7 Tips for Managing Information Overload

Posted by on Feb 01 2020

Do you ever have that disturbing feeling that trying to squeeze one more piece of new information in your brain will render you senseless?

Information overload causes stress and a loss of productivity. We’re so busy gathering information that we never get into action around implementing all these great ideas. And we can’t seem to put our fingers on the important information that we’ve gathered!

Here’s even more bad news: when you take in too much information, according to a Temple University study, you begin to make more errors, and worse, make more bad decisions. Can your business really afford that lack of clear thinking? (Don’t even get me started about how a hyper-connected lifestyle is bad for your physical and emotional health!)

Here are 10 tips for managing information overload

Regain control of your brain, your time and your tasks with these ideas:

  1. Remember the most important rule: YOU are in charge of your To Do list. YOU are in charge of your calendar and YOU are in charge of how much information you’re willing to receive each day. Trying to take multiple classes at once, or trying to read more than one book at a time, is a recipe for information overload. It doesn’t allow you any time to assimilate and implement. Be selective and base all your decisions on achieving your goals while mirroring your values.
  2. Get things out of your head and on to paper. When you take new information, your brain naturally tries to process it, to make connections, and apply it to your real life. Trying to keep all that “thinking” in your brain makes you feel muddled, anxious, confused. Doing a brain dump — writing down your ideas, even in a quick list format — will help clear things out.
  3. Take the most recent class you’ve attended or the most recent book you’ve read, and create a Top 3 Action Items list. Don’t create a massive To Do list of every great idea from the class or book. Instead, choose the top three actions you can take within a month, and put only those tasks on your To Do list. Once they’re done, you can always go back and choose three more. The point here is two-fold: start implementing what you’ve learned, and do it in such a way that you don’t overload yourself.
  4. Make the decision to make a decision. I know, it sounds silly, right? But if ideas and information are running around in your head and you’re not willing to either act on them or let them go, you sabotage yourself and hold yourself in a perpetual state of overload. Stop doing that to yourself. Instead, tell yourself, “Today I will make a decision,” then do it. You’ll feel better immediately.
  5. When you are drowning in information, stop piling on more. It’s okay to stop watching the evening news. It’s okay to stop reading articles or checking social media sites several times a day. Each time you interact with an information delivery system, guess what? More information is shoved in your face. By taking a vacation – even a short one – from any information delivery system, you get immediate relief from information overload.
  6. Use tools like Evernote or One Note to have a central location for storing information. As important as storing information is, retrieving it easily is even more important. That’s why I moved from paper notebooks to Evernote for storing notes when taking classes, reading books or perusing articles. Evernote allows you to tag each note with keywords and sort them into folders. Notes are completely searchable, so you can have all the information and ideas at your fingertips.
  7. Do you have competing goals? Work on one at a time. For instance, today I wanted to accomplish three things: write this blog post, create my class schedule for the next nine months, and work on a class agenda for a new program I’m designing. All of these things are exciting, and all need to get done soon. All require research and paying attention to incoming information. But only one of the three had a deadline: writing this blog post today. So I put the other things on the back burner and focused solely on writing this blog post. Once it’s done, I’ll choose one of the other two projects to work on next. You have to be willing to let go of some information, even exciting information, so you can focus on your priorities.

I’d love to hear from you: how do you cope with information overload? Are there techniques or software products you use to help you manage absorbing, processing and retrieving information?

   

15 comments for now

Category: Managing Projects, Tasks & Time, Running a Strong & Efficient Business
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12 Must-Have Items to Put in Your Welcome Email

Posted by on Jan 14 2020

Think of a new subscriber to your email list as a guest in your home.

How will you make them feel welcomed and appreciated?

Your first email to them, your “Welcome” email, can begin that relationship, and turn a one-way conversation into a two-way conversation between your business and your customer. Make it count.

Your customers are accustomed to building personal relationships with a business via email. They reject companies and service providers where they don’t feel they’re being honored, heard or respected.

Send the first email out automatically, within a few minutes after a person subscribes and opts-in to your email list. It can be one email, or a series of emails, triggered by a person joining your list.

What a Welcome email will do for you and your business

A well-crafted Welcome email – whether it’s confirming a person’s subscription, offering immediate access to your free content, or a receipt for a purchase – can build trust and a rapport with your audience. It sets the tone of future communication, starts a conversation, helps reinforce your brand and message, and acknowledges how important your audience is to you.

Consider it your calling card; it’s your one opportunity to knock their socks off with meaningful content that solves their problems or answers their questions. You want them to open future emails from you.

Be warm, professional, helpful – and human.

