Last week I got an email from a local professional that I only run into occasionally.
"Brian, the timing of your blog is perfect," he began, and proceeded to make an introduction to one of his clients that needed our services.
Except, I didn't send him a blog post.
What he got was a weekly email in newsletter format that summarized the articles I had found interesting that week. There were two articles, one written by Angie Schottmuller for Search Engine Watch and another by the ubiquitous Seth Godin.
Yes, Seth Godin writes for me from time to time, and he'll write for you, too.
Back in 2006, I started using a bookmarking service to build a database of articles, blog posts, images, and anything else I found interesting. This became an important resource for my writing.
I began to use it when people asked me for help with one aspect of online marketing or another. Simply querying the list with a keyword like "email" delivered a treasure trove of smart articles on the topic. It seems that I had inadvertently become a curator of content.
So, how does this simple activity result in referrals? It's the automagical newsletter that I now generate from this, and I'm going to show you how I do it.
Step 1: Enjoy Learning
There are always interesting things going on in the online marketing world, and there is no shortage of interesting people writing about them.
I'm sure you are keeping up on what people write about your industry. You are probably already tweeting and Facebooking about helpful and entertaining things you find online.
If you're not sharing the things you read, consider starting.
Step 2: Embrace Email
Email is highly visible. It is the biggest social network on the planet. Business professionals spend their day in email, managing their work.
If email is not working for you, it is probably because of low frequency. Email is a personal medium, and we all are afraid of being seen as spammers by sending too much email.
If you accept that the opposite of spam email is relevant email, not infrequent email, you may feel more comfortable sending a weekly curated e-newsletter. You can send email every single day if it is helpful or entertaining. Since it is so much work to conceive, write, edit, and layout relevant email with any frequency, the curated newsletter is a way to send more frequently with relative content that someone else wrote.
Step 3: Share What You're Reading
The email list to which my friend had subscribed was small. I had promised a weekly email on conversion and invited people to subscribe during one of my seminars. But, I didn't have the bandwidth to deliver. A broken promise is the worst brand experience. My bookmarking service and my email service provider came to the rescue. Here is how the process works:
First, find a nice article that is relevant to your practice and your readers' interest. Use the browser plug-in of your favorite bookmarking service to save the article.
Figure 1: Browser extensions provided by bookmarking services offer
immediate posting, comment, and categorization of curated content.
Add some commentary for your readers summarizing why it is important to review this article. This summary will appear in your email. Add tags, assign it to a group (if using Diigo), and save it.
The bookmarking service saves the reference and updates your RSS feed. Your email service provider (ESP) will be watching, and at a predetermined time of week, will grab the new content from the RSS feed, drop it into an email template of your own making, and send it to your list.
Step 4: RSS Feed + Email Service Provider = Love
Every bookmarking service delivers different content in their RSS feed, and you may want to choose your bookmarking service based on what it includes in its feed.
For example, the two bookmarking services Diigo and Delicious put different "Descriptions" in their RSS feed. Figure 2 is the same email template rendered with the Diigo RSS feed and the Delicious RSS feed. You can see that Diigo includes links back to relevant tags in each description. Delicious puts a link to comments on the bookmark and also includes my username, which could be baffling to my readers.
Figure 2: Diigo and Delicious put different information in their RSS feeds.
I prefer the tags, since I don't get any comments on Delicious. I also prefer Diigo's browser plug-in to the one from Delicious.
Several ESPs offer an RSS to email feature. This service works by allowing us to design templates for email. We decide where the information in the RSS feed goes.
Then, on a schedule we set, the service checks our RSS feed to see if there are any new items. If so, the new information is dropped into our template, and everyone on the list is sent an email. I chose MailChimp for my curated newsletter.
Figure 3: Choose MailChimp's RSS-driven campaign for your curated newsletter.
I have also used RSS to email features in AWeber and FeedBlitz. Whichever ESP you choose, be sure that it lets you define your own template so you can insert promotional items in with the curated content. After all, we want people clicking to our business website.
You'll find my simple MailChimp email template at my blog.
Here are two curated newletters that your designer can model your template on.
Figure 4: Convince and Convert 321 from Jay Baer.
Figure 5: ROI report from Retail Online Integration.
Won't Seth Be Upset?
Seth (and everyone else) should be delighted to be included in your curated newsletter. Let us count the reasons why.
This is the way the Internet works. Please, include any of my articles in yours.
It is important to follow a few best practices when bookmarking articles.
The curated newsletter will appeal to those prospects who are actively pursuing solutions to problems your business solves, and those who are just trying to get up the learning curve. This is an easy way to stay in front of them and take the place in their mind as the thought leader in your space.
With 15 years of online marketing experience, Brian has designed the digital strategy and marketing infrastructure for a number of businesses, including his own technology consulting company, Conversion Sciences. He built his company to transform the Internet from a giant digital-brochure stand to a place where people find the answers they seek. His clients use online strategies to engage their visitors and grow their businesses. Brian has created a series of Web strategy workshops and authors the Conversion Scientist blog. Brian works from Austin, Texas, a place where life and the Internet are hopelessly intertwined.
May 22, 2013
1:00pm ET / 10:00am PT
June 5, 2013
1:00pm ET / 10:00am PT