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Mary Wu, Social Media Consultant

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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

7 Steps to Starting Your List — Part 4

Subtitled Boring But Important 

(or how to avoid calling your lawyer) 
Computer generated 3D photo rendering.

Computer generated 3D photo rendering.

If you’re anything like me (and if you’ve got a good spam filter set up), you’ve got a folder FULL of completely useless and unwanted email that has been sent to you, much of it illegally. In this article we’ll discuss how to avoid sending SPAM. Instead of reinventing the wheel, the following is copied directly from the Federal Trade Commission CAN-SPAM Act compliance guide.

  1. Don’t use false or misleading header information. Your “From,” “To,” “Reply-To,” and routing information – including the originating domain name and email address – must be accurate and identify the person or business who initiated the message.
  2. Don’t use deceptive subject lines. The subject line must accurately reflect the content of the message.
  3. Identify the message as an ad. The law gives you a lot of leeway in how to do this, but you must disclose clearly and conspicuously that your message is an advertisement.
  4. Tell recipients where you’re located. Your message must include your valid physical postal address. This can be your current street address, a post office box you’ve registered with the U.S. Postal Service, or a private mailbox you’ve registered with a commercial mail receiving agency established under Postal Service regulations.
  5. Tell recipients how to opt out of receiving future email from you. Your message must include a clear and conspicuous explanation of how the recipient can opt out of getting email from you in the future. Craft the notice in a way that’s easy for an ordinary person to recognize, read, and understand. Creative use of type size, color, and location can improve clarity. Give a return email address or another easy Internet-based way to allow people to communicate their choice to you. You may create a menu to allow a recipient to opt out of certain types of messages, but you must include the option to stop all commercial messages from you. Make sure your spam filter doesn’t block these opt-out requests.
  6. Honor opt-out requests promptly. Any opt-out mechanism you offer must be able to process opt-out requests for at least 30 days after you send your message. You must honor a recipient’s opt-out request within 10 business days. You can’t charge a fee, require the recipient to give you any personally identifying information beyond an email address, or make the recipient take any step other than sending a reply email or visiting a single page on an Internet website as a condition for honoring an opt-out request. Once people have told you they don’t want to receive more messages from you, you can’t sell or transfer their email addresses, even in the form of a mailing list. The only exception is that you may transfer the addresses to a company you’ve hired to help you comply with the CAN-SPAM Act.
  7. Monitor what others are doing on your behalf. The law makes clear that even if you hire another company to handle your email marketing, you can’t contract away your legal responsibility to comply with the law. Both the company whose product is promoted in the message and the company that actually sends the message may be held legally responsible.

In the “Related articles” section, I’ve included the Federal Trade Commission CAN-SPAM guide and the Anti-Spam policies from MailChimp, AWeber, iContact, and Constant Contact. I highly suggest reading through them (if you ever are suffering from insomnia).

The important take-away from this is that if you are creating a mailing list, and if you use an email service such as MailChimp or AWeber, as you walk through the setup and as you add people to your lists, the service has automated ways of making sure that you are complying with their Anti-Spam policies. If you hire someone to send out mail for you (using one of the web-based mail applications or using your Gmail or Outlook), you are legally responsible for anything sent in your name.

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

AND — since I realize that this topic is incredibly boring (BUT EXTREMELY IMPORTANT), I’d like to leave you with a final thought.

Tuesday Tip – Avoiding the Link to Nowhere

Links Key Showing Backinks Linking And Seo

Links Key Showing Backinks Linking And Seo

Tuesday Tip – Avoiding the “Link to Nowhere”

At least once a week I run across the “link to nowhere,” where someone has put a link on their website, LinkedIn profile, email, or Facebook that is incorrect. As someone who is aware of the ability for people to make errors and a basically nice and supportive person, I will typically send a message saying, “Oh, by the way, your link is broken.”
But I wonder, between the time a person has set up the incorrect link, and the time I discovered it and informed them, how many times has someone seen something like this …
badlink
 and moved on to someone else providing similar services.
So, as you’re looking at your website (and others), test the links. And if you run across someone with a missing link, send them a nice note to let them know. They’ll appreciate it.

