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Content Template - Share a Concept

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You just had an a-ha moment – by thinking, researching, reading, discussing, learning, teaching, experimenting, or problem-solving. And now you’re anxious to share that new insight with your readers who will also benefit from it.

Not sure how to organize your ideas and get writing? Download this content template to get going - and done - in no time.

Using content templates is sort of like filling in the blanks. Capture your ideas, organize them, and draft your article quickly. Want more templates? Click here to get the free Quick and Easy Content Creation workbook.

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Using Lists to Embrace Change

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Many small business owners didn't start their careers as small business owners. And the road each of us took to get here is quite different. But one thing is fairly common - we're finding ways to earn a living doing work we love. Often that means evolving and growing and changing.

My 'one word' for 2019 is EMBRACE. Admittedly, it hasn't been in my awareness much but two recent events brought it to the forefront. First, a Twitter friend asked if I'm succeeding. It gave me pause and moment to pat myself on the back - because I've been living it, even if subconsciously. A couple of days later I met with colleagues for some business development advice. Driving home afterward, I realized going through that process is also about embracing.
Oh, do I have lists! Creating them has been about embracing all the pieces of my business. Here are some of the lists that have helped me work through this business development process. You may find this list of lists useful, t…

What Would Your Hero Do?

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Survivor fans might remember WWMD - "What would Monica do?" - from Season 34 Game Changers. Brad Culpepper often reflected on what his wife Monica would do in a given situation. He considered Monica his hero as she had made it to the final tribal council on an earlier season. This introspection seemed to work as Brad also made it to the final tribal council.

Recently I wrote to a trusted colleague describing the help I want from her as "What would Alison do?" After all, Alison Knott is an expert at branding and that's exactly the kind of help I was writing to her about.

There are other heroes in my life - business and personal - whose advice I call upon often without their knowledge... by thinking, "What would *my hero* do?" I'm so fortunate to know and love them, to appreciate their expertise and learn from it.

Do your heroes guide your daily business activities? Do they shape your decision-making without even knowing? Now might be a good time to …

How to Work Effectively with Marketing Creatives

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Did you know that a third to a half of the total time spent working on marketing implementation projects is spent communicating with clients? That communication usually takes the form of informing, consulting, decision-making and tracking action items. Depending on the scope, it may also include educating and training. That's a lot of communication! And it may be why price quotes are higher than you expect.

Effective communication is absolutely essential to pulling off any marketing project successfully. Planning and budgeting for that communication are also essential.

You want to work with creatives who will guide you through the process without wasting your time or theirs, who will ask for feedback frequently, who will skillfully mine your ideas and apply them to the project.

I want to work with clients who aren't concerned with hurting my feelings, who will tell me when they don't like something. No one can solve a problem they don't know exists.

No one wins when mar…

We Can't Do It All So Let's Choose Wisely

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My good friend and business collaborator, Anita Kirkbride, has been doing keynotes recently about how to embrace being #flawsome. It's a hard lesson for someone like me with perfectionistic tendencies. But around mid-May, I made a conscious decision to let a few things suffer so that others could flourish.

Here's one of the things that suffered:

Fewer people read my blog. That tells me my own marketing is working when I'm maintaining it. I know exactly what happened: I wrote fewer posts and one of the scheduling apps I use conked out for 2 weeks. (Thank you, Google, for continuing to send readers.)

I decided to live with it because other things, like Social Media Day Halifax 2019, were more important. And yes, I felt a bit guilty because I teach this stuff and setting an example is important.

No one ever said running a small business is easy. Sometimes we have to make tough choices... and move on. And really, while seeing my blog readership increase instead of decrease is…

Doing What You Can Actually Accomplish Trumps Perfection

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Social Media Day Halifax 2019 was an amazing day of learning and networking. I've been spending hours on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram reliving the day through other people's posts... laughing, crying, and feeling the love. (Cue the angles... er... angels singing.)

There is so much I want to write about but, oddly enough, first I'm going to write about one of the sessions I didn't get to attend - Mike Tanner's Beyond The Mic: The Real Work of Podcasting. Here's the thing - Mike recorded his session and posted it to his podcast (the same day!)

Mike talks about starting a podcast in the same way I talk about starting a newsletter...

What's the best way?What do you want to do?What can you do?
Taking on too much can be a quick path to failure. If you can figure out how to fit it into your regular activities, you'll have more success. It's an important message for all of our small business activities. I encourage you to listen to Mike's podcast.

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Knowing When to Go

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Change is a wonderful thing - it keeps life interesting. It allows our businesses to evolve and do better. When we can plan and drive change successfully, it can be very rewarding.

Then there's the change that's forced on us. You know, like when your website hosting company goes belly up. Or your PC dies at an inconvenient time, precipitating an unplanned but long-thought-about change to Mac. Or when the bulk email application you've been using for 10 years keeps dumping functionality that you and your clients need. (OK that last one is me.)
Forced change is rarely pleasant and it's hard to get excited about how things will be better when we're buried in the work of making the change. And, of course, it never happens at a convenient time!
Managing risks can be complicated. I wish I had acted sooner. I'd like to think I'll learn from this experience and act sooner next time. Procrastination is sometimes convenient, and sometimes worthwhile, but certainly not…

Email is the Alternate to SEO

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What's a goal of business blogging that will never be a goal of email marketing? Search engine optimization (SEO), of course. For email, it's all about subject line optimization. (Is SLO a 'thing'?)

Crafting a compelling email subject line can achieve better and more immediate results than writing a whole blog post that is well optimized for SEO.

After 9 years, close to 600 blog posts, and several hundred email newsletters, here is what I know to be true: email beats blogging hands down for tangible and measurable results... faster.

