03 February 2016

Uncommon eMail Marketing Advice

When it comes to email marketing, the most important lessons aren't necessarily common sense. I've had a few a-ha moments along the way. If you are struggling to get results from your efforts, perhaps you'll find the reason and solution here.

#1. While you might say you can sell to anyone, you can't create an email campaign that will appeal to everyone. Don't waste your time trying - diluted content is boring. Identify the best niche within your overall target market and create your newsletter for them.

#2. Give subscribers what THEY want, not what you want to give them. Start with what would be useful or interesting for your target market, then compare that to your goals to find a sweet spot.

#3. What can you give your subscribers that they can't get anywhere else? Identify that, find a way to deliver it, and you've got it made.

#4. Don't hide your unsubscribe link. You want your readers to know they can signal their lack of interest at any time. Let them manage their own subscription so you don't have to.

#5. Your newsletter doesn't have to be about you or what you do. You read right. It's more important to give value and be seen as the business giving it. (Our own newsletter is not about doing newsletters even though that's what we do.)

#6. Short and simple can be hard to do. What if you paid $1 for every word you use?

#7. Less choice gets more action. If you want your readers to take a very specific action, focus your calls to action around that... and nothing else. Too much choice will often lead to no choice.

#8. The execution of your strategy is ALL about you. Mistakes are fodder for gossip - you will be judged.

#9. The most important thing you can do when you meet a potential customer is to get them added to your contact list. Then you will always have the opportunity to grow the relationship.

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28 January 2016

Maintain Your Marketing Messages


How's your static content? Say what? Yup, I'm inventing new words to categorize all those things many of us small business owners call 'marketing stuff'.

The word 'content' is part of my everyday vocabulary but maybe not part of yours yet. Whether you call it content or stuff, it represents you, your business and your brand to everyone that encounters it.

There are lots of ways to slice and dice content but one important distinction is whether it is dynamic or static.

Dynamic content is new and ever changing - the articles and videos you create, the messages you post on Facebook and Twitter, your newsletter, and so on.

Static content includes the messages you create once and continue to use. Things like your tagline and advertising text, everything on your website, your social media profiles, business cards, and so on.

While you're busy working on your dynamic content all the time, it's easy to forget about that static content. You might create it once but you shouldn't forget about it. The best way not to forget about it is to schedule review time into your calendar - I suggest quarterly.

For your static content, here are 2 regular tasks to consider:

  1. Audit all of your online stuff. This means reading all the text and checking all the links. I highly recommend getting someone else to do this for you. If you don't want to pay someone, find another business owner to partner with and do it for each other.
  2. Reread all of your marketing messages, always looking to make improvements. Has your target market changed? Have your services changed? Has your experience/expertise changed?

I call it static content but that doesn't mean it should never change. It's the lifeblood of your marketing strategy and requires your regular attention to keep it relevant and fresh.

photo by highwaysagency / Flickr
originally published in Work Better, Not Harder January 28, 2016

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24 January 2016

Secret Formula for Crafting Your Own Marketing Message


This article by Debi Hartlen MacDonald (New Life Business Solutions) was published in our newsletter in 2012. I keep having to go find it to refer to - yes, it's that good - so I asked Debi if I could share it with you here on our blog. Here goes...
1. The Pain or the Challenge - What is the pain that your prospect wants to address, as it relates to your product? 
My example: "I help small business owners who are working their buns off and not making the strides in their business that they want to." 
2. Desired Outcome - What result does your prospect want? 
My example: "I help clients attract more clients, make more money, and have more free time." 
3. Solution - What do you do that helps them solve this problem? 
My example: "I help clients create focused, well thought out, and clearly defined sales and marketing strategies." 
4. Why Choose You - What makes you different from your competition? 
My example: "Unlike other marketing consultants or agencies, I connect the sales with the marketing for real results - meaning money in the bank." 
5. Proof - What is the proof that you deliver what you say you will? Do you have testimonials, case studies, etc. to relay? The more quantitative you can be, the better. 
My example: "In the first 4 months under Debi's guidance, we saw revenue increase by 134% over the preceding four months. She lit a fire under us - and we couldn't be happier." (Neil Everton, Podium Media & Communications Coaching)

Debi Hartlen MacDonald of New Life Business Solutions helps her clients attract more clients, make more money and have more free time, by helping them develop focused and strategic plans in the areas of sales and marketing.

photo by jaguarmena / Flickr

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17 January 2016

eMail Marketing - Back to Basics

There are so many things to consider and details to look after when it comes to email marketing that the big picture can easily be lost. Here is what small business owners like us always need to keep in mind:

#1. You want your subscribers to be from your target market, or have influence with your target market.

