August 12, 2017

When is a Discount a Gift?


If you give someone a $25 giftcard to a shop where the lowest priced item is $50, is it a gift?

What if a complete stranger gifts you 50% off the price of a conference ticket? Is that a gift?

The headline said: Our Gift to You: A Special Discount for Generators Summit. When I followed the link in the email to get my gift, I was taken to an Eventbrite ticket purchase page. Currently I can get the early bird price. What a generous gift... not.

Usually I would tweet or otherwise share information about such an interesting event, even if I won't attend. This particular event is actually getting a whole blog post.

Be aware of the perceptions of people opening your emails or clicking on your links. Using the word 'gift' in any marketing context is tricky because it mixes up social values with economic values. Just because others do it, doesn't mean it's right (for you).

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August 7, 2017

How to Get More Likes, Comments and Shares


You've been in business many years, perhaps even back before social media came on the scene. You're an expert at something that isn't creating social media graphics. Yet you know how important it is to share engaging visual messages on your business social media feeds every day.

That's where BeeSeen.Online comes in - ready-made social media images to instantly start a buzz on your feeds. Simply download, brand and post.

If you've been looking for a way to maintain engaging content on your feeds while saving time, BeeSeen.Online is for your small business.

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July 29, 2017

Do You Need an Editorial Calendar?


An editorial calendar makes it easy for people to work together, helping them follow a plan.

What if there's only you in your business? Does it make sense to create an editorial calendar? Absolutely, but for different reasons.

If your plan is in your head, writing it out will reduce stress - now you don't have to remember it. Handwriting activates the creative part of your brain and your memory. More importantly, having a plan will prep your brain to be on the lookout for appropriate content.

You can use fancy spreadsheets, or find a detailed editorial calendar online. You can use coloured file cards, sheets of paper, or a whiteboard. The most important thing is that it works for y-o-u. It doesn't have to be like anyone else's editorial calendar.

Of course, before you create an editorial calendar, you need to generate a bunch of content ideas.

If you are like me, your content ideas may not be well organized. Creating an editorial calendar forces you to create organization among the chaos (another benefit).

Here are three suggestions for creating your editorial calendar. These are simple and easily customized (even combined) to work for any small business owner who doesn't need a super fancy system for managing content plans.

#1. Big Picture View (whiteboard)

This is my preferred planning tool. It's very fast and keeps my plan top of mind as it's propped by my desk. I use two sheets of white corrugated plastic (backs of old transit signs). One is my active editorial calendar, reaching out for 6 months. The second becomes my active calendar as time goes on and plans change.

#2. Monthly or Weekly View (paper)

Another simple method - you already have everything you need at your desk. Use sheets of (coloured) paper, one for each month or week, as you prefer to plan. Transfer your content ideas from your idea catcher to your sheets on a regular schedule, perhaps once a week. Keep these sheets in a folder on your desk, or pinned up side-by-side near your desk. The more in-your-face, the better.

#3. Flexible View (file cards)

If you've read any of Sue Grafton's mysteries, you know her private investigator Kinsey Millhone uses file cards to organize clues and generate new leads. Put all your content ideas on separate (coloured) file cards; this makes it easy to add inspiration as it comes to you. To organize your ideas, grab some (coloured) envelopes and label them by month/week, or whatever works for you. Sort your file cards into the envelopes, or use elastic bands and tags. As a bonus, these cards are mobile-friendly; throw them in your briefcase and review while waiting for your first coffee meeting. Carry around a few blanks for those ideas that hit you on the fly. To change your perspective, shuffle the cards as Kinsey does.

The only way to make an editorial calendar work best for you is to try it, and revise. Start somewhere. Make sure it is easily accessed, visual and tactile. Use stickers and highlighting to spark inspiration!

originally published in Work Better, Not Harder newsletter July 27, 2017

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July 24, 2017

Storage for Great Ideas - Back of Book (BOB)


Do you often flip to the back page of your notebook to jot down content ideas? If not, start!

When I'm teaching small business classes about online marketing, I insist they start a page in the back of their notebooks for jotting down ideas for blog or social media posts. This page will extend beyond one, but it's the start of something great. BOB (for back of book) becomes a new friend... your idea catcher.

When you are looking for something to write about or post, check your BOB for ideas.

July 18, 2017

Quick Prep for Business Phone Calls


Imagine this happened to you earlier today...

You chatted on the phone for two hours with one of your favourite customers. You both laughed a lot and enjoyed catching up. It had been a while since you had a relaxed conversation with her. You're smiling as you hang up the phone.

Then reality strikes. A quick check of the time and your to-do list confirms you've lost control of your day. Your smile fades. You aren't feeling as cheery as you did a few minutes before. Now you'll have to hustle and compromise the rest of the day.

And that's not the worst impact. Your favourite customer is in exactly the same situation. She hung up smiling, too, but quickly realized the impact on her day. (I suspect this story may ring true for some of my customers.)

Here are a couple of things I try to remember to do so a friendly chat doesn't go too far off track:

  1. Jot down on paper a short list of points to cover during the call. I can use it as a reminder to bring the focus back to business.
  2. Ask up front how much time is available. Does the other person have time to chat, or should we get right down to business?

No doubt about it, I love to chat. That's why it's important to remember how it can impact my own and others' time. Please share more tips in the comments.

