December 16, 2018

Pinpoint Your Unique Content Marketing Opportunity - An Example


If you read Pinpoint Your Unique Content Marketing Opportunity last month and are still stuck, this article may offer some hope.

First, if you are sitting at your desk alone, new ideas may not come to you easily. This process requires brainstorming - and more than one brain. And it may not happen immediately but, if you are constantly on the alert for ideas, it will come sooner or later.

A couple of months ago I was masterminding with Alison Knott at Humani-T Cafe in Halifax. I think I was encouraging her to do a regular email newsletter and she was lamenting about the time and effort required to blog regularly. This is a discussion I've had many times with many people over the years. "Just do it!" doesn't often work as inspiration.

At one point, I said something like, "It'd be nice to find something valuable to give readers that you don't have to work so hard to create," and went off to get a fresh coffee. When I came back, I said, "What are you spending time already doing that would be useful to others?"

"Stats," Alison said. "I'm always reading interesting web stats." I really wish we had a photo of that moment.

Check out the first issue of Alison's "Notable Numbers" new monthly newsletter. It's interesting and useful... and brief. For Alison, it's easy to pull together and doesn't take a whole bunch of time.

Here's the worksheet I included in last month's post. Use it as a starting point to focus your thoughts and ideas. Find a colleague, customer, or collaborator to toss around ideas with. If you're stuck after that, I can be bought ;)

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December 10, 2018

What's the Best Day of the Month to Send a Newsletter?


Wouldn't it be great if I had a magic bullet for you? The thing is, if I did, everyone else would be sending their newsletter on that day and it would no longer be magic. What I can do instead is give you some suggestions to help narrow it down.

Is your schedule dependent on others?

For example, if you're a real estate professional, you'll want to send your newsletter after mortgage rates have been adjusted so you can include that information. If you plan to curate content from certain bloggers, and they all post in the middle of the month, you don't want to plan your newsletter for the first week. Think about what, if any, information in your newsletter is dependent on others and plan around it.

Send when your contacts are using their email.

This means that if your contacts are opening your newsletter at work, you want it to arrive during a workday. And you typically don't want this to be right after a weekend or holiday when clearing out the inbox is a priority. So mid to late morning on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday is your best bet.

If your contacts are consumers, reading email on their phones or at home, it's harder to pin down a "best" day or time. You can experiment and you can also ask your contacts.

Don't pick a date, pick a day.

The day of the week is more important than the day of the month. Consider all the people who commit to sending a newsletter on the first of every month. What do you think their open rate is like on July 1st (in Canada)? Select something like the second Thursday each month, or the third Wednesday.

If individual consumers are your target market, you would send earlier in the week if you sell commodities, and on payday or right after if you sell luxury items.

Be consistent.

Once you settle on your schedule, stick to it. If you let it slide to the last day of the month, you'll be competing for attention with everyone else who did the same thing.

When you schedule the recurring item in your calendar to send out your newsletter, also back up 2-3 days and schedule your newsletter prep time. Prepping and sending at the last minute is a recipe for mistakes.

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December 3, 2018

How to Answer a Question on Your Small Business Blog


You might think your website FAQ page is the best place to answer questions but I would argue that your blog is even better. In fact, I suggest your FAQ page should list the questions, and perhaps short answers, with links to blog posts for more detailed answers.

If your answers to frequently asked questions are individual blog posts, that content is ultimately more shareable via social media, email or chatbot. It's also a great way to make use of common keyword phrases, boosting your SEO.

The Question

The question you're answering might serve well as your post title or you might include it in your first paragraph. If it makes sense, you might also add some context which gives information about who the answer is for. For example, I might mention that I get asked this question often when networking with other small business owners.

The Answer

Generally, there are two types of answers.

Facts and/or opinions:

In this case, the question might start with something like, "What is the best ... ?" It's important to differentiate between facts and your opinions. Consider including 2-3 points to back up your position, whether using facts, opinions, or both.

