20 December 2014

The Scoop on Open and Click Rates



Your open rate is an indication of brand recognition. Your click rate is one indication of whether your newsletter actually gets read. (How many newsletters do you open without reading?) Getting read is what raises your reputation and prompts interaction.

I dislike generalizing about the relationships between list size, content type, length, frequency, and open rates. Among our clients, we have lists of 200 subscribers to over 10,000, and frequencies that vary from weekly to quarterly. This means we see a wide variation in statistics, too.

Industry averages (graph in this post):
  • open rate - 20%
  • click rate - 4%

Please don't judge your own newsletter's success based on a comparison with these. (Who wants to be average anyway?) There are many things that impact your open and click rates. I encourage you to also look at the number of contacts who opened/clicked, and what they clicked on.

The easiest of these measures to improve is your click rate. There's a clear correlation between the number of links in a newsletter and the number of clicks: more links = more clicks. Don't frivolously add links; use them strategically. Then watch to see what your readers are clicking on, and interested in. (Here's how to check on your stats.)

Of course, your newsletter should be doing more for you than providing stats to look at. A high open rate means nothing if nobody is reading and acting.

photo by Lens Envy / Flickr

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16 December 2014

Free is Free for a Reason


At a recent workshop I was asked about free email marketing applications. My answer provoked a lively discussion and not everyone agreed with my position.

You have many choices of bulk email service providers and each has good points and bad points. Turning out a good looking newsletter depends on using suitable software and on being quite proficient with it - whether it’s a free app or not. Free apps (or free versions) will have some or all of these drawbacks:

Most of these points impact your own use of the application, but that last point reveals to all that you are using a free app. What signal are you sending to your readers? You really want them to read your newsletter and connect with you and buy your products... but you don’t value their attention enough to pay to do it properly?

To have a successful regular newsletter, you invest effort to build your subscriber list and create interesting content for them to read. And you execute it in a way that shows respect for your readers’ time and attention.

photo by Tarjei Hanken / Flickr

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10 December 2014

Using Lessons from Work at Home

I've always been one to say that my work life and my family life are intertwined. Many small business owners would also say the same. I like it and I wouldn't try to separate them.

Recently I was a bit taken aback to realize that I’m not using some of my business skills at home, and should be.

My stepson has bipolar affective disorder and our family has been participating in weekly meetings with social workers to help us overcome the many challenges associated with the disease. When they started presenting us with skills, such as a problem solving process and active listening techniques, I immediately thought, “I know all this. It’s old hat.”

The first goal setting exercise was fairly easy for me. I privately committed to three goals related to our family life and I immediately went to work to make them happen. My husband and stepson were going through the same process, also privately.

About a month later, when we reviewed our goals and progress, I had completed two goals and the third was close to happening. My husband and stepson had made no progress at all. Through our discussions, I came to realize two important things:

  • Although I'm experienced with using these techniques at work, I'd never actively applied them to my family life.
  • My husband and stepson were not familiar with them at all. I forgot that I learned these skills over many years, and they didn’t.

I made the mistake of assuming we were all on the same page, and we weren't even reading the same book.

I can apply this valuable lesson at home and at work. We all have different backgrounds, experiences, skills and perspectives. Sharing them with others is a gift and, likewise, we must be open to receiving the gifts that others share with us.

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originally published in Work Better, Not Harder newsletter December 10, 2015

02 December 2014

Image Insights [Wrap-up]

 
Sometimes the image choice for your newsletter or blog post is obvious, but often not so much. This post wraps up our previous articles about graphic ideas and advice.

Finding just the right image for your newsletter or blog can be time consuming and frustrating, whether you're creating it yourself or buying someone else's. Read How to Find the RIGHT Image for tips to help shorten the process.

Once you get started looking for images, you will find a wealth of copyright free or free photos you can use with credit attribution. Read Graphic Solutions for places to find images and more.

Sometimes you want a look that is less staged than a purchased stock photo. Read Searching for Creative Commons Images for directions to search images via Flickr.

Infographics are a great way to represent information differently than you have in the past with words. Read Repurpose Articles into Infographics for tools and tips to create your own infographics.

Create your own word cloud graphic. Read Wordle for information about how to do this.

