It is probably the most powerful asset an online business has, apart from maybe it’s customers and the people it employs and so many of you treat it like an afterthought.

Interested humans have openly given you their contact details. They have said to you as a business: “I’m interested, sure, go on and send me something, tell me about yourself, what you believe in, why you make the products you make, or tell me something about the inspiring teams inside your business, or why it’s founders get up in the morning, tell me something real and relevant that will emotionally jack me up.”

Communicating to people who have proactively given you their contact details is a special thing; it’s a privilege and should be treated like one. I totally get that inboxes nowadays are getting bombarded and I understand people send out bogus emails a lot, but I’m also totally aware that what I receive in my inbox, is still the primary thing that runs my personal life and my business, apart from the people within them. Al Ries (a mentor) talks about Narrowing Your Focus, David Hieatt talks about Doing One Thing Well and Gary Keller talks about The One Thing. Imagine if you put the same effort into your newsletter, as you put into your trading plan, sales plan, budgets etc. 

The opportunity to speak directly to people who are genuinely interested in you in a powerful way is right there at your finger tips, all the time, yet when we ask so many businesses: “what does your newsletter look like?” they all say pretty much the same thing:

“It’s connected to our trading plan, we send them twice a week, they usually have an image about the products on offer, or a discount that we’re running at the time”. Sweet, sounds great...

Totally crazy.

Think about what it was like reaching out to someone who was genuinely interested in you as a person for the first time. 

You remember what it was like writing your first love letter? I remember it like it was yesterday. Her name was Maria Macaluso, I met her at this camp in North Carolina and I thought I was in love, I was fourteen years old. Our six weeks at camp were up and we had both done a lot together. We climbed trees and rode bikes and shot arrows and swam in lakes and sailed boats and then I had to say bye and I was heartbroken. I asked her if I could write and she said yes. We told each other we’d write one another all year and in my young and naive mind, I thought that these letters would eventually lead to us being together forever. Whatever, we didn’t get married, not even close – but something incredible did happen.

I wrote her a letter about a week after being home. I took out some yellow A4 from my father’s cabinet and started scribbling down feelings. I was hunkered over this piece of paper like nothing else was going on in the world, both elbows on the table, it was incredible, it really was – I just put it all out there. I told her about what was going on in my life, I shared genuine thoughts, I engaged with her like a human that was genuinely interested. 

Well she wrote back two weeks later.

When I received the letter I was shaking. It was Maria and she had decided to put pencil to paper and write me. So I ran downstairs and sat on the couch, my legs were crossed, I opened it really carefully, like my grandma does a Christmas gift. It was everything I wanted to hear, she wrote how she missed me, she told me about her summer and what she had been up to, she let me in, she kept all the feelings we had at that camp alive. I put something out there, that did not cost much in money, lots in emotion and I got something back in return, that made me feel amazing.

My point is this; as online businesses, we have an opportunity everyday, to put some genuine feelings down about the things we believe in and do and that jack us up and send those beliefs out to the people who should mean the most to us, the people who have told you they are interested, our customers.

If I had treated that letter to Maria like the average online business treats its newsletter, I don’t think I would have heard back from her, no chance. 

Online businesses have an incredible tool at their disposal. You have a ‘yes’ from thousands of people to send them stuff that will interest them and fire them up and get them passionate about what you do and why you do it. You have the opportunity to talk about the rad people within your businesses and the awesome things they do, or write about something a founder came across in a clipping over the weekend and felt compelled to write about it, or talk about the things you genuinely believe in as people within a business. 

Business has changed, it’s no longer B2C, it’s now Me2B, customer to businesses. Customers have so many options now, they can go anywhere for anything and if businesses are not doing an awesome job of engaging with them emotionally, treating them like real humans, you will lose them to other businesses out there – I believe this – 100%.

In order to do the above, you need to understand who your customers actually are, who are the humans that really drive you. The majority of you actually don’t really, really know them, you assume they are 25 – 55 year olds, that are interested in stuff, and do stuff and read stuff and as a result, you send them an image that has fairly generic stuff, usually a ‘sale’ logo on it and a customer service policy at the bottom, a free delivery offer over a specific order value and possibly a link from a blog that you read from somewhere else just to fill it out. 

How nuts and simple and obvious is this?

And so many of you keep expecting these incredible customers to engage at a high rate, click through, want to read more, get emotionally engaged in what you’re doing, tell their mates about you and then buy your products – it’s totally bogus, it’s not going to happen.

Think about finding out who your actual customers are, really find out, do the work. Understand the people who actually buy from you, the ones who really love you and really get to know them and then reach out to them emotionally and with thought and care and I guarantee you the return will blow you away and in all the right ways.