June 17, 2018

How to Build an Audience (Almost) Instantly

Carnival of Terror

Don't you love it when you try something new and it turns out super successful? How about something like getting 41 new subscribers in an hour? Yes, that is possible for small businesses - I watched it happen this morning.

East Coast Scares, aka Carnival of Terror, is ramping up for Halloween 2018. This team has been hosting haunted houses in the Halifax area since 1994 and has a loyal fanbase. It makes sense that most of their fans are using Facebook - their Facebook page has almost 2000 likes! But for 24 years they've never had a way to communicate directly with their fans, to give them info about their schedule, location changes, and even ask for volunteers. Until now.

Now Carnival of Terror can send messages directly to subscribed fans via Facebook Messenger. No MailChimp or iContact, no complicated subscription forms - just a simple chatbot. When they're ready to start scaring people in October, their fans will know when and where to find them. (And they're talking to their fans in a way that their competition isn't.)

How did they get their first 41 subscribers in one hour? Well, there were 126 people who had previously sent messages to their page. Because the connection already existed, it was legal to send a message asking these people if they want to opt-in. In 5 minutes, they got 24 subscribers, and now they're up to 44. (Yes, that's 3 new ones since I started writing this post!)

There are many things about using chatbots that are almost as cool as this but, in all the years of building my own list and helping clients build theirs, I've never seen this kind of instant success. Here are some numbers for those who like data:

  • Facebook page Likes = 1990
  • People who had an open dialogue with the page (because they messaged previously) = 126
  • Opt-ins (so far) = 44
  • Opt-outs (so far) = 4

Let me do the math for you - that's a whopping 35% opt-in rate (so far)! You won't get those numbers with email.

If your fans are using Messenger (and 900,000,000 people are), think about all the options available to you for talking to them - and getting the conversation started with a chatbot. (If you want to see how it works, go to their Facebook page and click 'send message'.

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June 11, 2018

Your Marketing Images Represent Your Business


If you were holding a dinner where each plate sold for $150, would you buy the invitations at the dollar store? No? So don't promote anything important for your business with a free overused 5-year-old Pixabay image.

There are options - lots of options - rather than intimating your business is a bargain brand.

If you don't spend a bunch of time searching Pixabay or other free sites, you may not know what's been overused and common - here's an app for that. And you can also check the upload date, although that doesn't mean the photo was taken then. If you're going to use free photos, pick more recent releases.

Unique and eye-catching is your goal. But you don't want to pay $20 for a stock photo for each new blog post or newsletter article. What are other wallet-friendly options?

#1. Snap your own photos. This ensures uniqueness and the price is the best you'll get. Of course, the eye-catching part will be up to you.

#2. Engage a friend or family member who enjoys photography as a hobby. (My husband takes the photo for my weekly event list.)

#3. Search for Creative Commons photos on platforms such as Flickr. You will have to provide photo attribution in your post (the cost of free) but this is a great way to find one-of-a-kind images.

#4. Buy photos from discount stock photo sites. This does not guarantee that no one else is using the image but it does mean it's less likely to be overused. (I use Deposit Photos a lot.)

When should you invest in really good stock photos? For your website, paid advertising, books, online courses, printed materials... places where the images are more permanent.

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June 7, 2018

There's a New Way to Think About List-building


Having a discussion with a friend recently about Messenger chatbots for delivering newsletters, she was perturbed there would be no way to download a list of subscribers. My response was, "Why would you want to?" These contacts have only opted in to receive communication via Messenger. By downloading them, all you'd have is a spreadsheet. (Which is OK, if you like spreadsheets.)

As a small business owner, how many times have you been chided to have a database, a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) app, even a spreadsheet, with all of your contacts in one place?

Now, imagine the colossal task of putting all of your contacts into one place. I'm talking ALL of your contacts - email contacts, phone contacts, Twitter fans, LinkedIn contacts, Messenger subscribers, and so on. And what would you do with them when they're all nicely entered? I sure won't be adding my 4500 Twitter followers to my email list. (Can you imagine the response?!)

Engage people where they are. Not everyone wants to find us in their email inbox. While that is a very effective way for us to maintain contact, it isn't for all of our contacts. Make it easy for people to receive your information where and how they want. Perhaps we need to start calling it audience-building instead of list-building.

