December 31, 2014

The Best Reading of 2014

Continuing our annual tradition, here are our top 10 picks of the best articles from the Work Better, Not Harder newsletter during 2014, not in any particular order.

You need to Bite-size your Content
by Brandi Good, BLG Business Solutions
Your new website just went live - it looks amazing and it's chock-full of great information. You spent hours crafting the perfect blog post. You put together a newsletter with a beautiful layout and great content. You've been sharing these links all over your social media networks. And then...
continue reading

The Problem with Gratitude
by Steve Foran, Performance Quest
Can’t believe it took 7 years to figure this out! Although I was unaware of the problem, I’ve known all about the benefits of being grateful - a list which continues to grow.
continue reading

Have you been Asked yet Today?

by Brenda Fay, BrenDaniel Productions Corp.
I had a conversation with a potential client the other day and they asked me question after question. Probably thinking I was getting irritated by it, the client said “We teach all of our consultants to ask questions...”
continue reading

Networking is NOT Selling!
by Susan Eldridge, Business Women Connect
Many of us think we hate networking. I hear it all the time: "I can't do it." "Not my comfort zone." "I hate putting myself out there." Why do we feel this way?
continue reading

Twirp's Tips for Twitter
by Anita Hovey, Twirp Communications
We’ve put together an infograph of some of our favourite tips for getting started on Twitter... and well, ya never know, even if you’re a seasoned Twitter pro, you still might learn a thing or two!
continue reading

Working from Home? Tips for Staying Healthy
by Meryl Cook, Meryl Cook Homeopathy & Bowen
Some of my favourite clients are business owners who work from a home office. In working with this population, I see a number of common health concerns.
continue reading

No Need for Speed
by Mary Jane Copps, The Phone Lady
Time spent on the phone, whether it’s with friends and family or with clients and prospects, is intimate communication. Next to being in the same room with someone, it is the best way to truly hear and discuss thoughts and ideas.
continue reading

Legal Triage
by Corinne Boudreau, Two Certainties Law
Here are some tips on how to know when to deal with things yourself (“DIY”) and when to call a lawyer.
continue reading

Why You Need to Leave the $10 Words on the Shelf
by Neil Everton, Podium Media and Communications Coaching
William Faulkner once accused fellow author Ernest Hemingway of dumbing-down his writing. Faulkner complained that Hemingway had ‘never been known to use a word that might send the reader to the dictionary’.
continue reading

The Client is not always Right... for You!
by Debi Hartlen MacDonald, New Life Business Solutions
Working with the right client will make what you do a joy! When you love what you do, but are working with a client who is not the right fit for you, it is a total drag for you.
continue reading

Looking for more reading? Get the Best Reading Lists for 2012 and 2013.

Originally published in Work Better, Not Harder on December 31, 2014

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December 29, 2014

Encourage your Readers to Tweet

Blog posts, newsletters, web pages and documents - these are all things we want our readers to share with others. In fact, getting people to share these things is just as important as getting them read.

Getting our fans to share might not be so difficult but everyone else is busy, and sharing our content isn't top of mind. That’s why it’s so important to make it easy - really easy - to share.

Sharing buttons work great and are easy to install into blog posts, newsletters and web pages. Many templated applications have widgets you can embed and Share This is also a popular option.

My favourite sharing tool by far is Clicktotweet, which Anita at Twirp Communications turned me onto during one of our Team Twirp meetings. “Clicktotweet is the best, easiest and simplest way to promote and advertise your blog, website, business and stuff on Twitter.” What is a ‘click to tweet’? Here’s a simple example:

Giving readers an easy way to share content will ensure it gets shared more often. (click to tweet this!)

You can use a ‘click to tweet’ wherever you can use a hyperlink, including PDF and Word documents. You can embed it with an image, such as your own unique tweet button. You set up the text of the tweet, so you can include hashtags, handles and hyperlinks. Of course, you still only have 140 characters but Clicktotweet keeps track of that for you, too. If you get the paid version (a mere $5/month), you can also see statistics for all your ‘click to tweet’ links, as well as any other links you included in your tweets.

Need proof that it works? Here are just a few tweets from one article of mine.


Don’t force your readers to take extra steps to share your content, like opening Twitter and posting directly. Make it super easy by creating the tweet for them.

Originally published on Twirp Communications blog, September 23, 2014

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December 20, 2014

The Scoop on Open and Click Rates


Your open rate is an indication of brand recognition. Your click rate is one indication of whether your newsletter actually gets read. (How many newsletters do you open without reading?) Getting read is what raises your reputation and prompts interaction.

I dislike generalizing about the relationships between list size, content type, length, frequency, and open rates. Among our clients, we have lists of 200 subscribers to over 10,000, and frequencies that vary from weekly to quarterly. This means we see a wide variation in statistics, too.

Industry averages (graph in this post):
  • open rate - 20%
  • click rate - 4%
Please don't judge your own newsletter's success based on a comparison with these. (Who wants to be average anyway?) There are many things that impact your open and click rates. I encourage you to also look at the number of contacts who opened/clicked, and what they clicked on.

The easiest of these measures to improve is your click rate. There's a clear correlation between the number of links in a newsletter and the number of clicks: more links = more clicks. Don't frivolously add links; use them strategically. Then watch to see what your readers are clicking on, and interested in. (Here's how to check on your stats.)

Of course, your newsletter should be doing more for you than providing stats to look at. A high open rate means nothing if nobody is reading and acting.

photo by Lens Envy / Flickr

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December 16, 2014

Free is Free for a Reason


At a recent workshop I was asked about free email marketing applications. My answer provoked a lively discussion and not everyone agreed with my position.

