23 August 2016

Are You an Ad Agency of One?

Advertising agencies get paid big bucks to create witty, actionable slogans and calls to action. So what do us small businesses who can't pay big bucks do? The answer is not to call on a friend who sort of does websites in their spare time. And it's not to just ignore call to action opportunities.

It's you who has to develop those clever calls to action for your business. It can be stressful and time consuming. Pacing around the office doesn't help much but I continue to do it.

Keep your inhouse ad agency sharp by scheduling a weekly repeating 30-minute spot in your calendar for each of these activities below:
  1. Seek inspiration actively, not just when you stumble upon it. Check what experts in your industry are talking about. Find a free ecourse. Buy (and read!) a new business book.
  2. Find an inspiration buddy. We often find it easier to come up with ideas for other businesses. Reciprocate with another business owner by brainstorming together regularly.
  3. Stay current. It's so very easy to do a little research while sitting at your desk. This one is a no-brainer!
That's 90 minutes per week to work on your promotional messaging. You'll soon discover it's a worthwhile time investment.

originally published in Work Better, Not Harder August 23, 2016

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16 August 2016

Does your Content Strategy Match your Small Business?


You sell services or you sell products, or you sell both. Whatever your product mix, a component of your small business content strategy needs to be informing potential customers about those products and services.

Make sure your promotional messages fit with, and flow from, your informational content. It’s a balancing act. We’re all familiar with the feeling of being blasted with too many repetitive sales offers (not good for us). At the other end of this spectrum is creating great information but having no call to action (not good for you).

Direct promotion
  • This includes things like advertising and special offers. A banner ad is pretty direct. A BUY NOW button is also pretty direct.
Indirect promotion
  • This is where you work your promotional messages into your informational content, writing articles that naturally lead into a call to action. Success stories are an example of this; at the end you can say something like, “If you want to feel like this, get in touch.” A ‘How to Start’ article is another example; you can add, “If you don’t want to go through all of this, call us and we’ll do it for you.”
Generally you’ll want to use some combination of direct and indirect promotion. This will vary from business to business. BUT your online marketing strategy should include making a decision about this ratio, and using it as a guide for creating content.

For a retail store whose strategy includes sales discounts and special offers, perhaps the ratio will be 80% direct and 20% indirect promotion. For a consultant, it might be the exact opposite.

You’ll also have a different ratio for all of the platforms where you are publishing content. For example, on your blog or in your newsletter many of the articles might contain indirect promotion (or none), and the sidebar may contain an ad for your latest book. On Twitter, experts recommend only 10% promotional content, and on LinkedIn there are other conventions.

Why is this important? If you don’t manage it well…
  1. Your target market will think you’re too ‘salesy’ and be turned off (too much promotional content) OR
  2. Your target market will not act because you’re not telling them to (not enough promotional content)
The ONLY way you will know if you’re doing it right is to monitor your platforms, and make tweaks based on results.

photo by Le_Morgy / Flickr

10 August 2016

Why and How to Do a Wrap-up Article


A wrap-up article is a logical and unique grouping of pieces of content where the grouping provides value to the reader beyond the individual pieces on their own. You might think of it like a themed gift basket.

There are several reasons we need to be creating these wrap-up articles. They...
  1. serve as a great resource - valuable information grouped together
  2. use commonly searched keywords and phrases (good SEO)
  3. encourage deeper reading
  4. are often faster to create
  5. provide a process to repurpose past content
  6. remind us of what we've written and provide inspiration to write more
Wrap-up articles serve us better than just about any other content we might create. Of course, we have to be creating content on a regular basis to be able to wrap it up.

