Do We Really Need Another Email Newsletter?

When I began playing around with the idea of starting my own email newsletter I made a point to start generating a list of questions about the who, how, what and why that I wanted to answer before I began

  • Do we really need another newsletter?
  • Is there a point to pushing out another email that people probably won’t read?
  • What do you hope to accomplish and why are you doing this?
  • What service should I use and why?

The answers to these questions were simple for me. I had limited experience running an email newsletter so I decided that building and operating one would add to my professional skill set. Because this is a personal blog I saw additional benefits. I could do more testing and experimenting without some of the same concerns I might have if there were for Jack’s Special Business Services.

Those few reasons above were why I didn’t focus on whether people needed/wanted another newsletter. We could answer that question by saying that if your newsletter provides value than people will want to read it. Not to mention that I decided that it would be useful to have a newsletter to communicate with people about the books I plan on publishing.

Since I made the decision to create the newsletter it became a question of what service to use. I explored a few and then made a decision to start with AWeber.

There were a couple of things that pushed me over the edge. I watched several videos like the one below (disclosure my affiliate link is tied into it and the link above.) and I read this 5 page report about using AWeber for email marketing.

Simple RSS to Email by AWeber Communications

What Happened Next

What happened next is simple. I signed up for the 30 day free trial and made plans to start building my list so that I could test out different options.

I didn’t want people to feel like a commodity that could be traded so I took a very laid back approach to building and to some extent I think things have been far slower in growing than they otherwise would have been. I am a big believer in the value of organic growth but also impatient.

One of the things that I could do to increase the rate of growth is to offer AWeber as the sole tool for subscribing to the blog. If all of my subscribers moved over it would create a dramatic increase in the subscriber base. But I decided that since there is a fee for using the service I wanted to be certain that I was getting something out of it before I made the move.

Instead I opted to use it as a newsletter and to see how that worked out for me.  It required waiting a little bit longer to send out my first blast but I am very pleased with how it worked out. There as an open rate that exceeded 90% which if you know anything about the industry is exceptionally high.

I also received quite a bit of positive feedback about it. All told it felt like a giant success. If you are interested in seeing what that first one looked like you can find it here.

Next Steps

I am going to take some time to read through the responses and think about what makes sense. Unless my plans get derailed I intend for this test to go on for a period of at least 90 days. At the end we’ll take a hard look again and try to figure out if what we are doing makes sense.

In the interim I need to also find time to bear down and publish some of the eBooks I am working on. I think the best part of it all is that I am having a hell of a lot of fun doing this.

As always if you have any thoughts/ideas/comments please feel free to share them in the comments and or email me. Thank you again for being a part of our community.

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  1. rdopping June 2, 2012 at 7:33 am

    Jack, thanks for this topic. I made a comment below and wanted to acknowledge all those folks that have great points about this. I have been tooling around with blogging for a year and I am now going self-host using livefyre and aweber. I am freaking out a bit because now I am playing in the real world. Frankly the free wordpress thing is such a damn blanket.
    So thanks Jack, Kaarina, Erin and @Craig. I can’t get the damn Livefyre thing to populate the links. Why the heck not. Probably my browser. Geez, I am new!

    • Erin F. June 2, 2012 at 8:30 am

       @rdopping Thank you for the kind words, Ralph! I know we’re all happy to offer what insights we have.
      As for the links, Livefyre can be a little cantankerous. The names have to be spelled just so, and punctuation marks can’t follow the Livefyre names directly. That’s about all I know in terms of linking to people’s names.

    • TheJackB June 2, 2012 at 7:17 pm

       @rdopping Hi Ralph,
      Don’t freak out, you are going to be just fine. You’ll figure it all out and if you don’t you have a lot of friends out here who will lend a hand.

  2. Julie June 1, 2012 at 4:44 pm

    HI Jack,
    I opened it, I read it, I liked it.  I think the main reason for this is your blog and the email are always in your voice, and you never know what you might write about.  There are few people I can say this about, “I will always open and look forward to messages from ___.” There are a handful and just by the nature of your “youiness” I think email could be a big success for you.  (I still submit that I hate when blogs don’t give an RSS option, especially for those who are new and don’t know yet if they REALLY want to follow you.  I  really hesitate to give out my email address for this and I really do not like searching through my endless emails for a blog post…I want to read them on Reader when I get to Reader.  Otherwise they really rarely get opened.  That might just be me.  It is becoming a pet peeve and I try to have none of those.)

