February 16, 2019

How Giving Options Reduces Unsubscribes


After sending out clients' newsletters, I'm often asked by them why someone would have unsubscribed. The worry seems to be that something in that particular issue made them disconnect. This is rarely the case.

I can't tell you all the reasons people unsubscribe but I can tell you that it is always about them. Lives change, interests change, jobs change, priorities change, time changes... all of these things can result in unsubscribes. You should never take unsubscribes personally.

You can typically expect list attrition - the natural pattern of unsubscribes you can consider normal - to be 25-30% per year. That industry-wide benchmark is not as useful as the one your own list will give you over time. You will see what your typical unsubscribe rate is. As long as you are growing your list faster than that rate, you shouldn't spend too much time worrying about unsubscribes.

On the other hand, if you are experiencing a sudden spike in unsubscribes, you will want to dig deeper into your recent email statistics and take a look at the content strategy in your last few newsletter issues. You should be able to pin down a problem - or a change that created a problem - and adjust. A strategy only works to the extent that you are willing to adjust based on feedback.

One thing that can cause a spike in unsubscribes is adding campaigns. For example, if you have been sending a monthly newsletter and then add a campaign for a large event, generating repeat sends, you might experience list exhaustion. Readers that are not interested in the event are feeling overwhelmed with messages about it.

A solution is to provide your readers with subscription options. Set up a second list for event emails so they can unsubscribe from those messages but still receive your newsletter. You will want to consider this strategy if you send a newsletter and promotional emails, as well. Over time, you will see that some of your readers only want event notices, some only want your newsletter, and others want both. They will sort that out for themselves if you give them options.

Readers will unsubscribe from content they are not interested in. Publish content that is useful, relevant and interesting to your target market. Send on a consistent and reliable schedule. Then keep your eye on the unsubscribes... but don't spend your time worrying about them.

February 9, 2019

Quality Control for Your Content


You've just finished an insightful new article for your blog. You're anxious to publish it and find out what your readers think.

Depending on the topic and type of article you've written, it might make sense to do a little research before publishing.

Researching after writing might seem backward but it has helped me many times. Here is why I often research after writing:
  • To check that I haven't missed something really important on the topic.
  • To see what others' opinions are and whether there are points of debate I haven't addressed.
  • To make sure my information, instructions or lists are complete.
  • To develop a headline by seeing what shows up in Google searches.
Every time I research after writing, I've been glad I did. I often find ways to enhance my article and, even if I don't, it gives me confidence that I've done a good job.

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January 27, 2019

Simple Content Planner in Trello


A few months ago I found a new best friend when I started working with a client who uses Trello. While the client is indeed a friend, the free Trello app is what I'm talking about here.

Trello is visual like a bulletin board and, the more things I use it for, the more organized and productive I'm becoming.

I have no shortage of content ideas and I'm pretty good about catching them but, well, not necessarily all in one place. I have a notebook, Word docs in a folder in Dropbox, and as of right now, 22 draft posts on this blog. Recently I discovered a recorded message I'd made for myself last year on my phone.

Catching ideas and organizing them into a content calendar are two different things - and both can be handled easily with Trello. Here is a link to a public board I created and which you can copy and make your own.

If you've used Trello before, you might find this overly simplistic but, well, I'm all about simple. If you haven't used Trello before, you can find excellent instructions here.

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January 22, 2019

Get Focused Before You Start to Write


If you want to be doing more content marketing but aren't, do you know what's stopping you? A few months ago I wrote this article - Where Do You Get Stuck? - and ever since I have been committed to developing solutions for these stumbling blocks:
  1. coming up with ideas
  2. adapting your ideas for writing
  3. starting to write
  4. finishing writing
  5. editing and proofing
  6. finding or creating graphics
  7. keywords and publishing
Adapting ideas for writing (#2) is a common challenge for small business owners who may not have much writing experience. Here is a way to conquer that stumbling block.

5 Steps to Plan Your Article Before You Start to Write

#1. What is your purpose or goal?
  • To give or explain information
  • To persuade with your opinions
  • To share ideas, thoughts or concepts
Knowing your goal will inform the style you use for writing. Giving information requires a good detailed outline, simple words, and facts. Persuading requires good research and planning, examples, and writing techniques such as comparisons. Sharing ideas requires many of these things but also a more creative writing style where you paint a picture for your reader.

#2. Who is your article for?

