10 Things To Do When Business Slows Down Over the Holidays

Posted by on Nov 11 2014

I’m sure you’ve seen it happen every year: your business slows down during predictable times, like the summertime months or the holiday period at the end of the year.

For the self-employed who rely upon steady cash flow, this can be a disconcerting time. Should you just take a time off until things naturally pick up again? Or should you try to find the needle-in-the-haystack business that might be out there during slow times?

This year, vow to be different! Instead of languishing in no-business-never-land, get off your butt and do something to build the foundation of your business so that natural business cycles don’t affect you too deeply:

  1. Clean your office. Go through all the piles of papers and magazines that have been sitting around and get rid of them once and for all. Remember the office organizing mantra: do it, ditch it or delegate it. File all your papers, dust and vacuum your office. Reorganize your desk and your office so that you can find everything you need in 60 seconds or less.
  2. Take a mini-break from work. Walk away from your office and enjoy a day or two of renewal and relaxation. Go to a day spa. Take a weekend retreat. Go for a walk in the local park. Breathe.
  3. Get ready for tax season. If your business slows down during December, no worries! Use that time to prepare your tax files so that you can whiz through tax season (it’s coming sooner than you expect!). Tally business-related mileage for year. Estimate your last tax payment for the current year (many self-employed people make quarterly estimated tax payments; the final payment is usually due on January 15). Send your final invoices for the current year.
  4. Send business holiday cards and gifts. If the slow time falls around the holidays, use them to your advantage. Get into the holiday spirit with your clients by mailing holiday cards and gifts to them. Make specially-discounted holiday offers to clients/customers. Offer them gift certificates that they can give to their family and friends for your services and products.
  5. Do your accounting and bookkeeping. Enter all revenue and expenses into your recordkeeping system. Balance your checkbook. Set your budget and revenue goals for next year.
  6. Become goal-oriented. Take this down-time to look at your current goals, to see how you’re doing so far and to write some new goals for the next 12 months. Create an updated marketing plan and budget. Make sure your budget includes a cash reserve to cover you during slow business times. Even if this business slow time falls mid-year, you can still spend time planning for the next 12-24 months.
  7. Go back to school. List the topics you’d like to study, the classes you’d like to take, or the books you’d like to read, to keep you up-to-date with your industry and business skills. Use your quiet business times to read, study and add to your intelligence pool.
  8. Get some personal chores done. Slow business times are ideal to schedule your annual dental and eye exams. It’s also a great time to clean out the attic, garage or basement. Remember, a strong personal foundation helps to propel your business forward.
  9. Go shopping. No, not for personal items (though that’s always fun!), but for business items. Have you been putting off buying a new PC, laptop or tablet? Now’s the time to research what’s out there and determine your next computer purchase. Is your office chair uncomfortable? Spend some time at office furniture stores “butt-testing” for a quality office chair that will support you properly. Stock up your office supplies. Buy some music CDs or MP3s to play in your office to inspire you.
  10. Spend time with family and friends. When business is busy, it’s easy to sequester yourself away to get all that work done. Now that business is slow, come out of your cocoon and visit with family and friends. They’ve been wondering where you’ve disappeared to!

As you can see, slow business times can be used productively to prepare you for the next burst of business coming your way. Renew your business, your office, your Self, and create a firm foundation for the busy business days ahead! Always ask yourself, “How can I use these days wisely?”

Will you be doing anything for your business during the holidays? I’m looking forward to the “quiet” week between Christmas and New Years Day, when I’ll be working on a new class design. :)

 

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Category: Business Strategy & Planning
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Let’s Talk About Fear

Posted by on Nov 03 2014

fear

I talk to lots of small business owners who are feeling afraid right now.

They’re afraid of:

  • Not having enough: enough money, enough love, enough health, enough security and enough freedom.
  • Failure — or being a success.
  • Missing out on all the life has to offer.
  • Not reaching their potential.
  • Rejection.
  • Dying – and afraid of living, too.

No Matter How Confident You Are, Everyone Experiences Fear

You may know consciously that you’re experiencing fear, or your actions might be showing you that subconsciously fear is the culprit: procrastination, feeling stuck, overwhelmed or out of control. Perhaps you’re feeling envious of others, or becoming a perfectionist suffering every time you make a mistake.

What Story is Scaring You?

Jack Canfield says, “Figure out how you’re scaring yourself. Then acknowledge that you are creating your fear and you’ll start to triumph over it.”

Most fear is based on a future event, something that’s not even happening right this moment. We picture this future event and frighten ourselves much like going to a horror movie. We imagine all kinds of outcomes that may or may not ever take place.

