December 31, 2012

Best Reading of 2012

We took a vote to pick the best article from our newsletters for each month of the past year. Since there are two of us, it's a good thing that we agree a lot. We also decided to disqualify our own articles because the voting got awkward. Here it is:

The Best Ideas and Tips for Busy Business Owners 2012
from the archives of Work Better, Not Harder

9 Reasons to Blog by Janet Slack

Stabilize an Unstable Income by Stephanie Holmes-Winton

Don't Let Technology Stifle Your Message by Halina St. James

Why You Need to Monitor Social Media by Anita Hovey

Are You Trusted? by Lea Brovedani

4 Tips to Enhance Your Next Presentation by Neil Everton

The Medium is the Message by Cara Lynn Garvock

Vacation Messages - It's Ugly Out There! by Mary Jane Copps

50 Shades of Grey by Melanie Orr

Optimize Your Financial Relationships by Wendy Brookhouse

Take Your Lunch Break! by Brenda Klarer

Secret Formula for Crafting Your Marketing Message by Debi Hartlen MacDonald

You can get on this list for next year! We're always looking for article contributions - see the rules on our subscribe page.

December 30, 2012

Show Off Your Blog Post Dates!

This recent tweet by Scott Stratten provoked an immediate reaction from me.

I get totally annoyed with blog posts that have no published date. I'm reading away merrily and then a reference to something outdated comes up, seemingly out of context. I look for a date - none to be found. So now I'm thinking, "Why doesn't this person want me to know when they wrote it?" Is it because they hardly ever blog? Is this the one and only article they've ever published? You get it... I'm immediately questioning their credibility.

Scott seems to be alluding to this same credibility issue in his humourous way. I feel that pressure, too, when a couple of weeks slide by without writing anything.

I think that blog post dates are important for 2 reasons:
  1. Credibility
  2. Context
These are kind of important reasons - many a misunderstanding has occurred over a missing date.

December 29, 2012

Stick with the Plan

12/12/12 marked 7 years since I incorporated Daley Progress. If I only knew then what I know now!

The last couple of years have been very different from the previous ones. I finally stuck to a realistic plan.

Now, I know all about plans and how to implement them. I’ve been a planner of some type throughout my whole career. As a business owner, I’ve attended Debi Hartlen MacDonald's bootcamp and updated my business plan every January.

For the first few years I created pretty much the same plan. It became quite elegant. The plans were getting better but I wasn’t getting better at achieving them.

The secret, I discovered, is that you have to plan the right thing. I didn’t want to do the action items needed to make that plan successful.

What I needed was to plan the type of business where I didn’t need to prospect, since that is what was holding me back. It took a while but now that I have the right plan, sticking to it is easy (well, easier).

As you’re making plans for the New Year, consider if you’re really going to do all those action items. Be realistic about how you want to spend your time in the bright new year.

Originally published in Work Better, Not Harder on December 27, 2012.

December 23, 2012

How are Email Marketers like Santa?

Santa can reach every person in the world all in one night. Email can do that too... as long as every person has a computer.

Santa has a hard and fast deadline. Email marketers have hard and fast deadlines maintaining consistency to keep their audience engaged.

Santa keeps meticulous lists: who’s naughty and who’s nice. Email marketers keep meticulous lists: unsubscribers and subscribers... again naughty and nice.

Santa relies on having a good reputation in order to get into people’s homes. Email marketers rely on having a good reputation in order to get into people’s inboxes.

It takes a lot of skill for Santa and his elves to create wonderful gifts for everyone. It takes a lot of skill to create wonderful emails... the kind that feel like a gift.

Merry Christmas, everyone!
Ho! Ho! Ho!

December 9, 2012

The Devil is in the Details

Mistakes happen – appointments get missed, deadlines slide by, and that phone call doesn’t get returned. These things happen to everyone sooner or later. Sometimes these are things that can be avoided next time, sometimes they’re unavoidable, and sometimes they’re just plain old stupid mistakes.

I get so stuck on details sometimes. I know that’s because I make snap judgments and any kind of mistake distracts me. This isn’t the case for everyone though. I value flawless execution… sometimes at the expense of showing up at all. Many of my friends would say that showing up is most important, even if imperfectly.

In my world, imperfect might mean a subject line with a spelling error, a hyperlink that doesn’t work, or a bunch of weird html code showing up in a newsletter. These are all little nitpicky details that can have an immediate and negative impact.

Here are some tips to help you make sure those little details are right:
  • Haste makes waste. Slow down and concentrate.
  • Avoid distractions. Multi-tasking doesn’t work. Shut down your email.
  • Use the tools available. Spell checker, grammar checker, SPAM checker…
  • Double-check, especially details like dates and addresses.
  • Print to proof. Your eyes will see things in print that they miss on a screen.
  • Get another set of eyes. If it’s important, always ask someone else to proof for you.
  • Check links. We use links everywhere - social media, blogs, websites, newsletters, online advertising. Make sure yours work.

Originally published in Work Better, Not Harder on December 6, 2012

December 4, 2012

The Outrageously Simple Formula for eNewsletter Success


Simple, right? As small business owners, our email marketing goals can be quite different and varied. Whatever your GOALS are, you won’t reach them if you don’t seriously consider the other side of the equation: giving VALUE to your subscribers.

