July 24, 2017

Storage for Great Ideas - Back of Book (BOB)


Do you often flip to the back page of your notebook to jot down content ideas? If not, start!

When I'm teaching small business classes about online marketing, I insist they start a page in the back of their notebooks for jotting down ideas for blog or social media posts. This page will extend beyond one, but it's the start of something great. BOB (for back of book) becomes a new friend... your idea catcher.

When you are looking for something to write about or post, check your BOB for ideas.

July 18, 2017

Quick Prep for Business Phone Calls


Imagine this happened to you earlier today...

You chatted on the phone for two hours with one of your favourite customers. You both laughed a lot and enjoyed catching up. It had been a while since you had a relaxed conversation with her. You're smiling as you hang up the phone.

Then reality strikes. A quick check of the time and your to-do list confirms you've lost control of your day. Your smile fades. You aren't feeling as cheery as you did a few minutes before. Now you'll have to hustle and compromise the rest of the day.

And that's not the worst impact. Your favourite customer is in exactly the same situation. She hung up smiling, too, but quickly realized the impact on her day. (I suspect this story may ring true for some of my customers.)

Here are a couple of things I try to remember to do so a friendly chat doesn't go too far off track:

  1. Jot down on paper a short list of points to cover during the call. I can use it as a reminder to bring the focus back to business.
  2. Ask up front how much time is available. Does the other person have time to chat, or should we get right down to business?

No doubt about it, I love to chat. That's why it's important to remember how it can impact my own and others' time. Please share more tips in the comments.

(Yes, Mary Jane, I'm sharing a phone tip!)

Click to Tweet this Article

July 13, 2017

One Little Word Can Go A Long Way


It's 2pm on a Thursday afternoon. I've been out all morning and discover urgent requests from two different customers as soon as I'm back at my desk. I already have a full plate for the afternoon and immediately realize I'm not going to be able to help both customers. I have to pick one over the other. Who do I pick?

The one who always says "Thanks!" It's a no-brainer.

Manners and respect will never go out of style. And they absolutely give you a one-up over those lacking... in business and in life.

Click to Tweet this Article

July 8, 2017

How to Get People to Open Your Emails


How long did you think about the subject line of that email you just sent to your brand new client? Will they be interested or excited to open it? Or will they leave it sitting unopened, floating closer to the bottom of their inbox?

I've discovered a little quirk. In fact, it feels more like a secret I shouldn't acknowledge, maybe even a tad manipulative. It didn't start out that way but now I know what I know... well, I can't un-know it.

Here it is. If I send an email to any of my work friends with the words 'no rush' in the subject line, it's likely to get opened faster than any other email I send them.

Of course, this may not work any longer once my friends read this article. But let me be clear, I've never used that knowledge to manipulate. And that's why it works. When I send an email with 'no rush' in the subject line, I really mean there's nothing inside requiring their attention soon. Usually it's a business idea in some form or other, thoughts that percolated while I worked.

From their perspective, perhaps something that's not a rush sounds more interesting than something that is. Putting the potential for reverse psychology aside, there's more than one lesson here.

First, it seems that over time I've figured out an effective way to communicate ideas to my confederates.

Second, and much more important, we can all do this with every email we send. I'm not talking about manipulating people. This is about building (dare I say) best practices over time that work efficiently for us and the people we communicate with most.

In the example above, I used the words 'no rush' in my subject line to make a distinction about the content of the email. Words aren't our only tool. We have all used urgent or privacy flags in email. And even formatting options, like ALL CAPS or exclamation marks - but discerningly!

We can all make our subject lines more useful. And we have easy tools to help us do that. This will mean less time spent in our inboxes and less of the accompanying stress. I'm going to more actively step up to the challenge starting now. Join me?

Click to Tweet this Article

July 2, 2017

Ready-made Social Media Images Coming Soon


You know how you can sometimes be a sucker for striking photos, bold fonts and maybe even cute kitties on your social media feeds? You aren't the only one!

Having a visual presence is an important part of your small business marketing. Not only that but it also needs to stand out from everyone else who's trying to stand out from everyone else.

The thing is, not every small business owner has the skill to create their own graphics. Many have no desire to learn, and rightfully so. Yet the once-and-done nature of social media graphics makes it prohibitive to hire a designer.

Knowing this, we've embarked on a new adventure launching on August 1st, 2017. It's a subscription service for busy small business owners to easily get themed bundles of engaging social media graphics. Easily add your logo and website to increase your brand awareness on social media with fresh content that looks like it was custom-made for you.

