Mary Wu, Virtual Assistant

Home » 2015 » June

Monthly Archives: June 2015

Tuesday Tip – Soft Landings

IMG_2099aTuesday Tip – Soft Landings

I’ve just returned from the vacation of a lifetime, courtesy of my mother-in-law. Spending time with family and being completely off the grid is great, but coming back to the “work a day” world is challenging.
In the weeks of planning for my time off, I knew that I needed to fiercely protect the first few days back. The first thing I did was to make sure I had nothing on the burner the first few days back. The third day back I had a (previously scheduled) doctor’s appointment and two short phone meetings. There’s email to get to and phone calls to return and other things that pop up while your gone.
But one of the things I did before I left was to make sure that everything was set, not only for the days that I was gone, but for the days after I returned. For my social media clients this means not only scheduling posts during my week off, but also scheduling posts for the following week. For my newsletter clients this meant letting them know I would need all information for newsletters by 3 days before I left (which they understand – we all need time away).
As for myself … do you see that lovely photo up in the corner. That was taken during a vacation a few years ago – because I knew I would want to have the Tuesday Tip out on time and that I wouldn’t have had time to download and sort all my photos before posting.
So, this post was actually written two weeks ago – with a note to myself to update the post if I feel the need (and have the time) to correct everything.
I hope you can find some time to get off the grid.

7 Steps to Starting Your List — Part 6

Create Your Email   

Girl Asleep On Her Notebook ComputerI think this is where most people have difficulty. Looking for ideas to write about, looking for images, trying to make sure that the spelling and grammar are correct.

Since I don’t believe anyone could cover all the aspects of great email campaigns in one blog post (best practices recommend that blog posts aren’t too long), I’ll try to hit on a few high points.

  • Grab their attention at the start – have an attention grabbing first sentence.
  • Have short concise paragraphs
  • Remember to add some interesting personal stories when appropriate
  • Have a clear call to action (best practices recommend buttons)
  • Include links – to your blog, to your social media, and to your website.
  • Include events, webinars, new offerings, specials on old offerings.
  • Write TO YOUR CLIENTS. Pay more attention to what your audience wants to HEAR and less attention to what YOU want to SAY.

Finally, I understand that some businesses are cash strapped, and I understand that some people are highly independent and want to do it all, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with reaching out for help when you need it (heck, I only get paid if people need help so I’m a big fan here.) If you need some names of some great copywriters, feel free to contact me. If you have any recommendations you’d like to make, please leave them in the comments.

At the VERY VERY end of this post (if you care to keep scrolling down) I have some “recipes” from some newsletters that I edit and that I read.

Related articles

Finally, a review of the previous (and upcoming) posts on this topic.

  1. Build your list — define your target email audience.
  2. Create Freebie Offer
  3. Promoting your sign-up form
  4. Remember CAN-Spam
  5. Set up your program
  6. Create your email
  7. Test and Track

What others are doing

Mary Wu, Virtual Assistant – Typically, my newsletter consists of a short paragraph of a personal nature, an excerpt from a recent blog post (with an invitation to continue reading and a link to my blog post – to drive traffic back to my website), a segment I call “Other Great Reads” that are articles related to my “topic of the week” (or as the spirit moves me), and sometimes a promotion about a package.

Michelle Smith, Z and B Consulting – Michelle will typically have a short personal paragraph, an excerpt from a recent blog post, promotional information (when she has a promotion going on), she sometimes includes a “where’s Michelle” segment, where she talks about different networking events she’s attending. Michelle regularly tries to spotlight a client or business partner.

Evie Burke, One Insight Closer – Has a very similar plan, with a short personal paragraph, she will often post an entire blog post (but with a link if you wish to comment), promotional information (when she has a promotion going on), a “where’s Evie” segment, where she shares thedifferent networking events she’s attending. Evie typically will have a segment called “Evie Recommends” where she promotes a colleague or client. (She’s really good about that).

International Coach Federation Chicago – Has a “letter from the president” that spells out information going on in any given month (Murray will often lead with a quote). The next month’s Chapter Meeting is listed, with a short excerpt about the meeting and a link to the eventbrite page so people can register for the meeting. In the sidebar we list all of the small group meetings and the ICF Core Competency Call, and there is an area called “Coach Chat” where there might be a reminder if dues are due and articles of interest to coaches.

(Transparency — I edit my newsletter, also the newsletter for Z and B Consulting, and also the ICF Chicago newsletter)

All of the above have links to social media and websites, and social share buttons. (If you look at last week’s article I talked about templates, the “links” and “shares” can be set up with the template).