You have many choices of bulk email service providers and each has good points and bad points. Turning out a good looking newsletter depends on using suitable software and on being quite proficient with it - whether it’s a free app or not. Free apps (or free versions) will have some or all of these drawbacks:

Most of these points impact your own use of the application, but that last point reveals to all that you are using a free app. What signal are you sending to your readers? You really want them to read your newsletter and connect with you and buy your products... but you don’t value their attention enough to pay to do it properly?

To have a successful regular newsletter, you invest effort to build your subscriber list and create interesting content for them to read. And you execute it in a way that shows respect for your readers’ time and attention.

photo by Tarjei Hanken / Flickr

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December 10, 2014

Using Lessons from Work at Home

I've always been one to say that my work life and my family life are intertwined. Many small business owners would also say the same. I like it and I wouldn't try to separate them.

Recently I was a bit taken aback to realize that I’m not using some of my business skills at home, and should be.

My stepson has bipolar affective disorder and our family has been participating in weekly meetings with social workers to help us overcome the many challenges associated with the disease. When they started presenting us with skills, such as a problem solving process and active listening techniques, I immediately thought, “I know all this. It’s old hat.”

The first goal setting exercise was fairly easy for me. I privately committed to three goals related to our family life and I immediately went to work to make them happen. My husband and stepson were going through the same process, also privately.

About a month later, when we reviewed our goals and progress, I had completed two goals and the third was close to happening. My husband and stepson had made no progress at all. Through our discussions, I came to realize two important things:
  • Although I'm experienced with using these techniques at work, I'd never actively applied them to my family life.
  • My husband and stepson were not familiar with them at all. I forgot that I learned these skills over many years, and they didn’t.
I made the mistake of assuming we were all on the same page, and we weren't even reading the same book.

I can apply this valuable lesson at home and at work. We all have different backgrounds, experiences, skills and perspectives. Sharing them with others is a gift and, likewise, we must be open to receiving the gifts that others share with us.

originally published in Work Better, Not Harder newsletter December 10, 2015

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December 2, 2014

Image Insights [Wrap-up]


Sometimes the image choice for your newsletter or blog post is obvious, but often not so much. This post wraps up our previous articles about graphic ideas and advice.

Finding just the right image for your newsletter or blog can be time consuming and frustrating, whether you're creating it yourself or buying someone else's. Read How to Find the RIGHT Image for tips to help shorten the process.

Once you get started looking for images, you will find a wealth of copyright free or free photos you can use with credit attribution. Read Graphic Solutions for places to find images and more.

Sometimes you want a look that is less staged than a purchased stock photo. Read Searching for Creative Commons Images for directions to search images via Flickr.

Infographics are a great way to represent information differently than you have in the past with words. Read Repurpose Articles into Infographics for tools and tips to create your own infographics.

Create your own word cloud graphic. Read Wordle for information about how to do this.

Finally, if you want to make a personal connection with your readers, and be remembered, you'll want to include a photo of yourself in your newsletter. Read Your Newsletter Headshot for some of the things to keep in mind, especially if you are planning to have new photos taken.

photo by RubioBuitrago / Flickr

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November 17, 2014

Everyone Markets


When I was in university, a long time ago, I majored in Accounting and Management. At that time my interest in marketing was so lacking that I only grudgingly took the first year required Marketing credit, Advertising. You see, I sort of felt that marketing was vaguely seedy and extremely creative. And that I was neither.

What I know now is that marketing can still be seedy, but it doesn't have to be. And creativity comes in many forms.

There’s one other factor to successful marketing: flawless execution. All that has come before is quickly negated by sloppy presentation.

I became a marketer without ever making a conscious decision to do so. I’m still not very seedy, and not a creative genius. But I can plan and I can execute like there’s no tomorrow. Making it happen is where I make a difference, sometimes the difference between success and failure.

I still have that big heavy Advertising textbook and I’m not sure why I've kept it. It’s clearly outdated for an industry that has changed so much. Email marketing, websites and social media were only vague ideas back then. And marketing was the purview of agencies. Now, pretty much everyone markets something, from resumes to garage sales to product line introductions.



November 4, 2014

Writing to Deadline


One thing I keep telling anyone who will listen is to write when you're inspired... and take the time to get inspired. This means doing a little planning, too, then. Inspiration will have a hard time finding you, buried in emails and racing between meetings.

I asked my friend and mentor, Neil Everton of Podium Media and Communication Coaching, "Do you plan your time to write? Or do you write when you're inspired?"

The response I got was neither! "Planning and inspiration are not concepts I'm familiar with. I write best when there’s a deadline."

I use deadlines, too, but for me they are a last resort. I find it hard to be creative when I'm stressed about a deadline.

Do what works for you. Whatever it is that causes you to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard needs to be harnessed and exploited. Creating great content that people want to read doesn't happen without some effort.

photo by erink_photography / Flickr

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October 30, 2014

How to Be Lucky


Years ago I read a magazine article that was an interview with a well-known Canadian male (although I can't remember who). What I do remember was the message, which went something like this...

The subject of the interview was being referred to as extremely lucky. He adamantly claimed that he wasn't lucky - he was prepared.

He was prepared to take advantage of opportunities that arose. Not only that, he was also constantly vigilant, so he wouldn't miss those opportunities.

I'm pretty sure that was the same year I started my business. The message has stuck with me.

For me, being prepared is about getting all my ‘ducks in a row’ when it comes to capacity and commitments. Being vigilant means networking and being social. Those things set me up for success.

When those golden opportunities come along, I want to be found alert and prepared to take them on. In other words, I'm ready to get lucky... in business, that is.

photo by Roadsidepictures / Flickr

originally published in the Work Better, Not Harder newsletter, Oct 30, 2014

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October 27, 2014

Your Newsletter Headshot

If you want to make a personal connection with your readers, and be remembered, you'll want to include a photo of yourself in your newsletter.

