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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

5 Reasons Why Your Newsletters Are Unread

Five reasons?
There may be seven thousand reasons why your newsletter won’t get the response you’re looking for.
Most of those reasons have the same common problem, though: readers just don’t like it.
And that’s probably because you’re making one of these five mistakes.

Mistake # 1: Your newsletter isn’t helpful

This is a big one. My wife signed up for a newsletter on Ayurveda, thinking she would get some helpful articles and ideas on a topic she was very interested in. All she ever got was a whole bunch of promotional stuff.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. You know very well that non-stop shameless self-promotion doesn’t exactly endear you to others, and of course you’d never make every single newsletter into a pitch.
Because you’re a Copyblogger reader, you know that your content has to be useful or it won’t get read.
Yet most folks can’t help themselves.
They mean to write something useful, they mean to be helpful, but they end up being self-promotional because it’s easier. It’s easier to say “Yoga class on Friday, 17th December” than it is to write yet another article about yoga.
So they wind up being self-promotional by default — and since it was the easier option, they don’t think of it as being unhelpful to their readers.
That doesn’t mean the readers don’t see it that way, though.

Mistake #2: Your voice isn’t particularly compelling

Voice is not everything, but it sure counts for a lot. When you speak to a friend over the phone, they sound excited and vibrant. Ask them to put down their feelings on paper and you often find what they’ve written just doesn’t sound like them.
Their voice doesn’t show up in their writing, and that means their writing doesn’t really convey how they feel. Every artist, singer, and yes, writer has a signature voice. This voice needs to be authentic.
If you’ve tried and failed to find your voice before, put down the pen and Skype a friend. Get them to ask you questions about the topics you’ll be writing about in your newsletter — recording every word, naturally. Then just blab away, and transcribe what you’ve said.
I know this method sounds tedious. But it’s quicker than slaving over a boring newsletter that takes you two days to write, and still winds up completely devoid of voice.
Voice matters. And you have one — you just have to get it on paper.
But tone alone won’t save the day.

Mistake # 3: You’re not telling stories

Many people think their newsletter has to be full of perfectly organized and structured articles — and since they don’t know how to create those kinds of articles, they get frustrated and stuck when they’re trying to write.
Structure isn’t the way to create a great newsletter. Stories are.
As human beings, we’re entranced by stories from an early age. Start with stories about your clients. Write about what you’ve experienced in your industry and your thoughts about it. When you’re trying to elicit response, nothing gets your readers engaged like the color and drama of a good story.
And how do you finish? Tell the moral of the story — just like you would in a real story. Explain what you learned or what you should have learned or what someone else could learn from this experience.
The moral of the story also does double duty as the springboard for your call to action. Which brings us to Mistake # 4.

Mistake # 4: You have a half-hearted call to action

This week, you need to fill up your yoga class. In your newsletter, you’re going to ask a customer to write back or comment. You need that customer to respond. You can’t hope they will — you have to ask them to do it.
You have to be pretty darned clear what you want them to do, too. Just saying “please respond” is far too vague. Your customers don’t know exactly what you want them to do or how to do it.
Do you want them to click on a link? Tell them to click here (and also tell them why).
Do you want them to write back and tell you you’re a god/goddess/schmuck? Use the words “just click reply to email me back and tell me I’m a god/goddess/schmuck.”
Do you want them to buy? Tell them.
Most folks just hope their customers will act on their own. And their customers mostly don’t — because they’re too busy to figure out how you want them to respond. You need to tell them. Just a little nudge will do.
Of course, none of this will work if you’re a complete stranger.

Mistake# 5: You don’t have a specific frequency

Switch on your TV at 6 pm. What do you see?
In most countries, it’s the evening news. And every evening it’s the same old news, but hey it’s consistent.
Most newsletters aren’t. If you’re going to write a newsletter, then you’ve got to have a publishing schedule.
You have to promise your readers that your newsletter will go out once a month, or twice a month or three times a week — whatever it may be.
Your newsletters can’t go to Bermuda on vacation. They’re doing all the grunt work for you. Our newsletter has gone out since 2002 and has done so week after week without any stoppage.
You want to stop? You are ill? Sorry mate, but that won’t wash well with your readers. Imagine the TV station canceling the news because some newsreader didn’t turn up.
One of the big reasons for the lack of response is that your newsletter is a stranger to your readers. You can’t send them a newsletter whenever you feel like it and hope they’ll respond. Response is directly related to frequency. Muck up on frequency and the rest of the four points don’t even matter.

So there you have it:

  1. Pure self-promotion won’t work — make it useful.
  2. Your tone of writing is critical. Record yourself if you have to, but connect with your own unique voice.
  3. If you can’t get your head around structure, use customer stories.
  4. Don’t be half-hearted about promotion — give a strong call to action.
  5. Without consistent frequency, your customers will forget who you are even if you do everything else right.
Newsletters are a lot of work. There’s no point in doing them unless you see the response you’re looking for. And avoiding these five big mistakes will perk up your response in a hurry.

1 comment:

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