November 18, 2018

Small Business Decision Making 101


Simple is powerful... and a recent tough decision reminded me of that. I'd been sitting on the fence for about 2 weeks with a marketing project half completed. I couldn't decide whether to keep going or to stay with Plan A - and so, I wasn't accomplishing anything. I had an investment in time and money that was just sitting, doing nothing for me.

Talking the problem through with someone seemed like the best idea and I finally pinned down the right opportunity with the right person. The night before we were to chat, I decided I'd better make some notes so I could present my problem in an organized way. I grabbed a sheet of paper, drew a line up the middle, and labelled the halves PROS and CONS.

Within 5 minutes I had put my finger on my "sticking point" - the biggest CON. After a little research and math, I made my decision. No discussion needed.

When I put my pen to paper, all the conflicting pieces of the problem suddenly became clear - instead of swirling around in a jumble in my head. Why didn't I do that sooner? Whether you're over-thinking or under-thinking a big decision, a simple bullet-point list might just save you stress, time and money.

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November 13, 2018

Find Marketing Opportunities in Your Own Content


Marketing analytics can be confusing. You need to learn how to use the software to get data. Then you need to figure out what information you want from the data. Then you need to figure out what actions to take now that you're wiser.

Here's a simple statistic for you to discover and use to your advantage - most read blog posts. Regardless of which platform you use, you should be able to access some basic info.

Here is a screenshot from this blog:

screenshot

Now that I know which post is the most read on my blog, what actions will I take?
  • I can use it for marketing by adding calls-to-action for current promotions to the footer.
  • I continue to share it on social media because it's obviously still relevant.
  • I know I need to maintain it, to make sure it has no broken links and to keep it relevant.
  • I have clues about other blog post topics that may have similar success. (I can use Answer the Public to research more.)
You're working hard to create valuable content. Aside from these activities above, it's good to look at statistics; otherwise, how will you know if what you're doing is working?

November 7, 2018

Pinpoint Your Unique Content Marketing Opportunity


If you think writing blog posts about what you do is your best content option, you might be sorely mistaken. The popular approach to content marketing usually includes some combination of blogging (podcasting, video, etc) + email + social media. (I love that equation!)

The thing is, well, writing articles (or recording) is not for everyone. I've spent several hundred hours convincing (disguised as training) small business owners that blogging is a worthwhile endeavour. Some have success, more don't - for a variety of reasons. What I know is this: if you don't like the work involved, you won't be successful. Your momentum will wane over time.

So, what the heck do you do if you don't want to write or record? (And maybe even if you do.)

Identify something your target market wants and that you can provide easily through the activities you're already doing. For example, if you do lots of research and reading online, curating and collating others' content might be for you. If you're always looking at trends and stats, share interesting tidbits. If cooking is your thing, share recipes. If you're in the know about local events, start a regular event list.

There are 3 main parts to this approach:
1. Knowing your target market and determining what's of value to them.
2. Identifying things you're already doing that can easily be turned into content.
3. Making the commitment to keep it going.

You will be the most successful with your marketing content if it's something you like doing and delights your fans. But neither of those things will matter if you don't do the work to keep it going.

Download this simple worksheet to follow through the ideas in this post. (Want to work through this discovery process with my help? Book a consult here.)

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October 31, 2018

Oh, Look! There Goes My Goal


I don't need to tell you how hard it is to stay focused. And that's why it's so important to have goals that we can refer to that will keep us on track.

Goals are sometimes quite removed from our daily activities. Once they're determined, a strategy is built around them. And then plans are made to execute the strategy. Next plans are broken down into action items and finally, we do or delegate specific tasks.

When we're in "task mode" our goals may be completely out of mind. That's not a bad thing... as long as we're doing the things we planned to implement the strategy that will achieve our goals.

Deviating from our plans is where we can get into trouble, and one way that happens is called "scope creep". That's a project management term - what is running a small business if not an ever-evolving project?

Scope creep can happen accidentally but also "on purpose" and we need to be cautious of either. It's easy to get distracted from our goals because they're removed from our daily activities but that's why we bridge that gap with strategies and plans. That's also why it's important to have these things documented so we can review them often and get refocused.

More trouble comes when we make decisions we know will put our goals at risk. Yes, sometimes we need to do that in business - after much careful consideration - but often we chase "shiny things" without thought for the consequences. (Guilty here.)

The solution? Keep your goals handy for quick reference. Post them on your bulletin board or tuck them under your keyboard.

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October 27, 2018

Why Buy the Cow When You Can Get the Milk for Free?


Some people still think there’s a scarcity of information in the world, to be hoarded and divvied out carefully. It's true that information becomes less valuable the more it proliferates... but there's definitely no scarcity.

If you are ever concerned about sharing too much information, consider this: someone else is sharing it. If it's your area of expertise, shouldn't you be, too?

As information becomes increasingly cheaper, the voice of experience becomes much more valuable.

That's because it takes more than information to make a good business decision. Experience and sound advice thoughtfully applied to specific situations are what can make the difference between a success and a big mistake.

Give away information for free (the milk) so readers can peek at your secret sauce and realize the extra value they’ll get from working with you (the cow) on their problem.

October 23, 2018

Boost Your Expert Reputation with an Evergreen Series


Writing a series of articles is a great way to connect related content together. It is also an attention-getter, encouraging readers to subscribe or return for the next installment in the series. And it can be a showcase for demonstrating your expertise on a particular topic.