(Yes, Mary Jane, I'm sharing a phone tip!)

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July 13, 2017

One Little Word Can Go A Long Way


It's 2pm on a Thursday afternoon. I've been out all morning and discover urgent requests from two different customers as soon as I'm back at my desk. I already have a full plate for the afternoon and immediately realize I'm not going to be able to help both customers. I have to pick one over the other. Who do I pick?

The one who always says "Thanks!" It's a no-brainer.

Manners and respect will never go out of style. And they absolutely give you a one-up over those lacking... in business and in life.

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July 8, 2017

How to Get People to Open Your Emails


How long did you think about the subject line of that email you just sent to your brand new client? Will they be interested or excited to open it? Or will they leave it sitting unopened, floating closer to the bottom of their inbox?

I've discovered a little quirk. In fact, it feels more like a secret I shouldn't acknowledge, maybe even a tad manipulative. It didn't start out that way but now I know what I know... well, I can't un-know it.

Here it is. If I send an email to any of my work friends with the words 'no rush' in the subject line, it's likely to get opened faster than any other email I send them.

Of course, this may not work any longer once my friends read this article. But let me be clear, I've never used that knowledge to manipulate. And that's why it works. When I send an email with 'no rush' in the subject line, I really mean there's nothing inside requiring their attention soon. Usually it's a business idea in some form or other, thoughts that percolated while I worked.

From their perspective, perhaps something that's not a rush sounds more interesting than something that is. Putting the potential for reverse psychology aside, there's more than one lesson here.

First, it seems that over time I've figured out an effective way to communicate ideas to my confederates.

Second, and much more important, we can all do this with every email we send. I'm not talking about manipulating people. This is about building (dare I say) best practices over time that work efficiently for us and the people we communicate with most.

In the example above, I used the words 'no rush' in my subject line to make a distinction about the content of the email. Words aren't our only tool. We have all used urgent or privacy flags in email. And even formatting options, like ALL CAPS or exclamation marks - but discerningly!

We can all make our subject lines more useful. And we have easy tools to help us do that. This will mean less time spent in our inboxes and less of the accompanying stress. I'm going to more actively step up to the challenge starting now. Join me?

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July 2, 2017

Ready-made Social Media Images Coming Soon


You know how you can sometimes be a sucker for striking photos, bold fonts and maybe even cute kitties on your social media feeds? You aren't the only one!

Having a visual presence is an important part of your small business marketing. Not only that but it also needs to stand out from everyone else who's trying to stand out from everyone else.

The thing is, not every small business owner has the skill to create their own graphics. Many have no desire to learn, and rightfully so. Yet the once-and-done nature of social media graphics makes it prohibitive to hire a designer.

Knowing this, we've embarked on a new adventure launching early August 2017. It's a subscription service for busy small business owners to easily get themed bundles of engaging social media graphics. Easily add your logo and website to increase your brand awareness on social media with fresh content that looks like it was custom-made for you.

Want to win a year's worth of ready-made social media graphics? Click here to enter.

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June 27, 2017

Behavioural Economics and Small Business Marketing​


After spending my adult life thinking I'm a mostly logical person (and being not so secretly proud of it), I just found out I'm not. And apparently the fact that I think I am is a little irrational.

You might think I'd be a little sad to discover this but I'm actually thrilled. A whole new perspective on marketing just opened up because Dan Ariely told me we're all Predictably Irrational.

Don't let behavioural economics scare you off. This book is insightful and funny, and a fairly quick read (because I couldn't put it down). I learned a marketing lesson in the first chapter that is so improbable... well, you'll have to see for yourself. It's powerful stuff and I recommend it highly.

originally published in Work Better, Not Harder newsletter June 27, 2017

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June 25, 2017

How Does Your Marketing Change If You Don't Want New Customers?


What's the marketing strategy for NOT attracting new clients? Is it to stop marketing all together? Or to scale back, everything or some things?

There are many reasons why a small business may not want to receive new customers for a period of time; I just hadn't considered it till now. I'm working on another business project so I need to free up some of my time and energy. I'm also trying to squeeze in some vacation time this summer.

Here's what has brought all this to my attention: the thought of sending out my monthly newsletter is making me nervous because I don't want anyone to call or email when they receive it. If that's not messed up thinking for a marketer, I don't know what is.

So, what is the answer? There are some obvious things, such as scaling back my social media posting and blogging a little, removing promotional posts from my scheduling, changing or removing my calls to action (in more places than I've thought of yet!), advising my referrers and clients, and putting a message on my website.

I'd love to hear your suggestions in the comment box... what is a good strategy for temporarily scaling back sales without sacrificing the hard work you've put into marketing?

photo by Philippe Vieux-Jeanton / Flickr

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June 16, 2017

Crello is Not Just Another Pretty Graphics Tool

screenshot of Crello home page

Just when I thought I didn't need another graphics tool, along came Crello... yesterday. It's brand new (and I haven't been able to break it yet). If you're frustrated with trying to use Canva, this might be the solution for you.

The interface is very much like Canva, yet Crello has veered away in the right places. I've always found the way Canva handles images as backgrounds and layers to be awkward; Crello takes a more simplistic approach.

Crello has 6,000+ free templates and 10,000+ free design elements! I know that's going to be exciting to many besides me.

