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Showing posts from 2018

One Word for 2019

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Reflecting back on this past year, the first thing I realized is that I didn't define a 'One Word' for 2018. That's because, as 2017 was rolling over to 2018, I was busy building a website and working hard with colleagues to launch Social Media Day Halifax 2018. The word I feel like I used the most in 2018 was SMDH - the acronym and hashtag for the conference.

It was a year of teaching, learning, brainstorming, strategizing, planning, collaborating and designing. Some highlights:
Taught an 11-week program for small business owners funded through Labour and Advanced Education Nova Scotia. Starting January 2019 I'll be teaching another similar program.Collaborated to successfully launch the Social Media Day Halifax Conference, an annual learning experience for anyone working in a marketing role. Tickets for the June 21, 2019 conference go on sale January 7th.Created and launched the 100 Days of Marketing online program. Enhancements and more versions are planned for …

10 Most Read Blog Posts from 2018

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It's always useful to check in on your blog stats so you can see what people are interested in reading. This year I'm a little surprised with some of the posts that have been read the most on Work Better, Not Harder. Here they are:

#1. 7 Out Of 12 Small Business Bloggers Agree On This
When I teach marketing courses, the group eventually tires of seeing this list of key reasons for publishing a blog or newsletter come up on the screen in every class. Focus on only 2-3 main goals.

#2. Social Media Day Halifax 2018 Marketing Conference
For the first time, Halifax celebrated Social Media Day in grand style this year. I'm proud to be one of the organizers of the first Social Media Day Halifax conference which took place on June 22nd.

#3. 3 Ways Having a Social Media Strategy Will Save You Time
Guest blogger Anita Kirkbride says, "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. Her…

Pinpoint Your Unique Content Marketing Opportunity - An Example

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If you read Pinpoint Your Unique Content Marketing Opportunity last month and are still stuck, this article may offer some hope.

First, if you are sitting at your desk alone, new ideas may not come to you easily. This process requires brainstorming - and more than one brain. And it may not happen immediately but, if you are constantly on the alert for ideas, it will come sooner or later.

A couple of months ago I was masterminding with Alison Knott at Humani-T Cafe in Halifax. I think I was encouraging her to do a regular email newsletter and she was lamenting about the time and effort required to blog regularly. This is a discussion I've had many times with many people over the years. "Just do it!" doesn't often work as inspiration.

At one point, I said something like, "It'd be nice to find something valuable to give readers that you don't have to work so hard to create," and went off to get a fresh coffee. When I came back, I said, "What are …

What's the Best Day of the Month to Send a Newsletter?

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Wouldn't it be great if I had a magic bullet for you? The thing is, if I did, everyone else would be sending their newsletter on that day and it would no longer be magic. What I can do instead is give you some suggestions to help narrow it down.

Is your schedule dependent on others?

For example, if you're a real estate professional, you'll want to send your newsletter after mortgage rates have been adjusted so you can include that information. If you plan to curate content from certain bloggers, and they all post in the middle of the month, you don't want to plan your newsletter for the first week. Think about what, if any, information in your newsletter is dependent on others and plan around it.

Send when your contacts are using their email.

This means that if your contacts are opening your newsletter at work, you want it to arrive during a workday. And you typically don't want this to be right after a weekend or holiday when clearing out the inbox is a priority. S…

How to Answer a Question on Your Small Business Blog

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You might think your website FAQ page is the best place to answer questions but I would argue that your blog is even better. In fact, I suggest your FAQ page should list the questions, and perhaps short answers, with links to blog posts for more detailed answers.

If your answers to frequently asked questions are individual blog posts, that content is ultimately more shareable via social media, email or chatbot. It's also a great way to make use of common keyword phrases, boosting your SEO.

The Question

The question you're answering might serve well as your post title or you might include it in your first paragraph. If it makes sense, you might also add some context which gives information about who the answer is for. For example, I might mention that I get asked this question often when networking with other small business owners.

The Answer

Generally, there are two types of answers.

Facts and/or opinions:

In this case, the question might start with something like, "What is …

Waking Up Without an Alarm

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The young cashier at Walmart grinned at me and said, "Joke's on them then." I had just told him to keep the printer cartridge separate as my business was going to pay for that. I grinned back and said, "The joke's on me then since I'm the boss. And I'm also the one who had to drop everything and dash out when the printer ran out."

