July 16, 2018

Little Things Can Have a Big Impact on Your Business Success


Seth Godin's post today - We’re still clueless about lifetime value - got me thinking, as his posts usually do. (Take a minute to read it.)

I love his line, "Torrents are made of drips." He's referring to the long-term impact of small, seemingly inconsequential, actions - like when I have to call Netfirms three times before I get a resolution to a domain problem. That company will never get my referrals for website hosting, even though I get asked regularly for referrals to good website hosting companies. That's not business lost - it's business they'll never get... but could have.

Now think of the website hosting company that I do refer people to - SiteGround Hosting Ltd. (aff). I have sent them 8 referrals in the last 6 months. And I bet some of those people have gone on to refer SiteGround, or will. Those people will refer more people, and so on. By treating me well in every interaction I've had with them, they've earned my loyalty - and my desire to share with others.

How can you get even a couple of more people to refer your business? Is there something you can do right now to start a few drips leading to a torrent?

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July 5, 2018

Storytelling as Part of Your Small Business Marketing Strategy


At the Social Media Day Halifax 2018 conference, I had the pleasure to sit through most of Allan Gates' presentation, Telling Better Brand Stories on Social Media. I was intrigued because I've always been a wannabe author (of spy stories!). I'm also drawn to processes, so the message in the photo above practically jumped off the screen at me.

Storytelling is a process... and I can follow a process. Until now I thought I lacked the creativity needed for storytelling. Granted, writing skills are a different matter but there are lots of ways to tell stories that don't require a lot of writing. I can do this... and you can, too!

Read Allan's blog post, The Suspense In Your Brand Story, for great advice about how to get people interested - and keep them interested - in your brand story

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June 29, 2018

Is Your Website Working for You or Against You?


Every time I do online research, I find broken things. I'm curious; I like to see how things work. And it's quite amazing how many times I find things that don't work, or don't work well. I'm not just talking about small business websites - even big brands fail sometimes. The thing is, big brands usually have a reputation which leads people to forgive or ignore more easily.

I've written before about how important it is to audit your website at least quarterly. (I pay someone to do it for me and it's well worth it.) If you haven't done a website audit recently, now is a great time.

Here are a handful of specific things to check. Is your website doing these things well?

  • Be really clear about the benefits to potential customers and put that front and centre. More money and more time are great - but how much?
  • Read and test everything yourself. Don't rely on what others tell you. I've seen a lot of non-functional website forms and such that business owners assumed worked as promised.
  • When setting up a log-in is part of your intake process, include rules about the new password about to be set up. For example, a minimum of 8 characters is required.
  • If you're relying on a demo of some sort to show off the effectiveness of your offer, make sure it actually does that, and not the opposite.
  • Click on every link, let it load and make sure it goes where's it's supposed to.
After you have all the kinks worked out, here's one more important thing to consider: lead visitors to the action you want them to take on your website... and carefully figure out exactly what that action is.

June 23, 2018

6 Lessons Learned from Prepping for the Social Media Day Halifax Conference

photo credit @onceadaley on Instagram

If you attended Social Media Day Halifax 2018 on Friday, I sure hope you enjoyed yourself and learned lots. I know I did! And not all my learning was from the presenters and sessions. Here are a few examples from the event organizing side of things.

1. It doesn't matter how many lists you make or how prepared you are, tech will give you a tummy ache at some point. Anything last minute that needs tech, also needs a backup plan. (Big thanks to my sister for helping me print conference nametags at 11pm the night before!) Note: If you buy labels or cardstock items at a Staples store, don't expect that their Copy & Print shop will print them for you.

2. Test things that can be tested. And not just tech things. When a vendor's website says one item goes with another, that doesn't mean it's so. For example, 4"x3" nametags do not fit into 4"x3" nametag holders.

3. Automate as much as humanly possible ;)

4. Communicate really well on the things that can't be automated.

5. Assumptions will cost you time. The organizing team communicated A LOT and, still, assumptions about who was doing what cost each of us time at some point.

6. Make a detailed list of things that went wrong and things that can be improved on - lessons learned. And not just from the day of the conference but also from all the planning and work that went into it. I'm not willing to depend on my memory so this is one of my next tasks.

Planning a conference is fun ... and challenging. And sometimes the best way to learn is from experience.

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June 17, 2018

How to Build an Audience (Almost) Instantly

Carnival of Terror

Don't you love it when you try something new and it turns out super successful? How about something like getting 41 new subscribers in an hour? Yes, that is possible for small businesses - I watched it happen this morning.

East Coast Scares, aka Carnival of Terror, is ramping up for Halloween 2018. This team has been hosting haunted houses in the Halifax area since 1994 and has a loyal fanbase. It makes sense that most of their fans are using Facebook - their Facebook page has almost 2000 likes! But for 24 years they've never had a way to communicate directly with their fans, to give them info about their schedule, location changes, and even ask for volunteers. Until now.

Now Carnival of Terror can send messages directly to subscribed fans via Facebook Messenger. No MailChimp or iContact, no complicated subscription forms - just a simple chatbot. When they're ready to start scaring people in October, their fans will know when and where to find them. (And they're talking to their fans in a way that their competition isn't.)

How did they get their first 41 subscribers in one hour? Well, there were 126 people who had previously sent messages to their page. Because the connection already existed, it was legal to send a message asking these people if they want to opt-in. In 5 minutes, they got 24 subscribers, and now they're up to 44. (Yes, that's 3 new ones since I started writing this post!)

