04 December 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

Click to Tweet this Article

30 November 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!

Click to Tweet this Article

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

24 November 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

Click to Tweet this Article

21 November 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.
Click to tweet about this!

Click here to find out if this new service is for you!

19 November 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

Click to Tweet this Article

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.

14 November 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

Click to Tweet this Article

08 November 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

Click to Tweet this Article

03 November 2016

The Undiscovered Gold Mine in Your Own Backyard

There’s a reason that finding new clients is described as prospecting, and researching our contacts is called mining. It really can be long hours of hard work for little immediate return.

In 1849, when Dr. Matthew Fleming Stephenson proclaimed, “There’s gold in them thar hills,” he wasn’t telling his friends to rush off to California. He was suggesting they stay and mine in their own neighbourhood.

That’s a lesson for small business owners, too. Greener pastures aren’t always greener. Have you fully mined the possibilities within your current circle of contacts?

Before you do any prospecting, you need a mine. It might be a spreadsheet, a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tool, a bulk email account, or some other ‘place’ where all your contacts (clients, vendors, colleagues, potential clients, referrers, press, and so on) are gathered together. If you don’t have that yet, start now – make it the next priority of your small business marketing strategy.

Your contact list should be the most valuable asset your small business has. Once you have a list, a world of possibilities immediately opens up for you. We'll help you discover some of those possibilities for online marketing in an upcoming series of articles.

photo by freestock.ca ♡ dare to share beauty / Flickr

Click to Tweet this Article

29 October 2016

The Colours of Your Christmas Campaign

If you are looking for new palette options for your Christmas marketing campaign, once again the image is the best place to start. Choose an image that is obviously holiday themed but in colours outside of the traditional red and green colour combinations. Pull the colours out of the image to create a palette that is exciting but non-traditional. Here are a few ideas that might spark something for you.

You can pair almost any colour with gold or silver metallics to make it festive. So it stands to reason that the non-metallic versions of gold and grey would pair well. Together they create a feeling of warm elegance that is very inviting.

Pair blue with silver and you get the same elegance with a cool tone. A little more formal or a little more relaxed depending what your text is. This palette can evoke cool breezes and festive nights or it can be used to trigger thoughts of grey, relaxed cottage days. It will be all in the word smithing.

Purple and gold, paired with pink! I don't know about you but I sense a party coming on. This palette has a festive, feel-good vibe that would be appropriate for any holiday event or sale.

Dramatically different for a holiday palette, these earth tones are inviting and warm. They call out to come in from the cold, warm yourself by the fire, enjoy a quiet, conversational gathering with friends.

Pretty in pink and grey is fun and festive. Perfect to promote holiday events or products with a feminine appeal.

Whatever the mood for your holiday campaign, there is a non-traditional palette for that!

Click to Tweet this Article

Originally published at diymarketinghelp.com

25 October 2016

Writing is Not the Only Ingredient of a Winning Blog

Blogging success has less to do with your writing skill than you might think. Yes, it has to be interesting or useful... hopefully both! But if it's not also these other things below, it likely won't be successful for your business:

#1. Valuable
What’s in it for your audience? What will be valuable to them? Why would they take the time to read - and share - your blog? After writing, double-check to make sure there's value. When you reread your article from your readers' perspective, you might be surprised. Would a complete stranger find it valuable?

#2. Repetitive
At least once a week if you want your blog to help increase sales. Over time, repetition will show up as diligence and tenacity.

#3. Consistent
Being inconsistent makes you seem inconsistent. Over time, consistency will show up as loyalty... for you and your readers.

#4. Distributed
If you write it, they will not come. How will you get your articles in front of people? You need a plan for marketing your blog. 

#5. Measured
Pay attention - watch your statistics. Revise your strategy. Expand your plan. If you aren't interested in staying on top of your blog schedule and watching your results, certainly no one else will be.

You might be thinking, "Ick! These things aren't fun." And you might be right but, if blogging is part of your marketing strategy, these things are just as important as writing the article.

These aspects of blogging can also be fun and creative. In fact, if you aren't a star writer, these areas are where you can shine.

18 October 2016

If Efficiency is Your Goal, You'll Want These Tools

“You’re assuming efficiency is my goal,” my good friend replied one day when I suggested a better way (to me) of doing something. Oddly, I might be inclined to say that about some parts of my own work (just not whatever it was we were discussing at the time).

This is not a story about the dangers of assuming (although that could be another article). This time I want to dish out some advice about how to be more efficient (since Danielle doesn’t want to hear it).

I’ve written before about my essential small business tools (Part 1 and Part 2) but these ones below are especially important to my productivity.

FreshBooks (aff)
Immediately upon implementing FreshBooks, I saw an improvement in outstanding accounts receivable. Reminders are automated and I rarely have to follow up with anyone myself. No more wondering, "Did I already remind that client?"

I've been using graphics applications for over 20 years - for fun and work. Nothing beats Canva's 'magic resize' option for creating multiple sizes of the same design in just seconds.

FollowUpThen (aff)
'Out of sight, out of mind' has sometimes been a problem for me. Now it's a really good thing (for my mental health) because this application lets you forward or send messages to your future self.

This application can save you a whole bunch of time when it comes to content promotion. Preload social media messages, attach images, give it a schedule, and it'll do the rest. Don't forget about it, though. Keep adding new messages and filtering out the stale ones.

I pay for each of these applications and the cost is definitely worth it for the efficiency I gain. Pick one and give it a try.

photo by timsackton / Flickr

Click to Tweet this Article

originally published in Work Better, Not Harder October 18, 2016

13 October 2016

An Email Marketing Happy Dance!

iContact has NEW stats! We think it is the most awesome new feature ever!! Drum roll... now, you can see how your audience is opening your email messages! How great is this?

The new statistic will tell you what percentage of your audience opened your message on a computer, tablet or smartphone. Gone are the days of guessing based on target audience demographic and wondering if the assumptions behind the guesses are good ones. Whoo hoo! I could not be happier. In fact, I am certain I have to stop here and do a happy feet shuffle...

Why is this important?

From a design and build perspective, it is huge. Each email looks different on each device. User settings on devices can change what the email looks like on the same device. It has always been a challenge to design email for optimum usability on all devices. In fact, it is a challenge that is impossible to conquer. But now it can be managed!

For example:

If the majority of your audience is reading mobile, you want to reduce your use of dark coloured design blocks where you would normally change the links to a lighter colour than the standard blue. Smartphones automatically convert dates, times, locations and phone numbers into links that are standard blue. These links will create unreadable text on a dark background.

If the majority of your audience is reading mobile, the default smartphone settings will stack all your content blocks. You need to be aware of the stacking default order or your content may not make sense or flow for the reader in the mobile version. Images often show up in awkward places in the stack. Use less text wrapping for optimum mobile viewing.

Audiences that are overwhelmingly opening your email on computer make it much easier for you to brand your email and use funky, eye catching design within the email itself. Many design elements disappear when the content blocks convert to a stack.

Now you can tailor your design for your audience. It's as good as a giant scoop of ice cream on top of a cake :)

originally published at diymarketinghelp.com, September 13, 2016

Click to Tweet this Article