The pros and cons of Newsletters

NewsletterThere are two ways to look at newsletters – whether they arrive in the post or, more likely, in your inbox – as the sender or as the receiver!

It’s interesting that people who complain about the amount of spam email and post they get still send out newsletters to their contact list without due consideration of whether the recipient will find it useful.  If you suspect that you may be guilty of this (even a little bit) it’s time to step back and see things from the receiver’s perspective.

Ask yourself some leading questions:

Does the subject line or main headline encourage people to open it?

‘Acme Widgets Newsletter August 2014′  isn’t exactly exciting – or enlightening; any people will delete this unopened.  To get attention and improve your chance of people opening your email or starting to read your publication you need something intriguing, engaging or something that people want to know about.  To make your newsletter successful and be consistently opened issue after issue you’ll want to develop the art of writing brilliant ‘Open me’ statements.

The one that just landed in my inbox – and made me open it had a subject line that said:

44% of businesses do NOT have a Social Media Policy or Guidelines

That was something I wanted to know more about, so I opened it!

NewslettersDoes it look fresh, attractive and interesting?

If, when people open your email or the envelope your newsletter has arrived in, it looks boring people make the assumption that the content is boring too.  Whilst I’m not suggesting a rebrand, even if you have a fairly conservative brand image, the layout or template you use can lift the look and feel of your publication.  Most of us are influenced by visual perceptions so how it looks it really important.

That doesn’t mean it should have every colour of the rainbow and feature lots of coloured boxes with information in, but it does, at least, need to look fresh and modern, not tired and old-fashioned.

Magnifying valueDoes it lead with value?

If your first article is all about you (or your business) and what you’ve been doing, then don’t expect to keep your reader’s attention for long.  Most of us are too busy to invest time in anything that doesn’t add value – so ensure that you open with your main article and give the reader what you’ve led them to expect in the subject line/headline.

Once you’ve delivered value people are usually open to other information such as promotions or offers.

Something to think about …

If people have signed up to your list voluntarily they’ve done so for a reason.  These days this is usually because you’ve offered them an ethical bribe – a document that provides them with information they’ve identified as useful.  You need to continue that if you are sending these same people a newsletter.  It’s likely that they’ll be interested in the same kind of information around allied subjects.  Your newsletter is about relationship management, and you’ll only build a strong relationship with your reader if you keep delivering what they want.

If you’ve put people on your list because you’ve met them networking, you should really get their permission first.  Giving you a business card does not constitute permission!  The problem with creating a list from random contacts is that their interest spectrum is likely to be vast.  If, for instance, you are an outsourced HR service, many of the contacts you may have met are sole traders and don’t have staff.  That means they are probably not going to be interested in your areas of expertise so your general newsletter is likely to be seen as spam.

However, if you create a specific newsletter for networking connections to share useful information that is a very different situation and can be a really valuable resource.

Is your newsletter short and punchy or long and tedious?

Long blogs are fine – in fact, the latest research indicates that people like longer blogs – but long newsletters are unlikely to get the same level of attention.  When we’re opening the post or checking our email most of us are in ‘skimming’ mode.  If we see something that interests or intrigues us, we’ll give it a quick once over, but it has to be good and easy to consume to keep our attention.  What’s your reaction when you receive something that looks lengthy?  At best – maybe ‘I’ll read this later’.  How often does it then disappear into the heap of things that might be vaguely interesting – to be completely forgotten?

If you’ve got lots of valuable information to share write a blog and then share the opening paragraph and link to it.  If your opener is good enough people will click through to read.

… and don’t forget …

You do need to provide a means for people to unsubscribe – and a way for you to ensure you don’t add them back to the list yourself when they’ve already taken themselves off it.

When you’ve created your newsletter – take a step out of your own shoes and ask yourself ‘if this landed in my inbox (or on my doormat) – would it attract me enough to open it and how would the content really add value for me?’

