August 31, 2016

Ink It when you Think It

Do you lose track of your great ideas? I do and I know my clients do, too.

I've written before about using an 'idea catcher'. Mine is a notepad but sometimes that's not good enough. Many people have said they get their best ideas in the shower (here's a tool for that), while driving or walking, or standing in line.

Our ideas are precious but fleeting, and it may not be easy to capture them all in one place. The important thing is to capture them somehow.

Handwritten notes: If your notebook isn't handy use the back of a receipt or a napkin. When you eventually write the article, include a photo of your note for visual interest.

Typed notes: There are many ways to capture your ideas if you're sitting at your computer. I tend to use Word for lengthier articles or series (kept in a folder called 'content ideas') and I start a draft on my blog for brief articles.

Phone or tablet: When you're out and about, use notepad apps, or send yourself a text message, email or even voicemail.

This article was inspired by a client who teaches memory techniques. Eileen Pease told me, "The faintest pencil mark is better than the best memory."

If you regularly think about your content, develop ideas, and record them, you'll never be at a loss when there's a deadline looming.

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August 23, 2016

Are You an Ad Agency of One?

Advertising agencies get paid big bucks to create witty, actionable slogans and calls to action. So what do us small businesses who can't pay big bucks do? The answer is not to call on a friend. And it's not to just ignore call to action opportunities.

It's you who has to develop those clever calls to action for your business. It can be stressful and time consuming. Pacing around the office doesn't help much but I continue to do it.

Keep your inhouse ad agency sharp by scheduling a weekly repeating 30-minute spot in your calendar for each of these activities below:
  1. Seek inspiration actively, not just when you stumble upon it. Check what experts in your industry are talking about. Find a free ecourse. Buy (and read!) a new business book.
  2. Find an inspiration buddy. We often find it easier to come up with ideas for other businesses. Reciprocate with another business owner by brainstorming together regularly.
  3. Stay current. It's so very easy to do a little research while sitting at your desk. This one is a no-brainer!
That's 90 minutes per week to work on your promotional messaging. You'll soon discover it's a worthwhile time investment.

originally published in Work Better, Not Harder August 23, 2016

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August 16, 2016

Does your Content Strategy Match your Small Business?


You sell services or you sell products, or you sell both. Whatever your product mix, a component of your small business content strategy needs to be informing potential customers about those products and services.

Make sure your promotional messages fit with, and flow from, your informational content. It’s a balancing act. We’re all familiar with the feeling of being blasted with too many repetitive sales offers (not good for us). At the other end of this spectrum is creating great information but having no call to action (not good for you).

Direct promotion
  • This includes things like advertising and special offers. A banner ad is pretty direct. A BUY NOW button is also pretty direct.
Indirect promotion
  • This is where you work your promotional messages into your informational content, writing articles that naturally lead into a call to action. Success stories are an example of this; at the end you can say something like, “If you want to feel like this, get in touch.” A ‘How to Start’ article is another example; you can add, “If you don’t want to go through all of this, call us and we’ll do it for you.”
Generally you’ll want to use some combination of direct and indirect promotion. This will vary from business to business. BUT your online marketing strategy should include making a decision about this ratio, and using it as a guide for creating content.

For a retail store whose strategy includes sales discounts and special offers, perhaps the ratio will be 80% direct and 20% indirect promotion. For a consultant, it might be the exact opposite.

You’ll also have a different ratio for all of the platforms where you are publishing content. For example, on your blog or in your newsletter many of the articles might contain indirect promotion (or none), and the sidebar may contain an ad for your latest book. On Twitter, experts recommend only 10% promotional content, and on LinkedIn there are other conventions.

Why is this important? If you don’t manage it well…
  1. Your target market will think you’re too ‘salesy’ and be turned off (too much promotional content) OR
  2. Your target market will not act because you’re not telling them to (not enough promotional content)
The ONLY way you will know if you’re doing it right is to monitor your platforms, and make tweaks based on results.

photo by Le_Morgy / Flickr

August 10, 2016

Why and How to Do a Wrap-up Article


A wrap-up article is a logical and unique grouping of pieces of content where the grouping provides value to the reader beyond the individual pieces on their own. You might think of it like a themed gift basket.

There are several reasons we need to be creating these wrap-up articles. They...
  1. serve as a great resource - valuable information grouped together
  2. use commonly searched keywords and phrases (good SEO)
  3. encourage deeper reading
  4. are often faster to create
  5. provide a process to repurpose past content
  6. remind us of what we've written and provide inspiration to write more
Wrap-up articles serve us better than just about any other content we might create. Of course, we have to be creating content on a regular basis to be able to wrap it up.

There are lots of different ways to group pieces of content:
  • by topic - e.g. content idea generation, writing tips
  • by use - e.g. how-to, conceptual, tips
  • by thing - e.g. infographics, videos
  • by user - e.g. for beginners, for experts
  • to conclude a series - e.g. after parts 1, 2, and 3
  • to continue a series of previous wrap-up articles (example)
After reading this far, if you don't already have your wrap-up concept, scan your past content.
  • On your blog, the fastest way to find content groupings is to use your keyword links. For example, you may have tagged all of your articles about being more productive with the keyword 'productivity'.
  • For both your blog and newsletter, review the titles in the archives. I recently put together a compilation of 'how-to' advice after reviewing a client's newsletter archive while she was on vacation.
Writing your wrap-up article can be as simple as writing an introduction, listing and linking the past articles, and writing a conclusion. Use the introduction or conclusion to explain why this particular content grouping is valuable and how to use the information.

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August 3, 2016

Content Ideas for Consultants - Teach Something (Part 3)


It's been said that the best way to become expert at something is to teach it and I've certainly found that to be true. Teaching forces us to research and prepare, to find the answers to tough questions, and to be open to feedback.

This is where you write an article (or more) to teach something but first I challenge you to learn something new that's relevant to your business.

If you've already been through Getting Started (Part 1) and Useful Content (Part 2), you've had some practise. Keep your momentum going with this exercise.

First, pick something to learn. This shouldn't be hard but, if you don't already know of something you want to learn, search topics for your industry online.

Next, do the learning. This might involve taking courses, talking to experts, online research, and so on. Be tuned in for blog-worthy content. How you choose your learning method can also be part of what you write about. Make notes along the way.

Now, teach. Your inclination might be to start with the big picture but I encourage you to start with the smaller pieces. One learning experience for you can result in many pieces of content. Don't try to teach it all in one article - create a list of topics and work to a plan.

If you want to take a simpler approach to this content creation technique, click here to get the 'What I Learned' content template and just fill in the blanks.

photo by University of Minnesota Duluth / Flickr

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