Saturday, February 26, 2011

7 Tips to Make Your Newsletter Pop

How does your newsletter build loyalty?

Many small businesses have newsletters, but is your newsletter a call to action or is it just a retelling of past events?  Are you still flirting with your customers? Or have you moved into the 10 year stale marriage?  Are you still telling your customers I love you? Or are you just leaving your dirty socks on the floor?

I receive a few email newsletters about trends and topics in and around Japan.  But after I read them, I am never asked to share this with friends, discuss this with others or even comment about what I just read.  In today's social networking society, we are always able to give our opinion.  Your newsletter not be an exception! How can you rekindle the flame?

1) Use that online forum!  Embed your letter with links to your on-line forums.  If your forum is specific to certain members or topics, let your loyal customers log in with a password. This creates more support and loyalty.  You don't have a forum? Well hop on facebook and create one!

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2) Give-aways for feedback! Offer a wine & cheese party for members who respond to a survey.  Tell them that is free as a courtesy.  Yes, I know it may be difficult, but if you find a sponsor for your event, then they can pay for the wine and you can be the shero.  While they are at the party talk about how you appreciated their responses. If it is anonymous just refer to interesting points that you read and things you would love to discuss in more detail. (This can be altered to reflect your business values. You don't drink? Do you fondue?)

3) Feature fantastic customers in your upcoming newsletter. What is your newsletter about? Marketing? Find the Marketer of the Month. Then ask your list if they would like to submit some of their ideas. Are you geared towards parents? Find a way to highlight the accomplishments of the parents in your organization. Maybe a mom just climbed Mt. Fuji or a dad just learned how to dance the tango. Tell everybody!

4) Include video or photographs in the newsletter.  Maybe I am just a visual person, but some of these newsletters are just white space and no color. I know, I know  everyone wants to make it look clean. Clean doesn't mean empty. What happened to the colors of the rainbow?

5) State the obvious! If you know your customers are impressed by the new hamburger place that just opened up, then tell them, "I know you saw the new hamburger place that just opened up, but I'm going to tell you why ours is better." Maybe you don't want to be that direct, but how can you make that an important part of your message. 

6)  Respond to comments, emails, and even "likes."  If you have a newsletter and you get an email that said anything positive or negative, respond to it. Be polite. On another note, the more you write about a topic, the more people will submit random questions that have nothing to do with your particular business.  Now unless it is completely off the wall, then try and give a brief sentence.  I would save these responses for once a week or even once a month. As a small business owner you can have a more intimate relationship with your customers, especially in the building stages.  It really bothers me when small businesses only respond to emails that seem to benefit their needs or when they are asking for money.  I have met two people who respond to almost everything.  Caroline Pover, a Tokyo based entrepreneur, is someone who replies to most if not all of my queries. They are usually relevant. Don't worry, I'm not asking about the weather.  If I send her an email, she will respond, even if it is to say thank you.  Another one is Terry Lloyd, he has a weekly newsletter called Terrie's Takes where he expresses his views on trends in business around the world and in Japan.  He is also the publisher of Metropolis English Magazine and Japan Inc. Now, maybe it's because they are both in publishing, I don't know. But it certainly feels nice to know that someone read me email and had the decency to respond.

7) Get rid of no reply emails! It burns me up when I get an online email from a company that starts off with,
Dear Michaela, or
Haven't heard from you in a while?
Or, Do you want me to stop sending this email?

Then I read the email and I actually want to reply right then and there, but what happens.....I get the "no reply" response. If you have to have a "no reply" button, then have a silly message saying,

Oops, you clicked the no reply button didn't you? Tsk, tsk, tsk...I need you go over to the forums and talk to us there. We love to hear your opinions and some of our other customers may share your thoughts.
or  you could try...

Yeah, we know it sucks to read that no reply button, but our coffers are full so we had to streamline our messaging center. Talk to us over there in the forums.

or how about this one?

I know you had a burning question and we would love to answer it, but we just need you to follow our somewhat overbearing procedure or we may end up like MySpace.

 Check us out on facebook!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Twitter Beware!

If you are funny, get on twitter!
If you have free stuff, get on twitter!
If you have information to share, get on twitter
If you like constantly reading, get on twitter!

But beware! Everyone has heard about the hoopla that twitter has caused in the online world. Recently, I started increasing the amount of tweets that I make @camproadless. I went from one an hour to about twelve a day within two hours.  That may not sound like a lot and it isn't, but I have seen increased traffic. At first, I was super excited! Wow! More followers, but on closer examination about 10 of them are internet marketers.  I have received invitations to buy gold, SEO services, and traffic boosting programs that only cost $699 or something ridiculous like that!

Don't get me wrong, it's not all bad in twitter land, but it is good to know that you shouldn't follow everyone that follows you.  As a full time teacher, in order to increase my twitter presence I use Social Oomph! I have read quite a few articles denouncing the use of sites that pre-record your tweets, but I have to think about my students first. I could sit at the desk and tweet away, but what would that accomplish?