Here are some of the things to keep in mind, especially if you are planning to have new photos taken.
  • Your headshot should look like you now, not 5 years ago.
  • Wear similar clothes to what your ideal customer would wear.
  • The direction you're facing in the photo generally dictates where the sidebar will go in your newsletter. You don't want to be looking off the page. For newsletters, a right sidebar is more desirable, so a left-facing or front-facing photo is preferable. Of course, this is the opposite of how you want to be facing for LinkedIn and Facebook avatars.
  • Wide banner-like panorama photos are popular now across the top of website pages. An example might be someone standing on a beach with their head in the foreground and a slightly blurred background of the water and beach behind them. These panorama photos are also great across the top of newsletters as a nice alternative to the usual sidebar headshot.
  • Working your brand colours into your clothes or background is great, but only if you look good in those colours.
  • Consider your branding style when deciding on the background. For example, is being isolated on white important to match the rest of the branding? Are dark or bold colours needed? Or more subdued?
  • Have 2 or 3 different photos and change them out in alternate newsletter issues, or by season, to add variety.


October 22, 2014

Automate to Boost Productivity

Aside from your traditional newsletters and promotional messages, you can also use your bulk email application to automate some other processes. You might not think of iContact (or whatever app you use) as a productivity tool, but it can be. Here are a couple of examples.

Patient/client reminders

You’re familiar with those postcards we get in the mail reminding us it’s time to book our appointment with the dentist, or optometrist, or pedorthist. If that is a standard practice for your business, consider sending these reminders by email, automated to go at appropriate intervals. One of our clients claims this is saving her money every month.

Certificates

If you use a mail merge to create certificates in Word for course attendees, you can do the same in iContact and send them out by email at the same time. You can use merge fields for the name, date, and any other info that you want inserted into the certificate. We recently sent Certificates of Completion to several hundred people who attended courses on different dates in different cities. This saved our client several hours of work and the postage cost.

If you’re paying for the bulk email application anyway, why not make the most of it?

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October 17, 2014

6 Questions to Ask before Contracting Out your eNewsletter

Admittedly, these are sort of trick questions. Here’s what we'll tell you if you ask us.

When is the best time to send my newsletter?
Wrong answer: It doesn't matter.
Our advice: The fact is there is no magic answer. Reading 'When to Send' will help you figure out what might work best for your newsletter.

Should I buy mailing lists?
Wrong answer: Sure, why not?
Our advice: Absolutely, positively no! Unless you want to waste your money and look like a fool, that is. Read 'Why NOT Buy Mailing Lists?' to understand why this is a bad idea.

What’s the best free app to use?
Wrong answer: Any response that isn’t “Don’t use a free app.”
Our advice: Free is free for a reason, or even several reasons. Your fans deserve better than that.

Do I need a sign-up form?
Wrong answer: No.
Our advice: Your sign-up form is where you get new subscribers and also demonstrates that you seek permission. Read 'Make it Obvious' for our advice about placement of your sign-up form.

How long should my newsletter be?
Wrong answer: It doesn't matter.
Our advice: As long as it needs to be to give value. Read 'How Long should a Newsletter be?' to understand some of the factors you'll need to consider for your campaign.

What regulations affect my campaign?
Wrong answer: None.
Our advice: The Canadian Anti Spam Legislation – check our CASL resource page for lots of info and links.

Part of our service is to consult on these topics and more if you choose to contract to us.



October 13, 2014

Why People Unsubscribe (and What NOT to Do About It)

saying good-bye

A friend recently mentioned that she still gets frustrated when people unsubscribe. Her disappointment stems from the confidence that her information is relevant and useful to those who opted out.

There are many reasons for someone to unsubscribe from a regular emailing – promotional or informational. You need only to think of your own reasons and habits as you process your incoming email.

Even if you are doing everything right, you will still lose subscribers over time. (The average churn rate is 30% per year.) Here’s why:
  1. People’s interests change. If your readers are business people, they will be changing jobs and moving around and getting promoted. If your readers are consumers, likewise their personal situations change, as well as their hobbies and interests.

  2. People are inundated with too much information. We've all felt that way. Not everyone has developed systems to deal with the overload, so they disconnect in the moment yielding to stress. I know several people who have gone on ‘unsubscribing binges’ (myself included), but this type of purging tends to be more discerning, retaining the valuable subscriptions.

  3. Some people just don’t know what’s good for them. Enough said.
So, you get a handful of unsubscribes when your newsletter goes out. Taking no action is your best strategy.
  • DON'T unsubscribe from their newsletter, at least not right away. You know that’s childish.
  • DON'T send them an email asking why they unsubscribed. You might be dying to know, but you don't have permission to ask.
  • DON'T sign them up to any other lists without express permission.
  • DON'T take it personally if you are confident that your offering has value for your target market. It’s not the end of a relationship, only the end of a subscription.
I'm not suggesting that you shouldn't pay attention to your statistics. Of course, you need to take heed and possibly react to trends. But don't get hung up on individual unsubscribes. When someone opts out of my newsletter, my mantra is, “Oh well, they're going to miss out.”

October 8, 2014

Does Your Mother Know What You Do?

Mom and I at her first networking event spring 2014
(photo thanks to Kate at Halifax Headshots Photography)
I learned about the 'Mom test' years ago. It's another one of those early small business lessons that stuck with me.

Explaining my work to my mother is difficult, so the challenge is always worth the learning experience. Mom is 83, has never used a computer, and has no context for understanding what I do.

Recently I was telling her that my blog had been featured on another blog in an article called Top 10 Canadian Marketing Blogs Worth Checking Out. I had to explain what a blog is (sort of like a diary, but public) before she could grasp why it was a good thing. (I will also have to print this blog post for her to read!)

Telling my Mom about what I do forces me to get outside all the details and get down to basics. It helps me rethink my marketing messages from a completely different perspective.

With my Mom, this also has another benefit because she's out and about socializing, and always has a supply of my business cards. I asked her if she tells people I do newsletters and websites, and she replied, "With the emphasis on newsletters." Of course, she has no idea of whether I do a good job or not - that's where the 'Mom' part comes in.

