Making Your Newsletter Your Most Profitable Marketing Habit

by Charlie Cook

We all have habits that keep us healthy, like brushing our teeth twice a day, eating our fruits and veggies or getting to the gym regularly. Want to know the one marketing habit that can make the biggest difference in your company’s health?

It’s been proven time and time again that doing this well and doing it often will help a business not only maintain their client base but build it. You know what that means; steady growth and more income.

This healthy habit is as basic as eating your vegetables and just as tried and true; follow up with prospects and existing clients to build and maintain relationships. The number and strength of your relationships with your prospects and clients id your biggest competitive advantage.

Not only do you want prospects and existing clients to remember your company, you want them to think of you as the expert who can help them. You’ve got to be in touch on a regular basis.

In this information-overloaded, tightly budgeted, overworked business world, how are you going to do it?

In the old days, you could meet your clients for lunch once a month. But given the number of clients and prospects you have and the increasingly global nature of business, that’s just not possible.

The best marketing tool out there to help you follow up with a large list of prospects and clients is the email newsletter. It’s the most effective and efficient way to build and maintain relationships with your prospects and clients.

Is Anyone Paying Attention?

Most business owners I know are experts in their niche. They’re smart, ambitious, provide great products and services and have at least a handful of highly satisfied customers.

The problem too many of these entrepreneurs have is that hardly anyone knows about them. Not enough people in their target markets know the range of problems they solve or the results they provide their clients. Despite all their hard work, their expertise is largely unknown, and they’re earning only a fraction of what they could be making.

Are you one of them?

The Profit-Building Power of e-Newsletters

I’ve told this story before, but if you’re not in the habit of marketing with a newsletter yet, you need to hear it.

In 1998 I built my second website. The site ranked and reviewed search engines, offering a service that everyone using the Internet at the time needed — myself included. Every week I added more reviews and gradually began to build traffic to the site.

After a year with traffic only growing gradually, I decided to write a short newsletter about the latest reviews I’d added to the site. I sent it to the editors of other relevant sites and publications. Just a few days after emailing my second newsletter to my list, I got an inquiry from the top technology information provider on the web. After several conversations, they made an offer to buy my site.

A few months later, we had a deal and I made close to a million on the sale. If I hadn’t started sending out a newsletter, the chances that I would have sold my site, just before the Internet bubble burst, would have been zero.

Then and there, I realized the incredible power of sharing my expertise and regularly staying in touch with prospects, clients and buyers via an e- newsletter.

As a subscriber to my free newsletter you know that each week I send out between one and three e-newsletters. It’s the life-blood of my business. It’s the magnet that converts prospects into paying clients. Your e-newsletter can do the same.

Who Should Write Your Newsletter?

I’ve convinced you to make e-newsletters a marketing habit. Great. Now, who’s going to write the things? You’re looking around the office for likely candidates, calling friends for referrals to copywriters — but I’ve got news for you. Delegate this task with care, or not at all.

Remember that the purpose of these regular e-newsletters is to position you and your company as the go-to experts. The person writing the e-newsletters needs to have:

•          An inside and personal perspective on your company, its history and it’s culture,

•          An understanding of prospects’ and clients’ problems and how your company solves them,

•         Knowledge of the questions prospects ask relative to your products and services and

•         An understanding of the value your company provides your clients.

The person who best fits this description is likely to be YOU.

If you’re lucky enough to have someone in your company with the breadth and depth of knowledge that you have, then you can delegate newsletter writing to them. But plan to spend time with them regularly brainstorming topic ideas and checking their work.

You’d rather hire a copywriter?

Hire a good one or no one. These newsletters are going to become critical to your marketing, and they have to be done right. If you hire a copywriter, be prepared to spend time educating them about your prospects, your clients and your company, and keeping them abreast of what is happening in your company. It will be time well spent.

This is not a job to outsource to copywriters in India or the Philippines. They may write your e-newsletters for as little as $10 an article, but the results will be equally small.

Ideally, you’d hire a brilliant newsletter expert like Michael Katz, the subject of this month’s expert interview, to write your newsletter. If his fees are within your budget, you’ll still need to set aside ample time to discuss with him the best ideas for your target market to include in each newsletter.

Making It A Habit

There are endless ways you can improve on any newsletter, get more people to read it and make it more effective in converting readers to paying clients. By far the most important thing you can do is to make it a habit so that it reaches your audience regularly.

Get in front of your prospects and clients and stay there. Some will only read the e-newsletter subject line in their email box; some will read every word you send them. In either case, your name is associated with topical subjects that (if you’re doing your job right) are of interest to them, or entertain them on the way to learning something about your company. You’re helping them remember your name and the solutions you offer.

Set aside the time to meet with your copywriter or, if you’re writing the e-newsletters yourself, schedule a meeting with yourself so you get the writing done.

Allow at least 2 hours at a time when you won’t get distracted by email, the phone or co-workers. Then finish one e-newsletter each time.

Make it a habit so your prospects make buying from you a habit.

