January 16, 2017

Three Words for 2017


'Focus' has been my 'word of the year' since January 2010. When I did a little checking to figure out that date, I was surprised at how long I've been focussed on focus. Perhaps I'm as focussed as I'm going to get.

This year I'm going to buck the 'one word' movement and go with three words: surprised by joy. It's a wish for how I want to be in 2017.

The first line of William Wordsworth's poem of the same name is:
"Surprised by joy - impatient as the Wind"

I stumbled upon it recently while reading books by Canadian author Louise Penny. "Surprised by joy" is a recurring theme throughout her Inspector Gamache series. Maybe it stuck with me because patience sure isn't my best quality.

Share your word (or words) of the year in the comments. Whatever they are, my wish is that you will be surprised by the joy of success this year.

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January 11, 2017

Are You Missing New Subscribers?


If you have a sign-up form, you want subscribers.

If you want subscribers, you need to get them to your sign-up form.

To get people to your sign-up form, you need to tell them where to find it.

Check your own subscription process now

If you have a sign-up form on your website, try this short exercise. Prepare a call to action with the appropriate link to send a new social media follower to your sign-up form. Really, do it now or you won't get this. It'll only take a minute. Go and post it now.

Here is an example I might use:
Free with sign-up! Immediately get a mini workbook with 5 Content Templates to make your writing time more productive. http://daleyprogress.com/newsletter.html

Ready? Pretend you're that new follower. Read your call to action and click to follow the link. Now stop and take your fingers off that mouse. Is your sign-up form staring you in the face, bold and beautiful with no other distractions? If it's not, that might explain why you haven't seen a new subscriber in weeks.

This is a huge missed opportunity for anyone doing any kind of email marketing - and I see it often. Sign-up forms get embedded in sidebars or footers, usually with no text to tempt someone to subscribe.

So where on your website should you put your sign-up form? On a landing page of its own - with nothing distracting the visitor from filling out that form.

The article 6 Tactics to Turn Visitors into Subscribers describes what you should put on your landing page. Among other things, include specifics about what people are signing up for - not just "my monthly newsletter". Not only will this encourage more sign-ups, it's required by CASL if you live in Canada.

Use a prominent call to action on other webpages where it makes sense, including a link to your landing page with its standoutish sign-up form.

Don't let another confused visitor stumble away from your sign-up form. Make it so darn obvious it's impossible to miss.

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January 5, 2017

Your 'Thank You for Signing Up' Page

A redirect page is the webpage where someone ends up after filling in your subscription form. This is something you have control over and it's worth putting a little effort into. After all, someone has just said they trust you enough to sign up for your newsletter - it's a good time to dazzle them with more of your brilliance and give them some value right away.

Here is a screen shot of a client's redirect page. When someone subscribes to Twirp's newsletter, this is where they end up.


Here's why this page is great:
  • It clearly describes what the subscriber signed up for.
  • There's a free giveaway, which was promised in the call to action.
  • There's a link to get immediate value by going to Twirp's blog.
  • Also those cute little Twirplings at the bottom of the screen jump up and down... which made me feel kind of happy to have subscribed.

Is it time to take a fresh look at your own redirect page? What is the most important message you want to communicate at this point in your business relationship? Here are some tips that will help you decide.

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January 1, 2017

Milestones Mean Opportunity

On May 30, 2013, we sent out the 50th issue of the Work Better, Not Harder newsletter. In it I wrote about the importance of celebrating milestones - small business owners don't do that enough. In July of 2016, we sent out issue #100. That big milestone was reached through our own perseverance; we could have reached it even if we had no readers. Something to be proud of but not particularly motivating.

I want people to read my stuff - that motivates me.

For a couple of years, we've been flirting with reaching 10,000 pageviews on our blog in one calendar month, coming close but never quite reaching it. In December 2016 it finally happened - we had over 12,000 pageviews. Thank you to our readers who keep coming back!