Finally, if you want to make a personal connection with your readers, and be remembered, you'll want to include a photo of yourself in your newsletter. Read Your Newsletter Headshot for some of the things to keep in mind, especially if you are planning to have new photos taken.

photo by RubioBuitrago / Flickr

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17 November 2014

Everyone Markets



When I was in university, a long time ago, I majored in Accounting and Management. At that time my interest in marketing was so lacking that I only grudgingly took the first year required Marketing credit, Advertising. You see, I sort of felt that marketing was vaguely seedy and extremely creative. And that I was neither.

What I know now is that marketing can still be seedy, but it doesn't have to be. And creativity comes in many forms.

There’s one other factor to successful marketing: flawless execution. All that has come before is quickly negated by sloppy presentation.

I became a marketer without ever making a conscious decision to do so. I’m still not very seedy, and not a creative genius. But I can plan and I can execute like there’s no tomorrow. Making it happen is where I make a difference, sometimes the difference between success and failure.

I still have that big heavy Advertising textbook and I’m not sure why I've kept it. It’s clearly outdated for an industry that has changed so much. Email marketing, websites and social media were only vague ideas back then. And marketing was the purview of agencies. Now, pretty much everyone markets something, from resumes to garage sales to product line introductions.



04 November 2014

Writing to Deadline



One thing I keep telling anyone who will listen is to write when you're inspired... and take the time to get inspired. This means doing a little planning, too, then. Inspiration will have a hard time finding you, buried in emails and racing between meetings.

I asked my friend and mentor, Neil Everton of Podium Media and Communication Coaching, "Do you plan your time to write? Or do you write when you're inspired?"

The response I got was neither! "Planning and inspiration are not concepts I'm familiar with. I write best when there’s a deadline."

I use deadlines, too, but for me they are a last resort. I find it hard to be creative when I'm stressed about a deadline.

Do what works for you. Whatever it is that causes you to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard needs to be harnessed and exploited. Creating great content that people want to read doesn't happen without some effort.

If you're in the Halifax area, you might be interested in this January workshop: "Get Control of Your Content". Click here for details.

photo by erink_photography / Flickr

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30 October 2014

How to Be Lucky


Years ago I read a magazine article that was an interview with a well-known Canadian male (although I can't remember who). What I do remember was the message, which went something like this...

The subject of the interview was being referred to as extremely lucky. He adamantly claimed that he wasn't lucky - he was prepared.

He was prepared to take advantage of opportunities that arose. Not only that, he was also constantly vigilant, so he wouldn't miss those opportunities.

I'm pretty sure that was the same year I started my business. The message has stuck with me.

For me, being prepared is about getting all my ‘ducks in a row’ when it comes to capacity and commitments. Being vigilant means networking and being social. Those things set me up for success.

When those golden opportunities come along, I want to be found alert and prepared to take them on. In other words, I'm ready to get lucky... in business, that is.

photo by Roadsidepictures / Flickr

originally published in the Work Better, Not Harder newsletter, Oct 30, 2014

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27 October 2014

Your Newsletter Headshot

If you want to make a personal connection with your readers, and be remembered, you'll want to include a photo of yourself in your newsletter.

Here are some of the things to keep in mind, especially if you are planning to have new photos taken.
  • Your headshot should look like you now, not 5 years ago.
  • Wear similar clothes to what your ideal customer would wear.
  • The direction you're facing in the photo generally dictates where the sidebar will go in your newsletter. You don't want to be looking off the page. For newsletters, a right sidebar is more desirable, so a left-facing or front-facing photo is preferable. Of course, this is the opposite of how you want to be facing for LinkedIn and Facebook avatars.
  • Wide banner-like panorama photos are popular now across the top of website pages. An example might be someone standing on a beach with their head in the foreground and a slightly blurred background of the water and beach behind them. These panorama photos are also great across the top of newsletters as a nice alternative to the usual sidebar headshot.
  • Working your brand colours into your clothes or background is great, but only if you look good in those colours.
  • Consider your branding style when deciding on the background. For example, is being isolated on white important to match the rest of the branding? Are dark or bold colours needed? Or more subdued?
  • Have 2 or 3 different photos and change them out in alternate newsletter issues, or by season, to add variety.


