August 14, 2018

3 Reasons Why Businesses Should Be Podcasting


(guest post by Mike Tanner)

To suggest that I’m a big fan of podcasts would be… a bit of an understatement.

In addition to being the host of 3.5 podcasts (it’s a long story), I provide podcasting consulting, speak on podcasting panels and once had a dream that I was the host of a potato chip podcast called “Chip Off The Old Block” (That podcast should be coming out in the fall.)

I started podcasting because I enjoyed it. But what I’ve discovered about podcasting as it relates to business has left me realizing that I made the absolute right decision when I decided to start broadcasting my thoughts on an audio medium.

So here are three reasons why businesses should be podcasting.

Passive Advertising

I am a big fan of social media advertising. The targeting options available on major platforms are outstanding and things like analytics and retargeting make it a no-brainer to use social to promote your business, whether that’s through the use of paid ads or just a solid social strategy.

But those are active channels.

People need to be paying attention (mostly) if they’re going to interact with your content in any beneficial manner.

And that’s one reason that podcasts are so unique. Here are some of the places and situations where I listen to podcasts:
  • Doing the dishes
  • Driving 
  • Playing video games
  • Writing
  • Working
  • Walking
The fact is, I’m not able to significantly interact with people’s tweets or snaps or status updates while I’m doing MOST of those things. However, podcasts circumvent this by giving us the ability to consume content while doing a myriad of other things and, while this can obviously mean a drop in attention, some attention is better than no attention.

Can you imagine if you could say to yourself “peruse these tweets at 1.5X speed” or “read this blog post at 2x speed.” Well, you can do that with podcasts because they’re consumed passively in whatever manner and at whatever speed you’d like.

Podcasts are More Popular than NFL Football

Ok. It’s true. You can make stats say anything you want them to. But hear me out.

In 2017, 48 million Americans listened to a podcast at least once a week. This number rose by 6 million compared to the previous year.

In 2017, 20 million Americans tuned in to watch Sunday Night Football each week.

So while it’s a bit of a stretch to suggest that podcasts are more popular than the NFL, the point is that a LOT of people are listening to podcasts… and that number is growing by a LOT each year.

As more and more people tune in to more and more podcasts, the opportunity for individuals to help fill niche markets with great information, and thus bolster their businesses visibility, are remarkable.

It’s Really Not That Hard

It’s not that launching a podcast is easy… except… well, it is.

Making a podcast sound great is another story, but it’s much easier to start a podcast than a YouTube channel or most other media platforms you might use.

Here’s what you need to start a podcast: a phone.

If you have a phone, you’re golden. You can get nice microphones. You can buy nice software. You can hire a producer. You CAN do lots of things. But when it comes down to it, you just need a phone. Once, I made an Instagram post about the idea of production quality as it relates to content creation. I said that:
“Gary Vaynerchuck could record a podcast on a speak-and-spell in an airplane washroom because the content would be golden.”
Three months later Gary V launched 'the airport sessions', a collection of podcasts with TERRIBLE audio quality that were absolute fire when it came to the content itself.

The point is not, “do a terrible job, who cares,” but rather you should not hold off on pushing play just because you had a little background noise.

Podcasts are easy and inexpensive to produce, growing in popularity and reach the consumer where they’re at. What more could you ask for in a content platform?

So what are you waiting for?

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August 9, 2018

Please Don't Use Email For This


Have you ever sent an email you regretted as soon as you hit Send? There can't be many who haven't felt that in their gut at some time or other, including me.

Facts are perfect for email communication; feelings are not. (Tweet This!)

This is particularly important when it comes to our business communication. While I haven't been completely successful in curbing this tendency, the thing that works best for me is to keep myself from hitting that Send button until the next day. Most often, a cooler head prevails and I end up deleting the draft instead of sending. But there's catharsis in the rant.

Rant privately (not on Facebook), then cool off. This is one time I'm asking you NOT to use email. Emails are not conversations.

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August 3, 2018

No Bricks Between Friends


Sometimes it's hard to give honest feedback, especially if it's negative. After all, the other person worked hard to create something and their feelings might be hurt. But the work is just not 'right', and may even be horribly wrong.

What do you do? Be honest, and give good direction about what you don't like and what you'd like to see instead. And what if you don't exactly know what you'd like instead? Be honest about that, too.

When discussing this with a new client recently, she said, "No bricks between friends." That saying came from her Irish grandmother, Annie, and the wisdom can certainly be applied to our business relationships, too.

Communication, by any of the many options available, takes time and costs money. But we are not saving time by withholding critical feedback. Here are two scenarios that might happen if we do:
  1. Later in the project, for example, a website, it becomes evident that the work is not pleasing. And later in the project, it will take much more time to make changes than at the start.
  2. With zero or little feedback, the project goes on to completion. But we aren't happy with the results, and may even tell other people that. And, before long, we might be looking to have the work done over again by someone else - also expensive.
These are not outcomes desired by either person in the relationship.