3 of the Biggest Drawbacks to Automated Tweets

1. Automatic following stream- If you click on the automatically follow button, you are destined to start following fx traders, online marketers, and other junk mail pushers.  Now, maybe you want to follow these people, but if they aren't your target audience, your twitter feed will just be full of unnecessary information.

2.@somebody - It's possible that it's the free plan with Social Oomph, but as of right now you can not schedule messages to people.  Why would you want to do that?  Well, after I check my twitter feed, I read other tweets by people and if I see something interesting I want to respond to it. Unfortunately, you can't tell them, great article. I know twitter is about connecting in real-time, but if someone posts a great article, it doesn't matter if I read on Tuesday or Thursday.

3. Spam- In all of my accounts especially youtube and twitter, I have tons of emails that ask me to be their "friend", follow or check out their new product.  It's a bit of a turn-off, but it informs me on how I should interact with others on-line. 

3 Biggest Gains from Automated Tweets

1.  Consistent tweets that are informative and targeted- I can focus on a day about music, dance, or singing.  I know when I am thinking of information to share with others that I am providing a consistent theme for those who are reading my tweets.

2. Manageable -the websites store your tweets and allows you to edit your content before you send it out.  Sometimes I will look at my tweet stream and notice that the dates are wrong or the link doesn't match what I wrote.  I can always clean up my mess.

3.Possibility of systematizing - This is a great way to learn how to systematize your own business. When you are looking to hire someone who can maintain your companies online image, you can start to determine how many tweets a day are feasible, what type of content works for your intended audience, and how long it actually takes to do a good job.

What site do you use for your automated tweets?  Are you using twitter? How? Have you seen an increase in potential clients?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Ways to say thank you!

I was looking for ways to say thank you to my customers! There are a variety of methods that you can use! I found a great website to make gift certificates online. The only real drawback is that you can't copy and paste it because it'S a pdf. So I had to print out each one, which could become a bit pricey. Check out their link here:

Online Gift Card and Certificate ServicesGift Card Ecommerce Services

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

My World is a 24 Hour University!

How can you cross the divide from a teacher-oriented career into a more business oriented focus with education as a background?  See, I know my product. I know who it is for and I know why it is needed.  However, as someone who spends more time teaching reading, writing and arithmetic I don't normally come into contact with SEO managers, Quality Control experts, or Marketing Gurus.  If I have time during the day to get online, it's usually during my lunch break or morning recess. Since people know that I'm a teacher, they even ask me what am I doing online if I am on there during the day. But I have a business to run so tweeting, uploading, and commenting on videos gets done from 11:30AM-12PM. (Don't pay attention to the facebook timeline, it's way off.)

The fact that people can spend a lot of time on their side hustle while they are at work is impressive. This became very clear to me when I volunteered to write articles for an up and coming online magazine here in Tokyo. I wanted to participate and add valuable content and get my writing chops up to speed. However, when I came home every night there were at least 20 messages in my inbox concerning SEO, article content, etc.  I was completely overwhelmed.  When I scrolled through the emails I could see that the members of the magazine were answering one another almost simultaneously.  I was the only one with a good 5 to 6 hour delay between my responses.  The content of their emails was very informative. However, I couldn't keep up.

Transitioning from teacher mode to business tycoon (yeah, a bit presumptuous, but so what!) has been daunting. Here are some ways that I try and stay motivated:

 1) Read on the train. I used to ride my bike to work, that was 45 minutes both ways, but I lost time.  I needed time to read up on SEO, creating systems, and building a brand.
2) Break off all friendships at work. Be courteous, polite, but keep to yourself. You don't have time to keep chitchatting about why they won't put a water cooler in the teachers lounge.  If someone doesn't get the point, use a scalpel! Don't get bogged down in office gossip! If you do choose to talk to your co-workers longer than 15 minutes make sure it's worth it.
3) Listen to webinars, motivation tapes, videos when you are doing something else. If you ask me what is on my iPod you will find Business at Oxford, Help My Business Sucks, Ted Talks and of course some great education sites. I would recommend Edutopia as a great resource! You won't find any music! I can listen to music when I go out. My world is a 24 hour university! Thanks to the internet it is possible!
4) Networking Groups - I have to say Pink Cow Connections has given me a great value for a small price. I learned how to use storytelling to sell. In my classroom I use storytelling to teach a strategy, now I learned how to turn it into a tool for selling. Maybe that is an obvious connection for most of you, but for me it wasn't.  I learned about some great selling strategies, marketing ideas, and even fitness tips from Chikara Fitness.  I would be remiss if I didn't mention my favorite group of real estate investors The Sequoia Entrepreneur Group.  I have been able to meet people who are willing to talk about how they are building their business in a supportive environment. 
5) Perfecting my mindset! At Pink Cow Connections the importance of my mindset is constantly being reinforced.  At the last meeting I attended Gary Bremermann mentioned how much someone should spend on learning about hiring staff. When he said something to the effect of, "If you are making$50-$80 an hour, then you can afford to spend 8-10 hours a week learning how to hire superstars."  Is that how people think? This comment made me stop. The need to be working on your business and not in your business, as touted by Michael Gerber, author of The E-Myth was made very clear. 

My transition is a process, but I know that my work will bring results!