A note from Patsi:
The Five Deadly Fears of E-Newsletter Publishing
(and how to overcome them)
by Michael J. Katz
Fear of Having Nothing To Say
As a small business owner, you know a lot more than you may realize. And although running out of material is the number one reason cited by small business owners for not launching an E-Newsletter in the first place, I have never come across anyone who knew enough about a particular industry or topic to start a business in it, who didn’t also have a nearly endless supply of content to choose from.
The people who are going to read your newsletter have questions. You on the other hand, have answers, opinions, experience, and perspective. When it comes to your industry, you understand what matters and what doesn’t, and how all the pieces fit together. These brief, useful nuggets are the things you write about.
Fear Of Technology
An E-Newsletter has a lot of moving parts. There are mailing lists to manage; links to set up; images to lay out; responses to track; and dozens of other small pieces to coordinate and fine tune, all in the course of writing and publishing a newsletter month after month. Managing this process efficiently requires a fair amount of technology churning away in the background. That’s the bad news.
The good news is that email marketing has finally evolved to the point where there are dozens of vendors out there who, for a very small fee, will take care of most of this for you.
Fear of Publishing On A Regular Basis
Although you may be sold on the value of a regularly published E-Newsletter, you may still be worried that once let out of its cage, this beast won’t ever leave you alone. The truth is, you’re right to be concerned. If I had to point to one factor that plays the most significant role in the failure of company E-Newsletters, it’s that the people behind them stop publishing.
First, publish monthly. A monthly schedule however, means that the next issue is never more than 30 days away, and you will find yourself less concerned with achieving perfection each time.
Second, create a publishing schedule and stick to it. First Tuesday of the month, third Friday, whatever. The important thing is that you bake it into your monthly work schedule. An E-Newsletter will never be today’s top priority, and unless you explicitly determine when it will come out, you’re more likely than not to keep pushing it to the back burner.
Fear of Writing
I hear it every day from the small business owners I work with: “I can’t put out an E-Newsletter, I’m a lousy writer.” Well, you’ll be happy to learn that writing an E-Newsletter – like email in general – is a lot more like talking than writing.
After all, E-Newsletters are simply glorified emails, and email is fundamentally a two-way conversation. The more you can write in an authentic, friendly, spoken manner, the more it will feel to readers like somebody (i.e. you) is really on the other end. So don’t worry about something that your high school English teacher would be proud of. Focus on turning out something that breaks down the walls between your company and your customers. Something real.
Fear That SPAM Makes It All A Waste Of Time
There’s no doubt about it, SPAM has decreased the effectiveness of E-Newsletters over the last 12 months, and we are all much more aggressive with the delete key than ever before. But, let’s put that into some perspective. A good E-Newsletter sent to your house list will still be opened by over 50% of the people it’s sent to. That’s 5?, 10?, 50? times better (you pick) than the percentage of people who read your newspaper ads; respond to your direct mail; or accept your unsolicited phone calls.
The fact is, for the small business owner, an E-Newsletter represents the first time in history that she’s ever been able to cost effectively communicate with her entire customer and prospect base over and over and over again. Not only that, but thanks to the inherently democratic nature of email (i.e. the big boys don’t get any more space in the email inbox than the rest of us), an E-Newsletter gives us the opportunity to not just compete with, but outperform our much larger competitors for the attention of readers.
Yes, SPAM has taken some of the shine off of this diamond. But make no mistake, it’s still a diamond.
A Final Comment
You may be waiting to launch your E-Newsletter until everything is “just right.” Until your mailing list is large enough; until you’ve stockpiled enough columns so you’ll never run out; until you’ve hired that new marketing person; etc., etc.
I’ve got news for you. No matter how much you plan and prepare, things are going to go wrong even then. So don’t worry about it, just get in the game.
Three reasons: First, because the cost of error online is exceedingly low. If you make a mistake – or simply change your mind! – you can fix it. Nothing about your newsletter need be permanent, from the name to the look to the content. Every issue is an opportunity to start fresh.
Second, because time is your enemy. Relationship marketing (of which, your E-Newsletter is a tactic) is a long term approach. The sooner you get started reaching out to your circle of contacts, the sooner you’ll see the results.
Third, because experience is your friend. You can do all the research in the world, but until you’ve got a living, breathing newsletter of your own, it’s just a theoretical exercise. There’s only so much insight to be gained intellectually; the real “A-ha’s” occur when you get behind the wheel and drive it yourself.
Bottom Line: These five fears are common among burgeoning E-Newsletter publishers, but on closer examination, not all that daunting. To quote author Julia Cameron in her terrific book, The Artist’s Way, “Leap, And The Net Will Appear.”
Copyright © 2003 Michael J. Katz. All rights reserved. Michael J. Katz is founder and Chief
Penguin of Blue Penguin Development, Inc., a Boston area consulting firm the helps clients
increase sales by showing them how to market to their existing relationships, and that
specializes in the development of electronic newsletters. He is the author of the book, E-Newsletters That Work.
28 West Elm Street
Hopkinton, MA 01748