Blogging regularly (this is post #451) has brought many benefits:
  • More social media contacts
  • More subscribers = potential clients and referrers
  • Enhanced reputation
  • Better writing skills - practice makes perfect
  • Motivation
  • More referrals, clients and friends
  • Requires me to do research which keeps me current
  • Gives me a reason to celebrate!
It's much more fun writing when you know you're being read. And you won't know that unless you are watching your statistics.

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December 29, 2016

This Simple Tip Will Improve Your Writing... and Your Confidence


Sometimes it's hard to heed my own advice. Even when I know this particular piece of advice is perhaps the most important when it comes to creating content.

I can give you a number of tips to help you write better articles. But there is one simple thing you can do that can really improve the quality of your work, to make your content more useful and interesting. This tip is particularly ingenious - are you ready for it?

Prepare your content over two separate sittings, preferably on two different days. It's a simple concept but often not so easy to implement with deadlines looming.

First sitting:
  1. do an outline
  2. research if necessary
  3. write a draft
Second sitting:
  1. review and edit your draft
  2. add appropriate links to past articles
  3. run spell-check and proof (read aloud if you don't have a proofer)
Coming back to your writing with fresh eyes will almost always result in improvement. Because you are taking extra care to craft your messages, you'll feel more confident about the results. Another bonus is that it doesn't cost you more money or take much more time. All you have to do is not wait till the dreaded last minute. Easy, right?​

photo by delgrosso / Flickr

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originally published in Work Better, Not Harder newsletter Dec-30-16

December 22, 2016

Newsletter Example: Local Restaurant


Sometimes I can be quite judgmental of others' newsletters, and most of the time I keep that to myself. Being a critic means I can also appreciate good examples of newsletters, and email marketing in general. Have a look at this one which arrived in my inbox recently from a local restaurant with the subject line: Seasons Greetings from all of us at Finbar's.

The content in this email is just right for several reasons.
  • The subject line clearly said what is was - a holiday greeting. If I wasn't in the mood for holiday cheer, I could have deleted it with little hassle (but stayed subscribed for future news). I was feeling cheery when I received Finbar's email.
  • A good overall balance of images and text - and not too long. It looked like it wouldn't take much time to read.
  • A colourful photo of the young kids dressed for the season - you won't find this on shutterstock; it connects on a personal level.
  • A funny personal story - curiosity got me reading the whole thing.
  • The 'advertising' part of the content felt more like something I needed to know from one of my favourite places to eat.
  • The hours are also useful to me. If I want to get there for my fav Guinness & Bacon Mac & Cheese before Christmas, lunch on Saturday is my last chance.
  • Finally, the contest winner announcement is social proof, important to building your reputation online.
What did this great email do for Finbar's? I only know that I'll be in for Mac & Cheese over the holidays. I bet I'm not the only one.

Thanks to Michelle at Finbar’s Forest Hills who good-naturedly agreed to me using their newsletter as an example. (I wasn't paid to write this and Finbar's isn't a client of mine.)

photo by Meghan Tansey Whitton

December 16, 2016

Home Office Holiday Party

In preparation for our office party this year, I wrote a poem. Then I gathered together the things I would need to have a party with Romeo and Danielle. (The Temptations were for Romeo, the phone for Danielle, and the coffee for me.)


Romeo, my cat, is used to hearing me talk out loud as I proofread and he was unusually excited about hearing the poem.

Danielle, who lives several time zones away in Saskatchewan, also works alone (and helps me out lots) so I invited her to my office party by phone. It was a good move because she's a master at rhyming words.


After much anticipation, I started to read the finished poem aloud to them. As you can see in the photos above, I had their full attention.


Ode to a Midnight Blog

Silent night, late at night,
I've still got my blog to write.

My laptop propped up on my bed,
I'm hoping ideas will fill my head.

Yawns escaping, eyelids drooping,
Neck is stiff, my thoughts are looping.

My brain is sore, I think some more
About what the heck I'm doing this for.