Crello lacks some of my favourite Canva features, especially magic resize. But its ease of use and more intuitive interface is winning me over. I know I'll be exploring those 6000+ templates for many many more hours to come.

For more info about Crello's functionality, read this press release. Or pop over to Crello.com and jump right in. Have fun, it's free!

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June 12, 2017

Great Learning Option from Your Local Library


Have you ever searched for a course on a specific subject online? How do you know which course is better than another? It can be hard to choose and expensive to find out you were wrong.

I was asking a WordPress consultant what she recommends for WordPress training and I found out something even better.

Apparently lynda.com is the best place to go for just about any technical training. This is because of the way they rigorously curate their content. Good to know. Even better, though, was finding out that I can access lynda.com for free because I have a library card. Just log into your local library's website and you should find access to lynda.com in the learning section. (Here in Halifax, check this link.)

photo by Beacon Head Studio / Flickr

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June 1, 2017

Summer Marketing Sets You up for Success in the Fall


You might think blog (and newsletter) readership drops over the summer when many people head on vacation. And you would be wrong. Some people have more time to read during the summer months. In fact, they will read more deeply, taking the time to click links and follow a topic or call to action.

Before you start tossing rotten fruit my way... I not suggesting you skip vacation in favour of marketing.

Your summer holiday may be as important to your body's health as your marketing is to your business health. In the same way you'll figure out how to take some vacation days this summer, you can also figure out a way to keep your marketing alive and kicking.

Make a content plan in advance. I'm not the best person to dish out this advice as I do most of my content creation on the fly as inspiration strikes me. But summer has even me doing some necessary planning. At the least, jot down a list of possible topics to use over the summer. (Do it now; I'll wait for you.) Now you'll be more alert for ideas about these topics when you come across them.

Turn content creation activities into assembly lines. I sometimes write more than one article at a time but I purposely ramp up in the spring. The same goes for creating graphics for social media; I create a bunch in one sitting rather than one-offs.

Here are some more suggestions to maintain your marketing momentum over the summer months.

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originally published in Work Better, Not Harder newsletter May 30, 2017

May 28, 2017

Simple Help for Better Blog Writing


Don't you love it when you find a new tool to make your work easier? One of the benefits of teaching is I also learn from the course participants.

It's Hemingway that has my attention this time (thanks to Jacqueline). I love it's simplicity! Go to hemingwayapp.com and start typing right on the screen. You'll see suggested edits highlighted as you type. Or you can turn off the editor until you're finished writing and do all your editing at the end. Another bonus for bloggers is you can see your stats: reading time, letters, characters, words, sentences and paragraphs.

Start writing your next article using Hemingway and see what you think.

May 23, 2017

Have a Party on Your Website


Imagine you're planning a big party at your place... today. What will you do first: clean and cook, or invite people?

Spending time and money to promote your business online is a bit like sending invitations to a party on your website. You want your place to be ready when the doorbell rings.

Before you make the pretty pictures or the clever articles, make sure to vacuum under the couch. People will judge you.

photo by jackfrench / Flickr

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May 17, 2017

Using "Air Quotes" in Online Communication


When I see double quotes wrapped around a couple of words or a small phrase, I immediately think of Sheldon's air quotes from The Big Bang Theory and the emotion that comes to mind is sarcasm. I absolutely know this is the case for many people - one small impact of popular culture.

Now, if you are a writer and intend sarcasm, leveraging this thinking pattern might be a great way to make your point - as long as all of your readers are familiar with "Sheldon quotes".

On the other hand, if sarcasm is not your intent, using double quotes might completely derail your intended message. Readers can't see if we actually hold up our hands and tweak our fingers, or if we just think it in our heads, or if we didn't mean sarcasm at all.

This is another way text communication can be flat, leading to miscommunication. Yet we don't want to start inserting emojis into our business communication (or at least some of us don't).

Why did we all start using so many quote marks anyway? Online it's not good practice to use underline other than for hyperlinks, so we're left with bold and italic for emphasis... plus symbols, like "double quotes". (They're really awkward, too. On which side of the quote does the period go? You can see what I "think".)

Before you type those double quotes the next time, hesitate and question if you really need them at all. Are you quoting a person speaking, or is it for emphasis?

As a footnote, I'm definitely not suggesting you switch to exclamation points instead!!!

photo by Peter23394 / Flickr

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May 7, 2017

Where to Get a Haircut in a New Town


A small business owner, let's call him Bob, arrives in a small town for a meeting with a potential new client. Before his afternoon meeting, Bob decides he needs a haircut to get all spiffy. The receptionist at his hotel tells him there are only two barbers in town, both with shops along the main drag. It's a sunny warm morning so Bob sets off walking.

When he arrives at the first barbershop, Bob can clearly see through the big front window that the place looks less than pristine - hair on the floor and a general air of disorganization. There's one fellow getting a cut and another waiting. Even the barber himself needs a trim!

Further along Main Street, Bob comes to the second barbershop. The view in the front window looks much better. The floor is swept and gleaming, the barber is busy lining up shampoo bottles on a display shelf and his own hair has a crisp updated cut.

Bob turns around and heads back to the first barbershop to get his cut. Do you know why?

I read some version of this story in a logic puzzles book as a kid and it has stuck with me because it has such a powerful unexpected message. Have you figured it out yet?

