23 July 2016

Content Template - The Checklist

Using a content template can shorten your writing time and also keep you more focused.

The purpose of this particular template is to give people a useful tool to complete a task more efficiently.

This type of article shows off your expertise. Because it is so useful, people will bookmark it and return. Part of its usefulness is its simplicity: no long paragraphs, no complex sentences. Grab The Checklist content template here (.pdf).

Get More Templates

If you like this template, grab the mini workbook Quick and Easy Content Creation with 5 more templates, plus some tips for using them to be more productive.

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19 July 2016

The Collaboration Movement

'The Creativity Movement' - this headline caught my eye in the paper recently. Included were several inspiring articles about idea generation and I noticed a common thread running throughout. It turns out that idea generation works better with more people than just yourself. No surprise there; doesn't this sound like brainstorming? Whatever you call it, more people make it merrier... and more creative.

So, this creativity movement hinges on collaboration. And that's good news for small business! Most small business owners I know thrive on collaboration; having others to work with but having autonomy, too. It almost feels like we have an unfair advantage in this new age.

Small business owners dream of getting that BIG IDEA. The one that will make them rich or popular or powerful, or give them the means to do good for others. But to get to that big idea, we have to practice with lots of little ones. No matter how overused, "practice makes perfect" is still true and definitely applies to ideas.

Tossing around ideas is one of my favourite things to do, mine or someone else's. I can do it for hours at a time. Finding that time is the challenge. Finding collaborators who can also find the same time is even harder.

I'm planning to take advantage of summer's slower pace to very deliberately generate and flesh out ideas.

Join me at Make. Do. Camp. September 2-5, 2016 in Big Cove, Nova Scotia. This camp is for entrepreneurs, professionals, creatives... change-makers who want to workshop ideas, spark creativity and refocus their energy. Until July 31st, you can get 15% off! Click here and use promo code CAMPFRIENDS when registering. After you register, drop me a note to let me know.

What ideas will you start from seed this summer?

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14 July 2016

The Absolute Best eMail Marketing Software

... is the one you don't have to learn yourself.

You don't know what you don't know. Hire an expert and go do what you do best.

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The next issue of the Work Better, Not Harder monthly newsletter will be Issue #100! We're working on an extra special resource and only email subscribers will get it. PLUS, if you sign up now, you'll also get a mini workbook with 5 Quick & Easy Content Templates to speed up your writing. Get it here.

10 July 2016

Colour Palettes for Summer Marketing

A photo can be a powerful marketing message, an expression of brand with more impact than a logo. It's worth a thousand words and expressed through many thousands of colours. We have feelings about the image itself and about the colours.

You know how you feel when looking at a beautiful photo of sand, sun and surf? Aquamarine, white, pink, and deep blue. Even if you don't own a bathing suit, you want to be there. Summer colour schemes can be bright and vibrant, or cool and relaxed.

What does your summer marketing campaign look and feel like?

Here are some photos that inspired me. I've included html colour codes and links to the original photos on pixabay.com if you want to download for yourself.

Can a fallen leaf be elegant? I think this one is - elegant and earthy. And, if I have time to contemplate this leaf, I must be feeling relaxed and at ease. Get the original photo.

Gazania are attention hogs in the garden with their warm colours and pinwheel designs. Get the original photo.

Purple always catches my attention regardless of the subject matter. This scene makes me think of mysteries and romance. Pass the wine. Get the original photo.

Warm, fuzzy, cute, cuddly, feminine, and youthful all come to mind. Pink elicits feelings of love and contentment. Get the original photo.

Cool, calm, collected... and casual. I love these shades of denim blue! Get the original photo.

Even if you don't live by the ocean, this photo shouts 'summer vacation'. A cool breeze lifts your hair and work feels very far away. Get the original photo.

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The next issue of the Work Better, Not Harder monthly newsletter will be Issue #100! We're working on an extra special resource and only email subscribers will get it. PLUS, if you sign up now, you'll also get a mini workbook with 5 Quick & Easy Content Templates to speed up your writing. Get it here.

05 July 2016

Why Graphics are an Important Part of Your Content

Not everyone is a 'visual' person, by preference or physical circumstances. But many are, which is why you can't ignore graphics as an important piece of your content. Can I convince you?

Today we are exposed to about five times more information daily than we were in the mid-1980s - around 34 gigabytes of information, roughly equivalent to 174 newspapers. Out of necessity, our attention spans have become shorter as we attempt to process information faster.

Over 50% of the human brain is devoted to processing visual information, and 70% of our sensory receptors are contained in our eyes. This means people are good at processing and remembering pictures. In fact, it only takes the average person one-tenth of a second to understand the content in a picture. It would take that same person over 30 seconds to read a description about the content in that same picture… over 300 times longer. Since 2007, graphic content on the internet has increased by almost 10,000%!

We have become used to getting our information in a visual format, and we can process it faster than written content. It only makes sense to create and use visual content to communicate important ideas.

