December 31, 2015

Best Reading of 2015


These are our top picks of the best guest articles from the Work Better, Not Harder newsletter during 2015, not in any particular order.

Essential Elements of Storytelling
Neil Everton, Podium Media and Communications Coaching
The heart of storytelling is the hero-quest: Luke Skywalker and the forces of good battling Darth Vader and the forces of evil (and rescuing the princess). Any compelling story has four essential elements. Read on...

Adding Audio to Your Content
Natasha Marchewka Voiceover Services
Have you considered adding audio to your blog or enewsletter? Adding audio to marketing adds to the multi-media dimension, offering readers more for engagement. Read on...

The Eggnog Challenge
Steve Foran, Gratitude at Work
The Eggnog Challenge put an end to a hotly debated subject in our house... which eggnog is the best. I discovered a treacherous danger in comparison... a danger I've before never considered. Read on...

How to Make a ‘Thank You’ Speech
Halina St James, Podium Media & Communications Coaching
What makes a great ‘thank you’ speech? Once a year we see the best and the worse ‘thank you’ speeches, courtesy of the Oscars. We can learn a lot from these. Here are Podium’s tips to make your 'thank you' speech memorable. Read on...

6 Easy Periscope Live Streaming Ideas for Small Businesses
Anita Kirkbride, Twirp Communications Inc.
Live streaming has hit the social media world big time. At first thought, live streaming for a small business may seem overwhelming but your very curious customers want to see what you’re up to... and now they want to do it live! Read on...

4 Steps = Great Vacation Message
Mary Jane Copps, The Phone Lady
There's nothing like that last day of work before a holiday. The moment just seconds away from freedom is the one in which most of us remember the need to change our voicemail message. Here are a few tips that will make reaching your vacation message a joy. Read on...

Get Control of Your Projects
Brenda Fay, BrenDaniel Productions Corp.
Project management is about getting things done, and it's not just for the big guys. Working smarter to be more effective is everyone's goal, so it's a powerful tool for any business. Read on...

The Show and Tell of Trust
Lea Brovedani, The Trust Architect
Consciously and deliberately building trust is important. Think of it as “show and tell” for grownups but with much bigger consequences than a grade on an elementary school report card. The evaluation you get can affect whether or not people are willing to follow you and how well you succeed. Read on...

Past Best Reading lists: 2012 - 2013 - 2014

Originally published in Work Better, Not Harder, December 31, 2015

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December 30, 2015

Haste Makes Waste

Rushing can lead to mistakes. We all know that but still we rush. Sometimes it simply means spending valuable time redoing something.

Haste can waste more than time. It can also hurt my reputation if my mistakes are public.

A little risk assessment before we start hurrying can save us heartbreak. I'll risk my time but I won't needlessly risk my reputation.

Sometimes just showing up isn't enough.

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December 26, 2015

A Simple Content Management Tool


Many people have yet to embrace the concept of content management. I'm going to show you a simple way to get your arms around it, and keep them firmly gripped.

First, print this worksheet (or draw 3 columns on a sheet of paper) and grab a pen. OK, don't overthink this - it shouldn't take any more than 10 minutes.

Content for Different Places
In the first column, make a quick list of all the places you have (or need to have) content. Examples of things on this list might be your website, blog, newsletter, social media posts, social media profiles, ezines, brochures, profiles on membership websites, other people's blogs/newsletters, and so on.

Content for Different Purposes
In the second column, capture your reasons for having content... your goals. This is not a list where you brainstorm - it's where you focus on your main goals. Otherwise you'll be too scattered. Some examples: to be seen as an expert, to build relationships, to have regular contact, to promote products, and to grow your fanbase.

Content of Different Formats
The third column is for listing all the different types of content you will include in your strategy. This list will include things like articles, videos, audio recordings, infographs, photos, ebooks and so on.

Now pin the sheet up by your desk. Planning forces you to think; now here's the action part:
  • Say, for example, you have just updated your bio. You only have to glance at the worksheet to identify where you need to update or add it.
  • Next, you come across an interesting article you think you should share with your contacts. At a glance you can determine: if you should share it (it supports one of your goals), and where you should share it.
  • A new product launch coming up in the new year? Using your worksheet you can quickly select the different formats you'll use for marketing and where you'll market.
  • Wondering if something is appropriate for your newsletter or blog? Check the purposes you identified to quickly decide.
This content management tool can keep you focussed and save you time - you just have to use it!

December 22, 2015

Automation can be Creepy


If your ideal customer is new to social media, your autoresponder messages might be creeping them out. At one time I had this vision of some big guy hunched over his keyboard poised to pounce on my 'Follow'.

If your ideal customer is more tech savvy, they'll recognize an autoresponder immediately. (Really? You expect me to interact with a program?)

I liken autoresponders on social media to email spammers. Both are giving their medium a bum rap.

A recent Twitter following spree on my part resulted in 16 automated tweets (close to 10% of those I followed). At least I think they were autoresponders.

There's the rub. Even if you take time to respond to people individually, now they may assume it's an autoresponder. The legitimacy of your action is lost in the sea of spammers.

photo by wnstn / Flickr

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December 18, 2015

What do iWatches and Zombies have to do with eMail Marketing?


Perhaps nothing.

Using a news story or pop culture as a hook can create interest that attracts readers. Keep your subject line (or headline) relevant and appropriate, though, or you'll forsake credibility.

