September 14, 2017

Start Using This Today: Client Relationship Check-in Checklist


(guest post by Natasha Marchewka)

Life is good as a freelancer or small business owner. No one to answer to, but our own clients, of course. No one breathing down our necks to make sure we’ve done THEIR job correctly. We get to “do it all” ourselves.

Autonomy. It’s a freedom we’ve longed for... And now, we get to “do it all” ourselves. Sales, inbound and outbound marketing, bookkeeping, client management, admin, social media... oh, and that part about providing a product or service... We have to do what we do best and a bunch of stuff we, maybe, don’t do that well. So, we hire out when possible. (Thank you @daleyprogress!)

In the process of putting the pieces together of my own business as a voice actor, I’ve managed to figure out how to do a lot of things on my own. On top of it all, I work at documenting everything because I happen to be a list maker. And as I dig deeper and deeper to give back to the world, I’ve discovered not everyone IS a list maker, and most people can use help in that area.

So, I'm sharing one of my lists with you - ideas to build a tighter relationship with existing clients:

Client Relationship Check-in Checklist


Ø Check a client’s website for their social media icons – follow all, or follow new ones they’ve recently added.
Ø Check client’s social media fees and share one of their relevant or remarkable posts.
Ø Check out, comment on, or share any blog posts the client may have published.
Ø Google the client’s business name, and personal name, to research and congratulate them on any recent successes.
Ø Sign up for the client’s newsletter, if you haven’t already.
Ø Email your client on the anniversary of your first job together with a nice note.
Ø Send general gratitude postcard mid-year, “Thank you for keeping me in mind...”
Ø Send a small gift, or card, at year end.

Save this checklist! Enlarge the image below or right-click to save.






You can sign up for Natasha's Master VO TO DO List here.

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September 8, 2017

Design Colour Trends for Spring 2018

excerpt from Pantone's NY Fashion Week Spring 2018

We're just getting back to serious work after summer vacations and the design world is already thinking about spring. I like what I see but then I'm a sucker for bright colours. You'll find these used online next year, too, not just in clothing stores.

Pantone says:
The Spring 2018 palette encourages a sense of fun and playful release. With an air of complexity and distinctiveness, we find ourselves in a sanctuary of color that is ideal for some more unique and dramatic color mixing.

Click here to see all 12 colours in the Spring 2018 Collection on Pantone's website.

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September 2, 2017

Complex to Simple: Images for Social Media Posts

Rocket Science Version

The sizing of images for the various social marketing platforms, post types, and headers is becoming a bit complex. In fact, it would be a very practical way to teach equivalent fractions and geometry in Grade 9. But if you're long out of school and want all the details, get them on Twirp's Cheat Sheet: The ONLY social media image sizes you need to know.

Squares and Rectangles

The diagram below shows a very simplified rule of thumb for matching image shapes to social media posts on common platforms.


Size Matters

While bigger is better, it often means a larger file size and then icky compression stuff happens and... well, you've probably seen it on other people's feeds. I suggest your squares be a minimum of 600px by 600px; and 1200px by 1200px is about the largest you'll need. For rectangles, use minimum 600px by 300px, or maximum 1200px by 600px.

If you don't even want to consider making your own social media graphics, here's a cost effective solution. Don't pay for a graphics app - just get the graphics instead.

originally published in Work Better, Not Harder newsletter August 31, 2017

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August 31, 2017

Best Beginner Business Blogging Advice


If you're planning to begin blogging for your business, I'd like to shorten your learning curve. Because, oh boy, do you ever have lots to learn.

The good news is that you don't need to know it all before you start, and learning as you go is fun. I asked a couple of award-winning business bloggers to give me their best advice for beginners so I can pass it onto you.

Mary Jane Copps, aka The Phone Lady, has been blogging weekly for her business since 2009. Here's what she says:
1. Embrace a schedule. While it feels daunting to commit to a daily, weekly or monthly blog, staying true to a posting schedule will make you a better writer, and you will develop the ability to create and uncover great story ideas.
2. Be observant; write it down. No matter what the theme of your blog, things will appear in your life each day that can become a post. Stay present to every phone call, meeting and event. Great content is everywhere. But don't rely on your memory; keeping notes is essential.