A topical series of blog posts should be planned in advance to maximize its effectiveness. Here’s why:
  • The finished series will flow more easily from one post to the next when you’ve created and edited a bullet outline of the entire series in advance.
  • You can determine your link strategy and execute it seamlessly.
  • You can promote the upcoming series in advance to generate interest and anticipation.
Suggested Workflow to Create Your Series
  1. Determine your topic and create your series outline.
  2. Create and post some teasers on social media with a call-to-action to subscribe.
  3. Determine your link strategy and gather all relevant links. Paste them into your outline or create a separate text doc to put them all into.
  4. Write and publish your first article, including a teaser for the next installment in the series.
  5. Promote that post to all your marketing channels.
  6. Write and publish your second article. Include a teaser for the next installment AND a link back to the first post in the series.
  7. Promote that post to all your marketing channels.
  8. Write and publish your third article. Include a teaser for the next installment AND a link back to the first and second posts in the series.
  9. Continue these activities for the rest of the series.
Make Your Series Evergreen

For your finished series to be perpetually successful, it is important to have links between the posts so future readers can move smoothly from one to the next. Aside from the linking between posts mentioned above, consider these enhancements:
  • Create a table of contents with links to each post in the series and add that to the start of each post.
  • Use PREVIOUS and NEXT buttons/links that look the same at the bottom of each post.
  • Use a unique, common label/tag/keyword only for this series. When you click on that keyword on your blog, you can grab the unique URL that will send readers directly to that series of posts. You could even assign a domain name to the series easily using redirects. (Example: this link takes you to all of my content templates and nothing else.)
Finally, a word of caution – after publishing, check all your links! A series can quickly become a disappointing experience if links don’t work.

October 17, 2018

A Call-to-action Formula for Your Free Download


You've got your first lead magnet all ready to go and you've got a great landing page for it. You're anticipating a rush of new visitors to download your giveaway and discover how valuable your small business might be to them.

If sending a series of promotional emails is the next step in your plan, did you tell subscribers to expect that? Near your sign-up form, you have to tell people what they're opting in to - the general content of the emails and the frequency - to be compliant with CASL (and other regulations).

No one opts in to receive a series of promotional emails. So how can you legitimately build your list and then get people's attention?

Your best option is to opt new subscribers into regular, valuable content. Build the relationship over time and then send promotional emails based on the subscriber's interest and interaction with your content. Give subscribers opportunities to express their interest with call-to-action buttons and links. This shows a long-term commitment... and you can be explicit, which is CASL-compliant.

On your landing page, describe what subscribers can expect after downloading your giveaway. And then commit to delivering that content on the frequencies promised. This approach is conspicuous in its credibility.

Here is a simple call-to-action formula:

Get this *valuable content* when you subscribe to *blog or newsletter* issued *frequency* containing *more valuable content*.

Example: Download the Quick and Easy Content Creation Workbook immediately when you sign up for the Work Better, Not Harder monthly newsletter full of ideas and tips for busy business owners.

I wish I had a dollar for every email example that's been sent to me over the years by people who are certain they didn't sign up for the contents and asking me if it's "legal". Credibility is important if your sales process depends on filling your funnel by marketing. Be open and honest when inviting people in.

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October 11, 2018

I Want to Start Blogging: Now What?


Think of it like learning to drive a car. You’ll need to learn how to drive and you’ll need a car to drive. Which comes first?

Some of the learning… the theory part. You can learn about both driving a car and blogging easily enough online. That theory might consist of strategic information, tactics and instructions.

Now, it’s hard to go any further without a vehicle. You can borrow a car from a friend, you can rent one, or you can buy one. Likewise, you have 3 options with blogging:
  • Write guest posts for other people’s blogs. You’ll be limited in what you can share, subject to others’ approval and schedule. This option is quick and easy but unreliable as a long-term strategy.
  • Use Facebook Notes or LinkedIn Pulse to publish your articles. You don’t really own them but you can pretend you do. If you can’t yet afford the effort and cost of getting your own car, err blog, this is a great alternative. You can immediately start putting what you learned into practice.
  • Get a blogging platform. Having your own is best because you can do anything you like with it. You do need to invest some effort (and maybe money) to set up a blog. If you are running a WordPress website, your best option is to get your webmaster to add blog functionality. Alternately you can set up a blog for free or little cost on various platforms. It’s super easy to get started with blogger.com and it’s the platform I recommend if WordPress isn’t an option.
Finally, you’re ready to start driving… or blogging. Remember, practice makes perfect! At this point, you will still research to learn more about strategy and implementation ideas but now you’ll be practicing in the real world on… dare I say, the information highway.

PS: Click here for my best resources for small business bloggers.

PSS: If you're ready to start blogging now, here's a great process to follow to get going.

October 7, 2018

Who's the Master of Your Domain?


What if you woke up this morning to discover your domain name has... disappeared? Likely you would make this discovery because your website is down, or perhaps your email isn't working.

Or what if you are contracting for a new website and have no idea how to wrangle your domain name for your new website designer?

Recently a client I haven't worked with for several years wrote to ask if I knew the whereabouts of their domain.

I get it, not everyone is a control freak like me. But every small business owner needs to have control of their unique business domain name.

If you aren't sure where your domain is registered, or under whose name, you can find that out here: whois.icann.org/en (or if it's a .ca domain, cira.ca/ca-domains/whois). If your domain has private registration, you may not be able to view the name of the registered owner. But at least you can find out the domain registrar and can contact them through their support channels.

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October 3, 2018

3 Questions That Need Answering: Lessons Learned From My Lunch and Learn


(Guest post by Mike Tanner)

I recently (like, earlier today) had the pleasure of speaking to a room full of close to 50 people on a topic near and dear to my heart: podcasting. Now I’m not going to sit here and give you a recap of that talk. If you want the VERY basic details you can find them on my website but you’ll never recapture the magic that we all shared in that room that day...

Instead, I’d like to talk about three questions that I was asked during the talk and how they relate to running your own business, podcasting or otherwise.

How Much Do You Charge Someone To Sponsor a Podcast?

Pricing is complicated. It’s a fact. Ask anyone who does consulting or coaching or training or anything where there’s not a defined cost or supply and demand issue, and they will tell you that pricing is one of the most difficult things to figure out. Whether you’re trying to figure out how to price your course or how much to charge for web copy or how much to charge a sponsor to be a part of your podcast, this is a question with no easy answer.

I’ve been a micro-influencer at $10 per post and Kim Kardashian charges $250,000 for a picture of her using a company’s eyeliner or drinking their water. The fact is that you probably want to fall somewhere in the middle.

Here’s how I think people should figure out how much to charge... for anything. It all starts with figuring out how much your time is worth. When I first started working for myself, this was a hard lesson to learn. When you work for $18 an hour for someone else and then someone asks you how much your worth, your first thought is..."I dunno... $18 an hour?"

