You hold in your hands (sort of) the 500th edition of this newsletter. I published the first one in September of 1999.
Just to put into perspective how long ago 1999 was, in that same year, Lance Armstrong won his first Tour de France; Ricky Martin’s “Livin’ La Vida Loca” went to #1; and Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, was just an annoying, self-important adolescent (okay, not everything has changed).
But I have learned quite a few things in the course of publishing 500 newsletters. So, I thought I might share a few with you today…
#1. Nobody cares that you’ve published 500 newsletters.
I have nothing against celebrating milestones – especially for those of us who work alone and can easily forget to acknowledge them.
But it’s important to keep in mind that these kinds of things – your latest book, your new web site, your company anniversary, the awards you’ve won, the people you’ve hired, etc. – are of minimal interest to readers.
Mention your accomplishments here and there, absolutely; they do add some credibility to who you are and what you do. But don’t make them, or yourself, the overall focus.
#2. Find the main idea.
Whenever I write a newsletter, whether for myself or for a client, I never start writing until I can answer this one simple question: What is this about?
That’s important. Because if you can’t answer this question – in a single, clear sentence – you either have too many themes floating around, or you are simply babbling away in order to fill a page.
Either way, you are not serving your readers who want clear insights and/or information that they can use to do their jobs or live their lives better. That’s what makes people pay attention and what keeps them coming back for more.
#3. Nothing happens until you push “send.”
We’ve all received those enthusiastic, “Welcome to our first newsletter!” emails, only to never hear from these people again.
That’s understandable. Whether it’s a new exercise program, a trendy new diet, or a promise to stop telling the same jokes over and over again to your immediate family (hey, I gave it a shot), new habits are hard to form.
But a habit is what you need.
My most successful, long-term newsletter clients are the ones who commit to and keep a regular publishing schedule. It’s hard, since publishing tomorrow is, frankly, just as good as publishing today.
The problem is that tomorrow becomes next week becomes next month becomes let’s just quietly put this thing out of its misery and hope nobody notices.
#4. Who you are matters more than what you know.
The challenge in differentiating yourself as a professional is that everyone you compete with (who’s worth worrying about) is equally experienced and credentialed.
Like you, they have been at it for decades, have clients who love them, have been quoted in brand name media, have published a book, and on and on. It’s even harder if your profession requires some sort of certification – doctor, attorney, financial planner, accountant, etc. – since rather than setting you apart, certification simply tosses you in the pile with everyone else who has been kissed with the exact same seal of approval.
So don’t focus there so much – readers already assume you are expert. What they are trying to figure out before picking up the phone and calling are the “soft” things. Do I like her? Can I trust him? Does her approach align with the way we do business?
The more you reveal about who you are – through stories, personal information, past experiences, even dumb jokes – the more comfortable I feel about writing you a check.
#5. You can’t give too much away.
Some people are reluctant to share their “best stuff” in a newsletter. After all, if readers can get it for free, why would they hire us?
Good point. I guess that why when professionals publish an entire book – a book that claims to explain all they know about a particular topic – nobody hires them ever again.
Or why all the auto mechanics, plumbers, management consultants, dieticians, personal trainers, doctors, guitar teachers, lawyers, cybersecurity experts, and a thousand other occupations, no longer exist. Since it’s all just a Google away.
Here’s the thing… reading 800 words of your one-size-fits-all advice once a month is not the same as having you sitting by my side, listening to my particular problem, and offering expert, in-the-moment guidance.
You don’t have any proprietary information – there’s little risk in sharing what you know in a newsletter. Your in-person input is your secret sauce. The more good stuff you give away for free in your newsletter, the more readers think, “If that’s what you get for free, imagine what we get if we hire him.”
Here’s the bottom line.
I didn’t start publishing a newsletter as a way to grow my business. I just happened to enjoy writing and it was a way to talk about things I was interested in.
Twenty-plus years later, it remains the most reliable (by far) professional services marketing tool I have ever found.
I hope you’ll stick around for the next 500 issues.
- What have you done 500 times (or more)?
- Have you ever been kissed by a seal? Explain.
- How do you decide which newsletters you subscribe to?
Share your answers below…