27 June 2016

Make a Personal Connection - A Success Story

Brenda Fay and her husband Dan of BrenDaniel Productions Corp. have trained people all over the world on project management. As a result, they have many contacts across several time zones. They had been using email marketing to promote their services.

A couple of years ago I suggested to Brenda that she can get more out of her email marketing if she also gives some value to readers. Now her brief newsletter is bringing her success every time it goes out.

Recently I asked Brenda where she gets her ideas. “From things that happen every day – talking with people, listening to CBC radio, and reading books are three main ways. I write about ideas that strike me as related to project management in one way or another.”

Brenda told me that her goals are to stay in touch with people and to get information out about public programs she’s offering. It’s not a one way street. “It is fun for me to write the articles, and I am very pleased when people write back giving comments on the articles and letting me know they like them! I get to know people more and they get to know me.

When I asked about specific success stories, here’s what Brenda told me, “I have had a fair number of courses happen as a direct result of my newsletter. Several times people have told me that others forwarded my newsletter to them, suggesting they get in touch. Making connections with new people, who I may partner with or just connect with on LinkedIn, is a success, too. One of the nicest emails I got was from a woman in Quebec who said that her daughter is an aspiring project manager and she forwards my newsletter to her to motivate her.”

Of course, I had to ask Brenda what advice she would give to others who want to start a newsletter. “Write from the heart. Write down your ideas as soon as you can – I often compose articles in my head when I am walking or driving, and sometimes I don’t get them written down as quickly as I could. Don’t worry what people will think – if you like it and it is something you want to say, say it! Know that there will be many people who will relate to what you are saying.”

If it’s your time to start a newsletter, get in touch, or check out our Resource page for lots of advice and tips.

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The next issue of the Work Better, Not Harder monthly newsletter will be Issue #100! We're working on an extra special resource and only email subscribers will get it. PLUS, if you sign up now, you'll also get a mini workbook with 5 Quick & Easy Content Templates to speed up your writing. Get it here.

23 June 2016

Summer Action Leads to Fall Success

summer marketing
Summer may be a sluggish time for many businesses but it doesn't have to be. Use the slower pace to your advantage.

Take the Time to Get Inspired

Do more reading. Watch more videos. Have more chats over coffee. Take online or offline courses. All of these will generate ideas for content and beyond. Spend some time refreshing your marketing strategy.

Stick Around

Why don't you be the one who hangs around all summer while everyone else disappears? Whether it's your newsletter, blog or social media, or all three, maintain your commitment to your fans. If not, you might not be missed all summer but people will realise you deserted them when you show up again in the fall.

Use Automation

I'm all for vacations but even then you don't have to drop out of sight. Continue to give value by using tools to schedule social media posts. (My newest toy is Tweet Jukebox. Thanks Anita!) Prepare and schedule your newsletters and blog posts in advance. Use your voicemail and email automated messages to keep people apprised about your availability.

Go forth and make progress this summer!

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originally published in Work Better, Not Harder on June 23, 2016

The next issue of the Work Better, Not Harder monthly newsletter will be Issue #100! We're working on an extra special resource and only email subscribers will get it. PLUS, if you sign up now, you'll also get a mini workbook with 5 Quick & Easy Content Templates to speed up your writing. Get it here.

19 June 2016

Content Template - How to Start

Content templates can simplify your content development time by providing structure - sort of like filling in blanks. That means you can be done and onto your next task in no time.

The purpose of this template is to create an awesome resource for beginners on a particular topic. This type of article will attract readers that could eventually become customers. Search engines will also like it because it will contain the common keywords people search when initially researching a subject. Download the "How to Start" template now (pdf).

Get More Content Templates

If you like that one, grab our mini workbook with 5 Quick & Easy Content Templates plus some extra tips for repurposing content.

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14 June 2016

Content Ideas for Consultants - Useful Content (Part 2)

If you've already mastered Getting Started (Part 1 in this series), you have gained some momentum and are ready to expand your skills and tackle some content that is useful to your readers and time-saving for you.