"What will Happen to eMail Marketing on the iWatch?" is a good example, even if a horrible thought.

"What will Happen to eMail Marketing during a Zombie Apocalypse?" is not a good example. (I admit to giving it some thought but, really, there's nothing to write about.)

photo by Sangudo / Flickr

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December 14, 2015

Are You a Poet and Didn't Know It?


Work is especially fun at this time of year because I'm busy putting together holiday ecards for clients. After a few, though, the messages of joy and peace start to become a tad lacklustre. And then Lea Brovedani sent me the message to go into her ecard.

It wasn't till I started formatting it that I recognized it as a poem. Then I giggled because I realized Lea had written it. You see, Lea is all about teaching others to be more trusting and trustworthy. Here's the first verse (she said I could share with you):
It's time for carols and some snow,
Time for being on the go.
Take a moment, and don't be fussed,
To show thanks to those you love and trust.
When I congratulated Lea on her winning message, she gave me this tip: "I went on a website for Christmas messages, found one I liked, and adapted it so it was my message on trust."

"Hmm, I have to try that," I thought and started Googling. I have to say Lea's message about trust is more adaptable for the season. But I did come up with a seasonal marketing slogan!
Your holiday cards travel like snails.
Won't you consider using emails?
After you stop groaning, you might give this a try. It's a great content creation idea and could be adapted to other less seasonal purposes, too.

photo by Adrian Cabrero (Mustagrapho) / Flickr

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December 10, 2015

Write without Fear, Edit without Mercy

Do you get hung up over finding the perfect word? Distracted by comma placement? Or just stuck looking at a blank screen?

I've told many people I'm a wannabe writer. Now, closing on 350 articles, I still feel like a wannabe. That's because I'm a much better editor than writer.

I still quibble over words and have to remind myself to move on - but now that happens in 10 seconds instead of 3 minutes.

If writing is what's holding you back from publishing a blog or newsletter, here's what you need to know:
  1. Write something instead of nothing. Maybe you'll change it later, but it's a start.
  2. Write when you're inspired. That might mean making time to get inspired.
  3. Don't set goals about the number of words. Write only as much as you need to, as opposed to a 500 word essay.
  4. Don't get stuck choosing words. Pick one and move on.
  5. Spend twice as much time editing as you do writing.
  6. Have a time gap between when you write and when you edit. You'll have fresh eyes a day later.
  7. Get someone else to proof. Next best option is to proof by reading out loud.
  8. If you're not a great writer, get a good editor.

December 6, 2015

Pantone Colour of the Year for 2016

Colour has a big impact on all of the work I do so I'm always eager to see the colour trends published by Pantone. The seasonal colour schemes are based on trends in clothing design. I'm not sure what the 2016 Colour of the Year is based on but there's two of them. I wonder if someone high up at Pantone just had a baby.

While I quite like the colours personally, I don't see much business application. If a new client with a baby shop comes along, I might think differently, of course.


image source Pantone.com

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December 2, 2015

Gratitude Yields Results in Many Ways: An eMail Marketing Success Story

Steve Foran is my hero. While he deserves that label for many reasons to do with his altruistic message and goal to make his community a better place, he’s also my hero because of his email marketing practices.

First, some background. Steve works with leaders across North America to shift culture and help teams bring more gratitude into the workplace. He’s been on the leading edge of gratitude-based research, writing, and teaching for over a decade and his science-based strategy, Gratitude At Work, is a simple, yet innovative approach to business growth.

When I first met Steve I was excited to talk to him because he was running an email campaign that put his name into people’s inboxes every day. To me, as an email marketer, that seemed to be the ultimate success story. I may have even disconcerted Steve a little with my enthusiasm - “You have permission to email people every single day!”

Now over 4 years later I’m still receiving Steve’s daily messages reminding me to be grateful. Recently I also received 21 tips to help me improve on my gratitude practices delivered daily. And I receive his monthly video blog by email.

I asked Steve why he started email marketing for his business. He told me that he wanted to get his important message in front of people on a regular basis. Today that goal still holds true but Steve has also figured out that email marketing can work to encourage ongoing learning. He can have a greater impact on the clients he works with and the people who hear him speak by continuing to coach through email.

Steve was also quick to tell me it’s not all one way communication. He learns how to hone his messages and approach by paying attention to responses, both by email and on his public gratitude journal.

When I asked if he ever feels stressed about preparing and sending his daily messages, Steve told me that he has a regular routine – he takes 5-10 minutes every evening to prepare his gratitude message – and never feels like it’s a chore.

Infusionsoft is the tool Steve uses to manage his email campaigns and, because it is process driven, it saves him time by automating routine tasks. He also likes its CRM capabilities for keeping track of contact interactions.

Steve’s email campaigns generate good business opportunities and encourage repeat business. He has no doubt that his email marketing has played a major role in his business success.

“What advice do you have for other business owners who want to start email marketing?” I asked, and Steve mentioned two specific things. First, be consistent. Second, figure out what value you can give to your target market and focus on that. People want to keep getting his emails daily because they find value. I couldn’t agree more.

November 26, 2015

8 Tips for Composing Testimonials that Sell


You've just had a great experience working with another small business owner. You know how important testimonials are, but writing them is not a comfortable experience for you. So, you procrastinate. Here are some tips to get that off your TO DO list.

