December 27, 2011

Purposeless Learning


I love learning. It’s one of my favourite things to do. When I retire, I’m going back to university. Usually I want to learn something because I’ve had a little taste of it and (a) I’m just plain curious or (b) I want to learn it so I can apply it to my work or personal life.

I’m one of those people that actually read those thick manuals that used to come with new computer games before I did the install. There was a purpose. I knew what I wanted to do and just had to learn how to apply it. Learn and then apply - the better the learning, the better the application. I’ve been good at it my whole life.

This year learning changed for me. I began learning lots of things without really knowing if:
  • I was even interested in the topic
  • I could apply it
  • it made sense to apply it
  • there were any benefits to the learning at all
Lately I’ve caught myself saying to people, “You just have to try it for a while to ‘get it’.” (Can you guess what I’m talking about?) A couple of years ago I would not have been so open to the ‘just try it’ approach myself.

Change happens so fast these days. To stay fresh and keep up, sometimes we need to learn first and figure out what the purpose or value is later.

December 20, 2011

Keep Your Content Fresh


Creating content can be a real show-stopper when it comes to kicking off projects like a new newsletter, website or blog. I often hear some version of this: “What the heck am I going to write about?”

Fresh, interesting content is important to ensure your newsletter stays relevant to your audience. You want your newsletter to be opened with a sense of anticipation. Remember that you have to compete with millions of other emails.

How can you distinguish yourself? It’s not enough to create content about your business and products. Here are some suggestions for you to consider:

Have a clear focus
Of the many possible goals for a newsletter, what do you want yours to specifically achieve? Measure every piece of content against this yardstick to avoid ‘scope creep’.

Write to your reader
What are the wants and needs of the person reading your email? Think about the conversations you have with customers and colleagues. You can discuss these same topics by email.

Tell stories
Stories transform you from being a business to being a person. Share customer success stories and bring your readers behind the scenes.

Build community
Invite customers and colleagues to contribute to your content.

Play on pop culture
Consider current pop culture topics and see if you can relate to them. Avoid controversial topics and make it entertaining.

Ask for advice and ideas
Ask customers and colleagues for their feedback about your newsletter and suggestions for content.


Originally published in Work Better, Not Harder on December 20, 2011

December 17, 2011

Build It and Work at It


A newsletter is not one of those ‘build it and they will come’ things. It takes work to both maintain and build on each relationship that you (re-)start with each issue.

Maintain:
  • Give your readers what they want, not what you want to give them.
  • Deliver VALUE in exchange for your readers' time.
  • Respond to everyone who replies to your newsletter, even if it’s just to say “Glad you enjoyed it.”

Build:
  • Add new contacts to build your list.
  • Promote each issue through social media to extend your reach.
  • Make it easy for people to share and subscribe.

December 10, 2011

Writing the Wrong

I've been talking to a lot of people lately about creating and organizing their content for various purposes and places. In the process of conducting a recent lunch and learn on the subject, I collected lots of tips and ideas and here's a good one.

Share your opinion about someone else's article or on a hot topic under debate in your industry. If you're good at what you do, you will have lots of opinions. Telling people about them will really define your unique selling proposition. It also makes you a leader in your field. My client Stephanie Holmes-Winton aka The Money Finder uses this strategy extensively on her blog - here's an example.

This doesn't have to be about claiming someone else is wrong. (I chose the subject line for its alliteration.) It can also be about agreeing with them and offering more info or expanding on the subject.

Of course you have to keep up with your reading and research in order for this strategy to work. Current is key.

December 3, 2011

Check Up on Your eMail Marketing

As a follow up to my last article about managing what you measure, here is something else you should pay attention to: Do you know what your email marketing campaign is doing for you?

That will lead you to answer the question: Should you be doing more or less of it?

In this graph you can see how the activity on my website increased as the direct result of two emails sent. If you look at the front and back ends of the graph (before and after), you can see that there was a really significant impact. This is a quick measure that tells me my email marketing is very effective.

How effective is your email marketing? I want to point out here that the impact of email marketing will vary greatly by industry, whether B2B or B2C, scheduling and frequency, value of content, the format and delivery mode, the size of your contact list and segmentation, your relationship with your subscribers, and other less predictable things.

So now you are able to make a strategic decision:
  • Do you increase the amount of email marketing you are doing? - if the impact of your current marketing is significant
  • Do you maintain current levels?
  • Do you work to improve your impact by concentrating some of the influencers listed above? - if the impact of your current campaign is not significant
  • Do you lessen your time and money investment in email marketing? - if the impact of your current campaign is not significant
I'd love to hear about what you learn when you look at your website statistics.