Tuesday Tip – Manage Change

ID-10079666OH MY GOODNESS

SOMETHING CHANGED
“It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.” – Charles Darwin
It’s inevitable. Things change all the time. I was recently on a forum on WordPress.com where people were expressing negative opinions of the “new improved posting experience.” While it is important that the “powers that be” behind any platform understand the needs of their clients, and what is (and is not) working for them, sometimes you just have to roll with the changes.
Here are three ways to manage change:
  1. Set aside time during your week for learning new things, even if sometimes “learning new things” means relearning old things.
  2. Figure out if there is a way to revert. When WordPress.com changed the posting edito,r they still kept the old way active if you knew how to find it (or if you knew how to find the forum which detailed out how to revert). (This will NEVER happen with Facebook changes)
  3. Find someone (perhaps a wonderfully charming virtual assistant) who has complimentary strengths.

These are some options, and I’m sure there are more.

There’s a Jimmy Buffett song called “Cowboy in the Jungle”

We’ve gotta roll with the punches
Learn to play all of our hunches
Make the best of whatever comes your way
Forget that blind ambition
And learn to trust your intuition
Plowin’ straight ahead come what may
And there’s a cowboy in the jungle

 (OH – and for transparency sake, when editing a WordPress.com posting, I typically switch back and forth between the classic way to post and the new posting experience; WordPress has some unique features in each, you just need to remember to SAVE before switching).
“Tips” image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

7 Steps to Starting Your List — Part 5

Setting up the Program  

One of the reasons I’ve decided to start focusing more on communication in my own business is because THIS is what I would call

THE FUN PART!!!!!!!!

ID-10050644Okay — the first part of this might not be fun because you will need to decide where you’re going to be setting this up.

You have to choose which mail platform you should use. There are advantages and disadvantages to each of them (MailChimp), so it might be difficult to decide which one to use (MailChimp).

I’ve worked with AWeber, iContact, and Mailchimp. When I was using AWeber (over a year ago), I found it rather clunky to use (there’s a technical term for you, “clunky”). It seemed as though it would be easier to work with for people who have strong html skills. I’ve heard that it’s gotten more user-friendly, and AWeber does have a 24-hour support team, so if you’re struggling, there is help at hand. MailChimp does not have 24-hour support, but personally I find it much more intuitive. I use iContact on a regular basis, but since my mother told me, “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all”* I won’t say another word about iContact. (I’m not mentioning Constant Contact because I do not have any hands-on experience with it).

Once you’ve determined which email service you will go with (MailChimp), you can log in and start setting up your service.

mctemplatesThere are differences between each of the applications, but the basic steps are the same. You’ll create a template. THIS is where you actually go back and look at information you look at in Step 1 (remember that homework I gave you?) You started thinking about your ideal client. When you are building your template, keep that person in mind. While you want this to be something that appeals to YOU you also want it to appeal to YOUR CLIENT (and that person is more important.

From personal experience and from seeing what others have done, you want to get your FIRST template right the FIRST time (because once you’ve sent that first email – you might use the same template over and over for months or years). Luckily, for the first template, you have as much time as you choose to allow yourself. (But don’t wait until it’s perfect, or it may never get done).

A few bullet points on the template design:

  • Branding – you’ll want to use your logo, you’ll also want to plan to have your template go with your branding colors.
  • Social Follow – you’ll want to make it easy for your readers to follow you on the various social media platforms on which you are ACTIVE. (Yes, I have a Pinterest page; no it’s not listed in my email because I look at it maybe once every few months if I’m trying to hunt a recipe)
  • Social Shares – in case people want to SHARE your email (because your mailings will include content that people WANT to share)
  • Contact Information – yes, they can hit reply – but you might want them to be able to phone you or find you in other ways.
  • Website – you ALWAYS want to drive traffic to your website (after all, this is where there’s a lot more great information about YOU and YOUR products and services — make it EASY to find).

Call me a geek, but I LOVE to do platform setups, even when I’m fighting to figure out how and where to fit everything (maybe even especially when I’m trying to figure out how and where to fit everything).

Once you’ve got your first template set up – make some kind of short, draft email and test drive it. Send it to yourself, your spouse, your kids, your parents, your coach, your accountability partner and anyone you know who will be non-judgmental AND honest (but gentle). Once you get that set up … well we’ll talk about that next time.