No.

I have a calculated formula for figuring out how much I should charge for my services. Here it is, in all its glory.

How much is my time worth + what value do I bring to my client x how difficult will they make my life = a dollar value.

Now let me explain a little.

First, how much is my time worth? Over the years, I’ve started to think about what I COULD be doing and my time is worth whatever I COULD be earning in its stead.

Second, what value do I bring to my client? For my clients, I know the difference between where they’d be without me and where they are with me. That difference is the value I bring my clients.

The third one? That’s a little more complicated to explain. I’ve described this before as "whether or not I like my client" and that’s not really true, nor is it really fair. The truth is that there are people that I really like that are not a great match for my business and there are people who I’m able to help that are not a good match for me personally. The real point here is, "how much work will it be to get this client to let me do my job?" When a client lets me do exactly what they hired me to do, that multiplier is 1. When a client doesn’t let me do exactly what they hired me to do, that multiplier goes up.

So what does this look like?

Well, let’s say that my time is worth $100 per hour and the job will take me one hour to complete. And this project will bring $500 of value to the client. And the client lets me do my job. It’s $600. Let say that I’m worth $100 per hour and the job will take me one hour to complete and this project will bring $500 of value to the client but the client won’t follow my instructions or provide me with the assets that I require. The multiplier goes up and that $600 job becomes a $1000 job…or a $2000 job.

This is not punishment. Extra work means extra time, extra effort, and the inability to take on other jobs. That time and effort and loss MUST be compensated.

So whether you’re pricing a job or pricing a sponsorship package, ask yourself;

  • What is my time worth?
  • What value do I bring?
  • Will the client let me do my job?

How Do I Get A Sponsor When I Don’t Have an Audience?

This is yet another exceptional question. And it gets to the heart of it VERY quickly. When you launch your podcast, you have ZERO listeners. You might have your mom or your best friend or a co-worker, but essentially you have ZERO listeners. So in the beginning, how are you supposed to convince a company or a brand or an individual to sponsor your podcast?

It’s all about your network.

For example, I’m working on a potato chip podcast and I’m currently in discussion with a potential sponsor. Now, I have ZERO listeners to my potato chip podcast because it’s not a real thing yet. So how can I convince a sponsor that there’s value there?

Right now, I have a social network of somewhere in the vicinity of 4k people. This includes all of the various platforms and lists that I’m currently connected with. In addition, I work with a number of conferences and organizations that often promote my work. So, I’m not pitching a company that I have a podcast with zero listeners. I’m pitching a company that thousands and thousands of people are going to hear all about this podcast. And the ones that like it are going to tell their friends, and they’ll tell their friends, and they’ll be very lucky to get in on the ground floor of this whole thing.

Why Would You Start a Podcast That You Know You Won’t Get Paid For?

There are a number of ways that you can monetize your podcast. You can sell sponsorship. You can sell advertising. You can sell a product. You can sell yourself.

Or you could not.

There’s nothing wrong with recording, publishing and promoting a podcast just because you’ve got something to say. This post has been all about the money. How do you get it? How much is enough? How do you convince companies that you’re worth it?

But there’s nothing wrong with producing a podcast... or a blog... or a YouTube channel... or an IGTV account just because you feel like you want to say something. I often tell people that I started doing podcasts because I talk to myself anyway, and so I thought it might be nice to find out what other people thought about what I had to say.

So yes, monetize your podcast in some fashion or another. Use your blog as a money making tool. But also know you can do something just to do it. Honestly, even if podcasting weren’t something that was helping me make a living, I’d still be doing it because I LOVE doing it.

Whatever you love doing, do more of that. Do as much of that as you can. Maybe someone will pay you to do it. Maybe they won’t. But you’ll be doing something that you love.

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September 25, 2018

Are You Turning People Off With Your Marketing?


Do you, like me, cringe if someone points out something about your marketing they don't like? Recent chats with other marketers have me realizing... I don't get enough complaints.

How are complaints useful?

Disqualifying prospects: If complaints are from people who aren't in your target market, you might be doing something right, rather than wrong. Don't water down your message to try to appeal to everyone or it will resonate with no one.

Differentiation: Thinking about "the opposite of" or what something is NOT is extremely helpful in developing your marketing messages. Recently, when receiving feedback from friends about a landing page I have under development, the "negative" comments specifically led me to think about what my new program is not. And listing what my program is not has helped me to focus in on why it's different.

Feedback: Complaints are just one form of feedback - and like all feedback, should be evaluated for their merit. ALL feedback is useful in some way - and sometimes it can verify that what you've been doing is right.

No one likes to hear complaints, but we can turn them around into useful lessons... it just requires a different perspective.

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Originally published in the Work Better, Not Harder newsletter September 25, 2018

September 18, 2018

3 Ways Having a Social Media Strategy Will Save You Time


Guest post by Anita Kirkbride

Have you ever noticed how being overwhelmed by something tends to make it suck the time right out of your day? The more overwhelmed you feel, the longer it takes to get it done? All entrepreneurs get that feeling about something and many have learned tactics to deal with it and get things done more efficiently.

Ben Franklin famously said, “For every minute spent in organizing, an hour is earned,” and it has never been truer than for planning your social media marketing!

If your paralysis stems from social media, the best way to get moving is to create a social media strategy and plan out what you need to be doing. Here are three ways doing so will save you time:

Knowing what to post

Simply having a plan for what you need to post each day cuts the time you spend trying to figure that out. If you’ve ever stared blankly at your screen, wondering what to post on Facebook, you know what I mean. Taking the time to plan your content in advance means you cut out a lot of the noise that distracts you while trying to decide what to post. You know what you need to find/create and you can get right to it.

Knowing when and where to post

Part of the process of developing your social media strategy is determining on which networks you should focus your efforts. A little research time goes a long way. Asking your current, ideal customers which networks they hang out on regularly is one way to find out where you should be. There are also lots of great online sources of demographic information to help you if you’re new to social media. Taking the time to really understand your audience will save you from trying to create content for too many networks, wasting precious resources on the wrong ones, and understanding your audience better can help you optimize your posting schedule.