There are lots of different ways to group pieces of content:
  • by topic - e.g. content idea generation, writing tips
  • by use - e.g. how-to, conceptual, tips
  • by thing - e.g. infographics, videos
  • by user - e.g. for beginners, for experts
  • to conclude a series - e.g. after parts 1, 2, and 3
  • to continue a series of previous wrap-up articles (example)
After reading this far, if you don't already have your wrap-up concept, scan your past content.
  • On your blog, the fastest way to find content groupings is to use your keyword links. For example, you may have tagged all of your articles about being more productive with the keyword 'productivity'.
  • For both your blog and newsletter, review the titles in the archives. I recently put together a compilation of 'how-to' advice after reviewing a client's newsletter archive while she was on vacation.
Writing your wrap-up article can be as simple as writing an introduction, listing and linking the past articles, and writing a conclusion. Use the introduction or conclusion to explain why this particular content grouping is valuable and how to use the information.

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03 August 2016

Content Ideas for Consultants - Teach Something (Part 3)


It's been said that the best way to become expert at something is to teach it and I've certainly found that to be true. Teaching forces us to research and prepare, to find the answers to tough questions, and to be open to feedback.

This is where you write an article (or more) to teach something but first I challenge you to learn something new that's relevant to your business.

If you've already been through Getting Started (Part 1) and Useful Content (Part 2), you've had some practise. Keep your momentum going with this exercise.

First, pick something to learn. This shouldn't be hard but, if you don't already know of something you want to learn, search topics for your industry online.

Next, do the learning. This might involve taking courses, talking to experts, online research, and so on. Be tuned in for blog-worthy content. How you choose your learning method can also be part of what you write about. Make notes along the way.

Now, teach. Your inclination might be to start with the big picture but I encourage you to start with the smaller pieces. One learning experience for you can result in many pieces of content. Don't try to teach it all in one article - create a list of topics and work to a plan.

If you want to take a simpler approach to this content creation technique, click here to get the 'What I Learned' content template and just fill in the blanks.

photo by University of Minnesota Duluth / Flickr

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29 July 2016

100 Days of Content Creation and Promotion

I recently published issue #100 of the Work Better, Not Harder newsletter. When I started it, I didn't envision how long it would last. In fact, I didn't look very far into the future at all - I just did it, and kept doing it. It's changed quite a lot since that very first issue (I even had a different logo back then) but my focus has always been to give good value to small business owners.

When I told some friends that I wanted to do something special for my subscribers to celebrate, the idea of a '100' list was born... about a month ago. Since then I've had a computer crash and some software problems but I've been working furiously when I could. It's amazing how a publicly announced deadline can motivate!

Until the end of August 2016, I'm giving away my plan - 100 Days of Content Creation and Promotion - for free to regular subscribers of either our newsletter or blog. It won't be for everyone but, if you are a small business owner doing your own online marketing, you'll find value inside.
  • Beginners - It's written with you in mind.
  • In Between - Even if you've been doing your own online marketing for a while, you'll benefit from the routine.
  • Experts - Always looking to up your game, you'll find some ideas inside that you haven't tried yet.
Go to 100daysofcontent.com and grab it now!

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23 July 2016

Content Template - The Checklist

Using a content template can shorten your writing time and also keep you more focused.

The purpose of this particular template is to give people a useful tool to complete a task more efficiently.

This type of article shows off your expertise. Because it is so useful, people will bookmark it and return. Part of its usefulness is its simplicity: no long paragraphs, no complex sentences. Grab The Checklist content template here (.pdf).

Get More Templates

If you like this template, grab the mini workbook Quick and Easy Content Creation with 5 more templates, plus some tips for using them to be more productive.

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19 July 2016

The Collaboration Movement

'The Creativity Movement' - this headline caught my eye in the paper recently. Included were several inspiring articles about idea generation and I noticed a common thread running throughout. It turns out that idea generation works better with more people than just yourself. No surprise there; doesn't this sound like brainstorming? Whatever you call it, more people make it merrier... and more creative.

So, this creativity movement hinges on collaboration. And that's good news for small business! Most small business owners I know thrive on collaboration; having others to work with but having autonomy, too. It almost feels like we have an unfair advantage in this new age.

