April 27, 2015

Content Creation (Wrap-Up #4)

This is our fourth installment of content creation wrap-up posts - a library of links to all of our articles about creating interesting and useful content from January 2014 through April 2015.

Planning is an important process because it forces you to think, to research, to consider, to brainstorm - to be creative. Our Yearly Content Planning Worksheet will help get you organized.

I'm a big fan of repurposing content and infographics will appeal to a different audience than text. Read Repurpose Articles into Infographics to get tips on how to do this.

Your content strategy wouldn't be complete without having a look at what others are doing. Read Research to Develop your Content Strategy for activities you can engage in regularly, perhaps quarterly, to keep current.

We all get stuck for ideas now and then. I've found some tools to help me get past that. You can get links to them in Idea Challenged? Here's 3 Tools.

When looking for images to go with my articles, usually I want a look that is less staged than a purchased stock photo. As an alternative I go Searching for Creative Commons Images.

Craft your message so that negative emotions, like guilt and helplessness, are overcome by positive, empathetic ones. Read Does your Content make your Readers feel Guilty? for some tips on how to do this.

If one of your newsletter goals is to make a personal connection with your readers, A Personal Introductory Message from you is a nice touch. This message should contain your personality, but it shouldn't be all about you.

Even if you don't like writing, a newsletter is still possible. Find out How to Publish a Newsletter without Writing and get some great suggestions.

In Newsletter Ideas for Real Estate Professionals find lots of ideas to incorporate into your newsletter strategy if your goal is to provide useful and interesting info which will make you a trusted resource.

The next time you're feeling that what-am-I-going-to-write-about stress, check out this list of Reusable Content Ideas to get you Unstuck. All of these triggers can give you topics to write about immediately.

Aside from possibly saving you time, there's a strategic reason to recycle your ideas, too. Not everyone has read everything you've written. Read How to Recycle your Ideas for ways to expand on your past content.

In Newsletter Ideas for Business Networking Associations you'll find relevant, useful and interesting ideas to engage your members and potential members.

There are 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. Can't Write? Try Research.

When you want your potential customer to feel more of a personal connection with you, offering more of yourself via an audio greeting is another step closer to making your way into their hearts and minds. In Adding Audio to your Content, Part 1 and Part 2, voice actor Natasha Marchewka explains how even novices can create audio content.

Whether it's an article title, a blog post title, a subject line or a call to action, there is no doubt that crafting a good one takes a little art and a little science. Crafting a Title to Get Read means using keywords and phrases that people might search for.

Looking for past content creation wrap-ups? Wrap-up #1 - Wrap-up #2 - Wrap-up #3

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April 18, 2015

Design Colour Trends for Fall 2015

Digital colour trends will often follow the fashion industry. Here are the colours for Fall 2015 from Pantone.

click to enlarge

"An Evolving Colour Landscape: This season displays an umbrella of accord that weaves earthy neutrals with a range of bold colour statements and patterns to reflect a landscape of hope, fun, fantasy and all things natural."

Missed the Spring 2015 colours? See them here.

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April 14, 2015

Adding Audio to your Content - Part 2

Natasha working in her studio
*** Click to listen in rather than read

Creating and sharing audio content makes good business sense for me as a voice actor. In Adding Audio to your Content, Part 1, I mentioned that ALL business owners and sales people could benefit from adding the element of audio, not just those of us who are selling our voice.

What to say?
  • Introduce your business, or yourself, with a recorded greeting. (Here’s an example.)
  • An elevator pitch - a compelling 30-60 second story of what you do...
  • A call to action - something you would like the listener/reader to do – sign up for your blog, call you, order your product...
  • A summary, or explanation, of your services.

But where and how do you add audio content?

Your blog site will (likely) allow you to add an audio file anywhere in the body. Sharing your blog will then share your audio, too.

Want to share it in your newsletter or on social media?

Upload your audio to SoundCloud. You can share it directly from there OR you can paste link to anything, anywhere. While Facebook and LinkedIn don’t attach audio files, sharing it through SoundCloud resolves that, or embed a link right into your newsletter or website.

Adding audio content can be very easy. It doesn't have to be highly produced with music or sound effects. A dry audio file (one with no production behind it) is perfectly acceptable. And, recording a professional sounding piece isn't difficult, if you have the right equipment... a microphone, a free download of Audacity or other recording software, and off you go.

Be sure to receive feedback from others as to whether or not your voice and your finished product hold up to your own high standards. You don’t want a shoddy recording or a weak sounding voice representing you.

Alternatively, a voice talent can help you record your own voice at a low cost. Consider hiring a Presentation Skills coach to improve your delivery OR hiring a voice talent to record an audio clip that would represent your business professionally.

originally published in Work Better, Not Harder April 14, 2015

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Sharing as a Strategy

I advocate sharing your best with your audience if your goal is to be seen as an expert. Give them your best advice, express your opinions, share your top tips and tricks, tell them about great tools you have found and share the benefits you gained by using them. I regularly encounter resistance to this strategy. The worry seems to be that if you share your best, they won't need you. This is a false worry.

