26 March 2015

People DO Sign Up for Newsletters

“Nobody signs up for newsletters anymore!” I heard as I sat in the audience during an Infusionsoft presentation. I gritted my teeth. The presenter went on to say that newsletters are all about what’s happening with the company and have no value. A filling popped out. I kept my mouth shut till I could get home to my keyboard. Here's why...

I was chatting with a new client recently and asked her if she had a chance to look at the newsletter examples in my online gallery. She told me she had actually signed up for several of them. This is just one example that shows people still want interesting and useful information delivered to their inbox.

People say YES to value. When they know you deliver value on a regular basis, they'll sign up because they won't want to miss it. In fact, stats say that 1 in 5 people actively seek out and sign up for newsletters to get the information they want.

Creating that perception of value happens over time as you consistently meet readers’ expectations. And that presenter was right about one thing: it doesn't happen when all you talk about is yourself and your company news. So don't do that.

23 March 2015

Using that 3-Letter Word in eMail

If you've ever tried to send a newsletter with the word 'sex' in it, you'll know that spam checkers don't like it. Likewise they don't like 'ass'. Or 'financial' and 'freedom' anywhere near each other. Or many swear words.

Sometimes this can be a challenge when talking about certain topics. For example, I've had to change the word 'sex' to 'gender', and another time to 'sexual'.

But what do you do when 'kick ass' is exactly the right message you want to send? It doesn't have to be a show stopper. Find some creative way around it.

Here's an example. Debi at New Life Business Solutions sent me her content with the subject line filled in as "Need a kick in the ass?" It had to change. The alternative was "Need a kick in the posterior area?" Hardly catchy, but maybe intriguing. I tried to make up for it inside.

view full email message

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19 March 2015

Your Subject Line should Signal Your Intentions

You might think it’s a good idea to use a subject line that will make people curious about what’s inside the email - a teaser. That tactic can work well if the sender is familiar. But generally, if that’s the case, there’s no need to trick people into opening. And, if that isn't the case, there better be something really amazing within the email or your reader will feel duped - not a good thing!

Instead, consider a subject line that clearly signals what’s within. When people know what they will get and it’s relevant to them, they'll open. If it’s not relevant, they can ignore, and ignoring is much better than unsubscribing.

Consider this example: Among the many emails in my inbox every day, I found one from my local pub with the subject line ‘Open me. I’m Irish!’ The combination of the sender and the subject line meant I immediately knew they're writing to tell me about what was going on for St. Patrick’s Day, perhaps food specials and entertainment.
  1. If I was planning to go out and celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, I'd open it right away.
  2. If I wasn't, I'd delete it without opening it. I’m not interested in St. Patrick’s Day, but when the summer patio specials start, I want to know.
  3. And, if I wasn't sure, I'd probably leave it in my inbox for a couple of days as a reminder.
I could make all those decisions without opening the email, which saved me time.

Not every newsletter or marketing message you send will be relevant to every subscriber. Make it easy for them to know. Saving people time is a valuable thing and this strategy also grows trust.

15 March 2015

Let them Unsubscribe if they don't want your Stuff

Recently the first fine was handed down from the CRTC for violations of the new Canadian Anti Spam Legislation (CASL). The abuse had two parts:
  1. having no unsubscribe function
  2. content not relevant to those receiving it
Those two parts go hand-in-hand. If you have an unsubscribe function, subscribers can easily signal that the content isn't relevant. (Tweet This!) And that's likely the only step they'll take.

This is a relatively easy solution to a risky situation. Reputable bulk email service providers (ESPs) are not that costly to use. It also sends a message to your subscribers that you care about their opinions and are willing to pay for them.

If you make unsubscribing easy, it will be a non-experience rather than a bad one - for both you and the subscriber.

photo by 28 Dreams / Flickr

Tweet: Let them Unsubscribe if they don't want your Stuff http://ctt.ec/7z5xg+ via @DaleyProgress

11 March 2015

Creative Domain Names

I've been thinking recently that launching businesses are likely having difficulty getting their desired domain name or even something partway relevant. It makes me happy to have my own little stash of domain names.

