Gwyneth Paltrow has a newsletter. In some ways it takes the TMI blog too far– she’s been criticized for alienating readers with her whole “I’m a working mom just like you, photo shoots are so hard!” schtick. Yet the newsletter and corresponding website, Goop, continue to thrive. That’s no accident; it’s good marketing, and there are lessons here that nonprofits and small businesses alike can apply to your own newsletters.
How can you alienate half your target audience and still be successful? It’s simple really- those folks who are angered by Paltrow’s “Oh this jumpsuit is so tiny, I can barely fit into it” moments aren’t really her target audience. They might fit the demographic persona of the intended audience, but that doesn’t make them qualified leads. Qualified leads are those folks who have indicators that they are likely to “buy” what you’re putting out there. Ms. Paltrow is talking to those women who enjoy an inside view of celebrity life, and accept that what she finds trying might be different from their own experiences. Most likely, they read Goop because they enjoy the mental escape it allows them in the middle of a hectic life.
Collect qualified leads for your newsletter by collecting email addresses through online signups, and even with a paper signup sheet at the front desk or cash register. These people are qualified leads because they are already familiar with your organization, and are expressing interest in what you do. Starting with qualified leads will help keep open rates and click-through’s high. It will also help gauge whether or not your newsletter is providing value to those who want it.
Value is where Goop excels. Paltrow’s newsletter is an enticement to visit the site, where readers are sold a lifestyle in the form of relevant articles, inspirational pieces, and even a store where ladies can purchase lifestyle items like clothes and cosmetics supposedly chosen by “GP” herself. Subaru also does a stellar job of creating the idea of a lifestyle around their products:
Yeah, now you want a Subaru so you can be a better, more adventurous parent. They even sell dog accessories so your dog will be properly outfitted for all the adventures you’ll have in your Subaru. That’s value. Subaru just tapped into my need to be a great parent and adventurous person, and gave me a way to make that a part of my identity (by buying a Subaru).
Whatever type of organization you have, building the idea of a lifestyle around what you offer is a critical way to engage supporters. That means talking about topics of interest to your audience that aren’t necessarily exactly about your organization. For example, a small business that specializes in all-natural bath and body items might write a monthly newsletter that includes information about recent legislation affecting the environment, local goings-on in the area where the shop is located, employee spotlights, and an article about natural skin care. Add a note about what’s new in the shop this month, and you have a newsletter that creates an identity and provides real value to your readers. For a nonprofit newsletter, you might include legislative updates that affect the social need your organization addresses, local news that is relevant to what your nonprofit does, employee spotlights, project updates, and a call-to-action around a specific need that your readers can help the organization with. That lineup makes the reader care about the issues (value), and gives her a way to do something about it (lifestyle).
Those are the basics to writing a great newsletter that engages readers. Love her or hate her, Paltrow’s done a great job leveraging the newsletter format to build a lifestyle business. She’s even giving Martha Stewart some competition. If Goop can dethrone the queen of lifestyle marketing, it’s worth taking notes from what they’re doing right.