#2. To get and keep those subscribers, your content - whether it's articles or advertisements - needs to be interesting or useful to your target market. Let me repeat that: your content is for your target market. Which means it's not about you - and doesn't even have to be about what you do.

If you are starting out, before you think about what you want to include, first think about what your subscribers would want. If you can find an answer to this question, you've got it made:

What can you give your target market that they can't get anywhere else?

11 January 2016

Successful Surveys: How to Ask for Information


You really want to know what your clients think about your business. And getting suggestions and feedback from your subscribers would be a bonus. An electronic survey seems like the perfect solution.

The reality is that only some of your close friends and fans will complete a survey because there is something in it for them (helping you). But you likely already know what they think.

What's in it for everyone else? Stop and answer that question before you go any further.

Ask for only what you absolutely need.
The inclination will be to ask a lot of questions. But the more questions you ask, the less likely someone will be to complete your survey. For each question, think about what you will do with the result. If there is no action you will take, don't ask the question. To help whittle down your questions, consider what you would be comfortable asking if you were to do the survey by phone with your best customer.

Offer an incentive.
Expect to pay to get answers. The longer the survey, the better your incentive needs to be. Think about what you would expect in exchange for doing a survey for a complete stranger. A chance to win might not work unless it's a chance to win something big.

Use software to gather and collate results.
You need information, not a bunch of data that you have to spend hours sorting and analyzing. Plus digital surveys are faster to complete than any other medium.

Test, retest and test again.
You really only get one shot at this - make sure it's right the first time. It's really easy to negate your results by asking ambiguous questions. Test the functionality and also get other people to test the logic.

Run a perpetual survey.
Asking only one question at a time makes it almost a non-task. You could include a one-question survey in each newsletter or blog post. For customers, you could do this when you invoice or with monthly statements. (FreshBooks has this type of functionality.) Of course, it takes longer to gather information this way but you also have time to act on each piece of information methodically. Plus you can adapt future questions based on answers already received.

Share the results, if appropriate.
Depending on the nature of your survey, the results might be interesting or even useful to your respondents. Some applications offer the functionality to show to-date results as soon as an answer is submitted. In other cases, you might offer to send the results if an email address is provided. Publishing the results as an article is another option.

One final piece of advice: ignore feedback that isn't statistically significant. So, don't change the colour of your logo because one person doesn't like it. If over half of your respondents don't like it, ask more questions to understand why.

07 January 2016

Action Marketing


You might be the nicest person in the world to work with. You might be the best at your craft. You might offer the greatest value for money. You might do all the right things.

But your potential customers won't know that unless your personality and 'secret sauce' come through in your marketing.

Marketing is progressing beyond words and pictures... to actions.

Did you reply to that Facebook comment? Have you kept to the schedule you've promised your blog or newsletter readers? Are you regularly sharing your expertise with others, without expectation of something in return? Are you making people laugh? And are you there to share in it?

photo by Art Dino / Flickr

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31 December 2015

Best Reading of 2015


These are our top picks of the best guest articles from the Work Better, Not Harder newsletter during 2015, not in any particular order.

Essential Elements of Storytelling
Neil Everton, Podium Media and Communications Coaching
The heart of storytelling is the hero-quest: Luke Skywalker and the forces of good battling Darth Vader and the forces of evil (and rescuing the princess). Any compelling story has four essential elements. Read on...

Adding Audio to Your Content
Natasha Marchewka Voiceover Services
Have you considered adding audio to your blog or enewsletter? Adding audio to marketing adds to the multi-media dimension, offering readers more for engagement. Read on...

The Eggnog Challenge
Steve Foran, Gratitude at Work
The Eggnog Challenge put an end to a hotly debated subject in our house... which eggnog is the best. I discovered a treacherous danger in comparison... a danger I've before never considered. Read on...

How to Make a ‘Thank You’ Speech
Halina St James, Podium Media & Communications Coaching
What makes a great ‘thank you’ speech? Once a year we see the best and the worse ‘thank you’ speeches, courtesy of the Oscars. We can learn a lot from these. Here are Podium’s tips to make your 'thank you' speech memorable. Read on...

6 Easy Periscope Live Streaming Ideas for Small Businesses
Anita Kirkbride, Twirp Communications Inc.
Live streaming has hit the social media world big time. At first thought, live streaming for a small business may seem overwhelming but your very curious customers want to see what you’re up to... and now they want to do it live! Read on...

4 Steps = Great Vacation Message
Mary Jane Copps, The Phone Lady
There's nothing like that last day of work before a holiday. The moment just seconds away from freedom is the one in which most of us remember the need to change our voicemail message. Here are a few tips that will make reaching your vacation message a joy. Read on...

