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 Bit.ly 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

It Happens to Everybody

Nothing can make us feel smaller than the internet. Customer Service by email often means waiting longer than our deadlines allow and getting on the telephone can often mean starting from scratch with each call. Often, the help offered does not seem like help at all. This is particularly the case with social media and online marketing applications.

We cannot avoid these online 'glitches' entirely. Facebook is never going to advise us prior to making platform changes. Rules, regulations, privacy policies and laws are changing all the time. Many of those changes can affect how we use these applications.

Many of us can be found late at night at our computers trying to catch up on the work of building our business or rushing to set up events, emails and website changes. Often, this is when we find out that a policy or process change implemented by one of the platforms we use has affected our ability to do business.

The result may be delayed sending, auto-posts not working, or software glitches that cause the post to go up, for all to see, yet not looking quite the same as it did when we posted. Or there could be more serious consequences such as missed registration dates or deadlines.

As frustrating as these situations are, the thing to remember, after you take a deep breath, is that online applications do not make changes that only affect a single customer. Whatever hoop you are having to jump through, it is happening to everybody.

The good news is that none of these applications are in business to put small business out of business. There is a way around or through whatever problem we are experiencing and we have a lot of company with us on the journey.


Originally published in Work Better, Not Harder on 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:

SIMPLE

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.

NATURAL

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.

EASY

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