I'll always recommend buying a .com domain, and a .ca domain would be your second choice if you're in Canada. The short, snappy, relevant domain names are mostly all snatched up. I know because I'm often searching for domains for clients or event promotion.

If you're unfortunate to be stuck with very limited options, you might instead opt for a domain name that's more memorable, if perhaps not so easy to guess. The first round of new domain extensions are already live, and more will be launching - in fact, 243 of them!

Here's what's trending for March 2015: (source: Netfirms)
  1. .space
  2. .website
  3. .nyc
  4. .club
  5. .ninja
  6. .solutions
  7. .photo
  8. .global
  9. .buzz
  10. .guide

Aside from choice and variety, there's fun to be had, too. How about head.space or illtakeyour.photo or wehave.solutions? Granted, some of them are costly, but not all. And you can pay a fee to reserve a domain name you want, but isn't available yet.

05 March 2015

When are you Reading This?

One question I get asked a lot is, “When is the best time to send my newsletter?” If the person asking has an hour or so, we might chat about how it can depend on a lot of things about their business, strategy and target market.

Then I might tell them about the overall industry statistics. But really, do you pick Tuesday because it’s half a percent better than Monday? That will only make a difference if you have thousands of subscribers.

Consider your own email habits. How do you vet that backlog of emails you find on Monday morning? Keep in mind that, if you aren't part of your target market, your habits will vary from your subscribers’ habits. Don't project your own judgments onto your readership.

Ideally you want your newsletter to arrive when your subscriber is using their email. And when they read is often dictated by where they read - at home, at work, or out and about.

So, the answer is simple: figure out when your subscribers are using their email and send your newsletter then. The implementation is not so simple, but it may not be such a wild guess in some cases. There are industries and professions where you can pin down specific times to find subscribers at their desks. Perhaps you don't have this luxury, so survey people in your target market, formally or informally.

Are you a small business owner reading this post in your email? What day and time is it? And are you mobile or at your desk? Hit reply and let me know!

27 February 2015

A Different Name for Conversation

I've had people look at me a little oddly when I say that a newsletter is a great way to build relationships and start conversations. That's because a newsletter is often thought of as one-way communication - a broadcast, like a newspaper.

I find myself at a bit of a loss when it comes to describing what I mean, even though I've seen it happen countless times. This quote I found recently on Twitter sums it up nicely:

Writing, when properly managed, is but a different name for conversation.
- Laurence Sterne

There is a way of writing that connects with your readers and draws them in. You can tell when you're achieving this by the replies you get after your newsletter goes out. That is the start of the conversation and then it's up to you to keep it going.

photo by Ed Yourdon / Flickr

Tweet: A Different Name for Conversation http://ctt.ec/0fY0f+ via @DaleyProgress

23 February 2015

Guest Post: Designed for Success

Melanie's newsletter
The thought of designing a newsletter for a designer was a little daunting, but I jumped at the opportunity when Melanie Orr of Interiors by Melanie first approached me. I recently asked her to tell me how it's helping her small business and this is what she wrote...
My newsletter guru, Linda Daley, recently pointed out that I've passed my three year anniversary of sending out my online newsletter. I hardly believed it, yet I know why I have been successful with this strategy: it has been such an easy and enjoyable monthly endeavour. It is also a very effective way to stay in touch with clients and reach out to new potential clients.
My newsletter is the one strategy I am consistent with and do without fail. Linda schedules my issues for the year in advance and, because I have promised someone other than myself, I meet this schedule. This in turn ensures regular posting on media platforms, on my own blog, and updates to my website, as I share the newsletter. I’m always busy, and often don’t get to that post or blog I intended to do, but I always get my newsletter written.
Every issue brings comments and business from readers. That’s an amazing return on my time and investment.
Linda and her team are wonderful. It takes me about half a day each month to write the content and choose pictures to insert, and they do the rest to make it user friendly, easy to read, and beautiful. Then they send it out to my list of contacts and onto my social media platforms. It’s easy to add and remove contacts, and I can access analytics, such as how many are reading a particular issue.
As a professional in the home décor business, I believe it is critical that my newsletter reflect an understanding of great design. I like to have input into how the newsletter looks; Linda is more than qualified to do this yet supports my interference when I get a new idea. I love that she will change the whole layout occasionally when I get the urge.
When Linda gives me the schedule for the upcoming year, I pencil in ideas for each issue. Colours and styles change every year and I help keep my readers abreast of what’s trending. Decorating for holidays is fun, and spring is a big time for home selling so staging ideas are important. Maybe I have a trip planned to another part of the world where I can discover new decorating ideas, or I’m scheduled to speak at an event which my readers would find interesting. The description of a particular staging or decorating job may be a perfect way to share tips and tools. Anything happening in the news which is design related can trigger an article. The more you think about it, the more possible topics there are. Readers are encouraged to let me know if there are topics or questions they would like to see addressed. I keep a file with topics for newsletters and blogs, and I tuck in testimonials, too, so they are handy when I need one.

