Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra
The first widely circulated, bound book (a codex) was the Greek New Testament; the first major, printed book (circa 1455 AD) was the Guttenberg Bible. In both instances, Christians were early adopters of new technologies and used them to advance their evangelism. For example, the codex was important to missionaries because it was easier to transport than a scroll; the Guttenberg Bible was a priority for protestant reformers because Bible was considered to be the sole authority for the church’s teaching. In today’s environment it is therefore not surprising to see evangelists and churches being quick to exploit email and other social media in promoting the Gospel. But, how is that best done?
In his book, Email Marketing, Eric Scott observes these business values as helping establish credibility in email marketing:
- “Precipitate positive change in the world.
- Resolve all types of issues…
- Be a moral agency.
- Generate enthusiasm in employees and clients.
- Make things happen. Have a positive outlook…” (2-3)
Supporting these values are internet standards like:
- “Customer service—how you treat your clients.
- Transactions—the amount of time purchases take or the way they are handled.
- Handling of currency—the protocol you follow in case of theft, where you store money, and who is allowed to handle the money.
- Client demands—the requests of your customers.
- Marketing—the way you advertise your company.
- Organizational tasks…” (3)
The drift in all of this is that in an environment where time is precious and expectations are high, many details are involved in establishing the trust of customers. Scott observes: “People these days see everything as black and white. You are either trustworthy or not.” (4) Today’s readers are a tough crowd to please.
Although I have had an email newsletter since my early seminary days (circle 2009), I never really understood how to use the medium properly. When I graduated in 2013, I had three separate lists of supporters who I would write periodically which I merged into a common list and started using MailChimp to manage each month. I established a blog (T2Pneuma.net) with the hope that my email readers would migrate to it, but really few did. Email remains more familiar to people and, because they resisted migrating to the blog, I got into the habit of writing both a monthly newsletter and the blog. Only in the past couple months did I come to realize that I needed to focus more on the newsletter and treat it as central to reaching my most dedicated readers. This realization led me to Scott’s book, which focuses on email marketing.
Scott’s tips are priceless and it is helpful to think of the book as posing a conversation with you about your email practices. For example, Scott writes: “In your welcome email, make sure you have an about you.” (20) I certainly did not have an “about you” in my welcome email (which I crafted only last week), in part, because I have always written to an audience of friends and family who obviously know me. As I encourage other readers that I do not know me personally to read my newsletter, it is helpful to insert this “about you”, even if ever so brief. In some sense, Scott’s book substitutes for the lack of a consultant able to tell me such things.
Some of my email hang ups arise because my identity as an author is changing. As I have upgraded my internet presence to reflect a “professional author” persona, attitudes about merchandising need to be amended. For example, my newsletter (and my publisher Facebook account) now sport buttons encouraging readers to purchase my books, which Scott certainly encourages (21). However, surprisingly he cautions the newsletter writer to focus on being a friend (24). Friends are helpful; friends are truthful; friends are, in a word, friendly. (25-27) This advice transfers across technologies. Other authors encourage online entrepreneurs to be social on social media, rather than treat social media like another advertising forum.
Scott’s tips are in many ways confirmation of many of the practices that I have evolved myself over the past few years. For example, he cites the “90/10 rule” which reads that 90 percent of your content should be helpful advice and other things while only 10 percent should consist of sales pitches (36). This rule is, in effect, an application of the social part of social media.
Eric Scott’s Email Marketing is a helpful book. The focus on building credibility with your audience is actually critical when you consider how easy it is to unsubscribe from a newsletter—reminders are help. Scott’s book is short and easy to read, but don’t discount its content. Newsletter writers will want to take a look.