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Showing posts from 2019

Content Template - Share a Concept

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You just had an a-ha moment – by thinking, researching, reading, discussing, learning, teaching, experimenting, or problem-solving. And now you’re anxious to share that new insight with your readers who will also benefit from it.

Not sure how to organize your ideas and get writing? Download this content template to get going - and done - in no time.

Using content templates is sort of like filling in the blanks. Capture your ideas, organize them, and draft your article quickly. Want more templates? Click here to get the free Quick and Easy Content Creation workbook.

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Using Lists to Embrace Change

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Many small business owners didn't start their careers as small business owners. And the road each of us took to get here is quite different. But one thing is fairly common - we're finding ways to earn a living doing work we love. Often that means evolving and growing and changing.

My 'one word' for 2019 is EMBRACE. Admittedly, it hasn't been in my awareness much but two recent events brought it to the forefront. First, a Twitter friend asked if I'm succeeding. It gave me pause and moment to pat myself on the back - because I've been living it, even if subconsciously. A couple of days later I met with colleagues for some business development advice. Driving home afterward, I realized going through that process is also about embracing.
Oh, do I have lists! Creating them has been about embracing all the pieces of my business. Here are some of the lists that have helped me work through this business development process. You may find this list of lists useful, t…

What Would Your Hero Do?

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Survivor fans might remember WWMD - "What would Monica do?" - from Season 34 Game Changers. Brad Culpepper often reflected on what his wife Monica would do in a given situation. He considered Monica his hero as she had made it to the final tribal council on an earlier season. This introspection seemed to work as Brad also made it to the final tribal council.

Recently I wrote to a trusted colleague describing the help I want from her as "What would Alison do?" After all, Alison Knott is an expert at branding and that's exactly the kind of help I was writing to her about.

There are other heroes in my life - business and personal - whose advice I call upon often without their knowledge... by thinking, "What would *my hero* do?" I'm so fortunate to know and love them, to appreciate their expertise and learn from it.

Do your heroes guide your daily business activities? Do they shape your decision-making without even knowing? Now might be a good time to …

How to Work Effectively with Marketing Creatives

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Did you know that a third to a half of the total time spent working on marketing implementation projects is spent communicating with clients? That communication usually takes the form of informing, consulting, decision-making and tracking action items. Depending on the scope, it may also include educating and training. That's a lot of communication! And it may be why price quotes are higher than you expect.

Effective communication is absolutely essential to pulling off any marketing project successfully. Planning and budgeting for that communication are also essential.

You want to work with creatives who will guide you through the process without wasting your time or theirs, who will ask for feedback frequently, who will skillfully mine your ideas and apply them to the project.

I want to work with clients who aren't concerned with hurting my feelings, who will tell me when they don't like something. No one can solve a problem they don't know exists.

No one wins when mar…

We Can't Do It All So Let's Choose Wisely

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My good friend and business collaborator, Anita Kirkbride, has been doing keynotes recently about how to embrace being #flawsome. It's a hard lesson for someone like me with perfectionistic tendencies. But around mid-May, I made a conscious decision to let a few things suffer so that others could flourish.

Here's one of the things that suffered:

Fewer people read my blog. That tells me my own marketing is working when I'm maintaining it. I know exactly what happened: I wrote fewer posts and one of the scheduling apps I use conked out for 2 weeks. (Thank you, Google, for continuing to send readers.)

I decided to live with it because other things, like Social Media Day Halifax 2019, were more important. And yes, I felt a bit guilty because I teach this stuff and setting an example is important.

No one ever said running a small business is easy. Sometimes we have to make tough choices... and move on. And really, while seeing my blog readership increase instead of decrease is…

Doing What You Can Actually Accomplish Trumps Perfection

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Social Media Day Halifax 2019 was an amazing day of learning and networking. I've been spending hours on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram reliving the day through other people's posts... laughing, crying, and feeling the love. (Cue the angles... er... angels singing.)

There is so much I want to write about but, oddly enough, first I'm going to write about one of the sessions I didn't get to attend - Mike Tanner's Beyond The Mic: The Real Work of Podcasting. Here's the thing - Mike recorded his session and posted it to his podcast (the same day!)

Mike talks about starting a podcast in the same way I talk about starting a newsletter...

What's the best way?What do you want to do?What can you do?
Taking on too much can be a quick path to failure. If you can figure out how to fit it into your regular activities, you'll have more success. It's an important message for all of our small business activities. I encourage you to listen to Mike's podcast.

