Jim's Marketing Blog

Marketing ideas to help you grow your business

Newsletters: A more human approach

In 2011, I shared an idea with my readers, to help them massively improve the success of their newsletters. In the years that have passed, a number of courageous readers have adopted this approach, with great success. Today, I want to share this valuable idea with you.

When is a newsletter not a newsletter?

When you share your news with your friends via an email, your email looks like a regular email. It contains no glossy images, no “buy now” offers. It’s just an email, from you, to them.

When businesses decide to offer newsletters, they tend to do the opposite. There’s usually little if any actual NEWS and the whole thing looks and reads like a poorly disguised advertisement.

So, this got me thinking:

  • What if you treated the people who read your current newsletter, as if they were already friends?
  • What if you sent them actual news and asked how they are?
  • What if you sent it, not on some lame automated schedule, but only when you had something of value or interest to share?
  • What if some of them contained no special offers or sales pitches?
  • What if some were just offering to help?

Business is all about people

Is it possible that this approach would help you develop a deeper, richer relationship with your readers?

Is it probable that it would sound more honest and trustworthy than the usual; “we call it a newsletter but there’s no actual news, I just want to sell you stuff,” approach?

Because if it is, it could massively improve how they felt about you and your business.

Why does this matter?

It matters because business is all about people. People do business with people they like. People recommend people they like.

There’s real potential here, for those with the courage to make their newsletters more human.

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  1. Seems odd doesn’t it that people lose sight of the fact that whether you are marketing to them, teaching them, serving them in a shop or managing them in a factory, that the object in front of you, is a human being first and foremost, and only then a potential sale, student, customer, or means of production! Sorry – I’m passionate about this theme and very glad you have written about it Jim.

    • Hi Glenn. It’s all part of the dehumanization of business, which Internet marketing gurus have spread for the past decade or so.

      I still cringe when I hear people talking about their “list”, when referring to the community who read their newsletter.

      It’s always been about people.

  2. Funnily enough just before reading this post I was working on a strategy for a business newsletter, and your post has helped me focus on some of the ideas I was thinking of implementing, so thanks again Jinm!

  3. Well said, Jim.If you want your newsletter to be read, or at least scanned, it has to provide something the reader wants. We advise newsletter senders to position themselves as a trusted source of valuable information. For most folks, what you are selling today isn’t valuable information.

  4. Hi Jim,

    I did exactly this for a weekly newsletter promoting my book and have a much improved open rate and CTR.

    The newsletter is lined up in advance and goes out via an autoresponder, so knowing that future subscribers will also receive the issues has motivated me to give each one a bit more TLC :-)


    • Hi Jerry.

      Like many marketing pros that are not affiliates of autoresponder software or affiliate marketers, I REALLY dislike autoresponders. They tend to be used (not in your case) by people who refer to their community as their “list.”

      (Come on people, it’s almost 2012!)

      *Rant Off*

      Good to see you’re getting results from the personalised emails.

    • Same here. I started making my emails a lot more personal… and telling people to respond to me by just hitting “Reply” (which I know I read somewhere is cardinal “sin”)… and actually responding the emails I got back.

      Funny how my open and CTR rates almost tripled as a result.

      And, even more important, I learned a ton about my “subscribers” and was able to give them things they really liked.

      Amazing! :)

      • Thanks for sharing, John.

        I have heard similar stories from many others, who see massively better results when they start humanizing their email marketing.

        The more people like you share your feedback, the more likely others are to think about adopting a similar approach.

  5. I’ve found autoresponders work very well in terms of educational content delivery (i.e. when someone signs up to an online course).

    Also, Hubspot is the 2nd fastest growing software company in the Inc 500 and their whole business model is based on Marketing Automation Software and content marketing. They put out a lot of good stuff and am subscribed to their database.

    I dont think its a open and shut case of autoresponders or automated marketing for that matter of being valueless. If done correctly, it can be a win-win for both lead and vendor.

    • Jeremy, you’re drawing incorrect conclusion from what I said.

      I didn’t say (anywhere) that autoresponders were valueless. I didn’t say anything was open or shut.

      I expressed my opinion. That’s all. I am not an automation guy – I prefer deeper connections with people. This is why I have refused offers to create automated learning products, deciding instead to work directly with people. I’m a people person.

      I was surprised you said that, based on your previous comments here.

  6. I guess I just assumed your comment “bullshit automated schedule” as meaning that marketing automation was valueless. I apologise if I assumed wrong.

