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That was a Great Conversation But...

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Imagine you've just gotten off the phone from a lively conversation with a prospect that lasted an hour. Your purpose in having the call was to build a new business relationship or build on an established one. You both discovered you have much in common and had lots to talk about. What was expected to be a half-hour call became a delightful chat that extended to an hour. You hang up feeling really good about the personal connection you made and pat yourself on the back.
Then reality strikes. You check your calendar and realize you're now behind schedule. Your other planned work for the day has been compromised and you'll have to work a longer day or bump something to tomorrow. "That's OK," you think, "It was time well spent."
But wait, it's not about you.
The person you were speaking with undoubtedly feels the same way. Even though they enjoyed the conversation, now they are also struggling to fulfill their commitments and maintain their work sched…

What First, How Second

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Buying or subscribing to a software application is never the solution to a problem. But it can certainly be part of the solution... or not.
It's all about the process. An app can help streamline a process. Likewise, it can overcomplicate a process. It's all in the way you use it.
Finding the right app or apps is important but mapping out the desired process flow should always come first. It's only after we've designed our process - and know our desired result - that we look for "an app for that".
When mapping out your processes, start with the way the process currently flows. Draw it on paper or list it as steps in a text file. Then, suspend reality temporarily and map out what the most efficient workflow looks like. Describe the steps that you want to happen - the "what". Yes, you'll need to consider the "how" but don't limit yourself at this point.
It's easy for me the recommend this approach; I've seen it work many times. I …

How Planning for Failure Can Help Ensure You Don't Fail

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We all want things we're working on to be successful. Nobody ever plans to fail... but wait, planning for failure can be a useful exercise.
The term 'premortem' comes to us from the field of project management. According to the Harvard Business Review:
"A premortem is the hypothetical opposite of a postmortem. A postmortem in a medical setting allows health professionals and the family to learn what caused a patient’s death. [...] A premortem in a business setting comes at the beginning of a project rather than the end so that the project can be improved rather than autopsied."

Instead of considering what might go wrong, you 'pretend' your initiative has already failed. Then you brainstorm to come up with all the possible reasons for the failure. This gives you the perspective of hindsight, which works differently than foresight. And you can see that this also ties into risk.
A simple example might be when I decide to make a special offer. The obvious failure…

Too Many Items, Not Enough Action

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pivot - purge - plan - prepare - postpone
The P words are overtaking our business lives in recent months!
To make all those P's happen, we also have long to-do lists... longer now than usual. I know this because I've had chats with many small business owners over the past couple of months.
Long to-do lists can be very stressful! What I know for sure is that there is no particular solution that works for everyone. (But, oh my, if someone could figure that out, they'd get super rich!)
Change can suck - while doing the changing - even if we know our current practices leave a lot to be desired. It probably means trying different things and adapting new work habits. And habits are not easily broken; new ones are even harder to start.
There are thousands (millions?) of apps and systems that can help us but actually doing the tracking of action items usually becomes an action item in itself.
I'm not about to recommend something you should try... but I am going to give you something…

Working Alone Doesn't Have To Be Lonely

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Sometimes I take things for granted. For instance, while many have been adapting to working alone, I've been happy as a pig in sh*t. You might think this is because I've been working at home for 15 years, so I'm used to it. Sure, that's part of it. But... I don't always work alone even though I'm at home.
A recent comment in MyRevenueRoom reminded me that working at home has never been lonely for me. And it's because of the telephone.
One of my best friends lives in rural Saskatchewan. We used to work for the same company, me in Toronto and Danielle in Regina. Our 25-year friendship has always been based on phone calls.
Now we both do marketing work from home, sometimes collaborating, and we continue to talk (sometimes for hours) almost every day. And we're not just chit-chatting (although there's some of that) - we work together as if we share an office.
Danielle might say, "What do you think of this idea?" and I might say, "What if you …

Should You Be Concerned with SEO?

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Search engine optimization (SEO) has been low on my own priority list throughout the 15 years I've been marketing my own services. Yes, I freely admit I've been mostly ignoring it while doing just the basics.

This may seem like a blatant disregard for something that's portrayed more and more frequently as essential. It's actually been a strategic decision for my business... not an oversight. Why?

SEO is complicated, time-consuming and expensive. It's a skill I've never desired to acquire. It's technical and behind-the-scenes, whereas I like doing work that can be seen (and yes, sometimes admired). Hiring help for SEO would be a big expense.

The goal of SEO is generally to attract strangers. Over the years, I've wasted time with a few 'tire kickers'. Those are people who have stumbled across my website, know nothing about my experience or the quality of my work, and have focused on price comparisons. I have never competed on price - my pricing is …

Find Gems in Your Sent Mail

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Perhaps you're wondering, "What the heck am I going to write about this week?" Look no further than your Sent mailbox.

Over the past month or so, I've answered a lot of questions by email. I bet you have, too. Have you considered that, if one person has a question, many others likely have that same question?

Maybe you replied with a 'how-to' or an opinion or a bit of free advice. Maybe you supplied resources to help someone find their own answers. All of these gems can be turned into a blog post or a series of posts even.

If you're uncertain about reorganizing and rewriting your emailed messages, you might try a writing template from my Quick & Easy Content Creation Workbook. You'll be done in no time.

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Social-Media-Friendly Blogging

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You've just finished editing (and proofing!) your latest blog post. You pause for a mental happy dance, then you click Publish. Ahh.

And now the rest of the work starts. Because, of course, you need to let people know about this new useful and interesting article you've just laboured over.