Some tips on what you should put in your first email

  1. Welcome them to your community. Remind them how they got on your list – did they sign up for a free offer, did they make a purchase from your online store, or did they hear you speak or teach somewhere?
  2. Thank them. Acknowledge that you’re grateful they chose your content, or for their purchase.
  3. Talk to them about what they’ve signed up for. What kind of content can they expect? If they bought something from you, let them know how to access that item or when they can expect to get it. If they signed up for an event, remind them of the date and time. Help them figure out how to get started quickly.
  4. Let the content match the relationship. If your Welcome email is to a new customer, craft it as a thank-you for their purchase. If your Welcome email is to a new subscriber who is not a customer yet, focus the email on what resources you have for them (especially free resources/content, to help build the relationship).
  5. Assure them that you understand what their challenges and dreams are. They signed up to your list, but they still want to know that you understand their situation and that you can provide solutions. Provide content that outlines some common problems or questions they have, along with tips and techniques to move forward.
  6. Give them more than they expected. Offer links to important and helpful content on your website, or links to audio files, documents or webinar and video content.
  7. Tell them how often they can expect your emails. You should be sending email newsletters at least once a month, but once a week is better. Whatever you choose, be consistent.
  8. Provide them with links to your social media accounts as another way to connect.
  9. Answer frequently asked questions. Are there questions that pop up all the time which a list of FAQs could answer quickly?
  10. Continue the conversation. If you promised something in return for their signing up, make sure they got it. Follow up with a survey asking them what they think about your product or service. Remember: Even if it’s free, they’re still a customer. They’re consuming your content.
  11. Ask them to take action. To keep email subscribers engaged, ask them to take action: click a link, complete a survey, respond to a question, share a comment, sign up for a video tutorial.
  12. Tell them how to unsubscribe. It’s important that you give clear instructions on how to get off your list. Most automated emails have a link at the bottom to unsubscribe, but assure them in the Welcome email that they can exit anytime they want.

One email… or two?

There’s a lot of information you could include in your Welcome email. But you don’t want to overwhelm your new prospect or customer with too much information in one email. When you’re crafting your Welcome email, take a step back and ask yourself: Am I overloading them?

If yes, consider just putting the welcome, thank-you, and what you can expect topics in the first email, and use a second email for additional information.

Sometimes the shortest, simplest emails get the best response.

Doubling down with a double opt-in

Sometimes asking people to confirm their email address – known as a “double opt-in” – will be your first electronic correspondence with a customer. By asking people to double opt-in, you’re ensuring a quality list of real email addresses.

The double opt-in is meant to get people to click on a link to confirm their email address. Some people don’t do this right away – or they don’t do this at all – so you might have to send a reminder. You can also check the list of people who signed up but didn’t confirm their subscription to check for obvious misspellings in their email addresses.

If you are finding that people don’t click the confirmation link, the first question to ask is: Are they receiving the email in the first place?

Check your bounced email list to make sure they are receiving and opening the confirmation email. If necessary, send a reminder.

I’d love to hear from you

Are you sending out Welcome emails? Do you add anything to them aside from the 10 items listed above? Do you send them automatically or manually? Share your story, comments and questions in the Comments area below. 🙂

   

21 comments for now

Category: Internet & Social Media Marketing, Marketing

How Customers Make Buying Choices

Posted by on Jan 07 2020

I LOVE reading about the psychology of marketing!

Have you read The Art of Choosing by Sheena Iyengar? She’s a social psychologist and a professor of business at Columbia University. She studies how people make decisions, which all small business owners can apply immediately when you market your services and products.

It’s an especially helpful book when trying to understand how customers make choices.

Iyengar conducted a series of studies about the psychological factors in decision-making. The best part about the results of the studies is that you can use the information in your marketing and sales efforts right away.

Here are top seven highlights from the book which will help you immediately:

  1. Customers like to feel they are unique and not “just like everyone else.” This, of course, isn’t true: as human beings, we’re more alike in our buying behavior than we realize. However, customers want to appear as if they each, individually, make unique buying decisions different from their peers. For instance, if two people would normally choose the same meal at a restaurant, studies show that when one person gives her order, the second person will change her order so that she doesn’t appear to be a copycat. If everyone at the Apple store is buying a white iPhone, all of a sudden people will begin to buy black iPhones. But when customers choose this way, they are less satisfied with their choice. This is more apparent at in-person events than in situations like online shopping (where you can’t see the other person and can’t be judged by the other person). Takeaway: In face-to-face contact with your customers and colleagues, how they perceive their individual identity matters. Don’t tell them they’re “just like every one of my customers.”
  2. Customers do take copywriting puffery seriously, even though logically they shouldn’t. They’ll buy bottled water that they know, intellectually, comes from municipal tap water that’s been created via reverse osmosis. They buy into claims that the water is especially refreshing (all water is refreshing) or that it’s bottled at the source (in this case, the “source” is municipal water) or that it’s “expertly designed water” (does it need any further design than the original H2O formula we’ve been using for so long?? Apparently, yes.). That’s why Dasani’s website focuses not on the water, but on the bottle the water comes in: 30% plant material, 100% recyclable. Takeaway: Even though the customer intellectually knows not to fall for marketing copy, they still do. They want the experience that buying and using the product will bring. You, as the marketer, get to define that experience for them through your copywriting and your branding efforts.
  3. We take into our psyche the words we read and hear from marketing copy. Researchers asked people to construct a sentence using five words they were given. When researchers gave them five words that related to the elderly (old, gray, wrinkle, Florida, bingo), the participants took 15% longer to walk to the elevator when they exited the survey room. Our autonomic nervous system connects pre-existing knowledge with what we’re seeing and hearing right now. Takeaway: Think about how you want your audience to feel and act after they interact with you, your blog, your marketing, and even your social media comments in Facebook and Twitter, and use words that will conjure up that feeling in their minds. If your brand is about “passion,” don’t use words like “slow” or “creepy” when connecting casually with your audience…or they’ll connect it with you and your biz.
  4. Even a small amount of choice brings a sense of well-being to customers. Several studies showed that when participants were given a choice versus being told what to do, those who were given a choice (even the smallest, simplest of choices, like which night to watch a movie), made people feel better about the situation. Takeaway: In your marketing, where can you give them choices instead of only one option?
  5. Customers get overwhelmed by too much information. In 1956, George Miller conducted his famous study that concluded that people can process only seven pieces of information (plus or minus two). We are limited in our capacity to process information. When you give people too much to think about, they shut down. We simply can’t keep track of multiple objects or facts. Takeaway: When listing the benefits or features of your site, limit the bullet-point list to 5-7 items. If you have more than seven, create a second list with a new title, like, “Here’s even more reasons to buy our service!”
  6. When you give customers too many options, they are (at first) attracted to the most options they can see. But when it comes to buying, people purchase less when they have too many options to choose from. When given a choice of 24 jams flavors, only 3% of the people purchased jam. But when given only three choices of jam flavors, 30% purchase jam. Takeaway: Be careful of how many choices you give customers. At first, they may be attracted to your full array of offerings, but when it comes to buying, having too many options may hurt sales.
  7. If you have to give them options, help them to choose from among the options. Help them to figure out the best way of sorting, comparing and eliminating options. Takeaway: Create a chart about which program they should purchase (from among several), or an article about the pros and cons of different products that will help them and increase customer loyalty. Organize their choices for them.
   

11 comments for now

Category: Internet & Social Media Marketing, Marketing

Designing Your Perfect Week

Posted by on Dec 01 2019

I’ve been spending a lot of time this week working on my Perfect Week. Have you ever done this exercise?

perfect week large

You map out what you want to be doing during the week, by category, making sure the high-priority items get on your schedule first. It helps you set priorities and creates more productivity in your days.

Then, in the future, when you need to schedule something, you see how it fits into your “perfect” week instead of letting your schedule get away from you.

Some people balk at the idea of structuring their days so completely. That’s okay — just as long as you’re clear on what you want to accomplish each week and you have a plan in place for getting it all done. And it’s important that you also have a plan for saying “no” to tasks and people who take you off track of your goals.

For me, the structure is necessary; if I leave it up to “I’ll do whichever task I feel like doing in the moment,” I don’t get all my tasks done. 🙂

I created mine in an Excel spreadsheet, but you could use any word processor, or just a paper calendar to map out yours.

Here’s a blank copy of my Excel spreadsheet so you can try this exercise for yourself! (If you don’t have Excel, you can still download the spreadsheet, then open it in a Google Drive Sheets spreadsheet.)

Here’s a blank copy in PDF format if you prefer.

I hope you find it helpful…or at least eye-opening.

   

21 comments for now

Category: Managing Projects, Tasks & Time

Nurturing the Not-Ready Customer Through the Buying Cycle

Posted by on Oct 14 2019

Wouldn’t you love it if you could close every sale with a new customer in 30 minutes or less?

But that rarely happens. A sales cycle can last up to six months, depending on how much research the potential customer has done before he or she comes to you.

Before customers are ready to sign on the dotted line, they first must go through a well-researched route to purchasing products and services, called the Buying Cycle. You need to nurture these potential clients and help them along this route to ultimately choosing the solution you’re offering them.