Instructional:

This question might start with, "How do I ... ?" Make your response easy to follow by using bullet points or numbered steps. Include things like screenshots, photos, videos and worksheets - visuals can often make the difference between understanding and confusion.

Of course, if you are mentioning things that you have already talked about on your blog, you'll want to add links to encourage deeper reading (like I just did there).

This type of content will serve you well, and not just online. The next time a client sends an email asking questions, you can quickly direct them to well-thought-out, detailed answers.

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November 27, 2018

Waking Up Without an Alarm


The young cashier at Walmart grinned at me and said, "Joke's on them then." I had just told him to keep the printer cartridge separate as my business was going to pay for that. I grinned back and said, "The joke's on me then since I'm the boss. And I'm also the one who had to drop everything and dash out when the printer ran out."

Oh, the joys of owning your own business.

I'm on vacation this week. Yet this newsletter is getting sent, along with five others. I emailed a handful of clients to reassure them I would still be reachable and delivering on deadlines. I've been doing paperwork and will meet with my bookkeeper. I'll even attend a networking event. My husband is on vacation, so I need to find time to spend with him, too. And oh yeah, I need to get a tooth pulled - something I've been saving for the vacation.

What I will NOT be doing this week is setting my alarm clock. In fact, I have a goal to not wake up to an alarm... even when I'm not on vacation.

About six weeks ago I started taking this goal seriously. I listened to a Facebook Live where Brandi Good described having this same goal. I realized this is not something to feel guilty about or that it makes me seem lazy. It does help me start my day in a positive way and I can organize my workload accordingly. If I'm on a roll at midnight, I can keep the creative juices going instead of watching the clock.

Being the boss might mean I have to run out for printer cartridges, but it also means there's no one looking at their watch as I slide into my chair in the (mid) morning.

What secret goals can you embrace as part of your small business work routine?


November 23, 2018

Don't Ignore the Obvious: Daily Tips Work


One of the best things I ever did was to take Anita Kirkbride's advice when she told me I should post daily enewsletter tips on social media. It was a very specific and fairly easy task to do. I ended up with an Excel spreadsheet with about 350 short tips... all prefaced with #enewsletter. I joked that when I got to 365 tips, I'd make a calendar.

Now I didn't sit down and spend several days making up this list - ugh! But I started it and then every time I wrote a blog post that included a tip, I copied it into my spreadsheet along with the post link. This started back when Twitter allowed only 140 characters so I finagled words a lot.

You can see in the graph below that it had an almost immediate effect on blog traffic - note the big jump in readership SEPT 2012.


This was tedious work. I spent many hours copy/pasting and scheduling individual messages in Hootsuite, a month at a time, for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+. Eventually, I started uploading my spreadsheet to Hootsuite and SocialJukebox, which saved a lot of time.

Six years later I'm feeling nostalgic because the last of these scheduled tips posts in 2 weeks and I won't be re-running them again. My business has changed, and email marketing has changed, so I'm sharing different tips.

With all the scheduling apps now, it's so much easier to maintain a regular posting schedule for any daily tips. There are several apps where you can upload a spreadsheet to schedule.

This idea may seem like a lot of work but, once you get going, you'll start to see it working for you and become more enthusiastic. Especially if you are blogging, this is a great way to recycle your blog content and get more readers. It is well worth the effort.

PS: This is a habit you can start building at 100daysofmarketing.com.

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November 18, 2018

Small Business Decision Making 101


Simple is powerful... and a recent tough decision reminded me of that. I'd been sitting on the fence for about 2 weeks with a marketing project half completed. I couldn't decide whether to keep going or to stay with Plan A - and so, I wasn't accomplishing anything. I had an investment in time and money that was just sitting, doing nothing for me.

Talking the problem through with someone seemed like the best idea and I finally pinned down the right opportunity with the right person. The night before we were to chat, I decided I'd better make some notes so I could present my problem in an organized way. I grabbed a sheet of paper, drew a line up the middle, and labelled the halves PROS and CONS.

