November 30, 2011

You Manage What You Measure

One of my favourite bosses worked by the motto “if it’s worth doing, it’s worth measuring”. When I whined that something just couldn’t be measured, he would say, “There’s always something to measure.” And he was always right.

It’s an important concept for small business owners. Having a set of metrics that you watch and that you feel are the key drivers of your success, helps you keep clarity. If you don’t have goals stated for your company, and if you don’t regularly measure how you’re doing against those goals, you won’t have your resources focused on the right priorities.

The more public you can make your goals the better. Transparency of goals drives performance because it creates both a commitment and a sense of urgency. Commitment and urgency are key drivers of success.

People often measure the wrong stuff, or measure with the wrong precision (either too high-level or too detailed). There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach but there are two pretty universal measures:
Customer Acquisition – new, lost, average sale, cost to acquire, etc.
Revenue Metrics – especially trends

The ‘how’ of implementation will vary among companies and figuring that out can be a challenge, but I guarantee that you will learn more about your business and be in a better position to make strategic decisions.

Originally published in Work Better, Not Harder on November 30, 2011

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November 25, 2011

You don't want Subscribers

What you want is fans. Let's dispel a newsletter myth. The myth is that you want to keep as many subscribers as you can. That's simply not true. You pay for subscribers. If someone is not reading or forwarding your newsletter, why do you want to send it to them? And you don't really want to annoy people.

Have a simple escape route:
  1. Make it easy to unsubscribe.
  2. Tell people it's easy to unsubscribe.
  3. Tell them how to do it.
It's not personal! Just because someone unsubscribes from your newsletter, it doesn't mean they have unsubscribed from you. And, if people know it's easy to unsubscribe, maybe they'll stick around a little longer... ?

November 15, 2011

Content that Builds Trust

Different types of content will achieve different things. You can educate and inform, build trust, establish your expertise, expand your community, and generate sales.

Building trust is one strategy that is appropriate for just about any type of organization or independent professional. It can be used in your newsletter and also extends to your website, blog and social media. This type of content is used to bridge the gap between awareness and trust.

Here are some types of content that specifically work to build trust:
  • How-to content - specific advice, tips and processes
  • Articles written by you - displaying your knowledge of the subject
  • Articles published by others that specifically mention you or your organization
  • Reviews - customer reviews on sites such as Yelp and Google Places
  • Testimonials - endorsements from happy customers

An added bonus is that these types of content often support your SEO efforts. Being brief and to the point also builds trust so I'll stop here.

November 14, 2011

Quick Tip - Avoid Hidden Format Problems

When you're inserting content into your newsletter, website or blog, you're often copying it from other documents.  I suggest you always compose in Word (or similar) to take advantage of its spelling and grammar-checking functionality.

Your formatting in Word may not be the same as your default formatting in these various applications.  While there are a raft of applications that make it easy now to do your own newsletter, website and blog, most of them are converting your content to html code in the background.  When you copy in text that is already formatted, you're possibly creating problems behind the scenes.  As well, you'll end up with differing fonts and sizes that all have to be corrected before you publish.

You can avoid the potential for problems by stripping off all formatting before you paste into the application.  An easy way to do this is to use Notepad (or similar).  You simply open a blank notepad document, paste your content into it, then copy and paste from there into your application.

November 10, 2011

How much is too much?

And equally important, how much is too little? Too much and too little can both be bad when it comes to e-marketing.

People ask me how often they should send out their newsletter and I always answer the same thing - as often as you can bring value to your subscribers. And if you can do that every single day, yippee! I myself subscribe to 4 daily newsletters.

Back to reality... of course, there's work involved and that might have an impact on how often you send too. I do strongly believe that you need to send something at least once a month to be having any impact.

Here's a general rule of thumb:
more frequent = smaller amounts of content, and vice versa
(Now remember, rules are made to be broken so perhaps I should call this a guideline instead.)
Of course, social media is a great example of the 'more frequent' strategy.

Aside from how much content, you'll also want to consider the type of content in relation to the frequency. Here are a couple of very different strategies:
  1. One main message in a format that will attract all of your subscribers – by default, this means fairly brief, or brief sections; videos and blog posts fit here. This can be more frequent.
  2. A variety of content aimed to provide at least one thing of interest to every reader; each reader will read something but not necessarily everything – this means more content and of varying lengths and types (e.g. concepts and applications). This would be less frequent. (This is the strategy I adopted for my own newsletter right from the start.)
So you may think that I haven't really answered the question I posed at the start - how much is too much? I do hope I've given you some ways to think about what would be the right answer for you... because of course, 'it depends'.

Please share your opinions and experiences by commenting.

November 2, 2011

Don't Forget Your Fans

You have 2 types of newsletter subscribers:
  1. People who are interested in your content, whether it is informational or promotional: your audience
  2. People who are interested in you and helping you succeed: your fans
Your ideal clients are the first group. Your 3 F’s - friends, family and fans - are the second group. Both types of subscribers are important. The second group will help get your message to more of the first group.
  • Make it really, really easy to share. Include tweet, like and other social media sharing buttons. Invite people to share it with friends by email and give them a link to do so.
  • Thank your fans. When your fans share your information, make sure you thank them. And, even more important, make sure you reciprocate!
  • Include a subscribe link - similar to the sidebar link for subscribing to this blog by email. Your fans will share your newsletter and their contacts will want to subscribe. Make it easy for them. Don’t make them hunt for your sign up form. You would be surprised at how many times I’ve had to do this and how many times I’ve simply given up.
While your ideal client may be the reason you have a newsletter, your fans will help make it successful.