February 28, 2013

Building your Reputation

You don’t build a reputation by churning out facts or putting on a suit. A reputation is built through walking the talk.

The way to gain a good reputation is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear.
- Socrates

If building your reputation is one of your goals for your newsletter (blog, social media), here are some suggestions for content that will achieve that.

Share success stories
Use narratives, graphics, photos, videos. Give your readers a taste of what success feels like. Create showcases and galleries. Summarize case studies and research. Tell about lessons learned.

Solve problems
Apply your skill and experience to help people solve real problems. Give time-saving tips. Create how-to instructions and checklists. Answer questions.

Give insight into your area of expertise
Stay current with trends, news, and innovations. Curate and summarize information appropriately for your readers. Share your opinions. Get interviewed and republish the resulting articles.

Know the right people
Interview well-known experts or celebrities. Solicit articles for your newsletter. Get those experts to publish your work in their newsletters. Share insider information.

Encourage others to endorse you publicly
Request testimonials and also gather those spontaneous ones from social media and email exchanges. Show them off in your newsletter, as well as on your website.

A positive reputation is one of our most valuable business assets. Invest time to cultivate yours.

Originally published in Work Better, Not Harder on February 26, 2013

February 21, 2013

Delivering the Goods

Think about the executive summary that prime ministers and presidents read every morning. That has to be a darn concise document. Up-to-the-minute information, well-curated, and accurate, with an appropriate level of detail.

Doesn't that sound like a great newsletter? A newsletter has to be useful or interesting. Both is what you're aiming for. It won't be useful if it isn't interesting enough to read.

It doesn't have to be long, full, or detailed. It doesn't need to be chock full of advice. It doesn't need fancy graphics and eye-catching colours. While any of those things may help achieve your goals, they aren't necessary. In fact, it doesn't have to be about the content at all.

Think back to that top secret briefing. There's one attribute I left off the list above that makes it ultimately useful. In fact, it would be useless without it. Did you guess that it's the speed of delivery, or timeliness?

Can you imagine the busy White House staff working all night to prepare each issue? Spell-checking and spam-checking and tweaking the template... NOT! None of these things are as important as speed in this case.

There are many attributes that can make a newsletter successful. Sometimes it's not the content itself but rather the way in which it's delivered.

A great example of this is a daily newsletter sent out by my friend, The Gratitude Guy. It's not so much about what's in it but the fact that it reminds me every morning to stop and be grateful for something.

February 19, 2013

Make it Easy to Read Online

A ‘read online’ link allows subscribers to click to view your campaign directly in their web browsers. There are two reasons that you want to include a ‘read online’ link in your newsletter.

Most obviously, it’s helpful for subscribers who can't view the HTML version of your email or download images in their email programs.

The ‘read online’ link provides a permanent url that you and your fans can use to share your newsletter, now and in the future. You can use this url to link back to your newsletter issue from your website and blog.

This link is also a fallback option to social sharing links: readers can copy/paste the url to share on any social media platform regardless of what sharing buttons you include or don't.

I receive a weekly newsletter from ColourLovers called Happy Huesday. It’s a wonderful newsletter filled with links to colourful, interesting articles. Every week I want to share it… and can’t. They don’t include social sharing buttons OR a read online link. What a wasted opportunity!

February 16, 2013

Please, No Cute Animal Pictures

I read this recent article quickly at first. Then I blinked and reread it. Sure enough, there it was... advice to add cute animal pictures to your newsletter.

If you’re a vet or an animal groomer, this is definitely your strategy. The rest of us should stay far away from them, at least in our business-to-business newsletters. (And blogs, unless you're illustrating a point and have an excuse. I wonder how they got him in that mailbox anyway!)

That article was all about how important it is to make your newsletter fun. Here are the other 3 tips:
  • Surprises
  • Jokes
  • Puzzles and games

Surprises are good, if they’re genuine. Made up surprises are just plain hokey and un-credible.

Jokes? Unless you are a comedian, jokes can be a little tricky (especially dry humour) and socially risky. Anyway, do you really want to be remembered for your jokes?

There may be legitimate uses for puzzles and games, depending on your business. Use them only if they really add value, never to just fill space. I can tell you from experience that getting a crossword puzzle into an eNewsletter so that you can print it and still read it is a real pain.

Should newsletters be fun? I sincerely hope that you have more important goals for your newsletter. But if being fun is a strategic way to meet your email marketing goals, then I suggest that you make sure to do it really, really well.

Note to our clients: One of you will undoubtedly write and ask for a cute puppy in your next newsletter. Please don’t torture me (Stephanie).

February 14, 2013

Finding Your Ideal Client is Like Finding a Mate

Do you remember being single? Perhaps you are now. How do/did you find your soulmate? As business owners, I think we can use some of the same strategies to build strong work relationships, too.

Hang out where they hang out
If you’re looking for a buff guy, go to the gym. If you’re looking for a business owner, go to a networking event. Get involved and get to know people.

Chat them up online
Private chat rooms aren't usually appropriate for business, but tweeting and liking and sharing are great ways to get acquainted.

Ask friends to fix you up
Ah, the blind date. Or, the business equivalent, the referral. Both can be stressful and boring and a waste of time. But some will ignite sparks and if you don't go, you'll never know. Coffee shops work great for both!