If you don’t give value, you will lose your audience - whether you’re standing at the front of a room or sending out your newsletter.

What’s in it for your audience? Who are your readers and what would be useful to them? What can you give them that they can’t get anywhere else? Why would they take the time to read (and share!) your newsletter? You need to answer those questions very succinctly during the planning stage. Valuable content doesn’t happen by fluke.

You can execute flawlessly and put together a newsletter that looks awesome - and that no one wants to read. A good looking newsletter on its own won’t keep your subscribers engaged – give VALUE!

November 28, 2012

Be the Customer You Want to Have

We all have those favourite customers - the ones we’d bend over backwards for when they really need our help.

Think about those things you most appreciate about your best customers and make a list. Draw a ‘picture’ of what your ideal customer ‘looks’ like. My friend and marketing guru Debi Hartlen MacDonald says that we should even ‘name’ our ideal customer. Get to know who they are and we will recognize them when we meet them.

As small business owners, we tend to work a lot with other small business owners. If I can be an ideal customer to my suppliers, it’s beneficial to both of us.

Best customer characteristics will vary depending on what you do. Here are some suggestions for how you can be an ideal customer:

Make your requirements clear. Right from the start establish what your expectations are and develop a plan to work together to achieve them.

Give specific and timely feedback. Be honest early on. And be as exact as possible. Use words that allow your supplier to act on your feedback.

Meet deadlines. Commit to meeting established deadlines by entering them in your calendar and planning your work accordingly. When sh*t happens, as it is bound to at some point, your supplier will be more willing to accommodate if it’s possible.

Pay invoices on time. Need I say more? Cash flow is important to all small businesses.

I firmly believe that we attract our own ideal customers by being an ideal customer ourselves.

photo by Dell's Official Flickr Page

Originally published in Work Better, Not Harder on November 22, 2012

November 26, 2012

Amazing Statistics

When I first met the ladies of Transitions Estate Services, they had a simple problem. They needed a way to get their sale notices to their customers by email. We set them up with a bulk email system and template and decided to use Pinterest as a way for them to show off the items at each sale. Updating their website frequently was not practical for them.

Pinterest turned out to be a great option for images of the sale items and their click-through and open rates have been amazing since the very first issue.

Average open rate is 43% with a high of 46%. Compare this to a 20% industry standard and you can see how successful it has been.

Average click-through rate is 27% with a high of 33%. For each and every send, the most clicked link is their Pinterest board and the second is the map to location. Just what they were looking for... to show customers the items for sale and have them show up at the sale!

Their customers can see the sale notice and list of items in the local paper but when they receive the sale notice in email, they can click through to the images of items as well. This is not possible with print media without the big expense of publishing pictures with the ad. Even then, they would be limited in what they could publish, where Pinterest allows them to post as many images per sale as they want.

If you are doing anything visual in your business, see what happens if you add Pinterest to your email marketing campaign. Readers love to have something to look at. It makes them connect on a new level.

Originally published in Work Better, Not Harder November 22, 2012

November 10, 2012

Warm Up those Cold Calls

Many organizations are engaging in email marketing these days – informational newsletters, promotional emails, or both. Some of these organizations have even done a great job of integrating email marketing with their social media efforts as part of a comprehensive online marketing strategy. But few have made the connection between email marketing and sales. This is an opportunity that deserves your attention.

Make the most of your email marketing activities by taking advantage of all the ‘intelligence’ you can gather about your subscribers. Email service providers (ESPs) have functionality that enables you to review your overall statistics (opens, clicks, etc.). They also have the functionality to take your sales prospecting to a whole new level – you can actually see who clicked on what link. Yes, dear public, marketers have been collecting this info for years.

For example, if you offer two product lines, let’s say Brand A and Brand B, and you include links to more information about each of these brands, you will be able to see who clicked on which. You can then contact your customers and/or prospects with more information on a product for which - with a click of their mouse - they’ve already expressed interest.

If you’re going to make cold calls, wouldn’t it be nice to warm them up a bit with some pre-knowledge before you pick up the phone? When you cold call, start with those who opened and clicked in your newsletter first.

Originally published in The Coral Wire, November 2012.

November 5, 2012

Call to Action [Wrap Up]

No matter what your topic or type of email, you will have a call to action for your readers. It can be a secondary point to your main message, such as signing up for your newsletter. It can be the main point to the whole message, such as register for this workshop. Chances are, each email you send will even have more than one call to action.

Calls to action are everywhere for the readers, each one beckoning louder than the last. So when you craft yours, you want to make your message clear as to what you want the reader to do. Once it is clear to you, you need to make sure it is clear to them. Here are few past posts that will help you create your call to action.

3 Keys to Creating a Call-to-Action - 3 characteristics of any effective call to action
So Many Choices - helps you define the importance of your various calls to action
Up Your Readership - helps you increase your subscribers through calls to action
Ask For Action - helps you craft your message

October 24, 2012

Make the Most of Masterminding

If you’ve been in business for any length of time, you’ve probably been a member of a mastermind group (although you might not have called it that). If you’re new to self-employment, start or find a mastermind group... fast!

