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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February 28, 2018

What Kind of Busy Are You?

Since when does being busy have to be a bad thing? It's easy to find articles about how to avoid busy-work and how not to wear 'busy' as a badge.

My first inkling that 'busy' isn't always good came in the form of a phone call from my (at-the-time) boss. We worked at different locations and he asked how things were going. My answer included the word 'busy' and he said, "Linda, you shouldn't be complaining." At the time the business group I worked in was weathering a period of slow business, and things had just started to pick up. To me, being busy was really a good thing and I was (failing at) sharing our good news.

That was over 20 years ago but it stuck with me. Now I'm a small business owner and I don't feel any different. Why is being busy shameful? And why can't we wear our busyness like a badge of honour?

When I'm busy, I'm making money - what could be better than that? It's a big part of why I work.

Let's embrace our 'busy' as being a sign of success, and be proud that our hard work is paying off.

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February 23, 2018

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.

The one I'm familiar with is Kolb's Experiential Learning Cycle but there are others equally useful:

Learning can start at any stage in the cycle:
  • Concrete experience - encounter a new experience or reinterpret an existing experience
  • Reflective observation - reflect on an experience from a personal perspective
  • Abstract conceptualization - form new ideas (or revise existing ideas) based on reflection
  • Active experimentation - apply new ideas to surroundings, test for changes in the next experience

The next time you sit down to write an article intended to teach, consider following this process. Pick the most obvious stage at which to start for the topic you have in mind. Work your way through the cycle, perhaps having a paragraph or two for each stage. Your writing will flow smoothly from one point to the next.

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February 17, 2018

Here's How Writing Content Turns You Into an Expert

There are many marketing benefits to regular blogging or writing for a newsletter. But other - perhaps more important - benefits may not be clear until after you've been doing it a while.

Regardless of how much you know, sooner or later you're going to need to do a little online research.

Does that article you just wrote really include all the important facts or items? Especially for checklist type articles, you want to make sure to include everything relevant. An item missed from a list of items to take camping in the winter could have dire consequences, not the least of which is your reputation.

Does your article agree or disagree with others' advice or information? Finding other references that support your message is good - you can grab quotes or link to it. Finding others who disagree is important if there are a lot of them - you may need to justify your message in that context.

Do you know the latest developments in your industry or affecting your target market? Talking about old technology is only one of the many pitfalls of not staying current.

You'll learn lots from this type of research:
  • You further develop your own opinions to become a thought leader.
  • You become able to understand and disseminate complex info.
  • And you learn from others' strategies.

In short, it pays to research, both for the article you've just written and all your future ones. Use research to confirm completeness, to develop opinions, and to stay current.

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February 11, 2018

Why Does Everybody Know Me?

"Everybody knows who you are. How do you know so many people?" I hear it every so often... and my answer is really easy.

It's not because I'm such a charming person. It's absolutely because my name shows up in their inbox every single week. The thing is, people don't know me - they know of me, whether they open my emails or not. (Or even if they think my subject lines are boring.)

Repetition and consistency do pay off but, by their nature, the results take time. There is no shortcut, so start now.

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February 4, 2018

The Worst Thing About Moving My Website to WordPress

There have been many good things about moving my website to a WordPress platform late last fall. And there have been a few frustrating things. I'd been doing a pretty good job of ignoring some of those frustrating things until I received an email from Google Search Console with the subject line: Increase in "404" pages on daleyprogress.com.

Oh no! That sounded pretty ominous. The accompanying graph was even more so.

Here's the backstory: all my website links changed with the move. Previously my pages all ended with '.html' and now that's truncated. There's a plug-in for redirecting when people click on an old link out there somewhere, so I set that up for every current page. I also had to move several documents and files hosted on my old site to the new one, and then go change all those links on my various blog posts about them.

Tedious, painful work but I thought I had it handled. It turned out I was so very wrong.

These '404 errors' are caused when there's a link (out there somewhere on the web) trying to link to a page at my domain that no longer exists. There were 97 of them. How flipping embarrassing! (I'm imagining head shakes as people click away.)

Another evening of more tedious work got them all looked after. I've asked Google to re-crawl my site and, so far, I've got a clean slate.

If you are maintaining your own WordPress site and haven't installed Google Search Console, you'll want to take the time to do it. And if you aren't maintaining your own site, ask your webmaster to help you get the report and deal with the errors.

I was trying hard to avoid it but that was a big mistake.

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