Years ago I worked with a sales administrator who had a hoarding problem. Not the scary kind where she had to fight off her 300 feral cats to use the toaster; the pernicious power-grabby kind where corporate goodies like product samples, trinkets, office supplies and promo materials were kept carefully locked up and doled out only upon presentation of a court order or a venti-double-shot-soy latte.
When she finally left, it took months to dispose of the obsolete products, branded junk and paper. Including, it turned out, thousands of copies of a newsletter from a time when one still printed such things. Which is what I want to talk about today. I want to talk about how newsletters are a symptom of a hoarding disorder in which hoarders attempt to control their constituents by doling out the information in a selective and occasional way.
How appalled these poor hoarders must be now that anything they might want someone to know can (and will) be tweeted by the nearest sales person to her entire contact list before it’s even out of their mouths. “But”, they will sputter ” it lacks context!” “Our customers will misunderstand”.
Of course they will misunderstand. 140 characters will only get you so far. But the answer, friends, is not to sit on information like it’s a precious 12-pack of narrow ruled note pads and dish it out in your boring newsletter. The reason for that is we are in a post-newsletter world (PNW).
The PNW reader is not interested in sitting down once a week or once a month or (heaven help you) once a quarter to read all about the “new” product you launched last month or the “new” sales VP you hired six weeks ago or the “new” business you landed or even your fabulous new customer video. They aren’t going to squeal with delight to find your newsletter in their inbox. They probably won’t open it and I can promise you, they aren’t sharing with a colleague. That ship sailed, friends.
They want the news while it’s still, well, new. They want it in 100-word bites with the instant ability to find out more or move on to something more interesting. By instant I don’t mean making them fill out a lead form. I mean one click and there it is. If a sales person happens to be hanging on to the bottom like a magnetic trout at the fish-till-you-win booth at the fair, then that’s just a bonus.
Still think your newsletter is special and different? (By the way, some are.) Take my newsletter suckiness test:
- If you skip an issue, does anyone notice? If you skip two issues, does anyone notice?
- Are the articles longer than 100 words?
- Is the “news” older than the milk in your fridge?
- Does it take you longer than 20 minutes to lay it out?
- Do you have to beg for content?
Then it sucks and you should stop doing it.
- If some or all of your audience has no access to electronic things, you can keep your paper newsletter
- If you need a journal of record for your organization, you can keep your paper or e-newsletter
- If you are publishing juried papers or your content is longer than about 30 pages, you can (and should) keep your paper or e-newsletter
Even then, be assured that most of your readers will flip through the thing and, not seeing their own photo or that of their children, will banish it to the recycle bin.
*But of course there are obvious exceptions
Bizmarketer is Elizabeth Williams
Follow me on Twitter @bizmkter
or email email@example.com