April 24, 2013

Audit your Reputation

I know, I know! Doesn't it sound dreadful? The Audit. Conjuring up images of spreadsheets, accountants and bad hair days. But wait... this isn't about that kind of audit. This is much less stressful, yet just as important.

We have talked about auditing your website before. But if you are online, you need to be auditing your entire online presence. It should be done on a schedule. We suggest quarterly.

Review all online content related to your business, testing all links and reading every word. Broken or irrelevant links are an annoyance to readers. Make sure there are none when they visit you. When testing links, stop long enough to ensure the referenced content is still there.

Some places to check in addition to your website are:

Profiles. Remember when we found out that online profiles helped search engine ranking? Suddenly, we had more profiles than was manageable. Check them. Find your log-in or request a new one and keep the profiles current. If they are of no value to your business, delete them. Better to have no information than misleading out-of-date information.

Social Media Accounts. Usually checked daily, there shouldn't be much to audit here. But look at your About information, cover images and icons with a specific eye to how a new follower would perceive them. Do you need to freshen the look or update the information? Have you even read the information since you first entered it?

As a last step, Google your business name. Look through the results for anything funky. Did you set up a profile at some long forgotten, now defunct service? It could be still out there, providing old or misleading information to those searching for you. Make sure anything you want to keep active is current - update it if it is not. Get rid of anything that is no longer providing you value. Sometimes this will require a couple of steps or an email to the service. Take the time to complete the steps or send the email. It is never a good idea to have bad information showing up in a search.

Originally published in Work Better, Not Harder, April 24, 2013

Collaboration Works

Neil Everton specializes in teaching writing skills. Of course, good writing is important to a successful newsletter, so he’s a useful person for me to know.

For 3 years I've been sharing what I've learned from Neil with my newsletter clients. That led me to ask Neil if he would collaborate with me on a lunch and learn workshop. My purpose was to give additional value to my local clients and share my enthusiasm about newsletters with whoever else might want to attend. Of course, Neil and I both wanted to increase our brand exposure and build our reputations too.

Our collaboration made the work easy. Here’s why:
  • Neil and I share a common philosophy when it comes to newsletter writing.
  • We shared the workload and each did the work we’re good at.
  • We were able to maximize our exposure through our combined mailing lists and social media contacts. Within a few days of announcing the workshop, we were full up with a dozen people on the waitlist.
Neil prepared and delivered a “precise and very informative presentation” (direct quote from participant). I basked in his glory.

Was it successful? Here’s my take on it:
  • We provided great value to those who attended by sharing our expertise.
  • We met new people and exposed them to our brands and philosophies.
  • We each increased our newsletter mailing lists.
  • We received testimonials.
  • We’re seen as collaborators and plugged into the local small business community.
  • I've gained a new newsletter client.
  • We had a blast!
With all those results, I’d say it was a success... and a testament to the benefits of collaboration.

PS: If you missed the lunch and learn, you’ll learn a lot by reading Neil’s free 30-page white paper, Tighter, Brighter Writing (pdf file).

Originally published in Work Better, Not Harder, April 24, 2013

April 23, 2013

Content Strategies: Curating vs. Creating

I read a great article recently called Content Curation vs. Content Creation: Finding the Right Combination which discusses the goals of these two different strategies. It’s a detailed article and well worth reading. I’ll summarize a little here.
Curating content is all about becoming a trustworthy, reliable resource of high-quality, cutting-edge information that your readers and customers can depend on.
This strategy is reactive, depending on others’ content and schedules. This blog post is an example of curated content.
Creating content is about becoming a thought leader and demonstrating your expertise and authority.
This strategy is proactive - you set the trend.

Which strategy is right for you? It will likely be some combination of both. For us here at Daley Progress it’s about 70% curating and 30% creating. Our target market is interested in a heck of a lot more than just what we have to say.

Take a few minutes to read the article. It’ll help you decide what’s right for your business. Share your results by commenting below.

photo by Marcus Hansson

April 19, 2013

Everyone I Meet Should Do This

photo by iammikeb

I want everyone I meet to take one key action. Whether you meet me at a networking breakfast or on Facebook, browsing our website or reading our blog, there's one simple thing I want you to do.

