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...
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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.
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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...”
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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?
sorry - link is unrecoverable

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!
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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’.
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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.
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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.

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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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