#1. Jot down 3-4 descriptive words or phrases that immediately come to mind about the business, the product or service, the consultant, the buying process, and such. When you start writing and are stuck for a word, refer to this list. (Examples: reliable, honest, practical, creative, solid)

#2. Get clear on the benefit. Before you start to write, consider your responses to these questions:
  • What was your problem?
  • What was the solution and how was it unique?
  • What particularly stood out about the buying experience?
#3. Start with feelings. You are really writing the testimonial for potential customers of the business. Think about how you felt and tell them how they will feel. Use comparisons, such as "It made me feel like I was walking on air."

#4. Think about your buying decision. What information caused you to buy? If you include that information in your testimonial, it might flip the switch for others.

#5. Be specific. Don't try to mention everything about your buying experience. Avoid broad generalizations by describing one part of the experience that was outstanding.

#6. Get personal. Write it from you, a person, not from your business.

#7. Make it evergreen. While your experience is recent, will the wording still make sense to someone reading it a year from now?

#8. Up your game by including a punchy phrase that can stand alone. These are gold because they can be used as standalone marketing messages.

Testimonials can be valuable marketing tools. Help another small business owner now by writing one. And think about how good you'll make them feel.

originally published in Work Better, Not Harder, November 26, 2015
photo by electrofervor / Flickr

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November 23, 2015

Leave Out the Parts People Skip

Has anyone really read every word of Gone with the Wind? Be honest now. I've read it twice and I remember skipping whole pages of scene-setting descriptive text.

When I read this quote by Elmore Leonard, whose books I read, it resonated with me.

"I try to leave out the parts people skip."
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This is a great principle for marketing, too. Recall those bags of brochures and business cards you've thrown out after conferences.

What's the practical application? Have a look at your website with a fresh eye from the perspective of your ideal client. Better yet, have one of your ideal clients take a look. Ask them to 'browse' and then find out what they skimmed over, or skipped completely. You can also do this for your brochures and bios, your articles and newsletters. You could even get carried away and do an audit of all your marketing materials.

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November 17, 2015

Learning to Pitch Business Ideas

pitching competition at NSCC

It started with The Dragon's Den, or at least it did for me. Now students are learning it in school. How awesome is that?

That's me in the middle at the judges' table on stage in the photo above. I was delighted to be asked to participate in this Pitch 101 competition by NSCC Entrepreneurship on November 5, 2015.

Being able to pitch a business idea has many benefits for young people, among them:
  • These are sales skills. Young people will need to be able to sell themselves when job hunting, sell their ideas in the business world, and perhaps even sell products and services.
  • Doing a timed pitch in front of an audience requires confidence. It might mean failure the first time, but practice leads to self-confidence.
  • It's like networking on steroids. Pitchers have the chance to make connections with organizers, teachers, judges, students and other pitchers.
  • A chance to test ideas before making an investment of time and money. Judges offer advice about the business idea in addition to advice to improve the pitch.
As a judge, I also required a bit of confidence. I, too, got to network with new contacts and visit with old friends. And having a little to do with who took the prize money and advanced in the competition... well, who wouldn't like that? I'm really glad it wasn't me that was pitching, though!


November 9, 2015

How to Write the Introduction to Your First Newsletter


You want to start strong and the way to do that is to make a personal connection with your readers. While there are many ways to make that connection in each issue, your first issue is where you set up expectations about the value you'll provide. It's often the point at which subscribers choose to stay or go.

Here are some things you might want to include:
  1. Write your introduction to your ideal client.
  2. Acknowledge that this is your first issue and that you appreciate your readers' attention.
  3. Tell readers what they'll be getting and how often. Outline the benefits of staying subscribed.
  4. If you have added your customers and business contacts to your subscriber list without their express permission, acknowledge that you have done so and why you have. (For example, you might say that they have bought something from your store, or you met at a networking event.)
  5. Tell readers that it's easy to unsubscribe via the footer in this and every email.
  6. Ask for feedback and suggestions.
Here are a few examples of first issues:

November 2, 2015

Call to Action: Why Would I Subscribe?


Aside from having a catchy subscription process on your website, you can use calls to action on your social media platforms to attract new readers. While doing a little research recently on Twitter, here are some examples I found - bad examples first.

I have no idea why I would want this newsletter - I'm not even remotely curious to know what those 'important updates' are.

Aside from having no interest in 'the latest' from a stranger, these poor folks don't even have a sign up form. I wonder how many new subscribers they get.

I could show you hundreds of examples like this - or you could go look yourself. Doing this is a total waste of your time.

Now for the good examples:

Authors generally do a pretty good job of creating interest with their calls to action.

This one is short and sweet. You know it's a newsletter and you know what it's about.

This seems like a pretty good reason to sign up. And you can see it got retweeted. Too bad they spelled Christmas wrong.

screen shot at top from shinesty.com

October 29, 2015

How to Find Time to Create Content


Whether you write for your blog, newsletter or social media - or all three - there are two approaches to creating your content: on the fly or by scheduling time. They both have to do with finding time to do it well.

You can spend some time daily creating content by blocking off 15-30 minutes in your schedule every day. If there's a certain time of day that you're more creative, exploit that and preserve the same time every day in your calendar. Alternately, you can set aside a block of time each week. Of course, this means more time at once, perhaps a couple of hours.

Creating content on the fly is a little more haphazard, and it's what I do a lot of the time - write when I'm inspired. I might read an article I clicked on from Twitter. Or I might have a phone conversation with a new client. Or someone might ask me a question. I most enjoy writing when I drop everything and do it while the idea is fresh.