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Knowing When to Go

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Change is a wonderful thing - it keeps life interesting. It allows our businesses to evolve and do better. When we can plan and drive change successfully, it can be very rewarding.

Then there's the change that's forced on us. You know, like when your website hosting company goes belly up. Or your PC dies at an inconvenient time, precipitating an unplanned but long-thought-about change to Mac. Or when the bulk email application you've been using for 10 years keeps dumping functionality that you and your clients need. (OK that last one is me.)
Forced change is rarely pleasant and it's hard to get excited about how things will be better when we're buried in the work of making the change. And, of course, it never happens at a convenient time!
Managing risks can be complicated. I wish I had acted sooner. I'd like to think I'll learn from this experience and act sooner next time. Procrastination is sometimes convenient, and sometimes worthwhile, but certainly not…

Email is the Alternate to SEO

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What's a goal of business blogging that will never be a goal of email marketing? Search engine optimization (SEO), of course. For email, it's all about subject line optimization. (Is SLO a 'thing'?)

Crafting a compelling email subject line can achieve better and more immediate results than writing a whole blog post that is well optimized for SEO.

After 9 years, close to 600 blog posts, and several hundred email newsletters, here is what I know to be true: email beats blogging hands down for tangible and measurable results... faster.

Writing for your newsletter means writing for people, which is way more fun than writing for search engines, whether it's your blog or your whole website. You don't have to be concerned with tediously repeating keywords and phrases, for one thing.

Sure, your email newsletter may include your blog posts. And it should... because your newsletter will get people reading and clicking through to your website much faster than Google will…

Prioritizing Made Easier

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Every small business owner knows what it feels like to have a "million" things to do and nowhere near enough time. We are constantly prioritizing, sometimes deliberately and sometimes less consciously. During the past month, I've done a heck of a lot of prioritizing. Some of you may remember the old screensavers where raindrops would run down your screen. That feels like my calendar lately, all the tasks slipping later in the day.

Last week I needed to start some strategic planning and knew I needed to get focused fast. On-the-fly prioritizing wouldn't cut it. My marketing hero, Bernadette Jiwa read my mind and came to the rescue. I encourage you to read her article Always, Sometimes, Never for a simple approach to business planning. I hope it helps you as much as it's helped me at a time when a quick way to get focused was critical to making progress.
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originally published in the Work Better, Not Harder newsletter May 30, 2019

There's an Email Battle Brewing

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Email bots are coming. Now, your reaction might be "Ugh!" but mine was, "Yay!" And that's part of the challenge.

Here's another part: they are heaven-sent for spammers. Yes, that deserves an "Ugh!"

What I'm excited about are all the possibilities for improving productivity in our daily routines. As a simple example, I'm currently running an email bot to help me memorize a list of items. It "uses a spaced repetition algorithm to bring some piece of information to (my) attention at the optimum interval for memorization."

This coming battle between productivity and bad marketing practices will be epic. It will likely cause the reinvention of email communication. This new technology has such endless possibilities to improve our work (and our lives) but it's already being exploited by spammers. We won't be able to ignore its coming.

Email bots can chop through firewalls and other security measures, improving deliverability fo…

BE the Rabbit Hole

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You know when you've been online for a while - scrolling, reading, tapping - and then realize the time? We may feel good (because we learned something), bad (because something pushed a hot button), or indifferent (what level on HayDay?). Regardless, we still think of these times as getting lost down a rabbit hole.
According to Wikipedia, "Down the rabbit hole" is a metaphor for an entry into the unknown, the disorienting or the mentally deranging, from Alice in Wonderland. Those words may be a bit extreme for our online adventures but the sentiment holds.

In class this week, we were reviewing the homework assignment which was to research and sign up for relevant newsletters. One participant said she kept ending up down rabbit holes. Then she looked up and said, "I guess we really want to BE the rabbit hole, right?" Thank you, Cecelia, for that insight!

Content marketing is something I've been preaching about since before it was called that. I've talked…

What's Your Value Proposition? Really.

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The words that make my heart sing are only sometimes the same words that make my potential clients' hearts sing. And I've learned that I can be quite wrong about what I think is the value I bring to each relationship. For instance, nagging can be a competitive advantage... but I certainly never planned to be a nagger.

Part of starting and growing any business is defining our 'value proposition'. Talk about trying to hit a moving target! The longer you're in business and developing your expertise, the more different types of value you'll have to draw on... and offer to others. A big inventory of value propositions!

What little pieces of feedback (formal or subtle) do you receive every day that can help to shape a new value proposition based on people's needs... instead of what you think? What problems do your customers and prospects wish you could solve for them? I'm going to start an inventory... will you join me in this experiment?