Get Control of Your Projects
Brenda Fay, BrenDaniel Productions Corp.
Project management is about getting things done, and it's not just for the big guys. Working smarter to be more effective is everyone's goal, so it's a powerful tool for any business. Read on...

The Show and Tell of Trust
Lea Brovedani, The Trust Architect
Consciously and deliberately building trust is important. Think of it as “show and tell” for grownups but with much bigger consequences than a grade on an elementary school report card. The evaluation you get can affect whether or not people are willing to follow you and how well you succeed. Read on...

Past Best Reading lists: 2012 - 2013 - 2014

Originally published in Work Better, Not Harder, December 31, 2015

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30 December 2015

Haste Makes Waste

Rushing can lead to mistakes. We all know that but still we rush. Sometimes it simply means spending valuable time redoing something.

Haste can waste more than time. It can also hurt my reputation if my mistakes are public.

A little risk assessment before we start hurrying can save us heartbreak. I'll risk my time but I won't needlessly risk my reputation.

Sometimes just showing up isn't enough.

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26 December 2015

A Simple Content Management Tool

Many people have yet to embrace the concept of content management. I'm going to show you a simple way to get your arms around it, and keep them firmly gripped.

First, print this worksheet (or draw 3 columns on a sheet of paper) and grab a pen. OK, don't overthink this - it shouldn't take any more than 10 minutes.

Content for Different Places
In the first column, make a quick list of all the places you have (or need to have) content. Examples of things on this list might be your website, blog, newsletter, social media posts, social media profiles, ezines, brochures, profiles on membership websites, other people's blogs/newsletters, and so on.

Content for Different Purposes
In the second column, capture your reasons for having content... your goals. This is not a list where you brainstorm - it's where you focus on your main goals. Otherwise you'll be too scattered. Some examples: to be seen as an expert, to build relationships, to have regular contact, to promote products, and to grow your fanbase.

Content of Different Formats
The third column is for listing all the different types of content you will include in your strategy. This list will include things like articles, videos, audio recordings, infographs, photos, ebooks and so on.

Now pin the sheet up by your desk. Planning forces you to think; now here's the action part:
  • Say, for example, you have just updated your bio. You only have to glance at the worksheet to identify where you need to update or add it.
  • Next, you come across an interesting article you think you should share with your contacts. At a glance you can determine: if you should share it (it supports one of your goals), and where you should share it.
  • A new product launch coming up in the new year? Using your worksheet you can quickly select the different formats you'll use for marketing and where you'll market.
  • Wondering if something is appropriate for your newsletter or blog? Check the purposes you identified to quickly decide.
This content management tool can keep you focussed and save you time - you just have to use it!

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22 December 2015

Automation can be Creepy


If your ideal customer is new to social media, your autoresponder messages might be creeping them out. At one time I had this vision of some big guy hunched over his keyboard poised to pounce on my 'Follow'.

If your ideal customer is more tech savvy, they'll recognize an autoresponder immediately. (Really? You expect me to interact with a program?)

I liken autoresponders on social media to email spammers. Both are giving their medium a bum wrap.

A recent Twitter following spree on my part resulted in 16 automated tweets (close to 10% of those I followed). At least I think they were autoresponders.

There's the rub. Even if you take time to respond to people individually, now they may assume it's an autoresponder. The legitimacy of your action is lost in the sea of spammers.

photo by wnstn / Flickr

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18 December 2015

What do iWatches and Zombies have to do with eMail Marketing?


Perhaps nothing.

Using a news story or pop culture as a hook can create interest that attracts readers. Keep your subject line (or headline) relevant and appropriate, though, or you'll forsake credibility.

"What will Happen to eMail Marketing on the iWatch?" is a good example, even if a horrible thought.

"What will Happen to eMail Marketing during a Zombie Apocalypse?" is not a good example. (I admit to giving it some thought but, really, there's nothing to write about.)

photo by Sangudo / Flickr

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14 December 2015

Are You a Poet and Didn't Know It?


Work is especially fun at this time of year because I'm busy putting together holiday ecards for clients. After a few, though, the messages of joy and peace start to become a tad lacklustre. And then Lea Brovedani sent me the message to go into her ecard.

It wasn't till I started formatting it that I recognized it as a poem. Then I giggled because I realized Lea had written it. You see, Lea is all about teaching others to be more trusting and trustworthy. Here's the first verse (she said I could share with you):
It's time for carols and some snow,
Time for being on the go.
Take a moment, and don't be fussed,
To show thanks to those you love and trust.
When I congratulated Lea on her winning message, she gave me this tip: "I went on a website for Christmas messages, found one I liked, and adapted it so it was my message on trust."