Save Yourself Time and Be Useful

There are so many types of content that can fit into this category; my concern is overwhelming you. So let's start simple and you'll begin to see all the possibilities yourself.
  1. Think of a piece of information that you relay repeatedly, such as every time you take on a new client. If you can't think of it now, this will come to mind when you do it next.
    My example is about writing the introduction to your first newsletter. Every time I started working with a new client, I wrote them an email giving advice and examples. The quality varied, the examples varied, and I was wasting time repeating myself.
  2. Either now or the next time you have to, take the time to write an awesome version of that information, detailed and with examples.
  3. Take that article you just created and add it to your blog or next newsletter.
    My original example is Introducing Your Very First Issue, and last year I wrote an updated version, How to Write the Introduction to Your First Newsletter.
  4. Share a link to that article frequently. Link back to it from newer articles that reference the topic. Create social media graphics for a couple of key points - include the link when sharing.
    Are you surprised to hear that my original post from 2012 has had 23,354 views? That's the other bonus to writing useful content - people want to read it!
Now, whenever you take on a new client, you simply need to send them a link to your most awesome version of the useful information. You'll save time and appear super organized, as well. You can reference the information, and reuse it over and over again.

Other examples from my business are posts about anti-spam legislation, where to put your sign-up form, and how to review your newsletter statistics. I'm sure you can come up with more than one for your business but, if you're still feeling stuck, here's another place to start: if you have an FAQ page on your website, pick something from there and expand on it.

When you're finished with that, check out Content That Saves Time and Creating Content that is Useful for more ideas along this same line.

The next installment in this series will be about sharing your learning which, of course, will also be useful and, hopefully, interesting. (Subscribe to make sure you don't miss it.)

10 June 2016

Where's the Value?

Some of you might remember the old Wendy's ad, "Where's the beef?" I was reminded of that when I saw these 3 examples back-to-back on Twitter.

What's missing from the middle post in this screenshot? The beef.

People are picky about what they subscribe to. If you don't give them a good reason to sign up, they won't even get to taste the beef, no matter how many patties there are.

Good calls-to-action are not easy to construct but it's important to make the effort.

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06 June 2016

Good News for eMail Marketing?

Isn’t it exciting that your email marketing campaign is likely to be more successful because average open rates have trended significantly upward? According to Inbox Marketer, their North American average open rate was 19.2% in 2011 and 25.9% in 2015, an increase of over 6%! The cream on the cake is that deliverability is also up.

This sounds like great news for small businesses doing email marketing - my client base. But wait, there’s actually a scary side to all this industry success, especially for small businesses. Be careful about the latest trend that's improving those stats - list pruning.

Statistics are quite different from people, and you do business with people. If you’re considering pruning your list, there are some things you need to know first in order to make an informed decision.

The Math behind the Pruning

Let’s say you start with 500 subscribers and your average open rate is 20%. If you get rid of 100 subscribers (who appear not to be opening your newsletter) and maintain the same number of opens, your open rate will increase to 25%. If you are an agency, I’m sure your client will be happy when you tell them this. If you aren’t, who are you fooling?

If you see an increase in your open rate without having pruned your list, you can legitimately celebrate. Otherwise you’ve likely made a trade-off, perhaps without even realizing the impact.

What You Don’t Know can Hurt You

First you need to know that identifying contacts who have not opened your emails is not as simple as it might seem. An ‘open’ is measured when an image is viewed. If your subscriber is viewing in plain text or preview mode, it won’t count as an open. The result is that you may be cutting off the wrong subscribers.

Even more important, there’s value in being seen in people’s inboxes. Sort of like driving by a billboard on the way to the cottage every weekend, your name is being seen, even if deleted. Some sales cycles are long and, while I may not need one now, I might want a custom app built in the future. Or perhaps a car, a bottle of wine, or a fitness class.