Anita Kirkbride of Twirp Communications, blogging about social media marketing since 2011, had something different to say:
Think about what your ideal customer would be typing into a Google search. Make that the focus of your blog posts. Maybe even make that your headline. Use the keywords and phrases that your ideal customer will use, not the ones you wish they would use. Get them to your site first and then educate them on how to speak your language. If you're speaking a different language on your site, they may never find you in the first place.

What do I think? I'm glad I asked them first.

My own advice for beginners is a little leaner:
Just start! You can erase and start again. And you won't know what you don't know till you start.

originally published in Work Better, Not Harder newsletter August 31, 2017

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August 26, 2017

An Image Tool You Don't Know You Need


Sitting in the home office of a friend last year, she mentioned she would love to find a particular photo to use on her new website. She unpinned a much-handled postcard from her bulletin board and passed it to me. The black and white photo on the front was of a young girl on a beach in a very specific pose. We spent a half hour doing intricate searches on photo sites before it became obvious we weren't going to find it easily.

Debi snapped a photo of the postcard and emailed it to me. Once back at my desk, I discovered TinEye reverse image search and was amazed when the search identified where I could buy the photo... in colour. I felt that my first use was a pretty darn good test - a battered black and white postcard, photographed with a phone in poor light.

I filed away my knowledge of this little tool for when it might be needed in a similar situation. I'd be able to come to the rescue again.

Then someone else told me about this great tool called TinEye - for a completely different marketing reason. See, TinEye tells you everywhere you can find that photo being used on the internet, not only where you can buy it.

If you have just picked out the main image for your next marketing campaign or book cover, it would be very useful to know if it's already being used by 62,451 other people. TinEye can tell you that. If being unique is part of your brand, bookmark TinEye. (And hey, it's made with love in Canada.)

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August 22, 2017

Back to the Grind Content Ideas


As you get back to your routine after summer’s break, remember there are lots of ways to make the return to school and work useful to your small business content marketing plans.

Back to School

Stress and excitement go hand in hand for many families as they prepare for the start of a new school year. You have many opportunities to give every family member value in the form of organization tips, tools, worksheets, checklists, shopping lists, how-to’s, recipes and much more. Plus, think ahead and start planning your marketing messaging for all of those upcoming school related activities, like sporting events, exam schedules and school breaks. Teachers are an important segment of this market; don’t forget them!

Back to the Grind

Summer vacation is over and businesses are gearing up for that last big push before year end. Business people are looking for productivity and project management techniques and tools to help them meet their annual goals. And it’s not just kids going back to school; adults are looking for learning opportunities, and organizations are looking to use up their training budgets. Can your business fill some of these needs with either free or paid content?

Many in the small business community think of September as the start of a new year. Kick it off with killer content in your newsletter or on your blog to help your fans get back to their routines and to work on achieving their goals.

August 12, 2017

When is a Discount a Gift?


If you give someone a $25 giftcard to a shop where the lowest priced item is $50, is it a gift?

What if a complete stranger gifts you 50% off the price of a conference ticket? Is that a gift?

The headline said: Our Gift to You: A Special Discount for Generators Summit. When I followed the link in the email to get my gift, I was taken to an Eventbrite ticket purchase page. Currently I can get the early bird price. What a generous gift... not.

Usually I would tweet or otherwise share information about such an interesting event, even if I won't attend. This particular event is actually getting a whole blog post.

Be aware of the perceptions of people opening your emails or clicking on your links. Using the word 'gift' in any marketing context is tricky because it mixes up social values with economic values. Just because others do it, doesn't mean it's right (for you).

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August 7, 2017

How to Get More Likes, Comments and Shares


You've been in business many years, perhaps even back before social media came on the scene. You're an expert at something that isn't creating social media graphics. Yet you know how important it is to share engaging visual messages on your business social media feeds every day.

