Why No One Wants to Read Your Newsletters

Some terms really need to die. No one who is thinking of hiring you cares about your newsletter, so quit sending that stuff to them. Especially if it’s going to come out just twice a year.

Unless you’re writing the web’s best article on a very narrow topic, Google isn’t going to send searchers to your blog (“web” + “log”), either.

Content marketing started decades ago and nearly every company does it with very few of those folks being able to track the ROI. Storytelling is another form of content marketing, but it’s really just an extra oxygen tank for the dying patient. Content marketing is just the game you have to play because prospects will look around and wonder why you didn’t show up–they’ll notice your absence more than your presence.

nobody cares about your news, your new hire, the work you did for a client

Incisive insight is really the future, and to understand insight, we need to contrast the difference between news, content, and insight.

One of the emails I read daily is CB Insights. Recently they cataloged how they went from 489 subscribers in 2010 to 422,000 current subscribers. Here’s a summary, combining what they’ve learned and what I’ve learned through my own list building:

  • Take a stand and write for your lovers and not your haters. Make people think. Challenge them. Take a stand. Articulate a viewpoint.
  • Incorporate data wherever you can. It indicates that you are research-driven, that you are in touch with your marketplace, and that you aren’t making (as much) siht up. It’ll make it harder to argue with you.
  • Pay attention to subject lines. If they don’t open it, they can’t read it. Fortunately there’s A/B testing in every major platform (this email uses Act-On). About one-half of the subject lines that it tells me I should use are distasteful to me, and so sometimes I ignore them and other times I reluctantly agree.
  • Be conversational and write like you talk. Don’t use stupid words. Forget your grad school dissertation days. The new expert can be relaxed and casual.

The most important thing is to not be ignorable. You can vary the frequency, not be super consistent, and screw up a headline from time to time, but nobody cares about your news, your new hire, the work you did for a client, and so on. What they care about is what will change their business life:

  • Does it seem like you have a camera in their office?
  • Are you speaking to issues that they are losing sleep over at night?
  • Will they have an “aha” moment after they take a break from their day and spend it with you?

When someone reads your stuff, does it contain a fresh insight they want to share or bookmark? Do they want more or less of you after reading it? That’s the sort of reaction you really should be looking for.

what an amazing world we live in where our job--not just our hobby--gets us paid for our intellectual curiosity!

If you're game for this challenge, here's how I'd think about it in your shoes, in this order:

  1. Address your positioning. Only then will you know who you're talking to and what to say to them.
  2. Be more courageous about right-fit clients and don't be so terrified of pushing the other ones away.
  3. Cultivate the belief and habits around putting your own oxygen mask on first. That means that you can't keep putting off your own business for the sake of client work.
  4. Assemble a small, carefully curated team of insight producers and spread the load. I miss that since it's just me at the moment.
  5. Find a convenient way to throw article ideas into a database. I use Evernote. Currently there are 289 ideas to develop, another 32 for which illustrations are commissioned and the research is done (just waiting for writing), and 19 that are all ready to go.
  6. Put a content plan together.
  7. Publish, test, adjust. Rinse and repeat.
  8. Get smarter, richer, and better looking.

All of this–yes, all of this–can only be built on a tight positioning where, as you narrow it over time, fewer people care about what you have to say, but that small group cares a whole bunch and will keep reading over the years. And they'll be your best advocates for growing the list as they send other lovers your way.

What an amazing world we live in where our job--not just our hobby--gets us paid for our intellectual curiosity!

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