Now you might be thinking that's an inefficient way to work but, most days, I'm at my desk and the occasional small interruption doesn't really affect my overall productivity. If you're out and about all day, you can still do this on your phone or tablet while waiting for appointments and in between meetings (typing or audio recording).

Crunch time comes when deadlines loom. This is when the stress starts if I haven't been good about on the fly content creation.

If you're not sure which approach is best for you, try them both and see.

With content creation, as with many things, little gets done without a clear plan and a workable schedule. Your editorial calendar is an important part of your content marketing campaign. Use it to stay organized and keep momentum.

photo by joeywan / Flickr
originally published in Work Better, Not Harder on October 28, 2015

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October 26, 2015

9 Types of Customer Generated Content


Do you want more customers like the ones you already have? You can use experiences with your current customers to develop content that will attract more of the same.

Customer-generated content is akin to 'social proof' - it elevates your reputation. By 'content' I mean all the 'stuff' on your website, social media accounts, blog, newsletter, brochures and so on. How do you get your customers to do this work for you?

  1. Success stories: Interview a client and write a blog post about it. Or ask them to write it themselves. Or do it live via Blab or Periscope and save the recording to post online. Prepare a few questions in advance so the advantages of using your product or service will be highlighted.
  2. Lessons learned and improvement opportunities: Write about a customer service experience and what you learned from it. This doesn't have to be negative.
  3. Case studies and examples: This works great if you do project-type work or customization. As above, make sure to include the benefits of your product or service.
  4. Collaborations: Work with a client to create a resource that would be useful to both of your target markets. This might be a free download or even a video.
  5. Testimonials: This needs to be a key piece of your content strategy. Start a process to regularly solicit testimonials from your customers. Grab onto unsolicited testimonials, such as tweets about your service. Put the testimonials on your website - and everywhere else. Consider using a testimonial to preface your success story or case study. (Video testimonials are gold!)
  6. Photo and video galleries: This might be to show off examples of work or products - also great for photos of your happy customers. Consider Facebook albums and other apps that are easily integrated, such as Flickr. You could also build a gallery of your customers' photos, perhaps using your product. Ask for permission first, though.
  7. Guest posts: Aside from success stories, you might also consider gathering guest posts from your customers if their target market overlaps with yours. This gives them exposure to your fans and subscribers - always a plus.
  8. Surveys and feedback: If you regularly gather feedback from your customers, use the results to support your case studies. Or extrapolate the results and share your conclusions.
  9. Customer Spotlight: There are a variety of ways to promote your customers, most notably by social media. Consider doing something more comprehensive like using an aggregator, such as Storify.

Many of these suggestions give you an opportunity to bring emotions into your content, and that helps you appeal to people similar to your current customers. Review your content strategy with a view to adding more of these types of content.

October 21, 2015

Your Marketing Made Easy


We have a LOT of options when it comes to our online marketing. The choices can be staggering, often leading to no action at all.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to participate as a facilitator at the Your Marketing Made Easy conference in Regina, SK. 10 facilitators, 16 workshops - covering topics like social media, blogging, email marketing, SEO, event marketing, web usability, and so much more.

It was a fun and inspiring day! My only regret is that I didn't get to attend many of the workshops put on by the other facilitators. I was inspired, though, to to experiment a bit, so I set up a Storify story to capture some of the event highlights - click here to check it out.

photo by Alvil Tayco on Twitter

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October 14, 2015

eMail Marketing is Not an Expense


I know your accountant will want you to log it as such, but here's why you shouldn't think of email marketing as an expense: it has an ROI.

Unlike many other marketing channels, the results are more evident with email marketing. You can tell if it's making you money or not. And, if it's not, you change it or ditch it.

First, some basic math, using my own pricing as an example. My average price for a monthly 'regular-sized' newsletter is $150 per issue. Over a year that works out to $1800. You, as my client, should be able to look back on that year and know that income attributable to your newsletter was more than $1800.

Wait! Before you go off tapping away on your calculator, we need to acknowledge there are different reasons for publishing a newsletter and some have nothing to do with money. Example: I specialize in newsletters so I have to walk the talk. You may have reasons I wouldn't even think of (but would love to hear about them in the comments).

If you pay attention to how your email marketing is helping your business, you'll feel better about the effort and cost you put into it. And that will lead to continual improvement through little tweaks which, in turn, will make your campaigns more successful through increased engagement.

photo by CAPow! / Flickr

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October 9, 2015

Research - What are your Competitors Doing?


If you've been doing a newsletter for more than a year, it's a good idea to examine your strategy, look at your stats, and implement some positive change. You don't want your email campaign to get stale.

Doing that, of course, means generating ideas. One way to do that is to look at what your competition is doing. Are they doing something well that you can expand on? Are they missing an opportunity that you can take advantage of? Is there a chance to collaborate?

Take a few minutes to sign up for your competitors' newsletters. Pay attention to the sign-up process, too.

photo by HowardLake / Flickr

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October 5, 2015

What I Learned at BlogJam2015

Anita Hovey and I acting out
I thought I would be spending the day with other business owners. I thought blogging was a marketing tool. I thought that swearing in public wasn't nice.

None of these turned out to be true at BlogJam2015 at the Marriott in Halifax on October 4th. What I learned is that I make a lot of assumptions!