I’ve written about mastermind groups before as a way to get your own ‘board of directors’. They can take many forms. I’ve been fortunate to have been a member of several during my years as a small business owner. I’ve started and ended groups, joined and left groups.

Some groups have been short term with a specific purpose. A few years ago I studied an internet marketing course with a small group over a 6 month period. It was fun and educational to learn together.

Some groups have been more long-term and general purpose. I currently meet with two other women business owners monthly to discuss ideas, learn from and motivate each other.

Whether short term or long term, specific or general, big or small, I’ve learned a few things from my experiences. The members must be:
  • committed
  • trustworthy
  • likeable
  • varied in their skills and character
  • willing to share and learn

Remember that participating in a mastermind is an investment of time and effort. Make sure you're getting greater value in return.

Originally published in Work Better, Not Harder on October 24, 2012

October 17, 2012

It doesn't have to be About You

Let’s face it: some businesses are in a better position to provide valuable information through newsletters (blogs, social media) than others.

Take our own newsletter as an example. We could easily publish a newsletter about publishing newsletters. (Stay with me here.) It would have lots of tips and suggestions and advice. We could really show off our expertise and share our opinions. Now, who would that appeal to? People who are publishing their own newsletters. Perhaps even people who are publishing newsletters for others. These people aren’t our target market - not even close.

Our newsletter has nothing to do with our area of specialty. But of course we have to have one. What’s an 'enewsletter boutique' without its own newsletter?

So we found something else of use to our target market:  ideas and tips for small business owners shared by other small business owners. And (big bonus here) members of our target market are the authors of our newsletter!

Giving value doesn’t have to be about what you can do for your target market. It just needs to be, well, valuable to them.

October 10, 2012

The Moral of the Story

Aesop's Fables have a clear moral lesson backed up by a little story. The story makes it more interesting than just passing out advice. It demonstrates the results of heeding or not heeding the advice.

Advice delivered as a 'fable' appeals to both our emotions and our intellect.

Fast-forward 2600 years to the present. Technology has made it easier than ever before to tell fables and share advice. We don't even have to know each other.

Our fables today are perhaps more fleeting than Aesop's, but are made more real by the use of photos and videos. A photo can tell a whole story, including the moral, sometimes without words at all.

Social media, blogs and newsletters are excellent venues for sharing fables. If you're looking for some 'content creation' inspiration, try this long list of morals for stories.

The moral of this story? "Lessons are not given, they are taken."

Originally published in Work Better, Not Harder October 10, 2012

October 6, 2012

Do You Want 1,000,000 Subscribers?

Tasting Table ( grew its contact list to 1,000,000 subscribers in just 3 years. That’s pretty amazing on its own but here’s the kicker - it’s a daily newsletter. (I only have to get 998,000 more subscribers to catch up.)

Would I want a mailing list of 1,000,000 subscribers? Most definitely ... if I owned a marketing company that sells advertising. I don’t, and most of you don’t either. (If you do, you know this stuff better than I do.)

If Daley Progress had 1,000,000 subscribers, we’d never keep up with all the work generated. Because our capacity is limited, the time and effort spent to get that many subscribers would be wasted. We try to match our efforts to our desired results.

As small business owners, our email marketing goals can be quite different and distinct. Not all of us want 1,000,000 subscribers. But we do need to continually get new subscribers because, over time, our lists can drop by as much as 30% over a year through attrition (called ‘churn’). We need to work simply to maintain our list - and work even harder to grow it.

If your newsletter is bringing you positive results, it’s worth the effort to continue to promote it - so you can multiply those results. ‘Selling’ your newsletter should be part of your ongoing marketing strategy. It has to continue way beyond implementation.

October 4, 2012

Un-credible Words

Just because you say it's so, doesn't make it true. Take this email disclaimer below as an example. Please, read the small print.

The first line sounds pretty good... ethical and all that. And hey, they respect me. I might believe it if I had actually subscribed. I know I didn't because I never subscribe to anything using the particular email address this came to. I'm already questioning their sincerity.

Next they tell me that removal is automatic and "enforced" (whatever that means). Apparently "automatic" means 2-3 business days in this case.

The link to click to start the "process for email deletion" opens an email with their address filled in, nothing else. Decidedly NOT automatic.

The other way I know I didn't subscribe to this email list is that I would never sign up for anything that "may be a newsletter, press release, solicitation or advertisement."

The "best practices in responsible email marketing" line is supposed to be the clincher. It was - now I'm absolutely positive that they're completely un-credible. Look at how many words they had to use to convince me of that!

PS: The email itself was 100% promotional and poorly executed. It came from a brokerage firm that gets you "the best price for all of your internet and marketing needs". When I clicked through to their website and then to their Twitter profile, I discovered they have 1 tweet and 2 followers. Need I say "irony"?

September 25, 2012

Sh*t Happens!

I recently had to take a week off work unexpectedly and dash off to Ontario when my step-son went into the hospital. An hour before we hit the road, I was emailing clients and friends with promises of finishing up projects as soon as I arrived at the hotel room.

Silly me! After a 20 hour road trip, all I wanted to do was get to the hospital. That remained my priority for the next 4 days and thoughts of newsletters and websites were long gone.

On the day I left, my friend said all my clients would surely understand if their newsletters were late going out. After all, they have families too. There is no doubt in my mind that all of my clients would have been supportive and accepted my apologies... if that had happened.