Interiors by Melanie has been serving the décor and staging needs of the Halifax area since 2004. Melanie can be reached at 902-223-3237 or online at interiorsbymelanie.com.

Tweet: Guest Post: Designed for Success http://ctt.ec/1ear9+ via @DaleyProgress

19 February 2015

Can't Write? Try Research

I've heard a lot of small business owners say they can’t publish a blog or newsletter because they can’t write. I think you don’t know till you try, but let’s say that’s a valid reason. There are still ways to create content on a regular basis without writing articles. One of those is researching and compiling information that’s valuable to your target market.

Valuable compilations need not be lengthy or onerous to assemble. BUT they should be two things: interesting and useful. Plus funny - funny is good, but humour in email can be tricky. Use it with care. These compilations can be factual, but don’t need to be. Instead they can represent your opinion.

Here are some examples, in this case for a target market of small business owners in Nova Scotia. You can use these ideas as a jumping off point for creating your own lists of valuable content for your target market.

  • Top 10 Coffee Shops for Business Meetings in Halifax
  • 15 Most Useful Apps for Small Business Owners
  • Networking Groups in Halifax
  • Upcoming Small Business Events
  • 5 Best Blogs for Small Business
  • 10 Facebook Pages to Like for Business Tips
  • Follow these 12 Local Tweeters for Community Info
  • 8 Options for Ordering Business Cards
  • Best Places to Hold a Workshop in Halifax
  • How to Advertise at the Airport
  • Where to get Funding for Professional Development
  • 10 Best Marketing Books
  • New Housing/Commercial Developments in the Halifax Area
  • 3 Best Places to Buy a Domain Name
  • A Complete List of Conference Centres in Nova Scotia

A successful newsletter doesn’t necessarily require writing articles. A different approach might be just what your target market wants.

photo by therealrealjd / Flickr
originally published Work Better, Not Harder February 19, 2015

Tweet: Can't Write? Try Research http://ctt.ec/XcgFa+ via @DaleyProgress

Think About Your Reader

I advocate reading what you share but, to save time, I have a short list of experts that I share without reading first. They are experts I have vetted and trust. For the most part, they have the same philosophy that I do. One of the experts on my list was a bulk email software company that shares great statistics, infographics and a few good tips.

I received an email from them that had an awesome download full of updated email statistics. I was immediately excited to have something to share quickly. Ooops. No sharing buttons in the email - which meant I did not share it. I went on to the next email. I can't afford to get distracted from my inbox. I went from excitement about sharing their content, to not sharing it at all. In 10 seconds.

Later, I came back to that email and clicked through to their website. My intent was to follow them on social media to easily share their content that way. It took me far too long to find their buried social media links and when I did, there were no social media connection links. I could Like or Tweet, but not click through to their profiles to browse, like and follow. Suddenly, they didn't seem so expert anymore. That change of heart took 20 seconds.

The result was that I removed them from my list of experts I share without reading first. They went from sending me something I was excited to share to being removed from my list of experts with one email, in 30 seconds.

I've said it many times. Think about your reader before you publish any content. Why are they reading? What is keeping them engaged with you? What do they expect from you? A single email can change everything from your reader's perspective.