Within 5 minutes I had put my finger on my "sticking point" - the biggest CON. After a little research and math, I made my decision. No discussion needed.

When I put my pen to paper, all the conflicting pieces of the problem suddenly became clear - instead of swirling around in a jumble in my head. Why didn't I do that sooner? Whether you're over-thinking or under-thinking a big decision, a simple bullet-point list might just save you stress, time and money.

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November 13, 2018

Find Marketing Opportunities in Your Own Content


Marketing analytics can be confusing. You need to learn how to use the software to get data. Then you need to figure out what information you want from the data. Then you need to figure out what actions to take now that you're wiser.

Here's a simple statistic for you to discover and use to your advantage - most read blog posts. Regardless of which platform you use, you should be able to access some basic info.

Here is a screenshot from this blog:

screenshot

Now that I know which post is the most read on my blog, what actions will I take?
  • I can use it for marketing by adding calls-to-action for current promotions to the footer.
  • I continue to share it on social media because it's obviously still relevant.
  • I know I need to maintain it, to make sure it has no broken links and to keep it relevant.
  • I have clues about other blog post topics that may have similar success. (I can use Answer the Public to research more.)
You're working hard to create valuable content. Aside from these activities above, it's good to look at statistics; otherwise, how will you know if what you're doing is working?

November 7, 2018

Pinpoint Your Unique Content Marketing Opportunity


If you think writing blog posts about what you do is your best content option, you might be sorely mistaken. The popular approach to content marketing usually includes some combination of blogging (podcasting, video, etc) + email + social media. (I love that equation!)

The thing is, well, writing articles (or recording) is not for everyone. I've spent several hundred hours convincing (disguised as training) small business owners that blogging is a worthwhile endeavour. Some have success, more don't - for a variety of reasons. What I know is this: if you don't like the work involved, you won't be successful. Your momentum will wane over time.

So, what the heck do you do if you don't want to write or record? (And maybe even if you do.)

Identify something your target market wants and that you can provide easily through the activities you're already doing. For example, if you do lots of research and reading online, curating and collating others' content might be for you. If you're always looking at trends and stats, share interesting tidbits. If cooking is your thing, share recipes. If you're in the know about local events, start a regular event list.

There are 3 main parts to this approach:
1. Knowing your target market and determining what's of value to them.
2. Identifying things you're already doing that can easily be turned into content.
3. Making the commitment to keep it going.

You will be the most successful with your marketing content if it's something you like doing and delights your fans. But neither of those things will matter if you don't do the work to keep it going.

Download this simple worksheet to follow through the ideas in this post. (Want to work through this discovery process with my help? Book a consult here.)

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October 31, 2018

Oh, Look! There Goes My Goal


I don't need to tell you how hard it is to stay focused. And that's why it's so important to have goals that we can refer to that will keep us on track.

Goals are sometimes quite removed from our daily activities. Once they're determined, a strategy is built around them. And then plans are made to execute the strategy. Next plans are broken down into action items and finally, we do or delegate specific tasks.

When we're in "task mode" our goals may be completely out of mind. That's not a bad thing... as long as we're doing the things we planned to implement the strategy that will achieve our goals.

Deviating from our plans is where we can get into trouble, and one way that happens is called "scope creep". That's a project management term - what is running a small business if not an ever-evolving project?

Scope creep can happen accidentally but also "on purpose" and we need to be cautious of either. It's easy to get distracted from our goals because they're removed from our daily activities but that's why we bridge that gap with strategies and plans. That's also why it's important to have these things documented so we can review them often and get refocused.

More trouble comes when we make decisions we know will put our goals at risk. Yes, sometimes we need to do that in business - after much careful consideration - but often we chase "shiny things" without thought for the consequences. (Guilty here.)

