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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