“Personal articles are the single most important element to having a successful newsletter.” ~Shaun Buck, CEO, The Newsletter Pro
At TNP, we’ve run into business professionals who sabotage their direct mail campaigns (particularly their newsletter) month after month. All because they subscribe to the idea that their newsletter doesn’t need a personal touch, particularly in the form of a cover article.
Allow me to share an example: What started off as a very strong newsletter, a doctor’s very first cover letter recounted his early struggles in life, and the friends and mentors who helped him achieve his goals. This cover earned him rave reviews from patients who connected deeply with his story. But instead of building on that momentum, he used subsequent covers to launch into tangents about the politics of his chosen field — not the kind of topics a paying customer wants to discuss over the dinner table.
Instead of speaking openly about his family life, hobbies, and other pieces of surface-level information, this doctor chose to focus on the business alone, a tactic that didn’t inspire trust and fosters relationships. In the end, he lost valuable readership, because he couldn’t build up the trust that would ultimately create worthwhile doctor-patient relationships.
While the lack of a personal article might seem like a trivial matter to some, failing to provide it is actually detrimental to the success of something as personal as a newsletter (see our Purpose: Building Relationships that Matter. Personal. Professional. Powerful.).
Your newsletter makes typically business-heavy relationships more personal, which increases loyalty and puts a familiar image to your company. As a member of your inner circle, customers are more likely to stick with your business. And just five percent boost in retention can lead to a 25 percent increase in profitability.
Because you’re their friend in the business, when clients accept your newsletter, they’re also welcoming you into their home and life. Not only is a personally transparent cover article a courtesy to your reader, but it’s also a sign of respect for those who can make or break your business.
Personal Transparency is Rewarded
In business, we define “transparency” as making information readily available to the public — or who you are, what you do, and how you do it. While you don’t necessarily have to divulge in private company matters with your clientele, a little personal transparency regarding your life outside of business shows you’re human too.
This information expresses to your clients that you’re not afraid or ashamed to be yourself and you don’t have any tricks up your sleeve, but you are coming from of place of genuine human interest.
If you’re still unconvinced of the importance of a personal touch, consider the following:
In a study conducted by the Harvard Business Review, researchers set up a cafeteria in which diners could see the cooks in the kitchen and cooks could see the diners. As a result, customer satisfaction shot up 17.3 percent, while the quality of service provided increased by 13.2 percent. The reason for the spike in satisfaction: Cooks became more than faceless entities. They were viewed as people with legitimate skills in food preparation.
Reflecting on the experiment, doctoral student Tami Kim said, “This is more about gratitude — which is a powerful force … Our findings suggest that it’s not just about the final output but about what goes in it.”
You might not be a chef, and your business might not be food service. but the same concept applies to your newsletter. When customers can see that you’re actively engaging with them, their satisfaction in you, your products and services all increase. When customers see your willingness to be personal, trust in your business increases tenfold. And the ability to be personal comes at virtually no cost to you.
Allow Your Life to Lead Your Content
In newsletters, we see business owners struggle to be personable due to a couple misconceptions.
1. They think their lives are inherently boring and not worth talking about.
We get it: Talking about yourself can be a challenge. Most of us are hard-wired to believe our lives are mundane and not worth the conversational effort unless we’ve just backpacked across Spain, finished an Ironman, or climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro.
Those experiences are great, but it’s the everyday things your clients will connect with most — watching your kid score the game-winning goal, accompanying your spouse to the mall to shop for holiday gifts, ringing in the new year, the experience of reading a fantastic book, etc. Those are the stories your clients want. In the end, it’s what’s going to set you apart. A little bit of personal information goes a long way.
2. They believe no one cares about their cover.
This, frankly, is a little ridiculous. What you say in your cover are things you’d tell your friends as you catch-up over coffee or at a dinner party. All customers have reason to care about their relationship to you. The list of possible cover topics is endless, so for your convenience, we’ve listed some of the most common topics below.
Acceptable cover themes and topics can include, but aren’t limited to
- Your life outside of work
- How your life inspires you.
- How your family motivates you.
- How you’ve overcome personal challenges.
- What those challenges taught you about life and business.
- What challenges contribute to your success.
- Seasonal holidays.
- How your family celebrates birthdays and holidays.
- The story of your family.
- How you met or proposed to your spouse.
- Fond childhood memories your audience can relate to.
- What you wanted to be when you grew up.
- Your personal role models.
For further explanation of cover article misconceptions and examples of A-plus cover articles, consult chapter eight of the best-selling “Newsletter Marketing,” by TNP’s CEO, Shaun Buck.
People Want to Work with People They Know, Like, and Trust
Staying personal in your marketing — particularly newsletter marketing — means transparency is a must. Your clients want to know you, not just what you do. Business can be personal to great effect, despite what the cliche would have you believe (ie “It’s not personal — it’s just business”).
Business is always personal. Afterall, your services seek to improve your customers’ lives. It doesn’t matter if you’re a dentist, a lawyer, or a plumber.
People want to work with people they know, like, and trust. Your newsletter and your marketing strategy can help you be that person.