The solution? Keep your goals handy for quick reference. Post them on your bulletin board or tuck them under your keyboard.

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October 27, 2018

Why Buy the Cow When You Can Get the Milk for Free?


Some people still think there’s a scarcity of information in the world, to be hoarded and divvied out carefully. It's true that information becomes less valuable the more it proliferates... but there's definitely no scarcity.

If you are ever concerned about sharing too much information, consider this: someone else is sharing it. If it's your area of expertise, shouldn't you be, too?

As information becomes increasingly cheaper, the voice of experience becomes much more valuable.

That's because it takes more than information to make a good business decision. Experience and sound advice thoughtfully applied to specific situations are what can make the difference between a success and a big mistake.

Give away information for free (the milk) so readers can peek at your secret sauce and realize the extra value they’ll get from working with you (the cow) on their problem.

October 23, 2018

Boost Your Expert Reputation with an Evergreen Series


Writing a series of articles is a great way to connect related content together. It is also an attention-getter, encouraging readers to subscribe or return for the next installment in the series. And it can be a showcase for demonstrating your expertise on a particular topic.

A topical series of blog posts should be planned in advance to maximize its effectiveness. Here’s why:
  • The finished series will flow more easily from one post to the next when you’ve created and edited a bullet outline of the entire series in advance.
  • You can determine your link strategy and execute it seamlessly.
  • You can promote the upcoming series in advance to generate interest and anticipation.
Suggested Workflow to Create Your Series
  1. Determine your topic and create your series outline.
  2. Create and post some teasers on social media with a call-to-action to subscribe.
  3. Determine your link strategy and gather all relevant links. Paste them into your outline or create a separate text doc to put them all into.
  4. Write and publish your first article, including a teaser for the next installment in the series.
  5. Promote that post to all your marketing channels.
  6. Write and publish your second article. Include a teaser for the next installment AND a link back to the first post in the series.
  7. Promote that post to all your marketing channels.
  8. Write and publish your third article. Include a teaser for the next installment AND a link back to the first and second posts in the series.
  9. Continue these activities for the rest of the series.
Make Your Series Evergreen

For your finished series to be perpetually successful, it is important to have links between the posts so future readers can move smoothly from one to the next. Aside from the linking between posts mentioned above, consider these enhancements:
  • Create a table of contents with links to each post in the series and add that to the start of each post.
  • Use PREVIOUS and NEXT buttons/links that look the same at the bottom of each post.
  • Use a unique, common label/tag/keyword only for this series. When you click on that keyword on your blog, you can grab the unique URL that will send readers directly to that series of posts. You could even assign a domain name to the series easily using redirects. (Example: this link takes you to all of my content templates and nothing else.)
Finally, a word of caution – after publishing, check all your links! A series can quickly become a disappointing experience if links don’t work.

October 17, 2018

A Call-to-action Formula for Your Free Download


You've got your first lead magnet all ready to go and you've got a great landing page for it. You're anticipating a rush of new visitors to download your giveaway and discover how valuable your small business might be to them.

If sending a series of promotional emails is the next step in your plan, did you tell subscribers to expect that? Near your sign-up form, you have to tell people what they're opting in to - the general content of the emails and the frequency - to be compliant with CASL (and other regulations).

No one opts in to receive a series of promotional emails. So how can you legitimately build your list and then get people's attention?

Your best option is to opt new subscribers into regular, valuable content. Build the relationship over time and then send promotional emails based on the subscriber's interest and interaction with your content. Give subscribers opportunities to express their interest with call-to-action buttons and links. This shows a long-term commitment... and you can be explicit, which is CASL-compliant.

On your landing page, describe what subscribers can expect after downloading your giveaway. And then commit to delivering that content on the frequencies promised. This approach is conspicuous in its credibility.

Here is a simple call-to-action formula:

Get this *valuable content* when you subscribe to *blog or newsletter* issued *frequency* containing *more valuable content*.

