February 27, 2015

A Different Name for Conversation

I've had people look at me a little oddly when I say that a newsletter (or blog) is a great way to build relationships and start conversations. That's because a newsletter is often thought of as one-way communication - a broadcast, like a newspaper.

I find myself at a bit of a loss when it comes to describing what I mean, even though I've seen it happen countless times. This quote I found recently on Twitter sums it up nicely:

Writing, when properly managed, is but a different name for conversation.
- Laurence Sterne

There is a way of writing that connects with your readers and draws them in. You can tell when you're achieving this by the replies you get after your newsletter goes out. That is the start of the conversation and then it's up to you to keep it going.

photo by Ed Yourdon / Flickr

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February 23, 2015

Guest Post: Designed for Success

Melanie's newsletter
The thought of designing a newsletter for a designer was a little daunting, but I jumped at the opportunity when Melanie Orr of Interiors by Melanie first approached me. I recently asked her to tell me how it's helping her small business and this is what she wrote...
My newsletter guru, Linda Daley, recently pointed out that I've passed my three year anniversary of sending out my online newsletter. I hardly believed it, yet I know why I have been successful with this strategy: it has been such an easy and enjoyable monthly endeavour. It is also a very effective way to stay in touch with clients and reach out to new potential clients.
My newsletter is the one strategy I am consistent with and do without fail. Linda schedules my issues for the year in advance and, because I have promised someone other than myself, I meet this schedule. This in turn ensures regular posting on media platforms, on my own blog, and updates to my website, as I share the newsletter. I’m always busy, and often don’t get to that post or blog I intended to do, but I always get my newsletter written.
Every issue brings comments and business from readers. That’s an amazing return on my time and investment.
Linda and her team are wonderful. It takes me about half a day each month to write the content and choose pictures to insert, and they do the rest to make it user friendly, easy to read, and beautiful. Then they send it out to my list of contacts and onto my social media platforms. It’s easy to add and remove contacts, and I can access analytics, such as how many are reading a particular issue.
As a professional in the home décor business, I believe it is critical that my newsletter reflect an understanding of great design. I like to have input into how the newsletter looks; Linda is more than qualified to do this yet supports my interference when I get a new idea. I love that she will change the whole layout occasionally when I get the urge.
When Linda gives me the schedule for the upcoming year, I pencil in ideas for each issue. Colours and styles change every year and I help keep my readers abreast of what’s trending. Decorating for holidays is fun, and spring is a big time for home selling so staging ideas are important. Maybe I have a trip planned to another part of the world where I can discover new decorating ideas, or I’m scheduled to speak at an event which my readers would find interesting. The description of a particular staging or decorating job may be a perfect way to share tips and tools. Anything happening in the news which is design related can trigger an article. The more you think about it, the more possible topics there are. Readers are encouraged to let me know if there are topics or questions they would like to see addressed. I keep a file with topics for newsletters and blogs, and I tuck in testimonials, too, so they are handy when I need one.

Interiors by Melanie has been serving the décor and staging needs of the Halifax area since 2004. Melanie can be reached at 902-223-3237 or online at interiorsbymelanie.com.

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February 19, 2015

Can't Write? Try Research

I've heard a lot of small business owners say they can’t publish a blog or newsletter because they can’t write. I think you don’t know till you try, but let’s say that’s a valid reason. There are still ways to create content on a regular basis without writing articles. One of those is researching and compiling information that’s valuable to your target market.

Valuable compilations need not be lengthy or onerous to assemble. BUT they should be two things: interesting and useful. Plus funny - funny is good, but humour in email can be tricky. Use it with care. These compilations can be factual, but don’t need to be. Instead they can represent your opinion.

Here are some examples, in this case for a target market of small business owners in Nova Scotia. You can use these ideas as a jumping off point for creating your own lists of valuable content for your target market.

  • Top 10 Coffee Shops for Business Meetings in Halifax
  • 15 Most Useful Apps for Small Business Owners
  • Networking Groups in Halifax
  • Upcoming Small Business Events
  • 5 Best Blogs for Small Business
  • 10 Facebook Pages to Like for Business Tips
  • Follow these 12 Local Tweeters for Community Info
  • 8 Options for Ordering Business Cards
  • Best Places to Hold a Workshop in Halifax
  • How to Advertise at the Airport
  • Where to get Funding for Professional Development
  • 10 Best Marketing Books
  • New Housing/Commercial Developments in the Halifax Area
  • 3 Best Places to Buy a Domain Name
  • A Complete List of Conference Centres in Nova Scotia

A successful newsletter doesn’t necessarily require writing articles. A different approach might be just what your target market wants.

photo by therealrealjd / Flickr
originally published Work Better, Not Harder February 19, 2015

Tweet: Can't Write? Try Research http://ctt.ec/XcgFa+ via @DaleyProgress

Think About Your Reader

I advocate reading what you share but, to save time, I have a short list of experts that I share without reading first. They are experts I have vetted and trust. For the most part, they have the same philosophy that I do. One of the experts on my list was a bulk email software company that shares great statistics, infographics and a few good tips.