One way to figure out how you scare yourself is to listen to your self-talk. Take a moment and write the answers to these questions:

  • I can’t be successful because…
  • I can’t have what I want in life because…
  • I can’t be who I’m meant to become because…
  • I don’t deserve to have what I want because…

Learned Fears

We were not born with these fears. Our past experiences and people in our lives have taught us how to be afraid of the future and about our ability to meet it successfully. Sometimes we make generalizations about life because of one bad experience.

Mark Twain said, “The cat, having sat upon a hot stove lid, will not sit upon a hot stove lid again. But he won’t sit upon a cold stove lid, either.”

Change Your Self-Talk

What if you changed the way you talk to yourself? What if you remembered all the times in your life when you were able to accomplish what you set out to do, big or small? What if you thought back to all the times you were scared and still took action?

Affirmations are a statement of what you want to be true. But sometimes using affirmations feel false, because the affirmations talk about a future truth that’s not quite true yet.

Instead, consider overcoming your limiting beliefs by using what David Gershon and Gail Straub call Growing Edge affirmations, writing and using statements that are true and that still move you towards what you want.

Instead of the affirmation: “I am a successful small business owner making a 6-figure income,”

Use a Growing Edge affirmation: “I am capable of finding people who can teach me what I need to know,” or “I try a new marketing technique each month and chart the results.”

See? These modified affirmations are still positive, still motivational. And once you’ve mastered that Growing Edge statement, you can modify it again and again to keep you moving forward.

Just keep the affirmation truthful AND challenging. Don’t write an affirmation that’s too easy or too hard…you will sabotage yourself. Write affirmations that are challenging: they make the hair stand up on the back of your neck, ones that feel like you are reaching and growing, but that also feel completely possible. Remember this mantra: challenging but do-able.

It’s okay to feel fear. But don’t let it stop you from moving forward. Tell yourself: I feel scared, but I’m capable of moving one step forward today towards my goals and dreams, because it’s more important for me to be happy and successful than it is for me to allow myself to wallow in my fear and tell myself scary stories.

Helen Keller says, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. Security does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than exposure.”

We can’t know what the outcome of any endeavor will be. But we do know if we allow fear to keep us stuck, the outcome will not be what we want.

You deserve to have everything you want in life, to have a rich, rewarding, meaningful and happy lifetime.

Live a Daring Adventure!

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Category: Running a Strong & Efficient Business

Should You Put Your Prices on Your Website? Pros and Cons

Posted by on Oct 06 2014

The decision to put your prices on your site is a strategic one for your business. In some ways it can make you feel vulnerable.

Ask yourself: What does my prospective customer want and need?

Studies have shown the consumers want to see prices of products and services. Even a price range is sufficient. But many business owners have reasons why they prefer to not include pricing.

How can you decide which way to go? Here are some pros and cons to consider:

Nine Reasons to Put Your Fees and Prices on Your Site

  1. Trust. Many customers will not do business with a company who is not forthcoming about pricing and fees. They simply won’t waste their time talking with a sales rep only to find out that the price is too high (or too low, which may feel cheap or low quality to them).
  2. Price Range. Customers want to know what they’re going to pay for your service or product, or at least have a ballpark figure.
  3. Unaffordability Beliefs. Some customers believe, perhaps incorrectly, that if the price is not shown, then it must be too high. They reason that if they aren’t shown the price, they probably can’t afford it.
  4. Efficiency. People who can’t afford your services or products will not request a prospect sales phone call. Hear me out: do you want to spend time convincing people on the phone that they can afford you, when they really think they can’t or don’t see the value you are offering? It’s hard to have phone calls with people who have unrealistic expectations because they don’t know the fees. Trying to convince them is a hard-sell tactic that I choose to avoid.
  5. Branding. Pricing is a strategic marketing decision and helps to set your brand apart from others. Are you the low-cost leader? Are you the expert who people pay more for because you’re worth it? Your fees tell the prospective customer where you place yourself among the others in the industry and which target market you want to serve. There is no right or wrong pricing strategy. The key is that you’ve developed on through your marketing plan.
  6. Discounting. For products and classes, there’s typically no negotiation in pricing: either they purchase it or they don’t. You can always create a separate page with special pricing for existing customers or special groups, or offer coupon codes that give discounts, if you want a tiered pricing approach to products and classes. Or indicate that you have payment plans, if that helps your customer with a buying decision.
  7. Budgeting. If people feel like they can’t afford you, but want to work with you, they now have a price-point from which they can start savings towards working with you. I have had a number of clients who tell me that they saved for three months in order to work with me.
  8. Honoring. Your customers are busy and time-constrained. They need information at the moment when they have time to do their research. Don’t make them jump through hoops. Try to be helpful in getting them all the information they need, not just in your pricing, but in the valuable benefits you offer.
  9. Information Gathering. People who are looking for a price range so they can get some budgeting ideas may be a perfect client for you. One of the important stages your customers’ sales timeline is the Information Gathering phase when they are researching possible solutions. Get to know your prospective customer’s process for making buying decisions and plan your marketing accordingly. This is especially true when marketing to women: they do a lot of research before they buy.

