November 30, 2017

What Feedback Do You Pay Attention To?

Have you ever fallen into the trap of making a change because of one single piece of feedback? It's happened to me and I've seen it happen to others. Don't change your brand's font (or anything else) because one person doesn't like it.

One person's preferences will never represent a significant sample of your target market.

We want feedback, we ask for feedback, and when we get it, we feel we have to act on it. Not so. Instead, we need to think about it, give it careful consideration, and get more feedback from our target market - because it's their opinion that matters when it comes to our marketing.

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

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November 25, 2017

Where Do You Get Stuck?

When it comes to writing articles for your blog or newsletter, what's your stumbling block? Perhaps it's...

  1. coming up with ideas
  2. adapting your ideas for writing
  3. starting to write
  4. finishing writing
  5. editing and proofing
  6. finding or creating graphics
  7. keywords and publishing

If you can identify where you get hung up, you can find a solution!

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November 19, 2017

What are Your Competitors Writing About?

Whether it’s for your small business blog or newsletter, researching what your competition is writing about will benefit you in two important ways:
  1. You will have something with which to compare your own content strategy and your execution of it.
  2. It’ll trigger new content ideas and topics to write about.
After you've assembled a list of blogs to inspect, these are the things to pay attention to:
  • layout and design (look and feel)
  • ease of reading and interaction
  • keywords and topics covered
  • writing style and formatting
  • frequency and consistency
  • the value offered
Now consider:
  • How does your content measure up?
  • What holes do you need to fill?
  • What can you do to improve? Make a plan.
You don't have any competition, you say? OK follow this same process and research others in your industry or servicing the same target market. You'll get the same benefits.

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November 14, 2017

Editing Tips to Benefit Your Readers

“Not that the story need be long, but it will take a long while to make it short.”
- Henry David Thoreau -

It is always easier to edit someone else's writing. We're emotionally invested in our own words, wanting to hoard them and take ownership of them.

The thing is, you don't need to justify anything you write. I often see words and phrases like this which can be completely eliminated:
  • "I want to say that..." or "I want to let you know that..." or "I want you to know..."
  • "It's my opinion..." or "I personally think/feel that..."
  • "... of mine" (as in "friends of mine" or "colleagues of mine")
Then there are those phrases and even whole paragraphs that should be about the reader instead of the writer:
  • "I'm planning to..." or "I'll send you..." Try starting with "you" instead, as in, "You'll receive..." You can often eliminate many "I"s from an article.
  • And the reasons or excuses for anything should be left out completely. You wouldn't stand up to give a speech and start with, "I'm not a very good speaker."
Here's another tip: when editing, ask "So what?" at the end of every sentence. Your brain needs to be thinking creatively when you're writing but critically when you're editing.

November 8, 2017

13 Ways to Make Your Small Business Blog More Interactive

Why do we want our blogs to be more interactive? I googled that question and didn't find any kind of consensus or a clear answer to share. This seems a little odd with everyone talking about engagement (and lead magnets and sales funnels).

As soon as a reader takes some action (often a click), they are much more inclined to take a second action, and a third, and so on. It's exponential, and it's what engagement is.

If we know we want our readers to keep taking actions, we need to give them encouragement to do so... but not all at the same time. Here are a few ways to make your business blog more interactive.

#1. Use a link strategy within your posts to move readers along to more relevant content.

#2. Conduct a one question poll. Link to your poll in an app like SurveyMonkey which allows you to show results after someone answers. This poll could be legitimate research or a fun distraction. You can even publish the results in a future blog post.

#3. Include a special offer for your blog readers. Make it easy for them to take advantage of the offer... make it one simple click to solve their problem.

#4. Link to a video. Depending on the platform you use, you might also be able to embed the video into your blog post.

#5. Link to a free resource or some other type of giveaway. Make sure to gather new email addresses.

#6. Use click-to-tweet and other social media sharing options. Encourage readers to share because, if you make it easy, people will share.

#7. Have a menu on your blog so readers can seamlessly move between your blog and website.

#8. Ask readers to connect with you on Twitter, Facebook and so on. Use icons to draw their attention.

#9. Use a sidebar widget to show a list of popular articles, or other articles on the topic being read about.

#10. Display a blog subscription form prominently!

#11. Run a contest or game. If you have lots of blog posts, a scavenger hunt is a good way to get people to have a deeper look. You might offer a prize or make it just for fun.

#12. Include a search option. There is nothing more frustrating than looking for info on someone else's blog and there's no way to search. Including a tag cloud in your sidebar will also encourage deeper reading.

#13. Encourage comments to get feedback and new ideas.

The caveat? Don't try to do them all in your next blog post. Too many choices can often result in none being made.

(Thanks to my business blogging class for helping to brainstorm this list!)

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November 2, 2017

Long Term Planning for Your Small Business Blog

blog planning

While teaching a blogging class to small business folk recently, we were doing an exercise to get us thinking about our blogging strategies beyond the next post or the next month.

We posted flip chart sheets around the walls and together filled in all the topics and themes we could think of for each month (or season). The answers reflected the different types of businesses represented in the room - lots of variety. By walking through the months, paying attention to the many holidays and seasonal activities, we mapped out the whole year.

Sure, we all know when Christmas is, and that September is back-to-school. Some people are romantic at Valentine's, and others are gardening in the summer. Go the extra step and think about how your target market is impacted by these events, how they're feeling about these things.

Even if you can't solve their biggest problems, maybe you can make them feel better by helping in a smaller way.

To find those opportunities, you'll want to think beyond the event or the season. Try to walk in your customers' shoes. Making people feel good is where it's at and you can absolutely do that on your business blog. (This applies to more than blogging, too!)

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