The Fourth Commandment of Ezines: Focus, focus, focus

Last month, we talked about the importance of publishing regularly and how simple, repeatable systems (like an editorial calendar) can help. Now, it’s time to get focused.

Commandment #4:  Thine ezine’s purpose shalt be focused, and thou shalt allow no content that deviateth from that focus.

A fellow writer paid me a compliment shortly after she began subscribing. “I really like your ezine,” she wrote in an email. “It’s got a nice, tight focus.”

That’s the kind of thing I love to hear. Because if I’m big on anything, it’s focus. I cringe when I see marketing materials that are all over the place content-wise, trying to hit every conceivable selling point.

Even worse is the ezine that says it’s about one thing, then features an article that is so off-topic, it sticks out like a sore thumb. Poor focus equals poor results.

But how do you achieve tight focus in an ezine – or any written communication materials? Here are some questions you should ask yourself when you’re in the planning stages – and keep asking every issue to stay on track.

Who are you talking to? Are your readers sales prospects, current customers, or industry colleagues? You can do more horn-tooting with sales prospects and customers than with professional peers. But you’ll have to use less jargon (and fewer words in general) with prospects and customers.

What’s your passion point? I always tell people who are looking to start an ezine to find a “passion point.” Is there an area of your business that’s especially exciting? Do you ever smite your forehead and go “doh!” (in your best Homer Simpson voice) when you see a potential customer suffer a consequence you could have prevented?

Those are passion points. Follow those, and you’ll never lack for good material.

Why should your readers care? It’s great to write about something you’re excited about, but if your readers don’t see any benefit to themselves, it’s all for naught. Find the “what’s in it for them” angle, and write to it.

When is your content most appropriate? Are any of your topics or subtopics seasonal? Are there marketing events (seminars/conferences, special offers, etc.) you can tie content to? We’ll cover this in more detail in Commandment #6 when we discuss your ezine’s place in your overall marketing plan, but this is another reason to make an editorial calendar (see last month’s post).

Where are your ezines going? Studies show that ezines to personal email addresses (domains like,, etc.) have higher open and click-through rates when delivered on weekends, while those going to work addresses (email domains controlled by an employer) get more response when they hit the inbox during the workday. The “where” question also affects formatting (see Commandment #2).

How do you want readers to respond? I surprised a recent mini-seminar audience with this declaration: “‘Do business with me’ is never a valid goal for a written marketing communications piece.”

Obviously, the ultimate goal is to build your business, which naturally involves convincing people to spend money with you. But there are several steps between initial contact and closed sale, and you should be specific about what step you want your reader to take (phone for free consultation, click link for more information, etc.).

Next month, we move from planning to execution, with a discussion on applying the 40% rule to your ezine content. Don’t miss it!

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