My first thought was…

Blogging and Strategic Planning Shake Hands Over a Template

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Can you agree that's a subject line you don't see every day? Yet it describes something that happens frequently in small business - the mingling of ideas, processes and tools.

One of the templates in my Quick and Easy Content Creation workbook is called "The Laws". I was delighted to recently discover that Megann Willson of Panoptika Inc. used this template to write an article about strategic planning. In essence, she used "The Laws" template as an outlining tool to create a useful strategic planning article that is sort of like a template for success for me - and you - and all her readers. (Thanks Megann!)

Read Megann's article on LinkedIn here.

Download the Quick and Easy Content Creation workbook with "The Laws" plus 9 more templates here.

What "laws" will you write about?

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Email Marketing 101

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Starting an email newsletter isn't especially difficult if you have a propensity for apps and design. You could start tonight and send tomorrow if you really want to. BUT developing and implementing an email marketing strategy that will serve your business - and your readers - well for the long term requires thought, research and decision-making before touching an app.

This month while preparing to teach a 10-week course on email marketing, I've been updating presentations first created 10 years ago. It's been eye-opening to realize how much has changed. Email remains one of the most effective ways to communicate with our target markets. The tools have become more user-friendly but the strategy part has become more complex. It's no longer as easy as it once was to get the attention of new contacts via email - there's a lot more competition in the inbox.

Over the past month or so I've focused on email marketing strategy. Even if you're not getting started, …

Email Marketing Best Practices: It Depends...

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You've finally decided to start doing some email marketing for your small business. There are lots of things you know you need to consider and lots of things you don't know about yet. But you're game and, having finally made the decision, you hop online to do a little research. Because, of course, we can find all the answers to life's mysteries on Google.

You'll quickly find this challenging for two reasons.
There's both good advice and bad advice. Some of the advice online comes from people who are writing from experience but a lot doesn't. Some of it has simply been researched online and rehashed. I could go on and on about the myth of double opt-in.Even if you are learning from experienced marketers, there's always the caveat - 'it depends'. I find myself saying that often when teaching because - really - there is no magic bullet or secret formula. You need to know what it depends on. There are some email marketing best practices that would a…

Proofing Checklist for Error-free Newsletters

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Having prepared and sent over a thousand different newsletters, this is what I know to be true: mistakes happen. There are so many opportunities for error that I still cringe inwardly when I click 'publish'.

This checklist gives you an easy way to remember all of the things to check before you click 'publish': Proofing Checklist for Error-free Newsletters

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"Why Didn't I Start an Email List Sooner?"

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If you're a small business owner without an email list, at some point your future self is going to think, "Why didn't I start an email list sooner?"

It takes years to build an engaged email audience. If you're successful (and of course, you want to be), at some point you'll have something exciting to tell all your customers and colleagues - past, present and future - and no easy way to do it.

All the reasons to start email marketing can be boiled down to this: an email campaign gives you an audience for your news and information. If you do it well, conversations (and "conversions") will result.

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23 Things to Put in Your Small Business Newsletter

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All the experts know that email is still king. If you're starting an enewsletter for your small business, figuring out what content you want to put in it might be one of your first challenges. Here's a quick rundown of a variety of different content sections you might include... but don't use them all at once!
Articles by you, including blog postsArticles by others, or links to articles by othersQuizzes, surveysHow-to’s, tips and tricks, useful tools, resourcesFAQs - Did you know…? – fast facts, interesting tidbitsBook reviews, other types of reviewsInterviewsCase studies, client showcaseWhat’s new…? – of local/industry interestTestimonial(s)Product spotlightsStaff/team spotlightsQuotesCurrent and future promotions and salesPromotions for others (with caution)Events Content that might stay the same each issue (but don't ignore it):
Website linkSocial media linksContact info and linksGoogle map (link)Photo of you/staff/teamHours of operationAffiliate/sponsor links
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Creating Your Own Networking Opportunities

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If you're new to business networking, you might be discovering it can (and should) be much more strategic than just showing up. You might also be feeling some stress about it. I can remember being worried about how to start conversations and what to talk about. And even now, I still expect to feel the embarrassment of not remembering someone's name. But I always enjoy myself when I'm with small business folk.

When I recently stumbled on this blog post I wrote 8 years ago, I realized I was encouraging myself, as well as readers, to more fully embrace networking. And it turns out I've done a good job of following my own advice.