I'm so tired, in words I'm mired!
I just can't seem to get inspired.

Feeling stumped after several tries,
I think I just need to rest my eyes.....

Sunlight streaks across my bed.
I wake up fast and shake my head.

To the bathroom I must race
And in the mirror I see my face.

I'm so surprised I can only squeak.
There's keyboard marks across my cheek!

The lesson for bloggers is not too deep:
Move your laptop aside before falling asleep.


When I was done, Romeo was looking for a place to sleep (I'm sure because he was full of treats) and Danielle said, "Didn't I already hear that story?" I had to remind her it was true.


We wish you a fun-filled holiday season! (And heed my true story - you really don't want keyboard indents on your face when you have to go to a party in person ;)

WAIT! Before you take off...

If you've enjoyed my (almost) solo Christmas Party, I'm sure you'll enjoy the other bloggers who have joined me in this fun, new tradition. Please visit all of the blogs and leave a comment. Not only will you make them feel good, you might win some other awesome prizes, too. Next up on your holiday party tour is Lori Byrne at Farm Fresh Style - click here to party on!

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December 10, 2016

Create the Content; Promote the Content


Are any of these your reasons for publishing a business blog... ?
  • to be found (on Google or anywhere else)
  • to build your reputation
  • to be seen as an expert
  • to be useful
  • to start relationships
All of those are great reasons to blog! But, regardless of why you've been writing, your efforts will only pay off if people are reading your stuff.

Aside from creating content, does your content strategy also include a plan to both distribute your content and attract new readers?

Create the content, then promote the content. It's an ongoing process that you need to keep alive - both for your own benefit and for your fans.

photo by wallyg / Flickr

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December 4, 2016

Protect your Investment in List Building


Building a contact list is a long slog, which is why most business owners don't have a good one. And why, when you have a good list, you need to appreciate every single entry in it. One of those contacts will bring your next big opportunity.

Protect your contact list - don't ever sell it. And don't give your list away for free, either. Keep it all to yourself - it's a gold mine.

People may know you've given away their contact info but, even if they don't, you've given away their attention - a most valuable thing, today and tomorrow.

photo by Franck BLAIS / Flickr

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November 30, 2016

Stock up on Content for your Busy Season


Whenever the busy time is for your small business, you can't avoid it - at some point in the next year you'll be overwhelmed. Help out your future self by preparing a bunch of marketing content during your slow season.

If you’re a small business owner who faithfully takes vacation time at the end of December, this article isn’t for you. On the other hand, if you are like me, you can take advantage of the slower pace to get creative with your content marketing.

Having a whole day to spend on content sounds awesome to me. Perhaps not so much to you. If you want a little guidance, here are 10 activities that will set you up for success in the new year.

  1. Write a wrap-up article – a summary of *something* from the past year that you’ve written about several times.
  2. Brainstorm a long list of topics. Nothing is too wonky to put on your list.
  3. Go online and do a little research to get more ideas to add to your list.
  4. Pick 10 article ideas from your list and write a brief point form outline of each.
  5. Pick a handful of those outlines and draft full articles.
  6. Pick 2 of those drafts, edit and proof them in preparation for publishing. (Or send them to your editor.)
  7. Source images to use with your 10 article ideas.
  8. Create promotional social media messages. Assembling and posting messages on the fly takes more time than you realise. Create a database of evergreen promotional messages you can draw from. (Here's one for promoting your newsletter.)
  9. Create graphics to post along with some of those social media messages.
  10. Schedule promotional messages into the future - responsibly. There are so many tools available to help you deal with your routine posting.

During your busy season you'll be really glad you did this. Remember to pat yourself on the back!

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originally published in Work Better, Not Harder newsletter November 30, 2016

November 24, 2016

Lost in the Forest and Finding the Trees


"Which is better?" I asked. "'I need to capitalize on the time I've invested in writing.' or 'I need to leverage the time I've invested in writing.'"