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June 1, 2018

9 Reasons to Deliver Your Newsletter Using Chatbot Technology


Nine hundred million people use Facebook Messenger as a primary messaging tool. Do you think a few of those would rather receive your newsletter that way - on their phone instead of in their inbox? And wouldn't it be great to give them the option?

Now you can build a contact list and distribute your newsletter by Messenger. Here are nine reasons to do that:

#1. People tend to have a Messenger account longer than they have an email address. When people change jobs, they will likely get a new email address but will continue to use the same Messenger account throughout their lives.

#2. Give your readers a choice of how they want to receive your information. Some of those 900,000,000 people are your customers and fans.

#3. Higher open rates - industry leaders are saying 80% is typical.

#4. The timing of delivering your newsletter becomes a little less important than with email newsletters. (e.g. it's less important to deliver during working hours)

#5. Segment by gender, location, and time zone - without gathering all that information yourself.

#6. Unlike with bulk email applications, people can unsubscribe and then resubscribe themselves - as often as they want.

#7. Especially well-suited to businesses already using Facebook to talk to customers and fans.

#8. Launch drip messages based on subscription date as you can with email.

#9. Use an easy opt-in process that's fully compliant with CASL, GDPR and CAN-SPAM.

I have a bot set up to deliver our weekly event listing for small business people in the Halifax area. If you want to see how one works (subscribe and unsubscribe easily), click here or go to our Facebook page and click 'send message'.

In coming posts, I'll talk more about how to use bot technology for your newsletter. It's a whole new way to think about list-building and keeping in touch with people. If you are thinking bots will reduce the human connection, you are wrong - they're a great way to get the conversation started... and keep it going.

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May 27, 2018

Content for Consultants: A Process for Getting Started


"If I start a blog, what will I write about?"

How long have you been planning to start a blog for your small business? Has it been more than a year? Do you know what's stopping you?

If knowing exactly how to start strong is what's been holding you back, you've just found your magic bullet. Here's a mini-course where you'll learn exactly how to get started with the best topics for your business. With three lessons and assignments, you'll have created at least three articles when you're finished. Plus, if you start a list of ideas as you follow the process, you'll have enough for several more posts.

Get a starting strategy and clear instructions:
Lesson 1: Build your confidence by writing about what you know best.
Lesson 2: Be useful to others and save yourself time - the best kind of content ever!
Lesson 3: Research or learn, then teach something.

While the process will help any new business blogger, it's especially suitable for consultants, coaches, trainers, facilitators, speakers and similar service-based independent professionals. Click here to get started now!

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May 19, 2018

The Wrong Way to Introduce Your First Newsletter


You wouldn't hug a complete stranger. So, if the red-head in the photo approached you on the street, you'd likely back away and think WTF. Even if he wants a date, that's a pretty lame approach.

We don't have much room for needy strangers in our small business lives. It's enough work to keep up with friends and colleagues. So why the heck would any business person send a newsletter to a stranger that starts like this... ?
We spent many hours and resources on researching, writing, proofing and designing this newsletter. As a valued customer, we are offering this newsletter to you for FREE!
newsletter example
newsletter example
It's too bad they spent all those hours and resources. And too bad they didn't know FREE newsletters haven't been unique for a very long time. Next, they'll wonder why email marketing isn't working for them.

Especially for your very first issue, there are a few basic things to include. The most important is to give value or point out the value to your reader immediately.

Concentrate on building relationships and gaining fans before you start asking for hugs.

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May 15, 2018

Finding a New Angle for Your Best Information



Stuck, uninspired, unmotivated, feeling stale - anyone who blogs regularly is going to experience those things from time to time. Especially when we're busy, it's hard to take time to get inspired.

Sometimes I don't need inspiration so much as a new angle - a different perspective or approach to information, advice and ideas I've already covered. And that's where answerthepublic.com comes in.

Its insights are based on the data of web searches and it shows you results graphically. In no time you'll pin down an approach, and be writing and done. The image above (cropped) is from my search of the term "enewsletters" and here are the report results.

The next time you just need the spark of an idea to get going, try answerthepublic.com.

May 10, 2018

I Haven't Been Walking My Marketing Talk


If you've been in a classroom with me or even chatted over coffee, you'll have heard me say something like, "You just have to start somewhere and then it'll be easier to keep going and trying new things." Of course, I'd be talking about some aspect of online marketing - likely newsletters, blogging or social media.