That's where BeeSeen.Online comes in - ready-made social media images to instantly start a buzz on your feeds. Simply download, brand and post.

If you've been looking for a way to maintain engaging content on your feeds while saving time, BeeSeen.Online is for your small business.

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July 29, 2017

Do You Need an Editorial Calendar?


An editorial calendar makes it easy for people to work together, helping them follow a plan.

What if there's only you in your business? Does it make sense to create an editorial calendar? Absolutely, but for different reasons.

If your plan is in your head, writing it out will reduce stress - now you don't have to remember it. Handwriting activates the creative part of your brain and your memory. More importantly, having a plan will prep your brain to be on the lookout for appropriate content.

You can use fancy spreadsheets, or find a detailed editorial calendar online. You can use coloured file cards, sheets of paper, or a whiteboard. The most important thing is that it works for y-o-u. It doesn't have to be like anyone else's editorial calendar.

Of course, before you create an editorial calendar, you need to generate a bunch of content ideas.

If you are like me, your content ideas may not be well organized. Creating an editorial calendar forces you to create organization among the chaos (another benefit).

Here are three suggestions for creating your editorial calendar. These are simple and easily customized (even combined) to work for any small business owner who doesn't need a super fancy system for managing content plans.

#1. Big Picture View (whiteboard)

This is my preferred planning tool. It's very fast and keeps my plan top of mind as it's propped by my desk. I use two sheets of white corrugated plastic (backs of old transit signs). One is my active editorial calendar, reaching out for 6 months. The second becomes my active calendar as time goes on and plans change.

#2. Monthly or Weekly View (paper)

Another simple method - you already have everything you need at your desk. Use sheets of (coloured) paper, one for each month or week, as you prefer to plan. Transfer your content ideas from your idea catcher to your sheets on a regular schedule, perhaps once a week. Keep these sheets in a folder on your desk, or pinned up side-by-side near your desk. The more in-your-face, the better.

#3. Flexible View (file cards)

If you've read any of Sue Grafton's mysteries, you know her private investigator Kinsey Millhone uses file cards to organize clues and generate new leads. Put all your content ideas on separate (coloured) file cards; this makes it easy to add inspiration as it comes to you. To organize your ideas, grab some (coloured) envelopes and label them by month/week, or whatever works for you. Sort your file cards into the envelopes, or use elastic bands and tags. As a bonus, these cards are mobile-friendly; throw them in your briefcase and review while waiting for your first coffee meeting. Carry around a few blanks for those ideas that hit you on the fly. To change your perspective, shuffle the cards as Kinsey does.

The only way to make an editorial calendar work best for you is to try it, and revise. Start somewhere. Make sure it is easily accessed, visual and tactile. Use stickers and highlighting to spark inspiration!

originally published in Work Better, Not Harder newsletter July 27, 2017

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July 24, 2017

Storage for Great Ideas - Back of Book (BOB)


Do you often flip to the back page of your notebook to jot down content ideas? If not, start!

When I'm teaching small business classes about online marketing, I insist they start a page in the back of their notebooks for jotting down ideas for blog or social media posts. This page will extend beyond one, but it's the start of something great. BOB (for back of book) becomes a new friend... your idea catcher.

When you are looking for something to write about or post, check your BOB for ideas.

July 18, 2017

Quick Prep for Business Phone Calls


Imagine this happened to you earlier today...

You chatted on the phone for two hours with one of your favourite customers. You both laughed a lot and enjoyed catching up. It had been a while since you had a relaxed conversation with her. You're smiling as you hang up the phone.

Then reality strikes. A quick check of the time and your to-do list confirms you've lost control of your day. Your smile fades. You aren't feeling as cheery as you did a few minutes before. Now you'll have to hustle and compromise the rest of the day.

And that's not the worst impact. Your favourite customer is in exactly the same situation. She hung up smiling, too, but quickly realized the impact on her day. (I suspect this story may ring true for some of my customers.)

