July 30, 2013


typing with boxing gloves
Which gives better results, a blog or a newsletter?

We’ll look at considerations in picking the winner for you. The points aren’t listing in any particular order.


The more quality content you publish online, the more likely you are to be ranked high by Google and considered an authority in your subject area.
Forbes, June 2013
Blog Pros
  • Makes you known to strangers
  • 100% permission-based: subscribers opt-in on their own
  • 100% free with Google Blogger (no hosting, optimized for search) [the platform for this blog]
  • Two-way communication: readers can leave comments
  • Shareable via social networks
  • Old content can get new traffic (see case study)
  • Improves your Google Author Rank
  • Public content helps build trust
Blog Cons
  • Can't see who's reading: could be competitors, though this may not matter
  • Audience takes time to build
  • Visitors rarely subscribe and you have no way to contact them
  • Writing takes time (ideal is at least once a week)
  • No privacy: you're visible to the world (which could be a plus)
The Case Of Seth Godin
Seth GodinSeth Godin is an author and public speaker (e.g., at The Linchpin Session). He's also a major blogger with quality posts daily. He doesn't have a newsletter or use Twitter. Since you can subscribe to his blog, you are getting a newsletter of sorts but he won’t send you personalized emails.

Since Seth already has a large audience, his approach works well for him.

IN THIS CORNER: Newsletters

Email marketing is a great way to reach your customers where they are without spending a lot of money. But it’s a big responsibility, too — people don’t give their email addresses to just anyone. — Forbes, Oct 2012
Newsletter Pros
  • Lets you see who's reading and what's read (by person and in total)
  • You can add subscribers with no effort on their part (with their prior permission)
  • Very flexible (send messages on demand, segment your list)
  • Takes little time (e.g., fine to send once a month)
  • Builds a mailing list, a valuable asset
  • Might link with your CRM for even better analytics
  • Allows "drip campaigns" to send a series of prescheduled emails
  • Lets you exclude competitors as subscribers
  • Hidden from search engines (like an individual email)
  • Can make your list available to others (i.e., you send out an email from someone else to your mailing list)
  • Less writing (your content can be links to articles by others, as in Transparence)
  • You can segment your list to run multiple campaigns or multiple newsletters
Newsletter Cons
  • Must be permission-based (limits your reach)
  • Requires a clean, up-to-date mailing list if you’re sending to current contacts (takes time to prepare)
  • Hidden from search engines (though you can post issues online)
  • You can be reported as a spammer (even if you aren't)
  • Content must be valuable to your audience (not just your self-promotion)
  • Extra features and more subscribers cost more (though the basics may be free)
  • A perception that they're salesy (since they often are)
  • The cost increases with your audience size (generally not a problem unless you're getting the wrong subscribers)
The Case of Dan Pink
Dan PinkDan Pink is primarily an author (e.g., To Sell Is Human) and public speaker. He blogs and has a newsletter but both are sporadic. This month, he announced that he's stopped blogging
“We’re going to shutter the blog and instead expand and deepen our collection of videos, articles, and guides on working smarter and living better”.  — Dan Pink, Jul 17, 2013
Dan will communicate through his newsletter, which has over 71,000 subscribers. If you don’t already subscribe, sign up. You’ll get a newsletter which is useful and interesting. You never know what you’ll get. Here is the current issue.

Dan is effectively changing from two-way communications to a broadcaster. That approach can work since he’s well known.

The Winner Is …

If you're established and have built a quality contact list, you have a valuable asset you're probably underusing. A newsletter could work well for you.

If you're new, you may not have a mailing list yet. A newsletter is a way to build one since you now have something you can offer everyone.

In my case, I started with a blog but that was in 2007. Today, I might start with a newsletter like Dan Pink’s. The ideal is having both, but you can start with one.


PS Whether a blog or newsletter, make sure your content is of value or your you'll lose your goodwill and audience.

July 23, 2013


perennial fruit
You just met someone for the first time and have started building a relationship. You exchanged business cards and agreed to connect on LinkedIn.