But that didn't happen. The newsletters went out. The emails got answered. New sales were made. It was an unplanned test and we passed. Yay!

Last year I was smart enough to bring on a superwoman (Danielle) to work with me. Because we’ve been getting so busy this year, we have been diligent about documenting everything, from client schedules to step-by-step instructions. And it paid off!

I was mortified at the thought of letting my clients down. Danielle knew that and made sure it didn’t happen.

What did I learn?
  • I can relax a bit and not be quite so focused on documenting everything (but just a bit).
  • I now have a ton of confidence in Danielle taking over for me when need be. I dropped several balls that she picked up and juggled while I was gone.
  • We are not profitable enough to do that for long, without losing money. Unless I don't want to get paid!
  • There are a few small holes we need to fill – and we will.
I’ve had much less success taking planned vacations in the past. This is the first time I've had a whole week off in a few years.

Originally published in Work Better, Not Harder on September 25, 2012

August 30, 2012

9 Ways to Personalize Your Newsletter

We tell our new clients that the newsletters we design for them will be completely unique. Part of being unique is making a personal connection with your reader. Here’s our best advice about how to make your newsletter more personal and distinct.

1. Write a personal introductory note. Share news and give teasers for the content to follow. Inject your personality. Your writing may be more informal here.

2. Insert your signature as a graphic. Sign a blank piece of white paper and scan it - first name only. Use a pen or marker that matches your branding.

3. Use a good photo of yourself. You want this photo to look like you now, not 5 years ago. Dress as you would when you meet contacts in person. Incorporate your brand colours into your clothing if possible. Keep in mind that the direction you are facing in your photo will determine where it goes in your newsletter, you don’t want to be facing off screen.

4. Use your own photos. Instead of common, often overused, internet photos, create your own. If you can design, create your own graphics. This may not be as easy as other suggestions but it definitely makes your newsletter unique.

5. Use appropriate branding. Your newsletter should be easily identifiable as coming from you. This means it shouldn’t look like anyone else’s newsletter. If it does, see #6.

6. Incorporate a unique layout and design. Consider the types of content and space requirements when designing your first issue. Incorporate space for ‘standard’ items, such as contact info, social media icons, photos, testimonials, and quotes. The key is to make each segment or piece of the newsletter fit nicely into the whole.

7. Send it from your own email address. People will open mail from a person more than from an info@ address - especially if they have a rule which sends info@ emails to their spam folder.

8. Write your own content. One thing you can write about that no one else can is your own experiences and interpretation of them. If you are an expert at what you do, you will have opinions that are unique too.

Last and most important...

9. Have a clear vision and strategy for your newsletter. This will affect the success of all those items listed above. If personalizing your newsletter is appropriate, include these tactics into your strategy. Here is a worksheet to help you strategize.

August 25, 2012

Why NOT Buy Mailing Lists?

There are many reasons why it's not a good idea to buy mailing lists. In fact, it's quite clearly a bad idea. Aside from being a potential nuisance, somewhat unethical, and risking having your bulk email account shut down, there is another downside you may not even consider...

If you were to open each of these emails, you'd see that they are addressed to different names In fact, I apparently have 17 employees I don't know about. None of these were actually addressed to me. So how did they all end up in my inbox? I have a catch-all set up so that if someone spells linda wrong, I'll still get the email. If you don't have a catch-all, you probably wouldn't even know it was happening to you.

This has been a bother to me now for well over a year. The first time it happened, I phoned the company that sent the emails and was told they bought their list from

I suggested they get their money back. That's the biggest downside to buying a list: you don't even know if the email addresses are valid. I feel sorry (sort of) for these companies that keep emailing like this because they obviously all got ripped off. But then again, maybe they got what they deserved.

Enough ranting. Here's a little humour. That email from Ask Bick above had this footer:

I'm wondering how my 17 imaginary employees opted in!

To his credit, when I tweeted directly to @askbick about this, he responded quickly, thanked me for the feedback, and offered to unsubscribe those email addresses.

August 23, 2012

3 C's and the Strategy Solution

The 3 C's of enewsletter execution are contacts, consistency and content. All three can cause issues, some of which can stop you in your tracks. The good news is that all of them can be managed with a well-planned strategy.

Vet your initial contact list and then work to grow it with subscribers within your target market, friends, family and fans. A high bounce rate, unsubscribe rate, or complaint rate on your first send will be a red flag to your bulk email service provider and may cause them to lock your account. Do not start your contact list with every email you have collected since the dawn of the computer! Subscribers outside your target market are costing you money and bringing you little value. Identify your target market and fill your contact list with subscribers within that market. Don't forget your fans!

Consistency is important to your subscribers. Over time, they will come to expect certain types of content on an established schedule. Your sign up form should also advise them of issue frequency (your service provider will expect this) and once you give them an expectation, you should work to deliver. Never sacrifice quality content for schedule, but never underestimate the importance of your schedule. Guest articles are a good strategy for finding great content on time. When developing your strategy, make sure you set your schedule and identify how you will manage content to that schedule.

Content is a huge topic. The most important thing is to make sure that your content is interesting and valuable to your subscribers. If you have identified your target market, content is easier to manage. It is impossible to create relevant content for every reader but it is possible to create content that is relevant to every reader within your target market.

