March 31, 2016

Bragging Writes

You'll see in this newsletter that success stories make great marketing content. There's positive emotion around a good story - we like to read them and share them. It's a bonus that they come in many different forms: testimonials, case studies, photos of happy customers or completed work, statistics, even video.

Success stories can also be assembled in a lot of different ways. For example:
  • written by you, or by your client
  • spontaneous (such as on Twitter), or solicited
  • about your products and services, or about your business itself (for example, a 10 year anniversary)
  • short or long (useful for different purposes)
  • numerical or graphic (such as statistics)
Don't stop at collecting testimonials. There are many more ways to tell your story.

originally published in Work Better, Not Harder March 30, 2016

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March 30, 2016

How to Flip Off 250,000 People

"No longer are we padding our metrics with vain, inflated subscribers who ultimately harm our deliverability and email performance. Instead, we're keeping our email list smaller, but way healthier and more effective."

Apparently their metrics are more important than goodwill, mistake or not.

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March 24, 2016

Guest Post: Trust and Your Reputation

Your reputation is what people are saying about you behind your back. Shouldn’t you have some control over what is being said?

Reputation and trust are two words that are often intermingled. There is a big difference though. Your reputation is a backward view of what has happened, while trust is forward thinking. One affects the other. Trust is based on positive expectations of what you or your company can deliver in the future.

If I decide to do business with you, I'm going to check your reputation. What are people saying about you? What did you deliver? How quickly did you resolve problems? Now with a quick search, I can find out a lot about a person's reputation in business by looking at reviews that were posted. Everything from eBay to hotel chains to pizza deliveries are judged in real time and this will affect buying decisions.

Imagine you are working with a client who has paid a good sum of money to have you train their staff. So far your sales have all been from referrals from satisfied customers. Your reputation is what people trust. Now the new client wants to cut corners. Instead of four days of training, they want you to do it in two. The manager who agreed to participate in the training so they could champion and ensure that others followed the program is a no-show. How will this affect your reputation and future business? Trust and reputation go hand in hand, and you have to be able to see the big picture rather than the immediate paycheck.

The work you do is not only about the income you make. It is about getting results. In order to keep your reputation and be known as trustworthy, you have to be willing to have difficult conversations with clients, and occasionally be willing to fire them.

originally published in Lea Brovedani's newsletter, March 16, 2016

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March 18, 2016

8 Tips to Improve Readability

Readability is defined as the ease with which a written text can be understood by a reader. (The Free Dictionary)

While this definition certainly includes your words, sentences, grammar and writing style, it also has to do with the overall look of the text. Here are some tips to make your content look good, whether it's a newsletter, blog or website.

#1. Use a slightly larger font size than you typically would when using Word, unless your content is lengthy. This ensures it will be easy to read on small screens and for those whose eyesight isn't perfect. Also consider using black or a dark colour as your font colour for the same reasons.

#2. Avoid too much bold. Use bold sparingly to highlight the really important things, perhaps no more than once per paragraph.

#3. Include whitespace around text and images, and between sections. Pictures look better and text is easier to read.

#4. Use bulleted or numbered lists to simplify complex information. This provides clarity for your reader.

#5. Use short sentences and paragraphs to break up big blocks of text. At a glance, several big blocks of text can seem overwhelming. You don't want your reader to save it for later.

#6. Be consistent with your fonts, colours, spacing and images. Otherwise these items will distract your reader from your text. After all, you want them to find value in your writing, not think about all the pictures (well, unless you're a photographer).

#7. Use diagrams and examples when it makes sense. If you are explaining something complex, consider adding a visual to help understanding.

#8. Don't use underline except for links. It can be confusing as people expect underlined text to be a link.

Improving your writing skill will always pay off but these are things you can do immediately to improve your readability.

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March 14, 2016

Your Content Quality Check

When you're buried in details, it's hard to see the big picture. That's not news to you or anyone else.

To get out of the trees and above the forest, consider adding one final quality control check to your content creation process. Whether you are writing for your blog, newsletter or social media platforms, before you hit that PUBLISH button, ask yourself:

"What value will my target market get from this?"

If you can't articulate the value, your target market is unlikely to be able to, either. Think about it from your reader's perspective. How would they describe your article to someone else when they're (hopefully) raving about it? It might be something like: "Check out this blog post about xxxxx. It's got great tips you can use right away."

What if you can't articulate the value? Start editing right away, or put it aside and come back to it with fresh eyes later. I have a folder of article drafts that I've rejected because the value wasn't clear, and that folder is one of my 'idea triggers' when I'm looking for something to write about. Ideas can improve with age.

By adding this quick little check to your content creation process, you'll ensure your readers keep coming back.

photo by Neuwieser / Flickr

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March 10, 2016

My Essential Small Business Tools (Part 2)

A sequel to My Essential Small Business Tools (Part 1), I hope you haven't been holding your breath waiting. I compiled my list a year and a half ago and, after pulling it out to write this article, was happy to discover that it hasn't changed. I'm still using the same applications and that speaks to their real usefulness.

Here are the remaining items on my list of handy dandy tools I use daily or weekly.

Canva for Work
This program intrigued me right from the start. It makes simple graphic design easy for the inexperienced. While I’ve been doing digital designing of some form for close to 20 years, Canva saves me time with its Abracadabra Resize. It’s not robust, like Photoshop, but it’s not meant to be. Simple and fast, I use it every single day.

I use this as my primary Twitter interface. It also helps me manage my planned posts when it’s convenient for me. I use it to schedule my daily enewsletter tips for Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+. The option to save drafts saves a ton of time.

This is a powerful tool that you can use on your blog, newsletter, website... anywhere that you can enter a url. You'll find one at the bottom of this post. Click here to read my previous article about it.

This one can boost your productivity big time. It's another one I've already written about - click here to find out more.

A list of my daily tools isn't complete without mentioning email marketing. For 8 years, I've been using iContact to turn out marketing messages for clients and myself. I've tried the rest (well, lots of them) and this is the best. We have an agency account which also allows us to offer some bonuses to our clients.

March 5, 2016

Write without "I"

It's surprisingly difficult to write a blog article without using the word "I". Removing "I" completely is not your goal. But whittling down its use could be.

How do you know when you have a problem? When every paragraph starts with "I", that's a good signal. (Guilty here.)

We want to connect with our readers and that will involve sharing our thoughts, feelings and experiences. Hard to do without using "I" sometimes. But remember, this is marketing and it's not about you.

Here are a few things to consider:
  • Bury the leading "I", especially at the beginning of a paragraph, by reorganizing the sentence.
  • Don't substitute the "I" with a past participle. For example, "I wrote in my journal" is still better than "my journal was written in".
  • Put yourself in your reader's shoes. Come at the topic from a different angle. Think about how a reader might retell your message to someone else. Reorganize your thoughts and your sentences.
  • Eliminate unnecessary "I" stories. It's natural to want to talk about ourselves but consider how many "I"s are really necessary to get the point across.
  • Edit without mercy. All of these are things that may be best done after you've had your creative time, during editing.
Writing an article without using "I" can be done - you've just read one. Well... sort of.

photo by Kmeron / Flickr