Ten Reasons Not to Put Your Fees and Prices on Your Site

  1. Customized Services or Product. Sometimes you can’t list your prices, because each person gets a customized quote based on what they need from you, like a home builder or a website designer. But you can offer packages with a note that says, “Fees start at…” for each package. Or show them examples of your work and indicate what each of those project fees were.
  2. Competition. You’re afraid your competition will find out how much you charge. Bad news: your competition already knows what you charge. It’s easy for them to have a friend pose as a prospective customer and get your entire price list. Or your customers tell others what they paid. You are going to have a tough time keeping your pricing private, especially in the internet age.
  3. Value and Selling Strategy. You feel that they need to talk with you first, so that you can show them how valuable your service is, before quoting them a price. That is the job of your website. If your website is written well, it will easily show someone whether you can solve their problem and that the price they’ll pay is worth it. Then, when a prospective customer finally does call you, they’ve already been pre-sold by your website and you don’t have to struggle to convince them of anything. I figure if a sales rep needs to speak with me, it’s because they think the product or service “needs explaining,” or that they need to “handle my objections.” Neither is a good excuse to waste my time on something that doesn’t need explaining or should have been explained thoroughly on the website. Need help with your copywriting? Read my blog post on 6 Copywriting Steps for Non-Copywriters.
  4. Rapport. Your service is based on your personality and your rapport with your customers. Therefore, they need to speak with you in order to get the connection and see if it’s a good fit. I agree with this 100%. But if it’s a perfect fit, and they can’t afford you, how does that benefit either of you? Why not put some videos on your website, offer some free teleclasses or workshops, so they get a chance to experience you before the prospect call is scheduled.
  5. Price Fixing. You (or your industry) in concerned about price fixing. By definition, price fixing is a conscious agreement among businesses to keep the price of something unnaturally high or low, instead of letting free-market forces determine what each customer pays. Putting your own prices on your own website is not a conscious agreement with other businesses, it’s not a conspiracy, and therefore is not price fixing. If you’re really concerned that you’ll be accused of price fixing, consult your business attorney.
  6. Mimics. You are concerned that competitors who are less qualified than you will increase their prices to mimic yours, but offer poor service. Let them. You cannot be responsible for what your competitor does. If they charge too much and offer a shoddy product or service, they’ll be out of business soon enough anyway.
  7. Uniqueness. You feel that your service or product is not unique, but is exactly the same as what your competitor offers. This is called a commodity. But a commodity implies that what the customer is purchasing is the same, regardless of vendor (like milk, flour or gasoline). By being clear on what makes you unique, different or better than your competitor, you avoid being seen as a commodity. This is called your Unique Selling Proposition. If you don’t have one, get one.
  8. Ongoing Marketing. You’re concerned that if someone sees your prices but doesn’t reach out to you, you won’t have any way to connect with them in the long term. This is where having an offer on your website they can sign up for can help you gather a list of people who may be interested in your product or service. Think: email newsletter, teleclass or whitepaper. However, you need to handle these people differently than you would a bona fide prospect, because they’re in the Information Gathering stage of the sales cycle, not the Decision Making phase.  Establish your sales and marketing strategy and funnel, and reach out to people based on where they are along the sales path.
  9. Price Shopping and Tire Kickers. If they’re shopping on price alone, they’re probably not your ideal client unless you are Wal-Mart. People who shop only based on price will leave you when they find someone cheaper. So if you put your prices on your website, you get them to exit before they waste your time. If a prospective customers is truly *only* shopping on price, then it wouldn’t matter if you tell them the price on the phone or on your website.
  10. Not Knowing Your Worth. It’s true. Many small business owners feel uncomfortable setting their prices because they don’t truly know their value. Here’s some tips in setting your service fees.

What To Do?

Whether you put your prices on your site or not is a personal business decision. It depends on your business and marketing strategy. Just make sure you make your decision based on what’s helpful to your customer and right for your marketing plan, not based on your fears about what “might” happen.

If you don’t put your prices on your site, it may be helpful to explain to people why you didn’t include them, and explain what the next step is in the process. Prospective customers will be curious to understand why they need to speak with you first.

People often ask me, “Don’t you think you’ll lose prospective clients that way?” My answer is: I get 10 phone calls a week from people who want small business coaching/consulting from me. I’m not losing ideal client prospects by putting my fees on my website.

So…should you put your pricing on your website or not?

The best thing you can do it test it. Put your prices on your site for two-to-four weeks, and compare the results. If you get more inquiries, more sales, easier conversions, then you know your audience found it helpful.

You’ll never know if something works or not until you try it.

Do you put your prices on your site? Why or why not? When visiting other sites, do you want to find pricing there? Share your comments, ideas and suggestions below. We’ll all benefit from understanding the pros and cons. I can’t wait to hear from you!