Small business owners dream of getting that BIG IDEA. The one that will make them rich or popular or powerful, or give them the means to do good for others. But to get to that big idea, we have to practice with lots of little ones. No matter how overused, "practice makes perfect" is still true and definitely applies to ideas.

Tossing around ideas is one of my favourite things to do, mine or someone else's. I can do it for hours at a time. Finding that time is the challenge. Finding collaborators who can also find the same time is even harder.

I'm planning to take advantage of summer's slower pace to very deliberately generate and flesh out ideas.

Join me at Make. Do. Camp. September 2-5, 2016 in Big Cove, Nova Scotia. This camp is for entrepreneurs, professionals, creatives... change-makers who want to workshop ideas, spark creativity and refocus their energy. Until July 31st, you can get 15% off! Click here and use promo code CAMPFRIENDS when registering. After you register, drop me a note to let me know.

What ideas will you start from seed this summer?

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14 July 2016

The Absolute Best eMail Marketing Software

... is the one you don't have to learn yourself.

You don't know what you don't know. Hire an expert and go do what you do best.

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The next issue of the Work Better, Not Harder monthly newsletter will be Issue #100! We're working on an extra special resource and only email subscribers will get it. PLUS, if you sign up now, you'll also get a mini workbook with 5 Quick & Easy Content Templates to speed up your writing. Get it here.

10 July 2016

Colour Palettes for Summer Marketing

A photo can be a powerful marketing message, an expression of brand with more impact than a logo. It's worth a thousand words and expressed through many thousands of colours. We have feelings about the image itself and about the colours.

You know how you feel when looking at a beautiful photo of sand, sun and surf? Aquamarine, white, pink, and deep blue. Even if you don't own a bathing suit, you want to be there. Summer colour schemes can be bright and vibrant, or cool and relaxed.

What does your summer marketing campaign look and feel like?

Here are some photos that inspired me. I've included html colour codes and links to the original photos on pixabay.com if you want to download for yourself.



Can a fallen leaf be elegant? I think this one is - elegant and earthy. And, if I have time to contemplate this leaf, I must be feeling relaxed and at ease. Get the original photo.


Gazania are attention hogs in the garden with their warm colours and pinwheel designs. Get the original photo.


Purple always catches my attention regardless of the subject matter. This scene makes me think of mysteries and romance. Pass the wine. Get the original photo.


Warm, fuzzy, cute, cuddly, feminine, and youthful all come to mind. Pink elicits feelings of love and contentment. Get the original photo.


Cool, calm, collected... and casual. I love these shades of denim blue! Get the original photo.


Even if you don't live by the ocean, this photo shouts 'summer vacation'. A cool breeze lifts your hair and work feels very far away. Get the original photo.


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The next issue of the Work Better, Not Harder monthly newsletter will be Issue #100! We're working on an extra special resource and only email subscribers will get it. PLUS, if you sign up now, you'll also get a mini workbook with 5 Quick & Easy Content Templates to speed up your writing. Get it here.

05 July 2016

Why Graphics are an Important Part of Your Content


Not everyone is a 'visual' person, by preference or physical circumstances. But many are, which is why you can't ignore graphics as an important piece of your content. Can I convince you?

Today we are exposed to about five times more information daily than we were in the mid-1980s - around 34 gigabytes of information, roughly equivalent to 174 newspapers. Out of necessity, our attention spans have become shorter as we attempt to process information faster.

Over 50% of the human brain is devoted to processing visual information, and 70% of our sensory receptors are contained in our eyes. This means people are good at processing and remembering pictures. In fact, it only takes the average person one-tenth of a second to understand the content in a picture. It would take that same person over 30 seconds to read a description about the content in that same picture… over 300 times longer. Since 2007, graphic content on the internet has increased by almost 10,000%!

We have become used to getting our information in a visual format, and we can process it faster than written content. It only makes sense to create and use visual content to communicate important ideas.