22 October 2014

Automate to Boost Productivity

Aside from your traditional newsletters and promotional messages, you can also use your bulk email application to automate some other processes. You might not think of iContact (or whatever app you use) as a productivity tool, but it can be. Here are a couple of examples.

Patient/client reminders

You’re familiar with those postcards we get in the mail reminding us it’s time to book our appointment with the dentist, or optometrist, or pedorthist. If that is a standard practice for your business, consider sending these reminders by email, automated to go at appropriate intervals. One of our clients claims this is saving her money every month.

Certificates

If you use a mail merge to create certificates in Word for course attendees, you can do the same in iContact and send them out by email at the same time. You can use merge fields for the name, date, and any other info that you want inserted into the certificate. We recently sent Certificates of Completion to several hundred people who attended courses on different dates in different cities. This saved our client several hours of work and the postage cost.

If you’re paying for the bulk email application anyway, why not make the most of it?

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17 October 2014

6 Questions to Ask before Contracting Out your eNewsletter

Admittedly, these are sort of trick questions. Here’s what we'll tell you if you ask us.

When is the best time to send my newsletter?
Wrong answer: It doesn't matter.
Our advice: The fact is there is no magic answer. Reading 'When to Send' will help you figure out what might work best for your newsletter.

Should I buy mailing lists?
Wrong answer: Sure, why not?
Our advice: Absolutely, positively no! Unless you want to waste your money and look like a fool, that is. Read 'Why NOT Buy Mailing Lists?' to understand why this is a bad idea.

What’s the best free app to use?
Wrong answer: Any response that isn’t “Don’t use a free app.”
Our advice: Free is free for a reason, or even several reasons. Your fans deserve better than that.

Do I need a sign-up form?
Wrong answer: No.
Our advice: Your sign-up form is where you get new subscribers and also demonstrates that you seek permission. Read 'Make it Obvious' for our advice about placement of your sign-up form.

How long should my newsletter be?
Wrong answer: It doesn't matter.
Our advice: As long as it needs to be to give value. Read 'How Long should a Newsletter be?' to understand some of the factors you'll need to consider for your campaign.

What regulations affect my campaign?
Wrong answer: None.
Our advice: The Canadian Anti Spam Legislation – check our CASL resource page for lots of info and links.

Part of our service is to consult on these topics and more if you choose to contract to us.


13 October 2014

Why People Unsubscribe (and What NOT to Do About It)

saying good-bye

A friend recently mentioned that she still gets frustrated when people unsubscribe. Her disappointment stems from the confidence that her information is relevant and useful to those who opted out.

There are many reasons for someone to unsubscribe from a regular emailing – promotional or informational. You need only to think of your own reasons and habits as you process your incoming email.

Even if you are doing everything right, you will still lose subscribers over time. (The average churn rate is 30% per year.) Here’s why:
  1. People’s interests change. If your readers are business people, they will be changing jobs and moving around and getting promoted. If your readers are consumers, likewise their personal situations change, as well as their hobbies and interests.

  2. People are inundated with too much information. We've all felt that way. Not everyone has developed systems to deal with the overload, so they disconnect in the moment yielding to stress. I know several people who have gone on ‘unsubscribing binges’ (myself included), but this type of purging tends to be more discerning, retaining the valuable subscriptions.

  3. Some people just don’t know what’s good for them. Enough said.

So, you get a handful of unsubscribes when your newsletter goes out. Taking no action is your best strategy.
  • DON'T unsubscribe from their newsletter, at least not right away. You know that’s childish.
  • DON'T send them an email asking why they unsubscribed. You might be dying to know, but you don't have permission to ask.
  • DON'T sign them up to any other lists without express permission.
  • DON'T take it personally if you are confident that your offering has value for your target market. It’s not the end of a relationship, only the end of a subscription.

I'm not suggesting that you shouldn't pay attention to your statistics. Of course, you need to take heed and possibly react to trends. But don't get hung up on individual unsubscribes. When someone opts out of my newsletter, my mantra is, “Oh well, they're going to miss out.”

08 October 2014

Does Your Mother Know What You Do?