You know what the answer should be!

 

The right social media for your business

Social media wears many hats – the secret is knowing which ‘outfits’ to wear them with!  Let’s take a look at the biggest platforms and examine how they work – for relationships, business, job hunting and more.

Facebook is VERY social and chatty and people share their personal stuff on their personal accounts.  Some people share their most intimate information and others are much more circumspect and share only the surface information.  To some extent this depends on who you’ve accepted as friends and how you want to be perceived by those people.

I use my personal account for social stuff mostly, chatting with friends and family.  However, I do post the occasional business post, usually when there’s some freebies available.  My connections are a mix of friends, family, business connections (I was on Facebook before Pages were invented) and some people I don’t know as I believe in random connections, you don’t know who knows who!  That means that I am careful what I post and don’t get into very personal conversations online.

As Facebook owns Instagram anything you upload to Instagram is easy to share in your Facebook stream too.

Facebook Pages are different and are perfect for business that sell directly to the consumer.  The craft community find that Facebook is a great arena for their products as people are always looking for unusual gifts for their nearest and dearest.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a Facebook Page if you are a business that sells to other businesses.  It’s an ideal place to host a community and get involved with your clients, answer questions and be the fount of all information on your products and services.  It personalises your business and lets you engage directly with your customers (and potential customers).

However, don’t try selling at people on your Facebook Page.  Now and again an offer or promotion works well, but if all you do is say ‘buy this, buy that’ your audience won’t engage at all.

Sharing tips, testimonials (let other people say how good you are) and special deals exclusively for your Facebook community will help your Page to come to life.

LinkedIn is much more business-oriented, but it depends on whether you are using it:

  • To promote your business
  • To search for a new job
  • As an employee

Your profile will need writing differently depending on which purpose you choose.  If you’re promoting your business then your profile will need optimising for the keywords you want to be found by and the content in your summary and your current and previous roles needs to focused on presenting your skills effectively.

If you’re job hunting your profile will need optimising for the roles you are searching for and your current and previous roles will need presenting in a way that attracts a potential employer.

As an employee you’ll be walking the tightrope between promoting your current employer and yourself.

Engagement on LinkedIn is more about sharing good quality content and engaging in groups where your target audience are active

Twitter is more instant and random – think of it as joining up the dots between large numbers of people so you extend your reach.  If you share lots of high value content you’ll find people start to rate you as an expert and will recommend you to others they’re connected to.

What’s high value content?  Tips, advice and ‘how to’ information.  Obviously, there is a limit to how much you can say in 140 characters (aim for 115 so there’s room for retweets and comments), but always include a link to the longer version of your tweets, whether that’s a blog on your website (or someone else’s) or a page on your website with relevant information.  I often tweet links to my Treasure Chest and free Video Tutorial so people can get access to lots of good quality free stuff.

Don’t broadcast only; be generous share tweets you like and links to good blogs by retweeting, mention people, aim to be helpful and connect people up where you can.

 

Google+ is more of an information sharing platform.  People tend to write longer content and it tends to be a place where people form communities around common interests.  It’s less businessy than LinkedIn, but not as personal as Facebook.  The ability to post to a select circle of people makes it useful for sharing information with specific groups of people.

One of the big attractions of Google+ is the Hangouts, a video conferencing/chat facility that lets several people have online video discussions in real time.  Think how that might work for your business!  What could you do with a regular hangout to engage existing clients, potential customers and advocates?

Pinterest is often discounted as being a bit of fun and not a business platform.  Think again, the stats say that sales from Pinterest users produce nearly double the per head income!

The success of your Pinterest account is based on whether you have your boards organised so it’s easy for people to find what you’re offering.  Whilst creative titles for boards are fun, they don’t help when someone types in what they’re looking for and your board name is too obscure for it to show up in their search.