Committing to Content

There are numerous formats your social media content can take, from blogs to white papers, from photos to live videos. Trying to do everything contributes to that overwhelm feeling. Ask yourself which types of content you can honestly commit to making on a regular basis and add those to your plan. If you simply cannot create videos, there is no point in overwhelming yourself with a plan that includes a video every week. You’ll continue to procrastinate and get nothing done. Choose the types of content that work best for you and your audience and work your way up to the less comfortable ones later.

When making any kind of decision in business, eliminating the distracting ideas that simply won’t work, saves you time and helps you make better decisions. Absolutely spend some time brainstorming, researching and considering all the possibilities but then narrow it down to what you reasonably have the time, resources and capacity to commit to doing. Once you’ve done that, your social media marketing will come much easier, take less time and start to become routine.

Photo credit: Shari Tucker

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September 14, 2018

Are You Having a Conversation or Giving a Lecture?


Guest post by Frances Leary

Every business of every size needs a platform that gives it a voice. Social media is just that. It gives every organization, large and small, a voice to share its information, inspiration, products, and services with the world.

However, if businesses are only listening to their own voices, it’s like giving a sermon. People can only listen to a sermon for so long. Eventually, they don’t want to listen anymore.

Imagine this scenario:

You’ve been told you need to “be on social media.” So, you find some content to post and you use an automation tool to get it out there consistently. And then to yourself, you say, “Whew, that’s done. Now I don’t have to deal with social media for a while.”

The result?

There you are, standing behind your online lectern, giving an unending sermon to an audience of your very-soon-to-be-disengaged potential customers and clients. You just keep on talking. Eventually, they stop listening. It’s like giving a lecture to an empty auditorium.

People don’t engage on social media to be lectured. They engage on social media because they want to connect with people. And when it comes to business, people want to do business with people. They want to share thoughts and ideas and be inspired. They want to build relationships with organizations and leaders they trust.

They want to feel like they know who you really are. They want to feel heard and valued and understood.

However, if you’re only giving lectures then you’re not giving your customers and clients what they need.

If you don’t actually want to engage with the people – to have those conversations, to respond to comments and questions from your audience, to provide supportive customer engagement in order to foster those relationships – then what are you really doing on social media in the first place?

Business development is a two-way conversation. So is social media. So, step away from the lectern, and have the conversations.

Action: Look at your social media feeds and notice how much you’re posting and how much you are commenting on and engaging with others. If you’re mostly just posting your own content, make a point to scroll through your followers’ posts and comments. See what they’re up to, and allow yourself to absorb the potential for using social media to lift up those members of your audience and support them. Look for opportunities to engage with your community, and act.

Adapted from a chapter of 101 Ways to Use Social Media to Do Good by Frances Leary.

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Frances Leary is an award-winning entrepreneur, author, speaker, consultant, and president of online communications firm Wired Flare Inc., a certified B Corporation and two-time Best for the World Honoree in five categories. As an expert in digital storytelling and impact-driven communication, Frances has worked with organizations throughout North America to connect them with customers, partners and communities through compelling story. A digital shepherd, she offers training and consulting to empower impact-driven entrepreneurs and organizations to grow their triple bottom line. Frances speaks internationally, championing big ideas and empowering change, and she is the author of the newly released book, 101 Ways to Use Social Media to Do Good. Learn more about Frances at FrancesLeary.com 

September 10, 2018

How to Share Yourself Through Your Content


Are you a learner? Share your learning.

Are you a teacher? Share what you teach.

Are you an experimenter? Share what you discover.

Are you thoughtful? Share your conclusions.

Are you an artist? Share your art.

Are you a shopper? Share your style.

Are you a conversationalist? Share the latest news.

Are you a planner? Share your plans.

Are you a storyteller? Share your stories.

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September 5, 2018

Oh, The Embarrassment! (And The Engagement)


You know that feeling when you're talking to a group of people, quite passionate about the topic, and suddenly your brain resets? You have no idea what you were about to say. Total blank. Especially when it happens in front of a class or on a live broadcast, you feel an immediate flush of embarrassment and confusion. I know it well.

What to do? Own up and share your predicament. Everyone messes up at one time or another. What you'll discover is that people will rush to help you recover, to rescue you. (Dare I say Canadians are particularly good at this?) Suddenly, whatever you were talking about has become a shared experience, not just a discussion.

I was reminded of this embarrassment factor while watching a Facebook Live where my friend and colleague, Anita Kirkbride, momentarily lost her focus... and gracefully recovered. Later in the discussion, she talked about how the fear of embarrassment shouldn't keep us from doing our own social media marketing.

Embarrassment happens to everyone. And so it can be an engaging shared experience wherever it happens - online or off.

As an aside, if you're teaching a class when this happens, it turns out to be a great way to review the discussion up to that point. This I know from experience.

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September 1, 2018

Brainstorming by Email


Long ago and far away, when I worked for a multinational, sometimes I brainstormed with my team by email. I was working in Georgetown ON and had staff in Toronto, Regina and Abbotsford. Email was fairly new back then, and a welcome alternative to scheduling group conference calls across the time zones.

I could start with a discussion question sent to the customer service reps, asking them to add comments and send onto the production planners. The planners would give their input and send it on to the warehouse staff. Eventually, I'd get back an email that loosely mapped out a process. I've never used email so productively since.

Now, I don't have staff but I still have a team. And I'm usually brainstorming ideas, not processes. Here's the funny thing, I can sit by myself and scratch notes on paper... and get overwhelmed with ideas. So I start writing an email to my cohorts explaining and asking for feedback. And through that process, I often find clarity - without ever sending the email!

My trusted advisors work for me even when they don't realize it. And I've discovered a powerful way to use email - even when the email is never sent.

Many small business owners work alone. Having trusted advisors is critical but they aren't always available at, say 1am on a Saturday. I start a conversation anyway and often find answers - with their unknowing help - while they're sleeping.