Yes, there were some other business bloggers, but most of the speakers and attendees were not there for business. Mommy bloggers and food bloggers ruled the panel discussions. The few assumptions I had left were completely shattered during the closing keynote by Kaleigh Trace. One of her blogging tips was to relax and go masturbate. I swear every time she said 'vagina' I felt my mother cringe... and my mother wasn't there.

My biggest takeaway? Blogging is a tool for expressing our passions and prejudices. And 'success' means something different to every blogger.

photo by @E11ephantRoom on Twitter

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September 29, 2015

25 Ways to Help Another Small Business Owner


This list was inspired by 25 Ways to Help a Fellow Human Being Today and co-authored by my Twitter colleague @LinosVersion. When we help each other, we all grow stronger!

  1. Give them a testimonial. Make it social and do it on LinkedIn or Twitter.
  2. Tell someone about their business and products/services.
  3. Shop at their store, online or off.
  4. Offer some free advice or constructive feedback.
  5. Offer to mentor a newbie. Check out futurpreneur.ca.
  6. Welcome new business owners to your community - stop by with donuts.
  7. Send an inspirational or congratulatory card by snail mail.
  8. Introduce two business owners who may benefit from the connection.
  9. Promote 'Shop Local' and feature local small businesses.
  10. Write a blog about something you learned from another business owner and give them a shout-out.
  11. Put on a free learning event, such as a lunch and learn, and invite local business owners.
  12. On Facebook, share their business page with a shout-out.
  13. Retweet messages from small business owners.
  14. Call and chat about what they’re up to.
  15. Share hard lessons learned via your blog or newsletter.
  16. Host a networking event.
  17. Invite another small business owner to accompany you to a networking event as your guest.
  18. Offer rewards for referrals from other small business owners.
  19. When you see them, smile and ask about their business.
  20. Help out a charity that another small business owner supports.
  21. Buy a ticket to an event they are involved with.
  22. Tweet about them, their products or services, linking to their website.
  23. Ask them to collaborate with you on a project.
  24. Tell them they’re a great client, or supplier, or colleague, and why you like to work with them.
  25. Pay their invoices right away.


September 26, 2015

Take the News out of Newsletter

I'm campaigning to rename 'newsletter', but I know it will take Google forever to catch on.

Do you sign up for newsletters in excited anticipation of getting company news? I didn't think so. Granted a newsletter can be a great source of industry news if it's timely. But that's only one strategy.

The main goal of your newsletter strategy should be to provide value.

Useful + Interesting = Value

No 'news' in that equation. How about... ?
valuemail
infomail
infoletter
useletter

Whatever you call it, don't make it all about your company news. Give people a better reason to subscribe.

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September 22, 2015

Branding 101 Workbook


When I start to work with new clients, it's imperative that I understand their brand. I can't do a good job for them if I don't understand what they do, who they do it for, and why it's so important. With some clients I'm even helping to define their brand.

Click here to download a workbook that will give structure to your brand (.pdf). Once you have this completed, it will be a valuable document to share with consultants and others who help with your marketing. I also suggest revisiting it at least annually to capture changes as your business evolves.

September 13, 2015

Design Colour Trends for Spring 2016



The new Pantone colours for Spring 2016 are described as:

A Transporting and Transformative Canvas: Colors this season transcend cultural and gender norms. Vivid brights give way to excitement and optimism, though quiet stability prevails in this season’s palette.

This palette will impact more than just fashion. Look for these colours in everything from website design to home decor.

Download the full report by clicking here.


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September 9, 2015

Branding Audit Checklist


When was the last time you audited your brand? If it's been more than a year, it's time.

Your brand is more than your logo - a lot more. It's also more than all the pieces you can touch or look at. But all of those pieces need to be just right to pull their weight as part of your marketing strategy.

Click here to download a checklist (.pdf) you can use to keep track of your progress.

Too busy, you say? This is a great job to delegate because a different set of eyes may catch things you won't.

A great option is to find another business owner you can partner with. You audit their brand and they audit yours.

Take a moment now to add a branding audit to your to-do list or calendar.

September 4, 2015

Tweet to Promote your Newsletter and Blog


Sure you're doing lots of writing, but is anyone reading it? Social media is a great way to promote your newsletter and blog to get more reading and more subscriptions. Particularly on Twitter, you could post a different call-to-action as often as daily. And with the new saved templates functionality in Hootsuite, you can create them once and then schedule regularly.

I've created this Excel spreadsheet with some newsletter promotional tweets already composed. You will need to fill in the blanks and make them your own, but it's a starting point. With a little more tweaking, you can also use these tweets to promote your blog.

Note: Keep in mind that Twitter now counts all links as 20 characters regardless of actual length.

photo by TPorter2006 / Flickr

August 24, 2015

Building Relationships versus Getting Shared

You just shared a most awesome resource with your followers on Twitter. It’s not your own resource but rather one you found on someone else’s blog. Regardless of the author, you know your followers will find it useful.

Earlier you were busy sending an email message to a colleague in response to their newsletter. The personal story they included was touching and inspired you to write back. But you didn't tweet that article. Why not?

There’s a difference between content intended to build relationships and content intended for sharing.

Building relationships and getting shared are only two of several possible reasons for creating content via newsletter and blog. Which is best? That depends on your own goals... and why it’s so important to have well-defined goals.

Likely you will use a combination of both types of content but in different situations. For example, I tend to include experiential stories in my own newsletter. But on my blog I include more of the type of information that's great for sharing.

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August 20, 2015

Who's on Your Team?