Use the 500 character text allowance to market whatever you pin.  Another tip is to ensure all your own product/service images appear on your own website and pin from your website rather than uploading.  That way you get lots of links back to your website

YouTube is not only owned by Google, which gives it loads of brownie points, but it is second only to Google as a search engine.  When people want to know how to do things they often type it into YouTube to get instructions.

If you’re into video and can produce reasonable short videos having a YouTube channel is a must.  Videos don’t have to be long, nor do they have to feature you personally.

If you hate standing in front of the camera create a slide presentation and narrate it with appropriate music – but beware of death by PowerPoint!  Use lots of images and only enough words on screen for people to get the message.

There are more and more companies offering sensible prices for short videos too now.

A word of warning

Don’t try to be everything to everybody on all these platforms.  Think about your ideal customers or clients, where are they most likely to be active – that’s where you need to be focused.  Get really good at a couple rather than skimming the surface on all of them.

 

Marketing in 10 minutes a day

Photo courtesy of Paula C. Eytcheson

Photo courtesy of Paula C. Eytcheson

One of the most frequent questions I’m asked is ‘How long should I spend on marketing?’  Realistically, I think you should be investing at least three hours a week, but most small business owners insist they haven’t got that much time to spend.  If you also don’t have a member of staff or an outsourced support to give it to, here is my quick and dirty guerrilla marketing plan.

Monday

Upload a week’s posts to Twitter, your Facebook Page and your LinkedIn account.  OK this means you need to generate the posts and that can’t be done in 10 minutes, but if you invest an hour in putting together some value-based tips, suggestions and advice linked to relevant pages in your website and pay $9.99 a month for a Hootsuite account, you can update and upload these in 12 clicks! (5 minutes)

Take a look at your Twitter feed and comment on a couple of things, retweet something that interests or entertains you. (5 minutes)

Tuesday

Upload a picture and a short comment relevant to what you do onto either Facebook (if you’re B2C) or as a LinkedIn post (if you’re B2B).  You could also pin this to one of your Pinterest boards too and post it to Google+ if you use those platforms.  The sourcing of the image and creating the comment will take most of the time, uploading is pretty straightforward.  (10 minutes including finding an appropriate image)

Wednesday

Ask a question on your Facebook Page or LinkedIn status to get people talking and engaging with you.  (4 minutes)

Revisit your Twitter feed and comment, thank people for mentions and retweet interesting posts. (3 minutes)

Check your Facebook Page/LinkedIn account/Pinterest/Google+ and respond to any comments (3 minutes)

Thursday

Do an advanced search for your ideal client on LinkedIn.  Choose the best matches who are 2nd level connections and make contact with them.  (10 minutes)

Friday

1st week – write a list of subjects that people ask you about a lot with a view to converting them into blog posts.  Find a copywriter who can turn these into articles to post on your blog.  (10 minutes)

2nd week – post one of your pre-written blogs with an appropriate image and post the blog title and link on social media.  (5 minutes)

3rd week – create a newsletter using your blog as the lead article and adding your latest promotion/offer and send to your list. (10 minutes)

4th week - post another of your pre-written blogs with an appropriate image and post the blog title and link on social media.  (5 minutes)

Repeat your Friday schedule every 4 weeks, obviously you won’t need to find a new copywriter each month, if you find one that you can work with, you just need to schedule maybe an additional 15-20 minutes to talk through your list of subject and pick two for development.

To start with some of these activities will take longer than 10 minutes, but once you get used to them you’ll get familiar with the processes and ensure you are visible online to help people to remember you.

Ideally, you should be looking at extending this to include things like getting involved with groups where your target clients are active on LinkedIn, or getting your Facebook Page more visits and activity, writing longer posts for LinkedIn, guest blogging, developing social media posts from your blogs and much more.  However, in the real world time is at a premium and 10 minutes a day is manageable for most people so this will at least get you started.

P.S.  If you’re looking for someone to help with your blogs – we do that!  Give us a call on 01245 473296.

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