May 31, 2016

How to Deliver Valuable Content

If you’ve struggled with success when it comes to blogging, newsletters or even social media, it may be because you’re missing the essential ingredient - value. There are many things you can do right or wrong but, if you aren't giving value, the rest won't matter much.

Another thing I know for a fact is that giving value is work and requires commitment. If you're OK with a little hard work, let's get back to the part about giving value and look at ways to do that, along with some examples.

Content that is in short supply or in high demand

This is content can't be found anywhere else.
  • Insider information is a prime example. Or perhaps it’s time sensitive and can’t be gotten as fast anywhere else. An example is Mari Smith and her exclusive Facebook content. If you are the single source for information that people want, you’ve got it made.
  • Once you build your reputation, your opinions could also be included in this category. Many of you will already be familiar with Seth Godin’s daily blog. Your opinions can also garner a high level of interaction from many people. For an example, check out the Ethics Alarms blog by Jack Marshall.
Content that is unique, creative, useful, and interesting

I’ve grouped these attributes together because, when I tried to come up with examples for each, there was a lot of overlap.
  • Slightly different than sharing your opinion is sharing your expertise. This would include things like teaching, giving advice, and shortening a learning curve. One of my own most popular articles is How to Write the Introduction to Your First Newsletter.
  • Curation involves gathering information from a variety of sources and presenting it like a collection with a common theme. A great example of this is the social media update section in Twirp Communication’s monthly newsletter. Even our own Halifax Small Biz event listing qualifies here.
  • You can research to create content, or you can create content from what you’ve researched for another reason – the results might be useful to others. Recently I needed to acquaint myself with how the Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation applies to charities. It made sense for me to share my findings on my blog.
  • Your experiences are unique, as well as your interpretations of them. This content might also include aspects of research. A brilliant piece by Halifax blogger Laurie Dolhan caught my eye recently – extremely useful to crafty Haligonians. Even if you aren’t one, you can still appreciate its value.
  • Original work, such as skillful and entertaining writing, can be unique, creative and interesting in its own right. Beyond the written word, think video, audio and photographic. Rebecca Clarke’s photography blog may not be particularly useful (to me) but it sure has entertainment value.
Your newsletter (or blog) doesn't necessarily have to be about you or what you do but it does have to be valuable to be successful.

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originally published in Work Better, Not Harder on May 31, 2016

May 27, 2016

eNewsletters and Charities in Canada

If you Google "CASL and charities" (in Canada), you'll find lots of reading on the subject. I'm not going to repeat all that here but rather give a quick snapshot of how CASL (Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation) impacts charities.

CASL applies to 'commercial electronic messages'. This means that most (but not all) communications sent from charities are completely exempt from the requirements as they wouldn't be considered 'commercial'.

Soliciting donations is okey dokey, as long as the charitable donation # is included.

Things to be careful about (may void the exemption):
Even if a message is not exempt, it can still be sent as long as all of the usual CASL requirements are met.

More charities should be taking advantage of this! There are LOTS of things a charity could include in its newsletter strategy... and much more leeway with list building if CASL doesn't apply.

May 21, 2016

Do Not Disturb (with eMail)

Once a contact unsubscribes, you don't have (express or implied) permission to email them again... unless they opt back in themselves or initiate a business transaction with you.

While all of CASL may not be easy to understand, this is pretty straightforward.

The example shown here is a no-no. Depending on the audience, the reaction may be less severe, but I can't imagine sending an email to everyone who has unsubscribed from my own newsletter over the years inviting them to come back. While you might not object, and some might resubscribe, I'd be asking to be flagged as spam - and rightfully so.

While it's partly about respecting my fellow business owners, it's also about protecting my own reputation. Like any other parts of your business, when you get a bright email marketing idea, think it through (and even research) before jumping on the bus.

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May 16, 2016

eMail Productivity: Automate Customer Reminders

For small business owners, nurturing long term relationships is critical, so keeping in touch with past customers to encourage them to return is a worthwhile activity.

Dentists have been doing it for years with their cute cartoon postcards reminding us to book our next check-up. It's time to take that process online and use our bulk email application to automate it. And we can apply it to more than patients.