Make a proposition
Take the bull by the horns, pick up the phone and ask that buff guy for a date. This taking-the-bull-by-the-horns thing works in business too. It’s often referred to as ‘cold calling’.

I’m having a little fun with the Valentine’s theme. Can you come up with any other ways that finding your ideal client is like finding a mate? We'd love to hear them.

February 12, 2013

My Favourite Client

During one of our January workshops in Regina, we had a discussion about our ‘ideal clients’ vs. our ‘favourite clients’. I look on them as being the same thing but I discovered that this isn’t true for everyone.

It became evident during our chat that there was one very specific defining characteristic that made some clients ‘ideal’ but not ‘favourite’. Can you guess what that was? Money.

Once we got past financial gain and started talking about our favourite clients, another word kept coming up over and over again. That word was TRUST. Almost everyone mentioned it… wanting their clients to trust them and being able to trust their clients.

Do you have an important client that’s a real pain to work with but brings in half of your income? I’m not suggesting you should dump them. Not by a long shot. Some of those ideal client characteristics pull more weight than others and that will be different for each of us.

Last summer I sat down and listed 10 characteristics of our ideal client. Not one of our current clients fits that profile 100%. But 80% of them are at/over 8 out of 10. We think that’s pretty darn good. We love our jobs because we love our clients!

If your ideal client is not your favourite client, how can you bring them closer together?

Originally published in Work Better, Not Harder on February 12, 2013 

February 8, 2013

Don't Leave Them Wanting More

Whenever you or I read something that we like, often a “What’s next?” comes to mind.

I’m frequently cautioning about using calls to action strategically and not having so many that they become distracting. The other end of the spectrum would be not having a call to action at all.

When someone is done reading your newsletter, make sure to give them something that answers the “What’s next?” question.

Our planning worksheet can help you prioritize your calls-to-action.

February 4, 2013

How to Review Your iContact Statistics

One of the important items we do not do for our clients is download and email statistics reports. There is a very good reason for this. When email statistics are viewed inside your iContact account, they are presented in a user friendly way. It is simple to review any of the statistics iContact tracks - right down to the detail level. When those statistics are downloaded, a .csv file is generated that is opened in Excel. This file contains a single line item per action. No graphs, no intuitive compilation of the data, one line item per action. This means that when a subscriber opens your newsletter 15 times, it generates 15 line items in the file. We recommend clients log into iContact and view their statistics within a few days of every send. There is valuable information that can aid your business decisions in the report. That value can be increased when you view them in conjunction with your website statistics.

Once you log in, you will see a basic report on your last message sent. This quick view report offers you statistics represented in percentages.

You can then click on any of the three icons down the left or use the 'Actions' drop down arrow at the top right and select 'Track Message' to open the larger report. The top of the report shows the same statistics represented in number of subscribers.

Scroll to the bottom of the page. If it's your first time, you may have to click the big blue 'view details' button. You will see a more detailed report by subscriber for all the actions that could be taken by them represented as report type. You can click on any of the report types along the top to view the detail associated with that action - clicks, opens, unsubscribes.

You can then check the 'Expanded Data' box to get even more detail. For example, the expanded data for 'clicks' shows you which link each user clicked on and how many times they clicked through.

Reviewing your statistics regularly can help you determine how well your strategy is working, if you need to make changes to that strategy, and can even give you reasons to follow up with subscribers. While valuable, the information does have its limits and we caution you to view it with those limits in mind.
  • opens: your message will be opened by some subscribers that do not show as having opened. This statistic can be affected by a number of subscriber email software issues which are beyond your control.
  • forwards: will only show on the report if the message was shared through the 'Forward to a Friend' link in the footer of the message. If a subscriber shares by clicking forward in their email browser, it will not show here.
  • bounces: can be registered if the subscriber has a full mailbox, the email is no longer valid, or some other technical problem. Unless a subscriber bounces 5 times in a row, they will show as bounced but not be placed in bounced status. Until the subscriber status changes to bounced, they will still receive your messages.
View your iContact statistics regularly to help you grow your business or just to celebrate them!

February 2, 2013

REAL Twitter Users Don't Schedule Tweets

PHOOEY on that, I say! I’m tired of hearing that to use Twitter ‘properly’ you have to be there to have conversations. Apparently some people have no problem being there 16 hours a day. Those are the Twitter divas… the ones who look down their noses at the rest of us who can only spare a half hour a day from our busy schedules to have these deep conversations. They’re also the people who have found a way to make money by being on Twitter. Or they’re unemployed and have nothing better to do with their time? Anyone with a REAL job surely can’t spare all that time.

These Twitter divas assume that the rest of us are there for the same reasons they are. And if we’re not, maybe we’re supposed to be somewhere else?

See, not everyone I want to connect with is on Twitter during that specific half hour I can spend there every day. Even if I spend 2 half hours, I’m still not going to reach very many people. Let’s get real. How many people can you have deep conversations with in a half hour a day anyway?

Frankly, I’d be out of business if I spend too much time on Twitter. So, to reach people who aren’t there exactly when I am, I schedule tweets. And I check in and respond and I do make connections. And I’ve recently gotten a client as a result of my presence on Twitter.

So I say phooey on doing Twitter the ‘right’ way. Do it the way that works for you and brings you success.