It was a rude awakening to realize I haven't been doing that myself lately. I've gotten into a rut with my own marketing. And that's sooo not good. Complacency snuck up on me.

When I give advice to others, I have to be an example too, so I'm super conscious of maintaining a somewhat regular blogging schedule and showing up in inboxes and on social media consistently. Occasionally I pat myself on the back for doing a good job.

The problem is, I haven't changed the platforms I'm using in a long time. Platforms are tools in the marketing world to help us achieve our goals. They can get stale or the tactics for using them can change.

I'm involved with organizing Social Media Day Halifax 2018 and only just realized I'd better learn how to do social media on my phone because I can't drag my laptop around all day. (At home, I have a huge monitor - what could be better than that for keeping up with, well, everything?)

Not only that, there are LOTS of platforms I had never thought to explore - livestreaming and podcasting, Instagram and chatbots, and...... It's definitely time to break my routine, like I tell everyone else to do, and start somewhere new.

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May 4, 2018

Role-based Email Addresses and Why You Aren't Reaching Them


Bulk email service providers, like iContact, maintain a list of email address prefixes which they prevent sending to. This is because the role-based email addresses on the list are often meant to be used by groups of people, rather than single recipients. That makes it more likely your emails to these addresses will be flagged as spam (which sucks!).

Here are a few examples: admin@, contact@, mail@, and support@. Click here to see iContact's partial list of Role Email Addresses. Oh, and if you ever notice you have subscribers with email addresses starting with spamtrap@, you'll know they took your free giveaway but never want to hear from you (it's on the list).

Any email address with a prefix on that list will never receive a bulk email you send. If you don't use iContact, find out what the prohibited list is for your provider.

What does this mean when collecting addresses to add to your list? You'll want to ask for an alternate email address if given one of those listed.

It also means, if you use any of these email address prefixes for your own business, you do not want to use them to sign up for bulk email you really want to receive.

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April 30, 2018

You Don't Know Jack About Social Media Until You've Worked With Experts


Last fall I remember feeling disappointed that I never seem to have much time for learning anymore. I was thinking the small business people taking my courses were smart to commit a half day a week to learn key marketing skills. I learn while I'm teaching, but it's not skills related to my business development.

Then in November, along came Anita Kirkbride with her plans for the Social Media Day Halifax 2018 Conference. While I knew enough about social media marketing to do a good job for my own business and help a couple of clients, I quickly discovered there's a whole lot I didn't know until I started working closely with Anita and Tina Capalbo on the Conference.

Since January I've been prodded to record video, participate in Facebook Live sessions, and learn things about Instagram and chatbots and ... too many other things to list here. Often I've been surprised at how much I don't know about social media - strategy, tactics, apps and tools, best practices, and how-to.

Now I'm caught up in the flurry of activity leading up to June 22nd and learning something new every day. I'm excited to realize how much depth there is in social media marketing and I can't wait to learn more.

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April 23, 2018

How To Give and Get Great Referrals



How about that feeling when a colleague sends you a new referral? Great, eh? Referrals are so much more than new business; they're also a sign of trust. That's why we need to treat our referrals with such care.

But what happens when you discover a referral isn't so good... or is downright wrong for you?

During the past few months, I've been on both ends of this interaction. It can be awkward for all three parties.

It comes down to expectations. The referrer sets certain expectations when they make the referral - and they can be about any number of things, including prices and turnaround time.

Unfortunately, the referrer may not know the business they are referring has changed their offering - so it no longer meets those expectations. Disappointment abounds.

How to receive good referrals: A good friend once told me how important it is to keep my potential referrers informed about changes in my business. Every couple of years, I've been in the habit of writing an email to these wonderful people to keep them updated. And also to ask about changes in their business. While doing this may seem all about you, your referrers will be glad for the specifics.

How to be a good referrer: Another way to avoid this uncomfortable situation is to inquire before making the referral. Contact the person you're referring and ask if they are taking on new customers and if they are still offering whatever you are referring them for. Also, find out about pricing if that matters.

In response to this article in my last newsletter, Jill Poulton, Transformational Leadership Coach, made this suggestion:
In terms of tips for referrals... I prefer to give and receive referrals that are a warm introduction by way of email. This better positions each of us to follow up, it builds trust and credibility with the person giving the referral, and gives the client and potential business some info to move forward on.
Whether we are the receiver of the referral or the one doing the referring, our reputation is at stake. A poor referral is worse than none at all.