    • TheJackB June 1, 2012 at 5:32 pm

       @Julie | A Clear Sign Hello Julie,
      Thank you for the feedback. I never know what I am going to write about until I write it. It is not unusual for me to come up with a headline for a particular idea and then write something entirely different.
      I just write and see what comes out. It is part of the fun for me. 
      I understand what you are saying about RSS and am pleased to say that it is offered here. We are a reader friendly blog, most of the time that is. Sometimes we say screw it, but most of the time we try to look  out for your interest and ours.

      • Julie June 2, 2012 at 3:22 am

         @TheJackB That’s what makes you unique.  Well, that and your Voice.  Wow I was on a tear, how many times can one person use “really”!

  3. Craig McBreen June 1, 2012 at 2:17 pm

    Hi Jack,
    I recently joined the Aweber hordes as well. I’ve been fairly sporadic with my list so far, but I’ve been working on plans which involve offering something of value. Advice people can actually use. The plan is to send only one email newsletter a week though. I do believe that is enough, don’t you? I plan to run a series, so we’ll see how this all works out.
    I would say the email list is just about the most important thing to any blogger, but I want it to be more personal and do plan on engaging with some of my readers on a more frequent basis. Spend a bit less time on Twitter and more on good old email 😉
    Now if I only had a large enough audience to do affiliate ads 😉 Oh yeah, I’ve only been blogging for nine months.
    Thanks, Sir!

    • TheJackB June 1, 2012 at 4:56 pm

       @Craig McBreen Hi Craig,
      As the Social Media Ninja/Guru and master of all things newsletter I would have to say that I agree with you. 
      Actually plain old Jack agrees with you. If you offer value and you don’t overwhelm people then they are normally happy to receive what you share. 
      I don’t know how large you think my readership is, but I would offer the affiliate link even if it was just one person. I try to disclose it all so that people know what I am doing. As long as I do that I feel no guilt in saying that I hope to make a few bucks this way.
      In a perfect world I would make quite a bit, but if I can make enough for it to pay for itself than I’ll be perfectly happy.

      • Craig McBreen June 2, 2012 at 12:22 pm

         @TheJackB I haven’t even considered affiliate links at this point, but maybe should consider it. As a fellow Ninja / Guru I’ll share something with you: The throng of fans waiting at my doorstep each morning is getting really annoying 😉

  4. Jens June 1, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    Yes, I believe newsletters are important and that we need another newsletter. It’s one of the best ways to connect with people and create strong relationships, but it needs to be you, and not just an RSS to email newsletter. We don’t need that 🙂

    • TheJackB June 1, 2012 at 4:48 pm

       @Jens Hi Jens,
      It definitely provides another way to connect with people and build a relationship. I am just trying to be cautious and not overstep my bounds. 😉

  5. bdorman264 June 1, 2012 at 12:28 pm

    I don’t have anything intelligent to offer. I do know I unsubscribe to at least 3-5 e-mails daily. I just get so overwhelmed with ‘stuff’ I need to simplify at times.
    However, if e-mail is a way to reach many and it makes sense from a cost effective standpoint then by all means run with the 90 day trial run. What? You weren’t asking my permission………..oh………
    Good luck and it will be interesting to see what you ultimately decide.

    • Erin F. June 1, 2012 at 12:32 pm

       @bdorman264 I’m very picky about the things to which I subscribe, and I end up unsubscribing from many of them. I try to be conscientious about people’s time when I send my e-letters. Nobody wants a novella – well, not very many people anyway.

    • TheJackB June 1, 2012 at 4:48 pm

       @bdorman264 Hello Bill,
      In many ways there are a ton of similarities between blogging and selling insurance. These are both about building relationships and you know something about that.
      We’ll see soon enough if this provides the sort of return that makes sense or if it takes more than it gives. Either way I am still having fun doing it so that is a bonus.

  6. CrossBetsy June 1, 2012 at 10:43 am

    I was pleasantly surprised when I saw your newsletter today. It really does have a great tone and simple look, as I told you. You know why it’ll work? For the simple reason that when someone enjoys what they are doing and choose to do it their way, they can’t help but attract good things…whatever that turns out to be. Your newsletter feels just like your blog.

    • TheJackB June 1, 2012 at 11:19 am

       @CrossBetsy Hi Betsy,
      Thank you. That is what I am shooting for. I want it to feel like a conversation between friends and not some guy who is just pushing people to buy things. We’ll see if I can keep hitting the mark.

