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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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September 25, 2018

Are You Turning People Off With Your Marketing?


Do you, like me, cringe if someone points out something about your marketing they don't like? Recent chats with other marketers have me realizing... I don't get enough complaints.

How are complaints useful?

Disqualifying prospects: If complaints are from people who aren't in your target market, you might be doing something right, rather than wrong. Don't water down your message to try to appeal to everyone or it will resonate with no one.

Differentiation: Thinking about "the opposite of" or what something is NOT is extremely helpful in developing your marketing messages. Recently, when receiving feedback from friends about a landing page I have under development, the "negative" comments specifically led me to think about what my new program is not. And listing what my program is not has helped me to focus in on why it's different.

Feedback: Complaints are just one form of feedback - and like all feedback, should be evaluated for their merit. ALL feedback is useful in some way - and sometimes it can verify that what you've been doing is right.

No one likes to hear complaints, but we can turn them around into useful lessons... it just requires a different perspective.

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Originally published in the Work Better, Not Harder newsletter September 25, 2018

September 18, 2018

3 Ways Having a Social Media Strategy Will Save You Time


Guest post by Anita Kirkbride

Have you ever noticed how being overwhelmed by something tends to make it suck the time right out of your day? The more overwhelmed you feel, the longer it takes to get it done? All entrepreneurs get that feeling about something and many have learned tactics to deal with it and get things done more efficiently.

Ben Franklin famously said, “For every minute spent in organizing, an hour is earned,” and it has never been truer than for planning your social media marketing!

If your paralysis stems from social media, the best way to get moving is to create a social media strategy and plan out what you need to be doing. Here are three ways doing so will save you time:

Knowing what to post

Simply having a plan for what you need to post each day cuts the time you spend trying to figure that out. If you’ve ever stared blankly at your screen, wondering what to post on Facebook, you know what I mean. Taking the time to plan your content in advance means you cut out a lot of the noise that distracts you while trying to decide what to post. You know what you need to find/create and you can get right to it.

Knowing when and where to post

Part of the process of developing your social media strategy is determining on which networks you should focus your efforts. A little research time goes a long way. Asking your current, ideal customers which networks they hang out on regularly is one way to find out where you should be. There are also lots of great online sources of demographic information to help you if you’re new to social media. Taking the time to really understand your audience will save you from trying to create content for too many networks, wasting precious resources on the wrong ones, and understanding your audience better can help you optimize your posting schedule.

Committing to Content

There are numerous formats your social media content can take, from blogs to white papers, from photos to live videos. Trying to do everything contributes to that overwhelm feeling. Ask yourself which types of content you can honestly commit to making on a regular basis and add those to your plan. If you simply cannot create videos, there is no point in overwhelming yourself with a plan that includes a video every week. You’ll continue to procrastinate and get nothing done. Choose the types of content that work best for you and your audience and work your way up to the less comfortable ones later.

When making any kind of decision in business, eliminating the distracting ideas that simply won’t work, saves you time and helps you make better decisions. Absolutely spend some time brainstorming, researching and considering all the possibilities but then narrow it down to what you reasonably have the time, resources and capacity to commit to doing. Once you’ve done that, your social media marketing will come much easier, take less time and start to become routine.

Photo credit: Shari Tucker

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September 14, 2018

Are You Having a Conversation or Giving a Lecture?


Guest post by Frances Leary

Every business of every size needs a platform that gives it a voice. Social media is just that. It gives every organization, large and small, a voice to share its information, inspiration, products, and services with the world.

However, if businesses are only listening to their own voices, it’s like giving a sermon. People can only listen to a sermon for so long. Eventually, they don’t want to listen anymore.

Imagine this scenario:

You’ve been told you need to “be on social media.” So, you find some content to post and you use an automation tool to get it out there consistently. And then to yourself, you say, “Whew, that’s done. Now I don’t have to deal with social media for a while.”

The result?

There you are, standing behind your online lectern, giving an unending sermon to an audience of your very-soon-to-be-disengaged potential customers and clients. You just keep on talking. Eventually, they stop listening. It’s like giving a lecture to an empty auditorium.

People don’t engage on social media to be lectured. They engage on social media because they want to connect with people. And when it comes to business, people want to do business with people. They want to share thoughts and ideas and be inspired. They want to build relationships with organizations and leaders they trust.

They want to feel like they know who you really are. They want to feel heard and valued and understood.

However, if you’re only giving lectures then you’re not giving your customers and clients what they need.

If you don’t actually want to engage with the people – to have those conversations, to respond to comments and questions from your audience, to provide supportive customer engagement in order to foster those relationships – then what are you really doing on social media in the first place?

Business development is a two-way conversation. So is social media. So, step away from the lectern, and have the conversations.

Action: Look at your social media feeds and notice how much you’re posting and how much you are commenting on and engaging with others. If you’re mostly just posting your own content, make a point to scroll through your followers’ posts and comments. See what they’re up to, and allow yourself to absorb the potential for using social media to lift up those members of your audience and support them. Look for opportunities to engage with your community, and act.

Adapted from a chapter of 101 Ways to Use Social Media to Do Good by Frances Leary.

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Frances Leary is an award-winning entrepreneur, author, speaker, consultant, and president of online communications firm Wired Flare Inc., a certified B Corporation and two-time Best for the World Honoree in five categories. As an expert in digital storytelling and impact-driven communication, Frances has worked with organizations throughout North America to connect them with customers, partners and communities through compelling story. A digital shepherd, she offers training and consulting to empower impact-driven entrepreneurs and organizations to grow their triple bottom line. Frances speaks internationally, championing big ideas and empowering change, and she is the author of the newly released book, 101 Ways to Use Social Media to Do Good. Learn more about Frances at FrancesLeary.com 

September 10, 2018

How to Share Yourself Through Your Content


Are you a learner? Share your learning.

Are you a teacher? Share what you teach.

Are you an experimenter? Share what you discover.

Are you thoughtful? Share your conclusions.

Are you an artist? Share your art.

Are you a shopper? Share your style.

Are you a conversationalist? Share the latest news.

Are you a planner? Share your plans.

Are you a storyteller? Share your stories.

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September 5, 2018

Oh, The Embarrassment! (And The Engagement)


You know that feeling when you're talking to a group of people, quite passionate about the topic, and suddenly your brain resets? You have no idea what you were about to say. Total blank. Especially when it happens in front of a class or on a live broadcast, you feel an immediate flush of embarrassment and confusion. I know it well.

What to do? Own up and share your predicament. Everyone messes up at one time or another. What you'll discover is that people will rush to help you recover, to rescue you. (Dare I say Canadians are particularly good at this?) Suddenly, whatever you were talking about has become a shared experience, not just a discussion.

I was reminded of this embarrassment factor while watching a Facebook Live where my friend and colleague, Anita Kirkbride, momentarily lost her focus... and gracefully recovered. Later in the discussion, she talked about how the fear of embarrassment shouldn't keep us from doing our own social media marketing.

Embarrassment happens to everyone. And so it can be an engaging shared experience wherever it happens - online or off.

As an aside, if you're teaching a class when this happens, it turns out to be a great way to review the discussion up to that point. This I know from experience.

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