May 19, 2018

The Wrong Way to Introduce Your First Newsletter

You wouldn't hug a complete stranger. So, if the red-head in the photo approached you on the street, you'd likely back away and think WTF. Even if he wants a date, that's a pretty lame approach.

We don't have much room for needy strangers in our small business lives. It's enough work to keep up with friends and colleagues. So why the heck would any business person send a newsletter to a stranger that starts like this... ?
We spent many hours and resources on researching, writing, proofing and designing this newsletter. As a valued customer, we are offering this newsletter to you for FREE!
newsletter example
newsletter example
It's too bad they spent all those hours and resources. And too bad they didn't know FREE newsletters haven't been unique for a very long time. Next, they'll wonder why email marketing isn't working for them.

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.

Concentrate on building relationships and gaining fans before you start asking for hugs.

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May 15, 2018

Finding a New Angle for Your Best Information

Stuck, uninspired, unmotivated, feeling stale - anyone who blogs regularly is going to experience those things from time to time. Especially when we're busy, it's hard to take time to get inspired.

Sometimes I don't need inspiration so much as a new angle - a different perspective or approach to information, advice and ideas I've already covered. And that's where comes in.

Its insights are based on the data of web searches and it shows you results graphically. In no time you'll pin down an approach, and be writing and done. The image above (cropped) is from my search of the term "enewsletters" and here are the report results.

The next time you just need the spark of an idea to get going, try

May 10, 2018

I Haven't Been Walking My Marketing Talk

If you've been in a classroom with me or even chatted over coffee, you'll have heard me say something like, "You just have to start somewhere and then it'll be easier to keep going and trying new things." Of course, I'd be talking about some aspect of online marketing - likely newsletters, blogging or social media.

It was a rude awakening to realize I haven't been doing that myself lately. I've gotten into a rut with my own marketing. And that's sooo not good. Complacency snuck up on me.

When I give advice to others, I have to be an example too, so I'm super conscious of maintaining a somewhat regular blogging schedule and showing up in inboxes and on social media consistently. Occasionally I pat myself on the back for doing a good job.

The problem is, I haven't changed the platforms I'm using in a long time. Platforms are tools in the marketing world to help us achieve our goals. They can get stale or the tactics for using them can change.

I'm involved with organizing Social Media Day Halifax 2018 and only just realized I'd better learn how to do social media on my phone because I can't drag my laptop around all day. (At home, I have a huge monitor - what could be better than that for keeping up with, well, everything?)

Not only that, there are LOTS of platforms I had never thought to explore - livestreaming and podcasting, Instagram and chatbots, and...... It's definitely time to break my routine, like I tell everyone else to do, and start somewhere new.

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May 4, 2018

Role-based Email Addresses and Why You Aren't Reaching Them

Bulk email service providers, like iContact, maintain a list of email address prefixes which they prevent sending to. This is because the role-based email addresses on the list are often meant to be used by groups of people, rather than single recipients. That makes it more likely your emails to these addresses will be flagged as spam (which sucks!).

Here are a few examples: admin@, contact@, mail@, and support@. Click here to see iContact's partial list of Role Email Addresses. Oh, and if you ever notice you have subscribers with email addresses starting with spamtrap@, you'll know they took your free giveaway but never want to hear from you (it's on the list).

Any email address with a prefix on that list will never receive a bulk email you send. If you don't use iContact, find out what the prohibited list is for your provider.

What does this mean when collecting addresses to add to your list? You'll want to ask for an alternate email address if given one of those listed.

It also means, if you use any of these email address prefixes for your own business, you do not want to use them to sign up for bulk email you really want to receive.

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April 30, 2018

You Don't Know Jack About Social Media Until You've Worked With Experts

Last fall I remember feeling disappointed that I never seem to have much time for learning anymore. I was thinking the small business people taking my courses were smart to commit a half day a week to learn key marketing skills. I learn while I'm teaching, but it's not skills related to my business development.