This is likely a subset of your target market. Don't write for everyone. Instead, write for the people who will find the most value in your content. Your message needs to resonate with them to be successful.

#3. What is the topic?

Write a one-line description. This might be the eventual title for your article but don't get hung up on the words. Get it down in such a way that it's simple and clear. Worry about finessing words later.

#4. Do you need to research?

What do you need to know and how can you find out? List questions and possible sources. If you don't research when preparing your article, consider researching after it's written. For example, I tend to avoid researching up front to avoid the risk of plagiarism. But often, once my article is drafted, I'll search to see what others are writing about on the topic and if I've missed an important point.

#5. What main points do you want to make?

List only 1-3 items. If you have more items, you might consider a series or a checklist article.

Once you have done this planning, you'll feel more confident and organized when you sit down to write. And this only takes a few minutes. Click here to download a worksheet you can use as part of your blogging process. You'll find it's a few minutes well spent!

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January 17, 2019

Advertising vs Content Marketing


I don't often use terms like 'lead magnet' and 'sales funnel' on this blog. Not because they aren't good things to have - of course, they are - but because there are lots of others writing about those topics. Here I'd rather discuss ideas for those and other tools we use to attract customers.

Content marketing works the best when you focus on the content first. The delivery method is important but won't matter if you aren't creating valuable content.

When I opened a newsletter from a friend recently, this headline jumped out at me:

Content marketing results in 6x more conversions than other forms of marketing.

Advertising costs money. On the other hand, content marketing costs time. Which do you have more of?

January 3, 2019

Pantone Colour of the Year for 2019


When I received Pantone's email announcement of their Colour of the Year for 2019, I didn't rush to blog about it as I usually would. Mostly I thought, "Huh?" And ever since, I've been wondering if I'll have the opportunity to use it in any of the digital marketing I do.

Don't get me wrong, I love Pantone 16-1546 Living Coral. But it feels a bit feminine for my purposes - which are marketing-related, of course.


I decided to have a look at possible colour schemes using Living Coral...


I'm kind of liking that triad combo! What do you think? Will you be using Living Coral in your branding this year?

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December 27, 2018

One Word for 2019


Reflecting back on this past year, the first thing I realized is that I didn't define a 'One Word' for 2018. That's because, as 2017 was rolling over to 2018, I was busy building a website and working hard with colleagues to launch Social Media Day Halifax 2018. The word I feel like I used the most in 2018 was SMDH - the acronym and hashtag for the conference.

It was a year of teaching, learning, brainstorming, strategizing, planning, collaborating and designing. Some highlights:
  • Taught an 11-week program for small business owners funded through Labour and Advanced Education Nova Scotia. Starting January 2019 I'll be teaching another similar program.
  • Collaborated to successfully launch the Social Media Day Halifax Conference, an annual learning experience for anyone working in a marketing role. Tickets for the June 21, 2019 conference go on sale January 7th.
  • Created and launched the 100 Days of Marketing online program. Enhancements and more versions are planned for 2019.
  • Started exciting project work with the GreyLit.net team as Chief Marketing Officer.
  • Designed and built 10 websites, plus a complete re-design of my own.
  • Prepared and published about 350 email newsletters (less than in past years).
  • Surpassed 600,000 pageviews on the Work Better, Not Harder blog (since 2010).
  • Hosted 3 free lunch and learn workshops for small business owners in the Halifax area. The series will continue monthly into 2019, with 2 workshops scheduled and more planned.
  • Did a whole bunch of other marketing work that adds variety to my work life.
If you haven't done so already, take a few minutes to make a list of all your own major business accomplishments this past year. When you start thinking about it and putting numbers to your activities, you might be surprised by what you've accomplished.

What does 2019 hold for me and Daley Progress? More of the same. I started a lot of new things this past year and, in the coming year, I'll continue to work to grow them and fully embrace their potential. And so, my One Word for 2019 is EMBRACE.

Following The Phone Lady's example, I looked up the definition of EMBRACE. Rest assured that I won't be running around hugging everyone (unless you ask nicely). Here is the meaning which resonates with me as I shift into the new business year: to take up especially readily or gladly, encircle, enclose.

I also hope you are ready and glad to embrace a new year! Please share your One Word in the comments below.