Yes, I made a too quick, too harsh judgment, but the result affects the quality of my content. My reputation rides on my content. And the truth is, making sharing easy is basic email marketing. If they were experts, they would know that.

originally published Work Better, Not Harder February 19, 2015

Tweet: Think About Your Reader http://ctt.ec/s6eUh+ via @DaleyProgress

12 February 2015

eMail Marketing for Business Networking Associations

Business networking groups are in a unique position to grow their subscriber list exponentially faster than many other organizations. This also means they're in a fine position to benefit from providing useful and interesting content to their subscribers. Unfortunately this opportunity is often wasted.

A networking group will benefit from building a mailing list and sending out a regular newsletter because:
  • It reminds subscribers of upcoming meetings and agendas.
  • It encourages non-members to attend as guests.
  • It can market the benefits of membership to non-members.
  • It’s a way of staying top-of-mind within the association’s community.
  • It provides a way to promote and seek sponsors for big events, like annual fundraisers.
  • Creating valuable content is relatively easy.
On top of all this, associations can make use of a private list to communicate with members about members-only information.

07 February 2015

What's best when... Phone vs. eMail

Over coffee at Starbucks last summer, Mary Jane Copps, The Phone Lady, and I were chatting about the benefits of using the phone versus email for business communication. We decided to take our debate to the public.

In September, we announced that comedian Lianne Perry would be our MC for the live debate scheduled for November 5, 2014, at the Westin Hotel in Halifax. We launched a website, online votes started to tally, and ticket sales began.

Mary Jane and I took the debate online with articles on our blogs. Mary Jane started with her blog post When You Say "Hmmmm". "When reading an email, if at any point you go “Hmmm, I wonder what they mean by that?” ...pick up the phone!" (Click to Tweet this!)

I continued the debate with 7 Tips for Communicating Details by eMail, one of the big benefits of email over the phone. Next I wrote about The Speed of eMail. "If you need to reach a lot of people fast and at the same time, email is definitely the medium of choice." (Click to Tweet this!)

In Are You Being Received? Mary Jane wrote, "When you send email to someone you've never corresponded with before, or rarely correspond with, the odds are against you in terms of them:  1) receiving it and/or 2) reviewing it."

At one point, Mary Jane even tried to intimidate me by revealing her own past debating experience!

As the results of the online voting started to trend, Mary Jane and I both agreed that they were quite surprising! What we didn't tell anyone beforehand was that the phone was leading right from the start, and the gap continued to grow. Our sold-out event was fun and challenging... a success! The telephone won both the online and live votes. Click here for a recap of the event.

We developed an infograph to illustrate that choosing your mode of communication is often critical. This is our best advice on what's best in some common situations:

click to enlarge

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03 February 2015

Selling your Newsletter on Social Media

Once you've started your mailing list and are working to turn subscribers into fans, don't stop selling your newsletter. You'll lose about 30% of your subscribers over a year, so continuing to build your list is important.

One way to encourage sign-ups is on your social media accounts and profiles. "Please sign up!" doesn't cut it. You need a compelling call to action. Here's a great example I found on Twitter from my friend and organizing guru Jane Veldhoven.

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31 January 2015

List Building Strategies for Networking Associations

Networking groups usually get their work done by volunteer members, and those roles change frequently, so maintaining a consistent list building process is a challenge. Here are some simple recommendations to make sure you don't lose focus on this key membership building strategy. Growing your list means growing your membership.

Have a sign-up form on your group’s website or blog. This is a must!

Make list building a regular part of every meeting. Here are some ways to do that so members can easily take turns.
  • Use technology and do it ‘live’. Bring up the sign-up form on someone’s phone or tablet and pass it to visitors to enter their email address.
  • At a point in each meeting, direct visitors to pull out their phones and guide them to your website to sign themselves up.
  • Collect business cards and have one person enter the email addresses during or after the meeting.
Don’t forget to get new members to sign themselves up, or do it for them.

Read this blog post for some content ideas for your networking association's newsletter.

27 January 2015

Are You Paying Attention?

“Where attention goes, energy flows.”
- James Redfield

I've been reminded of this quote lately because my attention has been wandering. That’s not to say energy isn't flowing – it’s just flowing off in several directions.