Then in November, along came Anita Kirkbride with her plans for the Social Media Day Halifax 2018 Conference. While I knew enough about social media marketing to do a good job for my own business and help a couple of clients, I quickly discovered there's a whole lot I didn't know until I started working closely with Anita and Tina Capalbo on the Conference.

Since January I've been prodded to record video, participate in Facebook Live sessions, and learn things about Instagram and chatbots and ... too many other things to list here. Often I've been surprised at how much I don't know about social media - strategy, tactics, apps and tools, best practices, and how-to.

Now I'm caught up in the flurry of activity leading up to June 22nd and learning something new every day. I'm excited to realize how much depth there is in social media marketing and I can't wait to learn more.

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April 23, 2018

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.

But what happens when you discover a referral isn't so good... or is downright wrong for you?

During the past few months, I've been on both ends of this interaction. It can be awkward for all three parties.

It comes down to expectations. The referrer sets certain expectations when they make the referral - and they can be about any number of things, including prices and turnaround time.

Unfortunately, the referrer may not know the business they are referring has changed their offering - so it no longer meets those expectations. Disappointment abounds.

How to receive good referrals: A good friend once told me how important it is to keep my potential referrers informed about changes in my business. Every couple of years, I've been in the habit of writing an email to these wonderful people to keep them updated. And also to ask about changes in their business. While doing this may seem all about you, your referrers will be glad for the specifics.

How to be a good referrer: Another way to avoid this uncomfortable situation is to inquire before making the referral. Contact the person you're referring and ask if they are taking on new customers and if they are still offering whatever you are referring them for. Also, find out about pricing if that matters.

In response to this article in my last newsletter, Jill Poulton, Transformational Leadership Coach, made this suggestion:
In terms of tips for referrals... I prefer to give and receive referrals that are a warm introduction by way of email. This better positions each of us to follow up, it builds trust and credibility with the person giving the referral, and gives the client and potential business some info to move forward on.
Whether we are the receiver of the referral or the one doing the referring, our reputation is at stake. A poor referral is worse than none at all.

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April 19, 2018

How Do You Know If What You're Doing Is Working?

blog growth

If you aren't looking at statistics at all, how do you know if your online marketing efforts are paying off? You don't need to have a complex Google Analytics set-up to keep an eye on trends. Yes, hard numbers are good to know but trends give you strategic information.

Anita Kirkbride and I used a similar chart to the one above when we presented at BlogJam 2015 - back then the top line was 9,000 pageviews per month instead of 20,000. I can tell you exactly what I changed at key points (at Anita's urging) which had a direct effect on my blog readership:
  • June 2011 - I started using social media.
  • September 2012 - I started blogging more and sharing posts more frequently on Twitter, in particular; results were obvious by December.
  • December 2013 - I started posting daily enewsletter tips on Twitter and LinkedIn.
  • 2nd half of 2016 - I started posting daily newsletter tips on Google+.
I've tried lots of other tactics, too - some have contributed in little ways, others have gone by the wayside as ineffective. The thing is, I would not have known what worked unless I was watching the trend line. This same thing holds true for your website and your newsletter statistics, too.

Is what you're doing working for you? How do you know?

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April 13, 2018

Old Tech for New Content Ideas

File cards - yup, I've been walking around with a few in my purse, wrapped in an elastic band. File cards are fantastic for catching your great content ideas, and here's why:
  1. Small size - less space than a notebook and no bigger than a cell phone
  2. Entertainment - can keep you occupied while on the bus or waiting at a coffee shop
  3. Transportable - featherweight, fits in your back pocket
  4. Skins/cases are cheap - you can change the colour of the elastic band whenever you want
  5. Expandable - easy to add notes or do a quick outline
  6. Customizable - different colours, lined or unlined, different sizes, add star stickers to your best ideas
  7. Recyclable
Plus they enable creativity. When you're frustrated, throw them up in the air. Examine how they land to see unexpected connections. This is a tactic of Sue Grafton's private detective Kinsey Millhone... and it works for content, too.

