How a simple newsletter can transform your business

An exclusive extract from David Hieatt’s new book Do Open

Photo credit: Andrew Paynter

I am fascinated by the power of a simple email newsletter to grow a business. I am also fascinated by the fact that most businesses don’t pay much attention to theirs. It’s an afterthought. A poor cousin. ‘Give it to the intern.’ And yet, newsletters are one of the most cost-effective ways of talking to your customer that a business can ever have.

But only when they’re done right. With skill, with a strategy, with a methodology, they become one of the most effective instruments in your digital toolbox. They build community. They build your brand. And they relentlessly build long-term growth.

I have seen how a simple newsletter built my business, and so I have no doubt it can build yours. Like anything, it requires effort and some smart thinking, but if you take the time and make a commitment, it will help to transform your business.


Newsletters are no longer important. They are vital.

In terms of using social media to grow your business, we are all looking for the next new platform or app. We want to find that magic ‘Multiplier’ that gets our story out to the world. But there is a danger that, by doing just that, we are ignoring a tried and trusted tool that, well, just works.

Think about it this way. An app can suddenly close overnight. A platform can come and go. And all those millions of followers you have amassed go with it too.

But email isn’t going anywhere.

Newsletters are mostly treated with a lack of respect in big companies. It’s not the latest app, it’s not the latest platform. It doesn’t get written about in the press very often. In short, it is not sexy.

And because of that, people don’t treat them with the respect they deserve. They have never tried to do them well, just with the least amount of effort. The newsletter is given to a department that doesn’t really want to do it. It is given to the intern who, as smart as they are to impress, may well see the newsletter on a par with making everyone a coffee.

But if you understood its power, you would hand this project to the best people in your business.

Photo credit: Andrew Paynter

The importance and psychology of value

The key to understanding how to win is to really understand the human being that you are going to send your newsletter to. Mostly, every newsletter they will receive this week will ask them to give or buy.

Rarely will a newsletter simply try and give them something useful, something inspirational, or an interesting bit of new information. And if it did, it would stand out.

Think of your newsletter as a relationship. A long-term one. The best relationships that last are those that both sides receive value from. In order to build a long-term newsletter, you will have to learn to give.

Giving creates trust

We would do well to think of customer relationships as we would treat a friend. We would never have a friend that only ever asks for favours, only ever asks for something that would help them, only ever thinks of themselves. That is a one-way friendship, and tends not to last a lifetime.

I believe great companies give to their customers. And when they do there is a new connection between them which is called ‘trust’. They did something for them that wasn’t just about a transaction. Something that was given because it’s good to do something without asking for anything in return. It means when you do finally ask your customer to buy from you, they think differently about you. It is not a short-term strategy, it is a long-term one. Relationships are best built over time — and on equal terms.

Illustration: Tom Fishburne

Less delivers more

Lots of companies think that sending more and more emails is the answer to growing their business. One key flaw to this strategy: the number one reason for unsubscribes is too much email marketing. And once they say goodbye, it is for good. Very few return.

So instead of the effort of doing many, how about doing fewer and making them mean more? Excellence is a great business model. And if your newsletter suddenly becomes something that people look forward to, if your newsletter becomes useful, becomes inspiring, then the ‘do less but better’ strategy will pay off.


Persistence is a skill

Everyone starts from zero. It’s a tough place, but everyone begins there. But here’s the thing: it takes time to build anything. And newsletters are no different. Many people start diets or exercise regimes and end up quitting. Likewise with newsletters. People start with good intentions, the right strategy, and they fizzle out. They don’t see immediate transformation and so they adopt a sporadic schedule, or simply stop. I would view that as a good thing, because you are not going to do that. You know this will take time.

But you also know that if you continue to stick to the plan, then — over time, and not straight away — things will improve. So you carry on. Persistence is a quality some people are given.


David Hieatt is not a theorist. He has built brands from nothing with next to nothing just by understanding a few basic rules. The ‘Scrapbook Chronicles’ newsletter has become a cult offering from the Hiut Denim Co. Its open rate exceeds almost any industry standard. It is one of those rare newsletters that people actually look forward to receiving. And it has delivered results. It has grown the company by 25 per cent each year for the last three years. And each year for the last three years, the company has turned a profit. David has spoken at Apple, Google and Red Bull, amongst others. In 2010 he self-published The Path of a Doer. In 2014 he published Do Purpose: Why brands with a purpose do better and matter more.


David Hieatt also runs workshops on how to build a killer newsletter. For information on upcoming dates and locations, visit the Do Lectures website.


Adapted from Do Open: How a simple newsletter can transform your business (and it can) by david hieatt. Copyright © 2017 David Hieatt. Published by The Do Book Co. on May 4th 2017

Available to pre-order now from: Amazon | Do Books (includes free ebook download)


To find out more about Do Books, visit our website and sign up to our newsletter for updates on all our upcoming projects and events.