Thursday, 30 November 2017

5 Reasons Why Prospects Don’t Buy From You

It doesn’t matter how good you are at selling, your close rate will never be 100%. But if you’re consistently losing deals you should have won, there’s probably a reason -- if not several.
Fortunately, once you diagnose the cause, you can improve your process, and ultimately, your results.

The 5 Major Reasons Prospects Don't Buy

1) You’re trying to sell to everyone

What this sounds like: “I’m not sure my company really needs [product].”

A good sales pipeline is about quality, not quantity. If your prospects aren’t buying from you, reevaluate the quality of your opportunities. Have they been carefully targeted? Do you know why they’re good fits? Or are you simply trying to sell to anyone who shows the slightest bit of interest in your product?
While it might seem counterintuitive to walk away from anyone, narrowing your focus to the most qualified prospects will make you more successful. Not only are these buyers far likelier to pull the trigger, you’ll have also more time to spend on each one -- letting you personalize your outreach and develop compelling business cases.

2) You’re driving customers away

What this sounds like: “I’m not interested; please stop contacting me.”

There’s a reason most people never answer calls from unknown numbers anymore: They don’t want to be sold to. And if reps continue to use email as a spamming tool -- rather than a means of genuinely connecting with and helping prospects -- messages from strangers will begin to go unanswered as well. (Even more so than right now.)
Dial back the fake enthusiasm. Stop pestering your prospects. Instead, act like yourself and provide real value. It might be helpful to envision yourself as a consultant rather than a salesperson. You should also learn as much as possible about your prospects so you don’t waste their time asking for basic information like how large their company is and what they sell.

3) You’re not surfacing objections

What this sounds like: “Actually, X is a pretty big concern for us, so I think we’re going to [go with Y competitor, pass].”

I get it: Digging for objections is scary. Once you acknowledge them, they’re out there -- concrete reasons the prospect shouldn’t buy. But the reality is, objections exist whether or not you hear them … and the best (really the only) time to resolve those concerns is in the beginning and middle stages of the sales process, while the buyer’s mind is still open.
To learn what’s keeping your prospect back from purchasing right this second, ask:
  • “If this didn’t go through, what would the reason be?”
  • “We’ve talked about why you like [product] -- can we spend some time on what you don’t like?”
  • “It’s very normal to have some concerns about this type of purchase. Are you open to sharing yours with me, if you have them?”
  • “We’ve discussed ‘pros.’ What’s on the ‘cons’ side of the list for you?”

4) You’re not creating urgency

What this sounds like: “Maybe next [quarter, year].”

Your product may be your primary focus, but to your prospect, it’s just another thing fighting for their attention. Without a reason to buy now rather than later, the deal is likely to die on the vine. Want it to come to fruition? Then ask probing questions that reveal why the buyer’s business or well-being somehow hinges on having the product.
Here are five examples:
  • “What happens if you don’t solve this problem by [X date]?”
  • “Describe the consequences of missing [Y goal].”
  • “Can you explain what’s riding on [Z strategy]?”
  • “Is [fixing, addressing, improving] this a priority right now? Where would you say it falls on your list of priorities?”
  • “How long has this been an issue? Why are you focusing on it now?”

5) You don’t want the prospect feel safe

What this sounds like: “I’m not sure we’re ready for this yet.”

No one wants to put their neck on the line for something they’re not 100% confident about. This fact kills many deals; after all, think about what would happen to your prospect if they advocated for your product, successfully got the budget, led a time- and resource-intensive implementation initiative -- and then the solution was ineffective, or worse, completely flopped.
They might not be out of a job, but their internal reputation would definitely suffer.
That’s why part of your job involves making them feel comfortable with the investment and the risks involved. You can do this in several ways.
First, if your company offers any purchase protection terms -- like full refunds, a trial period, or your money back if you don’t see certain results -- make sure to highlight those throughout your conversations.
You should also establish credibility by:
  • Referring to current customers -- the more well-known, the better
  • Sending case studies and testimonials to your prospect
  • Offering to connect them with references
  • Sharing positive online reviews you’ve gotten
  • Bringing up any awards or industry honors your product or company has received

Learning it's not them, it's you, is never fun. But now that you've figured out what's going wrong, you can take the appropriate steps.


Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Copywriting 101: 6 Traits of Excellent Copy Readers Will Remember

Mad Men fans everywhere remember the pivotal first scene where we learn just how talented Don Draper is at his job.
Faced with an almost-impossible copywriting task, he rose to the occasion to solve a huge problem for his client, Lucky Strike. In spite of research warning customers of the dangers of cigarettes, Draper delivered the iconic slogan -- "It's toasted" -- to differentiate the brand from its competitors.

Now, we definitely aren't advocating for smoking cigarettes (or many of Draper's health choices). But fictional or not, you can't deny the memorability and catchiness of that tagline.

Download our free guide here for tips to become a better writer. 

It's easy to recognize good copywriting when you see it, but there are actually several characteristics that really separate outstanding writing from the rest of the pack. Want to know them? Read on below to find out.

What Is Copywriting?

Copywriting is one of the most critical elements of any and all forms of marketing and advertising. Copywriting consists of the words, either written or spoken, marketers use to try to get people to take an action after reading or hearing them.
Copywriting is like a call-to-action, but on a bigger scale: Copywriters are trying to get people to feel, think, or respond -- or, ideally, to Google the slogan or brand to learn more about the campaign. And where a blog post like this one has the luxury of hundreds of words with which to make a case, copywriters only have a few words to make their case.
But short and sweet isn't the only characteristic of good copywriting. Keep reading to learn more characteristics of truly memorable copy.

6 Traits of Good Copywriting

1) It tilts your perspective.

Sometimes, all a message needs to break through is a slight shift in angle. We've grown so accustomed to blocking out marketing messages, we don't even see them anymore. One of the most powerful things a copywriter can do is break down a reader's guard with an unexpected approach. Every story has a myriad of angles -- your job as a copywriter is to find the one that resonates.

Source: Silence Sucks

This ad from Sage Therapeutics pressing the importance of talking about postpartum depression works because instead of asking readers to care about something they don't know, it puts them in the position of experiencing the struggle that mothers suffering do. Did they miss some readers who quickly passed by the ad thinking it was for adult pacifiers? Most definitely. But the ad resonated that much more thoroughly with those who read it.
The next time you sit down to write, try out this approach. Don't take the topic head on. Instead, ask yourself why it matters. Each time you write down an answer, challenge yourself to push it further. Find the larger story happening behind your message.

2) It finds connections.

In 1996, Steve Jobs let the cat out of the bag. He was speaking with a journalist from Wired on the topic of creativity and explained:

"Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something they feel a little guilty because they didn't really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after awhile."
Let's say you have to write an ad for a new pair of sneakers. You could take the assignment head on. You could write about the elasticity of the shoe's sole or the lightweight design. Indeed, many have. Or you could put all of that aside and instead draw the connection between the product and the experience it evokes.

Source: Pinterest

Two things are happening in this ad. First, the copy recognizes that for many, running isn't about running at all -- it's about solitude, peace, and restoring sanity to an otherwise hectic life. Second, not only does Nike connect the ad to the experience of running, it actually connects to the sound that those shoes make as they hit the pavement.
This ad is about the complexity of one's life fading away and being replaced by simplicity and clarity. As the copy progresses, the sentences simplify and the copy's complexity is slowly replaced by the simple and rhythmic pounding of words: run, run, run, run. The same rhythm one hears when all but their footsteps have faded away. That's connection.

3) It has a stunning lead.

The following are all headlines or leading sentences from Urban Daddy, an email-based magazine drawing attention to new products, experiences, and eateries.

  • "Six days. That’s how long you have until 65% of your body is turkey."
  • "There are 8,760 hours in a year. And just one hour in which a stand will be dispensing gratis latkes with homemade applesauce and sour cream in Harvard Square. Yeah, it’s not fair. But 60 minutes is 60 minutes."
  • "Ewoks. Talk about living."
What's common among each of these leads? They make us want to read the next line. I mean, seriously, how much do you want to know where that Ewok thing is headed?
There's an adage in copywriting that's loosely credited to copywriter and business owner Joe Sugarman, which roughly states that the purpose of the headline is to get you to read the first line. The purpose of the first line is to get you to read the second line, and so on. In short, if your first line doesn't enthrall your readers, all is lost.