April 6, 2018

Online Products Don't Sell Themselves

Of course, we all know this, don't we? Yet there is a multi-million dollar industry based on DIY marketing that somehow makes us forget this VERY IMPORTANT aspect of our business strategies. Or perhaps it makes us feel overconfident in our abilities to both sell and market our own products.

Being reminded of the work involved to prepare, and then sell and market an online product was my biggest takeaway (of many) from the day I spent with Frances Leary this week. I knew it, now I feel it... a refreshing dose of reality.

So, even though I'm capable of doing much of the "work" part of my project, I'm paying for expert help so I can stop talking about it and get it done.

Can I contain my inner control freak enough to let this happen? I'm determined.

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March 31, 2018

Where To Find Your Best Content Ideas

"What will I write about this week?" Wouldn't it be great if content ideas popped into your head just when you need them? (Queue the light bulb!)

You’ll find the best content ideas amid your daily business activities – but you have to be alert for them... and jot them down. For example, let’s say you…
  • have a discussion with a customer or prospect. Content ideas: a success story, answer a question, describe a service/product, define why you're different, an anecdote, how to solve a problem, local news.
  • receive an inquiry by phone or on Facebook. Content ideas: FAQ, describe a service/product, benefits and features.
  • learn something new. Content ideas: teach your fans, describe the learning process, give a review/opinion, share the source.
  • find a quote you love on Twitter. Content ideas: why you like it, how it's relevant to what you do.
  • do some online research. Content ideas: share what you found, how you found it, what it means to your readers.
  • try a new application. Content ideas: first impressions, good/bad/ugly, how you'll use it.
  • read a business book. Content ideas: a review, good/bad/ugly, why to read or not read, summary.
  • prepare a quote or proposal. Content ideas: what makes this one different from others, something common to all your proposals.
  • attend a networking event. Content ideas: conduct an informal poll, photos.
These are prime opportunities - and there are many more - to get fresh ideas for articles and social media posts. And even if some ideas aren’t so fresh, perhaps you’ll get the gift of a different perspective.

Your marketing content doesn't need to be something you do once a week in an allotted time, independent of your other activities. Ink it when you think it!

March 25, 2018

What Do You REALLY Want People to Do on Your Website?

Over the last 10 years or so I've built close to 100 websites and landing pages. In the olden days, clients would send me Word docs with the text for each page. I would add the pages, insert the text, and insist on a call-to-action for the bottom of each page. Sometimes those CTAs were different and sometimes they were all the same. Often they included wishy-washy words, like 'feel free', and asked people to 'get in touch'.

Last fall when I was rebuilding my own website, my WordPress mentor asked, "What do you really want people to do on your website?" I opened my mouth... and realized I didn't really know the answer.

How did I want people to get in touch? Who did I want contacting me?

I started with what I didn't want. Receiving unexpected phone calls during the day can cause havoc with my workload and lead to mistakes. And sometimes I work nights and sleep mornings. The getting-in-touch part couldn't be by a spontaneous phone call.

I also didn't want complete strangers who are price shopping... at least not without vetting them first. My website has always been designed for people who know me or are referred to me.

This led me to put a process in place to take bookings for marketing consults and client meetings. And an intake form for newsletter campaigns. It's more efficient for clients and myself, instead of back-and-forth emails to set a meeting date.

Now every page leads to a call-to-action that takes people to the next logical step depending on the page content - via a big bold button.

Perhaps you want people to call... in that case, put your phone number front and centre. If you want them to come by, include a map. If you want them to email, ask for that. If you want them to buy your book, link to the check-out page. To read your blog, give them a big bold button. Ask for action.