Example: Download the Quick and Easy Content Creation Workbook immediately when you sign up for the Work Better, Not Harder monthly newsletter full of ideas and tips for busy business owners.

I wish I had a dollar for every email example that's been sent to me over the years by people who are certain they didn't sign up for the contents and asking me if it's "legal". Credibility is important if your sales process depends on filling your funnel by marketing. Be open and honest when inviting people in.

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October 11, 2018

I Want to Start Blogging: Now What?


Think of it like learning to drive a car. You’ll need to learn how to drive and you’ll need a car to drive. Which comes first?

Some of the learning… the theory part. You can learn about both driving a car and blogging easily enough online. That theory might consist of strategic information, tactics and instructions.

Now, it’s hard to go any further without a vehicle. You can borrow a car from a friend, you can rent one, or you can buy one. Likewise, you have 3 options with blogging:
  • Write guest posts for other people’s blogs. You’ll be limited in what you can share, subject to others’ approval and schedule. This option is quick and easy but unreliable as a long-term strategy.
  • Use Facebook Notes or LinkedIn Pulse to publish your articles. You don’t really own them but you can pretend you do. If you can’t yet afford the effort and cost of getting your own car, err blog, this is a great alternative. You can immediately start putting what you learned into practice.
  • Get a blogging platform. Having your own is best because you can do anything you like with it. You do need to invest some effort (and maybe money) to set up a blog. If you are running a WordPress website, your best option is to get your webmaster to add blog functionality. Alternately you can set up a blog for free or little cost on various platforms. It’s super easy to get started with blogger.com and it’s the platform I recommend if WordPress isn’t an option.
Finally, you’re ready to start driving… or blogging. Remember, practice makes perfect! At this point, you will still research to learn more about strategy and implementation ideas but now you’ll be practicing in the real world on… dare I say, the information highway.

PS: Click here for my best resources for small business bloggers.

PSS: If you're ready to start blogging now, here's a great process to follow to get going.

October 7, 2018

Who's the Master of Your Domain?


What if you woke up this morning to discover your domain name has... disappeared? Likely you would make this discovery because your website is down, or perhaps your email isn't working.

Or what if you are contracting for a new website and have no idea how to wrangle your domain name for your new website designer?

Recently a client I haven't worked with for several years wrote to ask if I knew the whereabouts of their domain.

I get it, not everyone is a control freak like me. But every small business owner needs to have control of their unique business domain name.

If you aren't sure where your domain is registered, or under whose name, you can find that out here: whois.icann.org/en (or if it's a .ca domain, cira.ca/ca-domains/whois). If your domain has private registration, you may not be able to view the name of the registered owner. But at least you can find out the domain registrar and can contact them through their support channels.

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October 3, 2018

3 Questions That Need Answering: Lessons Learned From My Lunch and Learn


(Guest post by Mike Tanner)

I recently (like, earlier today) had the pleasure of speaking to a room full of close to 50 people on a topic near and dear to my heart: podcasting. Now I’m not going to sit here and give you a recap of that talk. If you want the VERY basic details you can find them on my website but you’ll never recapture the magic that we all shared in that room that day...

Instead, I’d like to talk about three questions that I was asked during the talk and how they relate to running your own business, podcasting or otherwise.

How Much Do You Charge Someone To Sponsor a Podcast?

Pricing is complicated. It’s a fact. Ask anyone who does consulting or coaching or training or anything where there’s not a defined cost or supply and demand issue, and they will tell you that pricing is one of the most difficult things to figure out. Whether you’re trying to figure out how to price your course or how much to charge for web copy or how much to charge a sponsor to be a part of your podcast, this is a question with no easy answer.

I’ve been a micro-influencer at $10 per post and Kim Kardashian charges $250,000 for a picture of her using a company’s eyeliner or drinking their water. The fact is that you probably want to fall somewhere in the middle.