Here's a bonus 'Mom test' for you. When editing your own writing, add the words "Hi Mom," to the beginning and read it out loud. Does it flow or is it awkward? If it's awkward, you might need to dump big words and fancy writing, and simplify. (Thanks to Neil Everton at Podium Media and Communications Coaching for this writing tip!)


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October 3, 2014

What were you doing on Boxing Day?

Were you reading my blog on December 26, 2013? Maybe not but someone was because I had over 800 pageviews that day.

Up to that point, it was the most pageviews I'd ever had in one day. In fact, it was 10% of the monthly total - significant for one day.

graph of blog pageviews by month

Those of you who take time off from online marketing on the holidays are leaving ripe pickings for those of us who don't.

You might think there aren't as many business people online on days such as New Year's or Easter, and you'd be right. But those who are online are there to browse; they read more deeply. That means they might read your whole blog post instead of scanning it. They might click on embedded links and read several blog posts. They might tweet about it. They might even respond to one of your calls to action.

Thanksgiving is coming soon. Go ahead, disappear. I'll be quite happy to pick up the slack.

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September 29, 2014

The Speed of eMail

When I sent out my last newsletter, almost 400 people opened it in the first 2 hours. If you need to reach a lot of people fast and at the same time, email is definitely the medium of choice.

For one thing, sending an email is faster and easier than phoning 400 people. (My jaw just clenched in horror!) And broadcasting a tweet or Facebook post is not the same as putting a message in someone’s inbox; it’s hit or miss. Direct mail is costly and the results are minimal.

Some say the ROI on email marketing is over $40 for every $1 spent. I haven’t gotten those results for myself (yet) but I have seen some very quantifiable successes.

For example, it’s easy to calculate your ROI when selling event tickets. Let's say you spend $300 to sell $6000 worth of tickets, which is a pretty darn good return. More to the point, consider if - and how - you’ll sell all those tickets if not by email.

One of the big benefits of email over other options - the phone, social media, snail mail - is that it's fast, easy and direct.

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September 24, 2014

How I got my Name

Nine years ago in June, I was taking the first steps to start my own business. One of those steps was to come up with a company name. If you know me, you also know this is something I took great pains about.

In the book, Getting Business to Come to You, was a suggestion to use your own name and a play on words if you were fortunate to have such a name. I was lucky to have recently married a fellow with the last name Daley (for more reasons than his name, of course). So, I thought ‘daily’ and searched that word on Google. The overwhelming response was ‘Daily Progress’, with links to a multitude of newspapers in North America and Europe. At the time I was not doing newsletters, but I felt that ‘progress’ was certainly the result my clients were wanting, so ‘Daley Progress’ it was.

Interestingly, now that my company name actually aligns more fully with what I do, the loose association to the declining newspaper industry may be lost before too many more years go by.


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September 16, 2014

Click to Tweet

You might think I am writing about social media but I'm not. I am writing about email marketing. Your newsletter is similar to your blog... you can write it but they may not come.

You need to promote your newsletter and nothing works better for promotion than making it easy to share. I have been advocating including sharing icons in your newsletter for a very long time. But my recent discovery of Click to Tweet, used in the Daley Progress blog posts, has made me remember why this is so important.

You see, I don't like Twitter. I am always logged in but I never go there. I will retweet what arrives in my email but signing on to read is just never going to happen for me. What I have noticed is that if anything arrives in my email with a double click option to share, I will share it. If I have to open a new window, logon to my social feeds and copy/paste a link. It will never happen!

Including a way to easily share your newsletter WILL result in more shares. It really is that simple.

Luckily, most bulk mail services have sharing icons that are easily added with no programming required!

Click to Tweet this article

Originally published in Work Better, Not Harder on September 16, 2014.

Update September 22, 2014:
This screen shot was taken the day I wrote the above article. If you needed proof that making sharing easy works, look no further! Make it easy and people will share...


Cashing in on Social Credit

We small business owners are constantly working hard to build our mailing lists, our business colleagues and referrers, our Twitter followers, our LinkedIn contacts, our Facebook likes, our blog readership - our social credit. I easily spend at least 25% of my work time on these activities and I bet you do, too. What are we saving it all up for?

Definition of 'leverage': use (something) to maximum advantage.

My social credit is a business resource built with a significant investment. I'm about to write a withdrawal slip!

Many of you have been reading our newsletter and blog for several years, and some of you are more recent contacts. I hope I have built up enough social credit with you to ask for your attention...

First, if you haven't already, please take just a second to vote for which is better - phone or email. We're striving for good participation in the vote so the results will be relevant. Thanks!

If you're in the Halifax area, Mary Jane Copps and I would love it if you'd join us for our public luncheon debate at YukYuks on November 5th. Phone vs. eMail will be a fun learning experience with good food and great company. Bring your favourite client! Get details and tickets here.

If you're in the Regina area, I hope I'll get to see you at the Your Marketing Made Easy conference on October 21st. I'll be facilitating two workshops that day - Your First Blog: Start a New Habit with a Plan (beginners) and Love your Blog Again: Content Ideas to get you Unstuck and Inspired (advanced). Get details and tickets here. Early bird pricing till September 18th!

Finally, I'm thrilled that our Work Better, Not Harder blog was recently plugged as “unique and original” by a Toronto digital marketing agency in Top 10 Canadian Marketing Blogs Worth Checking Out. You can get our blog posts by email - see upper right on blog.

Thanks for letting me make this withdrawal!

originally published in the Work Better, Not Harder newsletter, September 16, 2014

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September 11, 2014

7 Tips for Communicating Details by eMail

Email is an ideal way to communicate details, such as meeting minutes, action lists, project updates, instructions, reference data, decisions, event info, checklists and much more. Sending previously prepared information is a snap - just attach, or copy and paste.