Studies show that 79% of website visitors aren’t ready to buy. They’re somewhere else within the buying cycle. They may not be aware of the scope of their problem, and may simply be in the early stages of researching a possible solution.

Even if they’re not ready to buy, it doesn’t mean there isn’t an opportunity for you as a business owner. If you continue to educate them and nurture those leads – wherever they are in the buying cycle – you’ll be at the top of their minds when they’re ready to buy.

The Buying Cycle

The typical buying cycle goes from having an awareness that there is a problem, to evaluating the possible solutions, choosing one solution, and then implementing it. It ends with a long-term, meaningful relationship with a customer.

Here’s a detailed explanation of the buying cycle — what actually is happening in your prospective customer’s world:

  1. Acknowledge there’s a problem they need to solve. Something is broken – either a physical product, like their washing machine, or a process in their business – and they need to fix it.
  2. Make a decision to fix this problem. They have to decide if they want to tackle this problem now or wait.
  3. Determine exactly what results they want. What’s their end goal? What outcome or results do they want after purchasing and implementing a solution?
  4. Gather basic information. They’re searching for companies that can help them, and often doing this research online. Perhaps they’re asking friends or other business owners who’ve had similar problems about their chosen solution.
  5. Identify possible solutions or vendors that will give the result or results that they want.
  6. Compare those solutions or vendors.
  7. Select a vendor/product.
  8. Negotiate the deal.
  9. Make a purchase decision. This can mean either signing a contract or making a direct purchase.
  10. Implement the solution. Your relationship doesn’t end with the purchase. Now you have to help them use your product or service wisely to get full results.
  11. Forge an ongoing relationship. This allows for repeat business from the same customer and ensures ongoing customer satisfaction and word-of-mouth referrals.

Recognizing where your customer is in this buying cycle is key.

When a customer first makes contact with you, have a set of questions ready which determine where he or she is.

  • “Tell me about your situation?”
  • “Have you looked at other solutions?”

Their answers to these questions can show you whether they’re still early in the buying cycle, or if they’re close to making a decision.

Pick Marketing Techniques Based on Buying Cycle

Choose different marketing techniques for each phase of the buying cycle.

For instance:

  • A well-designed website can help customers early on in the buying cycle by allowing them to gather information.
  • A free whitepaper outlining possible solutions and comparing them helps mid-way through the buying cycle.
  • An email campaign helps prospective customers through the pre-purchase process, and later forges an ongoing, repeat-buying relationship near the end of the buying cycle.

Supplying content for each stage tells your customer, “We’re ready when you are.”

If they’re early in the buying cycle, back off and let them explore, but be available to answer questions. If they want to discuss possibly buying from you, be available for a phone or in-person meeting, and have marketing material ready to help them make a choice from among your offerings.

By being aware of the different stages in the buying process, and thinking about what questions your customer are asking at each stage of the cycle, you can provide a prospective customer with the appropriate marketing technique at the right time.

   

8 comments for now

Category: Internet & Social Media Marketing, Marketing

Categories for Small Business Goal-Setting

Posted by on Oct 03 2019

small business goal settingOne of my mastermind group members is working on her business goals for next year and she brought up a good question: How, exactly, do you set goals for your business?

The first step is to realize there are categories of goals. This helps you to focus on goal-setting in a more structured way.

Here are the categories I use, and some of the items within each category:

Financial goals: revenue, expenses, profitability, investment, tax strategies.

Infrastructure goals: systems, processes, software, hardware, etc. that help you run the administrative side of your business. What tangible items do you need to acquire? What processes do you need to add or modify to run your business more efficiently and effectively?

Overall marketing, PR and sales goals: number of clients, number of new clients, number of renewing clients; increased media exposure. Number of prospects, number of proposals going out the door.

Internet marketing goals: website visitors, social media connections/likes/followers, email marketing open and clickthrough rates, online ad statistics.

Product/services goals: Are there any new products or services you’ll be offering next year? When would you like to launch them? What market share would you like to have among your competitors? Are there any products or services you’ll be modifying or removing next year?

Customer service goals: Is there anything you’d like to add or modify that will enhance the customer’s experience of working with you?

Team/staffing/leadership goals: Which new team members would you like to add, as employees or subcontractors? Anyone you need to let go of? Do you need to make changes to the way your team does their work or reports back to you? How is team culture and morale? Are there any team members who merit some additional mentoring?

Personal goals related to your business: How many hours of work a week? How do you want to feel about your business? Which personal values are brought forward through your business? What would you like more of? Less of? And the big question: WHY are you in this business? What’s your personal goal?

It’s never too early to begin thinking about what would make next year amazing for you and your biz! This is a great list to share with your mastermind group members if you work with small business owners.

   

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Category: Business Strategy & Planning

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