When we think about getting things done, crossing things off, and making progress, we're usually considering concrete things like action items or task lists. There’s another side though. Just by paying attention to something, we are creating inspiration, motivation, and keeping momentum.

Here’s the example that brought the quote to mind. For most of last year I was in the habit of checking my blog stats before logging off for the night. In the past 3 months, I’ve not been so regular. Recently I went 3 weeks without looking. And my pageviews have dropped.

I’m not trying to say that just by looking at my stats I was somehow magically drawing people to my blog – although that would be nice. But here’s what was happening...

First, I was paying attention to what people seemed to be interested in. That often prompted ideas for follow-up posts. This gave me inspiration, resulting in more articles my readers wanted to read.

Second, seeing that over a thousand people were reading my blog every week gave me motivation. It felt good to know people were interested. I wanted to keep them interested and coming back. Which drove me to be consistent.

Third, because I was so aware of my stats, I felt challenged to continue to improve on them. That gave me momentum.

As a bonus, I often hit that little tweet button on a post or two, encouraging more readership!

These small inputs made a real difference in results, clearly showing me the value of paying attention.

Originally published in the Work Better, Not Harder newsletter, January 27, 2015

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24 January 2015

Newsletter Ideas for Business Networking Associations

Members of networking groups and their target market (potential members, subscribers) will have something in common, like an industry or sector, and will usually either work in it or serve it as a supplier. This means that anything pertaining to that common topic will be relevant. Relevant is good, but you will also want to be useful and interesting. Here are some content ideas for business networking groups – most are adaptable to other such organizations.

Content for your subscribers (target market):
  • industry specific or community news and upcoming events
  • informational articles, perhaps written by members, but not necessarily
  • useful online resources; book recommendations
Content pertaining to your association:
  • next meeting details and agenda
  • regular meeting schedule; future dates, locations
  • member spotlights and current news
  • past meeting recap
  • action items for members
  • upcoming special events by the association and by its members
  • membership call to action; benefits of membership; membership requirements; testimonials from current/past members
  • photos from past meetings and events
  • appeal to connect on social media accounts

20 January 2015

What Colour is That?

I get into some interesting discussions with clients and friends about colours. The fact is that we can do a lot to make sure the colours in our branding are consistent wherever used online. And we can do the same for our print materials.

Consistency is the key because none of us see colours quite the same as anyone else.

First there's the way they appear to us because of the way our eyes work. "Colour (color) blindness (colour vision deficiency, or CVD) affects approximately 1 in 12 men (8%) and 1 in 200 women in the world." (source: colourblindawareness.org). About 4.5% of the population is affected by some form of colour blindness, most of them men. And it's not all black and white and grey - there are different types of colour blindness.

Then there's our perceptions about certain colours, and even shades of those colours. For example, baby pink and soft mauve aren't typically associated with business, unless you own a baby boutique. Red is associated with power, and green with nature. And have you ever had a discussion about whether something is taupe or grey? How about purple or burgundy or fuschia?

To confuse things even more when it comes to colours online, computer monitors and tablets all display colours differently. A friend once asked why I used pale pink as the background for a website - it was actually pale yellow. I know this because I calibrated my monitor. Regardless, of how exact I can be on my own screen, it's going to look different (and perhaps feel different) to everyone else. Look at your website on a different computer, or several different computers, and you'll see what I mean. (And did you know that some colours are different when saved as a .png versus a .jpg file?)

So what do you do? Be consistent. You might not have a lot of control about how other people see your branding colours, but you can make sure they look the same everywhere online.

photo by Incase / Flickr

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11 January 2015

Design Colour Trends for Spring 2015

Often the colours of logos, websites, newsletters and other branded marketing materials follow the current fashion colour trends, like many other things.

Here are the Pantone Spring 2015 colours - I've added the HTML# for each:

"This season there is a move toward the cooler and softer side of the color spectrum. An eclectic, ethereal mix of understated brights, pale pastels and nature-like neutrals take center stage as designers draw from daydreams of simpler times."

My first project will use Strawberry Ice, Scuba Blue and Lucite Green on pale grey. Can't wait to start!