December 24, 2018

10 Most Read Blog Posts from 2018


It's always useful to check in on your blog stats so you can see what people are interested in reading. This year I'm a little surprised with some of the posts that have been read the most on Work Better, Not Harder. Here they are:

#1. 7 Out Of 12 Small Business Bloggers Agree On This
When I teach marketing courses, the group eventually tires of seeing this list of key reasons for publishing a blog or newsletter come up on the screen in every class. Focus on only 2-3 main goals.

#2. Social Media Day Halifax 2018 Marketing Conference
For the first time, Halifax celebrated Social Media Day in grand style this year. I'm proud to be one of the organizers of the first Social Media Day Halifax conference which took place on June 22nd.

#3. 3 Ways Having a Social Media Strategy Will Save You Time
Guest blogger Anita Kirkbride says, "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..."

#4. 3 Reasons Why Businesses Should Be Podcasting
Guest blogger Mike Tanner explains why small businesses should consider adding podcasting to their marketing strategy... and how easy it is to do!

#5. Pick a Topic Like You Would Pick an Apple
Instead of writing about the whole apple tree, pick only one apple to write about. Narrow your topic, answer one question instead of 20, go deep instead of broad.

#6. This Useful Process Helps You Teach with Your Writing
If you do any amount of training or facilitating work with customers, you may already be familiar with adult learning models. Teachers use them to prepare insightful learning experiences.

#7. Combine Networking with Research for Killer Content
Looking for a unique and easy content idea for your blog or newsletter? It will even improve your networking at the next event you attend.

#8. 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?

#9. The Wrong Way to Introduce Your First Newsletter
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.

#10. 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.

Wishing you a successful and healthy new year!

December 16, 2018

Pinpoint Your Unique Content Marketing Opportunity - An Example


If you read Pinpoint Your Unique Content Marketing Opportunity last month and are still stuck, this article may offer some hope.

First, if you are sitting at your desk alone, new ideas may not come to you easily. This process requires brainstorming - and more than one brain. And it may not happen immediately but, if you are constantly on the alert for ideas, it will come sooner or later.

A couple of months ago I was masterminding with Alison Knott at Humani-T Cafe in Halifax. I think I was encouraging her to do a regular email newsletter and she was lamenting about the time and effort required to blog regularly. This is a discussion I've had many times with many people over the years. "Just do it!" doesn't often work as inspiration.

At one point, I said something like, "It'd be nice to find something valuable to give readers that you don't have to work so hard to create," and went off to get a fresh coffee. When I came back, I said, "What are you spending time already doing that would be useful to others?"

"Stats," Alison said. "I'm always reading interesting web stats." I really wish we had a photo of that moment.

Check out the first issue of Alison's "Notable Numbers" new monthly newsletter. It's interesting and useful... and brief. For Alison, it's easy to pull together and doesn't take a whole bunch of time.

Here's the worksheet I included in last month's post. Use it as a starting point to focus your thoughts and ideas. Find a colleague, customer, or collaborator to toss around ideas with. If you're stuck after that, I can be bought ;)

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December 10, 2018

What's the Best Day of the Month to Send a Newsletter?


Wouldn't it be great if I had a magic bullet for you? The thing is, if I did, everyone else would be sending their newsletter on that day and it would no longer be magic. What I can do instead is give you some suggestions to help narrow it down.

Is your schedule dependent on others?

For example, if you're a real estate professional, you'll want to send your newsletter after mortgage rates have been adjusted so you can include that information. If you plan to curate content from certain bloggers, and they all post in the middle of the month, you don't want to plan your newsletter for the first week. Think about what, if any, information in your newsletter is dependent on others and plan around it.

Send when your contacts are using their email.

This means that if your contacts are opening your newsletter at work, you want it to arrive during a workday. And you typically don't want this to be right after a weekend or holiday when clearing out the inbox is a priority. So mid to late morning on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday is your best bet.

If your contacts are consumers, reading email on their phones or at home, it's harder to pin down a "best" day or time. You can experiment and you can also ask your contacts.

Don't pick a date, pick a day.

The day of the week is more important than the day of the month. Consider all the people who commit to sending a newsletter on the first of every month. What do you think their open rate is like on July 1st (in Canada)? Select something like the second Thursday each month, or the third Wednesday.

If individual consumers are your target market, you would send earlier in the week if you sell commodities, and on payday or right after if you sell luxury items.

Be consistent.

Once you settle on your schedule, stick to it. If you let it slide to the last day of the month, you'll be competing for attention with everyone else who did the same thing.