Take the time to plan ahead. Having a strategy before you start will go a long way to keeping you confidently on track and stress-free as you launch your eNewsletter.

August 17, 2012

eNewsletter Design and Formatting Mistakes

Mistakes stand out and they can be fodder for others’ discussions. Aside from obvious spelling, grammatical and hyperlink errors, formatting and design can also be a big turn-off.

You can have awesome content that delivers value to your readers – but it’s no good if they don’t read. First impressions count! Your design does not need to be WOW! but it does need to meet at least a minimum standard. Keep in mind that expectations will vary. For example, if you are a designer of any kind, your newsletter design should be top notch. If your message is supposed to be a quick read, then it better be easy to navigate.

Here are some of the characteristics that immediately turn me off when I open a newsletter:

Lack of white space:
The worst case is when text is jammed up against borders and graphics.

Too many colours: This distracts your reader rather than drawing attention to your content.

Too many fonts: I know, there are so many to choose from! But several different fonts, of varying sizes and colours will break concentrated reading. One or two is enough. Don’t use larger sizes, bold, italic and colour willy-nilly, make sure there is purpose behind your use of these elements.

Poor alignment: This includes things like using indented bullets in very narrow columns, trying to align text into columns by using your spacebar, inconsistent spacing between sections. Basically, if you wouldn’t do it in Word, don’t do it in your newsletter.

Unsuitable layout: This would be things like not building in proper sections for items like contact info and testimonials, jamming a whole bunch of words into very narrow columns, lengthy text in side-by-side columns, or worse, lengthy side-by-side columns with unequal length of text, leaving long blank spaces in the body of the newsletter. This is one of those things that is obvious when it’s not right but more difficult to give specific advice about.

Lack of identification: Your newsletter should encompass your branding and be easily identifiable as coming from you.

An attractive newsletter only gets you past the first step. If your newsletter content does not bring value to your readers, it won’t matter how great your newsletter looks.

August 11, 2012

How I Emptied My Inbox!

This is what an empty inbox looks like! It's the first time I've seen mine like this in at least a couple of years, maybe longer. It looks kind of strange, doesn't it? Even a little hard to get used to. What a boost of self-gratification I got from accomplishing this (been patting myself on the back ever since). So much so that I'm now determined and motivated to keep it this way.

Does this mean that I have nothing to do? That all my action items are completed? Not by a long shot - but now they're not staring me in the face all the time distracting me.

My inbox will no longer be used as an ineffective to-do list.

Now I realize this is a bit of psychological manipulation - it's all about my state of mind. But I've learned that my state of mind is about the most important consideration to accomplishing anything.

What brought about this most awesome accomplishment? A handy little online app called Follow Up Then. It is by far the most useful app I've found in awhile. It's easy to get, easy to learn, and easy to use. Check it out and view the little video on the home page. It'll take you about one minute to be using it.

Now when I open an email, I have only 4 self-imposed choices:
  1. read and delete
  2. read and file
  3. do the task and/or respond right away
  4. send to Follow Up Then for a future date/time

I'm also using it for simple reminders and there are many other ways to use it. Here at Daley Progress, we're setting it up to manage our client reminder system. If you decide to get the premium version, you get some extra useful tools. Your first month is free and it's only $24/year. It was also the easiest, fastest purchase I've ever made online. They understand SIMPLE.

Update Jan-24-16: You can use this affiliate link now to get $5 off.

August 8, 2012

Content Creation (Wrap-up)

If you are looking for writing ideas, how to manage your content, or just a bit of inspiration, you've found the right post. Here is a library of links to all of our articles about content creation (up to May 2012).

You may not think of testimonials as part of your content strategy, but they certainly are. Ask anyone who's had to rush to gather a bunch in a hurry to put on a new website. Requesting a Testimonial gives you suggestions about how to manage that.

What to Write About has lots of general tips and suggestions to help you get started plus some info specific to enewsletters.

Don't Forget Your Fans gives you ways to get your 3 F’s - friends, family and fans - to help extend the reach of your messages.

If you're wondering about newsletter content strategies, How Much is Too Much? gives you some ideas to answer that question for yourself.

If one of your goals is to build your reputation, then Content that Builds Trust is an essential read.

Being an expert means that you have strong opinions about best practices in your industry. Writing the Wrong is all about expressing your opinions.

Keep Your Content Fresh has a few ideas for maintaining momentum with your content creation activities.

Your Goals Shape Your Content so choose specific goals for your newsletter (or blog). Then create your content to meet those goals. Check back on your goals to keep yourself focused.

To get more reach, learn How to Create Content for Sharing. This is a primary way to grow your audience and make new contacts online.

Out of Ideas and Still Have a Deadline? Here are some suggestions to get you through that last minute crunch.

Get a Head Start suggests a process to start gathering ideas for your next issue as soon as one has gone out.

How do you compete with all that content that’s readily available? You give them something they can’t get anywhere else! Original Content Makes YOU Unique!

August 2, 2012

Awesome Inspiration!