The barber at the first shop has a line-up, he's clearly in demand and too busy to keep his shop as tidy as it should be. He's likely in demand because he's the more talented of the two barbers, being the person who cut the second barber's hair.

The next time you're looking for a website developer, or a business coach, or a printing company, or a haircut, look beyond the website or shiny window. Look at the customers to see the results. Really happy customers become fans and they'll be easy to find, even if they're not in line for a haircut.

photo by hfrank71 / Flickr

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May 2, 2017

One Simple Test Will Change the Impact of Your Headlines


You can tell when you read a headline that lets you get to know the writer a little better. It often contains an opinion, or perhaps a turn of phrase that is unique to them.

If your business is all about selling you, it's worth it to take extra care with your headlines and subject lines. Here's the promised simple test:

Read your headline out loud. Does it sound like something you'd say out loud?

Still not sure? Go look yourself in the eye in a mirror and say it out loud. Or add the words, "Hi Mom," to the beginning of your headline.

This test will make you stop and reconsider. Perhaps you won't change a word but the exercise is still valuable.

Don't overspend your time editing the text and not give enough attention to your headline. Your headline is the most important factor in whether anyone even gets to reading your article.

photo by nix|photo / Flickr

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April 28, 2017

Learning the Hard Way has to Stop Sometime


Burying my head into a new project that requires learning WordPress should give me tons of content for articles... if I had time to write. In fact, I considered documenting this new adventure in all its gory details via blogging and social media but, well, I'd rather put my head down and get on with it. I'm only stopping long enough to share something I'm doing differently with this project.

I don't have time for learning things 'the hard way'. Been there, done that, loved it, wrote the blog. If I want to be more efficient, I need a shortened learning curve.

This time I'm rewarding myself with 'the easy way'.

If you're venturing into a WordPress project, I strongly suggest finding a WordPress virtuoso to consult with (like I did). You'll be surprised at how much less stress, more fun, less troubleshooting, and more efficient it is.​

I guess I can say I'm learning better, not harder.

originally published in Work Better, Not Harder on April 27, 2017

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April 24, 2017

Get a Blogging Buddy


It might sound a little corny but having a blogging buddy is a great strategy, especially if you can find one that serves the same target market as you. Why?
  • You can plan and generate ideas together.
  • You can write series of articles that intertwine, linking back and forth to each others blogs.
  • You can edit, proof, check each other's work.
  • You can be accountable to each other, especially if you have an agreed upon schedule.
  • You can motivate each other when you're stuck.

photo by mailliw / Flickr

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April 18, 2017

Super Easy Screen Recording


For a long time, I've been meaning to research and find an easy free screen recording application. It just never made it up very high on my to-do list. A few days ago I had an urgent need to explain something to somebody and words weren't cutting it. I needed to record my screen while I did something but I sure didn't want to spend a bunch of time researching and installing and learning.

Saying I am really impressed with Screencast-O-Matic (aff) is an understatement.

In only 5 minutes I had recorded a 30 second video, signed up for a free account, and sent a link to the video off by email. Seriously, 5 minutes... my first time using it!

As an example, here's another short screencast I made just prior to publishing this post, which was easy to share to my YouTube channel. It's about how to check your iContact statistics.

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April 12, 2017

Brief is the New Black


There is so much information available online that it's hard to even give it away. If your content is top notch and needed by your target market, you still have to get their attention... before you get a chance to make the sale.

The competition for attention via email has increased... a lot. Starting fresh is more difficult now than it was when I started - people aren't as apt to subscribe to *anything*. It means that giving away amazing value is even more important... and the bar for what constitutes valuable content continues to rise.

Just because it's hard to do, doesn't mean you shouldn't do it.

People appreciate good information but they also appreciate brief. Your readers can avoid the fear of missing out (#FOMO) if you give them small snippets of your own or others' content. 'Brief and useful' is a great way to start thinking about your content, especially if you are just getting started. Don't be fooled, though, because brief and useful is not simple to do.

photo by Idhren / Flickr

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April 5, 2017

Jumping Up and Down, Waving for Attention


Can you remember your first really big concert? For me it was The Rolling Stones in 1989 at CNE Stadium soon after I moved to Toronto.

We had seats about mid-field and, when the concert started, it was a great spot to be. And then everyone stood up... and up onto their seats. Now I'm game but I'm also short. Standing on my seat up on tippytoes, I could just see the big screens... no stage, no Mick. Eventually my tippytoes got tired, so I sat... and suddenly the music was unrecognizable, muffled by all the surrounding bodies. I remember feeling a bit overwhelmed by the sea of people.

Online marketing reminds me of that feeling, of being surrounded by many different people deeply interested in something other than me. Shouting over the noise to be heard, waving arms or grabbing people to get their attention.

When you're not Mick Jagger, it's not easy to get people's attention. In fact, it's darn hard work trying to stand out in a sea of other people trying to stand out in a sea of other people.

So, if we're jumping through hoops to get attention, we better be prepped and polished when attention comes along, right?

When was the last time you audited your website?

This is serious; don't hmph and click away. If it's been more than 6 months, it's time.

photo by Incase. / Flickr

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April 1, 2017

Marketing is About Making Money... Right?


Recently I told a small business class that their marketing should be earning them money, not costing them. Pens went to paper like I had just said something completely unheard of.