When you schedule the recurring item in your calendar to send out your newsletter, also back up 2-3 days and schedule your newsletter prep time. Prepping and sending at the last minute is a recipe for mistakes.

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December 3, 2018

How to Answer a Question on Your Small Business Blog


You might think your website FAQ page is the best place to answer questions but I would argue that your blog is even better. In fact, I suggest your FAQ page should list the questions, and perhaps short answers, with links to blog posts for more detailed answers.

If your answers to frequently asked questions are individual blog posts, that content is ultimately more shareable via social media, email or chatbot. It's also a great way to make use of common keyword phrases, boosting your SEO.

The Question

The question you're answering might serve well as your post title or you might include it in your first paragraph. If it makes sense, you might also add some context which gives information about who the answer is for. For example, I might mention that I get asked this question often when networking with other small business owners.

The Answer

Generally, there are two types of answers.

Facts and/or opinions:

In this case, the question might start with something like, "What is the best ... ?" It's important to differentiate between facts and your opinions. Consider including 2-3 points to back up your position, whether using facts, opinions, or both.

Instructional:

This question might start with, "How do I ... ?" Make your response easy to follow by using bullet points or numbered steps. Include things like screenshots, photos, videos and worksheets - visuals can often make the difference between understanding and confusion.

Of course, if you are mentioning things that you have already talked about on your blog, you'll want to add links to encourage deeper reading (like I just did there).

This type of content will serve you well, and not just online. The next time a client sends an email asking questions, you can quickly direct them to well-thought-out, detailed answers.

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November 27, 2018

Waking Up Without an Alarm


The young cashier at Walmart grinned at me and said, "Joke's on them then." I had just told him to keep the printer cartridge separate as my business was going to pay for that. I grinned back and said, "The joke's on me then since I'm the boss. And I'm also the one who had to drop everything and dash out when the printer ran out."

Oh, the joys of owning your own business.

I'm on vacation this week. Yet this newsletter is getting sent, along with five others. I emailed a handful of clients to reassure them I would still be reachable and delivering on deadlines. I've been doing paperwork and will meet with my bookkeeper. I'll even attend a networking event. My husband is on vacation, so I need to find time to spend with him, too. And oh yeah, I need to get a tooth pulled - something I've been saving for the vacation.

What I will NOT be doing this week is setting my alarm clock. In fact, I have a goal to not wake up to an alarm... even when I'm not on vacation.

About six weeks ago I started taking this goal seriously. I listened to a Facebook Live where Brandi Good described having this same goal. I realized this is not something to feel guilty about or that it makes me seem lazy. It does help me start my day in a positive way and I can organize my workload accordingly. If I'm on a roll at midnight, I can keep the creative juices going instead of watching the clock.

Being the boss might mean I have to run out for printer cartridges, but it also means there's no one looking at their watch as I slide into my chair in the (mid) morning.

What secret goals can you embrace as part of your small business work routine?


November 23, 2018

Don't Ignore the Obvious: Daily Tips Work


One of the best things I ever did was to take Anita Kirkbride's advice when she told me I should post daily enewsletter tips on social media. It was a very specific and fairly easy task to do. I ended up with an Excel spreadsheet with about 350 short tips... all prefaced with #enewsletter. I joked that when I got to 365 tips, I'd make a calendar.

Now I didn't sit down and spend several days making up this list - ugh! But I started it and then every time I wrote a blog post that included a tip, I copied it into my spreadsheet along with the post link. This started back when Twitter allowed only 140 characters so I finagled words a lot.

You can see in the graph below that it had an almost immediate effect on blog traffic - note the big jump in readership SEPT 2012.


This was tedious work. I spent many hours copy/pasting and scheduling individual messages in Hootsuite, a month at a time, for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+. Eventually, I started uploading my spreadsheet to Hootsuite and SocialJukebox, which saved a lot of time.

Six years later I'm feeling nostalgic because the last of these scheduled tips posts in 2 weeks and I won't be re-running them again. My business has changed, and email marketing has changed, so I'm sharing different tips.

With all the scheduling apps now, it's so much easier to maintain a regular posting schedule for any daily tips. There are several apps where you can upload a spreadsheet to schedule.

This idea may seem like a lot of work but, once you get going, you'll start to see it working for you and become more enthusiastic. Especially if you are blogging, this is a great way to recycle your blog content and get more readers. It is well worth the effort.

PS: This is a habit you can start building at 100daysofmarketing.com.

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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?