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Dialogue - Not Agreement - Is The Sign Of An Effective Newsletter

Michael J. Katz
Expert Author
Published: 2003-06-07

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For those of you old enough to have never seriously considered getting your tongue pierced, you may recall the 1992 US presidential elections, principally involving Bill Clinton, George Bush and Ross Perot.

My memory of the specifics is a bit hazy, but one thing about that election has stayed with me. Everywhere you went that year, you'd run into passionate Perot supporters - handing out leaflets, wearing buttons, eager to engage anybody and everybody in a debate on the virtues of their candidate.

As for the Bush and Clinton supporters, although certainly greater in number, it seemed they were a lot less zealous (or rabid, depending on your point of view).

Frankly, I don't think there was anything coincidental about this. Dedicated followers result from taking a strong position, and although you certainly appeal to a smaller audience when you go out on a limb, those who remain tend to hold you in much higher esteem.

Although his was clearly a losing strategy in a bid for the presidency, for my money, Perot's orientation towards, "Here's what I think, let the chips fall where they may," is a necessity for a successful newsletter.

Take for example, the last issue of this newsletter (Keep 'Em If You Got 'Em). We got a ton of comments.

Some were quite positive:

"I receive at least 20 different ezines every month. Yours is my favorite."

"FANTASTIC! Do you mind if I use this story for my marketing presentations or reference in my next book?"

"Your email this month hits the middle of the bull's eye."

Others, not so positive:

"I would bet that this law firm did not break up because it ignored its clients, the basic business of law is in a recession - or depression - these days."

"While your focus on 'relationships' is on target, I don't think it really falls out from this example."

"I have to say that there's one crucial part of the story that you left out that kind of blows a huge hole in your argument about retaining clients."

Here's the funny thing. Over time I've come to see that the number and intensity of positive comments received is always directly correlated with the number and intensity of negative ones. Every time, without fail, I don't get one extreme without the other.

So, why is it a good thing to get this kind of intense feedback about your newsletter?

Geez you ask some good questions. Because passionate feedback - good or bad - means that people are reading and listening to what you've got to say.

Everybody talks about trying to get the attention of readers. That's good, but if getting their attention is on a par with a high school diploma in the world of E-Newsletters; getting their feedback is a PHD. People will only drop what they're doing and tell you what they think when you touch them in some way, and that's what loyal readership is all about.

OK Mr. PHD, but what's newsletter feedback got to do with improving our business?

I believe that people buy services largely on the basis of how much they trust you, believe in you, admire you and feel comfortable with you. It's (mostly) not about competency (do you really have any idea how technically capable your doctor, lawyer, auto mechanic, marketing consultant, executive recruiter, accountant, PR firm or plumber is?).

If you hide the human being(s) behind your business by continually taking the middle road, splitting the difference and avoiding any controversy in your newsletter, while you may inadvertently find yourself in the White House next year, you won't have a ton of clients.

If, on the other hand, you want people to pick up the phone and say, "we like the way you think and we want you to come help us fix our problem," you've got to give them enough of you in your newsletter so that they can differentiate between you and everybody else who claims to be offering the same basket of services.

Bottom Line: People want to hire experts, and experts have opinions. Take it from unsuccessful politician (but very successful businessman) Ross Perot: You can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.

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About the Author:
Michael J. Katz is Founder and Chief Penguin of Blue Penguin Development, Inc., (http://www.BluePenguinDevelopment.com) a Boston area consulting firm that helps clients increase sales by showing them how to nurture their existing relationships, and that specializes in the development of electronic newsletters. He is the author of the book, E-Newsletters That Work.

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