Sometimes the act of writing an email - explaining my dilemma - is enough to get the creative juices flowing again. The next time you're feeling stuck in the middle of the night, give this a try.

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August 28, 2018

Who Are You Marketing To?


You know those workshops you go to where the instructor puts you on the spot right at the start by asking you to describe your target market? I'm one of those instructors. And I do it because a discussion about target markets is a critical first step to any marketing strategy and subsequent plans.

Invariably there is at least one person in every class who tells me they can sell to anyone. I know I'll get the chance to preach, "You might be able to sell to anyone but you can't market to everyone." Marketing is expensive - in time and money.

We need to find and develop content that is valuable (useful and/or interesting) to those specific people we want to have as customers. Once we've done that, we've got it made, right?

So, who are we marketing to?
  • potential customers
  • customers
Wait, there are more people we want to impact with our marketing:
  • colleagues
  • peers
  • influencers
  • referrers
  • vendors
  • partners
  • collaborators
Don't let me confuse you - I'm not saying you now need to have content that's valuable to all these people too. You'd be resonating with no one.

This is where your marketing content has a different purpose: credibility. And that's about how you market. Do you show up regularly? Can your content be trusted? Is your brand consistent in its look, messaging and frequency? Can these people tell you're an expert?

While I take time to create valuable content, the way I market has had the most impact on my business success. ALL of my new business comes to me through that second group of people, not from marketing to strangers. Don't ignore these people - some of them will be your biggest fans.

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Originally published in Work Better, Not Harder Newsletter August 28, 2018

August 24, 2018

Online Marketing Faux Pas


Online marketing provides an ample playground for errors, such as typos, broken links, and incorrect dates. We've gotten used to little boo-boos - they happen to everyone and we're mostly forgiving.

Then there are those biggies - the things that can cause a total disconnect with our brand, services and products. Here are some examples I see more often than you might think:

  • The marketing strategist whose LinkedIn profile page url is a series of letters and numbers
  • The sharing app that doesn't use their own tool in their blog posts to make them easy to share
  • The bulk email service provider that sends icky looking newsletters
  • The blogging trainer who doesn't post regularly
  • The social media experts with no social connecting links on their websites
  • The catchy call-to-action that takes you to a sign-up form that doesn't work
  • The website designer whose own website is 5 years old (and looks it)
  • The obvious typos on a homepage that are still there 6 months later
  • The things we sign up for but never get, and the things we get that we never signed up for
  • The big, bold text that says, "CALL NOW!", yet no one answers the phone

If we don't care about the messages we're sending with our marketing, it's highly likely no one else will either. If we get the big things right, we'll be forgiven for the little things that go wrong.

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August 19, 2018

Unique Content: Do You Have an Opinion?


The one truly unique type of content you can create contains your opinions. Certainly, there are other unique types of content that will work for some... but not for everyone. If you are an expert, an influencer, a salesperson... you have opinions.

Opinions make for great content because they're usually polarizing - they will resonate strongly with some and have the opposite effect on others. Not only is this a great way to make a more personal connection, it's also a great way to qualify your contacts and turn them into leads.

Interestingly, the word 'opinion' has such synonyms as view, belief, conviction, persuasion, sentiment, judgment, outlook, attitude; and can be defined as implying a conclusion thought out yet open to dispute. Yet the definition of the word 'opinionated' is firmly or unduly adhering to one's own opinion or to preconceived notions. It turns out we want to be 'opinioned' which is more open-minded and less rigid.

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August 14, 2018

3 Reasons Why Businesses Should Be Podcasting


(guest post by Mike Tanner)

To suggest that I’m a big fan of podcasts would be… a bit of an understatement.

In addition to being the host of 3.5 podcasts (it’s a long story), I provide podcasting consulting, speak on podcasting panels and once had a dream that I was the host of a potato chip podcast called “Chip Off The Old Block” (That podcast should be coming out in the fall.)

I started podcasting because I enjoyed it. But what I’ve discovered about podcasting as it relates to business has left me realizing that I made the absolute right decision when I decided to start broadcasting my thoughts on an audio medium.

So here are three reasons why businesses should be podcasting.

Passive Advertising

I am a big fan of social media advertising. The targeting options available on major platforms are outstanding and things like analytics and retargeting make it a no-brainer to use social to promote your business, whether that’s through the use of paid ads or just a solid social strategy.

But those are active channels.

People need to be paying attention (mostly) if they’re going to interact with your content in any beneficial manner.

And that’s one reason that podcasts are so unique. Here are some of the places and situations where I listen to podcasts:
  • Doing the dishes
  • Driving 
  • Playing video games
  • Writing
  • Working
  • Walking
The fact is, I’m not able to significantly interact with people’s tweets or snaps or status updates while I’m doing MOST of those things. However, podcasts circumvent this by giving us the ability to consume content while doing a myriad of other things and, while this can obviously mean a drop in attention, some attention is better than no attention.

Can you imagine if you could say to yourself “peruse these tweets at 1.5X speed” or “read this blog post at 2x speed.” Well, you can do that with podcasts because they’re consumed passively in whatever manner and at whatever speed you’d like.

Podcasts are More Popular than NFL Football

Ok. It’s true. You can make stats say anything you want them to. But hear me out.

In 2017, 48 million Americans listened to a podcast at least once a week. This number rose by 6 million compared to the previous year.

In 2017, 20 million Americans tuned in to watch Sunday Night Football each week.

So while it’s a bit of a stretch to suggest that podcasts are more popular than the NFL, the point is that a LOT of people are listening to podcasts… and that number is growing by a LOT each year.

As more and more people tune in to more and more podcasts, the opportunity for individuals to help fill niche markets with great information, and thus bolster their businesses visibility, are remarkable.

It’s Really Not That Hard

It’s not that launching a podcast is easy… except… well, it is.

Making a podcast sound great is another story, but it’s much easier to start a podcast than a YouTube channel or most other media platforms you might use.

Here’s what you need to start a podcast: a phone.