4) It is born out of listening.

Seeing its plans to launch yet another gym in the greater Boston region, an outsider might have called the Harrington family a wee bit crazy. The market was already flush with gyms, including a new breed of luxury ones that seemed to be in an arms war for the flashiest perks. Gyms across the region were offering massage services, smoothie bars, and fleets of personal trainers. And GymIt wouldn't have any of that.
What did GymIt have? An understanding of its core audience. Before launching its new gym, the brand did a ton of listening to its primary market of gym-goers. For many in GymIt's target market, the added benefits associated with luxury gyms were nice to have, but came with a lot of baggage -- namely expensive rates and overly complex contracts.
GymIt decided to simplify the gym-going experience for people who predominately cared about getting in and working out. The copy in its launch campaign and across its marketing materials reflects that understanding.

In an older blog post, Copyblogger's Robert Bruce put this nicely. "Humble yourself and truly serve your audience, listen to their needs and desires, listen to the language they use," he said. "If you listen carefully, your audience can eventually give you everything you need, including much of your copy. Get out of their way."

5) It avoids jargon and hyperbole.

Groundbreaking. Revolutionary. Business Solutions. Targetable Scale. Ideation. Evidence-based approaches. Industry-wide best practices.
Have I lost you yet?
When writers struggle to convey what is truly special about their company, product, or service, they sometimes fall back on jargon or hyperbole to underscore their point. The truth is, good copywriting doesn't need dressing up. Good copywriting should speak to the reader in human terms.
This isn't to say you should never celebrate awards or achievements. Just be direct in the way you explain that achievement. This homepage from Basecamp does a nice job of highlighting its popularity in concrete terms.

6) It cuts out excess.

Good writing gets to the point -- and that means cutting out excessive phrases, and rewording your sentences to be more direct. In an ad celebrating its "academic" readership, The Economist playfully demonstrates this below.

How do you rid excess words from your writing? It's half practice, half knowing where to cut. This article from Daily Writing Tips is one of the most effective summaries I've found on precise writing. Included in its tips:

  • Reduce verb phrases: For instance, turn "The results are suggestive of the fact that" to "The results suggest."
  • Reduce wordy phrases to single words: You can change "in order to" into "to." Another example: Turn "Due to the fact that" into "because."
  • Avoid vague nouns: Phrases formed around general nouns like "in the area of" or "on the topic of" clutter sentences.
  • Read the full list of brevity tips here.
In general, if you can afford to cut without losing the meaning of a sentence, do so. Push yourself to strip down your word count. Turn 50-word homepage copy into 25, then push yourself again to make that 25-word sentence into 15 words. It's not about brevity so much as it is about making sure every word counts in your writing.
Since my last point was about getting to the point, I'll keep this brief: Words matter. Every time you sit down to write an ad, web page, video script, or other content for your company, you have the opportunity to break through to people. Find those opportunities in your marketing and make sure that you've made the most of them.


Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Should You Let a Bot Manage Your Instagram Account?

Doesn't it feel like most people are falling a little too much in love with automation just because it's faster and easier?
Sure, automation can save you time and mitigate the grind associated with repetitive tasks. But does it produce better results?
Can a bot truly be effective at replacing human interaction?

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We wanted to see the best way to build an engaged audience on Instagram, so we decided to test outbound automation against human engagement -- and see which one got better results.

What Do We Mean By Engaged Audience?

An engaged audience contains people who actually care about what you post.
What’s the point in running up a large follower count if the people on that list don’t engage with your content?
It’s easy to artificially inflate your follower numbers, which is impressive at a superficial glance -- but it doesn’t indicate that your content actually has any impact.
An engaged audience contains followers who like your posts, comment when you add something, and respond to your comments. It’s about creating a loyal following that opens up conversation and opportunity for all parties involved.