Here are a couple of things I try to remember to do so a friendly chat doesn't go too far off track:

  1. Jot down on paper a short list of points to cover during the call. I can use it as a reminder to bring the focus back to business.
  2. Ask up front how much time is available. Does the other person have time to chat, or should we get right down to business?

No doubt about it, I love to chat. That's why it's important to remember how it can impact my own and others' time. Please share more tips in the comments.

(Yes, Mary Jane, I'm sharing a phone tip!)

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July 13, 2017

One Little Word Can Go A Long Way


It's 2pm on a Thursday afternoon. I've been out all morning and discover urgent requests from two different customers as soon as I'm back at my desk. I already have a full plate for the afternoon and immediately realize I'm not going to be able to help both customers. I have to pick one over the other. Who do I pick?

The one who always says "Thanks!" It's a no-brainer.

Manners and respect will never go out of style. And they absolutely give you a one-up over those lacking... in business and in life.

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July 8, 2017

How to Get People to Open Your Emails


How long did you think about the subject line of that email you just sent to your brand new client? Will they be interested or excited to open it? Or will they leave it sitting unopened, floating closer to the bottom of their inbox?

I've discovered a little quirk. In fact, it feels more like a secret I shouldn't acknowledge, maybe even a tad manipulative. It didn't start out that way but now I know what I know... well, I can't un-know it.

Here it is. If I send an email to any of my work friends with the words 'no rush' in the subject line, it's likely to get opened faster than any other email I send them.

Of course, this may not work any longer once my friends read this article. But let me be clear, I've never used that knowledge to manipulate. And that's why it works. When I send an email with 'no rush' in the subject line, I really mean there's nothing inside requiring their attention soon. Usually it's a business idea in some form or other, thoughts that percolated while I worked.

From their perspective, perhaps something that's not a rush sounds more interesting than something that is. Putting the potential for reverse psychology aside, there's more than one lesson here.

First, it seems that over time I've figured out an effective way to communicate ideas to my confederates.

Second, and much more important, we can all do this with every email we send. I'm not talking about manipulating people. This is about building (dare I say) best practices over time that work efficiently for us and the people we communicate with most.

In the example above, I used the words 'no rush' in my subject line to make a distinction about the content of the email. Words aren't our only tool. We have all used urgent or privacy flags in email. And even formatting options, like ALL CAPS or exclamation marks - but discerningly!

We can all make our subject lines more useful. And we have easy tools to help us do that. This will mean less time spent in our inboxes and less of the accompanying stress. I'm going to more actively step up to the challenge starting now. Join me?

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July 2, 2017

Ready-made Social Media Images Coming Soon


You know how you can sometimes be a sucker for striking photos, bold fonts and maybe even cute kitties on your social media feeds? You aren't the only one!

Having a visual presence is an important part of your small business marketing. Not only that but it also needs to stand out from everyone else who's trying to stand out from everyone else.

The thing is, not every small business owner has the skill to create their own graphics. Many have no desire to learn, and rightfully so. Yet the once-and-done nature of social media graphics makes it prohibitive to hire a designer.

Knowing this, we've embarked on a new adventure launching early August 2017. It's a subscription service for busy small business owners to easily get themed bundles of engaging social media graphics. Easily add your logo and website to increase your brand awareness on social media with fresh content that looks like it was custom-made for you.

Want to win a year's worth of ready-made social media graphics? Click here to enter.

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June 27, 2017

Behavioural Economics and Small Business Marketing​


After spending my adult life thinking I'm a mostly logical person (and being not so secretly proud of it), I just found out I'm not. And apparently the fact that I think I am is a little irrational.

You might think I'd be a little sad to discover this but I'm actually thrilled. A whole new perspective on marketing just opened up because Dan Ariely told me we're all Predictably Irrational.

Don't let behavioural economics scare you off. This book is insightful and funny, and a fairly quick read (because I couldn't put it down). I learned a marketing lesson in the first chapter that is so improbable... well, you'll have to see for yourself. It's powerful stuff and I recommend it highly.

originally published in Work Better, Not Harder newsletter June 27, 2017

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