I always recommend having an idea catcher. Somewhere that you record all of your content ideas as they come up. Finding an idea that inspires you can sometimes be the hardest part of getting started when sitting down to write. But ideas can be found in any situation. They can be:
  • Problems you solve
  • Something new you have learned
  • Questions you get asked
  • Concerns in your market
  • Trends and news
  • Real experiences and examples
  • Your opinions
Once you have the idea, you need to start writing. The suggestion that I give to clients, friends and anyone else who will listen is this: introduce and explain an idea and then give practical advice about how to implement it. Of course that’s fairly simplistic but not a bad place to start.

My reason for this suggestion came from my previous Insights training about different personalities. Some people have a preference for ideas and the big picture. Other people prefer detail and the practical application of concepts. If you write as I’ve suggested above, you’ll have something for everyone.

Scott Stratten, in his book Unmarketing. Stop Marketing. Start Engaging., recommends a peppy little formula for successful content creation – his 3 P’s:
  • Point – State your main point.
  • Prove it – Give an example, scenario or other proof.
  • Perform it – Tell people how they can learn from the proof and make it happen for themselves.
It’s a little more savvy than my version and inspired me to think about writing in a new way.

Originally published in Work Better, Not Harder on August 2, 2012

Graphic Solutions

Copyright and graphics are topics that come up in our business all the time. When you are using images on your website, blog or in your newsletter, you need to ensure they are copyright free or you have paid the copyright owner for use. You should not search Google images and take any image that pops up. Google searches for all images and does not filter out any by copyright status.

There are several free sites for images and several more that are reasonably priced under $10. I recommend that you take some time to search for images that are not overused on the internet. You will come to recognize those that are most popular.

Some of the places you can find free images are:
  • Morguefile - a lot of free images, some very artsy, some not great quality but lots of quality there for those who are willing to browse
  • Microsoft Office clipart - images that come up in that search are copyright free
  • Unprofound - created and run by designers, this site has the very cool feature of searching for images by colour rather than subject. Great for designers of any kind.
  • Free Digital Photo - has pages and pages of good quality business photos. Only the small version is free with the larger versions being reasonably priced. But typically, the small version is large enough for a newsletter or blog post.
Once you get started looking for images, you will find a wealth of copyright free or free photos you can use with credit attribution. It is worth taking the time to do this right rather than infringe on someones copyright in your published content.

And remember, you can always take your own photographs as well. Take your camera to events you attend, workshops you hold or spend a day setting up artsy photos in your garden that speak to your upcoming blog topics.

Get creative in developing your own or searching for that special free photo that no one has seen yet. People will notice.

Originally published in Work Better, Not Harder, August 2, 2012

August 1, 2012

Introducing Your Very First Issue

Update November 9, 2015 - Find a newer version of this topic here: How to Write the Introduction to Your First Newsletter.

When writing the introduction for your first newsletter issue, here are some things you might want to include:
  • Acknowledge that this is your first issue and that you appreciate your readers' attention.
  • Tell readers what they'll be getting and how often - think about value/benefits to your readers.
  • Tell readers that it's easy to unsubscribe via the footer in every email.
  • Ask for feedback and suggestions.
  • Ask readers to share with colleagues and friends.

Here are some examples of first issues - perhaps you'll find some inspiration:

July 23, 2012

I'm Being Used

To the 'person' who has hijacked my domain:

For 3 weeks now you have been making up email addresses that end with my domain name and sending spam emails on my behalf.

Is it working for you? Are you making lots of money? Or just having a thrill?

Please go find something more useful to do. Earn an honest living. Volunteer those techie skills for a good cause.

Leave me alone. I don't want to get blacklisted again!

July 13, 2012

You Reap What You Sow

My garden was on the Gardens Galore tour in support of the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of Canada last weekend, so I have been spending a lot of time getting it ready for company. It was all very exciting and, while preparing, I decided my garden is a lot like my business. How did I come to that conclusion? Here's a bit of fun...

Planning and Design
This is all about figuring out what I want my garden to look like in the end and then figuring out what I need to do to get there. It means pulling out a pencil and paper, roughing out ideas, and firming them up.

Tools and Supplies
Pruners, shovels and rakes: investing in good tools makes a difference. Twist ties, stakes and mulch: there are some supplies I always need to have handy to keep my momentum going.

Landscaping (the Hard Work)
I need energy and perseverance (and my husband) to move all the rocks, dig all the holes, and plant all the plants. Some of the work is tedious and some of it is fun - but it all needs to get done in order to make progress.

Adding compost here, watering there - it's all important if not exactly exciting. But if I don't do it, plants (like plans) can die.

I try to deal with the small icky things before they become big ugly things that are hard to get rid of.

This plant thrives better in shade and that one likes acidic soil. It's all about learning from mistakes, finding great solutions, and becoming more in tune with what works and what doesn't.

Here's where the real fun starts. All that learning made me confident and curious - I want to stretch the boundaries. I try new plants that are a challenge to grow. I redesign half the garden. I trade and share with other gardeners. I become expert.

And the biggest similarity? Ultimately, in my garden and my business, I reap only what I sow.

Originally published in Work Better, Not Harder on July 12, 2012

July 3, 2012

5 Ways to Grow Your List this Summer

Your contact list doesn’t grow on its own and summer is when we all tend to slow down. Here are some practical, yet easy ways to grow your contact list over the summer months and still enjoy some time off.

eMail Auto Responder
When you set up your ‘out of office’ vacation notification, include a call to action and link to your newsletter sign-up form.