Making money is usually the point of small business marketing but... it can become a BIG distraction. Sometimes we even forget why we're doing it.

Imagine you send out an interesting and much anticipated monthly newsletter. And every time you send it out, your phone rings (or your email pings) with new business. Or when you go networking, people are drawn to you because they read your newsletter - a common point of interest to start a conversation that leads to more. Or someone phones and says, "I've been getting your newsletter for 5 years now and it's time."

That is how your marketing needs to be paying off... with tangible experiences building to long term success. If what you're doing is not making you money, change the way you're doing it or start something new instead.

originally published in the Work Better, Not Harder newsletter March 30, 2017

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March 29, 2017

Colour Palettes for Spring Marketing

As I post this article, it's snowing heavily here in Nova Scotia. I'm very optimistic that spring will arrive... sometime. My husband and I are itching to get outside in the garden so, when I think of spring, I think of outdoors.

Here are some colour schemes that make me think of spring. All photos are free from pexels.com.

I saw this photo and immediately thought, "Fresh start!"

Looks like a great place for a walk. The lime green is so bright and optimistic.

The Easter Bunny outlined in buttercup yellow. All shades of green are reminiscent of spring.

It wouldn't be spring without red tulips. Great contrast here.

Spring travel to the tropics makes me think of soft pastel ocean scenes. Pass the wine.

What does your spring marketing campaign look like?

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March 26, 2017

Favourite Free Image Sources and Graphics Tools for Small Business Marketing


Wondering where to find free images for your newsletter or blog? These are the most common sources we use for free images:

FREE:
FREE with Attribution:
Here are some graphics tools we use often:
Of course, snapping your own photos is always a great choice!

photo by Live to Create Photography / Flickr

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March 21, 2017

17 Reasons to eMail Your Contacts Before Your Next Newsletter Goes Out


NOTE! Don't jump directly to the list below. There's a caveat and it's an important one.

While these are your reasons for emailing your list, you need to create value or point it out to readers. Frame all your messaging around the thought, "What's in it for my readers?" If you make it valuable to them, you'll feel the love in return.

Here are 17 reasons to email your list, independent of your regular newsletter schedule:
  1. A new or improved product or service - highlight the benefits, not the features
  2. A demonstration of one way to use your product... and the fantastic results!
  3. A new article, video or audio file published online
  4. A customer success story - and how subscribers can enjoy the same success
  5. A customer question and your answer - useful information
  6. A cool tool you just tried - how your contacts can benefit
  7. Comment on a common myth about your industry - why your subscribers need to know
  8. Announce a contest
  9. Request information (feedback, research, and so on) - be very cautious with this 'ask'
  10. A summary of information - this could be results of the feedback/research or a summary of a process you use
  11. You learned something recently that you're now implementing - focus on why your subscribers need to know this, what's in it for them
  12. Special offers for your email subscribers only
  13. Changes to your business - only things that will benefit/affect subscribers
  14. A follow-up to something you sent before, such as that contest
  15. A report that combines a blog post series and becomes a great resource.
  16. Hot-off-the-press news affecting your target market
  17. A special date or event, such as Mother's Day or International Ideas Month (March).
Wondering where to start? Pick the one that seems the easiest and get a quick success under your belt. Then come back to this list and pick another item. Here's a challenge: can you do one a month for the next 12 months?

March 17, 2017

Eliminating Waste and Ageism from My Writing


In today's society... in today's busy world... our current technological society... and so on. I've written phrases like that more than once. And I've stopped because:

1. These phrases don't add any value to my writing. If I'm writing about the past, I'll say, "In the past..." or some such thing. Similarly if I'm writing about the future. Otherwise isn't the perception it's current?

2. Lots of people don't know a different society, don't remember a time before computers. Technology is hardly new. Anyone over 50 like me has actually been using it longer than anyone younger.

Reserve space in your writing for words that really count, that add meaning to your writing. Eliminate what's left. Make sure every word works. Your readers will thank you for it and show you by coming back to read more.

photo by Street matt / Flickr

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March 12, 2017

How to Improve Your eNewsletter Results


Would you want me to be nagging you about your newsletter campaign? Making sure you keep to your schedule, aren't stuck for writing ideas, and regularly check your statistics? I've been told nagging can be very helpful.

Here are some pieces of advice I dish out to clients on a regular basis - not because I like nagging but because I know these things can make a difference.

Plan your content ahead of time. Planning gets you thinking, even if those plans are bound to be broken.

Use a 2-step writing process. Draft and write your content; edit and polish it on another day, or later the same day.

Finalize your copy before it gets inserted into your newsletter. Last minute changes, while not always avoidable, are most prone to mistakes. Your final check should be proofing, not editing.

Try using a Word template to assemble your content. Create one with the appropriate sections and it will operate like a checklist so you won’t forget anything.

Take care with your subject line. Nothing else on this list will matter if no one notices your email.

Send when the conditions are right. Ideally you want your newsletter to arrive when your subscribers are using their email.

All of these seemingly nit picky little things do make a difference. Have you been nagged yet today?

photo by Andrew Hefter / Flickr

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March 6, 2017

Quick Update on the Canadian Anti Spam Legislation


It's been 3 years since CASL came into effect in Canada and the grace period ends on July 1, 2017. I know, it's an icky subject but I want to keep you informed. There's a lot to know but I'll keep this really brief.

