What to share in this post had me thinking in circles. If you could see my notes, my wait, no this, not that, idea dump, you would laugh. They were a mess.
A Writer's Problem
I kept coming back to an email I received earlier in the week from Todd. He is a topnotch writer who shares all things related to being a professional writer. Each of his regular emails is like a journalism class.
Todd explained to his audience that he had expected – hoped for – his emails to be widely shared and enthusiastically studied. That didn’t happen. His solution was to shift from email distribution to a Substack newsletter. Same content, same audience, different platform.
I could feel Todd’s disappointment in his words. His reason for making a change made sense and his action-taking admirable. But his problem wasn’t platform. It was the failure to clearly answer his readers’ “what do I do with this now?” question.
His class needed an assignment.
Focus. What's That?
Stolen Focus by Johann Hari
is a terrific book that everyone should read.. We’re all suffering from an inability to focus, to carve out the time for deep thinking. I know, this book sounds tedious and boring, but it isn’t.
I’m halfway through it now and have a lot of things to share soon. This is one of those books where a single highlight became a yellow chapter.
It’s our inability to focus that brought me back not only to Todd’s email but also to the valuable information we’re all sharing with clients. It doesn’t matter how useful it is if we don’t take the time to tell our readers what they need to do next.
Your clients are smart people who are more than capable of thinking and making practical decisions. Telling them what to do next doesn’t imply otherwise. It simply communicates that:
you respect their time
you understand what’s important to them
you’re sharing information with them that is you believe is relevant
you’re committed to helping them achieve a clear outcome that makes a difference to them
your content is actionable, not just more noise
One of my faithful readers commented that a recent email was my best work ever. When I asked him why, he said it was because it was clear and actionable. It gave him a step-by-step something to do with a result that mattered to him.
That valuable feedback has caused me to carefully consider each post and email I create.
Here's Your Challenge
For each piece of information you share with your clients and audience, ask yourself this question. What can I give them to do that will deliver a practical, measurable outcome they care about?
A Buy Now button is transactional. What you’re looking for are small, immediate actions that contribute to long term relationships.
Ideas You Can Do Now
Tell your audience about a tool that will help them solve a specific problem. How did it help you?
Be clear about your understanding of the problem. Share a relatable story that readers feel a part of.
Use examples to describe the problem and how this tool helps.
Show don't just tell. Include screenshots that help the reader visualize with context.
Create a step-by-step how-to guide they can download.
Tell them about a business change that directly impacts them. Create a short, downloadable checklist that guides them through the steps they need to take toward adoption.
What You Can Do With This Email
For each piece of content you save in your note taking app or notebook, add these points:
Who in my audience will benefit from this
What active thing can they do that will deliver this clear result
What content do we have now that they can download
What new piece of content can we create that helps them implement this idea
Your audience are passive consumers if you don’t help them slow down, process, and think deeply.
Don't forget to add these actionable ideas
to your OneNote or other favorite note taking app.