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The next issue of the Work Better, Not Harder monthly newsletter will be Issue #100! We're working on an extra special resource and only email subscribers will get it. PLUS, if you sign up now, you'll also get a mini workbook with 5 Quick & Easy Content Templates to speed up your writing. Get it here.

01 July 2016

Why You Need to Create Original Content

"If all you're sharing is other people's content, why do people need to follow you?"
~ Anita Kirkbride

Recently I've sat with a couple of small business owners who have been "on social media" for a while but have not been doing much. In planning to ramp up their social game, one of the first things they both wanted to do was to get apps that help curate (bring them content based on keywords). This way they would have content to share.

I couldn't understand why this was important to them. I'm never at a loss for something to share.

Granted, we all have different strategies and goals. Here's where I find my content to share:
  • Experts I Know - I'm really lucky to know a few of them and their information is very relevant for my target market.
  • Clients and Friends - I follow all of my clients on all social media platforms. Their information is not always relevant to my target market but sometimes peripherally. I pick and choose to share what makes sense.
  • Service Providers and Other Trusted Sources - A big one for me is iContact which is the email marketing software I use for most of my work. I watch what they're posting to share interesting articles and also to stay current.
  • Search Topics - I search for information on something specific because I want to learn. Then I share the best of the results.
  • My Own Content - I spend a fair bit of time creating content and want to maximize its usefulness to others. By far most of what I share is original content in one form or another.
I use a Twitter list and a Hootsuite stream to keep track of the first 3 items above. Twitter is my fave so that's where you'll find me most.

Being able to curate good content is important but not as important as creating your own original content. That's where your time is better invested.

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The next issue of the Work Better, Not Harder monthly newsletter will be Issue #100! We're working on an extra special resource and only email subscribers will get it. PLUS, if you sign up now, you'll also get a mini workbook with 5 Quick & Easy Content Templates to speed up your writing. Get it here.

27 June 2016

Make a Personal Connection - A Success Story

Brenda Fay and her husband Dan of BrenDaniel Productions Corp. have trained people all over the world on project management. As a result, they have many contacts across several time zones. They had been using email marketing to promote their services.

A couple of years ago I suggested to Brenda that she can get more out of her email marketing if she also gives some value to readers. Now her brief newsletter is bringing her success every time it goes out.

Recently I asked Brenda where she gets her ideas. “From things that happen every day – talking with people, listening to CBC radio, and reading books are three main ways. I write about ideas that strike me as related to project management in one way or another.”

Brenda told me that her goals are to stay in touch with people and to get information out about public programs she’s offering. It’s not a one way street. “It is fun for me to write the articles, and I am very pleased when people write back giving comments on the articles and letting me know they like them! I get to know people more and they get to know me.

When I asked about specific success stories, here’s what Brenda told me, “I have had a fair number of courses happen as a direct result of my newsletter. Several times people have told me that others forwarded my newsletter to them, suggesting they get in touch. Making connections with new people, who I may partner with or just connect with on LinkedIn, is a success, too. One of the nicest emails I got was from a woman in Quebec who said that her daughter is an aspiring project manager and she forwards my newsletter to her to motivate her.”

Of course, I had to ask Brenda what advice she would give to others who want to start a newsletter. “Write from the heart. Write down your ideas as soon as you can – I often compose articles in my head when I am walking or driving, and sometimes I don’t get them written down as quickly as I could. Don’t worry what people will think – if you like it and it is something you want to say, say it! Know that there will be many people who will relate to what you are saying.”

If it’s your time to start a newsletter, get in touch, or check out our Resource page for lots of advice and tips.

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The next issue of the Work Better, Not Harder monthly newsletter will be Issue #100! We're working on an extra special resource and only email subscribers will get it. PLUS, if you sign up now, you'll also get a mini workbook with 5 Quick & Easy Content Templates to speed up your writing. Get it here.