Writing for your newsletter means writing for people, which is way more fun than writing for search engines, whether it's your blog or your whole website. You don't have to be concerned with tediously repeating keywords and phrases, for one thing.

Sure, your email newsletter may include your blog posts. And it should... because your newsletter will get people reading and clicking through to your website much faster than Google will…

Prioritizing Made Easier

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Every small business owner knows what it feels like to have a "million" things to do and nowhere near enough time. We are constantly prioritizing, sometimes deliberately and sometimes less consciously. During the past month, I've done a heck of a lot of prioritizing. Some of you may remember the old screensavers where raindrops would run down your screen. That feels like my calendar lately, all the tasks slipping later in the day.

Last week I needed to start some strategic planning and knew I needed to get focused fast. On-the-fly prioritizing wouldn't cut it. My marketing hero, Bernadette Jiwa read my mind and came to the rescue. I encourage you to read her article Always, Sometimes, Never for a simple approach to business planning. I hope it helps you as much as it's helped me at a time when a quick way to get focused was critical to making progress.
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originally published in the Work Better, Not Harder newsletter May 30, 2019

There's an Email Battle Brewing

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Email bots are coming. Now, your reaction might be "Ugh!" but mine was, "Yay!" And that's part of the challenge.

Here's another part: they are heaven-sent for spammers. Yes, that deserves an "Ugh!"

What I'm excited about are all the possibilities for improving productivity in our daily routines. As a simple example, I'm currently running an email bot to help me memorize a list of items. It "uses a spaced repetition algorithm to bring some piece of information to (my) attention at the optimum interval for memorization."

This coming battle between productivity and bad marketing practices will be epic. It will likely cause the reinvention of email communication. This new technology has such endless possibilities to improve our work (and our lives) but it's already being exploited by spammers. We won't be able to ignore its coming.

Email bots can chop through firewalls and other security measures, improving deliverability fo…

BE the Rabbit Hole

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You know when you've been online for a while - scrolling, reading, tapping - and then realize the time? We may feel good (because we learned something), bad (because something pushed a hot button), or indifferent (what level on HayDay?). Regardless, we still think of these times as getting lost down a rabbit hole.
According to Wikipedia, "Down the rabbit hole" is a metaphor for an entry into the unknown, the disorienting or the mentally deranging, from Alice in Wonderland. Those words may be a bit extreme for our online adventures but the sentiment holds.

In class this week, we were reviewing the homework assignment which was to research and sign up for relevant newsletters. One participant said she kept ending up down rabbit holes. Then she looked up and said, "I guess we really want to BE the rabbit hole, right?" Thank you, Cecelia, for that insight!

Content marketing is something I've been preaching about since before it was called that. I've talked…

What's Your Value Proposition? Really.

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The words that make my heart sing are only sometimes the same words that make my potential clients' hearts sing. And I've learned that I can be quite wrong about what I think is the value I bring to each relationship. For instance, nagging can be a competitive advantage... but I certainly never planned to be a nagger.

Part of starting and growing any business is defining our 'value proposition'. Talk about trying to hit a moving target! The longer you're in business and developing your expertise, the more different types of value you'll have to draw on... and offer to others. A big inventory of value propositions!

What little pieces of feedback (formal or subtle) do you receive every day that can help to shape a new value proposition based on people's needs... instead of what you think? What problems do your customers and prospects wish you could solve for them? I'm going to start an inventory... will you join me in this experiment?

My first thought was…

Blogging and Strategic Planning Shake Hands Over a Template

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Can you agree that's a subject line you don't see every day? Yet it describes something that happens frequently in small business - the mingling of ideas, processes and tools.

One of the templates in my Quick and Easy Content Creation workbook is called "The Laws". I was delighted to recently discover that Megann Willson of Panoptika Inc. used this template to write an article about strategic planning. In essence, she used "The Laws" template as an outlining tool to create a useful strategic planning article that is sort of like a template for success for me - and you - and all her readers. (Thanks Megann!)

Read Megann's article on LinkedIn here.

Download the Quick and Easy Content Creation workbook with "The Laws" plus 9 more templates here.

What "laws" will you write about?

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Email Marketing 101

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Starting an email newsletter isn't especially difficult if you have a propensity for apps and design. You could start tonight and send tomorrow if you really want to. BUT developing and implementing an email marketing strategy that will serve your business - and your readers - well for the long term requires thought, research and decision-making before touching an app.

This month while preparing to teach a 10-week course on email marketing, I've been updating presentations first created 10 years ago. It's been eye-opening to realize how much has changed. Email remains one of the most effective ways to communicate with our target markets. The tools have become more user-friendly but the strategy part has become more complex. It's no longer as easy as it once was to get the attention of new contacts via email - there's a lot more competition in the inbox.

Over the past month or so I've focused on email marketing strategy. Even if you're not getting started, …

Email Marketing Best Practices: It Depends...

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You've finally decided to start doing some email marketing for your small business. There are lots of things you know you need to consider and lots of things you don't know about yet. But you're game and, having finally made the decision, you hop online to do a little research. Because, of course, we can find all the answers to life's mysteries on Google.

You'll quickly find this challenging for two reasons.
There's both good advice and bad advice. Some of the advice online comes from people who are writing from experience but a lot doesn't. Some of it has simply been researched online and rehashed. I could go on and on about the myth of double opt-in.Even if you are learning from experienced marketers, there's always the caveat - 'it depends'. I find myself saying that often when teaching because - really - there is no magic bullet or secret formula. You need to know what it depends on. There are some email marketing best practices that would a…