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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