When I started specializing in enewsletters, I quickly discovered that there are a lot of details to discuss and make decisions about. Some clients like communicating by phone and others by email. But for some of this detailed communication, email is definitely the best method regardless of preference. It allows me to standardize the process, provide checklists, track action items, explain complex ideas, show examples, and document decisions.

Here are some tips for communicating detailed information by email:
  1. Strive for clarity. Be brief, but not to the point of leaving out relevant information.
     
  2. Use point-form numbered or bullet lists. This makes it easy for your reader to mentally check things off, or to use a pen on printed copy.
     
  3. Use short words, short sentences, and short paragraphs. Unless your goal is to impress with your writing skill, use the K-I-S-S principle.
     
  4. Provide links to background information or past communications instead of adding unnecessary bulk to your key message.
     
  5. Anticipate questions. Review your message from the perspective of your reader. Are you raising more questions than you're answering? Head off questions by answering them now.
     
  6. Pay for each word. This is one of the best writing/editing tips I've ever learned - thanks to Neil Everton at Podium Media & Communications Coaching. Every word you can leave out enhances the impact of what's left - click here to learn how to apply this tip.
     
  7. Proof, proof, proof - three times. If it's important, and you can't get another set of eyes on it, don't slack off here. Try proofing a printed copy, reading out loud, and allowing a time gap to improve your results.
Now, before you start tapping away on your keyboard, make sure it's necessary. I've spent time composing detailed emails when I've misunderstood a question or made an assumption (yes, more than once), resulting in wasted time and confusion. The lesson is... if you have doubts, pick up the phone and check. Mary Jane Copps, The Phone Lady, wrote about just this in her article When You Say "Hmmm" .

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September 6, 2014

Let's Play like Adults


Yesterday I politely wrote asking to be removed from a mailing list after receiving a promotional email that was ugly, far from CASL-compliant, and for products I’m not interested in. I even included links to CASL info in an effort to help.

I received this response a few moments later: “Please do the same for me.”

This childish reaction came from an older man who had attended a free email marketing training I put on last spring at the request of the Halifax Chamber of Commerce. He sells products to my target market. Do you think I’m ever likely to recommend him to anyone now?

Email marketing isn't a game, it’s a business strategy. I firmly believe we should unsubscribe from mailings that aren't of interest to us. I read many newsletters from people who don’t read mine. It’s not a “tit for tat” thing.

Email marketing costs money. Why would we want to waste our efforts sending messages to people who don’t want them?

Go ahead, unsubscribe from the things you don’t want. Don’t make your subscription to other’s newsletters dependent on their subscription to yours. Let’s be grown-ups.

August 25, 2014

My Essential Small Business Tools (Part 1)


Whenever I get together with other business owners over lunch or coffee, the conversation often flows to a discussion of how to be more productive. What processes are we using? What contractors are helping? And what tools or apps are useful?

I love this sharing of ideas and found out about many of the tools I use regularly from these chats. Those listed below are ones that I use at least weekly - often daily - and consider essential to managing my business.

Google Calendar
In the newsletter business, we have to keep track of a lot of dates - reminder dates, preparation dates and issue dates - for all our clients on varying schedules. Google Calendar has been invaluable, not only as an organizational and tracking tool, but also as a communication tool because it lets me share my calendars with work colleagues. I have my own calendar of appointments and events, plus a calendar to track all of the important newsletter dates. I use the email and pop-up reminders so I don’t forget anything. It’s always with me - on my home PC, laptop, and tablet.

Dropbox
This online storage tool allows me take vacations! It also eliminates the risk to my clients of me getting sick or injured. That’s quite a claim, I know, but with it Danielle can access all of the necessary files when I take time off. It also makes sharing large and multiple files with clients and contractors easy.

PayPal
I can accept credit card payments easily and at a minimum cost. I can post ‘Buy Now’ buttons just about anywhere online. It’s also easy to use for many of the business purchases I make online, such as website renewals, stock photos, and monthly subscriptions, often paid for in US funds. I’m not sure what I’d do without it!

I resisted, but Freshbooks has definitely been worth the monthly fee. Easy to set up and connect to PayPal, I find the recurring invoices are a great feature. Since I started using it, my time spent invoicing and following up has dropped... and my outstanding receivables have also dropped. The automated reminders work like a charm.

We use this as a gallery which shows off examples of our work (enewslettergallery.com). It’s also home to all of my personal photos and scans; I've been using it for years. I no longer have to be concerned with moving big files every time I get a new computer. And they’re available to view on any web-enabled device, including my TV. It even has privacy settings for those embarrassing photos. The paid version is a bargain at $25 a year.

I've been using this tool longer than any of the others listed. I found my own and several other businesses’ brand colours with this tool. It’s easy to use - simply click on different options - and free. There’s a new version, but I prefer the one I've been using and am glad it's still available.

To be continued in an upcoming blog post...

August 20, 2014

3-Part Memos


The thing I remember most about getting email functionality at work (in 1990, I think) was that I could get rid of those 3-part memos. Some of you will remember them – usually they had ‘Memorandum’ across the top, and places to write your recipient’s name/department, your message, and their reply. They were 3 sheets with carbon paper in between - so you could keep a copy for follow-up and the recipient could write a note to return to you, keeping a copy for themselves. They even folded a certain way for interoffice mail. Yes, they were handwritten!

I used the phone a lot more back then.

When I wrote those 3-part memos, it was generally for two reasons:
  1. to communicate detailed info, and/or
  2. to have a record of decisions.
When I think of the number of emails I get daily now, and visualize them as a stack of 3-part memos... well, it would be a big stack!

Now we use email for a long list of other reasons, far beyond those two listed above. It has opened doors and provided opportunities that didn’t exist before.