The Experiment

I teamed up with Fouad Tolaib, Founder of Jolted, to develop the framework for the experiment.
We had two initial hypotheses:

  1. The automated account will have more followers. A bot’s ability to reach more people would be more seamless than a human’s.
  2. Automation currently isn’t sophisticated enough to be as effective at connecting with an audience peer-to-peer.

The Profiles

The experiment featured two identical profiles where I branded myself as a digital nomad. The first account, @liveworksee, had Instagram interactions come from a person:

The second account, @work_live_see, was automated.

Rules for the Instagram Experiment

After setting up two Instagram profiles, we set the following parameters around the experiment:

  1. Each account contained the same profile description.
  2. We posted the same content at the same time on both profiles each day, for one month.
  3. Every post contained the same hashtags to drive inbound engagement.
All of the results over 30 days were tracked by

The Human Profile (@liveworksee)

All outbound engagement was done by a human. We defined "human" by using organic engagement -- that means a real person commented on and liked other Instagram posts from this account.

The Automated Profile (@work_live_see)

All outbound engagement was controlled by Gramista’s automation software. We allowed it to log in on our behalf, set specific hashtags to target, applied restrictive filters, set the algorithm on ‘auto like,’ and gave permission for the bot to leave a certain amount of generic comments.

The Results

Thirty days later, we found some surprising results.
The average post engagement rate -- which we calculated by taking the sum of likes and comments, divided by the number of posts on a profile, then divided by followers -- on our organic engagement profile was nearly 3X higher.
That meant one thing:
The Loser: Bots. The Winner: Humans!

In addition to a significantly higher engagement, the organic engagement profile had over 2,000 more likes, and the number of comments was 41% higher.

Follower Demographics

The demographics of followers also skewed significantly. Female followers of the automated account were just 35.8%, compared to 47.8% on the organic engagement profile. At last check, Instagram users overall are predominantly female.

The number of private users that followed the organic engagement profile was also close to 3X more.

The top country of origin for followers on the automated profile was India (28%), followed by the United States (13%). For the human-run account, U.S. was first (22%), and Italy second (8%). On the organic profile, India was sixth, comprising 4% of followers.

Reaching Influencers

We then looked at the number of popular, or influencer profiles. defines "popular" or "influencer" according to a user's  follower-to-following ratio. The more followers that user has, compared to the number of users they follow, the more influential they are per this metric.
Popular and influencer profiles comprised 30.95% of the organic engagement profile's followers, compared to 15.41% on the automated profile.


Photo Engagement

Interestingly, despite posting uniform content on each profile, the most engaged-with photos on each account were also different.
The most engaging photos on the human-run profile were:

  • A small harbor in Colombia.
  • A shot of Macchu Picchu.
  • A little boy and woman walking in Viacha, Bolivia.
And on the automated profile:

  • A shot of the moon hanging over a mountain range in La Paz, Bolivia.
  • A man in sunglasses posing next to a bunch of flags left at the top of a mountain.
  • An archaeological site in western Bolivia.
The best performing hashtags on the human-operated profile were #ilovetravel, #neverstopexploring, and #travelgoals, while the automated profile’s top three were #neverstopexploring, #digitalnomads, and #ilovetravel.

The only two hashtags to crack the organic profile’s top ten that didn’t make it on the automated results were #instatravel (just over 1,500 interactions) and #backpack (1,450).
Alternatively, #nomadlife (900 interactions) and #travellife (910 interactions) made the automated profile’s top ten hashtags, but not the human-run profile's.
The key point here: Automated software may not necessarily detect all hashtags generating a high number of interactions.

Scheduling Future Posts also determined, based on the organic profile’s data, that the best time of the week to post for engagement was Monday night and Tuesday evening.
An aggregate report from CoSchedule confirms that the best time to post is typically Monday mornings and evenings.

However, on the automated account, the greatest time for engagement was on Saturday afternoons.