We'll be launching with our first draw. Want to win a year's worth of ready-made social media graphics? Click here to enter.

Click to Tweet this Article

June 27, 2017

Behavioural Economics and Small Business Marketing​


After spending my adult life thinking I'm a mostly logical person (and being not so secretly proud of it), I just found out I'm not. And apparently the fact that I think I am is a little irrational.

You might think I'd be a little sad to discover this but I'm actually thrilled. A whole new perspective on marketing just opened up because Dan Ariely told me we're all Predictably Irrational.

Don't let behavioural economics scare you off. This book is insightful and funny, and a fairly quick read (because I couldn't put it down). I learned a marketing lesson in the first chapter that is so improbable... well, you'll have to see for yourself. It's powerful stuff and I recommend it highly.

originally published in Work Better, Not Harder newsletter June 27, 2017

Click to Tweet this Article

June 25, 2017

How Does Your Marketing Change If You Don't Want New Customers?


What's the marketing strategy for NOT attracting new clients? Is it to stop marketing all together? Or to scale back, everything or some things?

There are many reasons why a small business may not want to receive new customers for a period of time; I just hadn't considered it till now. I'm working on another business project so I need to free up some of my time and energy. I'm also trying to squeeze in some vacation time this summer.

Here's what has brought all this to my attention: the thought of sending out my monthly newsletter is making me nervous because I don't want anyone to call or email when they receive it. If that's not messed up thinking for a marketer, I don't know what is.

So, what is the answer? There are some obvious things, such as scaling back my social media posting and blogging a little, removing promotional posts from my scheduling, changing or removing my calls to action (in more places than I've thought of yet!), advising my referrers and clients, and putting a message on my website.

I'd love to hear your suggestions in the comment box... what is a good strategy for temporarily scaling back sales without sacrificing the hard work you've put into marketing?

photo by Philippe Vieux-Jeanton / Flickr

Click to Tweet this Article

June 16, 2017

Crello is Not Just Another Pretty Graphics Tool

screenshot of Crello home page

Just when I thought I didn't need another graphics tool, along came Crello... yesterday. It's brand new (and I haven't been able to break it yet). If you're frustrated with trying to use Canva, this might be the solution for you.

The interface is very much like Canva, yet Crello has veered away in the right places. I've always found the way Canva handles images as backgrounds and layers to be awkward; Crello takes a more simplistic approach.

Crello has 6,000+ free templates and 10,000+ free design elements! I know that's going to be exciting to many besides me.

Crello lacks some of my favourite Canva features, especially magic resize. But its ease of use and more intuitive interface is winning me over. I know I'll be exploring those 6000+ templates for many many more hours to come.

For more info about Crello's functionality, read this press release. Or pop over to Crello.com and jump right in. Have fun, it's free!

Click to Tweet this Article

June 12, 2017

Great Learning Option from Your Local Library


Have you ever searched for a course on a specific subject online? How do you know which course is better than another? It can be hard to choose and expensive to find out you were wrong.

I was asking a WordPress consultant what she recommends for WordPress training and I found out something even better.

Apparently lynda.com is the best place to go for just about any technical training. This is because of the way they rigorously curate their content. Good to know. Even better, though, was finding out that I can access lynda.com for free because I have a library card. Just log into your local library's website and you should find access to lynda.com in the learning section. (Here in Halifax, check this link.)

photo by Beacon Head Studio / Flickr

Click to Tweet this Article

June 1, 2017

Summer Marketing Sets You up for Success in the Fall


You might think blog (and newsletter) readership drops over the summer when many people head on vacation. And you would be wrong. Some people have more time to read during the summer months. In fact, they will read more deeply, taking the time to click links and follow a topic or call to action.

Before you start tossing rotten fruit my way... I not suggesting you skip vacation in favour of marketing.

Your summer holiday may be as important to your body's health as your marketing is to your business health. In the same way you'll figure out how to take some vacation days this summer, you can also figure out a way to keep your marketing alive and kicking.

Make a content plan in advance. I'm not the best person to dish out this advice as I do most of my content creation on the fly as inspiration strikes me. But summer has even me doing some necessary planning. At the least, jot down a list of possible topics to use over the summer. (Do it now; I'll wait for you.) Now you'll be more alert for ideas about these topics when you come across them.

Turn content creation activities into assembly lines. I sometimes write more than one article at a time but I purposely ramp up in the spring. The same goes for creating graphics for social media; I create a bunch in one sitting rather than one-offs.

Here are some more suggestions to maintain your marketing momentum over the summer months.

