March 30, 2012

How to Create Content for Sharing


If you want to reach a wider audience than just your own contacts, you will need to create content that people WANT to share. This is the primary way to grow your audience and make new contacts in the online world.

How do you create content that people want to share? Here are some tips that apply not only to your newsletter, but also to your website, blog, and social media strategy.

Appeal to your readers’ motivation to connect with each other – not just with your brand. Build community among your clients, prospects and colleagues.

Trust is the cost of entry for getting shared. Your content has to be trustworthy and so do you – and that will mean different things in different industries and to different market segments. Make sure you know what trust means to your target market.

Keep it simple... and it will get shared. And your message won't get muddled as it gets passed along.

Appeal to your readers’ sense of humour. If you can make your readers laugh, you’ve got it made. Keep in mind that dry humour online can be risky because messages can lose context as they get shared. If people don’t know you and your sense of humour, your message might be misinterpreted. Use humour wisely.

Embrace a sense of urgency. You want your readers to share now, not later. Show them value immediately - so they don’t have to wonder if your content will be of interest to their contacts. Make it obvious. Use deadlines for special offers or events. Include calls to action (but not too many different ones in one place).

Include content for your fans, not just your target market. Your fans may not all be part of your target market, but they can be a strong force in supporting your whole sharing campaign.

Listen and respond. Getting your content shared is just the beginning. You also need to listen and respond to get shared again. Responses trigger more sharing!


Note: Inspiration for this article came from this Slideshare presentation: The Psychology of Sharing.

Originally published in Work Better, Not Harder on March 29, 2012

This is not legal advice.

I am often asked if a business can take email addresses from the web and add them to their contact list. The legal answer is that I am not a lawyer. But I think the relevant information regarding anti-spam law can be found in two points:
  • What is the intent of the new law? The intent of the new law is to deter the most damaging and deceptive forms of spam from occurring in Canada. from the Government of Canada website.
  • In addition, there are business card and address publication exclusions from the express consent requirement for sending commercial electronic messages to recipients who have published or provided their electronic address without stating they do not wish to receive messages, where the message is relevant to recipients’ business or professional role. from www.osler.com
If a business has published their email address on the web, they are inviting messages relevant to their business. And why wouldn't they? Our clients are often offering their best information for free and are working hard to keep their content interesting and relevant. Newsletters can be a wealth of information and assistance.

If their email address is published on the web with a disclaimer statement saying they do not want to receive unsolicited messages, you do not want to email them. But if you are a small business that wants to put that statement on your contact page, you need to think about THAT.

We would suggest that you:
If unsubscribe is two clicks away, most readers that decide they do not want the material, will simply do that.

That doesn't mean you won't get the odd complaint. You can never control every readers' reaction but the law was put in place to stop malicious and aggressive email messages. There is no intent in the law to stop legitimate electronic commerce in Canada. None of our clients are sending malicious or aggressive email messages and we would never recommend that strategy. If you consider your newsletter to be spam, you need to think about THAT.


Originally published in Work Better, Not Harder on March 29, 2012

March 27, 2012

Make Sharing Easy

example of sharing buttons

I'm such a critic - an enewsletter critic that is. Of course, critiquing other newsletters is partly how I get better at my job.

I'm often disappointed when I receive a newsletter or promotional email that doesn't give me buttons for easy sharing, especially when it's something I want to share. In many cases, with the amount of information to read these days, I will shrug and move on. I would have shared the information but the sender turned it into a job. Another job I don't have time for in my already busy day.

How often do people shrug because they can't share your information easily?

Think about your own activities, what encourages you to share? And how easily do you give up?

March 19, 2012

Top 10 Strategic Benefits of an eNewsletter


Is email marketing an untapped component of your marketing strategy? Here’s what an eNewsletter can do for you. It can...

  1. Enhance your reputation.
  2. Increase lead generation.
  3. Provide invaluable information about who is interested in what, so you can follow up with contacts in a more strategic way.
  4. Be a very cost-effective communication channel with your clients, customers, colleagues and prospects.
  5. Quickly identify obsolete contact information, so you know to re-connect to get an update.
  6. Leverage your other marketing efforts: website, social media, blog, etc.
  7. Provide immediate measurable results.
  8. Give your contacts the opportunity to easily and immediately interact with you.
  9. Provide a higher response rate because it is being sent to a receptive audience.
  10. Be more cost-efficient and environment-friendly than a printed newsletter - no printing or mailing costs. 
Which of these benefits are important to you?

March 13, 2012

e-mail or email?