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The next issue of the Work Better, Not Harder monthly newsletter will be Issue #100! We're working on an extra special resource and only email subscribers will get it. PLUS, if you sign up now, you'll also get a mini workbook with 5 Quick & Easy Content Templates to speed up your writing. Get it here.

01 July 2016

Why You Need to Create Original Content

"If all you're sharing is other people's content, why do people need to follow you?"
~ Anita Kirkbride

Recently I've sat with a couple of small business owners who have been "on social media" for a while but have not been doing much. In planning to ramp up their social game, one of the first things they both wanted to do was to get apps that help curate (bring them content based on keywords). This way they would have content to share.

I couldn't understand why this was important to them. I'm never at a loss for something to share.

Granted, we all have different strategies and goals. Here's where I find my content to share:
  • Experts I Know - I'm really lucky to know a few of them and their information is very relevant for my target market.
  • Clients and Friends - I follow all of my clients on all social media platforms. Their information is not always relevant to my target market but sometimes peripherally. I pick and choose to share what makes sense.
  • Service Providers and Other Trusted Sources - A big one for me is iContact which is the email marketing software I use for most of my work. I watch what they're posting to share interesting articles and also to stay current.
  • Search Topics - I search for information on something specific because I want to learn. Then I share the best of the results.
  • My Own Content - I spend a fair bit of time creating content and want to maximize its usefulness to others. By far most of what I share is original content in one form or another.
I use a Twitter list and a Hootsuite stream to keep track of the first 3 items above. Twitter is my fave so that's where you'll find me most.

Being able to curate good content is important but not as important as creating your own original content. That's where your time is better invested.

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The next issue of the Work Better, Not Harder monthly newsletter will be Issue #100! We're working on an extra special resource and only email subscribers will get it. PLUS, if you sign up now, you'll also get a mini workbook with 5 Quick & Easy Content Templates to speed up your writing. Get it here.

27 June 2016

Make a Personal Connection - A Success Story

Brenda Fay and her husband Dan of BrenDaniel Productions Corp. have trained people all over the world on project management. As a result, they have many contacts across several time zones. They had been using email marketing to promote their services.

A couple of years ago I suggested to Brenda that she can get more out of her email marketing if she also gives some value to readers. Now her brief newsletter is bringing her success every time it goes out.

Recently I asked Brenda where she gets her ideas. “From things that happen every day – talking with people, listening to CBC radio, and reading books are three main ways. I write about ideas that strike me as related to project management in one way or another.”

Brenda told me that her goals are to stay in touch with people and to get information out about public programs she’s offering. It’s not a one way street. “It is fun for me to write the articles, and I am very pleased when people write back giving comments on the articles and letting me know they like them! I get to know people more and they get to know me.

When I asked about specific success stories, here’s what Brenda told me, “I have had a fair number of courses happen as a direct result of my newsletter. Several times people have told me that others forwarded my newsletter to them, suggesting they get in touch. Making connections with new people, who I may partner with or just connect with on LinkedIn, is a success, too. One of the nicest emails I got was from a woman in Quebec who said that her daughter is an aspiring project manager and she forwards my newsletter to her to motivate her.”

Of course, I had to ask Brenda what advice she would give to others who want to start a newsletter. “Write from the heart. Write down your ideas as soon as you can – I often compose articles in my head when I am walking or driving, and sometimes I don’t get them written down as quickly as I could. Don’t worry what people will think – if you like it and it is something you want to say, say it! Know that there will be many people who will relate to what you are saying.”

If it’s your time to start a newsletter, get in touch, or check out our Resource page for lots of advice and tips.

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The next issue of the Work Better, Not Harder monthly newsletter will be Issue #100! We're working on an extra special resource and only email subscribers will get it. PLUS, if you sign up now, you'll also get a mini workbook with 5 Quick & Easy Content Templates to speed up your writing. Get it here.

23 June 2016

Summer Action Leads to Fall Success

summer marketing
Summer may be a sluggish time for many businesses but it doesn't have to be. Use the slower pace to your advantage.

Take the Time to Get Inspired

Do more reading. Watch more videos. Have more chats over coffee. Take online or offline courses. All of these will generate ideas for content and beyond. Spend some time refreshing your marketing strategy.

Stick Around

Why don't you be the one who hangs around all summer while everyone else disappears? Whether it's your newsletter, blog or social media, or all three, maintain your commitment to your fans. If not, you might not be missed all summer but people will realise you deserted them when you show up again in the fall.

Use Automation

I'm all for vacations but even then you don't have to drop out of sight. Continue to give value by using tools to schedule social media posts. (My newest toy is Tweet Jukebox. Thanks Anita!) Prepare and schedule your newsletters and blog posts in advance. Use your voicemail and email automated messages to keep people apprised about your availability.

Go forth and make progress this summer!

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originally published in Work Better, Not Harder on June 23, 2016

The next issue of the Work Better, Not Harder monthly newsletter will be Issue #100! We're working on an extra special resource and only email subscribers will get it. PLUS, if you sign up now, you'll also get a mini workbook with 5 Quick & Easy Content Templates to speed up your writing. Get it here.

