

      Personally, I much prefer reading but it’s easy enough to create the audio piece and for some people it’s just a better experience that way!

  4. Robbie Schlosser

    Hi Michael,
    Thanks for all your solid advice and encouragement. I’ve been appreciating your newsletters for several years now, learning a bit more from each one, and always looking forward to your next one. Which is what you urge us to aim for in our own newsletters. NICE! I especially enjoy the “genuine” tone in your messages. One of these days, when I finally decide to ramp up my just modestly successful newsletter, I’ll work through your program and wonder why I waited. In the meantime, I’m glad to leave you a “thank you” comment, and I look forward to buying your program.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Hi Robbie. I’m glad you’ve been reading for so long. I’m working on rolling out an “E-Newsletter Workshop” which will be a group participation event over a few weeks, rather than just working on your own with the program I currently offer.

      I’ve heard from many people that they need a little more group structure and interactivity, so maybe this will be just what you need! Watch for it to be announced end of summer!

  5. Kim

    I just had a big aha thanks.

    There are all these gurus telling me to do x, y and z because it’s good for traffic or whatever. Blogging – yuckk, I’m supposed to do it, but I don’t do it because I prefer researching and teaching – creating something less transient.

    And I haven’t really figured out the difference between blogging and writing a newsletter. What is the difference? Probably why I am sitting on the fence with my newsletter.

    Love your stuff

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Hi Kim! Yes, easy to read all the advice and feel like you’re supposed to do a little bit of everything, no matter how well it works for you.

      In terms of the newsletter/blog question, I wrote about it a few years ago here:

      These days, however, there need not even be a difference. My newsletter, for example, is sent as an email when published, but also posted here on my web site (which is a blog). In that way I get the best of both worlds — staying in touch with people who’ve subscribed via email, while getting the Google benefits and interactivity with readers (comments, for example) that a blog offers.

      What have other readers found that works? Can you help Kim “get off the fence?!”


  6. Robbie Schlosser

    Hi Michael,
    Good one. I agree with your reply to Kim, these days there’s slim difference between a newsletter and a blog, when you can post your newsletter’s content in your blog, and you can email your newsletter containing links to your previous blogs (like you just demonstrated).

    Let me add something. Kim just mentioned wanting something less transient. Well, a blog lives in cyberspace forever (so I’m told), and you can always remind your best contacts to go back and check it out. Email or publish a link as often as you like, for the rest of your life, and the blog post will still be there. And what about a newsletter that isn’t also a blog? Gone. How many people archive someone’s old newsletters?

    Here’s another difference: As I understand it, each blog and blog post has it’s own unique URL (internet “address”), and Google indexes them and creates a rank for your blog. Very roughly, the higher your rank, the more findable you are when someone searches on Google. (And who doesn’t research and shop online these days?) With a blog, present clients find you more easily, and new prospects can also find you even more easily. Isn’t that nice? On the other hand, an email isn’t indexed and doesn’t help your online “findability”.

    Here’s a third: With a blog, we can have conversations like this. With only a newsletter, nada.

    I’m just a newbie at all this, and I’m sure there are many more examples to cite, but these three come to my mind right away. In the meantime, I invite you to click on my name and visit my blog.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Robbie — I agree, the transient nature of email means that one way or another, we’ve got to get it posted on a web site or blog. And no doubt about it, the group conversation makes things much more interesting!

  7. Laura Foley

    Hi, Michael–

    I can vouch for the powers of sending out a newsletter regularly. This year I had a client I hadn’t heard from in six years contact me about a lucrative project, which went very well. I had kept in touch with him monthly by sending him my newsletter about PowerPoint design and marketing (which people can subscribe to by clicking this link, by the way:

    It helps to have a narrow business focus, which makes finding newsletter fodder easier and makes one’s newsletter a more valuable resource.

    I really liked your idea about branching out beyond a written newsletter. I could create a PowerPoint newsletter deck! Thanks for all your fresh ideas.

  8. Ariane

    Great timing as, even though I lOVE writing, I can’t seem to blog worth an uncle’s wooden nickel.

    I’ve worked around this by posting images of the artists who are my annual conference alumni, and an occasional post – pretty lame if you ask me.

    Meanwhile, I’m hard at work on a book for artist and realized I could start posting sections as I finish them – get the book out in the cybersphere and get some blog posts too.

    Now…even though I love this idea, am I actually implementing? Nope. Now to find out the next layer of what’s stopping me and create a work around that! (lol!)

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Ariane, I think the “posting sections” plan sounds great. The first priority is to be visible and that sounds like a workable approach for you. Let us know how it goes! Michael

  9. Ariane

    It’s like the Priority Bus has gotten away from me. Between setting up the 6th annual smARTist Telesummit, developing a membership program, taking 1000% care of my private clients – blogging has become a serious step child left out by the wood pile. – Hmmm… just had a thought: what if I delegated someone else to break up the first 60 pages I’ve already written into posts and post them for me! HA! thank you for a moment to solve that problem through dialogue. Yay Blogs! (irony abounds, huh?)


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