Respect Your List

It comes down to this: I believe we need to respect our subscribers. We can do this by:
  • giving interesting and useful content
  • being consistent with our schedule, layout, and content
  • being open to feedback and suggestions
  • being concise in our communications
  • giving them tools to easily share our messages with their fans
If we respect our readers, they’ll learn to trust us... and isn’t that what successful small business is all about?

photo by yooperann

31 May 2016

How to Deliver Valuable Content

If you’ve struggled with success when it comes to blogging, newsletters or even social media, it may be because you’re missing the essential ingredient - value. There are many things you can do right or wrong but, if you aren't giving value, the rest won't matter much.

Another thing I know for a fact is that giving value is work and requires commitment. If you're OK with a little hard work, let's get back to the part about giving value and look at ways to do that, along with some examples.

Content that is in short supply or in high demand

This is content can't be found anywhere else.
  • Insider information is a prime example. Or perhaps it’s time sensitive and can’t be gotten as fast anywhere else. An example is Mari Smith and her exclusive Facebook content. If you are the single source for information that people want, you’ve got it made.
  • Once you build your reputation, your opinions could also be included in this category. Many of you will already be familiar with Seth Godin’s daily blog. Your opinions can also garner a high level of interaction from many people. For an example, check out the Ethics Alarms blog by Jack Marshall.

Content that is unique, creative, useful, and interesting

I’ve grouped these attributes together because, when I tried to come up with examples for each, there was a lot of overlap.
  • Slightly different than sharing your opinion is sharing your expertise. This would include things like teaching, giving advice, and shortening a learning curve. One of my own most popular articles is How to Write the Introduction to Your First Newsletter.
  • Curation involves gathering information from a variety of sources and presenting it like a collection with a common theme. A great example of this is the social media update section in Twirp Communication’s monthly newsletter. Even our own Halifax Small Biz event listing qualifies here.
  • You can research to create content, or you can create content from what you’ve researched for another reason – the results might be useful to others. Recently I needed to acquaint myself with how the Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation applies to charities. It made sense for me to share my findings on my blog.
  • Your experiences are unique, as well as your interpretations of them. This content might also include aspects of research. A brilliant piece by Halifax blogger Laurie Dolhan caught my eye recently – extremely useful to crafty Haligonians. Even if you aren’t one, you can still appreciate its value.
  • Original work, such as skillful and entertaining writing, can be unique, creative and interesting in its own right. Beyond the written word, think video, audio and photographic. Rebecca Clarke’s photography blog may not be particularly useful (to me) but it sure has entertainment value.

Your newsletter (or blog) doesn't necessarily have to be about you or what you do but it does have to be valuable to be successful.

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originally published in Work Better, Not Harder on May 31, 2016

27 May 2016

eNewsletters and Charities in Canada

If you Google "CASL and charities" (in Canada), you'll find lots of reading on the subject. I'm not going to repeat all that here but rather give a quick snapshot of how CASL (Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation) impacts charities.

CASL applies to 'commercial electronic messages'. This means that most (but not all) communications sent from charities are completely exempt from the requirements as they wouldn't be considered 'commercial'.

Soliciting donations is okey dokey, as long as the charitable donation # is included.

Things to be careful about (may void the exemption):
Even if a message is not exempt, it can still be sent as long as all of the usual CASL requirements are met.

More charities should be taking advantage of this! There are LOTS of things a charity could include in its newsletter strategy... and much more leeway with list building if CASL doesn't apply.

21 May 2016

Do Not Disturb (with eMail)

Once a contact unsubscribes, you don't have (express or implied) permission to email them again... unless they opt back in themselves or initiate a business transaction with you.

While all of CASL may not be easy to understand, this is pretty straightforward.

The example shown here is a no-no. Depending on the audience, the reaction may be less severe, but I can't imagine sending an email to everyone who has unsubscribed from my own newsletter over the years inviting them to come back. While you might not object, and some might resubscribe, I'd be asking to be flagged as spam - and rightfully so.