Leadership and teamwork disappeared when I left the corporate world and started my own business. Not the activities, just the words. Many small business owners seem to think these are concepts for big business.

What did you depend on someone else for in the last couple of days? It might be advice, help figuring something out, a paid service, a favour, a Twitter post, brainstorming, feedback, inspiration to get unstuck, and so on. For me, it’s been all of those. And I consider all of those people part of my team.

While doing work for a client recently, I came across an article titled The Discipline of Teams (Harvard Business Review, Jon R. Katzenbach and Douglas K. Smith) which gave this definition and opinion:
1. A meaningful common purpose
2. Specific performance goals
3. A mix of complementary skills
4. A strong commitment to how the work gets done
5. Mutual accountability, trust and commitment

“People use the word “team” so loosely that it gets in the way of learning and applying the discipline that leads to good performance.”

Using their definition, I have no team, am part of no teams. All of my associations are 'working groups'.

I so disagree with this way of thinking. I figure the more we use the word 'team' and think of ourselves that way, the more like team mates we'll become.

My team changes as my business changes, but there’s no doubt I have a team of people I depend on to help keep my business successful. Teamwork is always desirable, and especially important to us small business owners for access to others' experience.

Who's on your team? Take a moment to recognize them.

originally published in Work Better, Not Harder August 20, 2015
photo by davidmulder61 / Flickr

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August 13, 2015

Resist the Urge to Ask


Received this message on Facebook:
What is your opinion about sending this kind of email below out? I am on the fence. (I've changed the name on their signature and company for privacy.)
"Hi Natasha,
We are doing a little organizing and noticed that it's been a while since you have opened any emails or shown any activity via the "XYZ" email subscription.
No worries!
We value your time! We just want to be sure we are bringing good vibes to the online community whilst not pestering anyone with unwanted emails.
Are we bothering you?
If you don't want to receive any future emails from us you can click here to unsubscribe from the mailing list. No prob.
If you do want to receive these emails then you simply need to do nothing. Keep on keepin' on.
Find What Feels Good.
Love,
A"
Consider this:
  1. If the motivation for sending something to your list is personal, think twice. Always give something of value - this email doesn't do that.
  2. Your email statistics are incomplete. Assuming you would send this to people who show as not opening your newsletter, that can be misleading. There are lots of people reading newsletters on mobile devices and/or without images enabled - these would not show up as opens. So you would be sending to some (a growing number) who actually have opened.
  3. Wasted effort? If they don't open your newsletter, how likely are they to open this?
  4. Why would you suggest that someone unsubscribe? Experts who recommend pruning your list are leading business owners astray - read more about why list pruning is not a great idea.
I can tell you what I've done the few times I've opened emails like this - immediately unsubscribed. It definitely works if your aim is to reduce your subscriber list.

Please, resist the urge to ask. Let your subscribers manage what they want to receive.

August 8, 2015

4 List Building Mistakes Beginners Make

Save yourself time, money and stress by avoiding these common mistakes. They can have a big impact on your success.

#1. Having your sign-up in only one place


The more places people see your sign-up form, the more subscribers you'll get. Make sure it's in multiple places on your website, including on a dedicated page.

Have a call to action with a link to your sign-up page on your blog, your social media profiles, and in your email signature. Regularly promote your sign-up page via social media posts.

#2. Putting too many calls to action on your sign-up page


People get confused by too many options. Don't ask them to sign up for your list, buy your latest product, like your Facebook page, and check out your newest blog post... all at the same time.

Explain exactly what you want them to do, how to do it, and what button to click next. Don't assume everyone recognizes a hyperlink - say "click here".

#3. Not telling subscribers exactly what they'll get


If people get something unexpected in their inbox, they're more likely to unsubscribe. But, if you're very clear up front about the types of information you'll be sending, they'll be ready for it.

Include examples of past newsletter issues so they know what to expect.

Regulations require you to also state how often you'll be sending messages.

#4. Making it difficult to unsubscribe


Don't turn a non-experience into a bad one. You'll get complaints, and too many can result in blacklisting.

Always have an unsubscribe option - people expect to find it in the footer of your email.

The most valuable email list is one that consists of fans who want to hear from you. Make it easy for those who don't to get off your list.

August 4, 2015

When and How to Leave the Details


I'm a big fan of the detailed message, whether it is by phone or email. But, as Mary Jane Copps mentioned in her article The Illusion of the Detailed Message, they aren’t intended to build relationships – they're intended to save time. From a customer service perspective, we want them to save time for the person we're calling. But, of course, they can also be more efficient for us.

These are instances when a detailed phone message is perfect:
  • You want to relay ALL of the relevant information so the other person doesn’t need to call you back. This is great for giving someone an update on a work project.
  • You want to ask questions which may require some preparation to answer. This gives the other person time to think about or research their responses before calling you back.
  • You're replying to a request for information and no discussion is necessary.
An example that many of us are familiar with is when we need to make an appointment for a meeting. I’ve learned that when I suggest a date, time and location in my detailed message, several back and forth messages are eliminated.

Here are some tips for making those detailed messages effective:
  • Start your message by saying that details are coming and to grab a pen.
  • Include the required information and leave out the fluff.
  • Remember, you can think and talk faster than the listener can absorb the information. Repeat details like dates and numbers.
  • Check for understanding. Encourage the other person to call you back if your message isn't clear.
  • If there are a lot of details, and especially if there are numbers involved, use a detailed email message instead.

