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All a Matter of the Ego: Back to Basics for Newsletter Publishers

By: Azriel Winnett

Azriel Winnett is senior staff writer at Sling Shot Media LLC, which offers a wide range of hosting solutions for email lists of all types and sizes, as well as many other services for email marketers and list owners. Visit our site at:http://www.listhost.net or e-mail us at: sales@listhost.net.

Yes, it's all a matter of the ego. Email marketing and list publishing are egotistical endeavors. Moreover, we're getting back to basic principles here.

Confused? Wait - we'll explain.

Have you ever heard of Travis D. Ford? Mr. Ford is a conductor on the Metro-North railway, which serves the commuter corridor from New Haven, Connecticut, to New York City. As he makes his way through the train, they say, Mr. Ford will engage passengers in lively conversation: "How you're doing? Where did you get that smart tie?" "Missed you last week - been on vacation? Really, where did you go?..."

But that's not all. Once he's done with his rounds collecting tickets, he returns and addresses the assembled passengers. He may start with the current weather condition, then tomorrow's forecast, and go on to the five-day outlook. He'll then give a rundown on current stock prices and economic indicators, and go on to give his analysis of the baseball scene, along with starting times for upcoming games.

Apparently, the passengers love every minute of it. I don't know how much competition Metro-North has on the southern Connecticut route, but at any rate, the company must have one big heap of loyal customers!

In effect, Travis D. Ford is a walking email newsletter - and a jolly good one. After waiting in the rain on the platform and then scrambling for a not-so-comfortable seat on a crowded train, the last thing you expect is service with a smile. But you get more than you expect. Not more of what Mr. Ford wants, but more of what YOU want. Mr. Ford, in a word, over-delivers.

And really, this is what effective newsletter publishing is all about.

One of our readers recently wrote in with a question regarding a suggestion I had made in a previous article. I had been talking about using your newsletter to gauge interest in a new product or service. I proposed that one way of doing this might be to describe the product in the course of an article, and then ask your subscribers for their opinions.

"I think it's a great idea," wrote our reader, "but how do you do such an article without making it appear like an advertisement? I want to get around the 'self-rap' and 'by golly I'm good - buy this' approach."

Well, I didn't say it's easy (writing good content never is), but it certainly can be done. Were Travis Ford to briefly interrupt his daily presentation by inquiring who would support an extra daily run at 6 a.m., I doubt whether anyone would object - firstly, because they're getting so much of value, and secondly, the perception will be that the question is in their interest anyway.

This is the secret of success in general: delivering, and over-delivering, what your readers value. Of course, this leads to another question: how do you make money with your newsletter if you have to focus so completely on your subscriber's needs, with such a de-emphasis on selling?

In brief, the answer is you can sell, but it's hidden selling. Way back in 1834, a mysterious entrepreneur advertised a Grand Buffalo Hunt in Hoboken New Jersey. Thousands of people crossed the river on ferries to witness this free event. It turned out to be a playful hoax, but the public were well entertained, and returned home happy.

Only later did the public learn that the anonymous personality behind the event - who had known that their curiosity would add more interest - was the most famous showman of his time, P.T. Barnum. They also learned that Barnum had rented the ferries, which took people across the river for a fee, for the day of the hunt. He had also profited from the food and drink sold at the show. Money-wise, he didn't do badly for a free event!

But that's not all. As people laughed and said, "Barnum humbugged us again!", he chalked up more publicity for his name and for his businesses.

Without suggesting that we all become show people, I think the lessons for us are clear. 

When all's said and done, publishing a successful newsletter, or designing an effective marketing creative, is very much a question of ego-massaging. 

But your customers' or readers' egos - not yours!

© Copyright 2000, Azriel Winnett, Sling Shot Media, LLC

Other Articles by Azriel Winnett

The author assumes full responsibility for the contents of this article and retains all of its property rights. MarcommWise publishes it here with the permission of the author. MarcomWise assumes no responsibility for the article's contents.

 

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