May 30, 2013

When is it Time to Say No?

For each of us, the answer to that question will be different. For myself, the time to say no came this spring. It took me a long time from knowing I needed to reduce my time spent working to actually taking steps to make changes.

The truth was that even though I knew I needed to pare down, there was nothing I really wanted to give up. And there were a couple of things I wanted to pick up yet!

Reality sets in and we no longer have choices. An injury, a spring garden and an undiagnosed internet problem forced my hand. When it came down to it, here is how I decided what to let go:
  • determine how many hours I needed to clear
  • keep all the volunteer projects I was involved in that are too far in process to replace me easily
  • build open time into my schedule for new clients
  • take a look at what volunteer activities are left and how much time they take vs. what I had left in my reduced schedule
  • this left me with 3 logical choices of activity to let go
From there, it was easy to determine which of the 3 provided me the best opportunity to help people or to make business connections. I let two of them go and kept the third. I've already noticed the difference in my stress level.

If you are feeling overwhelmed, take a few minutes to take stock of what is eating up your time and pick just one thing to say no to.


Originally published in Work Better, Not Harder on May 28, 2013

Milestones Mean Business

I firmly believe that you manage what you measure. Numbers provide context so we know when we’re doing good or not so good.

Sometimes we’re not even sure what the numbers are telling us and that requires a little more research and reflection. And sometimes we don’t know what to do as a result of the numbers. Take website stats for example – does anyone really know what to do with those?

Reaching milestones - now those are numbers to celebrate!

This newsletter is our 50th issue. That’s 250 articles we've shared – almost 100,000 words of wisdom for small business owners from 150 different authors. We hope that you've found some useful and interesting things over the years.

Why are we celebrating? Our newsletter has brought us lots of great things.
  • More social media contacts
  • More subscribers = potential clients and referrers
  • Enhanced reputation
  • Improved technical skills
  • Better writing skills - practice makes perfect
  • More pageviews - blog and website
  • More referrals
  • More clients and friends
What milestones do you have coming up? How are you going to celebrate them?


Originally published in Work Better, Not Harder on May 28, 2013

May 24, 2013

Creating Content that is Useful


Your newsletter has to be both useful and interesting to be successful. If one of your goals is to be seen as an expert, consider that the usefulness of your content can have a big impact.

What types of content are useful? Here are some suggestions.
  1. Hot-off-the-press information: Timeliness is important if you have access to information (or photos) in advance of your target market.

  2. How-to’s, quick tips, detailed instructions, diagrams: The goal here is to save your readers time and effort – to shortcut the learning curve.

  3. Examples, case studies, templates, worksheets, maps, directions: You can make use of document-sharing and photo-sharing applications to provide access. An example of this would be our own newsletter gallery on Flickr.
     
  4. Links to useful resources and people: Share exceptional items that you have created or already vetted.

  5. Reviews, summaries and recommendations: You can do this for books, articles, white papers, videos, TV/radio shows, and more.

  6. Events and event listings: Make sure these are relevant to your target market, such as professional development, networking, community, and special interest events.

  7. Volunteer and charitable opportunities: Again, consider the relevance to your target market.

  8. Wrap-up posts/articles: This means grouping several pieces of content together in one place – a great way to repurpose your content!

  9. Survey and research results: This can be your own or another’s research. A good summary of detailed results is always useful and might also include your own interpretations and opinions.
These suggestions apply not just to your newsletter but to your overall content creation strategy. Many will work for your blogging and social media efforts as well.

May 21, 2013

A Brand New Flickr

I've been a Flickr Pro member since long before I was on Facebook or Twitter. That's because I'm a gardener and it's great for photo-sharing with friends. Flickr also provides a good way for me to organize my photos and keep track of them. It doesn't matter how many times I change computers, my garden photos will always be online where I can find them. Daley Progress has also been using Flickr to display examples of our work - an easy interface for potential clients to browse.

I was delighted to discover yesterday that Flickr introduced a new user interface that is so beautiful - and so long overdue. While Flickr was always great for organizing, browsing wasn't nearly the experience is it now.

screen shot of a Flickr set

While it may not be obvious (and perhaps should be more so), Flickr is also social. I'm connected with other gardeners in different places. I can tweet and like and favourite other's photos. I still think Flickr could be more social, but this new interface sure is an improvement over the old.


May 16, 2013

Your Reputation Delivers Your Newsletter


photo by Anirudh Koul

In simple terms, there are two things which affect the deliverability of your newsletter. The first is the content itself - the words, links and graphics included. The second is your own reputation.

These things below impact deliverability and have nothing to do with the content in your email:

The blacklist/whitelist status of your email address, domain, DNS settings, IP address, etc.
Blacklisting can happen when you have high unsubscribe, complaint, and bounce rates resulting from (among other things):
The reputation of your bulk email service provider (ESP)
All of the issues above also apply to them. They must work hard to ensure continued deliverability of your emails. This is part of the service you get when you use a bulk ESP and why it’s important to choose a reputable one. (We prefer iContact!)


