Even Better Than a Web Site: The Email Newsletter

Sooner or later, I’m going to need a business attorney, and of the half dozen or so I’ve met, a woman named Jean Sifleet is the one I have in mind. We have spoken face-to-face for only about a minute, and I have never visited her web site or seen her brochure. Yet I feel as if I know her capabilities — through her email newsletter.

If memory serves, she bought a book of mine last year and sent me an issue of her newsletter. I subscribed and stayed on the list because I liked the sample. Every couple of weeks, she sends advice on some legal issue affecting sole proprietors or owners of small companies.

Sifleet clearly knows her stuff and has a sensible approach to keeping clients out of hot water. I don’t know where she went to law school, how much she charges, or whether she’s ever been sued for malpractice. But based on the contact I’ve had with her over time via email, I’m inclined to trust her.

Those who provide a personal or professional service or sell informational products won’t find a more powerful Internet marketing method than the humble and inexpensive email newsletter. This regularly distributed entity consists of an article written by you, someone on your staff, or a writer from whom you’ve commissioned relevant, original material.

Unlike a web site, which someone has to remember to visit, an email newsletter shows up at intervals without further effort on the part of subscribers. Over time, it reinforces your perceived competence, educates recipients subtly about their need for your services, and makes you the provider of choice when recipients decide it’s time to hire someone like you.

I receive close to a dozen email newsletters. One that I find especially effective comes from a guy in Auburn, Calif., named Dan Lucas. As with Sifleet, my knowledge of Lucas comes almost completely from his email newsletter.

Lucas and his associates teach the Sandler Sales System to people who sell for medium-sized and large organizations. Every issue of his newsletter presents an absorbing case in which a sale went awry, Lucas’s diagnosis of when and why it went off-track, and a solution for dealing more effectively with the problem the next time it arises.

From his analyses and diagnoses, I have evidence of his expertise in complex sales. I’d recommend him without hesitation to someone facing the kinds of sales problems he highlights in each issue. Following his case in every newsletter are paragraphs about his upcoming “bootcamps” and “teleclasses,” winding up with instructions on how to subscribe and unsubscribe.

Lucas started his email newsletter a year or so ago and has about 600 subscribers, he told me. Each issue takes him from two and a half to four hours to write. He begins with a real situation and brainstorms about it, then types out a draft of his ideas. He goes back to shorten the sentences, clean up grammar, and check its readability. Then he reads it out loud and cleans it up further. A professional editor does line-by-line corrections and ensures that it makes sense.

You might be thinking, “Only 600 subscribers? How can it be worth his time?” Lucas knows it gets passed around to people who have never met him because he regularly receives email and registrations for his programs from nonsubscribers who have read the newsletter. “Interestingly, people often pass the newsletter around throughout their organization, but they won’t give us the email list for the organization,” he says.

And subscribers with whom he’s been playing phone tag for a while get mobilized to hire him when a particular case or analysis strikes a nerve.

Publish a newsletter rich in expertise, and you’ll be repaid in a wider sphere of influence, deeper credibility, and greater top-of-mind awareness. I’ll continue with the do’s and don’ts for email newsletters next week.

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