If you can't articulate your needs, a good independent contractor will help you do that by asking the right questions to draw out information and ideas. Time spent in honest communication early on will always lead to better results.

July 29, 2018

Summer Content Ideas - Loosen Up a Little


If there's any time of year to get more personal with your content, it's during the summer. The rules are relaxed and people have more time to read deeper. Here are a few ideas you can try:

  1. Create a roundup of summer reading appropriate for your fans. This could be books or articles you've read, or even favourite videos, such as TED Talks.
  2. Create your own summer "want to read" list and share it.
  3. Share your favourite BBQ recipe. (Yes, even if you're a business consultant.)
  4. Update your business bucket list and share.
  5. Share "what I'm doing", "where to find me" updates – and why those things are relevant to your readers.
  6. If you're busy learning over the summer, write a "What I Learned" article.
  7. Compare or contrast one of your favourite summer activities with some aspect of your business. (example)
  8. Experiment with the "Mom test" and share your results.
  9. Start a new business habit and share your progress and learnings.
  10. Research! Use a tool like Answer the Public or Google Trends to hone in on topics you haven't covered yet. Share your resulting list of topics as a post with a promise to write about these topics in the future.
  11. Have fun with colours. Create a digital mood board of your favourite summer colours along with an interesting theme.
  12. Preview something new that's starting in the fall with a teaser, such as a new program, product or service offering.
  13. Take on a photo project, such as a 30-day challenge, and blog the experience.
  14. Organize a meet-up with local experts in your industry and then post about it, before, during and after.

Share your favourite summer content idea in the comments.

originally published in Work Better, Not Harder newsletter July 26, 2018

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July 24, 2018

13 Simple, Direct ideas for Client Relationship Building


(guest post by Natasha Marchewka)

Do you need help with keeping in touch with past clients without "bugging them"? When working as an isolated freelancer or small business (and where building your business is all on you) there are ways to efficiently and effectively build, strengthen, and grow relationships.

Keeping in touch regularly can be a bit of a conundrum. You want to remind them you exist, but you need to find a balance of being seen and heard and not overdo it. So, you created a newsletter to email clients once a month. I think that's great - and important - and keeps you relevant, top-of-mind, and also keeps you on your toes. What else can you do to remind them you exist as they are distracted daily... and still forget you exist?

Here are some ideas. And, as an added bonus you'll have relevant content to share on your social media feeds!

Client Relationship Building Check-list:
  1. Visit your clients' websites and check if they added anything new, like a press release, newsletter, blog, or an additional social medium. This is the starting point for relevant communication.
  2. Subscribe to their feeds: YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Vimeo, etc. You may want to receive a notification when they post interesting content.
  3. Sign up for their newsletter or blog, if you haven't already, so you'll receive relevant info when they publish.
  4. Scan all their social feeds and share something noteworthy on your own social media. Keep shares engaging by adding your comments with your post.
  5. Check out their blog posts and share on your social media, if you are compelled to do so.
  6. Do they have a (recent) press release that is worth mentioning on one of your feeds? Congratulate them on something, tagging them and any relevant content.
  7. Google your client's contact name and congratulate them directly, by email or social media, on anything notable, keeping it simple and professionally appropriate.
  8. Go to your "notifications" in LinkedIn and reach out to clients who have something noteworthy, providing a personal comment.
  9. Make note of the anniversary of when you first worked together. Schedule in your online calendar with a reminder. Send them an Anniversary email each year.
  10. Email clients individually with an article or idea that reminded you of them.
  11. Mail a thank you card after you've worked together again.
  12. Send a general gratitude card anytime.
  13. Send an appropriate gift or card at year-end, at the New Year, or for a random holiday.

July 20, 2018

Does Your Mother Know What You Do? (Part 2)


It's hard to believe it's been over 4 years since I took my mother to her first (and only) business networking event and wrote about it here. I'm a big fan of the "Mom test" for simplifying our small business marketing messages but I didn't fully appreciate it until yesterday morning.

I was driving out Waverley Road taking the long, more scenic route to Bedford with my mom in the passenger seat. Because she's my biggest fan, I was telling her about some of the exciting new things going on with my business. Oh, she was making all the right noises and nodding, as moms will, but that's when it hit me - she really had no clue as to what I was talking about, much less about why it's interesting and valuable work.

I thought I passed the Mom test years ago when I explained I do newsletters and websites and generally help small business owners implement their marketing plans. She could, and does, tell people that. But since she's never used a computer, she has no context for what that might mean.

So yesterday I told my mom that I help my clients grow their professional reputation using the internet. Because my dad was a scientist, she understands the importance of a professional reputation, even if in a different context. I think I just passed the Mom test for real this time.

Whether it's with your mom, a sibling or a good friend, summer is a great time to experiment with the Mom test outside of your business world. I'd love to hear your revelations in the comment section below.

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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?

PS: This Siteground success story started a year ago on The Phone Lady's blog - read about it here.

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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


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'.

PS: The chatbot application I use is Botletter. It's super simple - check it out here (aff).

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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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