September 29, 2013

Consistent and Repetitive


Keeping a consistent schedule is something we coach our newsletter clients about. Over time, consistency will show up as loyalty - from both sides of the equation. You are demonstrating your loyalty to your readers by creating and meeting expectations. Your readers become more loyal when you do that.

Being repetitive is also important. Sales gurus say it takes 7 tries to get someone’s attention. Of course, I don’t mean that you should do the same thing 7 times. Be creative and try 7 different approaches. Over time, repetition will show up as diligence and tenacity.

The key words to note are 'over time' because neither of these strategies is instant.

September 25, 2013

13 Small Business Lessons I Learned the Hard Way

  1. Assuming that I could sell. And then assuming that I would sell. Two completely different things!
  2. The real meaning of niche. I had an inner resistance to reducing the size of my target market. Until I started to go down that road, I really didn’t ‘get it’.
  3. Logic doesn't sell; emotion does. This is a hard lesson for someone like me who values logic and reason.
  4. A great network is EVERYTHING. Building staunch relationships with inspiring, talented people that I know, like and trust has strengthened EVERY part of my business.
  5. I don’t have to work with anyone I don’t want to. I was a customer service manager for years and the thought of turning away a potential customer was completely foreign. Now I've done it, glad I did it, and will likely do it again.
  6. Too many choices can lead to inaction. I prefer to know what ALL my options are, then decide for myself. I expected that everyone else felt that way too. Not so!
  7. People buy the benefit, not the product or the feature. It’s easy to understand; not so easy to execute.
  8. The experts aren't always right. Nothing beats good old fashioned experimentation.
  9. Some people really are dishonest, unethical or both. Enough said.
  10. Listening is a challenge for me, but listening is when relationships happen and I’m getting better at it.
  11. The absolute necessity of doing a good needs analysis. I've learned this one the hard way more than once and now it’s rock solid.
  12. Engaging in social media is not a choice. It’s an integral part of my marketing strategy, one that can’t be put on hold when I get busy. Developing tactics and skill in this area has been critical.
  13. When using technology, something will break sooner or later. Contingency plans are good but I can never plan for everything. Trouble-shooting and ‘winging it’ are essential skills.

What is a Gift?


Although there is a generally accepted definition, a gift means different things to everyone. And there are many different kinds of gifts. There are gifts for the occasion, gifts of time and attention and unexpected little twist of fate gifts that fall from the sky in a moment where everything comes together for your benefit. Those are my favourite gifts, I call them Karma candy.

In business, gifts typically have a marketing intent. Whether a free service or sample product, the purpose is to connect with a new customer. Gifts can be a great marketing strategy and if you have a great product, getting it into the hands of potential customers to try, is a sure recipe for success.

I caution you to think about the gifts you give. Because a marketing gift gone wrong can be a source of entertainment for a wider audience than you expect. Here's a story such as that...

We received a gift from our web hosting provider today. It arrived in the form of an email invoice for a new domain name with 1 year of web forwarding at no charge. No mention that it was a gift from them but there was a userid associated with the transaction. The domain name was not one that we would use and we knew that we had not processed a transaction. It ended with my calling them to find out that nobody had been in our account - it was a gift.

Think their marketing message missed the mark? Not only did they give us a gift we could not use, they neglected to present it as a gift.

They had a great idea and turned it into a missed opportunity. Had they informed us that we were eligible for this gift, they could have asked us what domain we would like. That would have been a gift that would more likely generate future income for them. If they gave us a domain we could use, we wouldn't be able to let it go after a year. The one we got, will expire without our even noticing.
 

Originally published in Work Better, Not Harder, September 25, 2013

September 22, 2013

Do what Feels Right to You

photo by tempophage

I had what I thought were a couple of smashing ideas for the newsletter design for a new client. She politely declined.

Of course, I asked, "Why?" (I must have been a real challenge at age 4.)