If you have a phone, you’re golden. You can get nice microphones. You can buy nice software. You can hire a producer. You CAN do lots of things. But when it comes down to it, you just need a phone. Once, I made an Instagram post about the idea of production quality as it relates to content creation. I said that:
“Gary Vaynerchuck could record a podcast on a speak-and-spell in an airplane washroom because the content would be golden.”
Three months later Gary V launched 'the airport sessions', a collection of podcasts with TERRIBLE audio quality that were absolute fire when it came to the content itself.

The point is not, “do a terrible job, who cares,” but rather you should not hold off on pushing play just because you had a little background noise.

Podcasts are easy and inexpensive to produce, growing in popularity and reach the consumer where they’re at. What more could you ask for in a content platform?

So what are you waiting for?

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August 9, 2018

Please Don't Use Email For This


Have you ever sent an email you regretted as soon as you hit Send? There can't be many who haven't felt that in their gut at some time or other, including me.

Facts are perfect for email communication; feelings are not. (Tweet This!)

This is particularly important when it comes to our business communication. While I haven't been completely successful in curbing this tendency, the thing that works best for me is to keep myself from hitting that Send button until the next day. Most often, a cooler head prevails and I end up deleting the draft instead of sending. But there's catharsis in the rant.

Rant privately (not on Facebook), then cool off. This is one time I'm asking you NOT to use email. Emails are not conversations.

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August 3, 2018

No Bricks Between Friends


Sometimes it's hard to give honest feedback, especially if it's negative. After all, the other person worked hard to create something and their feelings might be hurt. But the work is just not 'right', and may even be horribly wrong.

What do you do? Be honest, and give good direction about what you don't like and what you'd like to see instead. And what if you don't exactly know what you'd like instead? Be honest about that, too.

When discussing this with a new client recently, she said, "No bricks between friends." That saying came from her Irish grandmother, Annie, and the wisdom can certainly be applied to our business relationships, too.

Communication, by any of the many options available, takes time and costs money. But we are not saving time by withholding critical feedback. Here are two scenarios that might happen if we do:
  1. Later in the project, for example, a website, it becomes evident that the work is not pleasing. And later in the project, it will take much more time to make changes than at the start.
  2. With zero or little feedback, the project goes on to completion. But we aren't happy with the results, and may even tell other people that. And, before long, we might be looking to have the work done over again by someone else - also expensive.
These are not outcomes desired by either person in the relationship.

If you can't articulate your needs, a good independent contractor will help you do that by asking the right questions to draw out information and ideas. Time spent in honest communication early on will always lead to better results.

July 29, 2018

Summer Content Ideas - Loosen Up a Little


If there's any time of year to get more personal with your content, it's during the summer. The rules are relaxed and people have more time to read deeper. Here are a few ideas you can try:

  1. Create a roundup of summer reading appropriate for your fans. This could be books or articles you've read, or even favourite videos, such as TED Talks.
  2. Create your own summer "want to read" list and share it.
  3. Share your favourite BBQ recipe. (Yes, even if you're a business consultant.)
  4. Update your business bucket list and share.
  5. Share "what I'm doing", "where to find me" updates – and why those things are relevant to your readers.
  6. If you're busy learning over the summer, write a "What I Learned" article.
  7. Compare or contrast one of your favourite summer activities with some aspect of your business. (example)
  8. Experiment with the "Mom test" and share your results.
  9. Start a new business habit and share your progress and learnings.
  10. Research! Use a tool like Answer the Public or Google Trends to hone in on topics you haven't covered yet. Share your resulting list of topics as a post with a promise to write about these topics in the future.
  11. Have fun with colours. Create a digital mood board of your favourite summer colours along with an interesting theme.
  12. Preview something new that's starting in the fall with a teaser, such as a new program, product or service offering.
  13. Take on a photo project, such as a 30-day challenge, and blog the experience.
  14. Organize a meet-up with local experts in your industry and then post about it, before, during and after.

Share your favourite summer content idea in the comments.

originally published in Work Better, Not Harder newsletter July 26, 2018

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July 24, 2018

13 Simple, Direct ideas for Client Relationship Building


(guest post by Natasha Marchewka)

Do you need help with keeping in touch with past clients without "bugging them"? When working as an isolated freelancer or small business (and where building your business is all on you) there are ways to efficiently and effectively build, strengthen, and grow relationships.

Keeping in touch regularly can be a bit of a conundrum. You want to remind them you exist, but you need to find a balance of being seen and heard and not overdo it. So, you created a newsletter to email clients once a month. I think that's great - and important - and keeps you relevant, top-of-mind, and also keeps you on your toes. What else can you do to remind them you exist as they are distracted daily... and still forget you exist?

Here are some ideas. And, as an added bonus you'll have relevant content to share on your social media feeds!

Client Relationship Building Check-list:
  1. Visit your clients' websites and check if they added anything new, like a press release, newsletter, blog, or an additional social medium. This is the starting point for relevant communication.
  2. Subscribe to their feeds: YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Vimeo, etc. You may want to receive a notification when they post interesting content.
  3. Sign up for their newsletter or blog, if you haven't already, so you'll receive relevant info when they publish.
  4. Scan all their social feeds and share something noteworthy on your own social media. Keep shares engaging by adding your comments with your post.
  5. Check out their blog posts and share on your social media, if you are compelled to do so.
  6. Do they have a (recent) press release that is worth mentioning on one of your feeds? Congratulate them on something, tagging them and any relevant content.
  7. Google your client's contact name and congratulate them directly, by email or social media, on anything notable, keeping it simple and professionally appropriate.
  8. Go to your "notifications" in LinkedIn and reach out to clients who have something noteworthy, providing a personal comment.
  9. Make note of the anniversary of when you first worked together. Schedule in your online calendar with a reminder. Send them an Anniversary email each year.
  10. Email clients individually with an article or idea that reminded you of them.
  11. Mail a thank you card after you've worked together again.
  12. Send a general gratitude card anytime.
  13. Send an appropriate gift or card at year-end, at the New Year, or for a random holiday.

July 20, 2018

Does Your Mother Know What You Do? (Part 2)


It's hard to believe it's been over 4 years since I took my mother to her first (and only) business networking event and wrote about it here. I'm a big fan of the "Mom test" for simplifying our small business marketing messages but I didn't fully appreciate it until yesterday morning.

