March 23, 2019

Saying Bye-bye and Why

woman leaving with filebox

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!"

example of opt-out form

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? In this case, I was unsubscribing because I was receiving too many emails and that's what I told them.

Gathering legitimate feedback is tough, especially from strangers. I wouldn't use this tactic because it wouldn't be true to my brand. But it's sure got me thinking about clever ways to gather feedback.

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March 19, 2019

Consider Point of View for All Your Writing


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, calls-to-action). If your business is bigger than you, using the third person is more formal and using the first person (we) is more casual.

Biography: It's great if your 'About' page is written in the first person but it's not appropriate for a bio that you're giving to someone else to use to promote you. Have a super-duper version of your bio written in the third person to give to other people to use.

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March 10, 2019

Is Your Newsletter a Vehicle or the Destination?

traffic congestion

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 blogging regularly, you already have goals, a content strategy, and know your target market. You get to take the bypass and skip the congestion caused by strategy and planning. That's an advantage you may not have fully realized. Now you know, what will you do about it?

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March 4, 2019

eMail Newsletters - Develop Your Strategy First


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, community
  • Grow your reputation, sphere of influence
  • Be seen as an expert
  • Share valuable info, products, services
  • Increase your social media following
  • Give 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. This step is important - your newsletter campaign will be more successful if you figure this out now rather than later.

Now that you know your goals and who you want to talk to, it's time to figure out what content would be valuable to them. Value generally means useful or interesting - or both! The trick is to pinpoint your unique content marketing opportunity. Here is an example of how to do that.

Developing your newsletter strategy before you start into detailed work will help to shape your next moves. You may not know all the "best" answers now but working through this process means you'll be alert to information that might impact your strategy going forward. A good strategy always needs review and maybe revision.

Download a fillable worksheet to capture your thoughts now.

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February 28, 2019

Asking Your Friends Works Better Than Asking The Universe


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 the Universe may well be a useful thing to do but asking my friends has had a much more immediate impact.

When was the last time you updated your friends and work colleagues about what's going on in your business and, specifically, what kind of work you're looking for?

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Originally published in Work Better, Not Harder newsletter February 28, 2019

February 25, 2019

Your Blogging Deadline is Looming


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:
  1. coming up with ideas
  2. adapting your ideas for writing
  3. starting to write
  4. finishing writing
  5. editing and proofing
  6. finding or creating graphics
  7. keywords and publishing
Understanding 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 published on schedule... and it's been driving me a little nuts. I know it's clearly #4 on the list above that's causing me pain.

Because I've been aware of this problem, I've been more attentive to understanding what's causing it. I finally pinned down what has changed - some of my work habits. The details will be a future post but, now that I know what I know, I can do something about it. Having a deadline looming is not my favourite feeling. Now that I know what the problem is, and what I need to do about it, what's left is the actual doing.

Do you struggle with meeting your blogging (or newsletter) schedule? What's stopping you when your deadline is looming? Please share in the comments.

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February 16, 2019

How Giving Options Reduces Unsubscribes


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 deeper into your recent email statistics and take a look at the content strategy in your last few newsletter issues. You should be able to pin down a problem - or a change that created a problem - and adjust. A strategy only works to the extent that you are willing to adjust based on feedback.

One thing that can cause a spike in unsubscribes is adding campaigns. For example, if you have been sending a monthly newsletter and then add a campaign for a large event, generating repeat sends, you might experience list exhaustion. Readers that are not interested in the event are feeling overwhelmed with messages about it.

A solution is to provide your readers with subscription options. Set up a second list for event emails so they can unsubscribe from those messages but still receive your newsletter. You will want to consider this strategy if you send a newsletter and promotional emails, as well. Over time, you will see that some of your readers only want event notices, some only want your newsletter, and others want both. They will sort that out for themselves if you give them options.

Readers will unsubscribe from content they are not interested in. Publish content that is useful, relevant and interesting to your target market. Send on a consistent and reliable schedule. Then keep your eye on the unsubscribes... but don't spend your time worrying about them.

February 9, 2019

Quality Control for Your Content


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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January 27, 2019

Simple Content Planner in Trello


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 can find excellent instructions here.

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January 22, 2019

Get Focused Before You Start to Write


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:
  1. coming up with ideas
  2. adapting your ideas for writing
  3. starting to write
  4. finishing writing
  5. editing and proofing
  6. finding or creating graphics
  7. keywords and publishing
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 information
  • To persuade with your opinions
  • To 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 comparisons. Sharing ideas requires many of these things but also a more creative writing style where you paint a picture for your reader.

#2. Who is your article for?

This is likely a subset of your target market. Don't write for everyone. Instead, write for the people who will find the most value in your content. Your message needs to resonate with them to be successful.

#3. What is the topic?

Write a one-line description. This might be the eventual title for your article but don't get hung up on the words. Get it down in such a way that it's simple and clear. Worry about finessing words later.

#4. Do you need to research?

What do you need to know and how can you find out? List questions and possible sources. If you don't research when preparing your article, consider researching after it's written. For example, I tend to avoid researching up front to avoid the risk of plagiarism. But often, once my article is drafted, I'll search to see what others are writing about on the topic and if I've missed an important point.

#5. What main points do you want to make?

List only 1-3 items. If you have more items, you might consider a series or a checklist article.

Once you have done this planning, you'll feel more confident and organized when you sit down to write. And this only takes a few minutes. Click here to download a worksheet you can use as part of your blogging process. You'll find it's a few minutes well spent!

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January 17, 2019

Advertising vs Content Marketing


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?

January 3, 2019

Pantone Colour of the Year for 2019


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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