Mom and I at her first networking event spring 2014
(photo thanks to Kate at Halifax Headshots Photography)
I learned about the 'Mom test' years ago. It's another one of those early small business lessons that stuck with me.

Explaining my work to my mother is difficult, so the challenge is always worth the learning experience. Mom is 83, has never used a computer, and has no context for understanding what I do.

Recently I was telling her that my blog had been featured on another blog in an article called Top 10 Canadian Marketing Blogs Worth Checking Out. I had to explain what a blog is (sort of like a diary, but public) before she could grasp why it was a good thing. (I will also have to print this blog post for her to read!)

Telling my Mom about what I do forces me to get outside all the details and get down to basics. It helps me rethink my marketing messages from a completely different perspective.

With my Mom, this also has another benefit because she's out and about socializing, and always has a supply of my business cards. I asked her if she tells people I do newsletters and websites, and she replied, "With the emphasis on newsletters." Of course, she has no idea of whether I do a good job or not - that's where the 'Mom' part comes in.

Here's a bonus 'Mom test' for you. When editing your own writing, add the words "Hi Mom," to the beginning and read it out loud. Does it flow or is it awkward? If it's awkward, you might need to dump big words and fancy writing, and simplify. (Thanks to Neil Everton at Podium Media and Communications Coaching for this writing tip!)

My Mom is going to attend my Phone vs. eMail Debate with The Phone Lady on November 5th. (Of course, I'm taking the side of email - you can vote here.) My cheerleader will be the only one in the room who has never actually sent an email!

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03 October 2014

What were you doing on Boxing Day?

Were you reading my blog on December 26, 2013? Maybe not but someone was because I had over 800 pageviews that day.

Up to that point, it was the most pageviews I'd ever had in one day. In fact, it was 10% of the monthly total - significant for one day.

graph of blog pageviews by month

Those of you who take time off from online marketing on the holidays are leaving ripe pickings for those of us who don't.

You might think there aren't as many business people online on days such as New Year's or Easter, and you'd be right. But those who are online are there to browse; they read more deeply. That means they might read your whole blog post instead of scanning it. They might click on embedded links and read several blog posts. They might tweet about it. They might even respond to one of your calls to action.

Thanksgiving is coming soon. Go ahead, disappear. I'll be quite happy to pick up the slack.

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29 September 2014

The Speed of eMail

When I sent out my last newsletter, almost 400 people opened it in the first 2 hours. If you need to reach a lot of people fast and at the same time, email is definitely the medium of choice.

For one thing, sending an email is faster and easier than phoning 400 people. (My jaw just clenched in horror!) And broadcasting a tweet or Facebook post is not the same as putting a message in someone’s inbox; it’s hit or miss. Direct mail is costly and the results are minimal.

Some say the ROI on email marketing is over $40 for every $1 spent. I haven’t gotten those results for myself (yet) but I have seen some very quantifiable successes.

For example, it’s easy to calculate your ROI when selling event tickets. Let's say you spend $300 to sell $6000 worth of tickets, which is a pretty darn good return. More to the point, consider if - and how - you’ll sell all those tickets if not by email.

One of the big benefits of email over other options - the phone, social media, snail mail - is that it's fast, easy and direct.

I’ll be debating the benefits of email vs. the phone on November 5th in Halifax with The Phone Lady. Please contribute to our research by voting for which you think is better – click here to vote. (It’s anonymous, so I can’t hold it against you if you vote for the phone but, of course, I hope you’ll vote for email!)


24 September 2014

How I got my Name

Nine years ago in June, I was taking the first steps to start my own business. One of those steps was to come up with a company name. If you know me, you also know this is something I took great pains about.

In the book, Getting Business to Come to You, was a suggestion to use your own name and a play on words if you were fortunate to have such a name. I was lucky to have recently married a fellow with the last name Daley (for more reasons than his name, of course). So, I thought ‘daily’ and searched that word on Google. The overwhelming response was ‘Daily Progress’, with links to a multitude of newspapers in North America and Europe. At the time I was not doing newsletters, but I felt that ‘progress’ was certainly the result my clients were wanting, so ‘Daley Progress’ it was.