Here’s how I think people should figure out how much to charge... for anything. It all starts with figuring out how much your time is worth. When I first started working for myself, this was a hard lesson to learn. When you work for $18 an hour for someone else and then someone asks you how much your worth, your first thought is..."I dunno... $18 an hour?"

No.

I have a calculated formula for figuring out how much I should charge for my services. Here it is, in all its glory.

How much is my time worth + what value do I bring to my client x how difficult will they make my life = a dollar value.

Now let me explain a little.

First, how much is my time worth? Over the years, I’ve started to think about what I COULD be doing and my time is worth whatever I COULD be earning in its stead.

Second, what value do I bring to my client? For my clients, I know the difference between where they’d be without me and where they are with me. That difference is the value I bring my clients.

The third one? That’s a little more complicated to explain. I’ve described this before as "whether or not I like my client" and that’s not really true, nor is it really fair. The truth is that there are people that I really like that are not a great match for my business and there are people who I’m able to help that are not a good match for me personally. The real point here is, "how much work will it be to get this client to let me do my job?" When a client lets me do exactly what they hired me to do, that multiplier is 1. When a client doesn’t let me do exactly what they hired me to do, that multiplier goes up.

So what does this look like?

Well, let’s say that my time is worth $100 per hour and the job will take me one hour to complete. And this project will bring $500 of value to the client. And the client lets me do my job. It’s $600. Let say that I’m worth $100 per hour and the job will take me one hour to complete and this project will bring $500 of value to the client but the client won’t follow my instructions or provide me with the assets that I require. The multiplier goes up and that $600 job becomes a $1000 job…or a $2000 job.

This is not punishment. Extra work means extra time, extra effort, and the inability to take on other jobs. That time and effort and loss MUST be compensated.

So whether you’re pricing a job or pricing a sponsorship package, ask yourself;

  • What is my time worth?
  • What value do I bring?
  • Will the client let me do my job?

How Do I Get A Sponsor When I Don’t Have an Audience?

This is yet another exceptional question. And it gets to the heart of it VERY quickly. When you launch your podcast, you have ZERO listeners. You might have your mom or your best friend or a co-worker, but essentially you have ZERO listeners. So in the beginning, how are you supposed to convince a company or a brand or an individual to sponsor your podcast?

It’s all about your network.

For example, I’m working on a potato chip podcast and I’m currently in discussion with a potential sponsor. Now, I have ZERO listeners to my potato chip podcast because it’s not a real thing yet. So how can I convince a sponsor that there’s value there?

Right now, I have a social network of somewhere in the vicinity of 4k people. This includes all of the various platforms and lists that I’m currently connected with. In addition, I work with a number of conferences and organizations that often promote my work. So, I’m not pitching a company that I have a podcast with zero listeners. I’m pitching a company that thousands and thousands of people are going to hear all about this podcast. And the ones that like it are going to tell their friends, and they’ll tell their friends, and they’ll be very lucky to get in on the ground floor of this whole thing.

Why Would You Start a Podcast That You Know You Won’t Get Paid For?

There are a number of ways that you can monetize your podcast. You can sell sponsorship. You can sell advertising. You can sell a product. You can sell yourself.

Or you could not.

There’s nothing wrong with recording, publishing and promoting a podcast just because you’ve got something to say. This post has been all about the money. How do you get it? How much is enough? How do you convince companies that you’re worth it?

But there’s nothing wrong with producing a podcast... or a blog... or a YouTube channel... or an IGTV account just because you feel like you want to say something. I often tell people that I started doing podcasts because I talk to myself anyway, and so I thought it might be nice to find out what other people thought about what I had to say.

So yes, monetize your podcast in some fashion or another. Use your blog as a money making tool. But also know you can do something just to do it. Honestly, even if podcasting weren’t something that was helping me make a living, I’d still be doing it because I LOVE doing it.

Whatever you love doing, do more of that. Do as much of that as you can. Maybe someone will pay you to do it. Maybe they won’t. But you’ll be doing something that you love.

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