Just like an apple a day is a good habit to “keep the doctor away”, writing your e-newsletter each week is a habit to keep your business growing. It’s a habit to stick to and use to create content for your newsletter, for your blog and your next book.

Where The Rubber Hits The Road Or Pen Meets Paper

Most budding newsletter authors worry about the wrong things. They worry about providing lots of information or about how to use their newsletter to sell. They worry about sounding too personal.

You don’t have to provide a lot of information in your newsletters, but give your prospects useful information in each one. Keep them brief and focused. Getting personal is good (up to a point, of course). Business communication in general is more casual than it used to be, particularly on the Internet, and you are trying to build relationships.

After years of writing newsletter and testing to find out which ones generated the most sales, here’s the simple formula to use. I call it the a.b.c. writing system.

A. Detail the prospects’ problem — 70% of the newsletter

This is where you want to paint a picture with words of your prospects and their situation and concerns. Make it clear and tangible so when your readers get through it they’ll feel like understand their problems better than they do themselves.

Stories work best. Stories about your experiences that your audience can relate to or case studies, stories about your clients.

If you really get stuck you can always use Google to search for ideas. For example if you wanted to write an article about skiing, my favorite topic, just search for, “articles skiing.”

B. Define the solution in relationship to the problem – 20%

Typically this should be one blindingly obvious idea that most people miss where you explain what do to but not how to do it.

C. Your call to action – 10%

You’d be amazed at how many people I talk to who say they have a newsletter but it’s not generating any sales and when I ask them what call to action they’ve included they say, “None.”

Make sure to include a call to action in your newsletter, one that directly relates to the solution you’ve described. E.g. if you’ve just shared 3 easy ways to lose 5 pounds in 5 days include a call to action like:

Ready to get started? Discover how you too can look and feel great >>

And link it to your offer page on your website.

Avoid big pitches or trying to sell in your newsletter. It rarely works. The goal is to generate a lead. To get your audience to click through to your sales page, send you an email or pick up the phone and call you.  That’s it.

How to Spend Your Time

  1. The subject line or title of your e-newsletter determines whether or not people open the email and read it. The best place to start is by keeping track of the subject lines that prompted you to open an email from a business.
    A good subject line should get 15 to 30% of your audience to at least open your email, depending on you’re the size of your list and the age of your mailing list (a fresh list always performs better).
  2. Obviously you want your audience to read your newsletter once they’ve opened the email. Get their attention with the first one or two sentences and they’ll be on the way to reading more. Spark their curiosity or speak to their interests to get them hooked into your newsletter.

Here some examples from Michael Katz of first sentences:

“If you ask me, winter in New England (like pregnancy) is about a month too long.”

“You’ll be happy to know that my five year old son Jonathan has taken an interest in the game of Checkers.”

“The birds in my neighborhood like to poop on my car.”

These may not be your style, but you get the point. Your first sentence needs to be an attention-grabber.

3. As a rough guideline, time spent working on an e-newsletter could break down like this:

  1. 70% of your time on the subject line or title
  2. 20% on your first sentence
  3. 10% on writing the rest

Keep a Running List of Subject Lines

Keep a running list of good ideas for email subject lines. Make note of subject lines that are memorable or funny or that prompted you to open an email. When you’re writing your next e-newsletter, you can repurpose a subject line you already have on file, sometimes just by changing a word or two.

What’s The Best Email Broadcast System?

I know many business people who are satisfied with Constant Contact and other systems. Here’s the one I and most of the other top online marketers use:

Action Steps

Once you’ve decided who will write your e-newsletter, set up simple systems to make getting it out a regular habit.

1. Block out time

Whether you are writing the newsletter or working with a copywriter, lock a block of time into your schedule to make sure the newsletter gets done regularly.

When will that time be? Commit to it now:

Day of the week: _____________       Time:________________

2. Save Newsletters as Examples

If you haven’t done so already, subscribe to the newsletters of other leaders in your market niche. Set up a filter in your email inbox to automatically drop them into a ‘Newsletter’ folder.

That way, you can skim through the folder at your convenience and when you’re ready to work on your newsletter, scan the newsletters for inspiration and ideas.

3. Create an Idea File

Create another file where you keep track of topics and subject lines for your next e-newsletter. Add to it whenever you run across a clever marketing approach, a seasonal offer, or other relevant marketing ideas.

Start by looking through your email now and list the top 3 subject lines that prompted you to open an email.




The hardest part about getting your newsletter going and ramping up your profits? Getting started.

Over ten years ago when I wrote my first newsletter, I had no idea that just by writing one a week, it would lead to the sale of one of my first websites for almost a million dollars, or that it would lead to five marketing books that bring in the bulk of my income, or that it would lead to having one of the top ranked sites on the web. And it all started with just writing one, then two then three newsletters.

You can do the same. Write one newsletter this week, one next week and so on. Pretty soon, you’ll have a following and enough content to create new products much more customers than you ever imagined.

But don’t wait until next week. Get started right away.

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