Click to Tweet this Article

originally published in Work Better, Not Harder newsletter May 30, 2017

May 28, 2017

Simple Help for Better Blog Writing


Don't you love it when you find a new tool to make your work easier? One of the benefits of teaching is I also learn from the course participants.

It's Hemingway that has my attention this time (thanks to Jacqueline). I love it's simplicity! Go to hemingwayapp.com and start typing right on the screen. You'll see suggested edits highlighted as you type. Or you can turn off the editor until you're finished writing and do all your editing at the end. Another bonus for bloggers is you can see your stats: reading time, letters, characters, words, sentences and paragraphs.

Start writing your next article using Hemingway and see what you think.

May 23, 2017

Have a Party on Your Website


Imagine you're planning a big party at your place... today. What will you do first: clean and cook, or invite people?

Spending time and money to promote your business online is a bit like sending invitations to a party on your website. You want your place to be ready when the doorbell rings.

Before you make the pretty pictures or the clever articles, make sure to vacuum under the couch. People will judge you.

photo by jackfrench / Flickr

Click to Tweet this Article

May 17, 2017

Using "Air Quotes" in Online Communication


When I see double quotes wrapped around a couple of words or a small phrase, I immediately think of Sheldon's air quotes from The Big Bang Theory and the emotion that comes to mind is sarcasm. I absolutely know this is the case for many people - one small impact of popular culture.

Now, if you are a writer and intend sarcasm, leveraging this thinking pattern might be a great way to make your point - as long as all of your readers are familiar with "Sheldon quotes".

On the other hand, if sarcasm is not your intent, using double quotes might completely derail your intended message. Readers can't see if we actually hold up our hands and tweak our fingers, or if we just think it in our heads, or if we didn't mean sarcasm at all.

This is another way text communication can be flat, leading to miscommunication. Yet we don't want to start inserting emojis into our business communication (or at least some of us don't).

Why did we all start using so many quote marks anyway? Online it's not good practice to use underline other than for hyperlinks, so we're left with bold and italic for emphasis... plus symbols, like "double quotes". (They're really awkward, too. On which side of the quote does the period go? You can see what I "think".)

Before you type those double quotes the next time, hesitate and question if you really need them at all. Are you quoting a person speaking, or is it for emphasis?

As a footnote, I'm definitely not suggesting you switch to exclamation points instead!!!

photo by Peter23394 / Flickr

Click to Tweet this Article

May 7, 2017

Where to Get a Haircut in a New Town


A small business owner, let's call him Bob, arrives in a small town for a meeting with a potential new client. Before his afternoon meeting, Bob decides he needs a haircut to get all spiffy. The receptionist at his hotel tells him there are only two barbers in town, both with shops along the main drag. It's a sunny warm morning so Bob sets off walking.

When he arrives at the first barbershop, Bob can clearly see through the big front window that the place looks less than pristine - hair on the floor and a general air of disorganization. There's one fellow getting a cut and another waiting. Even the barber himself needs a trim!

Further along Main Street, Bob comes to the second barbershop. The view in the front window looks much better. The floor is swept and gleaming, the barber is busy lining up shampoo bottles on a display shelf and his own hair has a crisp updated cut.

Bob turns around and heads back to the first barbershop to get his cut. Do you know why?

I read some version of this story in a logic puzzles book as a kid and it has stuck with me because it has such a powerful unexpected message. Have you figured it out yet?

The barber at the first shop has a line-up, he's clearly in demand and too busy to keep his shop as tidy as it should be. He's likely in demand because he's the more talented of the two barbers, being the person who cut the second barber's hair.

The next time you're looking for a website developer, or a business coach, or a printing company, or a haircut, look beyond the website or shiny window. Look at the customers to see the results. Really happy customers become fans and they'll be easy to find, even if they're not in line for a haircut.

photo by hfrank71 / Flickr

Click to Tweet this Article

May 2, 2017

One Simple Test Will Change the Impact of Your Headlines


You can tell when you read a headline that lets you get to know the writer a little better. It often contains an opinion, or perhaps a turn of phrase that is unique to them.

If your business is all about selling you, it's worth it to take extra care with your headlines and subject lines. Here's the promised simple test:

Read your headline out loud. Does it sound like something you'd say out loud?

Still not sure? Go look yourself in the eye in a mirror and say it out loud. Or add the words, "Hi Mom," to the beginning of your headline.

This test will make you stop and reconsider. Perhaps you won't change a word but the exercise is still valuable.

Don't overspend your time editing the text and not give enough attention to your headline. Your headline is the most important factor in whether anyone even gets to reading your article.

photo by nix|photo / Flickr

Click to Tweet this Article