Lessons Learned

1. Automation Leads to Less Engagement.

The end number of followers on the automated profile was 799, compared to 621 for the personally managed account. Automated tools will run up the follower count faster and get you off to a quicker start, but organic engagement creates a more engaged audience.
Generic comments and rapid liking does not create the same kind of human connection that followers actually crave. The organic profile generated a significantly larger amount of engagement with the average rate being nearly three times more.

2. Organic Engagement Has A Higher Content Reach Potential

For the organic profile, the potential reach of content (regramming, future partnerships, etc.) was also higher as we looked at the number of followers who were influencers or popular. Responding to each comment with a personal touch made for more engagement with private Instagram users as well.

3. Automation Connects More With Bots Than Humans.

We found the automated profile had more automated followers. Yes: bots following bots. In other words, these followers were either scheduling a large amount posts of posts, or leaving very generic messages.
That's likely due to a bot's inability to recognize the difference between generic comments and real responses. However, humans will naturally connect more with a thoughtful response and ignore a meaningless “awesome!” comment.

So, How Do I Build an Engaged Audience?

Have someone (yes, a real person) spend two-to-three hours per day per day on your Instagram profile completing tasks including:

  • Replying to all comments
  • Liking other posts
  • Adding insightful comments to other posts
  • Asking followers questions to connect with them
  • Researching emerging content trends and hashtags
  • Reaching out to influencers
From our observations, we believe tailoring your content to your target audience, engaging naturally and consistently with both followers and non-followers, and using targeted tags (up to 30) in your post’s first comment all contribute to an increased rate of post engagement.
Automation can supplement the speed of your growth, particularly in regards to follower count, but it should not be relied on as the only strategy for Instagram.
If you’re tight on time, a combination of automated and manual outbound engagement might work best.
However, when it comes to commenting on other people’s content, there’s no better alternative than a human responding with something specific. This has proved to be true in our case study and resulted in a higher conversion (non-follower to follower) ratio.
After all, this is social media - it’s about human connection and social sharing.
If we all just have bots running our profiles and interacting with each other, what’s the point of doing it at all?


Monday, 27 November 2017

How To Write Email Newsletters That People Actually Want To Read

A few weeks ago, the CEO of GMB Fitness, Andy Fossett, looked out at a crowd of marketers and said, “Don’t. ever. blast. your. list.”
We all know this. But Andy’s eyes said what we were all thinking, “I cannot believe I still have to say this to a group of marketers. You people should know better.”
And we should. “Blasting” your list is one of those foundational email marketing violations that can get you banished for life from advanced marketing circles. Other violations include: using the greeting “Hi Friend,” not segmenting your list, and “pushing” content to “get the word out.”
Each of these violations makes up a core element of the infamous “Email Newsletter.” You might know them better as the things in your inbox you “Mark as read.”

Click here to download our free beginner's guide to email marketing.

Self-respecting email-marketers scoff at email newsletters.

And yet…we’re seeing a resurgence of (dare I say it) GREAT email newsletters cropping up everywhere.

If you don’t believe me, check your own inbox. How many of you look forward to Tim Ferriss’ 5-Bullet Friday (and copied it yourself with a not-so-clever, “Friday’s Top Hits” or some other knock off)? Or Austin Kleon’s famous “10 Things Worth Sharing” Newsletter. Or Ann Friedman’s “The Ann Friedman Weekly,” also sent on Fridays.
Yeah, that’s what I thought. The newsletter is having it’s moment, which begs the question: Why on Earth are these working?!
Every company with internet access has attempted the newsletter and failed miserably, boasting open rates that are lucky to hit 17%.
The vast majority of newsletters get struck by the email-marketer’s-kiss-of-death: “Mark As Read.”
What are these newsletters doing that’s making them work??
I decided to investigate. Spoiler alert: the answers will (not) surprise you. In fact, they’re so #facepalm obvious you’re going to kick yourself for not seeing it. I certainly did.
Here is why the email newsletters don’t suck and how you can make sure yours don’t either:

💌 They’re super niche.