Holding my own events has given me a sense of control... which begets confidence. It has also helped to grow my reputation, my mailing list and my client base. One-time or repeating events, public or by invitation, formal or casual... I've done them all and found value every time.

Take 2 minutes to read this blog post and see what self-serve …

Saying Bye-bye and Why

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We're all familiar with unsubscribing from unwanted emails. Some make it harder than others but, since anti-spam legislation has come into effect, there's been an improvement. Email readers are more aware of their right to unsubscribe and so marketers are getting better at giving that option.

This creates the opportunity to gather feedback - to understand why people are unsubscribing. It might have to do with the frequency or that the person is simply no longer interested in the topic. Knowing why is useful to help shape future email strategy. As someone who's unsubscribing, I can quickly select a multiple-choice option and say bye-bye.

Recently I ran into this example which threw me for a loop. "Wow!"


What's your reaction? "How brazen," I thought. Then, as I was clicking 'other', I realized it's also brilliant. I mean, how many people are actually going to click 'I hate you!' and, if they do, do you care about their feedback? I…

Consider Point of View for All Your Writing

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I've done it. You've done it. And they've done it. I'm talking about mixing up points of view when writing. And also using the right point of view for the right purposes.

Grammarly has a quick little article explaining First, Second, and Third Person in case you don't remember from school.

Here are some things to consider from a content marketing perspective:

Articles, blog posts: Mixing up I-we-you-they-me all in one article might cause confusion. There may be reasons for including all of these words in one article but it's worth re-reading to check. Using both second and third person is something I see often and probably accounts for most of the editing I do. If you are writing to/for your reader, consider using the second person. If you are writing about your own experiences, of course, you have to use the first person.

Website: If your business IS you, I recommend writing in the first person (about yourself) and the second person (for features, benefits, call…

Is Your Newsletter a Vehicle or the Destination?

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Small business owners often arrive at the desire to start an email newsletter from one of two different directions. The route has an impact on the strategy, tactics and tools you will use.

A Vehicle

Some have already been blogging and, for them, an email campaign is a vehicle to get their content in front of (more) people on a regular basis. It's a way to extend the reach of the content they are already creating. It gives regular readers a way to ensure they don't miss a post. Plus, adding additional content snippets can help advance marketing goals.

The Destination

For others, starting a newsletter is their first foray into content marketing - their newsletter will be a resource they want their target market to sign up for. It may be something that isn't available anywhere else. The value delivered is the final destination.

Why does it matter?

If the newsletter you're thinking of starting is a vehicle, you can cruise right past strategic planning. If you've been blog…

eMail Newsletters - Develop Your Strategy First

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The process of starting an email newsletter for your small business involves focusing on these aspects: strategy, tactics and tools. It makes sense to approach them in a logical order from high-level thinking through to detailed work.

Strategy First
This is where you consider that your newsletter strategy flows from your overall marketing strategy. These are the goals typically related to email campaigns: Build relationships, communityGrow your reputation, sphere of influenceBe seen as an expertShare valuable info, products, servicesIncrease your social media followingGive value to your customers, prospects and colleagues on a regular basis From that list, identify 2-3 goals that relate directly back to your marketing strategy. These will guide your thinking and planning moving forward with your email campaign.
Aside from goals, your newsletter strategy also needs to consider 'who'. Depending on the breadth of your target market, this might be a subset of your overall market. T…

Asking Your Friends Works Better Than Asking The Universe

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During the past two weeks, I've been repeatedly reminded of The Secret and its message of asking the Universe for what you want and being open to receiving what comes. Except it's not the Universe I've been asking - it's my friends (aka business colleagues).

Since the new year started, I've been doing a lot of strategizing and planning about how to adapt my business to a changing life situation. I'm rethinking the way I do things, whether I should even be doing some things, and how to make the best use of my time (while still loving work). Phew!

From all that strategizing, I got a list of options, then pros/cons and risks/costs, and finally a pared-down list of things to pursue. One of the things on that list is to make sure to let all my friends know what kind of work/clients I'm looking for.

As it turns out, talking to some of those friends, asking for advice and suggestions, as I went through this process has led directly to new opportunities.

Asking th…

Your Blogging Deadline is Looming

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It's time to write your next blog post. Or maybe the time has already passed. What do you think when your deadline is looming? My own lament is often, "What can I pull together fast that will be useful?"

I talk to a lot of small business owners about blogging - while teaching, networking and over coffee. What I know is this: everyone has different reasons for blogging, or not.

