Do Just One Thing
That’s another recent lesson to share with you. It took my email coach mentioning it two years ago before I could get it into practice this year. It was just hard work changing that habit. Because I’m used to writing in long blog posts, and long book chapters (about 2K words). My non-fiction blog posts have multiple links in them. (This tracked back to some interesting advice that Google and search engines liked long-form posts with links because they could understand your site better. News is: looking up what Google recommends for my site is the free downloads they have access to. Huh. Another set of conventional wisdom gone awry. Big surprise.)
Yes, on average, people do like chapters about 2000-2500 words long. But any writer knows that a chapter (or scene, or book) is only as long as it needs to be. Padding out a book to make it a thicker hardback is another oddball concept from the dinosaur traditional publishing traditions.
(My email coach later mentioned that she herself had to go through that same progress herself. She used to spend an entire day in crafting a single 1,500 -2,000 word essay as an email. Now her 500-word email will take her an hour or less.)
People only really think about one thing at a time. It’s always been that way, always will. (“Multi-tasking” was a fad that only wrecked production quotas and efficiency.)
So your emails need to be about one core point, and need to have one link you repeat several times (especially in the PS.)
Just too simple. I’m told that since more people are reading emails on their smartphones, they look/scan through only two screenfuls and prefer a larger type size for smaller screens. The latest trends from (Although I’ve had no problem reading the default ones, some people do – and if you want them to take action on an email, to avoid unnecessary unsubscribes you need to respect their habits. Keep it short. Keep it to one link.)
The key point is to just talk about one subject in your posts and your emails and have one (repeated) link in your emails.
Then write that next post and that next email for the next thing you want to tell them. Again, just one link.
This is all for short emails, obviously. Snackable. (And I’m starting a study of Earl Nightingale’s essays and recorded radio broadcasts to get this style of writing as a gained habit.)
Now, that doesn’t mean you should only write short emails. I recently wrote an email full of analysis – a year’s worth of subscriber data. (As a blog post, it ended up at 2333 words.) And I had fully 10 percent of those readers send me a personal (and sometimes lengthy) reply. The usual response to emails is less than 1%. If you need to, do.
[Sidebar: Of note is recent studies by Litmus seem to a point that people will open email on mobile, trash or unsubscribe what they don’t want – and then deal with the rest on the desktop. Like triage. That’s why your “clicks” show up with a high percentage of desktop clients. Oh, and the fact that most people use gmail, and they lump all their mobile opens into it, instead of separating out the two platforms. (Makes sense for them…)]
Rules of 3
It doesn’t mean you can’t break down longer posts. But stick to three’s. People won’t remember over three things at a time (unless you can drill them into their heads with emotional or descriptive tags.)
A college teacher (I was older than he was) once said to my class:
- Tell them what you will tell them – A, B, C.
- Tell them three things: A, B, C.
- Tell them what you told them – A, B, C.
That’s workable, and fine for boilerplate articles. You won’t lose anyone in the weeds. And you repeat everything three times. Repetition is a proven way of learning.
As a note, this doesn’t mean you have walls of text. Break it up with headings, bullets, italics – all sorts of decorative points to keep them interested and not have everything go blurry…
They build all good short stories and well-watched TV episodes on this –
- 3 try-fails,
The hook sets the stage, tells you about a likeable character who is a lot like you, and that they’re in a lot of trouble. Then they try something to resolve their problem and fail, but learn. Next, they try something else and fail, but learn more. At last, they try something and it solves the problem. The final scene is showing everyone happy (or, in a tragedy, the villain gloating over the grave of the main character). But you know that story is over.
Most successful TV series then show the next troubles the main characters are getting into. Called a teaser. Very common to TV shows, and stories on Wattpad.
If writing a book or course (not a blog post) then split up the content into sets of three—like three sets of three—and then people will get the data. Trick to this is that courses are now more entertainment than sequential how-to’s—and a lot of content-producers don’t get this.
But you do.
If you liked this article, or got something out of it…
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Also published on Medium.