Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Is There an "Aha!" Moment in Your Newsletter?

Many of us send and receive e-newsletters all the time. On the receiving end, we want to read useful information relevant to our business or personal lives, that helps us be more efficient, save time, save money, teaches us something new, etc. Since our in boxes are bombarded daily with more newsletters then we will ever want, and everyone else is in the same boat, we know as publishers that we need to do something special to stand out. Actually, more then something special, probably at least 3 something specials, if we don't want to be deleted or ignored.

And then there is always that mysterious something, that secret sauce that keeps readers paying attention to you, although they may not know why. I call it the "Forest Gump" factor. Remember when, in the middle of the movie, Tom Hanks just starts running and running, and isn't sure why? He attracts crowds in the millions, without really trying, just doing what seems right. That's kind of where you want to go.

1. Have your target audience in mind when creating your newsletter.
Readers of your newsletter may or may not become actual clients themselves, but they are still important as subscribers, since they can forward your newsletter, save it for the future, bookmark it, and refer to the links you include with it. Your target audience is ideally your ideal client - someone who knows and needs your services, and appreciates that you are providing something useful and important.

2. Include at least 1-2 really important pieces of information relevant to your readers and their businesses, in each issue.
You do not need to overwrite your newsletter, or include everything you learned in the last 3 years. Some of the newsletters I receive are so long, I cannot see myself ever finishing them, so they end up right where the sender doesn't want the Trash! So, offer handy take-aways in an easy to read manner (bullets, pullouts, boxes, are all good) and your readers will remember you. If you make them say "aha," for one moment, you have done your job. Note: with the constant proliferation of news and social networks, you really need to stay on top of your game in terms of new technology, resources, etc., so you can be at the leading edge of the information curve. When you know how to do something they don't, it's a good sign that you are in the ballpark. I know that I changed drastically the way I published my newsletter, and now make it much more about resources I can offer, rather then an update on my activities, although this is important too, and can be done through links.

3. Don't be afraid to be yourself.
If you are offering a service, your personality becomes a key part of your business. Use online tools such as videos, podcasts, and of course, your writing, to communicate more about who you are. All these tools can add dimension to you online persona. I once saw an episode on the Food Network, where Ina Garten (The Barefoot Contessa) said that she would never hire anyone she wouldn't want to have over for dinner. I agree, and would like to be both the host and the guest, in the client/provider relationship.

Are you publishing your next newsletter soon? Keep these tips in mind, and if you don't know who your ideal client really is, think about it for a while. What else do they read? (besides your great newsletter, of course). What are their hobbies? What do they need to do faster and more easily? What frustrates or confuses them? Amuses them and makes them laugh? How can you help?

Following are companies that offer some great e-newsletters. I list them here because I really like the content, or the way they are organized, and I look forward to receiving them. Comment and let me know your favorites, and why.

Earthbound Farm Organics
Stonyfield Farms (Mooseletter)
Powell's Books
Santa Monica Eco Gift Festival

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