The Five Deadly Fears of E-Newsletter Publishing
1. Fear Of Having Nothing To Say
As a small business owner, you know a lot more than you mayrealize. And although running out of material is the number onereason cited by small business owners for not launching anE-Newsletter in the first place, I have never come across anyonewho knew enough about a particular industry or topic to start abusiness in it, who didn't also have a nearly endless supply ofcontent to choose from.
Remember, your clients and others who have an interest in yourarea of specialty, don't work in it every day the way you do.The things that are second nature to you, whether it's how topurchase life insurance if you're a broker; how to write a pressrelease if you're a marketing consultant; or how to troubleshoota light switch if you're an electrician; are all news to thoseof us on the outside of your industry.
The people who are going to read your newsletter have questions.You on the other hand, have answers, opinions, experience, andperspective. When it comes to your industry, you understand whatmatters and what doesn't, and how all the pieces fit together.These brief, useful nuggets are the things you write about.
2. Fear Of Technology
An E-Newsletter has a lot of moving parts. There are mailinglists to manage; links to set up; images to lay out; responsesto track; and dozens of other small pieces to coordinate andfine tune, all in the course of writing and publishing anewsletter month after month. Managing this process efficientlyrequires a fair amount of technology churning away in thebackground. That's the bad news.
The good news is that email marketing has finally evolved to thepoint where there are dozens of vendors out there who, for avery small fee, will take care of most of this for you (go toGoogle and search on "email marketing vendors" for a look atwhat's out there). So while it's true that you will have to godown a learning curve before you can switch your newsletterpublishing into autopilot, you no longer need technical skill toget there.
Managing the logistics of a monthly newsletter can be tedious attimes, no question. But if you've ever successfully assembled agas grill, you're more than technically qualified to publish anE-Newsletter.
3. Fear Of Publishing On A Regular Basis
Although you may be sold on the value of a regularly publishedE-Newsletter, you may still be worried that once let out of itscage, this beast won't ever leave you alone. The truth is,you're right to be concerned. If I had to point to one factorthat plays the most significant role in the failure of companyE-Newsletters, it's that the people behind them stop publishing.
Like starting an exercise program, we all go great guns out ofthe gate: telling everybody we know, celebrating every issue.But (also like exercise), by month four or five the thrill isgone, and many people start to wonder how to quietly put thething out of its misery.
I'm happy to say that I've discovered two solutions to thispotential problem.
First, publish monthly. Although it may seem that dropping backto a less frequent schedule will reduce the burden, in practicethe opposite is true. The less often you publish, the bigger adeal it is, and the more it seems to hang over your head. Amonthly schedule however, means that the next issue is nevermore than 30 days away, and you will find yourself lessconcerned with achieving perfection each time.
Second, create a publishing schedule and stick to it. FirstTuesday of the month, third Friday, whatever. The importantthing is that you bake it into your monthly work schedule. AnE-Newsletter will never be today's top priority, and unless youexplicitly determine when it will come out, you're more likelythan not to keep pushing it to the back burner.
4. 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 - likeemail in general - is a lot more like talking than writing.
People don't expect to read prose on screen, and they don't wantsomething that reads like an article from a local businessjournal. They want a piece of you and your expertise. As aresult, the most effective E-Newsletters are those that sound asif the company leader is just talking; filled with all theslang, run on sentences and joking around that comes out inperson.
After all, E-Newsletters are simply glorified emails, and emailis fundamentally a two-way conversation. The more you can writein an authentic, friendly, spoken manner, the more it will feelto readers like somebody (i.e. you) is really on the other end.So don't worry about something that your high school Englishteacher would be proud of. Focus on turning out something thatbreaks down the walls between your company and your customers.Something real.
5. Fear That SPAM Makes It All A Waste Of Time
There's no doubt about it, SPAM has decreased the effectivenessof E-Newsletters over the last 12 months, and we are all muchmore aggressive with the delete key than ever before.
But, let's put that into some perspective. A good E-Newslettersent to your house list will still be opened by over 50% of thepeople 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 phonecalls. The fact is, for the small business owner, anE-Newsletter represents the first time in history that she'sever been able to cost effectively communicate with her entirecustomer and prospect base over and over and over again. Notonly that, but thanks to the inherently democratic nature ofemail (i.e. the big boys don't get any more space in the emailinbox than the rest of us), an E-Newsletter gives us theopportunity to not just compete with, but outperform our muchlarger competitors for the attention of readers.
Yes, SPAM has taken some of the shine off of this diamond. Butmake no mistake, it's still a diamond.
A Final Comment
You may be waiting to launch your E-Newsletter until everythingis "just right." Until your mailing list is large enough; untilyou've stockpiled enough columns so you'll never run out; untilyou'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. I've been midwife at thebirth of dozens of E-Newsletters, and every time we launch one(every time), something goes wrong. It's never the samesomething, but it's always there. So don't worry about it, justget in the game.
Three reasons: First, because the cost of error online isexceedingly low. If you make a mistake -- or simply change yourmind! -- you can fix it. Nothing about your newsletter need bepermanent, from the name to the look to the content. Every issueis an opportunity to start fresh.
Second, because time is your enemy. Relationship marketing (ofwhich, your E-Newsletter is a tactic) is a long term approach.The sooner you get started reaching out to your circle ofcontacts, the sooner you'll see the results. With anE-Newsletter in particular, you lose much more by waiting thanyou gain by perfecting.
Third, because experience is your friend. You can do all theresearch in the world, but until you've got a living, breathingnewsletter of your own, it's just a theoretical exercise.There's only so much insight to be gained intellectually; thereal "A-ha's" occur when you get behind the wheel and drive ityourself.
Bottom Line: These five fears are common among burgeoningE-Newsletter publishers, but on closer examination, not all thatdaunting. Go ahead, get started with yours today!
Michael J. Katz is Founder and Chief Penguin of Blue PenguinDevelopment, Inc., (http://www.BluePenguinDevelopment.com) a Bostonconsulting firm that helps clients increase sales by showingthem how to nurture their existing relationships, and thatspecializes in the development of electronic newsletters. He isauthor of the book, E-Newsletters That Work.
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