I was driving out Waverley Road taking the long, more scenic route to Bedford with my mom in the passenger seat. Because she's my biggest fan, I was telling her about some of the exciting new things going on with my business. Oh, she was making all the right noises and nodding, as moms will, but that's when it hit me - she really had no clue as to what I was talking about, much less about why it's interesting and valuable work.

I thought I passed the Mom test years ago when I explained I do newsletters and websites and generally help small business owners implement their marketing plans. She could, and does, tell people that. But since she's never used a computer, she has no context for what that might mean.

So yesterday I told my mom that I help my clients grow their professional reputation using the internet. Because my dad was a scientist, she understands the importance of a professional reputation, even if in a different context. I think I just passed the Mom test for real this time.

Whether it's with your mom, a sibling or a good friend, summer is a great time to experiment with the Mom test outside of your business world. I'd love to hear your revelations in the comment section below.

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July 16, 2018

Little Things Can Have a Big Impact on Your Business Success


Seth Godin's post today - We’re still clueless about lifetime value - got me thinking, as his posts usually do. (Take a minute to read it.)

I love his line, "Torrents are made of drips." He's referring to the long-term impact of small, seemingly inconsequential, actions - like when I have to call Netfirms three times before I get a resolution to a domain problem. That company will never get my referrals for website hosting, even though I get asked regularly for referrals to good website hosting companies. That's not business lost - it's business they'll never get... but could have.

Now think of the website hosting company that I do refer people to - SiteGround Hosting Ltd. (aff). I have sent them 8 referrals in the last 6 months. And I bet some of those people have gone on to refer SiteGround, or will. Those people will refer more people, and so on. By treating me well in every interaction I've had with them, they've earned my loyalty - and my desire to share with others.

How can you get even a couple of more people to refer your business? Is there something you can do right now to start a few drips leading to a torrent?

PS: This Siteground success story started a year ago on The Phone Lady's blog - read about it here.

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July 5, 2018

Storytelling as Part of Your Small Business Marketing Strategy


At the Social Media Day Halifax 2018 conference, I had the pleasure to sit through most of Allan Gates' presentation, Telling Better Brand Stories on Social Media. I was intrigued because I've always been a wannabe author (of spy stories!). I'm also drawn to processes, so the message in the photo above practically jumped off the screen at me.

Storytelling is a process... and I can follow a process. Until now I thought I lacked the creativity needed for storytelling. Granted, writing skills are a different matter but there are lots of ways to tell stories that don't require a lot of writing. I can do this... and you can, too!

Read Allan's blog post, The Suspense In Your Brand Story, for great advice about how to get people interested - and keep them interested - in your brand story

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June 29, 2018

Is Your Website Working for You or Against You?


Every time I do online research, I find broken things. I'm curious; I like to see how things work. And it's quite amazing how many times I find things that don't work, or don't work well. I'm not just talking about small business websites - even big brands fail sometimes. The thing is, big brands usually have a reputation which leads people to forgive or ignore more easily.

I've written before about how important it is to audit your website at least quarterly. (I pay someone to do it for me and it's well worth it.) If you haven't done a website audit recently, now is a great time.

Here are a handful of specific things to check. Is your website doing these things well?

  • Be really clear about the benefits to potential customers and put that front and centre. More money and more time are great - but how much?
  • Read and test everything yourself. Don't rely on what others tell you. I've seen a lot of non-functional website forms and such that business owners assumed worked as promised.
  • When setting up a log-in is part of your intake process, include rules about the new password about to be set up. For example, a minimum of 8 characters is required.
  • If you're relying on a demo of some sort to show off the effectiveness of your offer, make sure it actually does that, and not the opposite.
  • Click on every link, let it load and make sure it goes where's it's supposed to.
After you have all the kinks worked out, here's one more important thing to consider: lead visitors to the action you want them to take on your website... and carefully figure out exactly what that action is.

June 23, 2018

6 Lessons Learned from Prepping for the Social Media Day Halifax Conference

photo credit @onceadaley on Instagram

If you attended Social Media Day Halifax 2018 on Friday, I sure hope you enjoyed yourself and learned lots. I know I did! And not all my learning was from the presenters and sessions. Here are a few examples from the event organizing side of things.

1. It doesn't matter how many lists you make or how prepared you are, tech will give you a tummy ache at some point. Anything last minute that needs tech, also needs a backup plan. (Big thanks to my sister for helping me print conference nametags at 11pm the night before!) Note: If you buy labels or cardstock items at a Staples store, don't expect that their Copy & Print shop will print them for you.

2. Test things that can be tested. And not just tech things. When a vendor's website says one item goes with another, that doesn't mean it's so. For example, 4"x3" nametags do not fit into 4"x3" nametag holders.

3. Automate as much as humanly possible ;)

4. Communicate really well on the things that can't be automated.

5. Assumptions will cost you time. The organizing team communicated A LOT and, still, assumptions about who was doing what cost each of us time at some point.

6. Make a detailed list of things that went wrong and things that can be improved on - lessons learned. And not just from the day of the conference but also from all the planning and work that went into it. I'm not willing to depend on my memory so this is one of my next tasks.

Planning a conference is fun ... and challenging. And sometimes the best way to learn is from experience.

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June 17, 2018

How to Build an Audience (Almost) Instantly


Don't you love it when you try something new and it turns out super successful? How about something like getting 41 new subscribers in an hour? Yes, that is possible for small businesses - I watched it happen this morning.

East Coast Scares, aka Carnival of Terror, is ramping up for Halloween 2018. This team has been hosting haunted houses in the Halifax area since 1994 and has a loyal fanbase. It makes sense that most of their fans are using Facebook - their Facebook page has almost 2000 likes! But for 24 years they've never had a way to communicate directly with their fans, to give them info about their schedule, location changes, and even ask for volunteers. Until now.

Now Carnival of Terror can send messages directly to subscribed fans via Facebook Messenger. No MailChimp or iContact, no complicated subscription forms - just a simple chatbot. When they're ready to start scaring people in October, their fans will know when and where to find them. (And they're talking to their fans in a way that their competition isn't.)

