Boston, Sunday, February 16, 2020
Last week I spoke at an email marketing event in Denmark. (Hej, ven!)
The event was in Hans Christian Andersen's hometown of Odense, a 90-minute train ride from Copenhagen. (Side note: I was bad at the train. Never could find my assigned seat.)
The host hotel was around the corner from Hans's childhood home: You could follow the writer's size 13 footprints (size 47, in Euro sizing) straight up to the door of the house where he was born in 1805. That's it above ☝️.
Even if you don't know Hans Christian Andersen, you know his work. He wrote The Princess and the Pea, Thumbelina, The Little Mermaid, The Emperor's New Clothes, The Ugly Ducking, and The Snow Queen... which 171 years later would be adapted by Disney into Frozen and Frozen 2 and (some day, I expect) Frozen 47.
The point is: If "Let It Go" has ever played on loop in your minivan, you have Hans Christian Andersen to thank.
In Odense I heard about another fairytale Hans wrote. One of his earliest. And under the radar. It's called The Tallow Candle. And it's about a candle that did not feel appreciated.
How perfect is that? I'm in Denmark in February of 2020 to talk about something else that's also underappreciated: Email.
(...and which also has the ability to illuminate. To light things up. To burn a lasting and long-term slow burn... but now that entire metaphor is just being overwritten right here in your inbox LOL.)
In Denmark I shared three important things your email newsletter needs in 2020. But I had only a little more than an hour. So I needed to nip and tuck my comments a bit.
Here's what I would've shared, had I had 80 hours instead of 80 minutes:
What your 2020 email newsletter needs:
- A clear niche: Specific bests sweeping.
- A clear POV within that niche. In the age of content abundance, your niche is already covered. No problem: Add your spin/angle/point of view that others can't replicate in quite the same way.
- Mostly insights; some promotion. Never flip that script. You need numbers? Fine: 90/10. No: 95/5. (You should flip that script for straight-up email marketing. But we're talking newsletters here.)
- A non-neutral voice. You're writing a letter, not reporting a five-car pileup on the freeway.
- Expectations with a Subscribe page: Who you are. What you'll mail. When you'll mail. How often.
- A signal of belonging with the Welcome email: "We get you. You belong here."
- Encouraged conversation with easy-to-answer questions in your Welcome email: Why did you subscribe? How can I help? Answering should feel like a layup for your subscribers.
- A pillow over the face of anything with a whiff of "Dear Valued Customers." Replace it with "Dear You." You're writing to one person in one inbox—not a roomful of people.
- Lots of yous. Count the number of yous in an email newsletter. If you run out of fingers... you're doing great.
- Context for curation: "Here's why I'm sharing this useful thing with you; here's why I believe it's important."
- Questions: "What do you think?" Constant audience feedback allows you to grow/adjust your focus.
- ALWAYS WRITE BACK. This isn't a thing to include. Just do it. Figure out a process for handling that.
- Momentum inside each issue. Lively writing. Story. Open loops in the copy that keep the reader curious and engaged. Clear copy hierarchy through white space, bullet points, images.
- Momentum outside each issue: Your newsletter is not a tower; it's a bridge to your other Marketing. Your social media especially. Do you have a LinkedIn or Facebook group? Highlight questions or discussions in the newsletter. Have an Instagram? Share its images in the newsletter. This goes both ways, of course: Let social show your newsletter some love, too.
- A stupid-obvious way for people to Unsubscribe. Do not send them a confirmation email that they have, in fact, unsubscribed. That one just irks me.
- Relax. Have fun. Loosen up your fingers; open your heart. If your newsletter feels like you're writing with a taser aimed at your sensitive nibs... you're doing it wrong.
And, by the way, if you find yourself in Odense, walk the streets in Hans's shoes. You and I might never fill them, probably.
But it's fun to try them on.
* * *
Here are a few things worth sharing this fortnight.
1 Crazy 404 Love
We are all imperfect souls just trying our best, aren't we? My friend and colleague Kerry Gorgone and I celebrated the 404th episode of the MarketingProfs podcast by asking 6 industry leaders to share their own personal "marketing 404 error," along with a tip on how to avoid the same. (BONUS: You'll hear the greatest business idea I've ever had and never done a thing with! You should steal it.) Listen to the 404 episode here
2 Boring '20s