Getting Personal With Newsletters

How many of you first turn to the “Personal Journal” or Sue Schellenbarger’s “Work and Family” column in the “Wall Street Journal”? I know I do.

Why? Because these articles interest me, personally. They’re relevant to my life.

Why, then, are so many business-to-business (B2B) e-newsletters, all so relentlessly focused on business? Marketers view the e-newsletter as a sales vehicle designed to move the company’s goods or services. Offering information in an e-newsletter format is simply a means to that end. It’s a terrific approach. Many companies benefit enormously from it.

The problem is after a while, reader fatigue sets in. After all, how much business information can any working person read in a day?

What readers really want is a break, a diversion, some eye candy, even some inspiration to distract us from the task at hand.

I’ve found many business coaches successfully tap into this need by infusing their e-newsletter with personal touches. They show photographs and tell stories about their lives. Of course, they all seem to have fabulous lives, traveling to exotic places and being surrounded by other gorgeous people. I guess the strategy is to show coaching really does work.

I get these e-newsletters and can’t help but click on the links. It’s like flipping through “People” magazine at the hair salon — a slightly guilty pleasure. I wonder, though, what these coaches will feature in their newsletters as they age; their babies become pimply, rebellious teenagers; and their lives get a little humdrum. It may never happen, but I’ll stay tuned to find out.

Given this, you’d think I wouldn’t be surprised when the coaching column in my own e-newsletter turned out to be the best-read article. As many of you know, I have a bimonthly e-newsletter featuring case studies and photographs of the ad copywriting and creative work I do. It’s primarily for corporate clients. However, I also have a sideline career as a business/life coach, so I included an article at the end of the e-newsletter to share coaching tips.

Because I consider coaching a sideline, I was totally unprepared to see the column was read by twice as many subscribers than the next most popular article on creating dimensional mailers.

Why? I believe it’s because the article offered personal solutions to universal challenges. Who doesn’t want their problems to go away? It also stands to reason people who enjoyed the coaching column will be more likely to open the next e-newsletter issue.

It seems mixing business and personal pays. Keep this in mind when you create an editorial mix for your e-newsletter. Other personal content that would appeal to clients and prospects could be comics, jokes, photos of your staff, even suggestions for good movies or music. One writer who’s also an avid gardener includes gardening tips in her e-newsletter.

One caveat: Carefully consider how personal you want to be. Sharing your child’s potty training exploits may be adorable now, for example, but when he becomes an adolescent he may wish you’d never given him that kind of “exposure.” When in doubt, run your editorial by friends who can serve as an informal focus group.

What have you learned from your own B2B email and e-newsletter experiences? Send them along to me.

Want more email marketing information? ClickZ E-Mail Reference is an archive of all our email columns, organized by topic.

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