While it's partly about respecting my fellow business owners, it's also about protecting my own reputation. Like any other parts of your business, when you get a bright email marketing idea, think it through (and even research) before jumping on the bus.

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16 May 2016

eMail Productivity: Automate Customer Reminders

For small business owners, nurturing long term relationships is critical, so keeping in touch with past customers to encourage them to return is a worthwhile activity.

Dentists have been doing it for years with their cute cartoon postcards reminding us to book our next check-up. It's time to take that process online and use our bulk email application to automate it. And we can apply it to more than patients.

While this process can be handled exactingly by a workflow app, you don't need the expensive software to make it work for you. One of our long time clients, HealthWalks Shoe Store and Orthotic Clinic in New Glasgow, NS, has been sending reminders by email for a few years now.

Here's how it works...
  1. Initially I created the template based on a postcard HealthWalks had been mailing to customers one year after receiving their orthotics.
  2. Now, each month I receive a list of contacts who have just passed the anniversary date of when they received their orthotics. I simply add a new list in iContact, upload the contacts to it, and schedule the reminder. All of that takes me less than 10 minutes.

It's a much less costly approach to customer communication - as opposed to designing and printing postcards, addressing them, and running to the post office. Plus, it's tree-friendly.

If you're already doing some email marketing, make the most of your software to eliminate the need for paper and postage. Your bulk email app can make you more productive, aside from the marketing benefits. I bet you can think of at least one way to use this process in your business.

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12 May 2016

Content Template - What I Learned

Using a content template is sort of like filling in the blanks on a form. It will get you started and make your writing time more productive.

The purpose of this content template is to help people learn something new... and the best way to learn it. Grab the What I Learned content template here (pdf).

Get More Templates

If you like this template, grab the mini workbook Quick and Easy Content Creation with 5 more templates, plus some tips for using them to be more productive.

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08 May 2016

Content Ideas for Consultants - Getting Started (Part 1)

Just this week I heard it again: “If I start a newsletter, what would I put in it?” While I can think of lots of content ideas for just about any business owner I meet, it’s not so easy for everyone. In fact, it wasn’t always easy for me either. It gets easier, and you get better, with practice.

For consultants, there’s an added bonus to spending time creating marketing content and that's learning. Benjamin Franklin said, “There is no better way to learn than to teach.” Sharing valuable content is teaching and, when you’re creating content for your blog or newsletter, you’ll also be doing research, checking assumptions, and developing opinions.

If you’re a new business owner, or new to developing content, finding a place to start might feel like picking a needle out of a haystack. In this series of posts, I'll explain how to get started and accomplish other goals, too.

Build Your Confidence

Since confidence comes from writing about what you know, start with creating a list of the benefits of something related to your business.
  1. brainstorm a list of ‘somethings’ (a handful is great to start)
  2. start with the one you’re most comfortable with and list the benefits, just point form at first
  3. now your simple point form list can become different types of content (do at least 3 items from this list):
    • brief point-form - short blog, newsletter or social media post
    • lengthier written article - blog or newsletter
    • sentences - each benefit could be shaped into a Tweet or other social media post, or turned into a graphic for sharing on social media
    • visual display - simple infographic
    • video, audio - you speaking about or demonstrating the benefits
    • taglines and headlines - for promotion
    • consider adding to your website if it makes sense
  4. go back to 2 and pick another ‘something’
If you have trouble with benefits, don’t let that stop you. Try ‘what not to do’ or ‘what you need to know’, instead. (Click here to get simple content templates to help with these types of articles.)

Already you have enough content work to keep you busy for a couple of months. Once you get bored with this, move onto Part 2 which will be about creating marketing content that saves you time.

photo by AnyaLogic / Flickr

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03 May 2016

The Lazy Approach to Blogging

Here's how the lazy approach works: don't blog for the sake of keeping a schedule; only blog when you have something to say. Have you heard that advice yet?