I’ll admit that email is my personal preference, but I also know that using the phone is still the best choice for some situations.

originally published Work Better, Not Harder newsletter August 20, 2014
photo by cinderellasg / Flickr

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August 10, 2014

Regular Contact is Critical


"Other bands had mailing lists, but one of the secrets to GN’R’s success was how much time and effort we spent building and maintaining ours."
Bassist Duff McKagan describes Guns N' Roses' email marketing campaign in his book “It’s So Easy (And Other Lies)". They used some aggressive and unusual tactics to build their mailing list, including sending strippers into the audience at their concerts.
"At first we had to hustle really hard, but we grew our fan base faster as a result; as our mailing list expanded, it was easier and easier to sell tickets to our shows."
GN'R didn't just send a message when they had something to promote; they maintained regular contact with their fans. They were one of the first bands to adopt email as a marketing strategy and attribute much of their early success to building their fan base through regular contact.

Once you have gone through the hard work to build your list, don't neglect it. Maintaining regular contact is critical to making your list building efforts pay off.

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August 6, 2014

How to Recycle your Ideas


This is the 250th article I've written for my own blog, started way back in May 2010. Do you think each of these 250 articles is an original idea? Not by a long shot.

Even if you've been following this blog for awhile, there are many older articles that you've never seen. Some may be outdated and some may be irrelevant. But some of those articles have great ideas... and you won't know unless I recycle those ideas into my current posts.

That's the strategic reason to recycle your ideas. It's not just something to do when you're stuck for something to write about.

In order to stay a bit organized, I typically look back to what I wrote about in the same month last year. Often I'll find something I haven't written about since - a good candidate for recycling.

The goal is not to simply re-write an article, but rather to expand on the idea. Here are some ways to think about that:
  • Does the article still make sense? Or has it become outdated by changes in technology, your industry, politics, or other? If yes, write about why it's outdated - provide an update.
  • Are there details left out of your original article - on purpose or because you didn't know them at the time? Write about one or more of those details, providing further information on the subject.
  • Do you still agree with the article? If not, write about why not.
  • Can you represent the information in a different way? Try a simple infographic, a bullet list, a quick summary, or an old-fashioned graph.
  • Are there pros and cons? Benefits and risks? How else can you slice and dice the information? Try a simple table format for listing or comparing.
In all of these cases, make sure to include a link to the original article for reference. Note that this works for newsletter articles, too!

photo by timtak / Flickr

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July 30, 2014

What do Strippers and List Building have in Common?


The answer is... Guns N’ Roses.

In his book “It’s So Easy (And Other Lies)", bassist Duff McKagan revealed that email marketing was a key component of building the band’s fan base:
“As soon as Guns began to play regularly in LA, we started up a phone and mailing list. We obsessively made sure people who came to shows signed up – well, actually, what we did was send stripper friends out into the audience and have them convince people to sign up.”
There are 2 important takeaways from this story.

#1. You can build your list anywhere and anytime. Not just on your website, not just at your cash register. Where else can you get subscribers who really want what you’re offering?

#2. You need a compelling call to action. This is where you offer value to your target market. This could be a giveaway or the promise of great content to come.

Perhaps you won't use strippers to compel subscriptions, but if you're a veterinarian cute kitties might work.

photo by F de Falso / Flickr

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July 25, 2014

Is your Sign-up Form CASL Compliant?


You already know about the identification requirements that need to be in the footer of commercial electronic messages (CEMs) to be compliant with CASL: name, mailing address, plus either phone # or email address. Do you know that this information must also be near, or "easily accessible" from, your sign-up form if you want to gain express consent?

Take a moment and check your website to see if this contact information is there. Perhaps you have a contact page with this info on it, or have it in your page footer - that's good. You might also put it on your redirect page if you have one. (That's your web page where a new subscriber ends up after clicking 'sign up'.)

Also note: "An individual must take action to opt-in to a stated purpose." Is there a description of what people are signing up for? (It's also a good time to test your form by signing up to make sure it works.)

While you're there looking, think about how you can make your sign-up form more enticing. Have you got a call to action? Here are some tips to make the most of your sign-up form.

photo by hfabulous / Flickr

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July 20, 2014

List Size Matters

While enjoying coffee with a client last week, we talked about the challenges of selling training programs strictly by email advertising. Doing some quick mental math, we figured we'd need a list of 100,000 minimum to have any small chance of success.

Building a large list is no easy task and to do it fast would require buying or renting email lists, or scraping email addresses off the web. I'm not very comfortable with either of these list building tactics, however, "quantity" email marketing is extremely successful for a lot of organizations. Take note: big list campaigns require a big budget - not just at the start, but continuously.

On the other hand, you can accomplish a lot with a small list - quality instead of quantity. A different strategy, this is all about information (or content) marketing - giving something of value to your target market. It requires having a good reputation to be successful AND it also helps build your reputation. If you own the type of business where having a good reputation is a success factor, informational marketing is just right for you.


Don't dream of having a big mailing list - that's a lot of money and work. Dream about what you can do with the list you have! (Tweet this)


July 15, 2014

Prospecting Perils

For the first time in 4 years, I've been working to build a list of prospective clients. Mary Jane Copps, aka The Phone Lady, asked me to describe my target market for her. That was easy to do when we were sitting in Starbucks enjoying lattes. I have a pretty clear picture of my ideal client – I’m fortunate to have several of them already.

Translating that description into a prospecting list has turned out to be more of a challenge than I anticipated.

First, I decided to take my own advice and check out who’s been reading my newsletter. Because my own newsletter isn’t about what I do though, it isn't easy to identify readers who might be interested in starting a newsletter just by looking at who’s opening it.

On to LinkedIn... After a little grunting and groaning about the search process, I was able to make some progress, but not as much or as easy as I had imagined.