7 Steps to Starting Your List — Part 3

Email Envelopes On Screen Showing Emailing Or ContactingOver the next few weeks, we’ll be discussing email in detail. By the end of this series, you should be able to start up a list and keep it running. Here are the items we’ll be addressing:

  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

We’ve already given some thought to your target audience (your clients and strategic partners) and your free offer. Today we’ll talk about your sign-up form. In the “Related Articles” section below, I’ve added instructions from MailChimp and iContact on how to add a Sign-up Form. Most email marketing platforms have fairly good instructions for how to set up. But how do you actually get people to sign your form? Here’s some ideas. Put it EVERYWHERE. If someone knows you they should EASILY be able to find out how to sign up for your email list. Some of the ideas I’ve seen used:

  • Email signature file – everyone you send a email to, be it a client or a vendor or a joint venture partner or someone you met networking and you’re following up with, sees your email and your signature line. Mine has “Sign up for my newsletter and receive 3 Simple Steps for Getting Started in Social Media.” It’s one line at the bottom of my email, it doesn’t interrupt any messages; but if someone does take time to look for contact information, they do see a way to receive my email.
  • LinkedIn – In my LinkedIn summary, I have the following sentence: “To get weekly insights into client communication through social media, blogs, and newsletters, sign up for her newsletter at http://bit.ly/MWuVaList.” While it doesn’t allow someone to go directly to the link, by the use of a bit.ly and a simple name, they can easily find their way.
  • Website – Link to your sign-up form from your website.
  • Invoices – Add a sign-up form link to your invoices.
  • Trade Shows – Collect names at trade shows (make sure it is clear you’re adding someone to your list – we’ll talk more about this next week).
  • Speaking engagements – Offer a drawing or incentive to people when you’re at a trade show or when you’re speaking at a networking event (again, make sure to make it clear you’re adding them to your list).
  •  Facebook Sign-up – If you have a Facebook Page for your business, one of the options available is to link to a sign-up form.  If you look at the picture below, you’ll see where the Sign-up icon is on the Social Media Examiner page.

fbsignup As you can see, there are many ways to get the word out about your mailing list. Do you have any great ideas? Leave a note in the comments.   Related articles

(Rough week — sign and sing, form and from – I’m putting my proofreader through his paces today).

Tuesday Tip – Cloud Based Contacts

ID-10079666I've recently gotten a new cell phone. My former one wouldn't charge, and it was getting quite inconvenient. Getting a new phone is at once exciting and confusing. The average life span of a cell phone is two years, and a lot of changes happen in that amount of time.
One thing I haven’t had to worry about since 2008 though is how to move my contacts from one cell phone to another. Once I got my first Android phone, I discovered the advantage to having my phone linked to my Google account. All my contacts can follow me from my desktop to my laptop to my phone. I can have names, addresses, phone numbers, emails, birthdays, and any other information filed away in my contacts. This is not only convenient when changing phones, it also connects to other applications on the phone (the one I use most often is maps if I’m heading to someone’s house).
Woman Showing display of her new touch mobile cell phone

Woman Showing display of her new touch mobile cell phone

Another form of cloud-based contact storage is Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software. A few clients and colleagues I know use a CRM platform called Contactually. This keeps all of a person’s information available on a phone or computer or tablet. Contactually (and I assume some other CRM platforms) also keeps your messages together by contact. So if you can’t remember when your meeting with Wilma is you, can go to her contact information and it will have your emails and your chats and your text messages together (except for Facebook messenger because sometimes Facebook decides it doesn’t want to coordinate with other platforms; and being Facebook, and being free, they can choose to do that).
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

7 ways to start your list today! Part 2

Email Envelopes On Screen Showing Emailing Or Contacting Over the next few weeks, we’ll be discussing email in detail. By the end of this series, you should be able to start up a list and keep it running. Here are the items we’ll be addressing:

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

Remember your HOMEWORK from the previous post in this series? (I’m pretty sure you haven’t done it yet, so you can do it now). I suggested that you think about your email prospects and their challenges, frustrations, pain points, aspirations, hopes, and dreams.

Find something they need that also showcases your products or services. Here’s a list from the Hubspot article listed below:

Balloons With Free Coming Through Computer  Shows Freebies and Promotions Online

Balloons With Free Coming Through Computer Shows Freebies and Promotions Online

  • Ebooks
  • Guides
  • Webinars (Live & Archived)
  • Slideshows
  • Kits
  • Industry Case Studies
  • New Industry Research
  • Templates
  • Free Tools
  • Free Trials
  • Product Demos
  • Consultations
  • Coupons

As you can see, that’s quite a few ideas. I’ll give some examples from some people that I know.

Evie Burke at One Insight Closer offers a PDF of her Priority Insight Tool. I’ve gone back to this tool quite a few times when I’ve gotten overloaded.

Beth Majerszky at Simply Be Coaching and Retreats offers 7 days of  audios and activities to help you be open to more joy.

Michelle Smith at Z and B Consulting offers a video training for helping you find your target market. (If you don’t know your target market, checking that out will help you determine who you are looking for as a client).

Different people with different ideal clients and different offers. But the offers are meant to entice people to sign up for their list.

Do you need help determining your free offer or your ideal client? Set up a meeting with me if you need a hand.

MeetWithMe_blue

Do you have any specific questions about or challenges based on email? Leave a note in the comments.

  Related articles