July 28, 2015

5 More Inspired Ways to Develop Content Ideas


Here is more inspiration as a follow-up to 5 Inspired Ways to Develop Content Ideas. That list had suggestions that you can do in minutes while sitting at your desk. This list of inspiring quotes requires you to get out from behind your desk.
“Libraries store the energy that fuels the imagination. They open up windows to the world and inspire us to explore and achieve, and contribute to improving our quality of life. Libraries change lives for the better.”  - Sidney Sheldon
#1. Swing by your local library and run your hand along a row of books. Enjoy the relaxing atmosphere and poke around for ideas by scanning book titles in the stacks.
“I've found that many of the greatest ideas surface in bars because that's where many people cultivate inspiration.”  - Herb Kelleher
#2. Off you go to your neighbourhood bar... or coffee shop or... . Take a notepad and pen. Listen to what people are talking about. Ask people for their opinion on something about your business or industry. Write down, record the answers, or even live stream them.
"No two minds ever come together without thereby creating a third, invisible intangible force, which may be likened to a third mind [the master mind]."  - Napoleon Hill
#3. Make a brainstorming date with a colleague. I guarantee that, if you spend just one hour a month brainstorming with a like-minded friend, you won't have a shortage of content ideas.
“A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer.” - Bruce Lee
#4. Interview someone special. It could be an expert in your industry, a customer, a supplier, a collaborator or anyone else touched by what you do. The interview itself will make for great content and you will also get lots of ideas for future articles.
“Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body, it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity.”  - John F. Kennedy
#5. Go for a walk! Get away from your desk and get your heart pumping. Science has shown that repetitive physical activity switches our brains into a different mode and we're more likely to have ah-ha moments.

July 20, 2015

Slice Words to Save Money


If you're beating around the bush, you're wasting time and possibly money. Neil Everton of Podium Media and Communications Coaching suggests we look at our writing with a critical eye and ask: "Am I prepared to pay $1 for every word I've written?"

Unproductive words and phrases abound. I've written before about wimpy phrases to avoid; here are some slightly pretentious ones to also slice out.

“Due to the fact that...”
Use “because” at the beginning, or rearrange the sentence to use it in the middle.

“For the most part...”
Eliminate this one completely without changing your meaning.

“In my opinion...”
Use “I think” or eliminate it all together. I'm already expecting your opinion if I'm reading your writing.

“On a regular basis...”
Save $3 here by using “regularly” or “always” at the end of the sentence instead.

“The first step is to...”
Chop out 4 words and simply use “first”.

Using more words doesn't mean you'll get read more - likely the opposite. Forget those 1000 word essays from high school. Writing great content is about keeping the words that do the work and eliminating the rest. How much money can you save on your next article?


July 13, 2015

A Great Newsletter is like a Gift


It’s opened with anticipation.

It’s personal and speaks to your recipient.

It’s about your recipient’s wants and needs, not yours.

It’s appreciated because it brings something of value.

It’s attractively packaged.

It’s delivered directly to your recipient.

photo by HalinaV / Flickr

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July 8, 2015

A Blog or a Newsletter

"Which should I start first - a blog or a newsletter?" I swear I've heard this question a hundred times. Not that there's anything wrong with that - it's a great question.

Consider this: "Do you want to just write or do you also want to be read?"

If you want to write to build a resource of information for clients and colleagues, and perhaps to help your SEO, a blog is a great way to do it. But if you want to be read lots, you have to put your writing in front of people on a regular basis.

A blog and a newsletter aren't mutually exclusive. In fact, they make a great team. You can tweet up a storm but, if you really want to build a regular following, you need to deliver it to people.

Being partial to newsletters, I'll tell you to start there first. But then to eventually take your newsletter articles and put them on a blog. And you can always do it the other way around - blog and then send your blog posts out by email. (I do a combination of both.)

Don't let indecision stop you from doing either. Pick one, do it well, and the other will fall into place more naturally.

originally published in Work Better, Not Harder July 8, 2015

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July 4, 2015

2 Reasons to Share your Newsletter Archive


Phew, your newsletter is done and sent. But that shouldn't be the last anyone sees of it. With the online version of your newsletter you can have readers anytime - not just when it gets published and not just those it gets emailed to.

#1. Use it as a Resource

If your newsletter is informational and useful beyond today, it can become a valuable resource, sort of like a blog.
  • Occasionally share a link to your archive as a post on your social media platforms.
  • Add it to the Resource page on your website if you have one.
  • Put a link to it in each newsletter issue - "Read past issues."
  • Place a call to action and link to your archive in your email signature.

Some newsletters just aren't as useful as a resource; perhaps you already publish the info on your blog or website, or it is time-sensitive. There's still a good reason to share your newsletter archive.

#2. Use it as an Example

The more clearly someone understands what they are signing up for, the more likely they will be to subscribe. Somewhere near your sign-up form include a link to your archive with a call to action: "Click here to check out our past issues." or "Click here to see what you'll be getting." or "Click here to see what you've been missing."

Get the most out of your newsletter by taking it beyond the emailbox. As a resource and an example, click here to see our newsletter archive.

photo by Aureusbay / Flickr

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June 29, 2015

How a Newsletter can make You a Trusted Resource


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June 23, 2015

Curate to Become a Trusted Resource

Whatever your specific goals are, your content needs to get read to have any impact and be valuable. It must be useful and interesting to get read. It must get read many times (consistency) to be trusted. You want to be that trusted resource.