May 8, 2013

A Marketing Strategy Gone Wrong

The first thing I said when he answered the phone was, "Josh, I really feel sorry for you today!"

Josh is a pleasant fellow who answered the phone last Thursday when I called the Centre for Arts and Technology in Halifax. I was just a little upset. I was pretty sure that mine wasn't the first call of this sort that he had received, and it wouldn't be the last.

It started when I received 17 identical promotional emails to 17 imaginary Daley Progress employees from the Centre for Arts and Technology back on April 17th. (Click here to get the back story on our imaginary staff.)


That's the footer of an email addressed to mikehopkins@daleyprogress.com. (There is no Mike Hopkins.) At the time I replied and asked for all email addresses ending in my domain name to be deleted from their mailing list. Of course, I also took the time to preach a little about the dangers of buying mailing lists. I was disappointed that a reputable organization had been duped.

I thought no more about it until I got these 17 flyers by snail mail last Thursday:


Once I got past my surprise at finding out that Daley Progress has a new Interim President, I got a bit pissed off. There's the wasted money and resources. And the tainted reputation. Read some of the words on that flyer and consider the irony.

Josh's handling of my complaint was an excellent example of skillful phone work, but it was obvious that I wasn't the only person to take note of this poor marketing strategy. How many thousands of other companies were spammed with both email and flyers, and didn't take the time to call?

This is the first time that the mailing list fiasco has resulted in print material arriving at my door. When this fake list was compiled (by someone I'd dearly love to throttle), not only were names and email addresses made up, but the mailing address was included along with nonexistent positions here at Daley Progress. Despite being a Star Trek fan, I don't think we need a Chief Medical Officer! There are only two of us here so 17 new people were immediately obvious.

This one struck home for me because it was close to home. Someone at the Centre for Arts and Technology made a poor decision when they hired a marketing company. For an organization like this, reputation is everything. That means working to build your following and, at the same time, building relationships. It also means acting with integrity, especially within your own field of endeavour.

Here's what really annoys me. The folks in my industry who mislead their clients and alienate the general public taint the industry's reputation and make it hard for organizations who are doing legitimate business and offering value to their subscribers.
 

May 3, 2013

Your Reader's Experience

“...at some point along the way, gathering and managing their subscribers' info became more important than their subscribers' experience.”
 
I made that statement a year ago in response to an article that Danielle wrote explaining her troubles when trying to unsubscribe from Air Canada’s newsletter. Don’t let this happen to you.

While your newsletter is your marketing tool, your readers don’t care about that. They don’t care about your processes. They don’t care how much work goes into your newsletter. And they don’t care how successful it is. They only care about the value you’re providing... if you’re lucky enough to get their attention.

"Build it and they will come." Don’t hold your breath while waiting.

photo by CarolBEE_blogger

Put yourself in your potential subscriber’s shoes. How often do you sign up for newsletters? What triggers you to do that? How do you feel when you’re expected to do extra work? Do you give up?

Getting new subscribers is hard work. Getting them to consider subscribing is one thing. Getting them to your sign-up form is another. And getting them to complete the process is yet another. If you’re fortunate enough to get someone to your sign-up form, that is not the time to baffle them with your ingenuity. The only information you need in order to send someone a newsletter is their email address. ANY other information you request is for your benefit, not theirs.

Our own newsletter sign-up has a field asking subscribers to select their location from a drop-down list. It’s a recent addition and done completely for our benefit so we can send out event announcements specific to Nova Scotia or Saskatchewan. We don’t want to bother someone in Winnipeg with a free lunch and learn in Halifax. But that’s all about our needs because we are the ones choosing to send the announcement. While it’s an optional field, it still mucks up a smooth subscription process just a little. The work involved to add it was minimal. The determination to do it took a long time and the decision wasn't made lightly.

Likewise, a double opt-in process is for your benefit too, not your subscriber's. Don’t expect people to click and type multiple times. Don’t expect them to hunt through their inbox for an automated email so they can click and confirm yet again. And, if you do go with double opt-in, don’t expect any more than 40% of subscribers to actually complete that last step. (Yes, ‘the experts’ have lots of reasons for telling us to use a double opt-in process, but I’ll be happy to debate any of those over coffee!)

Auto-responder emails confirming subscription are also a no-no. Don’t send an email thanking people for signing up and especially don’t send a bunch of marketing spoof along with it. You've got them already. Don’t ruin it. Just give them what they signed up for.

Respect their inbox. (As an alternative, we recommend the use of a redirect page.) I've actually unsubscribed from newsletters after just signing up, when I received auto-responders full of promotional text.

To keep your subscribers engaged, listen to feedback, watch your stats, and pay attention to what they’re interested in. Put your time and attention to making that the best experience possible. Your subscribe (and unsubscribe) process should be a ‘nothing’ experience in comparison.