If you work in a traditional company, odds are the email newsletter is your way of satisfying the CMO’s frantic need to “get the word out” whenever he randomly decides he needs to because he didn’t do the hard work of planning a proper launch or promotion strategy.
That is the wrong way to do this.
The right way is to focus exclusively on the kind of people who make up your specific audience and deliver content that only they will appreciate.
Again for emphasis:
Deliver content that only a specific audience will appreciate
You don’t want everyone: just the right people. (Kinda like having product/market fit) This is why they don’t have to segment and can send ONE email to everyone. Their lists are niche and specific.
My favorite example of this is Gary’s Guide -- a New York specific “digest” of what’s happening in the NYC tech scene. It has the most comprehensive list of events, classes, series A/B/Whatever funding updates, and job listings of anything on the internet. The best part? It looks like it hasn’t been updated since 1992.

And, yet, it’s considered one of the best go-to sources for what’s happening in the NYC startup scene. That’s because it’s not trying to be everything to everyone.
Gary’s Guide is just for startups and people wanting to break into the tech scene in Manhattan. In other words: It’s niche AF.
Tim Ferriss is also very niche, despite his famously massive subscriber numbers. His audience is made up of bio-hackers and aspiring digital nomads and Tim delivers exactly what they want: latest “hacks,” supplements, gadgets, and, of course, stoicism!!! It’s got wonderfully nerdy book and documentary recommendations too.
If you’re not interested in those topics, you won’t appreciate his bullets:
What’s more is these bullets feel personal (we’ll get to that in #3). Like he’s your friend telling you what he’s reading, watching, and listening to. His readers don’t even care that these are mostly affiliate links because it’s so relevant and valuable to them.
Again, this feels like he’s your friend, casually sending you an email. And it’s niche becuase he knows his readers are aspiring top performers and watching TED Talks at double speed, so he includes the detail, “Watch and do not rush.” It’s like he’s looking out for you.
These newsletters work because they cater to a small, specific group of people. Tim and Gary are not trying to please everyone -- in fact, they’re actively trying to turn people off.
For example, if you get excited from reading this article and subscribe to the newsletters I’m profiling here, you’ll likely be disappointed because they’re not interested in pleasing you. They’re interested in pleasing their people.

💌 The content is actually good.

I told you this would be obvious. You can’t skimp on this one and yet everyone tries to. That’s how “roundup” became such a dirty word., Refind, and other tools started automating curation and sending you pure crap (or simply too much). Newsletters started white labeling those automation services and claiming they were “curating,” but that is not curating.
Curating is hand picking. If you’re the curator of an art gallery you’re not going, “Eh f*ck it,” and just slapping something random on the wall to meet your weekly quota.
To curate is to be discerning. Careful. Methodical. Thoughtful.

For example, this is a poorly curated photo. It makes no sense right here.
Austin Kleon is the master of this. His links are thoughtful and relevant. You can tell he’s actually read what he recommends and isn’t siphoning the hard work of curation to his latest content manager hire (I’m assuming he has one, but you’d never know by reading the newsletter).
Here’s an example of how he delivers quality curated content:

This takes clickbait to a whole new level. Instead of using a baited headline, he hyperlinks the hook: “Which contains his funny rant about the Broadway musical, Rent.” Who doesn’t want to read that?!?! (ok unless you’re his niche, you probably don’t, but the point still stands)
Kleon knows what his audience cares about because it’s what he cares about. He’s built a career and a brand around creativity and the arts. And funny drawings. And he delivers.
To nail this requirement you need a deep understanding of your audience and what they care about.
If you’re asking, “How am I supposed to know what people care about?” Do yourself a favor and get a degree in accounting and call it a day. I’m not sure you can be saved.
TL;DR: Don’t be lazy. Your audience is trusting that you’re doing the hard work of finding the diamonds in the rough. And they will reward you by coming back, week after week.
If you fail to deliver, (say it with me): “Mark as read.”

💌 Context. Context. Context. And personality. But mostly context.