There are 2 lessons I've re-learned through this venture:
  1. It’s easy to give out and read advice about prospecting – less easy to translate it into action steps that get results.
  2. I have to be focused because I get attracted to ‘shiny things’. For me, that’s those types of businesses that have a visual brand, like veterinarians with photos of cute kitties, or art galleries with wonderful creative pieces to share, or clothing and accessories I’d like to own. None of these fit nicely into my defined ideal client profile, but what fun! And I would certainly not turn them away.
I've decided to start being on the lookout for prospective clients more actively on a daily basis, and to keep a running list. I suspect that it will be a higher quality list if I make it part of my daily routine.

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originally published in Work Better, Not Harder July 15, 2014

July 10, 2014

7 Reasons you need a Content Strategy

Wondering why you might need a content strategy?
  1. To stay current, sharp, and develop opinions
  2. To build your reputation by demonstrating your expertise
  3. To inform about your products and services
  4. To get found when people are looking for the services and products you provide
  5. To have consistent messaging everywhere that people may run into your brand and where they expect to find your brand
  6. To provide direction to your team, such as your social media manager or email marketing campaign manager
  7. To have a reason to connect with potential clients

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July 4, 2014

A Reason to Reconnect


Your newsletter has just gone out and your inbox is filling up with out-of-office auto-responder messages. Are you deleting them unopened? They might be worth a closer look.

Other than vacation notices, you might also find that some of your contacts have changed their email addresses due to new jobs or other reasons. You’ll want to search them in your list and replace their email address. (If you delete them and add them as a new contact, you’ll lose the electronic trail of your contact history.)

The Phone Lady told me a nice story about reconnecting with someone as a result of following up on a change notice. The lesson is that you can use this as an opportunity to reach out and touch someone that you haven’t talked to in a while.

photo by rich115 / Flickr

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June 30, 2014

How to Spoil the Spammers

You're receiving emails that you consider to be spam and it's frustrating. As small business owners, we're prone to getting on mailing lists.

Consider that spam is in the eye of the beholder: what is spam to one person, is not to someone else. In Canada, we now have a legal definition of spam which may not match your own perceptions.

As business owners that engage in email marketing, I feel we have to be a bit lenient and open to the efforts of others like us. After all, we know the effort that goes into creating an effective campaign. Before you start reporting fellow business owners as spammers, make sure you know if the email really is spam by the legal definition. In most cases, I encourage you to simply use the unsubscribe mechanism to get off lists. If there isn't one, that's a sign it's spam.

And then there is real spam - we all know what that looks like. Clicking an unsubscribe link might be risky. So here's what you do instead: click the 'Report Spam' button/link in your email software program. This has 2 benefits:
  1. The email address will be recognized as spam in the future and be filtered out of your inbox.
  2. The sender will get blacklisted if enough people flag them as sending spam. This makes their 'job' more difficult.

GMail screen shot - report spam
GMail screen shot

Please, save the 'Report Spam' clicks for those who really deserve it. If you have your email address "conspicuously published" on the web, you are giving implied consent for business-related communications.

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June 25, 2014

Count your Contacts: In or Out?

I get it... this anti-spam stuff is onerous and complicated. So you might be thinking that you’ll send your current subscribers a consent request just to be safe. It can’t really hurt anything, can it? Safe, not sorry, right?

This is a situation where safety has a significant price tag.

Here is an example to show how your current email marketing efforts will be impacted.

Let’s say you have a list of 1000 subscribers. (Keep in mind that you may already have express consent from some of them.)

We’ll be generous and say you get an average open rate of 25% (industry average is 20%). That means that 250 people open your newsletter, but not always the same 250 people.

Out of those 250 who open your email, how many do you think will opt-in? Statistics (and my experience) show that it will be about 30% - in this case, 75 people.

With one swift move you've reduced your mailing list from 1000 to 75. Will you continue to publish a newsletter for 75 people?

And what about those 925 subscribers you lost? Well, you asked for permission and they didn't provide it, so you can’t email them again... even to ask again. Your permission has been revoked.

Before you sabotage all your hard work, take the time to understand how the legislation (CASL) impacts your business. Three-minute news spots and brief newspaper articles do not address all of the exemptions and exceptions – they’re only telling a tiny portion of the story.

It’s a serious business decision, not a mandate.

originally published in Work Better, Not Harder June 25, 2014

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June 19, 2014

Re-opt-in: a Messy Word for a Messy Process

It's a word that didn't exist a few years ago... and maybe still doesn't? For those of you still on the fence about whether to ask your current mailing list to re-opt-in before July 1st, here is some information copied exactly from this page of the Government of Canada website:
Under section 66, consent to send commercial electronic messages (CEMs) is implied for a period of 36 months beginning July 1, 2014, where there is an existing business or non-business relationship that includes the communication of CEMs. Note however, that this three-year period of implied consent will end if the recipient indicates that they no longer consent to receiving CEMs. During the transitional period, the definitions of existing business and non-business relationships are not subject to the limitation periods that would otherwise be applicable under section 10 of CASL. Businesses and people may take advantage of this transitional period to seek express consent for the continued sending of CEMs.
You can delay asking your current subscribers to re-opt-in, at least until you understand the requirements and the impact on your email campaign. Put a note in your calendar for early in 2017 to give it more thought - others will have worked through all the kinks by then.

Visit our web page dedicated to this topic for more info: Anti-spam Resources.

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June 14, 2014

6 Tactics to Turn Visitors into Subscribers


Getting someone to your sign-up form is one thing. Getting them to actually subscribe is quite another. To make that happen, here's what I recommend:
  1. Have a sign-up form on its own page, or at least immediately visible on the web page (aka landing page) where you send people to subscribe. (read more about this)
  2. Avoid other calls to action that may distract your potential subscriber. (read more about this)
  3. Clearly describe what’s in it for your subscriber and how often they’ll get it. (see our sign-up as an example)
  4. Provide examples via links to past issues in your archive. (our archive)
  5. Include a brief disclaimer that you won't sell or share contact info.
  6. Ask only for an email address unless you have a pressing need for more information. The more you ask for, the less likely someone will be to sign up.
With the new Canadian anti-spam legislation (CASL), building our mailing lists via 'express' consent will become increasingly critical to email marketing success.