You want every person you meet to take that same action. It doesn't matter if you sell insurance or shoes, advice or lunch, workshops or ideas. That action can mean the difference between never seeing someone again or becoming their favourite stop.

Calls to action beg you to phone or email, download this file or fill out that form, click here or read this, watch a video or follow on Twitter. So many choices, so little time... and so many distractions.

Everyone I meet should subscribe to my newsletter mailing list. A bit of an anticlimax? Consider that if I can get them to do that, I'll have more chances to do all of that other stuff, like get someone as a fan or on the phone, sell them an idea or a service, get a referral or a testimonial.

All of that is possible because I'll have another chance to do it instead of cramming everything into one interaction. I'll have the opportunity to build a relationship in the future, to become someone they know, like and trust.

April 15, 2013

4 Ways to Constantly Grow your List

photo by VirginMoney

Over a year, your mailing list will decrease by 30%. That’s an industry average but we've seen it with our own and clients’ lists. You’ll lose contacts in several ways, not just through unsubscribes. People change their email addresses, for example, or have other difficulties which cause your newsletters to bounce.

If you start the year with 1000 subscribers and don't do anything to grow your list, you’ll be down to 700 by the end of the year. Please believe me. Don't try this at home.

A newsletter set-up is not a one-time event. Your strategy, design and content will get stale unless you’re paying attention to keep them fresh. Likewise you need to continue to grow your list.
  1. Use your social media accounts to actively promote your newsletter. Use a compelling call to action.
  2. Take advantage of your place of business or point of sale, whether online or off. Collect email addresses as part of your sales process.
  3. Recruit subscribers when networking. Offer to sign them up - don’t leave it up to them to do it when they return to their busy office.
  4. Offer an enticement to get people to your sign-up form. This may be a give-away or a great teaser for the content to follow.

Once you get someone to your sign up form:
  • Make it immediately visible on the page.
  • Ask for email address only unless you have a burning reason for wanting more.
  • Explain what subscribers will get and how often - what's in it for them.
  • Provide examples of past issues by including a link to your newsletter archive.

April 11, 2013

Fiasco in the Fields

screen shot of email header

There's nothing like getting an email addressed to 'fname' or 'subscriber' for making you feel valued. Yes, I'm being sarcastic. This is definitely not the message you want to send to your readers.

You want to make a personal connection with your readers but using form fields is not the way to do it, even if you use them correctly. A form field is simply another automation. People know.

Am I blown away when I get a newsletter addressed to 'Linda'? Not usually. Sure it takes a little more time to set up and maintain. Various experts will tell us that using a person's name will have a subconscious impact. Is the sender suddenly my trusted advisor? No.

Let me start at the beginning. What do I mean by a form field? They're places in an HTML document used to insert specific data from a database. As an example, [fname] will insert the person's first name from the database. You can type "Hi [fname]" and it will look like "Hi Linda" (the subscriber's name) in the newsletter.

Here's where the trouble starts - what if you don't have the subscriber's first name in your database? Then it will look like "Hi Subscriber" in your newsletter. Or, if you use the form field symbols incorrectly, you may end up with something like "Hi {fname]" or the screen shot above. No one wants to be addressed as 'subscriber' or 'fname'!

So you might be thinking that you'll be OK with the technical piece - doesn't sound too hard. Let's talk data collection. How are you going to get the first name (or another piece of data) into your database?

Manual subscription process:
If you're typing up contact info from business cards or paper forms, you'll also have to type in the first name - correctly, of course. A name spelled wrong is much worse than no name at all. And what do you do the first time you get a subscriber who doesn't give you their first name? Not add them at all? Follow up individually to collect that info? If you're only collecting a few names a month, maybe. If you're collecting hundreds, not likely.

Automated subscription process:
If you're using an online sign-up form to gather subscribers, you'll need to add a required field for first name. The more information you ask for at sign up, the less likely people will be to sign up. Don't underestimate the impact of this - it's huge. OK, so you decide to go for it anyway, what about the person that signs up as 'lINDA' or 'linda'? Are you going to insert those in a newsletter? You'll need to constantly review your list and correct issues like this.

