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How Outlining Gets You Unstuck

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This post was written by Liam Friesen, who has recently joined Daley Progress in a part-time support role. (How lucky am I to have a journalism student helping me out?)

Telling yourself that you want to start writing an article is simple. The hard part comes when you actually begin.

This is an issue that plagues those who know what they want to write about but don’t quite know how to explain it. If this is a problem you run into often, try starting with an outline.

From time to time, I struggle when trying to formulate an article. I find myself unable to put my ideas into words and I get stuck. However, when you create a layout or an outline for your topic, you won’t fall into a pit of wordiness and confusion.

An outline can appear in any way you want, as long as you include the following: an introduction, your main body information, and a conclusion. The introduction and the conclusion are quite self-explanatory but the main body paragraphs are where most people get lost.

Think of it a…

Being Sneaky About Email

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When I see the words "try this" along with the words "your email subscribers" in a headline, I get a little antsy. The email I received today included "sneaky-favorite email sequences" in the body text.

Here's the thing, if you're delivering value to your readers on a regular basis, you don't need to do anything sneaky. If your readership is dropping off, start delivering more value. Keep giving the thing your readers signed up for... or give even more of it.

Being sneaky may result in short term gains (i.e. your stats look better for a month) but it will tarnish your reputation and long term results. Being sneaky means you've run out of value to give and you're getting desperate.

You're not there yet. You only have to keep discovering the value that your readers want. Do a little research... get inspired.

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What Are You NOT?

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Every small business owner struggles with their messaging from time to time and this is especially true when developing content for a new or refreshed website.

I - and you - can sit and make a long list of words and phrases that describe the way we work with customers. That's a good idea, of course.

Here's a more powerful option and, in some ways, it makes the task easier.
Search your words and phrases online. See what others in the same line of work are saying about themselves and the way they do business.Start a list of the words and phrases that are NOT like you and your business, that are clearly not ones you would use. They will practically jump off the screen at you.Using that NOT list, write a list of 'opposites'. If this is how you're not, then change it to the way you are. Now you can use these new words and phrases as you develop your website content and marketing messages. And you could easily include a bullet list of "This is not ..." to clari…

The Work of Small Business Blogging

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This is my 600th blog post. I'm feeling the pressure to write something wise and inspirational about blogging like I did with post #500. Are you ready? Here it is...

Aside from your business objectives, you actually have to like doing the work of blogging to maintain momentum for the long term.

I wouldn't have made it through 600 posts if I didn't actually like doing the work. Sure, I've felt stress to meet deadlines and guilt when I haven't. My pace has sometimes slowed but I won't be stopping any time soon. The commitment grows, the longer you're at it.

Here's the thing about blogging though - you can give it a try to see if you want to make the commitment. Do a few test drives to see if you like the work involved.

I'm researching the obstacles that keep people from blogging for their businesses - those who say "I should" but never start. Can I help get you unstuck in a 10-minute phone call? Maybe. Want to find out? Book a call here.

Clic…

Content Template - Share a Concept

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You just had an a-ha moment – by thinking, researching, reading, discussing, learning, teaching, experimenting, or problem-solving. And now you’re anxious to share that new insight with your readers who will also benefit from it.

Not sure how to organize your ideas and get writing? Download this content template to get going - and done - in no time.

Using content templates is sort of like filling in the blanks. Capture your ideas, organize them, and draft your article quickly. Want more templates? Click here to get the free Quick and Easy Content Creation workbook.

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Using Lists to Embrace Change

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Many small business owners didn't start their careers as small business owners. And the road each of us took to get here is quite different. But one thing is fairly common - we're finding ways to earn a living doing work we love. Often that means evolving and growing and changing.

My 'one word' for 2019 is EMBRACE. Admittedly, it hasn't been in my awareness much but two recent events brought it to the forefront. First, a Twitter friend asked if I'm succeeding. It gave me pause and moment to pat myself on the back - because I've been living it, even if subconsciously. A couple of days later I met with colleagues for some business development advice. Driving home afterward, I realized going through that process is also about embracing.
Oh, do I have lists! Creating them has been about embracing all the pieces of my business. Here are some of the lists that have helped me work through this business development process. You may find this list of lists useful, t…

What Would Your Hero Do?

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Survivor fans might remember WWMD - "What would Monica do?" - from Season 34 Game Changers. Brad Culpepper often reflected on what his wife Monica would do in a given situation. He considered Monica his hero as she had made it to the final tribal council on an earlier season. This introspection seemed to work as Brad also made it to the final tribal council.

Recently I wrote to a trusted colleague describing the help I want from her as "What would Alison do?" After all, Alison Knott is an expert at branding and that's exactly the kind of help I was writing to her about.

There are other heroes in my life - business and personal - whose advice I call upon often without their knowledge... by thinking, "What would *my hero* do?" I'm so fortunate to know and love them, to appreciate their expertise and learn from it.

Do your heroes guide your daily business activities? Do they shape your decision-making without even knowing? Now might be a good time to …

How to Work Effectively with Marketing Creatives

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Did you know that a third to a half of the total time spent working on marketing implementation projects is spent communicating with clients? That communication usually takes the form of informing, consulting, decision-making and tracking action items. Depending on the scope, it may also include educating and training. That's a lot of communication! And it may be why price quotes are higher than you expect.

Effective communication is absolutely essential to pulling off any marketing project successfully. Planning and budgeting for that communication are also essential.

You want to work with creatives who will guide you through the process without wasting your time or theirs, who will ask for feedback frequently, who will skillfully mine your ideas and apply them to the project.

I want to work with clients who aren't concerned with hurting my feelings, who will tell me when they don't like something. No one can solve a problem they don't know exists.