Again, duh. But let me explain before you shut the screen cursing my name for telling you what you already know.
The reason these “roundups” and “blasts” work is because they’re housed within useful context. They’re not actually a long list of boring headlines you skim.
Let’s break down a bit more how Kleon does it:

  1. It feels like he’s writing this directly to you (“Hey yall”). He’s conversational. Not overly chipper or super buttoned-up (here’s looking at you B2B).
  2. He doesn’t simply hyperlink the headline of an article and move on. He tells you why you should check it out or why he did. By hyperlinking the context he sort of gameifies the content. You don’t know what you’ll get until you click!
  3. He writes in the same pragmatic-and-hilarious tone he uses in his best-selling books (which is how most people discover him) which keeps his core audience happy and feeling connected to him (which is key!).
Ann Friedman is also a master of this. Look how she weaves in a “roundup” of links into a paragraph of context (also a violation of copy-law: never publish a giant unbroken block of text!!!). Yet, she is famous for these giant blocks of relevant articles.
Relevant to her readers. If you’re not a left-leaning progressive hungry for information on current events, women’s issues, race issues you probably won’t enjoy these pieces (see #1).

She follows the same format as Kleon.
She’s personable, relevant, and gamifying the hyperlinks inside of context. It feels like you’re getting a rant from your best friend.
Since that content can get pretty heavy, she does what your actual besties would do: add a hilarious inside-joke GIF.

If you’re her market it’s funny.
Another master of the email-newsletter-blast-that-sounds-like-it-was-written-by-your-bestie is Luvvie Ajayi, famed blogger and NYT bestsellerwho writes the LuvvLetter. Read this and tell me it doesn’t sound like it’s coming from your bffaeae updating you on her life:

You can HEAR her saying this to you.
These “blasts” don’t feel like blasts because they’re executed extremely well. They emphasize personality, casualness, and respect the rule of email that says it’s not just a one-way communication. These emails feel like 2-way conversations you’re having with friends updating you on their lives.

💌 They don’t visually assault you.

I’m the last person qualified to talk about design seeing as I’m a copy-centric bafoon who frequently ignores the value of good design (I have been proven wrong. many. many times), but here we are.
Newsletters that look like you repurposed a template from MailChimp are part of why people don’t read them. (I know, I am sorry MailChimp. There was a time for those.)
Design exists to serve content. Design showcases content, it is not the star.
You should never say, “Wow, this was well formatted.” You should say, “Damn, I love reading this.”
Even Ann’s “giant block of text” is housed in a sea of whitespace so it’s not competing with colors and fonts and buttons and other noise.
Same with Austin Kleon’s:

The banners are visually appealing too, without feeling like you’re getting a Well+Good digest (aka: digital newspaper…that’s a whole ‘nother post).

Luvvie is also clean, despite having a lot more content than the other examples. Her newsletter doesn’t read like a digital newspaper bombarding you with stories. Her formatting is simple and (dare I say it) dated, but her audience doesn’t seem to care.
These newsletters are consistent in that they showcase one content block at a time, making it easier on the reader to skim and get downloaded on the content they’re looking forward too (instead of being visually assaulted). Look how clean this is:


This isn’t rocket science.

…And yet the majority of marketing departments get it wrong. Newsletters are not a convenient tool for getting your company-specific information to your customers. They are a vehicle for communicating with your audience — just like all email is.
Listen, I’m as shocked as anyone that one-way communication “blasts” are working, but they are. And after closely examining why, it turns out these newsletters aren’t *totally* violating email marketing laws since they’re upholding the important ones:
  • Don’t “throw” offers at people (don’t throw anything at people).
  • Act like a person. Don’t be weird (like overly chipper or too buttoned up).
  • Write to your readers, not your colleagues, your boss, or your phantom Gary Vaynerchuck.
  • Be divisive. Not the in Trump-V-Hilz way, but in the “this is for people like me” or “this is not for people like me” way. It should be clear immediately who your newsletter is for and who it’s not for.
  • Keep doing what works, stop doing what doesn’t.
If we have any chance at clearing the internet (and certainly my inbox) of clutter, than we need to get this right. It’s not rocket science, but it does require some hard work and legitimate caring about your audience (I mean it. None of that pretending crap. Your readers always know).