Here are the two most important things you need to know about CASL right now.

First, if you own a business and use email for business, every email sent is governed by CASL. It has nothing to do with the application you use, or how many people you send to at a time. Many business people seem to think CASL doesn't apply to them. It definitely does!

Second, the good news. Even though CASL applies to your email communication, unless you have many thousands of subscribers, you're unlikely to ever garner enough attention to warrant an investigation by the CRTC. There is possibly some new legislation coming that will allow civil cases although I have a hard time imagining the grounds for any such cases.

For some businesses, such as mine, it's still important to be compliant with the regulations. If that is also the case for your business, here's a quick and dirty run-down of what most small businesses are missing.

photo by ThoroughlyReviewed / Flickr

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February 28, 2017

What's on Your Business Bucket List?


Almost 12 years in business and I don't have a bucket list. In fact, it didn't occur to me to have one until I stumbled across mention of it online. It got me thinking, what is the difference between a business bucket list and business goals?

You won't put something on a bucket list unless you're going to make the commitment to do more than thinking about it. By its nature, a bucket list is 'do or die'.

Things on a bucket list are like dreams and desires but more hardcore because they also have a personal commitment behind them.

A bucket list is a list, not a plan. It's about results, not how to achieve them. Some of the items on it may have to be backed up by significant implementation plans.

Is a business bucket list rigid and unchangeable? I'm a fan of flexible goals; it's important to be re-evaluating our goals. That means being able to cross things off without having accomplished them.

Is the difference really in our perception of the tool? I think of goals as things I have to accomplish and a bucket list as things I want to accomplish. Being my own boss means I have the power to make sure my goals are also my dreams.

If you're not convinced that a business bucket list (or even a personal one) is a good idea, this article might convince you.

originally published in Work Better, Not Harder newsletter February 28, 2017

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February 25, 2017

9 Writing Prompts for Small Business Bloggers


Even when we love to write for our blog or newsletter, staring at a blank screen is bound to happen sooner or later. Here are nine writing prompts to help you get past the blank screen:
  1. What do you love most about your business?
  2. What are the questions you get asked most often when out networking?
  3. What are some of the hot topics in your industry right now?
  4. What are some of the challenges you are facing in your industry?
  5. What is a great resource, book or app that you’ve been delighted with recently?
  6. What recent experience can you turn into a success story or case study?
  7. What famous person would you like to get some advice from? Why?
  8. Do you have a business bucket list? What’s on it?
  9. What recent personal experience has led to a business breakthrough?
These questions may not translate directly into a topic for your particular blog but they should get you thinking... follow a thread.


February 19, 2017

The Consequences of Creative Isolation


Buried in a blog post by iContact about the importance of relevant content, I found an interesting little segment about the impact of creative isolation. It's hard to imagine being isolated when we can be online and connected whenever we want.

When it comes to writing content, these are the consequences iContact identified:
  1. Writing generic copy - this is canned content
  2. Going off topic - irrelevant and useless content for the target market
  3. Being too clever - impenetrable copy stuffed with industry buzzwords and jargon
  4. Staring at a blank screen - forcing creativity doesn't work

These things happen to me when I...
  • stop looking at results (what are people reading)
  • am too busy to read articles by other experts
  • am not talking to people in my target market

The solution? Do more of these things!

photo by bionicteaching / Flickr

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February 13, 2017

Is Your Information Shareable?


Getting other people to share our information is hard work, whether it is a blog post or a workshop announcement. We can be more successful when someone sends an email to a friend or retweets a message about our next event. Whatever our important information is, getting it out to a broader audience is a key marketing goal.

I share a lot of information relevant to my small business market via several different methods. When I want to share someone's sale announcement or event details, I'm sometimes frustrated by how hard it is and, unless it's a friend or client, I'm likely to give up before too long.

Here are three suggestions for making your information (event, sale campaign, product launch, and so on) more easily shared.
  1. Put the information somewhere on a page of its own. Ideally this would be your website but might also be a blog post, Facebook event, EventBrite listing or any number of other ways to get your information online. A unique url is the goal so interested people can be sent directly there.
  2. Write a brief synopsis that others can copy and use to promote your big happening. I suggest 2-4 sentences and roughly 50 words. This will also make it easier for you to promote.
  3. Include sharing links. Wherever you put your information, on that page include links and a call-to-action to share.
You likely don't even know about all the opportunities for promotion you are missing out on. You've worked hard to build a fan base and this is one of the reasons you did so!

photo by bengrey / Flickr

February 7, 2017

No Love from your Newsletter? Here's Why


"My newsletter isn't doing anything for me."

Over the years I've heard many different versions of this same sentiment, usually accompanied by a big sigh. A month or so later, the newsletters stop.

A newsletter does not make a marketing plan. And sending out a newsletter is only a small part of a content marketing strategy. To be successful, there are other related things you need to be doing.