The discussion that ensued was insightful and interesting and helped me to understand my client's brand, image and personality so much better. Sometimes 'bad' ideas lead to great things.

The lesson here? When someone you're working with throws out an idea that they're obviously excited about, don't jump on the bandwagon if it doesn't feel right. Stand up for what's authentic to you, right there, on the spot.

Also, embrace the opportunity to explain your position so that everyone can get on the same page. That is how relationships are built.
 

September 17, 2013

Your Brand is more than Your Logo


I’m a visual person yet I find it hard to describe our own branding concisely: lots of white space, clean, bright spots of colour, fun but professional.

If you came to me and said that, how would I design a newsletter (or website or blog) for you?

Being able to describe your visual branding is important when you’re working with professionals such as designers and other consultants. How can they help you best if they don’t ‘get’ your brand?

How do you describe your own visual branding? Write it out right now and be concise. Use lots of descriptive words - make up words if you have to. Can you get what’s in your head onto paper?

Looking at examples is very helpful. Look at others’ websites and newsletters. Identify what you like and don’t like and put it into words on paper. Do you like curves or straight lines? Bold or subtle? Professional or whimsical? White space or lots of colour? Simple or busy? Keep going... don't stop here.

It’s not easy to do but it’s important. If you can’t communicate your brand, how can others understand it and help to promote it?

I see a lot of websites and newsletters where it's obvious that the brand was made to fit the design, rather than vice versa. Others can tell when your logo is simply dropped in.

photo by derekGavey / Flickr

September 10, 2013

Get Social with your Newsletter


Social media and email marketing go together like Batman and Robin. I got that line from The Rebel's Guide to Email Marketing and it's so very appropriate. There are tactics you can use to cross-promote and grow both communities.

Social Sharing is all about encouraging your newsletter readers to share your newsletter with their friends. This encourages new people to subscribe. You always want to include social sharing buttons in your newsletter whether you use social media yourself or not. In fact, I suggest putting at least 2 sets of social sharing buttons if your newsletter is lengthy - near the top and bottom.

Social Connecting means asking your readers to connect with your social media accounts - to Like you and to Follow you. This grows your online network.

Social Promoting means using your social media platforms to promote your newsletter and get new subscribers. You can do this by:
  1. periodically posting a link to your sign-up form with a compelling call to action
  2. posting teasers about your next issue, again with a link to your sign-up form
  3. posting a link to your newsletter when issued
  4. re-posting a link to your newsletter at a later date

September 5, 2013

Perceptions of Value

photo by Marcus Jeffrey

Someone recently asked me if a newsletter is still a good marketing tool for small business. After all, we’re inundated with newsletters and stuff that people call newsletters. The person who asked me this has been actively unsubscribing from newsletters to reduce her inbox noise. I asked if she’ll stay subscribed to some newsletters and, of course, the answer was yes.

What’s so good about those particular newsletters that you and I stay subscribed to, even when we’re purging? The answer is simple: we are getting some perceived value. It’s likely to be interesting, useful or timely information in some form or other.

I used the word ‘perceived’ above because what is valuable to one is not valuable to everyone. It’s your target market’s perceptions that you need to be concerned about - not your best friend’s, not your mother’s, not even your own. A successful newsletter is about what your readers want, not what you want to give them.

While the simple answer is give value, the execution is not so easy. How do you create such value that people want to keep getting it? Develop a strategy, formulate a plan, then work it... and stay tuned in. Monitor your stats, listen to unsolicited feedback, measure your results. Then refresh your strategy and re-write your plan. Even the best strategy can get stale over time.

To make your job even harder, individual needs change and their perception of the value you provide will change. There isn't a darn thing you can do about that and you will lose subscribers over time. That means you need to constantly add to your mailing list just to maintain your readership.

Is a newsletter still a good marketing tool for small business? For sure, especially if you can identify that valuable thing that you’ll give to your subscribers and then work to deliver it.


originally published in Work Better, Not Harder September 5, 2013