Giving Aunt Sally a kick up the a**e

In the galaxy of email marketing tools, the e-newsletter is the Aunt Sally, the washing machine. It’s useful and necessary but dull and essential. We’d much rather use the sexy new Italian espresso-maker.

Properly -made espresso is a luxury in a busy household but the essential laundry must get done. Prospects known to you and customers, the lifeblood of your business, must be regularly engaged and stimulated.

Staple white goods move products and build loyalty. Marketing people are aware of this – they can prove the value of an e-newsletter with metrics. You need a regular e-newsletter and you know it!

Before rolling up your sleeves, sorting the whites from the coloureds and choosing the right wash cycle, consider this? If we all follow the advice of the how-to-do articles from email marketing pundits, won’t all e-newsletters start to look the same?

Let’s take some well-known advice and see if we can’t give it a twist: let’s try using the opposite tack and produce some originality.

Tip 1: share expertise? Or demonstrate ignorance?
How about exhibiting some (carefully thought-out) ignorance, instead? Consider the old Zen adage ‘the more I know, the less I know’: the more knowledge we acquire, the more we can be surprised by just how little we currently understand or how much of it we actually communicate.

Pick something you’re relatively ignorant about and confess the fact to your readers. They just might identify with you. As long as the topic you’re ignorant about is something they didn’t even know-they-were-ignorant-about until you were sharp enough to point it out.

Tip 2: success – or failure?
Everyone’s human and you might benefit by showing it sometimes. Take a legendary Doyle Dane Bernbach (DDB) ad for the Volkswagen Beetle in the 1960s (old Beetle!). It was a basic shot of the car, with Lemon in a bold headline. The copy explained: ‘The chrome strip on the glove compartment was blemished and needs to be replaced’.

You can do the same with your e-newsletters – find some fault in your own work which will illuminate your standard of self-criticism and your other standards. Constant success gets boring and unrealistic.

Tip 3: feature a current topic or find something that no-one else will feature?
Composing your slant on a current topic is a common approach but it can have its detractors — especially if it’s already been done to death. Try an oblique approach instead. If a new high tec gadget is getting mainstream coverage, how would your products or service benefit the most old-fashioned business in the Yellow Pages?

Tip 4: take a close look at a product or service you offer
Turn it on its head — take an in-depth look at a product or service you don’t offer for very good reasons. As the visionaries of 37signals say in Getting Real (a sort of common sense bible for the digital generation), do less than your competitors in order to outflank them.

Embrace the clarity and simplicity of your proposition and describe the philosophy behind leaving out the feature you describe.

Tip 5: use current events to highlight your service
Try finding a timeless principle which runs counter to current thinking and products. Your subscribers are suffering from information overload — spare them the latest gripe on the weather, Gordon Brown’s latest blunder and house prices. You could garner some sympathy and attention when you take people’s minds off current affairs.

Tip 6: ask your subscribers?
How about listening to subscribers? Marketing is about establishing deep emotional and rational communication with customers and prospects and using this dialogue to sense their needs. Sometimes asking for a rational response prompts a cynicism about why you didn’t know that stuff in the first place. Get under their skin and take an educated guess.

Subscribers can sense when you’re just going through the motions. That can’t be good for your brand, regardless of what the metrics say and how many loyal subscribers continue to open and respond to your e-newsletter.

So ask yourself: am I excited about my e-newsletter? Does it express my voice and vision? Do I still approach it in the right spirit and does this communicate itself to my subscribers (if not, delegate to a fresh member of staff or outsource)?

If you have to ignore an army of email experts’ advice to get to where you can answer ‘yes’ to those questions, then do it. And adopt a new attitude to the weekly wash.


About Jeremy
Digital marketing leader, blogger and speaker. Married with three adult children. Likes activities and sport not affected by weather.

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