Goldilocks Newsletters

I don’t know who was more startled – me or the duck. Either way, neither of us was expecting the other.

I was walking around the side of my house, headed to the backyard. As I approached a small bush, a duck flew out from underneath.

That seemed odd. So, I took a look under the bush and … surprise! Eight, big blue eggs sitting right there.

The eggs were strikingly beautiful. And yet, as I soon discovered, not nearly as tasty as one might have thought. (I’m kidding; don’t write to me.)

Unfortunately (maybe intentionally?), Mama Duck had chosen a spot for her nest that could not be seen from inside the house. Which meant that the only way to watch her activity over the next several days, was to peek around the corner periodically, from about 20 feet away.

That wouldn’t do.

And so, when my wife, Linda, suggested we buy a camera, I flew, duck-like, into action. It arrived the next day.

Battery operated, Wi-Fi-enabled, and night-vision-capable, the camera even includes IP65 weatherproof protection (whatever that is).

And … it has a motion sensor. Which means that anytime it detects movement, it turns on, sends me a text, and records a 10-second video clip (with audio).

Initially, that caused a problem. Every time the wind blew, my phone buzzed. I ended up with a ton of video clips of a sleeping duck.

So, I lowered the “motion sensitivity” setting. At first, that didn’t work well either. I went 24 hours without a single recording; for all I knew, the baby ducks had hatched and left the premises.

Finally, after much trial and error, I entered the Goldilocks Zone – a place that alerts me when it matters, but doesn’t cry duck for no good reason.

When it comes to your email newsletter, finding the Goldilocks Zone is also critical. In my experience, there are three areas that are worth paying particular attention to.

#1. Self-Promotion Vs Useful Content

In 20 years of helping clients develop and publish email newsletters, only once have I had to say, “You know, there’s not really enough about you in here.”

Instead, things are almost always slanted too far the other way…

… banners that scream the company name and logo; articles that present problems and then offer the professional in question as the solution; sidebar items overflowing with information about who we’ve hired, awards we’ve won, books we’ve written, or charities we’ve donated to.

I’m not saying these self-promotional things are bad. After all, the reason for publishing in the first place is marketing.

But I try to always keep in mind that the unsubscribe button is just a click away. And, once clicked, that precious reader is gone forever.

So, try and maintain a light touch. It’s fine to subtly mention your work in the context of making a point (e.g., “In 20 years of helping clients develop and publish email newsletters…”), just don’t make yourself the hero and focus from start to finish.

My recommendation is 80/20. Eighty percent useful and non-promotional; 20% about who you are and what you have done.

#2. Too Often Vs. Not Often Enough

“How often should a newsletter be published?”

I don’t think I’ve ever given a presentation on newsletters without somebody asking that question. (I’m starting to think it’s the same guy.)

For a professional service firm or independent, I think every two weeks is perfect. That’s the pace I publish at, and I find that it keeps me very visible and top of mind.

That said, nearly all my clients publish monthly. Would more frequently be better? Maybe, but for most people, it’s just too much (unlike them, I have nothing else to do).

Plus, now that social media and other tools offer the opportunity to redistribute your newsletter content as often as you like, monthly is more than adequate.

Remember, relationship marketing – of which, email newsletters are the shining star – is like exercise. The benefits come with time and require an ongoing, never-ending commitment. You won’t realize any of that if you choose a frequency that is unsustainable.

#3. Personal Stories Vs. “Business Information”

I spend a lot of time encouraging clients to include more stories, more perspective, and more personal experience in the things they write.

Does anybody really care that you have a duck in your side yard? No.

But … the duck in the yard is much more interesting and unusual than whatever your straight up business knowledge is. When you combine the two, you make the entire package more compelling and more memorable.

Plus, when readers see their lives in yours – because they once had a duck, or they own a cool camera, or they have a wife named Linda (hopefully not the same woman) – it creates a sense of connection.

Over time, they feel like they know you and begin to trust you. And if you sell a professional service (financial planning, management consulting, leadership coaching, etc.), trust is the price of admission.

Here’s the bottom line.

Like most things that matter, there are no absolutes in email newsletter marketing (other than maybe that sentence).

There’s a balance required, and you need to find what fits and what works best for who you are, who you are trying to influence, and whatever it is you are trying to accomplish.

Just try and keep in mind that the goal of publishing a professional service newsletter is to stay in front of the people you know, over and over again, in a way that positions you as a likeable expert.

Do that, and it won’t be long before your client “eggs” begin to hatch.


Discussion Questions:

  1. What’s the oddest thing you’ve ever found in your yard?
  2. Do you have a wife named Linda? Explain.
  3. What’s your favorite type of bird (extra credit if you said “penguin”)?