    I think you write great material Jim, however on this post I disagree with certain opinions of yours and I don’t feel that is a problem, it opens up discussion – I’m not sure why you would be surprised about that?

    • Really? Because I said that being fixed to a bullshit schedule was less valuable than working to your own value-based schedule, you assumed I was actually saying, that all marketing automation was valueless? That’s quite a jump, Jeremy.

      I welcome your disagreement, but before you disagree with me, make sure I am saying something disagreeable. Assuming otherwise doesn’t open up the conversation, it actually turns it into yet another “right to disagree” debate.


      • Hi Jim,

        So, seeing how you dealt with those comments, can you write a post about how to handle that kind of attack?

        I’d have told him to &^%* off, which would have probably have made things worse.

        Thanks X

        • Hi Georgia

          At no point did I attack Jim, just state my opinion based on a judgement which I apologised for. There was no malice behind it whatsoever/ I’m a regular reader of Jim’s and find his posts thought provoking and useful. On this occasion, I disagreed with what he said about automated schedules (that they were bullshit, which implies lack of value), except I could have worded it better.

          I do find your comment that you would have told me to “&^%* off” to be insulting however and am not sure that it complies with Jim’s commenting policy, however I know he doesnt moderate his comments so he probably hasn’t seen it yet.

          • Hi Jeremy. This blog IS moderated and I did see Georgia’s comment before it was published. She asked for help in dealing correctly with comments like those you left here, rather than responding with the cussing, which she said would have been her initial response. She was not cussing at you, but explaining how she would have reacted incorrectly, had someone commented on her site in a way that she find negative, and asked me for help. BTW: She inserted those characters herself, rather than cuss. I think she made a solid point, as it is tempting to either delete negative comments or react with anger. Thanks.

            • Thanks – I’ve sent a tweet to Chris Brogan about it, would love to see what his opinion is – I’m open to the idea that my comments were negative and I can improve my responses.

              • Just a quick FYI: Chris Brogan’s blog is a goldmine. I would have trawled it myself, before asking for the guy to give you a chunk of his time, the evening before the Thanksgiving holidays. Yes, it’s “only a tweet” but it takes time to respond with value, in just 140 characters.

              • Chris can decide whether to respond or not, its entirely up to him.

              • I was referring to your request, Jeremy. Not his response.

              • I think its up to Chris to make that call, not you.

        • Hi Georgia. Easily the best advice I can give on dealing with negative comments or negative people on your blog, is to watch how Chris Brogan from http://www.chrisbrogan.com deals with them. He’s the best in the business.

  7. Perhaps your use of the word bullshit caused me to make an error in judgement.

    I’m happy to leave it here as a misunderstanding and move on.

  8. Much like John Morris said earlier, we switched to a less formal type of email and encouraged replies.

    The results have been very good. Not only are we getting more traffic, email enquiries and calls, more people are sharing our emails. So the subscriber base is growing faster too.

    I think thats win, win, win win.

    • Hi Len and welcome to the blog.

      As I said in my reply to John earlier, this type of dramatic increase in results is very common. Congratulations!

  9. I’ve had time to reflect on this discussion last night.

    I have to say that I am extremely disappointed at Jim’s responses to a long time reader of his blog (over 3 years).

    Jim’s comments came across as very defensive and aggressive when questioned and I have had several people confirm this to me who I have spoken to about it.

    This is unfortunate as Jim has written many posts that have been valuable to me, however I cannot justify returning here when met with such hostility towards a completely innocent statement by a long term reader.

    I feel this could have been managed a lot better.

  10. How radical an idea!

    How wonderful an idea!

    I’m off to try it out – again

    It’s how I started out with email marketing, in 1995, btw :-)

    Thanks, Jim


    • Hi Dr Mani – Welcome to the blog.

      I didn’t think of it until your comment, but this WAS the way we did things in the 90’s.

      Thanks, sir!

  11. I like Jims comment earlier about offering deeper, personal connections because he works with clients, rather than selling info products or software to customers.

    Subtle but important distinction.

    • Hi Sam. Yes, something that many people are oblivious to, is that when selling a service to someone, you need a service specific marketing approach.

      I see some lawyers and accountants, who use the hands-off, automated approach (which works great in affiliate marketing, to sell their professional services.


  12. I absolutely agree! I can’t remember the last time I read / received a newsletter that didn’t read like a sales pitch. Yes, newsletters can be a great marketing tool, but only if used / designed properly. Newsletters should contain useful NEWS and should be written in an engaging manner.

Comments are closed.