Here's a checklist to help you identify what actions to take to improve your results. If you're not doing these things, that's why success is eluding you.
  • Have a sign-up form on a landing page you can promote (i.e. with its own url) so you can actually get complete strangers as new subscribers.
  • Promote your newsletter on social media, your blog, your website and everywhere else, including not online. If you don't actively build your list, it will stagnate.
  • Actively share your newsletter issues on social media multiple times to extend your readership beyond your current subscribers.
  • Look at your statistics to see what people are clicking on. Pay attention to comments and shares on social media. Include more of whatever is working to get more engagement.
  • Have a blog and post your newsletter articles there. This is a good idea for many reasons - all will get you read more.
  • Keep refreshing your website content. Make sure all of the information, such as events, is current. Change the content so people have a reason to go there again.
  • Include more links in your newsletter to get more people to that awesome website you just updated. There's a simple relationship: more links = more clicks.
Instead of giving up on your newsletter, find one thing in the list that you're not doing and start it. Once you have that in place, come back here and pick something else to implement. Before long, you'll be feeling the love. Here's a recent story from a client:
I'm starting a new class. The one female in the class told me her father sends my articles to her all the time. He owns an IT company and he was encouraging her to get her PMP certification. He wrote to her last week with my newsletter and said, "FYI - Brenda is here next week." She wrote him back and said, "I'm already registered for the course." The power of newsletters!
There is a lot to be gained from an effective email campaign, including fans like this. Don't give up before you've fully implemented the strategy.

photo by Peter Hellberg / Flickr

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February 2, 2017

LinkedIn is a Resource, Not a Mailing List


"Can I add my LinkedIn contacts to my email list?" I get asked this a lot with regard to the Canadian Anti Spam Legislation (CASL). And my answer is exactly the same if you are planning to send only one individual LinkedIn contact a message - both fall under CASL.

Can you? Yes, it's not hard to do - Google 'exporting LinkedIn contacts' for instructions.

Should you? Like any other marketing activity, consider the implications. Review your LinkedIn list and remove people for whom your information isn't relevant. Know your target market and use common sense. Think about your target market's perceptions; many people do not know the legal definition of spam... but think they do.

Is it legal? Implied consent applies when businesses sell to other businesses (B2B). The email you are sending must be relevant to the person's job at the organization they work for. (Example: You can email a university professor to sell her textbooks, but not clothes... without express permission.)

My advice about adding your LinkedIn contacts to your emailing list? Use LinkedIn as a source of potential new contacts but look at each contact and make sure implied consent applies.

photo by TheBushCenter / Flickr

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January 29, 2017

Is Your Canadian Small Business Compliant with CASL Yet?


It's that year - the Canadian Anti Spam Legislation comes fully info effect on July 1, 2017. Wait, before you roll your eyes and click away, read the next paragraph.

The average small business in Canada has nowhere near the list size to trigger an investigation under CASL. And the reality is most small businesses aren't yet CASL-compliant... and that probably includes yours (and even mine). There's no need to get alarmed.

Here are the 4 most obvious ways businesses aren't yet fully compliant.

#1. Subscription process is missing a description of what content the subscriber can expect to receive and how often

You don't want to be misleading and you also can't be too vague. Simply "Sign up for my newsletter!" is not good enough. Besides, you want a killer call-to-action; it makes good sense regardless of CASL.

Offering a free download? If you plan to add the contact to your regular mailing list, you still need to say that.

#2. Mailing address missing from subscription process

The regulations say that a physical address must be used, not just in the footer of your emails but also accessible when people subscribe. If your mailing address isn't on your website, you might consider adding it to your landing page or autoresponder that people see after signing up.

#3. Asking for express consent then continuing to email when it's not received

Until you specifically ask for consent to email someone, consent may be implied. Once you have asked them, and they haven't given you consent, it's no longer implied. Continuing to email this person is very much against the regulations. You are better not to ask at all.

#4. No unsubscribe functionality in *regular* email

This is a tough one to implement. There are apps for that but no free and simple solution. I'm not compliant with this one yet. This also brings up the significant challenge with managing permissions across multiple platforms (let's not go there).

Whether or not your business is fully compliant with CASL, consider whether it's important for you to be perceived as compliant. (Find more CASL information here.)

Do you think CASL is working? Please click here to let me know your opinion.

photo by psd / Flickr

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January 26, 2017

Selling Public Workshops Online (Several Apps for That!)


A simple process was all I needed to promote two workshops and manage registrations. But, as I often do, I decided to use the opportunity to try out some new ways to do things. Yesterday I put the workshops live for registration. Here are all the different applications I used or will use in my campaign to promote and manage the registrations.
  • my website builder
  • Canva
  • Blogger
  • Hootsuite
  • Social Jukebox
  • iContact
  • PayPal
  • JotForm - my newest favourite app
  • Google Calendar
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Google+
  • LinkedIn
  • and email
Phew! Some of these are integrated, some not, but I had fun pulling it all together (mostly). And the next time I need to fill workshops, it'll take me a lot less time to put everything in place.

photo by edkohler / Flickr

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January 21, 2017

Actively Share your Newsletter Issues on Social Media


You may already be autoposting your newsletter onto your social media feeds when you send it out. It makes sense to share it more than once, especially if it's the only content you have (i.e. if you're not also blogging).

Re-sharing your newsletter issues using the read online link on your social media feeds multiple times will extend your readership beyond your current subscribers... and hopefully encourage new ones.

Facebook Page, Google+ and LinkedIn
If not autoposted, post a link to the online version of your newsletter as soon as it goes out. Use the sharing buttons within your newsletter to make it easy. For a monthly newsletter, you might consider sharing it again a couple of times before your next issue goes out.

