1, Your biggest competitor is time.
People are busy. Attention is what you are after. But time is what no one seems to have. If you want people to spend time, their precious limited time, reading your darn newsletter, it’d better be good.
Respect people’s time by being useful and inspiring.
2, Spend more time on it. Who knew?
For every $1 spent on a newsletter, there is a $40 return. Compared to $7.30 for catalogues. Or $17 for ad keywords. Although these figures are in dollars, you get the point they are making. Plain and simple, newsletters are one of the best ways to grow a business. So spending more time on it makes sense. And money.
Most people treat newsletters as the poor cousin, don’t be most people.
3, Be strategic.
When you catch a train, you know where you want to go. Same applies to a newsletter. Have a clear plan for the journey ahead. Sure, adapt the plan as you go. But, stay true to the original vision you had for it.
The clearer your thinking from the start, the easier it will be to achieve the plan.
4, View your customer in 360 degrees.
Most companies only look at the world through their lens. If they make cheese, they talk only about cheese. But, it’s insightful to understand that this is only a small part of their customer’s interests. Be eclectic. Your customers are.
See them as a whole person, not just the bit of them applies to your world.
5, Give value.
A strong relationship is one where you give value to your customer. Tell them about a new book. Share with them a new film you discovered. Not everything you share has to have a commercial reason for doing so.
Note: When it comes to selling to your customer, make it clear when you are selling. Don’t hide it with humour. Don’t bullshit them. In this email ‘We are selling’. ‘Do you want to buy’?
6, Benchmark. But benchmark from the best.
Most people benchmark their competition. But what happens if they aren’t very good? Instead, benchmark from the best. And if that means they are not in your category, no matter. But the learning curve will be steep. And that is the main thing.
Here are some good questions to ask:
What are they doing well?
How balanced is it?
Are they giving value?
What can you do better?
7, Design matters.
The typography your newsletter uses will say something about you. The layout will say something about you. The illustrations that you use will say something about you. The photos you pick will say something about you. Each detail builds your story. So what do you want your design to say about you? Design says it without words.
8, A small team is a fast team.
A curator. A writer. An optimiser. A builder. A planner. In the beginning, those jobs may well be all wrapped up in one person: You. That is a very small team. But it is a very fast team. Decisions are made quick.
As you grow, keep that ethos. This world is changing fast. You will need to change with it. So remain a speedboat. A supertanker takes 21 miles to turn. And 16 Miles to stop.
9, Deep work helps you get more done.
We check our phones 221 times a day. Each distraction takes our mind off the thing we should be working on. If you can learn to block the distractions out, to not to respond to the latest email etc., you can focus on the things that will really grow your newsletter. And that is producing great content. And that requires deep work.
10, Mobile. Mobile. Mobile.
The number one use for smart phones is email by a country mile. Most of your newsletters will be read on a mobile. So when you write, when you pick a photo, when you pick a time to send your newsletter, think about on what device it will be read on.
11, Optimise for loyalty.
The single biggest reason for unsubscribing from a newsletter is sending too often. Companies send way too many emails. But once people unsubscribe, that is it. The end. But there is another way. Build a great newsletter, send it less often. And have a long-term relationship.
And remember this, you are building a community, not a list.
12, Sharing versus creating.
Creating content takes time. Great content takes even longer. As a small team, you will be time stretched. In the early days, it will be easier for you to find content to share than to create your own. Other people will have spent their time making it, so you don’t have to.
But original content, assuming it’s good, will get you more growth than just sharing other people’s. That is because it’s your unique voice they are hearing. So you know what you have to do.
13, The job of the editor is to edit.
Find new things. Find old things. Find amazing things. Put the hours in. Get known for finding great likeminded stuff. As their trusted editor, it is your job to spend huge amounts of time to find ‘the gold’ on their behalf. So they don’t have to.
Consistency grows a newsletter.
14, Attention is changing.
Walk down the street today, and you will see people looking at their phone, and not so much on the road. People are dual screening when they watch television, they are looking at their phone while they eat dinner. Even when they are driving.
Gaining attention is becoming harder. And will continue to do so. In order to cut through, you will need to understand the power of sending ‘micro-moments’ because you are going to have less time with your customer. So you will have to get to the point quicker.
15, Test. Test. Test.
You can test everything. When to send? Which subject line? How often to send? The more you test, the more you learn. Each time you send your newsletter out, the data can teach you how to do it better next time. Always be testing.
16, Don’t leave ‘subject lines’ to just before you send.
The subject line is the most important point of contact on your newsletter. If it doesn’t make people open, all your crazy effort is for nothing. So if your subject line is the most important line on your newsletter, you know what to test the most.
We wrote over 25 headlines before we settled on the one above. Put your effort in the place that matters most.
17, All roads lead to sign up.
Every activity you do must ultimately lead to you growing your newsletter database. From Twitter cards to Facebook competitions to that great post you put up on Medium, they should make it possible for people to sign up.
18, Tools for an easy life.
5, Twitter polls and cards.
7, Google Trends.
19, Engagement is more important than size.
It is much better to build a like-minded community that feels something for what you stand for than just a great big list of people who aren’t.
20, Everyone starts from zero.
So true. But start you must. Ask your mum to sign up. Then build from there. But remember this, everyone started from zero.
21, Regular timing creates trust.
If you send your newsletter at the same time each week, people will become accustomed to seeing it that time. So, it will become something they expect at that time each week.
If you always send out on Friday’s, no one will be surprised when you send out on Friday. One less surprise in your inbox is a good thing.
22, Be human.
Be funny. Be emotional. Be you. No one can do that like you.
Just don’t be corporate. Write like you speak. And not everything has to have a business reason. Just do stuff that makes you feel good. The chances are it will make others feel the same.
23, Checklist ritual.
Your newsletter should uphold your standards. There is a lot to get right. And it’s easy to get even the simple things wrong. Before you press the send button, do the following:
1, Photos — Do you have the right to use?
2, List cleaned?
3, Print out for a final read through.
4, Spell checked by more than one person.
5, Device checked.
6, Email provider check.
7, Check it’s the correct list.
8, Linked checked.
9, Loading speed checked. (Photo size can affect this)
10, Subject line checked.
11, Test sent. And signed off.