There is no shortage of expert commentary and analysis on whether or not email is dead when it comes to business communications tools. On October 12, Jessica Vascellaro of the Wall Street Journal said email is dead. On the same day, Kit Eaton of Fast Company said email is alive and kicking. Because I have published a weekly email newsletter since January 2000, I am keenly interested in the subject.
Over the years, I have missed a week here and there, most notably when my children were infants or when they were ill. Earlier this year, I conducted an unofficial and unplanned experiment to determine whether or not I should continue to publish my email newsletter. I published one issue in May, no issues for the entire month of June and one issue in July. What happened next surprised me.
I received numerous email messages from people wondering where my newsletter was. One person emailed (and she was quite angry) saying that she relied on the small and indie business owner features in my newsletter to inspire her to be successful throughout the week. Another person actually called me saying she was concerned that I or a member of my family must be gravely ill. She said she thought that only something so serious could explain why she did not receive my newsletter for several weeks in a row.
I also noticed a sharp decrease in sales and in the number of people communicating with me through my Twitter and FaceBook pages. Unique visits and page views at the website where I archive my newsletter also dropped dramatically, then picked up just as dramatically when I began publishing consistently again in August.
I was tempted to question these results when I saw statistics quoted in the New York Times that over the last six years, time spent on social networks surpassed that for e-mail for the first time in February of this year. These statistics may be instructive of the direction we are headed, but they are still just statistics. While I use them to plan for the future, I pay far more attention to the first-hand feedback I get from my customers and readers. My relationships with them are rich and long standing. I think it would be foolish to abandon them because of a statistic. In addition to the fact that my readers tell me they enjoy it, here are three other reaons why I still publish my email newsletter.
- My Email Newsletter Is Unique, Targeted and Personal. Every business owner must embrace the role of publisher today, and my experience has shown that the more options I give people to connect personally with me, the better. My newsletter has a long history of consistency, and even though blogs and social networking sites are gaining popularity, many of my readers would not know a blog if it walked up and bopped them on the head.
These readers dabble around with FaceBook and Twitter, but they don't really “use” them. Until they begin to do so on a widespread basis (and I believe that will eventually happen), my newsletter is a critical contact tool for them. These relationships are important to me and they alone are enough reason to continue to publish the newsletter.
- My Email Newsletter Enhances My Platform and Reinforces My Brand. Consistency over a period of time is a key to the success of any business. The consistency with which I have published my newsletter is solid proof of the value I have offered in my field over the years. This enhances my credibility with the the media (both traditional and new) and helps to solidify the platform I need to pursue new business opportunities.
- My Newsletter Is Integrated With My Blog. Because each issue of my newsletter contains articles that link to my blog, the newsletter works organically to cross-promotes my business. It also serves to introduce some readers to the concept of a blog in a gentle, non-pushy way. While my newsletter links to my blog, the two media outlets are very different. The newsletter provides more of a “view from inside” my personal life. It tends to be more personal, more intimate.
Each publication stands completely on its own, so much so that many newsletter readers subscribe to both the newsletter and the blog because together, they provide a more well rounded view of how I can be of service. Also, because the newsletter is intertwined with the blog, and the blog is intertwined with all of my other online social activities (FaceBook, LinkedIn, IBN's private member Facebook group, Twitter, etc.), the newsletter actually reaches far beyond the inbox of any given individual reader.
Question: If you publish an email newsletter, why do you continue to do so in light of all of the statistics about social media? If you do not publish an email newsletter, why not? Do you think it could help you grow your business?