No one wins when mar…

We Can't Do It All So Let's Choose Wisely

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My good friend and business collaborator, Anita Kirkbride, has been doing keynotes recently about how to embrace being #flawsome. It's a hard lesson for someone like me with perfectionistic tendencies. But around mid-May, I made a conscious decision to let a few things suffer so that others could flourish.

Here's one of the things that suffered:

Fewer people read my blog. That tells me my own marketing is working when I'm maintaining it. I know exactly what happened: I wrote fewer posts and one of the scheduling apps I use conked out for 2 weeks. (Thank you, Google, for continuing to send readers.)

I decided to live with it because other things, like Social Media Day Halifax 2019, were more important. And yes, I felt a bit guilty because I teach this stuff and setting an example is important.

No one ever said running a small business is easy. Sometimes we have to make tough choices... and move on. And really, while seeing my blog readership increase instead of decrease is…

Doing What You Can Actually Accomplish Trumps Perfection

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Social Media Day Halifax 2019 was an amazing day of learning and networking. I've been spending hours on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram reliving the day through other people's posts... laughing, crying, and feeling the love. (Cue the angles... er... angels singing.)

There is so much I want to write about but, oddly enough, first I'm going to write about one of the sessions I didn't get to attend - Mike Tanner's Beyond The Mic: The Real Work of Podcasting. Here's the thing - Mike recorded his session and posted it to his podcast (the same day!)

Mike talks about starting a podcast in the same way I talk about starting a newsletter...

What's the best way?What do you want to do?What can you do?
Taking on too much can be a quick path to failure. If you can figure out how to fit it into your regular activities, you'll have more success. It's an important message for all of our small business activities. I encourage you to listen to Mike's podcast.

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Knowing When to Go

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Change is a wonderful thing - it keeps life interesting. It allows our businesses to evolve and do better. When we can plan and drive change successfully, it can be very rewarding.

Then there's the change that's forced on us. You know, like when your website hosting company goes belly up. Or your PC dies at an inconvenient time, precipitating an unplanned but long-thought-about change to Mac. Or when the bulk email application you've been using for 10 years keeps dumping functionality that you and your clients need. (OK that last one is me.)
Forced change is rarely pleasant and it's hard to get excited about how things will be better when we're buried in the work of making the change. And, of course, it never happens at a convenient time!
Managing risks can be complicated. I wish I had acted sooner. I'd like to think I'll learn from this experience and act sooner next time. Procrastination is sometimes convenient, and sometimes worthwhile, but certainly not…

Email is the Alternate to SEO

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What's a goal of business blogging that will never be a goal of email marketing? Search engine optimization (SEO), of course. For email, it's all about subject line optimization. (Is SLO a 'thing'?)

Crafting a compelling email subject line can achieve better and more immediate results than writing a whole blog post that is well optimized for SEO.

After 9 years, close to 600 blog posts, and several hundred email newsletters, here is what I know to be true: email beats blogging hands down for tangible and measurable results... faster.

Writing for your newsletter means writing for people, which is way more fun than writing for search engines, whether it's your blog or your whole website. You don't have to be concerned with tediously repeating keywords and phrases, for one thing.

Sure, your email newsletter may include your blog posts. And it should... because your newsletter will get people reading and clicking through to your website much faster than Google will…

Prioritizing Made Easier

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Every small business owner knows what it feels like to have a "million" things to do and nowhere near enough time. We are constantly prioritizing, sometimes deliberately and sometimes less consciously. During the past month, I've done a heck of a lot of prioritizing. Some of you may remember the old screensavers where raindrops would run down your screen. That feels like my calendar lately, all the tasks slipping later in the day.

Last week I needed to start some strategic planning and knew I needed to get focused fast. On-the-fly prioritizing wouldn't cut it. My marketing hero, Bernadette Jiwa read my mind and came to the rescue. I encourage you to read her article Always, Sometimes, Never for a simple approach to business planning. I hope it helps you as much as it's helped me at a time when a quick way to get focused was critical to making progress.
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originally published in the Work Better, Not Harder newsletter May 30, 2019

There's an Email Battle Brewing

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Email bots are coming. Now, your reaction might be "Ugh!" but mine was, "Yay!" And that's part of the challenge.

Here's another part: they are heaven-sent for spammers. Yes, that deserves an "Ugh!"

What I'm excited about are all the possibilities for improving productivity in our daily routines. As a simple example, I'm currently running an email bot to help me memorize a list of items. It "uses a spaced repetition algorithm to bring some piece of information to (my) attention at the optimum interval for memorization."

This coming battle between productivity and bad marketing practices will be epic. It will likely cause the reinvention of email communication. This new technology has such endless possibilities to improve our work (and our lives) but it's already being exploited by spammers. We won't be able to ignore its coming.

Email bots can chop through firewalls and other security measures, improving deliverability fo…

BE the Rabbit Hole

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You know when you've been online for a while - scrolling, reading, tapping - and then realize the time? We may feel good (because we learned something), bad (because something pushed a hot button), or indifferent (what level on HayDay?). Regardless, we still think of these times as getting lost down a rabbit hole.
According to Wikipedia, "Down the rabbit hole" is a metaphor for an entry into the unknown, the disorienting or the mentally deranging, from Alice in Wonderland. Those words may be a bit extreme for our online adventures but the sentiment holds.

In class this week, we were reviewing the homework assignment which was to research and sign up for relevant newsletters. One participant said she kept ending up down rabbit holes. Then she looked up and said, "I guess we really want to BE the rabbit hole, right?" Thank you, Cecelia, for that insight!

Content marketing is something I've been preaching about since before it was called that. I've talked…