December 31, 2013

Stop Saying "Feel Free"


The next time you start to type “Feel free to phone or email me” -- Stop.

If you’re in business, shouldn't it be obvious that you want calls and emails? "Feel free..." is a little wishy-washy, like using the word “just”.

Instead, use a more direct call to action. Assume that people will have questions, concerns or feedback.
“Call or email with your questions and concerns.”
“Questions? Call or email – I’ll be happy to answer them.”
“Tell me what you think of this. By phone or email is fine, at your convenience.”
Even better, be specific about the type of response you desire.
“Call me Friday morning so I can answer your questions and we can discuss the next steps.”
“Send me your questions by email so I can give you detailed answers.”
Create your own unique version of this call to action, use it, make it a habit -- make it part of your brand. Not only does “feel free” send the wrong message, it’s overused. This is an opportunity for you to stand out.

photo by Elephant wearing striped pants

December 27, 2013

Content Creation (Wrap-Up #3)

Content Creation Wrap-up #3
Our first content creation wrap-up contains articles prior to May 2012. If you are looking for writing ideas, how to manage your content, or just a bit of inspiration, you just may find what you are looking for in this list of links.

Our second wrap-up included articles from June 2012 through May 2013. If you're stuck for content, these links will give you inspiration and ideas with a smattering of thought provoking strategies to consider.

This is our third installment of content creation wrap-up posts and is a library of links to all of our articles about content creation from June through December 2013:

Thinking content strategy? Want to know why you need to keep it updated? This Deserves your Attention.

You can take vacation without putting your email marketing on hiatus too. Here are 4 Tips for Summer Newsletter Success.

Now that you are back from vacation... ready to supercharge your marketing efforts with these 5 New Strategies?

Don't forget those winter holidays! Gift giving occasions are always worth mention when you have products or gift certificates to sell. Here is some advice on how to promote Gift Certificates, Holiday Specials and Stocking Stuffers.

Lacking inspiration? Here's How to Get Inspired.

10 ways to figure out what to write, when you don't know what to write. A great list full of inspiration, put together by Wired Flare!

Just as important as doing things right, here are 25 eNewsletter No-No's!

It's a perfect time of year to use this strategy: Content to Wrap Up the Year.

If you are very adventurous and equally committed, you might want to consider something completely different. Here are a couple of ideas you can try your take on: The Make-Believe Newsletter and The Serial Newsletter.

Images are always a challenge to keep fresh and interesting. Here is a helpful tip on How to Find the Right Image.

The only way to stay relevant is to always remember who you are talking to. Get found in the clutter because It's Raining Content!

December 22, 2013

How to Find the RIGHT Image

A friend asked me to help her out by finding images of people talking on the phone to be used to market a new service. I like for images (because they’re reasonably priced and easy to buy from) so I logged in and started searching for ‘manager on phone’. Great – 3030 images in the search results. I started scrolling through and saving images to a collection for later review. Good images, but none of them were really ‘speaking’ to me. Then I came across this one.

It spoke to me – it stopped me and made me laugh. It reminded me of similar circumstances that I’d been in. Who hasn't goofed around at work now and then? The headline I imagined was: “Are your sales people avoiding the phone?”

If I had known the headline first, I could have zeroed in on images that resonated it, rather than wading through hundreds of bland images of people talking on the phone.

If you’re going to search for images, develop a few headlines first. When you have more than a broad subject, the results are better and you’ll save time.

photo by angelocesare

December 19, 2013

The Best Reading of 2013

The best reading from our newsletter contributors during 2013...

Does your writing pass the $1-a-word Test?
by Neil Everton, Podium Media & Communications Coaching
If you are looking for a quick and certain way of giving your words more impact, look no further than your purse or wallet. Take a look at the last thing you wrote. It doesn't matter if it's a letter, email, report, newsletter, web content or promo script... read more

Marketing to Your Tribe
by Stephanie Holmes-Winton, The Money Finder
This just in: some people don’t like what I have to say. They might unsubscribe from my newsletter, or they might make a snide comment on social media... read more

Anyone Can Find Business on Twitter
by Anita Hovey, Twirp Communications
That’s right... ANYONE. The next time someone says “Twitter is just a bunch of nonsense” I want you to share a link to this post... read more

6 Ways to Become Part of Your Customer's Story
by Bernadette Jiwa, The Story of Telling
Think about the rituals that punctuate your days. Freshly boiled water poured over scented tea, your morning workout, or favourite mug. The ten minutes you use to brainstorm ideas... read more

7 Low Cost Tips to Increase Sales
by Debi Hartlen MacDonald, New Life Business Solutions
There are only 3 ways to increase your sales: 1. Have more customers, 2. Increase your average sale, 3. Increase the number of transactions per customer. Following are 7 strategies that you can start working on today... read more

Ditching Your Newsletter In Favour Of A Blog? Not So Fast!
by Susan-Wright Boucher, Plugged in Recruiter 
It’s said that businesses complete 60–70% of the B2B sales cycle by doing online research prior to any contact with potential vendors. Fewer businesses are willing to invest in multiple discovery meetings with potential suppliers... read more

My Favourite Mentor
by Brenda Fay, BrenDaniel Productions Corp.
I was my father's favourite child. Never mind that I had five brothers and a sister. In fact, I am the most beautiful woman in the world next to my mother. I know this because my father told me so... read more

10 Ways to Use Google Alerts
by Janet Slack, Life Adventure Coaching
1. Monitor your brand and your reputation. Set up your business name, your personal name, website and blog names, product names. Monitor what is being said about you... read more

Not Being Heard? Perhaps You’re Using This Word
by Mary Jane Copps, The Phone Lady
Many of us pick up the phone and begin our conversation with a phrase that includes “I’m just calling …”. Unfortunately using the word “just” in this way makes for ineffective communication. Here’s why... read more

Clarity Matters
by Jill Poulton, Destination by Design
If you don’t know exactly what you’re doing, you don’t know what you’re doing. It’s important to be clear and focused in order to accomplish anything significant in a reasonable amount of time... read more

If you're in the mood for more reading, you can click here to get all of our back issues.