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April 19, 2018

How Do You Know If What You're Doing Is Working?

blog growth

If you aren't looking at statistics at all, how do you know if your online marketing efforts are paying off? You don't need to have a complex Google Analytics set-up to keep an eye on trends. Yes, hard numbers are good to know but trends give you strategic information.

Anita Kirkbride and I used a similar chart to the one above when we presented at BlogJam 2015 - back then the top line was 9,000 pageviews per month instead of 20,000. I can tell you exactly what I changed at key points (at Anita's urging) which had a direct effect on my blog readership:
  • June 2011 - I started using social media.
  • September 2012 - I started blogging more and sharing posts more frequently on Twitter, in particular; results were obvious by December.
  • December 2013 - I started posting daily enewsletter tips on Twitter and LinkedIn.
  • 2nd half of 2016 - I started posting daily newsletter tips on Google+.
I've tried lots of other tactics, too - some have contributed in little ways, others have gone by the wayside as ineffective. The thing is, I would not have known what worked unless I was watching the trend line. This same thing holds true for your website and your newsletter statistics, too.

Is what you're doing working for you? How do you know?

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April 13, 2018

Old Tech for New Content Ideas


File cards - yup, I've been walking around with a few in my purse, wrapped in an elastic band. File cards are fantastic for catching your great content ideas, and here's why:
  1. Small size - less space than a notebook and no bigger than a cell phone
  2. Entertainment - can keep you occupied while on the bus or waiting at a coffee shop
  3. Transportable - featherweight, fits in your back pocket
  4. Skins/cases are cheap - you can change the colour of the elastic band whenever you want
  5. Expandable - easy to add notes or do a quick outline
  6. Customizable - different colours, lined or unlined, different sizes, add star stickers to your best ideas
  7. Recyclable
Plus they enable creativity. When you're frustrated, throw them up in the air. Examine how they land to see unexpected connections. This is a tactic of Sue Grafton's private detective Kinsey Millhone... and it works for content, too.

April 6, 2018

Online Products Don't Sell Themselves


Of course, we all know this, don't we? Yet there is a multi-million dollar industry based on DIY marketing that somehow makes us forget this VERY IMPORTANT aspect of our business strategies. Or perhaps it makes us feel overconfident in our abilities to both sell and market our own products.

Being reminded of the work involved to prepare, and then sell and market an online product was my biggest takeaway (of many) from the day I spent with Frances Leary this week. I knew it, now I feel it... a refreshing dose of reality.

So, even though I'm capable of doing much of the "work" part of my project, I'm paying for expert help so I can stop talking about it and get it done.

Can I contain my inner control freak enough to let this happen? I'm determined.

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March 31, 2018

Where To Find Your Best Content Ideas


"What will I write about this week?" Wouldn't it be great if content ideas popped into your head just when you need them? (Queue the light bulb!)

You’ll find the best content ideas amid your daily business activities – but you have to be alert for them... and jot them down. For example, let’s say you…
  • have a discussion with a customer or prospect. Content ideas: a success story, answer a question, describe a service/product, define why you're different, an anecdote, how to solve a problem, local news.
  • receive an inquiry by phone or on Facebook. Content ideas: FAQ, describe a service/product, benefits and features.
  • learn something new. Content ideas: teach your fans, describe the learning process, give a review/opinion, share the source.
  • find a quote you love on Twitter. Content ideas: why you like it, how it's relevant to what you do.
  • do some online research. Content ideas: share what you found, how you found it, what it means to your readers.
  • try a new application. Content ideas: first impressions, good/bad/ugly, how you'll use it.
  • read a business book. Content ideas: a review, good/bad/ugly, why to read or not read, summary.
  • prepare a quote or proposal. Content ideas: what makes this one different from others, something common to all your proposals.
  • attend a networking event. Content ideas: conduct an informal poll, photos.
These are prime opportunities - and there are many more - to get fresh ideas for articles and social media posts. And even if some ideas aren’t so fresh, perhaps you’ll get the gift of a different perspective.

Your marketing content doesn't need to be something you do once a week in an allotted time, independent of your other activities. Ink it when you think it!