Why most advice on email and newsletters is a waste of time
👉 and how I almost screwed up big time by not realising it
A few years ago I almost screwed up a big webinar I did on email marketing for a Facebook expert who wanted to show his audience how adding email to their armoury would allow them to get much better and more sustainable results.
We prepped the webinar together and brainstormed all sorts of advanced and innovative techniques I could show them: from interest-based segmentation to automated engagement management to “binge triggers” to clever persuasion techniques.
At the start of the webinar I did my usual thing of asking everyone where they currently were with email marketing.
As the answers came in via chat my stomach did a couple of somersaults as I realised I’d completely misread the audience. About half hadn’t even started with email at all. The rest were stuck either trying to get subscribers or just not emailing regularly.
All the fancy automation stuff and advanced writing techniques I’d worked on would be useless to this audience: they needed the basics.
Thank God I asked the question before launching into my presentation. Instead, I turned it into more of a Q&A and covered all the basics they needed to know to make progress.
The advanced material was super exciting to talk about and sounded really useful in theory - “send the exact emails your audience wants to see”, “identify and harness your most enthusiastic subscribers”, “persuade ethically and invisibly”.
But all useless if you haven’t got the basics in place.
And something I’ve learned over time: that audience wasn’t an outlier. Most people need the basics.
The problem is that experts don’t really want to talk about the basics. We live in a little bubble where we focus on all the exciting new techniques and technology rather than the more mundane world of what real people actually need to make progress with email.
That’s why most of the advice you’ll see on newsletters is about the fancy stuff. The stuff that excites the experts writing them. The stuff that sounds sexy, but ultimately is pretty useless for most people.
If you want to get *real* improvements in your results with email (or anything) you need to realistically assess where you are and focus on what’s going to get you to the next level.
If you’re just starting to play golf you start with the swing, not Phil Mickelson’s flop shot.
In the world of newsletters and email marketing, most people either don’t have a newsletter at all or send ad-hoc.
If you’re at that level there’s no point jumping in to fancy automations or carefully crafting your words to be super persuasive. You need to learn how to come up with topics and write emails consistently.
When you’ve mastered that, you need to structure and write emails to grab and maintain attention. To deliver value while being interesting so people come back for more.
Master that and then you can build in more persuasion, then get into the fancy automations.
Don’t be lured into complex techniques that only really pay off for people already operating at a high level. Start with what will have the biggest impact for you.
Next time: my advice on the best way to start (or restart) an email newsletter.
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