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March 20, 2018

Pick a Topic Like You Would Pick an Apple

Consider how likely you would be to open/read articles with these titles:

  • How to Be a Politician
  • Small Business Marketing
  • Healthy Foods for Everyone
  • Dressing for Work
  • The Benefits of Travel
  • How to Find Any Job
  • How to Be a Millionaire

Nothing much exciting... been there, done that. How useful can any of those articles be?

First, it would take a really hefty article to cover any of these topics well, and still it wouldn't be enough. Each of these topics has too much detail to cover in a useful way. Much like we talk about finding a niche for our business, if we apply this to our articles they will be more concise and useful, will draw a more specific readership suited to our business.

Also, if we're hoping people will find us through search, broad topics like these won't put us on page one... they've already been done over and over.

Think about it like an apple tree. Instead of writing about the whole tree, pick only one apple to write about.

Narrow your topic, answer one question instead of 20, go deep instead of broad. You might try  asking, "So what?" over and over to get deep into your topic. And start with an outline - you may discover each item on your outline is an article on its own. Instead of one article, you'll find yourself with hundreds of things to write about. Have fun!

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March 14, 2018

Do You Get Excited About Marketing Tasks?

Do you enjoy doing your own marketing? The answer has a big impact on how successful you will be at it. Stop and consider:
  • Do you like doing marketing work?
  • Do you have the needed skills?
  • Are you good at it, really?
  • Is what you're doing yielding desired results?
No? Beware. Negativity and stress will rain all over your marketing activities, dampening your results.

It can be daunting to give up control and money for marketing help. I do marketing for clients, charities and myself... and I still hire experts for my own marketing. I'm happy to get fresh and creative input from other pros. And I've learned I'm much better at other people's marketing than my own.

In recent months, I've had marketing help from eleven different people. Some was consulting, some training, but a fair bit was doing things I do for my own clients. Even though I love marketing, I still delegate.

Instead of trying to convince you it will be a good thing, how about a little experiment? Pick one task to delegate, only one to start with. Something tedious that needs regular attention, and that you keep putting off. Something like... I delegated a bit of routine social media work to my sister.

You can make big strides with a little extra help. What are you going to delegate as your first experiment? I'm curious - let me know in the comments.

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March 8, 2018

7 Out Of 12 Small Business Bloggers Agree On This

When I teach marketing courses, the group eventually tires of seeing this list come up on the screen in every class:
  1. Build relationships, community
  2. Grow your reputation, sphere of influence
  3. Be seen as an expert
  4. Share valuable info, products, services
  5. Increase your social media following
  6. Give value to your customers, prospects and colleagues on a regular basis
  7. Get found - SEO
The items on this list are key reasons for publishing a blog or newsletter. Yes, of course, the ultimate goal is sometimes - but not always - an increase in sales.

The problem is, you (and me) can't meet all the goals on that list at the same time. We'd become unfocused and demotivated. So I 'force' these small business folk to pick only two goals to focus on.

Last week I noted the two goals each person called out as we went around the room. I added my own two goals, as well, to round the group off at a dozen. Seven of us chose #2 - growing our reputation - as one of our two goals. And everyone had #1, #2 and/or #3 in their selection.

My two goals for blogging and creating other marketing content are #2 and #3. How about you? Share your two goals in the comments and I'll keep tallying them up.

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March 2, 2018

How a Not-so-good Writer Can Be Successful at Blogging

I like to joke that I'm a great example of how someone who can't write can still have success with a blog.

The fact is, in my past career I did a lot of writing: job descriptions, standard operating procedures, workflows, and reports of all kinds for all levels. And I had to un-learn every bit of it for blogging. None of it prepared me, other than good grammar. I had to learn to stop using words of many syllables ending in 'ion'... like implementation and clarification.

All that un-learning didn't help me be a better writer. Writing, and watching how others' wrote on their blogs, and paying attention to readers' responses - those things help me be a better blog writer.

I'm still not a great writer. But being a better writer isn't why I write. Writing is the absolute best tool I can use to share important info that my target market needs to know.

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