Pretty simple, eh? No pressure at all. Just push a post out whenever the mood strikes, and if it doesn't... oh well.

Here are the benefits of adopting this schedule-less strategy:
  • No commitment to readers. They won't be expecting anything so if you reach their inbox, maybe it'll be a surprise. Or maybe they won't know who you are.
  • No pressure to keep current. This is a clear benefit in a business world of constant change.
  • You can call yourself an expert. Your ideas are so captivating that you only need to have 3 or 4 a year. (Maybe I'm confusing this with a guru.)
  • No wasted time communicating with readers. Relationships take up precious time, after all.
  • No stress - ever - about meeting a deadline.

If you haven't guessed yet, I think this is a bunch of nonsense. If you want to excel at content marketing and reap the real benefits, you need to build relationships and that happens by delivering value on a consistent basis to become a trusted resource.

photo by vszybala. / Flickr

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29 April 2016

My Blog Post Recycling Process

Each time I post a new article on this blog, there are a few regular things I do to start the recycling process. You may find some of these useful, too.

#1. After emailing subscribers and posting on my social media feeds, I save time by immediately scheduling some future tweets (including images) using Hootsuite - once a month for the next 3-4 months.

#2. Next I grab sentences that can stand alone as tips or quotes for posting on social media. These go into a spreadsheet so I can continue to rotate them, for example my daily enewsletter tips. (You can grab a similar spreadsheet here.)

#3. I fire up Canva and make some graphics with tips and quotes for future use. I've got a file folder I can delve into when I need something to post.

#4. If the blog post was a suitable list or process, I file it with my soon-to-be infographics.

#5. About a year later, I'll review the post with the intention of repurposing my ideas. Depending on the post, I may expand on it in a new post, or give the information in a different way, such as worksheets or checklists.

Of course, these ideas work with your newsletter content, too. If you recycle your ideas, you'll never run out!

originally published in Work Better, Not Harder on April 28, 2016

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28 April 2016

Repeating Ideas is Strategic

I'm a big fan of recycling content for a few reasons. I've written about 350 blog posts and I know you haven't read every one. That means you've likely missed a good idea that might appeal to you - so I should repeat my ideas. Finding different ways to do that means my ideas will impact a larger audience. Rereading my past articles often triggers new ideas for me to write about. Plus I make the most of my content creation time investment.

photo by localben / Flickr
originally published in Work Better, Not Harder on April 28, 2016

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22 April 2016

eMail Productivity: Automate Course Certificates

If you're a teacher or trainer, you've likely struggled with the process of providing Certificates of Completion (or Certificates of Attendance and such) to your workshop attendees. Using a Word template, your process might be something like this: prepare your spreadsheet for a mail merge, complete the merge, convert each .doc to .pdf, print, fold, mail merge the envelope addresses, print labels, affix to envelopes, stuff envelopes, lick stamps, run to the post office. Even if you're paying someone to do this for you, it's pretty labour intensive and prone to error. Add the cost of printing and postage, and providing certificates isn't cheap.

Consider using your bulk email application, such as iContact, to automate this process. There is a little set up involved but, once it's done, it's quick and easy to use.

How to set-up your certificates:

First design a certificate template in your email application. You can do this in much the same way as you would in Word. Leave blank areas for the person's name and the completion date. If you teach different topics, you can also leave a blank area for the course name to fill in. If there are other pieces of info to be included, such as professional accreditation codes, location, or student numbers, leave blank areas for those, too. Now save your template as a draft - we'll come back to it.

Next create the custom fields you're going to need. Your application already has fields for first and last name but not for things like completion date or course title - you'll need to set these up yourself. As an example, let's say you set up segments called compdate and coursetitle.

Now open your draft certificate template and plug in the form fields. Again, this is done very much the same as using merge fields in Word. In the area for the person's name, enter the field names in square brackets - [fname] [lname]. In the the area for completion date, enter [compdate], and so on with the other fields.

