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Easy and effective relationship building in your newsletter.

Aug 25, 2008
Or ... how to build a relationship with your mailing list.

There are lots of factors that help to build that mystical thing called a relationship: honesty, reliability, trustworthiness, charm, empathy, newsworthiness, ethics, outspokenness. But if you don't have them, you may find it hard to learn them. Without them your career as an online writer may be short lived.

Time, practice and experience will hone your communication skills, but in the short term, let's look at what I believe are the critical factors in effective relationship building with your readers that you can apply straight away.

The secret to building a great relationship with your list is to stop thinking about the people you write to as a list. Nobody builds relationships with lists - only with people. One to one.

When I sit down to write Kickstart Today, I never write to a list. I write to Richard, who I met for the first time at a seminar and who sent me a Christmas card. I write to Pearson, who started out as a subscriber and soon became a close mate. I write to Margaret, who sends me lovely emails. I write to my daughter, who reads Kickstart at work.

Keeping the image of one person in your mind is easy. Your writing becomes more of a conversation. And the more you write the easier it gets because readers will naturally write to you with comments and you can then keep them in mind as you answer them.

Then, the funny thing is that I get emails from all kinds of other people saying 'how did you know that that was *exactly* what I wanted to hear?' Like astrological star signs there are only so many problems to go round. Write about one and you'll resonate with hundreds of people.

Everybody loves to eavesdrop, but the reality is by writing one-to-one, everyone will think you are writing to them personally. But as soon as you write one-to-many, it becomes impersonal and bland.

There are two often-repeated bits of advice that you'll hear time and again:

1. Eliminate the I's and Me's and maximize the 'you's'.

2. Train your list into a buying mood by selling them something every time you communicate with them.

In my view, both bits of advice are utter rubbish from a relationship building point of view.

Ask yourself this question: when did you last establish a relationship with a text book? The much quoted ratio of one 'I' to every five 'you's' will lead you to a style of writing that may be informative, but is not personal. As well as the good information you have to provide, your readers want to know about you and your life - witness the rise in popularity of blogs.

In my experience, so long as you are delivering the real information too, you can't talk about yourself and your life enough! I get far more emails about the personal things I write than about the stuff my newsletter is really about - and I love it!

The best ezines and newsletters balance both, providing a cocktail of solid factual information punctuated by the real-life soap opera content that keeps the reader coming back for more.

Talking about the everyday personal things that happen in your life is how to build a relationship with your list - one person at a time, because the same things are happening in your reader's lives. Each time your life compares with one of your reader's experiences, resonance happens and you've found another soul mate.

The other advice - that you should attempt to sell something with every communication - needs a very special kind of writer to manage successfully.

I know of a few newsletters that manage it to perfection - and the readers hardly realize they've been sold to - but most just come across as pushy and spammy.

In my own newsletters, I've always stuck to the principle that I only recommend things I've used myself and can honestly say are worth the money. If that means I only recommend something every few weeks, so be it. At least my readers know that the recommendations, when they do come, are heartfelt. And I believe my response rates bear out my policy!

Another important aspect to relationship building is how frequently you publish.

Many ezines and newsletters publish monthly - way to infrequently, in my view, for serious relationship building. Even weekly publication can be slow if you are not a strong and personal writer.

As you develop as a writer you'll find it easier to write more often. You don't need to write huge newsletters every time - it is the frequency of contact that matters, not the length of your prose! So long as you are interesting and amusing you can publish every day if you like. Just don't become boring!

So long as you hold your readers' attention, the only complaints you'll get will be when you miss an issue.

Of course, if your newsletter is full of other people's writing and doesn't have a personal style, then very frequent publication may be a bad thing for you.

On that subject, a lot of publishers still use guest articles. While that isn't necessarily a bad thing, the best writing by far that you can publish is your own. As you build your relationship with your readers they will want to hear about you, your life and what you think. If you are going to effectively give them that, you just have to get on and learn to write. Or more accurately, learn to communicate.

And while we are talking about writing, try to unlearn most of what you've been taught about grammar. You are not writing for your English teacher, you should be writing like you are talking to a close friend.

Write conversationally, using conversational grammar (sentences CAN start with and, contractions are better than okay!)

Which brings us full circle. Write as you would talk to a close friend who is sitting in front of you. You don't hard sell your friends and you don't worry too much about perfect sentence construction. It is all about communicating a message - and my message to you is that relationship building is only effective when you do it one person at a time.
About the Author
Let me build a relationship with you as soon as you subscribe to Kickstart Today. Kickstart Today is motivation, inspiration and fun all rolled into one. We'll talk about Internet marketing, business, personal development and great movies! It's free, three times a week.
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