How do you spell it? During a recent workshop with Twirp Communications, I was updating the keywords on my LinkedIn profile. After proudly doing the update quickly, Anita searched on one of my keywords. Immediately she spotted a disconnect. I had spelled 'email', but she had spelled 'e-mail' when she searched.

Now I have to admit, I'm prejudiced against hyphens. I don't know why, but I try to avoid them unless they're necessary. We had an 'internal communication' here at Daley Progress (Danielle and I talked) about it just a couple of days before the workshop and we had decided to standardize all our usage to the un-hyphenated versions of 'email' and 'enewsletters'.

How foolish of us to think that prospects and colleagues will use the search terms we want them to use!

Now we will have to re-visit all of our online content, with a view to making it more 'search friendly' - rather than about what we like. Who knew a hyphen could cause such havoc? (I knew there was a reason for me not to like them!)

So, I'm curious. Would you search 'e-mail' or 'email'? 'e-newsletters' or 'enewsletters'? Please leave a comment to let us know.

March 8, 2012

Accountability: More Than A Deadline

If you’ve been in business for more than a few months, you’ve had the discussion about accountability with at least one other business owner – and will continue to have that conversation with other business owners.

We all struggle with staying focused and getting things done. One way that we combat this is by setting up systems of accountability. Our systems vary greatly, from detailed plans and deadlines to mastermind groups and more. One strategy that can be effective is bringing another person into your system to be accountable to. Telling someone else about your goals and deadlines is a step in the right direction.

But accountability works best when it’s more than deadlines and reminders - when there’s the real potential for loss. That could be the loss of money, if we are paying someone to keep us accountable. It could be the loss of opportunity, if we aren’t acting fast enough. It could be the loss of integrity or trust, if the opinion of the person we are letting down is important to us. Of course the person we are really letting down is our own self.

Sometimes it takes more than our own gumption to get things done. Sometimes it takes the potential for loss to get us motivated. I’ve started asking myself more, “Self, what am I giving up by not getting this done?” If the answer is a lot, then I better get at it.
 

Originally published in Work Better, Not Harder on March 7, 2012.

Website Management Tips


Recently I have been doing a lot of web research which had me landing at many different websites. I noticed some common problems that are easily corrected. Although none of these tips are new, here are 3 tips that are worth repeating:

Make your website easy to maintain and maintain it. While it might be appealing to pay a lot of money for a flashy website and hand over the updates to someone outside your organization, take a good look into it first. Make sure you pick a company that will process your updates inexpensively and quickly. Make sure that you keep control of the branding and look of your website. If you are handling your website in house, make sure you are updating it quickly as changes occur within your organization. Events and resources are particularly frustrating for web users when they are not current so it is best to always include a link to the organization's website rather than a link to a document they have provided.

Audit your website. Business owners are often far too busy but this is an important task. If you cannot find the time, have someone do it for you. When testing links from your website, stop long enough to ensure the link still goes to the correct information. This will pay off in return traffic to your website.

Make your website your browser's home page. All browsers allow you to designate your home page. When you set your own website as your home page, you will see it every time you go to the web. You will immediately notice if something is obviously wrong or your website is down. This allows you to respond to and correct problems before your website visitors are emailing you.

Website management can easily slip off the radar when things get busy but the benefits of keeping on top of it are worth putting it on the schedule.

Photo by Simon Blackley / Flickr
Originally published in Work Better, Not Harder, March 7, 2012

March 1, 2012

Is your content accessible?


I discovered last year that everything on the web is not accessible to people with disabilities. In my case, I was designing a website for a wonderful client who is blind. I was using an application that was somewhat new to me. Once I had the first draft of the website all ready, I sent a link to my client for her feedback. To my dismay, she couldn't read the website! (Perhaps I should clarify that her JAWS software couldn't read the website, but the result was the same.)

At this point I should clarify that I'm not a bonified website developer - I use website builder software. This means that I had absolutely no idea how to go about making the site accessible. Logging a help ticket with the website builder folks elicited the response that their sites are accessible. Say what?

So I went back to my tried-and-true website builder software and built the website there. It was quite a relief to get the report back that the site 'worked'.

Here is where I admit that it hadn't ever occured to me to consider whether my own website is accessible. Now I'm more mindful but certainly not skilled in dealing with it. I lucked out through trial and error.

Have you considered if your website, blog and newsletter are accessible to the blind?

I found this free app called WAVE (Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool) that allows you to easily test the accessibility of a website, a file, or html code. Unless you are a real techie, you might not know how to fix problems, but at least you will know if there are problems you might consider getting fixed. Of course, there is a variety of testing software available for website developers.

Just keep in mind that there are potential clients 'viewing' your content from a whole different perspective.