Click here for the 2012 Best Reading List. Want to get on this list next year? Sign up for our newsletter and contribute an article.

Originally published in Work Better, Not Harder on December 19, 2013

December 12, 2013

The Serial Newsletter

TV folks realized a long time ago that ongoing stories keep people coming back. Everyone (my age) will remember General Hospital and the Nescafe ads. Using ongoing story telling as the basis of your newsletter can create that same thirst to know “What’s going to happen next?”

This is not a strategy for the uncommitted. It requires planning and writing skill. Your continuing saga may be a real life story or it may be fictional. For either approach you’ll want to sit down and plan your storyline several issues in advance, while creating a vision of where it will go beyond that.

If your story is fictional, you can make it exaggerated and funny, or serious and believable... or whatever you can dream up. Perhaps your main character will be your ideal client. Your story could be about the types of problems that you help your clients overcome. Corinne Boudreau, a lawyer, uses a continuing story in this way to illustrate her expertise. She uses realistic circumstances but without the potential liability of giving advice or the confidentiality issues around using real life examples.

Regardless of whether it’s fictional or real life, here are some things to include in each issue of your serial newsletter that will support your continuing story:
  • Briefly re-introduce the story so that new readers have some context. Include a link back to the first issue where it all started.
  • Remind readers of where you left off last time and include a link to your last issue.
  • Close with a brief summary; recap the lesson learned or decision reached.
  • Include a cliff hanger or a teaser for what is to come next.
This can be a fun and engaging strategy for your newsletter but be prepared for the extra work involved. Don’t expect to whip up a quick article at 1am with your deadline looming.

photo by Jill Clardy

December 8, 2013

How Long should a Newsletter be?

The ideal answer is: as long as it needs to be to give value. The real answer is: it depends. Here are some of the things it depends on:

  • Typically, the more often you send your newsletter, the shorter it will be. In my experience, though, that tends to be a function of the work involved with preparing it. Is there such a thing as providing too much value?
  • If one of your goals is to build your reputation as an expert, your newsletters will need to include a fair bit of content in the form of original articles (or images).
  • If you have well-defined goals, these will always help you decide what to include and what to leave out. When in doubt, ask yourself if any of your goals are being met by the content you’re considering.
Your commitment
  • The perfect strategy is to put out as much amazing content as you can. Your actual strategy will depend on many things that are not perfect, such as your ability or inclination to write and curate, the time involved, your technical expertise, and costs.
  • Don’t commit to something you won’t be able to maintain. Consistency is important.

Your newsletter should be a compromise between the perfect strategy and what you can commit to do.  Tweet this

Once you figure out your goals and strategy, and build your content around them, the length of your newsletter will be a moot point. It will evolve from defining content that provides value.

December 4, 2013

Typos Tell a Deeper Story

If you don't think spelling mistakes matter, consider this:


The headline was: "Kathleen Wynne’s ‘open government’ launch marred by spelling mistake."

So, while she was talking about important stuff, eyes were on the spelling error, mouths were snickering, and fingers were tweeting. Her message was lost in the distraction.

Do you think someone got reprimanded or even fired over this mistake? Who goofed?

Was it the person who requisitioned the sign? The person who ordered the sign? The person who approved the proof? The person at the printer who processed the order? The person who printed it? The person who packaged and shipped it? The person who received and unwrapped it? The person who placed it on the podium? The camera and sound crew who set up and tested, looking right at it? Kathleen herself as she walked to the podium?

This wasn't just one person's mistake. There were a lot of people going through the motions and not using their brains. This is a sign of complacency. Of not caring. And of, dare I say, stupidity.

Spell checker doesn't work everywhere and our reliance on electronic tools is making us lazy. As business owners, we need to surround ourselves with people who care about doing a good job, even if it means pointing out someone else's mistake.

originally published in Work Better, Not Harder, December 4, 2013

When Perfect is the Goal

When Perfect is the Goal
Perfect is an impossible goal. Some would say that if you strive for perfection, you are setting yourself up for failure. I agree. To the point that I don't think you should beat yourself up when you miss the mark. Because you will. We all do.

But if perfection is not the goal, what is? I don't think there is anything wrong in shooting for perfection. What else do you shoot for? A little less than perfect?

I think ignoring perfection is a worse trap to fall into. We see it all the time in error filled newsletters. Spelling mistakes, broken links, old or incorrect information can be avoided for the most part. Nothing will lose readers faster than links that take them nowhere, or that take another 10 clicks to get somewhere, or worse - a map that takes them nowhere!

We harp on proof reading all the time. A second, fresh set of eyes is what we talk about. Even then, the odd mistake will slip through. The odd mistake can be forgiven. But if your newsletter is mistake-ridden, every time you send, you need to find someone more serious about proof reading for you. This problem is not about perfection, it is about taking the job seriously, professionalism and pride of performance.

Because when perfect is the goal, you should land close, almost every time!

originally published in Work Better, Not Harder, December 4, 2013

December 1, 2013

It's ALL About You

photo by MNicoleM

When it comes to marketing, the experts say, “It’s not about you!” It’s something we always emphasize with our new clients, too, when discussing their newsletter content strategy.

While your content may not be about you, how you execute your strategy is ALL about you.

With all the tools we have at our disposal, there is no excuse for spelling errors, broken links or crappy clip-art.

You wouldn't go meet with a potential new client without brushing your hair and teeth. Your marketing content needs hygiene, too.