That’s a good start, but how do you really stay in touch?

Your CRM solution can remind you to follow up. Communicating one-to-one is valuable but difficult to scale. Consistency can suffer.

What gift can you give to keep reminding new connections about you? A pen or water bottle won’t do. Your competitors likely offer them too. There’s also the cost to the environment and your budget.

The Ideal Gift

Dr. Robert Cialdini says the ideal gift is significant, personalized and unexpected. He advises us to give information. That’s easy via social networks but what you’re doing may get overlooked in the deluge of content your connections receive.

Consider a newsletter instead. Please don’t groan.

You’ve seen ones that look professional but take effort to read. You’ve deleted ones that are too salesy or frequent. Make your newsletter both interesting and useful to your audience. Figuring out how will take time. Here’s an approach that uses photos and third party articles.

Why is a newsletter an ideal gift? The significance comes from you caring enough about your subscribers to be consistent. The personalization comes from your personality, a factor in why they agreed to let you join their network. The unexpectedness comes from the actual content. They can’t tell what’s there without looking. Isn’t that why we keep checking our messages?

There are other advantages too.

Low Cost

For Them
Accepting a newsletter subscription has very low cost. If the subscriber doesn’t like the content, the emails are easy to delete or process with an automated rule. You won’t even know.

Towards the end of your meeting, ask
Are you getting my newsletter? or Would you like to get my newsletter?
What do you think they’ll say? If they’re reluctant, you could show or send them a sample.
For You
You can send newsletters for free or very low cost. Your main investment is the time an issue takes to create. Your return grows as you add more subscribers.

You’ll want to subscribe to the newsletters of your connections, perhaps with a nonwork email address. Do this first and they’re even more likely to accept your newsletter. That’s the power of reciprocity.


For Them
Subscribing is a hassle. Look at the steps:
  1. They go the subscription form (when they get around to this)
  2. They input their email address and first name (sometimes even more)
  3. They click on a confirmation email
That’s not difficult but it’s not enjoyable either. You’re stuck waiting.
Be proactive. With a newsletter, you can add subscribers (with their advance permission). This is 100% hassle-free for them and greatly increases your subscription rates.
For You
These days, a newsletter is easy to create. You’ll likely need help to get the design consistent with your branding. That’s a one-time exercise. Preparing an issue gets faster with practice. You could even outsource the work.


With a newsletter, you know what’s read and who’s reading. That means you also know what’s unread and who isn’t reading. If you aren’t getting the results you want, you can make changes and track the results. Over time, your gift becomes even more valuable and you have the proof.


PS Help your subscribers give your newsletter as their gift by adding sharing links to each issue.

July 16, 2013


When you put content online, you have the opportunity to get traffic month after month and year after year. How green. What a great investment in time. Here’s an example of how that just happened.

Sep 2011

I wrote 9/13: prepare your disaster recovery plan now just after the 10th anniversary of 9/11. That decision was strategic: timely content is more likely to get read. For instance, a post about Valentines Day won’t have much appeal in the middle of summer but can have an audience each year around February 14th.

The 9/13 post got traffic with a spike around the annual anniversary of 9/11. This week is different. I didn’t use any techniques to boost traffic. Maybe the recent storms boosted interested in planning for disasters.

This Week

This graph shows that mere days ago, traffic jumped drastically because of the 9/13 post.
The scaling makes the baseline traffic look lousy. That isn’t the case but does show how much of a change took place.

This Month

This graph shows there was already a spike during the last 30 days because of a post on starting your own private social network. That post continues to bring in traffic daily.


This graph shows that traffic has been growing over the years, with occasional jumps.
You can’t tell what will get read. You can’t tell when it will get read.