June 10, 2014

Current Contacts and CASL


If the new Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) has you upside down in confusion, you're not alone.

The part of CASL that seems to be the most confusing for business people is how it affects their current mailing list. The answer is not especially straightforward because the regulations spell out the law... and then there are supporting documents which help to explain what the law means and how to be compliant. By their nature, those supporting documents provide interpretations, and those interpretations will become more explicit as the law is brought into effect. As such, the following is my informed opinion and best advice. (Consider this my disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer.)

To ask your current subscribers to re-opt-in... or not

How many emails have you already received asking you to re-opt-in to a mailing list that you have already subscribed to? Kind of pain, isn't it? How many have you re-subscribed to? I bet not all of them.

Even before you understand the details needed to make an informed decision about asking your subscribers to re-opt-in (or not), you should know the impact of that decision.

If you ask your current contacts to re-opt-in, what percentage of your subscribers do you think will do that? I’ll give you a hint: it’ll be less than your average open rate. You will lose some regular readers, even more of those occasional readers, and all of the people who only remember you because they see you in their inbox when they delete your message. Note that you can only send one message to ask people to re-opt-in. If they don’t, you can’t ask again.

What to do right now... or not

You have until July 1st, 2017, to seek ‘express’ consent from your mailing list. During this 3 year period, if you do not already have ‘express’ consent, it is ‘implied’.

That means you can stop thinking about this decision now. Put an entry in your calendar for February 1st, 2017, to “decide to seek express consent or not”. Five months to decide and act, or not – plenty of time.

This is the advice I'm giving my clients and also following myself: do nothing... at least in the short term. A lot can happen in 3 years: your contacts will change, CASL will become better explained, and maybe your business situation will change, too.

In future articles, I’ll write more about the different types of consent – implied and express – and what you need to know to make an informed decision. For now, you really don’t have to make any decision about your current list. You do need to become compliant with the other aspects of CASL though!



June 5, 2014

The Anti-spam Revolution

There’s a bit of a kerfuffle lately about the new Canadian anti-spam regulations (CASL). Organizations are busy pushing out emails asking us to re-opt-in to their mailing lists before July 1st. Are you wondering what it’s all about? Or are you ignoring it, hoping it will never impact you?

As a small business owner, you should know the basics because, unless you plan to stop doing emails, text messages, and social media posts, your business communication is regulated by the new law. It’s not just about these enewsletters.

First, only commercial electronic messages (CEMs) fall under the regulations. Your message is a CEM if it encourages participation in a business transaction or activity, regardless of whether there is an expectation of profit. Many emails, texts, and social media posts sent on behalf of your business are going to be CEMs.

Now you know that you need to know. Read my blog post CASL Basics for Small Business for a quick overview. You can find lots of information online at fightspam.gc.ca.

These new regulations are not meant to hinder legitimate business in Canada. But they may mean that you have to consider some tweaks in your processes.

Do you realize it’s been 6 years since the National Do Not Call List changed the way many sales people prospect? That was also a big kerfuffle at the time.

originally published in Work Better, Not Harder June 5, 2014

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May 31, 2014

CASL Basics for Small Business

If you own a business and are using email, text messaging or social networks to promote products and services, you should know a bit about Canada's new anti-spam law (CASL), which comes into effect on July 1, 2014. The regulations, impact summary, bulletins and other resources are detailed and lengthy. I've been asked about this a lot over the past few weeks so I'm starting here with the very basics.

First, determine if your electronic message is commercial in nature. The law applies to commercial electronic messages (CEMs) only. A CEM is defined as encouraging participation in a business transaction or activity, regardless of whether there is an expectation of profit. Many messages sent in the process of doing business would be considered CEMs.

Here’s what you’ll need to do for those CEMs, starting July 1st:
  1. Get the consent of your recipients. The legislation requires obtaining "express" or "implied" consent. Express consent means that a person has clearly agreed to receive a CEM before it is sent. Consent may also be implied in certain situations, for instance if there is an existing relationship.
  2. Identify yourself in the message. Provide contact information, including your business name, postal address, and either a telephone number or email address.
  3. Include a mechanism that allows the recipient to unsubscribe from receiving additional messages. This must be at no cost to the recipient.
  4. Ensure that no part of the CEM is false or misleading, including your identity, subject line, web links, and text.

B2B organizations should take note that there is an exemption for persons sending CEMs to persons at another organization, where the CEMs concern the activities of that other organization. In this case, the requirements above do not apply.

What about those business cards? If someone gives you one, that is "implied" consent, as long as:
  • the message relates to the recipient's role, functions or duties in a business capacity
  • the recipient has not said they do not wish to receive marketing messages

There will be more in future posts about consent and what to do about your current subscribers. You can learn about the law at fightspam.gc.ca. (Note that some of this text has been copied word for word from the regulations and resources.)

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May 26, 2014

eMail Marketing has an ROI


Unlike some of the other marketing initiatives we undertake, email marketing can have very specific measurable results.

Consider...
  • The marketing consultant who locked down a $5000 contract as a direct result of a call to action in her newsletter
  • The speaker who was asked to write a column for a national magazine in response to his newsletter
  • The advisor who launched a speaking career when a speakers bureau responded to her newsletter
  • The trainer who filled a workshop
  • The entrepreneurs who filled a conference
  • The therapist, the nail technician, the coach and the spa that each booked many appointments
  • The wine store, the shoe store and the health store that sold more products
  • The author who sold more books
  • The many sold out events!

Certainly the ROI of some email marketing campaigns can’t be measured as specifically as this. And there are lots of smaller benefits which accrue over time. If you're wondering how an enewsletter might benefit your business, contact me for a chat.