That's the set-up part. Now you're ready to send those certificates by email once your next course is finished. Can you believe it'll take less than 10 minutes to customize and send those certificates, whether it's 30 or 300?

How to send your certificates:

Set up a new list in your email application. It'll be temporary but you won't want to reuse the same list name in the future, so I suggest using something distinct like the date.

Upload your attendee list in spreadsheet format. It must have columns for each of the merge fields you're using in your certificate. If we use the same example from above, the spreadsheet will have 5 columns labelled: [fname], [lname], [email], [compdate] and [coursetitle]. The exact process will vary depending on your software but the list upload done properly will result in those contacts having the custom fields assigned.

Send the certificates. Open your draft template, pick the list to send to (the one you just set up), and send.

Warning! Test it.

After the set-up, run a test using a spreadsheet with your own information following the send process above. Remember to proof for errors.

The person who receives the certificate has options, such as printing the email or converting to .pdf to save. It's also easy to forward on to their HR department or supervisor for tracking.

If you are good about gathering your attendees' information, the certificate sending really will be less than 10 minutes. The savings of this process will quickly add up when you're regularly sending certificates.

(Of course, we can do the set-up, and even the sending, for you. Contact me for details and pricing.)

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15 April 2016

How to Set Up a PayPal Link to use in eMail

When promoting anything, it's always best to have a way for people to pay right away. PayPal is usually an easy way to do this but sometimes I need a PayPal button in a place where I can't embed the html code, like in an email, Word document, or social media post.

You may not know there's a simple way to get a PayPal link without the button code. It's a link just like any other url and can be shared anywhere online (although it's an ugly link so you'll want to hide it behind text).

Here's the caveat: you have to avoid using any of the 'customize button' options. Once you're finished creating your button, on the next screen, click the tab for 'email' and copy the link. (see image)

Now you can have people 'Buy Now' using that link instead of having to embed a PayPal button.

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11 April 2016

Content Template - The Newsjack

Every part of your business needs some type of content. And you need to develop content consistently to reap the benefits.

There's a content creation trick that can speed up the process by providing structure. Using a content template is sort of like filling in the blanks on a form, and often in a particular order.

Don't waste time staring at a blank screen. Use a template and plug in your ideas to create fresh original content. This technique allows you to write quickly.

The Newsjack Template

The purpose of this template is to help your readers stay up-to-date with news that affects them, such as breaking industry news or new regulations. Click here to download this template now (.pdf).

Get More Templates

If you like that one, grab my mini workbook Quick and Easy Content Creation which has 5 templates, plus some tips for using them to be more productive.

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05 April 2016

What Happens Once You're Found?

"We’ve mistakenly made being found the number one goal of our marketing." 
~ Bernadette Jiwa

This line from a recent article really caught my attention. Over the past few years I've heard many people talk about SEO (search engine optimization) as something desirable without really knowing why.

SEO is something done to your website so it'll be found in Google searches. So, what happens when someone gets there?

There's no value in investing in SEO if your website can't make something more happen when a potential customer arrives. Imagine having a store with no employees.

First, make sure your website can work for you. It should contribute to reaching your business goals and the here's-what-we-do-feel-free-to-call approach won't do much for you. It's one thing to get found and quite another to make the sale.

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31 March 2016

Bragging Writes

You'll see in this newsletter that success stories make great marketing content. There's positive emotion around a good story - we like to read them and share them. It's a bonus that they come in many different forms: testimonials, case studies, photos of happy customers or completed work, statistics, even video.

Success stories can also be assembled in a lot of different ways. For example:
  • written by you, or by your client
  • spontaneous (such as on Twitter), or solicited
  • about your products and services, or about your business itself (for example, a 10 year anniversary)
  • short or long (useful for different purposes)
  • numerical or graphic (such as statistics)
Don't stop at collecting testimonials. There are many more ways to tell your story.

originally published in Work Better, Not Harder March 30, 2016

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