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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June 1, 2015

Why a lot of eMail Marketing Advice is Wrong


You might be thinking I'm off my rocker using that subject line, since I regularly dish out email marketing advice. The thing to remember is that almost all the advice you'll read is situational.

One expert will say that subject lines like "Wow" or "Hey" work best, while another will tell us to avoid them at all costs.

Because I have experience with informational marketing for small businesses in particular, I evaluate all of the advice I read in that context. Sometimes I get great ideas that I can use with one or more clients, but rarely do I read anything new that would apply to all of them. That's because a really successful email campaign needs to be specific in its strategy.

Here are some of the things that will affect your strategy:
Understanding these important distinctions and then creating a strategy that takes them into account is not as simple as reading some general advice online. There is no universal set of golden rules for email marketing and that's good because following rules gets boring.

It takes experience to know what works when, or to predict the results of certain tactics. Like all things in life, listen to advice but realize that its application is limited and how those limitations might affect you.

photo by QnD2011 / Flickr

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