Interestingly, now that my company name actually aligns more fully with what I do, the loose association to the declining newspaper industry may be lost before too many more years go by.

Please leave a comment about how you got your business name.

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16 September 2014

Click to Tweet

You might think I am writing about social media but I'm not. I am writing about email marketing. Your newsletter is similar to your blog... you can write it but they may not come.

You need to promote your newsletter and nothing works better for promotion than making it easy to share. I have been advocating including sharing icons in your newsletter for a very long time. But my recent discovery of Click to Tweet, used in the Daley Progress blog posts, has made me remember why this is so important.

You see, I don't like Twitter. I am always logged in but I never go there. I will retweet what arrives in my email but signing on to read is just never going to happen for me. What I have noticed is that if anything arrives in my email with a double click option to share, I will share it. If I have to open a new window, logon to my social feeds and copy/paste a link. It will never happen!

Including a way to easily share your newsletter WILL result in more shares. It really is that simple.

Luckily, most bulk mail services have sharing icons that are easily added with no programming required!

Click to Tweet this article

Originally published in Work Better, Not Harder on September 16, 2014.

Update September 22, 2014:
This screen shot was taken the day I wrote the above article. If you needed proof that making sharing easy works, look no further! Make it easy and people will share...

Cashing in on Social Credit

We small business owners are constantly working hard to build our mailing lists, our business colleagues and referrers, our Twitter followers, our LinkedIn contacts, our Facebook likes, our blog readership - our social credit. I easily spend at least 25% of my work time on these activities and I bet you do, too. What are we saving it all up for?

Definition of 'leverage': use (something) to maximum advantage.

My social credit is a business resource built with a significant investment. I'm about to write a withdrawal slip!

Many of you have been reading our newsletter and blog for several years, and some of you are more recent contacts. I hope I have built up enough social credit with you to ask for your attention...

First, if you haven't already, please take just a second to vote for which is better - phone or email. We're striving for good participation in the vote so the results will be relevant. Thanks!

If you're in the Halifax area, Mary Jane Copps and I would love it if you'd join us for our public luncheon debate at YukYuks on November 5th. Phone vs. eMail will be a fun learning experience with good food and great company. Bring your favourite client! Get details and tickets here.

If you're in the Regina area, I hope I'll get to see you at the Your Marketing Made Easy conference on October 21st. I'll be facilitating two workshops that day - Your First Blog: Start a New Habit with a Plan (beginners) and Love your Blog Again: Content Ideas to get you Unstuck and Inspired (advanced). Get details and tickets here. Early bird pricing till September 18th!

Finally, I'm thrilled that our Work Better, Not Harder blog was recently plugged as “unique and original” by a Toronto digital marketing agency in Top 10 Canadian Marketing Blogs Worth Checking Out. You can get our blog posts by email - see upper right on blog.

Thanks for letting me make this withdrawal!

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originally published in the Work Better, Not Harder newsletter, September 16, 2014

11 September 2014

7 Tips for Communicating Details by eMail

Email is an ideal way to communicate details, such as meeting minutes, action lists, project updates, instructions, reference data, decisions, event info, checklists and much more. Sending previously prepared information is a snap - just attach, or copy and paste.

When I started specializing in enewsletters, I quickly discovered that there are a lot of details to discuss and make decisions about. Some clients like communicating by phone and others by email. But for some of this detailed communication, email is definitely the best method regardless of preference. It allows me to standardize the process, provide checklists, track action items, explain complex ideas, show examples, and document decisions.

Here are some tips for communicating detailed information by email:
  1. Strive for clarity. Be brief, but not to the point of leaving out relevant information.
     
  2. Use point-form numbered or bullet lists. This makes it easy for your reader to mentally check things off, or to use a pen on printed copy.
     
  3. Use short words, short sentences, and short paragraphs. Unless your goal is to impress with your writing skill, use the K-I-S-S principle.
     
  4. Provide links to background information or past communications instead of adding unnecessary bulk to your key message.
     
  5. Anticipate questions. Review your message from the perspective of your reader. Are you raising more questions than you're answering? Head off questions by answering them now.
     