Before starting a blog, there are many different reasons, mostly related to the unknown. Once our blog is started, there is another set of obstacles that might give us grief:
coming up with ideasadapting your ideas for writingstarting to writefinishing writingediting and proofingfinding or creating graphicskeywords and publishingUnderstanding what stops us, can help us uncover ways to conquer it.

This will be my 575th blog post. You might think I've got all the obstacles wrangled - and I did for quite a long time. But since the beginning of this year, I've been struggling to get blog posts …

How Giving Options Reduces Unsubscribes

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After sending out clients' newsletters, I'm often asked by them why someone would have unsubscribed. The worry seems to be that something in that particular issue made them disconnect. This is rarely the case.

I can't tell you all the reasons people unsubscribe but I can tell you that it is always about them. Lives change, interests change, jobs change, priorities change, time changes... all of these things can result in unsubscribes. You should never take unsubscribes personally.

You can typically expect list attrition - the natural pattern of unsubscribes you can consider normal - to be 25-30% per year. That industry-wide benchmark is not as useful as the one your own list will give you over time. You will see what your typical unsubscribe rate is. As long as you are growing your list faster than that rate, you shouldn't spend too much time worrying about unsubscribes.

On the other hand, if you are experiencing a sudden spike in unsubscribes, you will want to dig de…

Quality Control for Your Content

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You've just finished an insightful new article for your blog. You're anxious to publish it and find out what your readers think.

Depending on the topic and type of article you've written, it might make sense to do a little research before publishing.

Researching after writing might seem backward but it has helped me many times. Here is why I often research after writing:
To check that I haven't missed something really important on the topic.To see what others' opinions are and whether there are points of debate I haven't addressed.To make sure my information, instructions or lists are complete.To develop a headline by seeing what shows up in Google searches. Every time I research after writing, I've been glad I did. I often find ways to enhance my article and, even if I don't, it gives me confidence that I've done a good job.

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Simple Content Planner in Trello

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A few months ago I found a new best friend when I started working with a client who uses Trello. While the client is indeed a friend, the free Trello app is what I'm talking about here.

Trello is visual like a bulletin board and, the more things I use it for, the more organized and productive I'm becoming.

I have no shortage of content ideas and I'm pretty good about catching them but, well, not necessarily all in one place. I have a notebook, Word docs in a folder in Dropbox, and as of right now, 22 draft posts on this blog. Recently I discovered a recorded message I'd made for myself last year on my phone.

Catching ideas and organizing them into a content calendar are two different things - and both can be handled easily with Trello. Here is a link to a public board I created and which you can copy and make your own.

If you've used Trello before, you might find this overly simplistic but, well, I'm all about simple. If you haven't used Trello before, you …

Get Focused Before You Start to Write

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If you want to be doing more content marketing but aren't, do you know what's stopping you? A few months ago I wrote this article - Where Do You Get Stuck? - and ever since I have been committed to developing solutions for these stumbling blocks:
coming up with ideasadapting your ideas for writingstarting to writefinishing writingediting and proofingfinding or creating graphicskeywords and publishing Adapting ideas for writing (#2) is a common challenge for small business owners who may not have much writing experience. Here is a way to conquer that stumbling block.

5 Steps to Plan Your Article Before You Start to Write

#1. What is your purpose or goal?
To give or explain informationTo persuade with your opinionsTo share ideas, thoughts or concepts Knowing your goal will inform the style you use for writing. Giving information requires a good detailed outline, simple words, and facts. Persuading requires good research and planning, examples, and writing techniques such as compari…

Advertising vs Content Marketing

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I don't often use terms like 'lead magnet' and 'sales funnel' on this blog. Not because they aren't good things to have - of course, they are - but because there are lots of others writing about those topics. Here I'd rather discuss ideas for those and other tools we use to attract customers.

Content marketing works the best when you focus on the content first. The delivery method is important but won't matter if you aren't creating valuable content.
When I opened a newsletter from a friend recently, this headline jumped out at me:
Content marketing results in 6x more conversions than other forms of marketing.
Advertising costs money. On the other hand, content marketing costs time. Which do you have more of?
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Pantone Colour of the Year for 2019

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When I received Pantone's email announcement of their Colour of the Year for 2019, I didn't rush to blog about it as I usually would. Mostly I thought, "Huh?" And ever since, I've been wondering if I'll have the opportunity to use it in any of the digital marketing I do.

Don't get me wrong, I love Pantone 16-1546 Living Coral. But it feels a bit feminine for my purposes - which are marketing-related, of course.


I decided to have a look at possible colour schemes using Living Coral...


I'm kind of liking that triad combo! What do you think? Will you be using Living Coral in your branding this year?

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