"Hmm, I have to try that," I thought and started Googling. I have to say Lea's message about trust is more adaptable for the season. But I did come up with a seasonal marketing slogan!
Your holiday cards travel like snails.
Won't you consider using emails?
After you stop groaning, you might give this a try. It's a great content creation idea and could be adapted to other less seasonal purposes, too.

photo by Adrian Cabrero (Mustagrapho) / Flickr

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10 December 2015

Write without Fear, Edit without Mercy

Do you get hung up over finding the perfect word? Distracted by comma placement? Or just stuck looking at a blank screen?

I've told many people I'm a wannabe writer. Now, closing on 350 articles, I still feel like a wannabe. That's because I'm a much better editor than writer.

I still quibble over words and have to remind myself to move on - but now that happens in 10 seconds instead of 3 minutes.

If writing is what's holding you back from publishing a blog or newsletter, here's what you need to know:
  1. Write something instead of nothing. Maybe you'll change it later, but it's a start.
  2. Write when you're inspired. That might mean making time to get inspired.
  3. Don't set goals about the number of words. Write only as much as you need to, as opposed to a 500 word essay.
  4. Don't get stuck choosing words. Pick one and move on.
  5. Spend twice as much time editing as you do writing.
  6. Have a time gap between when you write and when you edit. You'll have fresh eyes a day later.
  7. Get someone else to proof. Next best option is to proof by reading out loud.
  8. If you're not a great writer, get a good editor.

06 December 2015

Pantone Colour of the Year for 2016

Colour has a big impact on all of the work I do so I'm always eager to see the colour trends published by Pantone. The seasonal colour schemes are based on trends in clothing design. I'm not sure what the 2016 Colour of the Year is based on but there's two of them. I wonder if someone high up at Pantone just had a baby.

While I quite like the colours personally, I don't see much business application. If a new client with a baby shop comes along, I might think differently, of course.


image source Pantone.com

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02 December 2015

Gratitude Yields Results in Many Ways: An eMail Marketing Success Story

Steve Foran is my hero. While he deserves that label for many reasons to do with his altruistic message and goal to make his community a better place, he’s also my hero because of his email marketing practices.

First, some background. Steve works with leaders across North America to shift culture and help teams bring more gratitude into the workplace. He’s been on the leading edge of gratitude-based research, writing, and teaching for over a decade and his science-based strategy, Gratitude At Work, is a simple, yet innovative approach to business growth.

When I first met Steve I was excited to talk to him because he was running an email campaign that put his name into people’s inboxes every day. To me, as an email marketer, that seemed to be the ultimate success story. I may have even disconcerted Steve a little with my enthusiasm - “You have permission to email people every single day!”

Now over 4 years later I’m still receiving Steve’s daily messages reminding me to be grateful. Recently I also received 21 tips to help me improve on my gratitude practices delivered daily. And I receive his monthly video blog by email.

I asked Steve why he started email marketing for his business. He told me that he wanted to get his important message in front of people on a regular basis. Today that goal still holds true but Steve has also figured out that email marketing can work to encourage ongoing learning. He can have a greater impact on the clients he works with and the people who hear him speak by continuing to coach through email.

Steve was also quick to tell me it’s not all one way communication. He learns how to hone his messages and approach by paying attention to responses, both by email and on his public gratitude journal.

When I asked if he ever feels stressed about preparing and sending his daily messages, Steve told me that he has a regular routine – he takes 5-10 minutes every evening to prepare his gratitude message – and never feels like it’s a chore.

Infusionsoft is the tool Steve uses to manage his email campaigns and, because it is process driven, it saves him time by automating routine tasks. He also likes its CRM capabilities for keeping track of contact interactions.

Steve’s email campaigns generate good business opportunities and encourage repeat business. He has no doubt that his email marketing has played a major role in his business success.

“What advice do you have for other business owners who want to start email marketing?” I asked, and Steve mentioned two specific things. First, be consistent. Second, figure out what value you can give to your target market and focus on that. People want to keep getting his emails daily because they find value. I couldn’t agree more.

26 November 2015

8 Tips for Composing Testimonials that Sell


You've just had a great experience working with another small business owner. You know how important testimonials are, but writing them is not a comfortable experience for you. So, you procrastinate. Here are some tips to get that off your TO DO list.