Am I saying to never use form fields in your newsletter? No, but if you do choose to use them, make sure you're prepared for the extra effort required to maintain them. When it comes to data, it doesn't take long for things to go awry from lack of maintenance.

April 7, 2013

SPAM is a Dirty Word

I really hate the word SPAM. For me, it usually means a sudden sick feeling in my stomach that has nothing to do with the unwanted visual of canned luncheon meat.

Clicking that SEND button on a newsletter is the last step in a meticulous process. It’s like that little high we get from checking an action item off our to-do list. One thing done and onto the next.

So when that SPAM checker pops up flashing ‘FAILED’ with a BIG RED X, I start feeling sick because I know I've got extra work ahead of me. (It doesn't actually flash and it’s not really so big, but that’s the way it seems to me when it happens.)

My first reaction is "D*mn!" But of course, the SPAM checker is there to help us, not hinder us. It helps to make sure our newsletters get delivered and don't end up in SPAM folders. Still, I feel like shooting the messenger.

There is a multitude of reasons that a newsletter can fail a SPAM check. The combinations and frequency of certain words and phrases will be triggers. The solution is usually not as simple as using a thesaurus to find alternates. You can't change the title of a book or re-write a direct quote, for example.

Another reason your newsletter might fail a SPAM check is that a hyperlink you've included leads to a blacklisted domain or IP address. This is usually more straightforward to resolve by deleting the link - unless it's your own domain or IP address, of course.

A SPAM checker is one of the advantages of using a bulk email service. It’s also one reason to use a company like us to manage your email campaign for you. We get that sick-to-your-stomach feeling so you don't have to.

April 4, 2013

Your Business Personality

I discovered that my business has a personality! It had never occurred to me to think about my business this way until I attended a presentation by Frances Leary recently.

As an exercise, Frances had us describe our businesses with characteristics like describing a person. I came up with newsletter expert, problem solver, and trusted advisor to describe Daley Progress.

Why does my business need a personality? Because that will help me build my brand.

It'll be like a measurement tool to help me decide what to post (or not post) on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, among many other things.

I thought this was great because it gave me another way of looking at my business, another perspective. Sometimes we can get so hung up on details and action items that the big picture eludes us. My business personality will guide me in making the right choices about my brand, both online and off.

Take a few minutes and jot down the personal characteristics of your business. I'd love to hear what you come up with.

photo by _Davo_ / Flickr

April 1, 2013

10 Signs this is Your First Newsletter

photo by photosteve101

I'm such a newsletter critic. I think it makes me better at what I do - learning from others' good and bad examples. Here are the things that often stand out during my critiques:
  1. You didn't use a bulk email application.
    This is such a big mistake, it deserves its own post to list all the reasons why!
  2. You didn't include a link to subscribe.
    If your newsletter is good, your readers will share it with their friends. Don’t make those friends have to hunt for your sign-up form. Not everyone is tenacious.
  3. You used a misleading subject line.
    Perhaps you felt that you had to trick people into opening your newsletter. Don’t do this! Readers will feel like they've been duped if you don’t deliver on the promise in your subject line.
  4. I see obvious errors.
    There are spelling errors and, oops, a hyperlink doesn't work. Always get another set of eyes to check your newsletter. Don’t forget to click on all the hyperlinks. Don’t get complacent about this over time. Mistakes stand out!
  5. You didn't include social media sharing links.
    You’re missing out on the opportunity to extend the reach of your newsletter beyond your subscriber list. If your content is interesting, people will share your content… but only if you give them a quick, simple way to do it.
  6. You didn't include social connecting links.
    You’re missing another opportunity to increase your fan base. Make it simple for them to find and follow you online. Include direct links to all of your social media accounts and make those accounts public.
  7. There’s no value!
    Nothing in here appeals to me or piques my interest. I've seen some of it before. And stop talking so much about yourself.
  8. It looks plain icky.
    It’s got a poor design and even worse, poor formatting. You've used colours that make reading difficult. All the text is jammed against the borders and... how many different fonts did you use?
  9. I’m confused! Too many different calls-to-action.
    I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do next… or first? Having too many choices causes indecision and inaction.
  10. There’s no ‘read online’ link.
    That means no longevity and some folks simply won't be able to read your newsletter.