  6. Pay for each word. This is one of the best writing/editing tips I've ever learned - thanks to Neil Everton at Podium Media & Communications Coaching. Every word you can leave out enhances the impact of what's left - click here to learn how to apply this tip.
     
  7. Proof, proof, proof - three times. If it's important, and you can't get another set of eyes on it, don't slack off here. Try proofing a printed copy, reading out loud, and allowing a time gap to improve your results.
Now, before you start tapping away on your keyboard, make sure it's necessary. I've spent time composing detailed emails when I've misunderstood a question or made an assumption (yes, more than once), resulting in wasted time and confusion. The lesson is... if you have doubts, pick up the phone and check.

phone vs. email
Mary Jane Copps, The Phone Lady, wrote about just this in her article When You Say "Hmmm" . We're having a public debate about which is better - phone or email. What do you think? Click to vote online. (Of course, I'm hoping you'll vote for email.) If you're in the Halifax area, we'd love for you to join the live debate on November 5th at YukYuks. (Click to tweet about the event.)

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06 September 2014

Let's Play like Adults


Yesterday I politely wrote asking to be removed from a mailing list after receiving a promotional email that was ugly, far from CASL-compliant, and for products I’m not interested in. I even included links to CASL info in an effort to help.

I received this response a few moments later: “Please do the same for me.”

This childish reaction came from an older man who had attended a free email marketing training I put on last spring at the request of the Halifax Chamber of Commerce. He sells products to my target market. Do you think I’m ever likely to recommend him to anyone now?

Email marketing isn't a game, it’s a business strategy. I firmly believe we should unsubscribe from mailings that aren't of interest to us. I read many newsletters from people who don’t read mine. It’s not a “tit for tat” thing.

Email marketing costs money. Why would we want to waste our efforts sending messages to people who don’t want them?

Go ahead, unsubscribe from the things you don’t want. Don’t make your subscription to other’s newsletters dependent on their subscription to yours. Let’s be grown-ups.

25 August 2014

My Essential Small Business Tools (Part 1)


Whenever I get together with other business owners over lunch or coffee, the conversation often flows to a discussion of how to be more productive. What processes are we using? What contractors are helping? And what tools or apps are useful?

I love this sharing of ideas and found out about many of the tools I use regularly from these chats. Those listed below are ones that I use at least weekly - often daily - and consider essential to managing my business.

Google Calendar
In the newsletter business, we have to keep track of a lot of dates - reminder dates, preparation dates and issue dates - for all our clients on varying schedules. Google Calendar has been invaluable, not only as an organizational and tracking tool, but also as a communication tool because it lets me share my calendars with work colleagues. I have my own calendar of appointments and events, plus a calendar to track all of the important newsletter dates. I use the email and pop-up reminders so I don’t forget anything. It’s always with me - on my home PC, laptop, and tablet.

Dropbox
This online storage tool allows me take vacations! It also eliminates the risk to my clients of me getting sick or injured. That’s quite a claim, I know, but with it Danielle can access all of the necessary files when I take time off. It also makes sharing large and multiple files with clients and contractors easy.

PayPal
I can accept credit card payments easily and at a minimum cost. I can post ‘Buy Now’ buttons just about anywhere online. It’s also easy to use for many of the business purchases I make online, such as website renewals, stock photos, and monthly subscriptions, often paid for in US funds. I’m not sure what I’d do without it!

I resisted, but Freshbooks has definitely been worth the monthly fee. Easy to set up and connect to PayPal, I find the recurring invoices are a great feature. Since I started using it, my time spent invoicing and following up has dropped... and my outstanding receivables have also dropped. The automated reminders work like a charm.

We use this as a gallery which shows off examples of our work (enewslettergallery.com). It’s also home to all of my personal photos and scans; I've been using it for years. I no longer have to be concerned with moving big files every time I get a new computer. And they’re available to view on any web-enabled device, including my TV. It even has privacy settings for those embarrassing photos. The paid version is a bargain at $25 a year.

I've been using this tool longer than any of the others listed. I found my own and several other businesses’ brand colours with this tool. It’s easy to use - simply click on different options - and free. There’s a new version, but I prefer the one I've been using and am glad it's still available.

To be continued in an upcoming blog post...