#1. Jot down 3-4 descriptive words or phrases that immediately come to mind about the business, the product or service, the consultant, the buying process, and such. When you start writing and are stuck for a word, refer to this list. (Examples: reliable, honest, practical, creative, solid)

#2. Get clear on the benefit. Before you start to write, consider your responses to these questions:
  • What was your problem?
  • What was the solution and how was it unique?
  • What particularly stood out about the buying experience?
#3. Start with feelings. You are really writing the testimonial for potential customers of the business. Think about how you felt and tell them how they will feel. Use comparisons, such as "It made me feel like I was walking on air."

#4. Think about your buying decision. What information caused you to buy? If you include that information in your testimonial, it might flip the switch for others.

#5. Be specific. Don't try to mention everything about your buying experience. Avoid broad generalizations by describing one part of the experience that was outstanding.

#6. Get personal. Write it from you, a person, not from your business.

#7. Make it evergreen. While your experience is recent, will the wording still make sense to someone reading it a year from now?

#8. Up your game by including a punchy phrase that can stand alone. These are gold because they can be used as standalone marketing messages.

Testimonials can be valuable marketing tools. Help another small business owner now by writing one. And think about how good you'll make them feel.

originally published in Work Better, Not Harder, November 26, 2015
photo by electrofervor / Flickr

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23 November 2015

Leave Out the Parts People Skip

Has anyone really read every word of Gone with the Wind? Be honest now. I've read it twice and I remember skipping whole pages of scene-setting descriptive text.

When I read this quote by Elmore Leonard, whose books I read, it resonated with me.

"I try to leave out the parts people skip."
(click to tweet this)

This is a great principle for marketing, too. Recall those bags of brochures and business cards you've thrown out after conferences.

What's the practical application? Have a look at your website with a fresh eye from the perspective of your ideal client. Better yet, have one of your ideal clients take a look. Ask them to 'browse' and then find out what they skimmed over, or skipped completely. You can also do this for your brochures and bios, your articles and newsletters. You could even get carried away and do an audit of all your marketing materials.

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17 November 2015

Learning to Pitch Business Ideas

pitching competition at NSCC

It started with The Dragon's Den, or at least it did for me. Now students are learning it in school. How awesome is that?

That's me in the middle at the judges' table on stage in the photo above. I was delighted to be asked to participate in this Pitch 101 competition by NSCC Entrepreneurship on November 5, 2015.

Being able to pitch a business idea has many benefits for young people, among them:
  • These are sales skills. Young people will need to be able to sell themselves when job hunting, sell their ideas in the business world, and perhaps even sell products and services.
  • Doing a timed pitch in front of an audience requires confidence. It might mean failure the first time, but practice leads to self-confidence.
  • It's like networking on steroids. Pitchers have the chance to make connections with organizers, teachers, judges, students and other pitchers.
  • A chance to test ideas before making an investment of time and money. Judges offer advice about the business idea in addition to advice to improve the pitch.
As a judge, I also required a bit of confidence. I, too, got to network with new contacts and visit with old friends. And having a little to do with who took the prize money and advanced in the competition... well, who wouldn't like that? I'm really glad it wasn't me that was pitching, though!


09 November 2015

How to Write the Introduction to Your First Newsletter

You want to start strong and the way to do that is to make a personal connection with your readers. While there are many ways to make that connection in each issue, your first issue is where you set up expectations about the value you'll provide. It's often the point at which subscribers choose to stay or go.

Here are some things you might want to include:
  1. Write your introduction to your ideal client.
  2. Acknowledge that this is your first issue and that you appreciate your readers' attention.
  3. Tell readers what they'll be getting and how often. Outline the benefits of staying subscribed.
  4. If you have added your customers and business contacts to your subscriber list without their express permission, acknowledge that you have done so and why you have. (For example, you might say that they have bought something from your store, or you met at a networking event.)
  5. Tell readers that it's easy to unsubscribe via the footer in this and every email.
  6. Ask for feedback and suggestions.
Here are a few examples of first issues:

02 November 2015

Call to Action: Why Would I Subscribe?


Aside from having a catchy subscription process on your website, you can use calls to action on your social media platforms to attract new readers. While doing a little research recently on Twitter, here are some examples I found - bad examples first.

I have no idea why I would want this newsletter - I'm not even remotely curious to know what those 'important updates' are.

Aside from having no interest in 'the latest' from a stranger, these poor folks don't even have a sign up form. I wonder how many new subscribers they get.

I could show you hundreds of examples like this - or you could go look yourself. Doing this is a total waste of your time.

Now for the good examples:

Authors generally do a pretty good job of creating interest with their calls to action.

This one is short and sweet. You know it's a newsletter and you know what it's about.

This seems like a pretty good reason to sign up. And you can see it got retweeted. Too bad they spelled Christmas wrong.

screen shot at top from shinesty.com