  7. Billy_Delaney June 1, 2012 at 10:33 am

    I’m about to use an email letter once a week.
    Here’s my take.
    I will post on my blog, content relevant to the newsletter/article. Monday – Thursday then Friday the email.
    One theme per week. Examined via the blog from various slants then the email.
    It is so obvious to me that email newsletters are not dead weight, but the current amount of them are crap!
    As well as that, it’s not the size of the list, won’t hurt I know, but that quality of the signer upper.
    I am experimenting here and will let you know what I find out.

    • TheJackB June 1, 2012 at 11:17 am

       @Billy_Delaney Hi Billy,
      If you provide value than good things happen- nothing profound or insightful about that. I think that you are spot on to tie it in to the blog and to investigate a theme. 
      Also spot on about the size- it is always about who you are reaching. The value is in the individual and not the volume.

  8. KDillabough June 1, 2012 at 9:44 am

    Very interesting Jack Steiner . I’ve been with, and very pleased with aweber, but must confess…I’ve not used my email list effectively, and only minimally (or is that nominally? or an entirely different word?) Now that my website is almost fully updated, I plan to send out “irregular” email correspondence, although not really a “newsletter”…more an “as the topic/situation arises” update type of thing.Keep us posted: right now, I like the look and feel of the first one you crafted. For me, I don’t care for newsletters that come too frequently. Too much noise in my life and my inbox. So when there’s a reason, there’s a season. Cheers! Kaarina

    • TheJackB June 1, 2012 at 9:56 am

       @KDillabough  Jack Steiner Hello Kaarina,
      You touched upon something that has been driving me crazy. I am about to unsubscribe from a newsletter that is sent out far too frequently. I have to laugh because some people complain about the frequency with which I update my blog but I follow my own advice.
      If you don’t get enough value from something you can and should unsubscribe. I hope my subscribers are tolerant of my trying to find the right balance. It sounds like you are going to be doing the same thing.
      Thank you for the feedback, I appreciate it. My goal is to try and maintain a conversational tone. Betsy Cross suggested that I try to include a tip in each edition and I am going to do my best.
       Erin Feldman is another one of the crew who is working on the formula. Sooner or later one of us will get it figured out.

      • KDillabough June 1, 2012 at 10:22 am

         @TheJackB  Jack Steiner  Betsy Cross  Erin Feldman I don’t know why, but the song “We’re off to see the Wizard” from the Wizard of Oz started playing in my mind. Don’t know what that means, but I’m going with it. Sing along with me….We’re off! (and we WILL figure it out:)

        • Erin F. June 1, 2012 at 10:31 am

           @KDillabough @TheJackB I send an e-letter once per month. I currently tie the message component to the blog (closed-loop marketing?). I then have three smaller sections. One’s silly; one’s linked to my latest Write Right post; and the other one is some sort of writing prompt or inspirational quote. I like the format, but I’m still figuring out if it’s the best one. I also have some irregular correspondence when I have a new PDF or an announcement. I use a different e-letter format for those.

        • TheJackB June 1, 2012 at 11:14 am

           @KDillabough  Jack Steiner  Betsy Cross  Erin Feldman That is a good theme song.

        • TheJackB June 1, 2012 at 11:15 am

           @Erin F.  @KDillabough I like the format, it makes a lot of sense to me.
          The nice thing about all this is that it lends itself to change. Nothing wrong with a dynamic environment.

        • Erin F. June 1, 2012 at 11:21 am

           @TheJackB  @KDillabough Does that mean you’re receiving my e-letter? You must be using an alias if you are. 🙂
          Nothing wrong with a dynamic environment at all. The ability to change things with the templates is something I like.

        • TheJackB June 1, 2012 at 5:33 pm

           @Erin F.  @KDillabough I love being able to mess with the templates- makes it really easy to test things.

      • rdopping June 2, 2012 at 7:26 am

        There’s a ton to be learned here!!!!! I just started with Aweber and have no clue to the possibilities. Trial by fire is my way to live. Ha!
        There are a few things that I have learned/experienced about social in the past year. One is that too much stuff is irritating. I have unsubscribed from sites where it’s just short of spam. Daily emails? Really? If any of you get as much email as I do another one every day telling me something I may be interested in is not going to get me to stay. Venting, a bit.
        I agree with all of you in your approaches and think there is some solid advice here so thank you all!

        • TheJackB June 2, 2012 at 7:20 pm

           @rdopping Trial by fire is good because there is no better way to learn than to learn by doing. It is painful at times but very effective.
          I receive an enormous amount of email so I understand what you are saying. I figure that if I have trouble keeping up with the stuff I want to read I need to be cautious about what I send out.

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