There are many things about using chatbots that are almost as cool as this but, in all the years of building my own list and helping clients build theirs, I've never seen this kind of instant success. Here are some numbers for those who like data:

  • Facebook page Likes = 1990
  • People who had an open dialogue with the page (because they messaged previously) = 126
  • Opt-ins (so far) = 44
  • Opt-outs (so far) = 4

Let me do the math for you - that's a whopping 35% opt-in rate (so far)! You won't get those numbers with email.

If your fans are using Messenger (and 900,000,000 people are), think about all the options available to you for talking to them - and getting the conversation started with a chatbot. (If you want to see how it works, go to their Facebook page and click 'send message'.

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June 11, 2018

Your Marketing Images Represent Your Business


If you were holding a dinner where each plate sold for $150, would you buy the invitations at the dollar store? No? So don't promote anything important for your business with a free overused 5-year-old Pixabay image.

There are options - lots of options - rather than intimating your business is a bargain brand.

If you don't spend a bunch of time searching Pixabay or other free sites, you may not know what's been overused and common - here's an app for that. And you can also check the upload date, although that doesn't mean the photo was taken then. If you're going to use free photos, pick more recent releases.

Unique and eye-catching is your goal. But you don't want to pay $20 for a stock photo for each new blog post or newsletter article. What are other wallet-friendly options?

#1. Snap your own photos. This ensures uniqueness and the price is the best you'll get. Of course, the eye-catching part will be up to you.

#2. Engage a friend or family member who enjoys photography as a hobby. (My husband takes the photo for my weekly event list.)

#3. Search for Creative Commons photos on platforms such as Flickr. You will have to provide photo attribution in your post (the cost of free) but this is a great way to find one-of-a-kind images.

#4. Buy photos from discount stock photo sites. This does not guarantee that no one else is using the image but it does mean it's less likely to be overused. (I use Deposit Photos a lot.)

When should you invest in really good stock photos? For your website, paid advertising, books, online courses, printed materials... places where the images are more permanent.

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June 7, 2018

There's a New Way to Think About List-building


Having a discussion with a friend recently about Messenger chatbots for delivering newsletters, she was perturbed there would be no way to download a list of subscribers. My response was, "Why would you want to?" These contacts have only opted in to receive communication via Messenger. By downloading them, all you'd have is a spreadsheet. (Which is OK, if you like spreadsheets.)

As a small business owner, how many times have you been chided to have a database, a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) app, even a spreadsheet, with all of your contacts in one place?

Now, imagine the colossal task of putting all of your contacts into one place. I'm talking ALL of your contacts - email contacts, phone contacts, Twitter fans, LinkedIn contacts, Messenger subscribers, and so on. And what would you do with them when they're all nicely entered? I sure won't be adding my 4500 Twitter followers to my email list. (Can you imagine the response?!)

Engage people where they are. Not everyone wants to find us in their email inbox. While that is a very effective way for us to maintain contact, it isn't for all of our contacts. Make it easy for people to receive your information where and how they want. Perhaps we need to start calling it audience-building instead of list-building.

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June 1, 2018

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?

Now you can build a contact list and distribute your newsletter by Messenger. Here are nine reasons to do that:

#1. People tend to have a Messenger account longer than they have an email address. When people change jobs, they will likely get a new email address but will continue to use the same Messenger account throughout their lives.

#2. Give your readers a choice of how they want to receive your information. Some of those 900,000,000 people are your customers and fans.

#3. Higher open rates - industry leaders are saying 80% is typical.

#4. The timing of delivering your newsletter becomes a little less important than with email newsletters. (e.g. it's less important to deliver during working hours)

#5. Segment by gender, location, and time zone - without gathering all that information yourself.

#6. Unlike with bulk email applications, people can unsubscribe and then resubscribe themselves - as often as they want.

#7. Especially well-suited to businesses already using Facebook to talk to customers and fans.

#8. Launch drip messages based on subscription date as you can with email.

#9. Use an easy opt-in process that's fully compliant with CASL, GDPR and CAN-SPAM.

I have a bot set up to deliver our weekly event listing for small business people in the Halifax area. If you want to see how one works (subscribe and unsubscribe easily), click here or go to our Facebook page and click 'send message'.

In coming posts, I'll talk more about how to use bot technology for your newsletter. It's a whole new way to think about list-building and keeping in touch with people. If you are thinking bots will reduce the human connection, you are wrong - they're a great way to get the conversation started... and keep it going.

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May 27, 2018

Content for Consultants: A Process for Getting Started


"If I start a blog, what will I write about?"

How long have you been planning to start a blog for your small business? Has it been more than a year? Do you know what's stopping you?

If knowing exactly how to start strong is what's been holding you back, you've just found your magic bullet. Here's a mini-course where you'll learn exactly how to get started with the best topics for your business. With three lessons and assignments, you'll have created at least three articles when you're finished. Plus, if you start a list of ideas as you follow the process, you'll have enough for several more posts.

Get a starting strategy and clear instructions:
Lesson 1: Build your confidence by writing about what you know best.
Lesson 2: Be useful to others and save yourself time - the best kind of content ever!
Lesson 3: Research or learn, then teach something.

While the process will help any new business blogger, it's especially suitable for consultants, coaches, trainers, facilitators, speakers and similar service-based independent professionals. Click here to get started now!

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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 answerthepublic.com 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 answerthepublic.com.

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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