19 June 2016

Content Template - How to Start

Content templates can simplify your content development time by providing structure - sort of like filling in blanks. That means you can be done and onto your next task in no time.

The purpose of this template is to create an awesome resource for beginners on a particular topic. This type of article will attract readers that could eventually become customers. Search engines will also like it because it will contain the common keywords people search when initially researching a subject. Download the "How to Start" template now (pdf).

Get More Content Templates

If you like that one, grab our mini workbook with 5 Quick & Easy Content Templates plus some extra tips for repurposing content.

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14 June 2016

Content Ideas for Consultants - Useful Content (Part 2)

If you've already mastered Getting Started (Part 1 in this series), you have gained some momentum and are ready to expand your skills and tackle some content that is useful to your readers and time-saving for you.

Save Yourself Time and Be Useful

There are so many types of content that can fit into this category; my concern is overwhelming you. So let's start simple and you'll begin to see all the possibilities yourself.
  1. Think of a piece of information that you relay repeatedly, such as every time you take on a new client. If you can't think of it now, this will come to mind when you do it next.
    My example is about writing the introduction to your first newsletter. Every time I started working with a new client, I wrote them an email giving advice and examples. The quality varied, the examples varied, and I was wasting time repeating myself.
  2. Either now or the next time you have to, take the time to write an awesome version of that information, detailed and with examples.
  3. Take that article you just created and add it to your blog or next newsletter.
    My original example is Introducing Your Very First Issue, and last year I wrote an updated version, How to Write the Introduction to Your First Newsletter.
  4. Share a link to that article frequently. Link back to it from newer articles that reference the topic. Create social media graphics for a couple of key points - include the link when sharing.
    Are you surprised to hear that my original post from 2012 has had 23,354 views? That's the other bonus to writing useful content - people want to read it!
Now, whenever you take on a new client, you simply need to send them a link to your most awesome version of the useful information. You'll save time and appear super organized, as well. You can reference the information, and reuse it over and over again.

Other examples from my business are posts about anti-spam legislation, where to put your sign-up form, and how to review your newsletter statistics. I'm sure you can come up with more than one for your business but, if you're still feeling stuck, here's another place to start: if you have an FAQ page on your website, pick something from there and expand on it.

When you're finished with that, check out Content That Saves Time and Creating Content that is Useful for more ideas along this same line.

The next installment in this series will be about sharing your learning which, of course, will also be useful and, hopefully, interesting. (Subscribe to make sure you don't miss it.)

10 June 2016

Where's the Value?

Some of you might remember the old Wendy's ad, "Where's the beef?" I was reminded of that when I saw these 3 examples back-to-back on Twitter.

What's missing from the middle post in this screenshot? The beef.

People are picky about what they subscribe to. If you don't give them a good reason to sign up, they won't even get to taste the beef, no matter how many patties there are.

Good calls-to-action are not easy to construct but it's important to make the effort.

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06 June 2016

Good News for eMail Marketing?

Isn’t it exciting that your email marketing campaign is likely to be more successful because average open rates have trended significantly upward? According to Inbox Marketer, their North American average open rate was 19.2% in 2011 and 25.9% in 2015, an increase of over 6%! The cream on the cake is that deliverability is also up.

This sounds like great news for small businesses doing email marketing - my client base. But wait, there’s actually a scary side to all this industry success, especially for small businesses. Be careful about the latest trend that's improving those stats - list pruning.

Statistics are quite different from people, and you do business with people. If you’re considering pruning your list, there are some things you need to know first in order to make an informed decision.

The Math behind the Pruning

Let’s say you start with 500 subscribers and your average open rate is 20%. If you get rid of 100 subscribers (who appear not to be opening your newsletter) and maintain the same number of opens, your open rate will increase to 25%. If you are an agency, I’m sure your client will be happy when you tell them this. If you aren’t, who are you fooling?

If you see an increase in your open rate without having pruned your list, you can legitimately celebrate. Otherwise you’ve likely made a trade-off, perhaps without even realizing the impact.

What You Don’t Know can Hurt You

First you need to know that identifying contacts who have not opened your emails is not as simple as it might seem. An ‘open’ is measured when an image is viewed. If your subscriber is viewing in plain text or preview mode, it won’t count as an open. The result is that you may be cutting off the wrong subscribers.

Even more important, there’s value in being seen in people’s inboxes. Sort of like driving by a billboard on the way to the cottage every weekend, your name is being seen, even if deleted. Some sales cycles are long and, while I may not need one now, I might want a custom app built in the future. Or perhaps a car, a bottle of wine, or a fitness class.

Respect Your List

It comes down to this: I believe we need to respect our subscribers. We can do this by:
  • giving interesting and useful content
  • being consistent with our schedule, layout, and content
  • being open to feedback and suggestions
  • being concise in our communications
  • giving them tools to easily share our messages with their fans
If we respect our readers, they’ll learn to trust us... and isn’t that what successful small business is all about?

photo by yooperann