Twitter
Tweet a link to the online version of your newsletter a couple of times a week until your next issue goes out. Use the tweet button in your newsletter but change up the tweet text each time. Add an image to the tweet for added oomph. If you have guest writers and they are on Twitter, tag them in your posts.

Facebook personal feed
Depending on your strategy, you might also consider sharing your newsletter to your personal feed.

Here are a few other suggestions to get more mileage from your email newsletter on social media:
  • If your articles will stand the test of time (evergreen), and you don't already have them on your blog, continue to share out those issues, using anchor links to the specific articles if you've used them.
  • You can even get mileage out of the rest of your newsletter content by posting links for Throwback Thursday. Reminiscing can start interesting discussions.
  • Regularly post links to your newsletter archive - it can serve as a resource page for your fans.
One final piece of advice: if you're going to work so hard to get people to read your newsletter, make sure you also make it easy for them to share it!

photo by U.S. Embassy Pakistan / Flickr

January 16, 2017

Three Words for 2017


'Focus' has been my 'word of the year' since January 2010. When I did a little checking to figure out that date, I was surprised at how long I've been focussed on focus. Perhaps I'm as focussed as I'm going to get.

This year I'm going to buck the 'one word' movement and go with three words: surprised by joy. It's a wish for how I want to be in 2017.

The first line of William Wordsworth's poem of the same name is:
"Surprised by joy - impatient as the Wind"

I stumbled upon it recently while reading books by Canadian author Louise Penny. "Surprised by joy" is a recurring theme throughout her Inspector Gamache series. Maybe it stuck with me because patience sure isn't my best quality.

Share your word (or words) of the year in the comments. Whatever they are, my wish is that you will be surprised by the joy of success this year.

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January 11, 2017

Are You Missing New Subscribers?


If you have a sign-up form, you want subscribers.

If you want subscribers, you need to get them to your sign-up form.

To get people to your sign-up form, you need to tell them where to find it.

Check your own subscription process now

If you have a sign-up form on your website, try this short exercise. Prepare a call to action with the appropriate link to send a new social media follower to your sign-up form. Really, do it now or you won't get this. It'll only take a minute. Go and post it now.

Here is an example I might use:
Free with sign-up! Immediately get a mini workbook with 10 Content Templates to make your writing time more productive. http://daleyprogress.com/newsletter.html

Ready? Pretend you're that new follower. Read your call to action and click to follow the link. Now stop and take your fingers off that mouse. Is your sign-up form staring you in the face, bold and beautiful with no other distractions? If it's not, that might explain why you haven't seen a new subscriber in weeks.

This is a huge missed opportunity for anyone doing any kind of email marketing - and I see it often. Sign-up forms get embedded in sidebars or footers, usually with no text to tempt someone to subscribe.

So where on your website should you put your sign-up form? On a landing page of its own - with nothing distracting the visitor from filling out that form.

The article 6 Tactics to Turn Visitors into Subscribers describes what you should put on your landing page. Among other things, include specifics about what people are signing up for - not just "my monthly newsletter". Not only will this encourage more sign-ups, it's required by CASL if you live in Canada.

Use a prominent call to action on other webpages where it makes sense, including a link to your landing page with its standoutish sign-up form.

Don't let another confused visitor stumble away from your sign-up form. Make it so darn obvious it's impossible to miss.

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January 5, 2017

Your 'Thank You for Signing Up' Page

A redirect page is the webpage where someone ends up after filling in your subscription form. This is something you have control over and it's worth putting a little effort into. After all, someone has just said they trust you enough to sign up for your newsletter - it's a good time to dazzle them with more of your brilliance and give them some value right away.

Here is a screen shot of a client's redirect page. When someone subscribes to Twirp's newsletter, this is where they end up.


Here's why this page is great:
  • It clearly describes what the subscriber signed up for.
  • There's a free giveaway, which was promised in the call to action.
  • There's a link to get immediate value by going to Twirp's blog.
  • Also those cute little Twirplings at the bottom of the screen jump up and down... which made me feel kind of happy to have subscribed.

Is it time to take a fresh look at your own redirect page? What is the most important message you want to communicate at this point in your business relationship? Here are some tips that will help you decide.

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January 1, 2017

Milestones Mean Opportunity

On May 30, 2013, we sent out the 50th issue of the Work Better, Not Harder newsletter. In it I wrote about the importance of celebrating milestones - small business owners don't do that enough. In July of 2016, we sent out issue #100. That big milestone was reached through our own perseverance; we could have reached it even if we had no readers. Something to be proud of but not particularly motivating.

I want people to read my stuff - that motivates me.

For a couple of years, we've been flirting with reaching 10,000 pageviews on our blog in one calendar month, coming close but never quite reaching it. In December 2016 it finally happened - we had over 12,000 pageviews. Thank you to our readers who keep coming back!


Blogging regularly (this is post #451) has brought many benefits:
  • More social media contacts
  • More subscribers = potential clients and referrers
  • Enhanced reputation
  • Better writing skills - practice makes perfect
  • Motivation
  • More referrals, clients and friends
  • Requires me to do research which keeps me current
  • Gives me a reason to celebrate!
It's much more fun writing when you know you're being read. And you won't know that unless you are watching your statistics.

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