You'll want to share your new article out on your social media feeds multiple times, especially when it's new, and then tapering off over the coming months. And to be efficient about it, you'll want to schedule all of those posts now.

So let's start writing the text for those social media posts. What will tease people into clicking and reading? (I'm not talking about lying; teasing is good marketing.)

You can write your teaser from scratch. But the fastest thing is to do is to copy text snippets directly from your blog post.

That is usually what I do for my own posts. And it's often when I realize I could have done a better writing job. I could have written an introd…

Newsletter Audit Checklist

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Whether you've been doing an email newsletter for a while or are just getting started, there are always ways to improve. Download our Newsletter Audit Checklist and use it to ensure both you and your readers get the most out of your email marketing efforts.

If you discover you'd like help with your email marketing efforts, fill out the Newsletter Planning worksheet here and book a call.

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The Biggest Mistake You Can Make in Your Small Business Newsletter

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It happened again today. I am blown away by how often I see this particular mistake.

I received an email newsletter from a business I wasn't familiar with. That's OK but I wanted to go to their website to investigate more. And there was not one link in that newsletter that went to their website!

Granted, there are times when you may not want to distract readers from another goal for your email. But a newsletter is definitely a place where you want to encourage click-throughs to your website.

There's a very direct correlation between the amount of text, the number of links available to click, and your click-rate - the more links, the more clicks.

There are many ways to insert links to your website into your small business newsletter. Here are a few suggestions.

Insert links behind images.

☺ Always insert a link to your Home page behind every iteration of your logo.
☺ If your photo appears in your newsletter, link it to your About page.
☺ Behind product/service images, link …

How to Start Building Your First Email List

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Like many things, list building seems pretty straight-forward... until you start. You may expect it to be tedious work of copy/pasting and spreadsheets and looking things up online. Yes, it likely involves some of that but I get asked a lot of questions about who and how.

Who can you add to your business email list? 
If you sell to consumers, you will need to request express consent to add contacts to your list who have not done business with you.

If you sell to business people, you can benefit from implied consent to build your initial list. There are three key requirements for implied consent:
1. The contact’s email address has been 'published conspicuously' and has no disclaimer that they do not accept commercial electronic messages.
2. The message you are sending is relevant to their job at the company they work for. (Example: You can email a university professor to sell her textbooks, but not clothes.)
3. There is an unsubscribe mechanism so the recipient can signal their …

Annoyed With All the COVID Emails? 3 Reasons to Communicate

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We're all getting inundated with COVID emails - yes - but I'm glad the companies I do business with are paying attention and communicating their plans. I need to know that my web host and other service providers are taking action to be able to continue to operate. I am glad that local restaurants (Finbars, for example) have staff volunteers willing to help those in need. I'm comforted to know that we're all paying attention.

During this time, most business owners are struggling with what to stop doing, what to start doing, and what to keep doing. Communication is more important now. Let's not stop but rather be mindful.

Here are 3 reasons why business owners need to keep communicating:

#1. To let your customers know you're running business-as-usual or... not. Many bricks-and-mortar businesses are closed, offering pick-up or delivery, or open for limited hours. Even people who work at home (like me) are susceptible to illness and need a back-up plan.

#2. To show …

What Are Your Small Business Blogging Goals?

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If your answer to the title of this post is "increase sales", you've got that part right. But you should also realize that there's no direct path from one to the other. You don't start a blog and immediately make more sales - although I sincerely wish it were so.

To help you stay focused on that path to increased sales, identifying a couple of content goals is essential. These are typical business blogging goals:

1. 'Touching' your customers, prospects and colleagues regularly
2. Building strong business relationships
3. Developing your reputation and sphere of influence
4. Sharing your valuable information, products, and services
5. Being seen as an expert
6. Growing your fans, followers and contact list
7. Keeping up with your competition
8. Increase website traffic via SEO

While you may think all of those things are desirable, they aren't all equally important to your business. The ones that are most important for you will depend on what type of b…

Try a Newsletter Full of Tidbits

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Tidbit is defined as "a small and particularly interesting item of gossip or information." (Just in case you're Canadian and were thinking about chocolate Timbits.)

The most successful newsletters I've seen are full of tidbits. A tidbit is short, delightful and easily digested (just like a Timbit). It makes the reader feel like they've instantly learned something. Or it tweaks their curiosity to want to know more about something. Or maybe it makes them laugh and lightens their day.

A newsletter full of tidbits also has a little something for everybody. A simple (and darn great) example of this is the newsletter I prep each month for the Nova Scotia SPCA - check out a recent newsletter issue here. Some pet owners only like dogs or only like cats - the newsletter as different articles about either or both. Some people are interested in pet health, others aren't. Some people want to read emotional success stories, others don't. Some shop at the SPCA Thrift S…

All of Your Words are Important

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But all of our marketing words are not important in every context. We have to pick and choose.

When I first started my business almost 15 years ago, I remember struggling with the distinction between features and benefits, and with talking about my potential clients' pain. Years later my collection of words and phrases has grown to include keywords, calls-to-action and testimonials. This month I've been working with The Phone Lady to develop a plan and process for prospecting... even more words!

It can be confusing to know... what are the best words to use when?

A website is a great example of seeing our words in action (or inaction as the case may be). It will contain features and benefits, pain points, broad and specific solutions, calls-to-action, keywords and testimonials. But we should never just toss them in somewhere and hope they'll work. Think alphabet soup.

We need to use our words appropriately to lead our visitors to take some action. It might be a small actio…