More Examples

Here are the five posts with the most traffic over the last 30 days (in descending order):
  1. Sep 2011: 9/13 Prepare your disaster recovery plan now
  2. Jun 2013: Starting your own private social network
  3. Nov 2009: Does your email address say you’re cheap, generic or inattentive?
  4. Jan 2010: Hero or zero: the sad tale of Lenovo and UPS
  5. Mar 2011: Why join the Toronto Board of Trade?
Only #2 was written this year. That doesn’t matter. Each visitor can read other posts or subscribe to receive updates. Getting quality traffic leads to opportunities and improves credibility with search engines for your other content too.

What you publish can get read. What you don’t, can’t.


PS How can you lose by putting content online?

July 9, 2013


Toronto flooding at King/Atlantic (click to see original on blogTO)(drafted during the blackout)

It’s morning. The record-breaking storm in Toronto has passed. We got a month’s worth of rain in two hours. Life looks normal outside.

Only 35,000 Toronto Hydro customers are still without electricity (down from 300,000 locations last night). We’re among these “lucky” ones. #darkto

Right now, we don’t care about how many have power and bet they aren’t thinking about us either. Once our electricity is restored, life will become normal again.


Flooding just north of Kipling and Rathburn (click to watch video on The Star)We forget quickly. Except when we don’t.

When unexpected events like heavy rainfall cause power outages, we’re often sympathetic. What can we do? Many others are affected too.

We might even enjoy the adventure.

long, slow drive
Driving for 2.5 hours through heavy rain yesterday evening while the traffic lights were out felt safe because we had plenty of diesel and avoided potential problem spots. When we got home shortly before dark, we had dinner by candlelight. That’s hardly torture.

Overnight, the temperature was pleasantly cool because of the rain. With the power out, traffic volumes were much lower than usual and the street lights were off. That’s a recipe for a relaxing sleep.

Besides, our neighbours were affected too. Like misery, adventure loves company.

This morning, the adventure quickly turned to annoyance because the power was still out. Service resumed around 10:30 AM and has been stable. There’s a 60% chance of showers with thunderstorms overnight …


PS When recharging your smartphone once power is restored, make sure the power bar is on …

July 2, 2013


In the perfect crime, Seth Godin says “marketing enables a pickpocket to steal a wallet --- and be thanked for it”. Strong words. Seth takes a stand against marketing which  creates side effects like obesity: “Just because marketing works doesn't mean we have an obligation to do it. And if we're too greedy to stop on our own, then yes, we should be stopped.”

He could have stayed silent. He could have made his comments in private. Instead, Seth told the world.

What do you know that you know needs to be said? Do you say it?

Why It Works

Actions have consequences. When you make your views known, you show courage. You aren’t trying to please everyone with blandness. As a result, you stand out from the silent masses.

Will everyone like what you say? No. When you make you speak out, you polarize. You’ll repel some. You’ll also attract some, even if they disagree. This second group is worth your focus.


Readers want good information to make good decisions. If you’ve established a level of trust, they will be interested in what you say.
In the past, I’ve written about
These examples include some of my most popular posts.

Why Bother?

When you build an audience you care about, don’t you have an obligation to keep them informed? Aren’t you bursting to tell the people around the water cooler, coffee pot or lunch table? Those conversations disappear without a lasting trace. That means you’re depriving others of your knowledge and letting them make the same mistake.

I had an awkward situation earlier this year. My most read post of all time was why join the Toronto Board of Trade, which I wrote in 2011. Times change and I felt compelled to leave. I didn’t want to say why but knew I had an obligation to be forthright. I wrote about the reasons for leaving and suffered some consequences. Even now, many more read my reasons for joining (still the #1 post ever and #3 last month) than my reasons for leaving. That’s their choice. I did my part.


Suppose you’re annoyed that your french fries are cold. That may not be a good reason to blog (or even tweet). It’s wise to prepare a draft and wait at least a day before deciding if your content is worth sharing.

Can you extract lessons that have general, lasting value? Can you show proof (e.g., screen shots, photos or recordings)? Do you know of other options?

You may suppress names unless they’re relevant (e.g., in diluting the soup). That doesn’t mean suppressing what you know needs to be said.


PS You can also write about great experiences (e.g., great customer service from Rogers)