I have a trusted resource for social media updates which is a great example of valuable curated content. Do any of us have time to keep up with all of the changes to the social media platforms? Yet we use them every day. I like to know about new functionality and new apps, but I don't have time to keep up. Getting a point form summary of all the changes in my inbox once a month is extremely valuable. It saves me time, I can dig deeper if I want, and I can use the information to make decisions about my social media strategy.

Curating content is a great strategy for providing timely updates about things that change fast. (Tweet This)

social media update section in newsletter
Want to see this great example? Click here to view Twirp Communications’ newsletter archive and open the most recent issue. You'll see there’s a section for social media updates. I love this format because it gives me a snippet of info - enough to decide if I want to know more - and a link to the details.

You don't have to be able to write to provide this kind of valuable information to your target market. But you do need to stay current and have a process to capture the info you gather. I asked Head Twirp Anita Kirkbride to tell me about her process.
Here's my three-step content curation process for my newsletter:
  1. After an issue goes out, I copy my Word template and rename it to the new month. Every time I hear about a new feature/change to a network, I copy the link and paste into the appropriate section of my template. Sometimes I write a sentence or two right then and link the article. But if I'm in a hurry, I paste the link in and do that later. These changes are usually things I see coming across my Facebook or Twitter feeds, and sometimes they come in emails from my favourite tech sources. 
  2. When my monthly deadline arrives, I go to the corporate blog of each network and scroll through the last month's news to see if there are any changes I've missed. If so, I add them to my template.
  3. I double check to ensure I've summarized all the links in layman's terms before sending for publishing.
If you are an expert, you should be keeping current. And if you're keeping current, gathering the information doesn't have to be a big chore. Anita’s process can be applied to just about any topic - give it a try for yours.

PS: You can sign up for Twirp's newsletter here. It's a great example of a sign-up page!

June 17, 2015

Take Time to Take Vacation


Does the thought of taking a vacation feel like work? Now that I'm my own boss, you'd think it'd be easy to take holidays. What I've come to realize is just the opposite.

Lately I've been thinking, “I need a real vacation.” By ‘real’ I mean a vacation where I’m not thinking about work or checking email or wondering if a newsletter got out on time or planning my next blog post. I've discovered there are two things that stop me from taking more vacations.

Money is an obvious reason. When I take vacation, I have to pay someone to work for me. For ‘billable’ work, this can mean that much of the revenue goes to expenses, and there is very little or no income for the vacation period. On top of that, I have to pay someone to do the things I do for ‘free’, such as responding to emails and phone calls. That quickly chews up any remaining revenue. And then there’s the cost of the vacation itself.

Really getting away from work is the other challenge. I received an email yesterday from a client on vacation who needed help to access her email remotely. I’m not the only one who finds it difficult to disconnect.

Here are the reasons why it’s so important that we do take vacations:
  • Relieve stress
  • Improve mental agility - a well-rested mind is often more creative
  • Improve physical health - by catching up on sleep and exercise
  • Spend more time with family
  • Enjoy life - smell the roses, relax on the beach, or lie under pine trees
It might feel like more work to plan a vacation, but our minds and bodies will thank us for the break.

photo by lindadaley / Flickr
originally published in Work Better, Not Harder June 17, 2015

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June 12, 2015

3 Wimpy Phrases to Avoid in a Newsletter


These three phrases come up repeatedly in newsletter content - I've edited them out many times. I bet you're familiar with them, too.

“I want to tell you about...”
This is similar to the verbal, “All I'm saying is...” which my husband has adopted lately, or “Here’s the thing...” In an email or newsletter, just go ahead and tell us. If you really want to set the stage for something important, try “I have exciting news...” (But don’t add “... and here it is!”)

“Feel free to contact me...”
Does this mean people aren't usually free to contact you? It sounds like you're giving permission. As a call to action, it’s very wimpy. Lacking something more creative, “Please call me to...” will be more effective.

“If you have questions...”
Often used with the line above, this one adds to the wimpy-ness. It’s more effective to assume people will have questions. Try “Call me with your questions.” or "I'm happy to answer your questions." Or pick a different reason for them to call you.

The short version? Stop beating around the bush. Make your content concise and to the point. These wimpy lines lack confidence!

Thanks to Kate MacLeod and Lily Herman for the inspiration!

June 7, 2015

Alert: How to Increase your Open Rate by 38.1%


I admit to having a bit of fun with that subject line but I'm not BSing you. Here is the statistic given by Adestra:

Using the word 'alert' in a subject line increases open rates by 38.1% (variance vs. average).
source: adestra.com/resources/infographics/4-steps-writing-killer-subject-line/

You have just participated in an experiment if you opened this post in your email - thanks!

If you can legitimately use 'alert' in your subject line, that's great. But beware - if your subject line is not relevant to the content within, you might get more opens but will lose credibility (and subscribers).

Another way to lose credibility is to quote incorrect information as fact. I originally stumbled across that statistic in an article by Hubspot: 19 Subject Line Stats Impacting Our Open Rates. This jumped off the page:

61.8% increase in opens when using the word 'alert' in subject lines. (Source:Adestra)

It seemed a little too good to be true and I immediately started plotting to use 'alert' in a subject line. I'm glad I decided to check the original source where I discovered that 61.8% applies to click rates, not open rates as quoted.

Be alert to opportunities to increase readership but use marketing advice strategically, not frivolously.

photo by Art&Music*Woo-Hoo / Flickr

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