When you are expert at anything, you will lose a layman pretty quickly - always before the point where they could accomplish the same results they would get if they hired and worked with you. It is usually beginners that sharing your opinions will help... to a point. There will be a certain number of followers that will read everything and use your advice to follow your plan. Content is published in very small packets so it would take a lot for someone to be able to piece a whole plan together. Those people will find someone else to follow if you are not publishing the content. You would rather they follow you because then you are the expert they refer.

The number of people that can follow through on their education, without hiring you, will be very marginal. People will need to hire you for motivation, inspiration, support, accountability and understanding. As an expert, it would be difficult to accomplish what you teach - without a you in the equation.

You will gain clients who:
  • realize they cannot be successful without your help
  • simply do not understand the more complex parts of what you teach
  • succeed on their own, attribute that to your help and refer to you
All of those are positive outcomes.

originally published in Work Better, Not Harder April 14, 2015

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Once You're Hooked...

I came across what seemed like an amazing deal on web hosting. Because I'm very familiar with the company making the offer, I paused to have a better look.

Wow, I was thinking, they're really cutting prices to get business. Because I'm familiar, it also seemed a little out of character. So, I went hunting for the small print and there it was in tiny light grey at the bottom. Only 99 cents a month but it only applies to the first month.

How many people are going to feel a little ripped off or a little stuck when they realize what they signed up for? Quite a way to deflate a new website experience.

Now I know there are all sorts of businesses that use a prepaid subscription model. It's easy to to say all the info is there, but what if your customers don't understand it? It's a business model that relies on uneducated consumers.

Wouldn't it be better to have a business model where people know exactly what they're signing up for and exactly what the costs will be? That would actually be a bit novel, perhaps even a bit unexpected.

Having customers who want to work with you rather than customers who feel trapped is going to be much more effective for business growth.

photo by SomeDriftwood / Flickr
originally published in Work Better, Not Harder April 14, 2015

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April 10, 2015

Crafting a Title to Get Read

Whether it's an article title, a blog post title, a subject line or a call to action, there is no doubt that crafting a good one takes a little art and a little science.
"The job of the headline is to get the first line of your copy read."
For every article, I could write 4 titles:
  1. the simple straightforward one that says what it's all about - it's useful and truthful
  2. the catchy or clever one - the content adds context to the title once you start reading
  3. the teaser that hints at the content, but is meant to garner opens rather than be useful
  4. the version for SEO using keywords and phrases that people might search for
I tend to start with #1 because it's often the idea that I jotted down to write about. After I finish writing, I might come up with a couple of choices that are more like #2. I tend to avoid #3 except in certain circumstances. Then a friend started talking about #4.

I resisted because it kind of felt like selling out. Giving up a #2 for a #4 just didn't feel right. After all, keyword phrases are commonly used and not unique. Then I decided to experiment. Just one at first. Then another a few weeks later. And now I do it more frequently but certainly not always.

sample of keyword searches that led readers to my blog
Now there's no doubt that using keyword phrases in subject lines has increased traffic to my blog. I know this three ways:
  1. traffic arriving through Google search has increased significantly and it's now the highest referrer
  2. readership of those posts tends to be higher than others that aren't as SEO-ish
  3. I can often find myself on page 1 when searching relevant keyword phrases
I'm not really sure why I didn't start sooner. Kind of silly when I'm obviously writing in the hope that others like you will read and find value!

April 6, 2015

The Myth of Double Opt-in

One day, not so many years ago, an email marketer with big glasses and a funky haircut decided to add a bunch of people he didn't know to his email list. When he got complaints, instead of owning up and politely offering to remove them, he said, “I didn't do that. Someone else must have signed you up.” This geeky guy was the first of many.

And so, the myth of the mysterious newsletter signer-upper was born.

The email marketing industry somehow had to address this strange phenomenon. How could they keep these signer-uppers from signing other people up?

And so, the double opt-in process was born.

Of course, this made it really difficult for the signer-uppers to cause mayhem. No longer did signer-uppers gather on Friday nights over beer to wreak havoc on the email marketing world.

Now the experts, who not so many years ago were preaching that having a double opt-in process was a must, are saying that maybe it’s not so necessary anymore.

I have yet to meet anyone that is or ever was a signer-upper and I've never been the brunt of signer-upper trickery. Now really, who does that?

Double opt-in:
  • is not required by any law in Canada or the U.S.
  • is for you (mitigating risk), not your subscriber (a pain in the ...)
  • has only a 40% chance of being completed and, because you asked once, you don't have permission to ask again (CASL), so the contact is lost to you
  • means you're sending your subscriber an email that has NO VALUE for them

When someone expresses an interest by subscribing, don’t turn it into work for them by making them do it twice.