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06 January 2015

13 Ways to be Productive when Your Internet is Down

It's been well over a week that I've been unable to do much online. For a small business owner, a forced vacation during the holiday season isn't such a bad thing. But there were some essential tasks that I needed to do before December 31st which caused a bit of panic. I also spent a lot of time on the phone with my internet provider and messing with cables. Not such a vacation after all.

Now, I’m itching to get the new year started. My work depends on me having internet access, but I discovered there are lots of things I can do to be productive working on my business even without the web. Here are some suggestions – please add yours in the comments.

  1. Write articles for your blog or newsletter. Have them proofed and ready when needed.
  2. Prepare social media posts – text and graphics.
  3. Read a business book.
  4. Check your calendar and prepare for upcoming meetings and events.
  5. Print and review business reports.
  6. Planning – Use a paper or electronic template to prepare strategic plans, action lists, sales plans, project plans, marketing plans... you get the idea.
  7. Write FAQs, ebooks and other resources.
  8. Write cards – thank you, hello, congratulations – and send them by snail mail.
  9. Pick up the phone and make appointments for business meetings. Or (gasp) do some prospecting by phone. (This one is for The Phone Lady.)
  10. Print forms that you’ll need and can stock up on.
  11. Take a trip to the office supply store.
  12. Have an impromptu mastermind meeting with a colleague by phone.
  13. Yes, even write email. Create your messages in Word and save them till you’re online again, then copy and paste.

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31 December 2014

The Best Reading of 2014

Continuing our annual tradition, here are our top 10 picks of the best articles from the Work Better, Not Harder newsletter during 2014, not in any particular order.

You need to Bite-size your Content
by Brandi Good, BLG Business Solutions
Your new website just went live - it looks amazing and it's chock-full of great information. You spent hours crafting the perfect blog post. You put together a newsletter with a beautiful layout and great content. You've been sharing these links all over your social media networks. And then...
continue reading

The Problem with Gratitude
by Steve Foran, Performance Quest
Can’t believe it took 7 years to figure this out! Although I was unaware of the problem, I’ve known all about the benefits of being grateful - a list which continues to grow.
continue reading

Have you been Asked yet Today?

by Brenda Fay, BrenDaniel Productions Corp.
I had a conversation with a potential client the other day and they asked me question after question. Probably thinking I was getting irritated by it, the client said “We teach all of our consultants to ask questions...”
continue reading

Networking is NOT Selling!
by Susan Eldridge, Business Women Connect
Many of us think we hate networking. I hear it all the time: "I can't do it." "Not my comfort zone." "I hate putting myself out there." Why do we feel this way?
continue reading

Twirp's Tips for Twitter
by Anita Hovey, Twirp Communications
We’ve put together an infograph of some of our favourite tips for getting started on Twitter... and well, ya never know, even if you’re a seasoned Twitter pro, you still might learn a thing or two!
continue reading

Working from Home? Tips for Staying Healthy
by Meryl Cook, Meryl Cook Homeopathy & Bowen
Some of my favourite clients are business owners who work from a home office. In working with this population, I see a number of common health concerns.
continue reading

No Need for Speed
by Mary Jane Copps, The Phone Lady
Time spent on the phone, whether it’s with friends and family or with clients and prospects, is intimate communication. Next to being in the same room with someone, it is the best way to truly hear and discuss thoughts and ideas.
continue reading

Legal Triage
by Corinne Boudreau, Two Certainties Law
Here are some tips on how to know when to deal with things yourself (“DIY”) and when to call a lawyer.
continue reading

Why You Need to Leave the $10 Words on the Shelf
by Neil Everton, Podium Media and Communications Coaching
William Faulkner once accused fellow author Ernest Hemingway of dumbing-down his writing. Faulkner complained that Hemingway had ‘never been known to use a word that might send the reader to the dictionary’.
continue reading

The Client is not always Right... for You!
by Debi Hartlen MacDonald, New Life Business Solutions
Working with the right client will make what you do a joy! When you love what you do, but are working with a client who is not the right fit for you, it is a total drag for you.
continue reading

Looking for more reading? Get the Best Reading Lists for 2012 and 2013.

Originally published in Work Better, Not Harder on December 31, 2014

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