How did they get their first 41 subscribers in one hour? Well, there were 126 people who had previously sent messages to their page. Because the connection already existed, it was legal to send a message asking these people if they want to opt-in. In 5 minutes, they got 24 subscribers, and now they're up to 44. (Yes, that's 3 new ones since I started writing this post!)

There are many things about using chatbots that are almost as cool as this but, in all the years of building my own list and helping clients build theirs, I've never seen this kind of instant success. Here are some numbers for those who like data:
  • Facebook page Likes = 1990
  • People who had an open dialogue with the page (because they messaged previously) = 126
  • Opt-ins (so far) = 44
  • Opt-outs (so far) = 4
Let me do the math for you - that's a whopping 35% opt-in rate (so far)! You won't get those numbers with email.

If your fans are using Messenger (and 900,000,000 people are), think about all the options available to you for talking to them - and getting the conversation started with a chatbot. (If you want to see how it works, go to their Facebook page and click 'send message'.

PS: The chatbot application I use is Botletter. It's super simple - check it out here (aff).

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June 11, 2018

Your Marketing Images Represent Your Business


If you were holding a dinner where each plate sold for $150, would you buy the invitations at the dollar store? No? So don't promote anything important for your business with a free overused 5-year-old Pixabay image.

There are options - lots of options - rather than intimating your business is a bargain brand.

If you don't spend a bunch of time searching Pixabay or other free sites, you may not know what's been overused and common - here's an app for that. And you can also check the upload date, although that doesn't mean the photo was taken then. If you're going to use free photos, pick more recent releases.

Unique and eye-catching is your goal. But you don't want to pay $20 for a stock photo for each new blog post or newsletter article. What are other wallet-friendly options?

#1. Snap your own photos. This ensures uniqueness and the price is the best you'll get. Of course, the eye-catching part will be up to you.

#2. Engage a friend or family member who enjoys photography as a hobby. (My husband takes the photo for my weekly event list.)

#3. Search for Creative Commons photos on platforms such as Flickr. You will have to provide photo attribution in your post (the cost of free) but this is a great way to find one-of-a-kind images.

#4. Buy photos from discount stock photo sites. This does not guarantee that no one else is using the image but it does mean it's less likely to be overused. (I use Deposit Photos a lot.)

When should you invest in really good stock photos? For your website, paid advertising, books, online courses, printed materials... places where the images are more permanent.

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June 7, 2018

There's a New Way to Think About List-building


Having a discussion with a friend recently about Messenger chatbots for delivering newsletters, she was perturbed there would be no way to download a list of subscribers. My response was, "Why would you want to?" These contacts have only opted in to receive communication via Messenger. By downloading them, all you'd have is a spreadsheet. (Which is OK, if you like spreadsheets.)

As a small business owner, how many times have you been chided to have a database, a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) app, even a spreadsheet, with all of your contacts in one place?

Now, imagine the colossal task of putting all of your contacts into one place. I'm talking ALL of your contacts - email contacts, phone contacts, Twitter fans, LinkedIn contacts, Messenger subscribers, and so on. And what would you do with them when they're all nicely entered? I sure won't be adding my 4500 Twitter followers to my email list. (Can you imagine the response?!)

Engage people where they are. Not everyone wants to find us in their email inbox. While that is a very effective way for us to maintain contact, it isn't for all of our contacts. Make it easy for people to receive your information where and how they want. Perhaps we need to start calling it audience-building instead of list-building.

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June 1, 2018

9 Reasons to Deliver Your Newsletter Using Chatbot Technology


Nine hundred million people use Facebook Messenger as a primary messaging tool. Do you think a few of those would rather receive your newsletter that way - on their phone instead of in their inbox? And wouldn't it be great to give them the option?

Now you can build a contact list and distribute your newsletter by Messenger. Here are nine reasons to do that:

#1. People tend to have a Messenger account longer than they have an email address. When people change jobs, they will likely get a new email address but will continue to use the same Messenger account throughout their lives.

#2. Give your readers a choice of how they want to receive your information. Some of those 900,000,000 people are your customers and fans.

#3. Higher open rates - industry leaders are saying 80% is typical.

#4. The timing of delivering your newsletter becomes a little less important than with email newsletters. (e.g. it's less important to deliver during working hours)

#5. Segment by gender, location, and time zone - without gathering all that information yourself.

#6. Unlike with bulk email applications, people can unsubscribe and then resubscribe themselves - as often as they want.

#7. Especially well-suited to businesses already using Facebook to talk to customers and fans.

#8. Launch drip messages based on subscription date as you can with email.

#9. Use an easy opt-in process that's fully compliant with CASL, GDPR and CAN-SPAM.

I have a bot set up to deliver our weekly event listing for small business people in the Halifax area. If you want to see how one works (subscribe and unsubscribe easily), click here or go to our Facebook page and click 'send message'.

In coming posts, I'll talk more about how to use bot technology for your newsletter. It's a whole new way to think about list-building and keeping in touch with people. If you are thinking bots will reduce the human connection, you are wrong - they're a great way to get the conversation started... and keep it going.

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May 19, 2018

The Wrong Way to Introduce Your First Newsletter


You wouldn't hug a complete stranger. So, if the red-head in the photo approached you on the street, you'd likely back away and think WTF. Even if he wants a date, that's a pretty lame approach.

We don't have much room for needy strangers in our small business lives. It's enough work to keep up with friends and colleagues. So why the heck would any business person send a newsletter to a stranger that starts like this... ?
We spent many hours and resources on researching, writing, proofing and designing this newsletter. As a valued customer, we are offering this newsletter to you for FREE!
newsletter example
newsletter example
It's too bad they spent all those hours and resources. And too bad they didn't know FREE newsletters haven't been unique for a very long time. Next, they'll wonder why email marketing isn't working for them.

Especially for your very first issue, there are a few basic things to include. The most important is to give value or point out the value to your reader immediately.

Concentrate on building relationships and gaining fans before you start asking for hugs.

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