Words and pictures by Alice the Camera
It’s true. Newsletters have been going for-ever and to some people – me included – they sound archaic especially when there are so many platforms now from which to talk with immediacy to your audience. Even my Dad writes a newsletter for his home village - he uses clipart charmingly - so you can see why I might have been biased. But it seems that there is still a place for the good old newsletter in today’s business world and actually it’s more effective than we might think.
‘For every dollar you put into email marketing you get 40x more than you would through Facebook, Instagram and almost every marketing channel.’ Whaaaat? Yes it’s the truth according to David Hieatt and he ought to know because he’s been using newsletters for the last ten years very successfully and his business is built upon them. Newsletters are a means of building a relationship with your audience, a chance to set the conversation and to slow the pace right down. We are bombarded every day with a lot of information and because people are busy they are extra savvy about what they choose to spend invest their time reading so we have to be clever now if we want to hold their attention, let alone get them to invest in us.
The key, it seems, is to be human. A 360 degree human. People want to buy from people and they have a zero percent tolerance level for bull shit. What we need to give these busy people is excellence and meaning. And that comes in the form of concise, informative, valuable, meaningful, personality lead content. And this is where the newsletter comes in!
What is your business all about? What do you stand for? What do you believe in? What makes you laugh? As photographers we are up against a lot of other photographers. Our work may be great but there are always going to be a lot of good photographers out there so what makes us different? The answer is us. The answer is in our interests, our beliefs, our purpose. If you want people to book you over that dude in Stoke Newington you have to show them who you are and make that your selling point. If you’re a cat person tell your audience that because the Stoke Newington guy might be into dogs and this could be the tipping point for your client. That small point of reference that makes them think they could really get on with you. Being open about who you are will attract likemindness and deter the haters. It’s a win win. So how to show that in a newsletter?
The first thing is to have a clear purpose; a recipe for your brand. David suggested writing a list of things that you are trying to achieve through your business, besides the obvious. Is there a message you want to promote through it? A cause? Are you championing feminism, body positivity, gay rights? Maybe you’re hilarious and you want to make people laugh. Maybe you want to educate your clients on how best to use a photographer.
The second thing is to bring value to the table. ‘The person at the dinner party who only talks about himself never gets invited back’ so start your relationship with your audience by giving something and give generously. Spend time gathering and creating excellent content that will enthrall, entertain and educate your audience. Make a list of websites you love and keep an eye out for great articles that are aligned with your brand and share them. And when you write up a blog post to go with your pictures spend time on it and be human; tell the story from your perspective, in your voice. Your followers will probably like your awesome shot of the Empire State Building but they will *love* to hear what that meant to you or what you were thinking when you did it. And above all else, ‘have principles; open up to your vulnerabilities.’ Tell your story, whatever that may be, because the chances are you are the only person with that story. It's unique and interesting no matter what you think!
And a few tips on the actual newsletter itself:
1) Design. How do you want your audience to feel when they open it up? Keep it calming and simple if you want them to feel relaxed or go for buzzy and busy if you want to excite. Whatever you’re going for keep it on brand.
2) Nail your headline. This will determine if people decide to read the newsletter you’ve spent a ton of time writing up so make it emotive and enticing!
3) Test your newsletter before you send it out. Mailchimp give you this option so use it. Once it’s out it’s out.
4) Experiment and try different things until something sticks. You can keep an eye on the stats in Mailchimp and see which letters people are opening, which they are reading. Use this to figure out what is working then go with that.
5) Quality over quantity. Having 10 people who religiously read your newsletter is better than having 50 people signed up who never bother. Focus on quality and stay on brand and you will attract a loyal following over time.
6) Make all roads point towards your newsletter. Make it easy and obvious for people to sign up for it. Have a sign up option on the homepage. The evidence states that this works really well even if it might seem a bit uncool to the more aloof of us.
There is so much more to include here from the day but the resounding message from David is be yourself and be generous with your time and energy in giving to your audience before you ask anything of them because that is the basis of a great, lasting relationship. You are the only you on the planet and you’re here for a reason so get plotting and writing and see where it takes you. And a last recommendation from me: check out the Do Lectures. I had no idea this workshop would be so all encompassing and I have left feeling inspired to make big changes to the way I approach my brand and my audience engagement. And even my life! Big respect to David for being such an inspiring speaker – I will definitely be coming back for more!