Danielle said, "'I need people to read my stuff.'"

Two lessons here, one obvious and one not so obvious.

1. Using plain language and simple words is critical - and often surprisingly difficult. But, when you use simple words in your marketing, you reduce the risk of something being misinterpreted. (Tweet This!)

2. Brainstorming by phone has a big advantage. I was looking at the sentences, hung up on the visual impact of the decision. How would the words look? Would they fit where I needed them to? When I read those two carefully crafted options out loud to Danielle on the phone, she immediately simplified the whole concept.

Isn't brainstorming wonderful?!

photo by michael pollak / Flickr

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November 21, 2016

NEW Service: We Post Your Stuff


You've committed to writing a blog or newsletter but promoting your content on your social media feeds is a lot of additional work. You would rather spend your time being social instead of posting. And you also need a consistent online presence even when you can't be there yourself.

Personalized posting for as little as $2.75 CDN per day.
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Click here to find out if this new service is for you!

November 19, 2016

11 Ways to Make Your Newsletter More Interactive


An interactive newsletter will provoke responses from your readers. Aside from calls to action related to a sales process, interactivity is also good because it makes you more memorable.

#1. Conduct a poll. Use an app (like SurveyMonkey) that allows you to show results after someone takes the poll. Keep it to one question. Publish the results in your next issue.

#2. Include a special offer only for those who make it to the very bottom of your newsletter. Tell readers how to contact you to take advantage of the offer.

#3. Link to a video. This can even be cleverly disguised as a screenshot of the video inserted into your newsletter.

#4. Link to a free resource or some other type of giveaway. Upload the file to your website or Dropbox first, then use that link in your newsletter.

#5. If your newsletter article is also on your blog, link to it and ask people to leave comments there.

#6. Use click-to-tweet and other social media sharing options. Encourage readers to share. If you make it easy, people will share.

#7. Include a menu. An 'in this issue' menu at the top of a lengthy newsletter, allows readers to easily pick and choose what they want to read. Clicking a link in the menu takes the reader directly to the item they want to read. These anchor links can also be used to promote specific items in the newsletter.

#8. You can also have a menu similar to what you have on your website, linking to pages on your website to send more readers there.

#9. Ask readers to connect with you on Twitter, Facebook and so on. Use icons to draw their attention.

#10. Include a list of your recent blog posts, or a collection of blog posts on a particular topic. This moves readers from your newsletter over to your blog. You could include a curated list if you don't have a blog yourself.

#11. Ask for suggestions - for your next issue, for your blog, or for something else entirely. Encourage readers to 'hit reply now'.

photo by The-E / Flickr

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Your content promotion just got easier. You write. We post. You engage. Personalized posting for as little as $2.75 CDN per day. Get started now at www.wepostyourstuff.com.

November 14, 2016

Is Planning Becoming Passé?


"Plans are nothing; planning is everything." - Dwight D. Eisenhower

Planning is a noble task, full of focus and good intention. It's always been one of my favourite things to do.

Now I hear about the newest trend: the 'anti business plan' entrepreneur. Here's a not-so-secret secret: most business owners don't have business plans. And I'm pretty sure that's not a new-fangled idea.

Most of us spend a lot of time planning... in the car crossing the bridge, in the Starbucks drive-thru, walking the dog. We don't always write our plans down but we do plan.

Planning is a most worthy task because it helps us understand options and make better decisions. No one will ever convince me there's no value in planning, even if the plans are eventually broken.

originally published in PM News & Views on November 1, 2016
photo by carfreedc / Flickr

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November 8, 2016

Why is List Building so Important for Small Businesses?


Your contact list should be the most valuable asset your small business has, like a privately owned gold mine.

Once you have added someone to your contact list, you can create more chances to get them as a client or fan, sell them a product or service, and get a referral or testimonial. The possibilities open up.

How many times have you stifled a good idea because you didn't have an interested audience waiting to hear from you?

photo by Merlijn Hoek / Flickr

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