January 31, 2012

Get more Mileage from Your Newsletter


OK, so you're all set up with your branded design, great content and a bunch of subscribers that want your emails. What about paper newsletters? So 30 seconds ago? Rethink that.

Depending on what you do, you should be able to get more mileage from your electronic newsletter in paper form. Here are 3 ways:

Prospecting and Sales
Print paper copies of your newsletter to take on sales calls and to networking events. Include an issue in kit folders. If you do speaking or training, take copies to hand out to participants. Your newsletter shows off your expertise - put it in people's hands. You can also use it to encourage new subscribers.

Point of Sale
If you have a cash register, put paper copies of your newsletter beside it. Use it as an example of what subscribers can expect. Even better, make it easy for your customers by offering to sign them up right on the spot. If you have office space, place paper newsletters in the reception area.

Communication
This may come as a surprise, but there are still a lot of people out there that you can't reach via email newsletters. Think about your target market. If a good chunk of it isn't online, consider mailing out a paper version of your newsletter. If you have staff that are regularly working with clients, provide your staff with paper newsletters to hand out.

Quick Tip: Most email applications allow you to create an online version. For best results, print that one, rather than the one you receive in your email.

January 25, 2012

Prevent Scope Creep

All big projects have the potential for scope creep - uncontrolled changes in project scope. It results in missed deadlines, budget overruns and altered deliverables.

We entrepreneurs can be guilty of this when it comes to operating our businesses. It’s easy to get distracted by new opportunities and ideas. It’s sort of what small business is all about: being flexible enough to jump on opportunities.

I’ve been guilty of doing this myself. It can be fun and challenging but sometimes not very productive. I’ve created 30 or so workshops that I have no desire to sell. My branding and website have undergone many renditions. Was I being productive during those hundreds of hours? It felt like it. I was busy but, oops, I wasn’t making any money.

In January 2010 I set my theme for that year to be ‘FOCUS’. It stayed my theme for 2011 and I’m finally seeing the results of my intentions. (In fact I’m satisfied enough to pick a new theme for 2012.) I did it by creating simple rules for myself.

Here are a couple of examples:
  • In an effort to manage my time better, I decided to only attend networking events where I could find my ideal client. When I receive an event invitation, it’s easy to decide if I should go or not. I also set up ‘office days’ and ‘out days’ in my calendar. It has made me a little less flexible in scheduling coffee dates but I’m probably the only one who’s noticed.
  • To prevent scope creep in my newsletter, I set 2 simple rules for articles: they had to be of interest to at least 50% of small business owners and roughly 300 words in length. Many of my contributing authors will remember being asked to edit their articles.

I put my rules to use when a new opportunity arises, as the yardstick by which I decide to jump in or pass.

Yes, I definitely break the rules sometimes but here’s the kicker: if I break a rule, it becomes a strategic decision – considerate of the risks and consequences.


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

January 23, 2012

The Importance of Your Subject Line

Most people have email boxes that are overflowing and not enough time to read it all. If you are like me, a day out of the office can bring dread when I finally get back to my desk... and my inbox! Your subject line needs to prompt your subscriber to open your message.

To avoid spam filters, a quick Google search will unearth lists of words not to use in an email subject line. Getting past the spam filter is just the first step - you still need to encourage your recipient to open your email.

Help your subscribers save time with your email subject line. Make your subject line instantly recognizable in their inbox and include the main topic contained within.

If they are really busy, they can file it for later reading or delete it without having to take the time to open it. Although they may not read every issue, they will appreciate your effort. Better still, if the topic is of interest to them, they are more likely to open and read it later. Your subject line will be a repeated reminder of the topic within.

Here are 3 other tips for creating your subject line:
  • Avoid making requests or asking for favours, such as answering surveys. It only adds one more thing to your subscribers' to-do list.
  • Avoid very short subject lines, such as 'here you go' or 'information'. These are not descriptive and less likely to be opened.
  • Avoid making claims that seem too good to be true. If you are offering free anything, don't put it in the subject line. Claims that are too good to be true can easily be mistaken for bulk advertising and deleted quickly.
Your subject line needs to tell your recipient the message is for them, it is from you, and contains some clue as to the content within.

January 18, 2012

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious

OK, so you might need 34 letters to say "I feel good!" in some circumstances. But I can't ever imagine needing 340 words to say "expect glitches".

A client of mine received this email below from an online service provider. No, you won't want to read it anymore than she did. Want to know the short version? Scroll down.

Salesforce.com is committed to providing a highly available service to our customers. We are committed to continued investments to increase the overall uptime of our service, to deliver optimal value to our customers. With that, we are excited to announce a major advancement in this area for our major releases, effective with our Spring '12 release.
What is the change?
We are happy to inform you that we are improving our major release upgrade process. This improvement means that your organization will be generally available during our major release upgrade windows.
Note: The term "Generally Available" means that we are conducting maintenance on the system that should be seamless to the customer. However, there is the remote possibility that there could be a disruption to service during this time.
When is the Spring '12 major release?
The Spring '12 release for your organization on NA9 is scheduled for:
Friday, February 3, 2012 - Saturday, February 4, 2012
How will this change affect me?
Previously, major release upgrades required up to six (6) hours of maintenance, during which the Salesforce service was unavailable. Effective with Spring '12, your Salesforce service will be generally available during the major release upgrade. Your organization should expect to experience a disruption of up to five (5) minutes during the timeframe listed above. Users will receive an error message informing them that the service is momentarily unavailable while we upgrade it to the latest release, and will be prompted to log back in momentarily. After that time, you will be able to access the Spring '12 release.
Please note: This currently only applies to our major release windows, executed three (3) times per year. System maintenance windows are currently not part of the scope of this change
Where can I go for further information?
This information will also be posted at http://trust.salesforce.com/trust/status/#maint.
We are thrilled to be able to bring these availability improvements to our customers, and look forward to continuing our investment in high availability with you and your business.
Best regards,
salesforce.com Customer Support
Here's my interpretation:
If possible, avoid using the system on Feb 3rd and 4th. If that's not possible, you may see the odd glitch, but don't worry about it.
No wonder people think they're 'not techie'. This isn't 'techie' - this is nonsense. What do you think?

January 2, 2012

Your Goals Shape Your Content


You may have several goals you want to achieve by way of your newsletter (substitute website, blog and/or social media as it applies to you). Probably you want to increase sales.
Here are some other possible related goals:
  • 'Touching' your customers, prospects and colleagues on a regular basis
  • Building strong business relationships
  • Developing your reputation and sphere of influence
  • Sharing your valuable information, products, and services
  • Being seen as an expert
  • Growing your fans, followers and blog readership
  • Keeping up with your competition

These all may well be good reasons to have a newsletter. The ones that are most important for you will depend on what type of business you have, how long you’ve been in business, what your competitive situation is, and more.

You should be able to pick 2-3 goals to specifically focus on - then match your content to those goals. (It's simple logic, but sometimes we forget.) For example, if building your reputation is a goal, then include content that builds trust. If building strong relationships is a goal, then promote others and invite them to contribute.

Stay focused on content that helps achieve your specific goals and you’ll reach those goals in no time.