It was a year ago that I revamped, recast, remodeled this newsletter from an RSS blog feed into an actual letter—from me to you.
Since then, I've thought a lot about what goes into a must-read email newsletter these days. Here in 2019: What makes people subscribe (and unsubscribe)? What makes people open? Share? And what makes you hit reply and write back to me...?
My friends at AWeber wanted to answer the questions I've also been obsessed with for the past year: What are the elements of The Perfect Email in 2019? So they analyzed 1,000 emails from 100 of today's top businesses and entrepreneurs.
AWeber handpicked the high performers who use the AWeber platform, including this email newsletter, to reverse-engineer what works.
The research is good (I talk about it below). But it doesn't get into the writing. So what works now in newsletter writing? (Aside from, obviously, puns?) (I used 72 of them last year, BTW.)
I'm always evolving my thinking about newsletter publishing. And after a year of writing a letter to you here, I know a few things I didn't know a year ago. (In some case I've relearned what I'd forgotten.) I hope informs your own email marketing strategy:
- "The most important part of a newsletter is not the 'news,' but the 'letter.'" Your email should feel more like a letter from one person to another.
- Your newsletter is an important opportunity to create or deepen a relationship. It's not just a "content distribution strategy."
- Find your Doris. Warren Buffett's annual Letter to Shareholders goes out to thousands of Berkshire Hathaway shareholders. But he writes it to one person: His sister, Doris.
So who is your Doris? Who is the one person you think of as you write?
- Voice is everything. A few years ago, my daughter Caroline overheard me being interviewed for a podcast. She mentioned later that she knew it was a professional call because, she said, "you were using your 'Marketing Voice.'"
It made me laugh at the time, but it was eye-opening: Wait. I have a Marketing Voice...? And I'm not even aware of it?
A lot of us professionals have developed that kind of writing voice. It's not a fake voice, exactly. But it reads the way you sound when you're on a phone call while you're riding in a car with other people and you're aware who's listening in: You're not as warm and authentic as you might otherwise be.
Your voice is your greatest asset in a newsletter. All of my favorites have a recognizable point of view.
- It takes a while to get your legs under you. Before I sat down to write this morning, I went back and reread my earliest newsletters from 2018. I cringed a little as I read them. I could feel my slight wobbly discomfort at this new... thing. My tone is a *hair* halting and anxious. I doubt you'd notice it—I doubt anyone else would—but there it was.
That's weird, right? I've written two books. I've written countless blog posts and a thousand magazine and newspaper articles I've been editing and creating content for 25 years. I've been deploying a newsletter at MarketingProfs since 2002. Yet I'm still uncomfortable...? 🤔
It takes a while to find your flow with any new thing. (Even when the new thing is a version of an old thing.) It's not a weakness. It's just the process.
- Marketers: Do not fear the scroll. We will all scroll for a story. We will all scroll for a story. We. Will. All. Scroll. For. A. Story. (I can't say this enough. But I'll say it 3 times.)
- There are no rules. In newsletters. (Or in life.) Marketers are full of best practices and advice. Here's the truth: The only thing that matters is what works for you.
Thank you for being here. Warm love ❤️ from cold Boston. I appreciate you.
* * *
Here are 5 things I thought worth sharing this fortnight:
Right or Long
So it turns out that this letter to you is the longest of the newsletters AWeber analyzed.
- The average word count of a top-performing email in its study is 434 words.
- Only 11% of the 1,000 emails in the study contained more than 901 words.
- This email newsletter is (on average) 1,839 words in length. It takes a person on average 14 minutes to read this newsletter. (Side note: I don't know exactly where this number came from. But I imagine a room full of test subjects in a controlled room simultaneously opening up this newsletter and then, when they're done—hands up and "TIME!")
- Readers laugh 6.3 times during each issue of this newsletter. (Okay I made this one up.)
Anyway, AWeber's Liz Willits asked me: Why do you think longform emails are so effective?
I don't. Because they're not.
It's not longform emails that are effective. What is effective are emails that have value for the people you're writing to. What is effective are emails that are clear on their goals.
In this newsletter, I'm interested in furthering relationships. If I were looking for website traffic or a Buy-Now transaction, I'd have a different approach.
💌 I don't set out every other Sunday with a goal of writing the longest email I possibly can. Because that would be a ridiculous goal. But I do have a goal of writing an authentic, valuable, fun letter to each of you. I put my heart and soul into it, and that's why you respond.
Want the stats from the Aweber study to inform your own email marketing strategy? That's a rhetorical question. Yes, you do!
Stage of Enlightenment 🎤
I speak on stages all over the world. And I love it. You might think I'm a natural...?
That's funny. (Funny-weird not funny-ha-ha.)
How to Stop ⛔ Procrastinating
I get over my Fear-of-the-Blank-Page—and related chronic condition Not-Knowing-Where-to-Start—by doing one of three things:
- Opening up my email and writing a letter to a friend (In Everybody Writes, I talk about this as the Dear Mom strategy.)
- Switching to writing longhand in a notebook.
- Making a list, like a grocery list, of the key points I want to make.
Writer Kim Cross has three other tactics for eliminating procrastination, including...
- Drawing a map.
- Pirating inspiration from other writers.
- My favorite: A mental sprint like a "fartleks" (a Swedish time-interval running technique, in which you alternate focused sprinting-writing and rest-scrolling Instagram)
The Fartleks approach is similar to the well-known Pomodoro technique. But with 100% better words—because F-A-R-T-L-E-K-S, people! Read these procrasi-busting ideas
Writing Landing Pages: Fill In the _________
Our friends at LeadPages and Copyhackers have devised clever fill-in-the-blank templates to help you easily craft the four most critical landing page types: downloadable report or guide, webinar reg page, thank-you page, and checkout page.
I like how these templates reinforce a concept I harp on all the time: Write to one person, putting yourself in the frame of mind they might have when they land on your landing page. Think:
"What problem drove them to your page? How deeply do they feel the problem? Have they tried solving the problem already? How? Why weren't they successful then? Are they filled with confidence or lacking confidence right now?"
'The Learning Curve Is the Earning Curve'
If you want to really enjoy your job, spend more time learning something new, according to LinkedIn's survey of 2,000+ professionals. Those who spend time each week learning are...
- 47% less likely to be stressed
- 39% more likely to feel productive and successful
- 23% more ready to take on additional responsibilities
- 21% more likely to feel confident and happy
"Learning" might mean taking online courses, attending webinars, reading, and taking on new projects that help you grow your skills.
HR consultant Josh Bersin looks at the data and concludes: "The Learning Curve is the Earning Curve." In other words, if you feel you aren't growing on the job... you're in the wrong job.
HELL. YES. Anyone who works for a company that doesn't invest in them should quit. Get out. Find a place that DOES value learning. I wrote all about that here
👉 👉 👉 Related: What about marketers, specifically? Those marketers who feel happy and fulfilled at work are active learners. As a result, they also feel supported if they need help, they bounce back quickly from criticism—and more:
✅ This is a good refresher on writing calls to action in skimmable, infographic form. Great CTAs start here
. (<<< meta)
👉 As Cheryl Strayed once said: "There's no other job in the world where you get your master's degree in that field and you're like, 'Well, I might make zero or I might make $5 million!'"
DEPARTMENT OF THE BEST THING I SAW THIS WEEK
If I'm coming to your town, reach out!