Both MailChimp and Constant Contact have tutorial pages that you can access even if you do not have an account. You can look at these pages and get some ideas about setting things up.

MailChimp tutorial page

Constant Contact tutorial page

In the “Related articles” section, I’ve included a few articles that compare various email marketing services. If you’re thinking of getting started, I’d suggest reading the articles. Since these are opinion articles, I’d ever encourage reading the comments section as sometimes people will disagree in the comments (and you want a wide range of opinions).

ON THE OTHER HAND – I was reading an article by Tania Lombrozo at NPR about how we store information in other people’s brains (Storing Information in Other People’s Heads) and I find this is very common. If I have a question about jazz music, I might call my friend Deb. If I have an obscure law, question I might ask my friend Brian or my friend Linda. Once I needed a new camera and I bought the same one that my friend Tim had just bought. So if you want to take advantage of the information in MY brain – I’d say MailChimp. I find it easier to use, easier to track, and it’s really easy to “share” if you want to add a user. There are 4 different levels, viewer (can access reports) author (can edit but not send campaigns), manager (full access except user management and list exports), and admin (full access), and if you ever want to remove one of these people, you don’t even need to figure out a new password.

Since I’ve made it clear that I favor MailChimp, here is my affiliate link. Powered by MailChimp

Related articles

Finally, a review of the previous (and upcoming) posts on this topic.

  1. Build your list — define your target email audience.
  2. Create Freebie Offer
  3. Promoting your sign-up form
  4. Remember CAN-Spam
  5. Set up your program
  6. Create your email
  7. Test and Track

*Actually that quote is from Thumper’s mother in the movie Bambi, but let’s not split “hares”.

Female looking at envelope icons image courtesy of Ohmega1982 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tuesday Tip – Decisions, Decisions, Decisions – or NOT

ID-10079666Tuesday Tip – Decisions – or NOT?

It’s been a few months, but a while back there was quite a bit of news about Mark Zuckerberg’s wardrobe (see related article). From the Business Insider article: “He said even small decisions like choosing what to wear or what to eat for breakfast could be tiring and consume energy, and he didn’t want to waste any time on that.”

This actually makes a lot of sense to me in some aspects. While I wouldn’t want to have the same thing for breakfast every day (I like to “mix up” my smoothie ingredients), I can see the benefits to limiting decisions.

I recently updated a filing system (a real PAPER filing system). Had I wanted to, I could have come up with some kind of color coding system. But I just ran with what I had on hand for 2 reasons.

  1. It was on hand, so I didn’t need to make any runs to Staples or Office Depot and (more importantly)
  2. I could easily have spent days with an internal debate (do I have certain color hanging folders for “months” and others for “days” and others for “general” and others for “clients” or do I have certain tabs for the above — should I get multiple color pens for each different tab to make different things stand out.

20150611_144132These files are in a lidded case that nobody but me will ever need to see, and as you can see, there are yellow tabs and blue tabs and clear tabs, and blue and brown and yellow and … files, but there is no method to this. Because what really matters is what the tabs say, and that I have set this up to better organize myself and serve my clients needs.

If I had spent days fretting over which color scheme to go with, it wouldn’t have served anyone’s needs.

Sometimes it’s okay to have things planned out and look a certain way (for instance, a Powerpoint presentation, or a proposal), but when it doesn’t really matter, just remember the KISS principle. (Keep It Simple Stupid)

How do you simplify your decision making?

“Tips” Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tuesday Tip – Do Not Disturb

Bedroom, 3D visualization modern style

Bedroom, 3D visualization modern style

Tuesday Tip – “Do Not Disturb”

 This tip is directed at GMAIL users, but it’s an idea that Outlook users (or anyone using an email service that schedules) can keep in mind.
I’m (somewhat of) a stalker. I don’t necessarily go hunting people down, but I can use tools that I have readily available to find out information about them. Saturday morning I woke up and wanted to send a quick chat message to a client. While doing something else, I noticed that she had been idle for about 3 hours. This was on a Saturday morning, and from doing the math, I could tell that maybe the best form of communication would be something that did NOT pop up in a notification window.
Instead of sending a chat or a text message, I decided my best course of action would be to send something LATER. For those of you that have Gmail, you know there’s not a way to send a message “later” …
ID-10079666OR IS THERE?
You can add Boomerang for Gmail by Baydin to your Gmail. Boomerang will allow you to send emails later, and also to “Boomerang” a mail if you’ve sent it and want to make sure you hear back from the person.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net