Scheduled social media posts
Set up a series of posts using Hootsuite or similar to encourage sign-ups. You can direct people to your sign-up form, to your archive, or to specific past issues that still make good reading.

Review your current and prospective client list
When you’re preparing for your fall sales activities, also note those that aren’t already receiving your newsletter and encourage them to sign up by sending a personal note. Review not only the contacts in your CRM system, but also those you’ve connected with on LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. You could also consider mailing a copy of your most recent newsletter.

Networking events

The number of networking events tends to drop over the summer and the atmosphere is generally more relaxed. When you meet new people at these events, ask them on the spot if you can sign them up for your newsletter.

Fun with Family and Friends

Your 3 F’s - friends, family and fans – can help get your newsletter out to a larger audience. While you’re relaxing on the beach, remind them that you’d appreciate their help by sharing your newsletter on social media platforms or by email. These are the people that care about you, they are always happy to help!

Enjoy a slower work pace over the summer and build your business at the same time.

We are trying to grow our list this summer too!
Our monthly newsletter is full of ideas and tips for busy business owners.

Originally published in the RWN Summer 2013 Newsletter issue.

June 20, 2012

A Different Kind of Feedback

Most of us would agree that feedback is generally a desirable thing and necessary for continuous improvement. Yet there seems to be a whole area of performance that gets ignored due to little or no feedback: internet marketing.

If you are ignoring your feedback (in the form of statistics), you’re missing two important things:

  1. Without a baseline to measure ongoing performance against, how will you know if you’re getting better or worse?
  2. Without feedback about your performance and information about people’s interests, how will you know what to do to improve?

Below are some suggestions to help you get the feedback you need. They can all be applied to an enewsletter campaign but certainly have broader applications.

Tracking codes
Online bulk email applications will have this built in. You can also use services like and other URL shorteners. Within the application you will be able to view overall statistics and trends. Plus you’ll get more useful things, like how many people clicked on a certain link.

Custom landing pages
You’ll need to have control of your website so you can set them up on the fly as needed for specific purposes, such as events or contests. Use your website tracking software, such as Google Analytics, to see the number of page views.

Links to different online locations
Providing links to specific website pages, blog posts, published articles, YouTube videos, etc., can indicate what people are interested in. You would measure this through the particular application’s tracking software or from within bulk email applications.

Distinct phone numbers or email addresses
This will highlight the response from a particular initiative. Staying on top of email and voicemail will be important.

Promo codes
This also helps to measure the response from a particular initiative and is usually part of a sales process.

Social sharing
As with tracking codes mentioned above, social sharing can now usually be tracked by bulk email software. You can also check statistics on each platform.

June 14, 2012

Avoiding False Assumptions

I am not my own ideal client. Certainly I fit within the target market I have so clearly defined. Being a small business owner, I can identify with all of my ideal clients - we share many of the same needs and desires. But there is a distinction: I don’t need the services that I offer. Because I have skills and expertise that my clients lack, I also have different preferences and perspectives.

Sometimes it’s easy to forget this... too easy. When making decisions or coming up with new ideas, I clearly wear the shoes of my ideal client, but not quite. So when I think, “I wouldn’t like that” or “that wouldn’t work for me”, I’m really limiting my options based on false assumptions.

False assumptions can lead to painful lessons and lost opportunities. I’m trying to be more careful about the assumptions I make and the results I predict. I’ve written this across the top of the whiteboard in my office: “I’m NOT my ideal client!” It’s a constant reminder to consider options fully and not make assumptions.

Originally published in Work Better, Not Harder on June 14, 2012

June 9, 2012

Resources Online (Wrap Up)

Here are some of my favourite online tools all wrapped up in one place:

Colours and other shiny things:

Color Scheme Designer - Play around to find a scheme you like or enter an html# and it'll give you complementary matches. This is one of my most used online apps!

COLOURlovers - Very useful for determining colour schemes and for seamless backgrounds.

Flickr - If there is anything visual about what you do, you should be using Flickr, another social media tool and a whole other community.

Wordle - A fun little online 'toy' for generating 'word clouds' from text that you provide.

Prezi - A very different kind of presentation software. It's not likely I'll ever use Powerpoint again.

Research and productivity:

Google Insights for Search - Compare search volume patterns across specific regions, categories, time frames and properties.

Google Alerts - An easy way to monitor your online reputation and a whole bunch of other things. Another one I make a lot of use of.

Doodle - A cool little online app that you can use to coordinate decision-making among a group of people... and it's really simple!

Join Me - A no charge online meeting service that allows other people to see your computer screen as you demonstrate, teach or collaborate.

Quora - An interactive web community devoted to answering people’s questions on a variety of subjects.

Ideas Checklist - A handy checklist to make sure your ideas are 'sticky' from Chip and Dan Heath.

Blacklist Check - MX Toolbox is a handy tool to check in with periodically to make sure your domains haven't been blacklisted.

WHOIS Directory Search - If you lose track of your domain, find out where it is by using a database tool. This is the one I use.