While this process can be handled exactingly by a workflow app, you don't need the expensive software to make it work for you. One of our long time clients, HealthWalks Shoe Store and Orthotic Clinic in New Glasgow, NS, has been sending reminders by email for a few years now.

Here's how it works...
  1. Initially I created the template based on a postcard HealthWalks had been mailing to customers one year after receiving their orthotics.
  2. Now, each month I receive a list of contacts who have just passed the anniversary date of when they received their orthotics. I simply add a new list in iContact, upload the contacts to it, and schedule the reminder. All of that takes me less than 10 minutes.

It's a much less costly approach to customer communication - as opposed to designing and printing postcards, addressing them, and running to the post office. Plus, it's tree-friendly.

If you're already doing some email marketing, make the most of your software to eliminate the need for paper and postage. Your bulk email app can make you more productive, aside from the marketing benefits. I bet you can think of at least one way to use this process in your business.

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May 12, 2016

Content Template - What I Learned

Using a content template is sort of like filling in the blanks on a form. It will get you started and make your writing time more productive.

The purpose of this content template is to help people learn something new... and the best way to learn it. Grab the What I Learned content template here (pdf).

Get More Templates

If you like this template, grab the mini workbook Quick and Easy Content Creation with 9 more templates, plus some tips for using them to be more productive.

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May 8, 2016

Content Ideas for Consultants - Getting Started (Part 1)

Just this week I heard it again: “If I start a newsletter, what would I put in it?” While I can think of lots of content ideas for just about any business owner I meet, it’s not so easy for everyone. In fact, it wasn’t always easy for me either. It gets easier, and you get better, with practice.

For consultants, there’s an added bonus to spending time creating marketing content and that's learning. Benjamin Franklin said, “There is no better way to learn than to teach.” Sharing valuable content is teaching and, when you’re creating content for your blog or newsletter, you’ll also be doing research, checking assumptions, and developing opinions.

If you’re a new business owner, or new to developing content, finding a place to start might feel like picking a needle out of a haystack. In this series of posts, I'll explain how to get started and accomplish other goals, too.

Build Your Confidence

Since confidence comes from writing about what you know, start with creating a list of the benefits of something related to your business.
  1. brainstorm a list of ‘somethings’ (a handful is great to start)
  2. start with the one you’re most comfortable with and list the benefits, just point form at first
  3. now your simple point form list can become different types of content (do at least 3 items from this list):
    • brief point-form - short blog, newsletter or social media post
    • lengthier written article - blog or newsletter
    • sentences - each benefit could be shaped into a Tweet or other social media post, or turned into a graphic for sharing on social media
    • visual display - simple infographic
    • video, audio - you speaking about or demonstrating the benefits
    • taglines and headlines - for promotion
    • consider adding to your website if it makes sense
  4. go back to 2 and pick another ‘something’
If you have trouble with benefits, don’t let that stop you. Try ‘what not to do’ or ‘what you need to know’, instead. (Click here to get simple content templates to help with these types of articles.)

Already you have enough content work to keep you busy for a couple of months. Once you get bored with this, move onto Part 2 which will be about creating marketing content that saves you time.

photo by AnyaLogic / Flickr

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May 3, 2016

The Lazy Approach to Blogging

Here's how the lazy approach works: don't blog for the sake of keeping a schedule; only blog when you have something to say. Have you heard that advice yet?

Pretty simple, eh? No pressure at all. Just push a post out whenever the mood strikes, and if it doesn't... oh well.

Here are the benefits of adopting this schedule-less strategy:
  • No commitment to readers. They won't be expecting anything so if you reach their inbox, maybe it'll be a surprise. Or maybe they won't know who you are.
  • No pressure to keep current. This is a clear benefit in a business world of constant change.
  • You can call yourself an expert. Your ideas are so captivating that you only need to have 3 or 4 a year. (Maybe I'm confusing this with a guru.)
  • No wasted time communicating with readers. Relationships take up precious time, after all.
  • No stress - ever - about meeting a deadline.

If you haven't guessed yet, I think this is a bunch of nonsense. If you want to excel at content marketing and reap the real benefits, you need to build relationships and that happens by delivering value on a consistent basis to become a trusted resource.

photo by vszybala. / Flickr

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