Oh, the joys of owning your own business.

I'm on vacation this week. Yet this newsletter is getting sent, along with five others. I emailed a handful of clients to reassure them I would still be reachable and delivering on deadlines. I've been doing paperwork and will meet with my bookkeeper. I'll even attend a networking event. My husband is on vacation, so I need to find time to spend with him, too. And oh yeah, I need to get a tooth pulled - something I've been saving for the vacation.

What I will NOT be doing this week is setting my alarm clock. In fact, I have a goal to not wake up to an alarm... even wh…

Don't Ignore the Obvious: Daily Tips Work

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One of the best things I ever did was to take Anita Kirkbride's advice when she told me I should post daily enewsletter tips on social media. It was a very specific and fairly easy task to do. I ended up with an Excel spreadsheet with about 350 short tips... all prefaced with #enewsletter. I joked that when I got to 365 tips, I'd make a calendar.

Now I didn't sit down and spend several days making up this list - ugh! But I started it and then every time I wrote a blog post that included a tip, I copied it into my spreadsheet along with the post link. This started back when Twitter allowed only 140 characters so I finagled words a lot.

You can see in the graph below that it had an almost immediate effect on blog traffic - note the big jump in readership SEPT 2012.


This was tedious work. I spent many hours copy/pasting and scheduling individual messages in Hootsuite, a month at a time, for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+. Eventually, I started uploading my spreadshe…

Small Business Decision Making 101

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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 …

Find Marketing Opportunities in Your Own Content

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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:


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 activiti…

Pinpoint Your Unique Content Marketing Opportunity

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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 b…

Oh, Look! There Goes My Goal

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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 distr…

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

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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.

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Boost Your Expert Reputation with an Evergreen Series

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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
Determine your topic and create your series outline.Create and post some teasers on social media with a call-to-action to subscribe.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.Write and p…

A Call-to-action Formula for Your Free Download

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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 …

I Want to Start Blogging: Now What?

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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.

Who's the Master of Your Domain?

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

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(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 p…

Are You Turning People Off With Your Marketing?

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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 fe…

3 Ways Having a Social Media Strategy Will Save You Time

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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…

Are You Having a Conversation or Giving a Lecture?

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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.
P…

How to Share Yourself Through Your Content

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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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Oh, The Embarrassment! (And The Engagement)

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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 ha…

Brainstorming by Email

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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 …

Who Are You Marketing To?

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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 customerscustomers Wait, there are more people we want to impact with our marketing:
colleaguespeersinfluencersreferrersvendorspartnerscollaborators Don't let me confuse you - I'm not saying yo…

Online Marketing Faux Pas

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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 numbersThe sharing app that doesn't use their own tool in their blog posts to make them easy to shareThe bulk email service provider that sends icky looking newslettersThe blogging trainer who doesn't post regularlyThe social media experts with no social connecting links on their websitesThe catchy call-to-action that takes you to a sign-up form that doesn't workThe website designer whose own website is 5 years old (and looks it)The obvious typos on a homepage that are still there 6 months laterThe things we sign …

Unique Content: Do You Have an Opinion?

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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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3 Reasons Why Businesses Should Be Podcasting

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(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…

Please Don't Use Email For This

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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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No Bricks Between Friends

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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:
Later in the project, for example, a website, it becomes evident that the work is not pleasing. And later in the p…

Summer Content Ideas - Loosen Up a Little

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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:

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.Create your own summer "want to read" list and share it.Share your favourite BBQ recipe. (Yes, even if you're a business consultant.)Update your business bucket list and share.Share "what I'm doing", "where to find me" updates – and why those things are relevant to your readers.If you're busy learning over the summer, write a "What I Learned" article.Compare or contrast one of your favourite summer activities with some aspect of your business. (example)Experiment with the "Mom test" and share your results.Start a new business habit and share your progress and learnings.Research…

13 Simple, Direct ideas for Client Relationship Building

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(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:
Visit your clients' websites and check if they added anything new, like a press…

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

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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…