June 6, 2012

3 Keys to Creating a Call-to-Action

We all use calls to action but we often don’t think of them that way. Writing an email to a friend asking for feedback, emailing to arrange a coffee date, sending a follow up note – these all contain calls to action whether obvious or implied.

A call to action should be crafted to suit the situation but here are 3 characteristics of any effective call to action:


Uncomplicated and straightforward is what you’re aiming for. Convey the essence with just a few words. Don’t use jargon and don’t mislead or try to trick your reader into action.


Minimize the options. It may seem like a good idea to give options but, in fact, it causes indecision. If possible, have only one choice and make it the natural next step with little thought required.


A simple 1-2-3 process is easy. A 1-step process is even easier. In some situations you may need another call to action to get through steps 2 and 3. Keep to baby steps and few of them.

None of these factors will be effective without the others. And the EASY part is often where things get messy. For example, I can simply ask my sister if she wants to go shopping with me and it would be natural for her to agree. But if I ask her to meet me on Broadway in New York at noon next Saturday... well, easy it’s not.

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June 1, 2012

Plan to Give Your Best

If what you have to share, show or write about isn’t great, don’t put it out there. That was one takeaway from Scott Stratten. I had a double dose of him a couple of weeks ago - read his book, UnMarketing, and attended his webinar. (Highly recommend!)

I have to agree with Scott, but can’t let it rest there. It’s too easy to let that become an excuse for not showing up at all. We can plan to have 'great' to share.

I feel strongly that keeping to a consistent 'content creation' routine has big benefits.
  • A newsletter in particular becomes successful by establishing expectations over time - about the content, look and delivery. There is benefit in working hard to establish those expectations. A regular delivery schedule is an easy expectation to master. This holds true for other forms of content sharing as well.
  • Slip once and it’s easier to slip again. Having a routine and deadlines keeps us focused. It’s easy to indefinitely put aside those things that don’t have deadlines.
So, do we just give up because we don’t have any 'great' to share right now? Of course not. We plan to have some 'great' to share the next time.

Write when you’re inspired… and take the time to get inspired. (I’ve said it before but this is important.) I, like you, could write a long list of ways to get inspired. The catch is this: we have to take the time to actually do it!

Originally published in Work Better, Not Harder on May 31, 2012

May 23, 2012

Up your Readership

You can promote your enewsletter by using a call-to-action sending people to:
  • your sign-up page
  • your last issue
  • your archive

Here are 10 places you can and should promote your newsletter:
  1. Website
  2. Email signature
  3. Blog
  4. Business card
  5. Online profiles - Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.
  6. Social media posts
  7. At point-of-sale - paper sample of newsletter, card with link to sign-up
  8. Feedback forms
  9. Workshop hand-outs
  10. Brochures

PS: Make sure your newsletter has a subscribe link in each issue.

May 18, 2012

Original Content Makes YOU Unique!

Do you really need any more information than what you’re already getting? Do your readers? How do you compete with ALL that content that’s readily available?

You give them something they can’t get anywhere else!

A list is easy - here’s one way to think about it:
  • Static resources: original writing, photos, videos, slide shows, presentations, and more
  • Live resources: webinars, teleseminars, lunch and learns, other events, and more
The execution is maybe not so easy. Developing original content requires energy and inspiration. Plan your content in advance - even if only in your head. Take advantage of inspiration when it comes because it often won’t at midnight when facing a deadline.

So, what if you can’t write, sing or dance? (That I strongly doubt, but let’s pretend.) Does it mean you have nothing to share? Not by a long shot.

Think context. It may not be original content pieces - it might be the way you arrange them, the context in which you present them, or your opinions about them. ‘Curate’ has become a common word in relation to content management - to pull together, sift through, and select for presentation. That takes skill, and the way you do that can be unique too.

Our own strategy for our newsletter has 3 key parts. One is to provide original resources/ideas. Another is to provide well-curated content of interest to our readers. What’s left? That well-curated content comes from our contacts. The final piece of our strategy is to build community and connections among small business folk.

Give lots of consideration to your goals. Your content development strategy will be different than ours. The strategy you develop can also make you unique!

Originally published in Work Better, Not Harder May 16, 2012

May 12, 2012

Company News is No News

"Sign up for our newsletter to keep up to date with us."
"Sign up to get company news and other info."

Does that make you want to invite yet another email into your inbox? I think not.

what NOT to do
I did a search on Twitter for #enewsletter. One thing stood out: companies luring people to sign up with the promise of company news. Now, there aren't many instances where I'd be interested in hearing about new employees and new client projects and new branch offices. Here are those instances: you are my friend, you are my client, or you are my supplier. And if you are any of those, it won't be long before I'm telling you what you're doing wrong.

If I don't know you, your company news won't interest me or anyone else who doesn't know you. You need to lure me with something useful or interesting first. (And it seems especially lame when those posts are lined up all in a row in Hootsuite.)

I'm not saying not to include some company news in your newsletter. I'm saying keep it brief and remember that only a segment of your readers will be interested. Leave it out of your call to action - on Twitter and on your website.

PS: Your website About page is a great place for your company news. You can link to that in your newsletter for those who want to know.

PSS: My friend Debi says, "It's not about YOU." Brian Reagan says, "Don't be the Me Monster" - it's ok, go ahead and click it ;)