I received an email from them that had an awesome download full of updated email statistics. I was immediately excited to have something to share quickly. Ooops. No sharing buttons in the email - which meant I did not share it. I went on to the next email. I can't afford to get distracted from my inbox. I went from excitement about sharing their content, to not sharing it at all. In 10 seconds.

Later, I came back to that email and clicked through to their website. My intent was to follow them on social media to easily share their content that way. It took me far too long to find their buried social media links and when I did, there were no social media connection links. I could Like or Tweet, but not click through to their profiles to browse, like and follow. Suddenly, they didn't seem so expert anymore. That change of heart took 20 seconds.

The result was that I removed them from my list of experts I share without reading first. They went from sending me something I was excited to share to being removed from my list of experts with one email, in 30 seconds.

I've said it many times. Think about your reader before you publish any content. Why are they reading? What is keeping them engaged with you? What do they expect from you? A single email can change everything from your reader's perspective.

Yes, I made a too quick, too harsh judgment, but the result affects the quality of my content. My reputation rides on my content. And the truth is, making sharing easy is basic email marketing. If they were experts, they would know that.

originally published Work Better, Not Harder February 19, 2015

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February 12, 2015

eMail Marketing for Business Networking Associations

Business networking groups are in a unique position to grow their subscriber list exponentially faster than many other organizations. This also means they're in a fine position to benefit from providing useful and interesting content to their subscribers. Unfortunately this opportunity is often wasted.

A networking group will benefit from building a mailing list and sending out a regular newsletter because:
  • It reminds subscribers of upcoming meetings and agendas.
  • It encourages non-members to attend as guests.
  • It can market the benefits of membership to non-members.
  • It’s a way of staying top-of-mind within the association’s community.
  • It provides a way to promote and seek sponsors for big events, like annual fundraisers.
  • Creating valuable content is relatively easy.
On top of all this, associations can make use of a private list to communicate with members about members-only information.

February 7, 2015

What's best when... Phone vs. eMail

Over coffee at Starbucks last summer, Mary Jane Copps, The Phone Lady, and I were chatting about the benefits of using the phone versus email for business communication. We decided to take our debate to the public.

In September, we announced that comedian Lianne Perry would be our MC for the live debate scheduled for November 5, 2014, at the Westin Hotel in Halifax. We launched a website, online votes started to tally, and ticket sales began.

Mary Jane and I took the debate online with articles on our blogs. Mary Jane started with her blog post When You Say "Hmmmm". "When reading an email, if at any point you go “Hmmm, I wonder what they mean by that?” ...pick up the phone!" (Click to Tweet this!)

I continued the debate with 7 Tips for Communicating Details by eMail, one of the big benefits of email over the phone. Next I wrote about The Speed of eMail. "If you need to reach a lot of people fast and at the same time, email is definitely the medium of choice." (Click to Tweet this!)

In Are You Being Received? Mary Jane wrote, "When you send email to someone you've never corresponded with before, or rarely correspond with, the odds are against you in terms of them:  1) receiving it and/or 2) reviewing it."

At one point, Mary Jane even tried to intimidate me by revealing her own past debating experience!

As the results of the online voting started to trend, Mary Jane and I both agreed that they were quite surprising! What we didn't tell anyone beforehand was that the phone was leading right from the start, and the gap continued to grow. Our sold-out event was fun and challenging... a success! The telephone won both the online and live votes.

We developed an infograph to illustrate that choosing your mode of communication is often critical. This is our best advice on what's best in some common situations:

click to enlarge

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February 3, 2015

Selling your Newsletter on Social Media

Once you've started your mailing list and are working to turn subscribers into fans, don't stop selling your newsletter. You'll lose about 30% of your subscribers over a year, so continuing to build your list is important.

One way to encourage sign-ups is on your social media accounts and profiles. "Please sign up!" doesn't cut it. You need a compelling call to action. Here's a great example I found on Twitter from my friend and organizing guru Jane Veldhoven.

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