Share your answers below…


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21 thoughts on “Goldilocks Newsletters

  1. Stacey Shipman

    1. Last year we had a wood chuck. He was cute but not good for our garden. Chomped on it like he found an all you can eat Vegas buffet.

    2. No. But that’s what we named the woodchuck.

    3. I do love penguins. However Cardinals and hummingbirds are part of the top 3!

    Reply
  2. Carole Seawert

    1. Our apartment complex had a peacock strutting around for about a week. Bear in mind that I live in London, next to a large football stadium and not in some country estate. No-one knew where it had come from and, after a week, it flew off. Yes, peacocks can fly.
    2. No but a good friend is.
    3. Tricky. Probably kingfishers.

    Reply
  3. Lindsay Gower

    1. My dog got excited about something in my overgrown yard. I took a peek and saw black fur with a white stripe — yikes! I hauled the dog into the house mucho pronto. It turned out to be a neighbor’s cat.

    2. I have neither wife nor husband. I could sure use either one. Or both.

    3. Owls! They’re all creepy and mysterious, with haughty looks that exude power. None of those adjectives apply to me.

    Reply
  4. LJ Miller

    1. We had a whole family of 5 quail. Each day they would march i under our gate, then up onto the brick wall around the backyard for “flying lessons” for the young. And when they walked on the wall, it was a line from largest–papa I assume to the smallest baby.
    2. No…but my name is Linda.
    3. I love cardinals. They were my mom’s favorite birds and we all learned to love them. Now, whenever I see one, I think off her. (And, I hear they are supposed to be messengers from heaven.)

    Reply
    1. Michael Katz Post author

      3. Coinicidentally, my wife (Linda), whose dad passed about 10 years ago, loved the color red. Whenever we see a cardinal, we always say that’s him visiting.

      Reply
  5. Halina

    1. A tortoise whose shell had been painted fuschia, which my brother and I named Pinkerton. He was our (outdoor) pet for a while. He loved tomatoes. Then one day, he disappeared as mysteriously as he arrived.

    2. I do not.

    3. We have quails running around our property and they’re adorable, especially the babies. They make an interesting, robotic “whoot whoot whoot” sound.

    Reply
  6. Susie Amundson

    Michael, loved your duck story. You are a great writer too (as if you didn’t know).

    1. Living in Alaska, we have a number of unusual beasts in our yard. Including 2-year old twin bear cubs on hind legs playing together about 20 feet from our entrance. I didn’t toss them a salmon.

    2. Because “Linda” means cute in Spanish — I do have a cute and very funny spouse.

    3. Sandhill cranes. The male was so enamored by his reflection in my car windows, mirrors, and sunroof, I finally had to tarp it completely with bungee cords to ensure the car wouldn’t get scratched to death. Way Too Late.

    Reply
  7. Mark Walker

    1. There was a crane who visited regularly. It was very curious. I always felt it was a good luck crane…
    2. No, but there was this chorus girl once named Linda…
    3. Blue penguins… (shameful) and cardinals.
    I saw The Kinks once in Dallas in “the way back when.”

    Reply
  8. Lee

    One of the nicest things people can do for wildlife is to put old t-shirts, and especially the lint from dryers outside in a special place for the wildlife and birds to confiscate and use as bedding and nests for their eggs.
    Through this process, after a couple of years, I had Doves, Woodpeckers, and other birds and small animals living in my yard. It was no nice waking up to nature in the city.

    Reply
    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Ooo, i like the lint idea. We have a big bag of it and I’m always promising to knit a sweater for my wife out of it, but I think nest materials is better!

      Reply
  9. Carol Quinn

    1. A cow moose and calf. They were the most memorable, although my feisty little ShihTzu terrier tried to tangle with a couple of coyotes. I had to scare them off. (She was fine, no injuries)

    2. No, but a good friend is

    3. Loons. I love their call in the early morning. (Penguins are also very cute)

    Reply
  10. Brad Dunsé

    Oddest thing in the yard? One summer morning, out our front window we spotted what looked like a six-foot purple larva just lying there, or it could have been a bald caterpillar but it was huge and girthy. It started to wriggle around a bit. All of the sudden, it got up and started hopping across the yard to the neighbor’s house.
    Turned out the neighbor had one too many at the previous night’s party, and slept out in the middle of the yard in a sleeping bag, and wasn’t quite dressed for work (if you get my meaning) on his way back in the house.
    I think if I called her Linda, I’d get a slap.
    Birds, I love them. While Penguins are notorious for being cute and assisting with one of the best newsletters out there, I’ve got to go with The Bald Eagle. They are pretty amazing birds.

    Reply

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