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How to craft a unique topic for your newsletter
👉 a simple 3-step process
I said last time that for your newsletter to cut through your readers’ cluttered inbox it needs to be significantly different to the other emails they’re getting.
And a good way to do that is to write about a topic no one else is writing about.
I’m going to caveat that straight away though. It’s almost impossible to pick a topic that no one else in the entire world is writing about.
What I’m talking about is a little more modest: writing about a topic that your audience is unlikely to be hearing about from anyone else.
And we also have to be careful. There may be a good reason no one else is writing about a topic - ie. they may have found there isn’t an audience for it.
But do this right and we can find a topic that makes us the obvious choice for potential clients to pick.
Step 1: Start With Your Potential Buyers
In order to come up with a fresh topic, you need to know who your audience is. And for most of us who use newsletters as a marketing tool to help sell our products and services, that means potential buyers.
If you deal directly with consumers it’s the individual who’ll buy your products.
If you deal with small businesses, it’s almost always the business owner.
If you deal with corporates you have to think about it a little harder.
Traditional marketing advice has always been to target high and aim for the C-Suite. But the reality is that may not be where key buying decisions are made for your sort of products.
And as the CEB showed in The Challenger Sale and Challenger Customer, there are often key influencers in large organisations that are much more important in driving a sale than those in official roles in the hierarchy.
And these “mobilizers” as they call them are also much more likely to be open to new ideas from outsiders. And to read newsletters looking for those new ideas.
So think realistically about who the best audience for your newsletter is.
Step 2: Look for a Hot Intersection
A hot intersection is a topic that:
You care about and are interested and knowledgeable enough to be able to write regularly on
Is “close to the jugular” for your potential clients -ie one of their top few priorities
If I was being very marketingy I’d say start with a shortlist of important issues your customer really cares about. But in my experience, the most common point of failure of a newsletter is simply that you run out of steam.
So in fact you can narrow down your topics faster by first shortlisting the topics you care enough about to be confident you’ll be able to write about at least weekly. Realistically, there aren’t many of them.
For example, for me the topics I care about and enjoy researching and learning more about are marketing, productivity and creativity. And typically I find that marketing (winning clients) is the biggest priority of those 3 for my clients.
Step 3: Narrow the Topic with these Filters
Now you’re going to start narrowing down from your broader topic to the focused topic that’s going to be (relatively) unique to you. Here are a number of ways you can do that:
Focus the topic on a specific industry sector
Marketing for podcasters, leadership for engineers. As long as the group is big enough and the topic important enough for them, this can help your audience feel you’re writing specifically for them and their situation.
Focus the topic on a specific type of person or a barrier they face
Marketing for introverts, presentation skills for stutterers. Even more than with the industry sector, this can make your audience feel like your newsletter is just for them. And especially if you have faced the same challenges yourself.
Drill down into an underexposed segment of the topic
Using newsletters for marketing for example. Or resilience for leaders. If the topic is sometimes seen as a bit boring but essential it can actually help. For example, there are a lot more people writing newsletters about social media marketing or AI in marketing than there are writing newsletters about marketing with newsletters.
Focus on your own unique approach or point of view
Most experts have their own methodology or approach for attacking their client’s problems - for example, “buyer facilitation” in sales or the “blue ocean” approach to strategy. Making your newsletter primarily about your approach means it will be unique to you (though also potentially narrowing the amount of content you’ll be able to produce too).
Combine any of the above approaches
In practice, you’ll end up using a combination of approaches. My broad topic is marketing but I’ve drilled down into newsletters. I have a unique approach (“conversational emails”) and my writing is mainly for people who run their own business and aren’t necessarily full-time or natural marketing people. Of course, you don’t have to fit that profile to get value from my work - but if you do it will hopefully feel very much like it’s written just for you.
Pick Your Topic Fast - and Test it
The final important thing to point out is that it’s rare for you to be able to figure this out perfectly in theory. You need to try ideas out in the real world to see what works.
So this exercise should take you minutes rather than hours.
Quickly create a shortlist of topics then narrow them down. Whatever jumps off the page and excites you is the one you should go with.
And if nothing excites you?
Maybe you’re best off standing out in another way. We’ll discuss them in our next emails…
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