   

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Category: Internet & Social Media Marketing, Marketing
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Can You Explain Your Target Audience in 15 Minutes?

Posted by on Sep 26 2014

I had a tough discussion with a client yesterday. She needs to hire a marketing manager, but would rather find a person who knows her narrowly niched target audience intimately and then teach them marketing skills.

I suggested to her that it would be easier find a marketing expert who had all the skills she needed and then to teach her new team member about her target audience. It’s too much of an uphill slog to have to teach someone all the marketing, admin and tech skills that make a marketing manager great.

I asked, “Can you explain your target audience, their needs, philosophy and psychology (to someone not in your industry) in 15 or 30 minutes?”

She said no, that it would take “days and days” to explain her target audience to someone.

What about you? Do you know your target audience so well that you could provide a high level description to your new team member in a short time? If not, why not?

   

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Category: Business Strategy & Planning, Marketing

44 Tips for Dealing with Overwhelm

Posted by on Sep 25 2014

Dealing with overwhelm is like juggling balls.The Ultimate Guide for Entrepreneurs Who Do Too Much.

As a small business owner, there are often too many ideas, too many tasks and projects, and not enough time or resources. Entrepreneurs are a creative bunch of people and we’re always thinking of new ideas!

I don’t know anyone who isn’t time-constrained. We all have busy lives, and if you run your own business, you are doubly busy.

Below are 44 tips for dealing with overwhelm and increasing productivity. Feel free to share this with your friends, colleagues and mastermind group partners.

The Rules

Just pick ONE of these tips and do it. Do not overload yourself more, by trying to do all these tips. This article will be online later and you can come back to it to pick up your next tip.

Understand Why You’re Feeling Overwhelmed

Many of my clients and students tell me they are feeling overwhelmed by running their own small business. It doesn’t matter whether your business is brand new or 20 years old, there are many things to juggle as a business owner. You are not alone in feeling this way, and there are some very common reasons why we feel overwhelmed:

  • Trying to be everything to everyone
  • Trying to focus on too many things at once
  • Being too optimistic about how much time it takes to do a task
  • Adding too many appointments and projects to your weekly calendar
  • Not saying “no” to people and projects

Notice how all these things are a CHOICE you made? Every time you make a choice to do too much, you make a choice to feel overwhelmed. You are in control.

You are in control of your calendar. You are in control of which projects are top priority. You are in control of your thoughts about your business. You’re even in control about whether you answer a ringing phone or not.

The power is in your hands.

Admitting That You Can’t Do It All

I have a To Do list that is six typewritten pages long. Every time I have a brilliant idea for a new project, I add it to the To Do list.

As surely as the sun rises each morning, the more I add to the list, the more overwhelmed I feel.

Then I had a startling insight: I will never be finished with my To Do list. I will always have wonderful new projects that I want to add. I will always have maintenance tasks that need to be performed. There will always be emails to answer and phone calls to make.

Once I understood that I would never get it all done, then it was only a baby step to the knowledge that I can’t do it all myself. Either I have to delegate projects and tasks, or I have to delete them from my list. If you are serious about not feeling burned out and overwhelmed, then the first place to start making cuts is in your To Do list.

Take Your Time

New habits take some getting used to, don’t they?

The outcome will be a feeling of mastery over your workload, your time and your energy. You will be in control of your calendar and To Do list instead of feeling as if they are in control of you.

Start With These Simple Tips

1. Calm down. You cannot do any of these tips if you are feeling stressed. Do 5 minutes of something relaxing before trying any of these tips.

2. Set priorities and goals. Where do you want your business to be in 12 months? What is most important, right now, to get you to your 12-month goals? Pick just three goals for 12 months. If you complete them, you can always add another one later.

3. Centralize your To Do list. Because I’m at my desk most of workday, I have a To Do file right on my computer that I can easily access and update. Whether you keep your To Do list on your smart phone or in a notebook, make sure you can get your hands on it quickly. When a new idea comes up, you have a place to put it immediately, instead of trying to keep track of it in your head. This is so liberating!

4. Focus. Choose one task and focus solely on that until it is complete. Stop multitasking; it will only lead you to feeling more overwhelmed.

5. Set a timer. Work on one task for 20 minutes, and then take a break. Every week, work for 5 minutes extra (25 minutes instead of 20, and so on) to help rebuild your focus, sustained attention span and ability to concentrate. Pay attention to when you start to become distracted and work with your natural biorhythm to take mini-breaks when you need them. Most adults can pay sustained attention for 20 minutes before becoming distracted. (Most adults can renew their attention to a task after being distracted, too.) I use a timer from TimeTimer to keep track of my 20-minute work segments.

6. Know how long it takes. I am notorious for assuming that tasks take much less time than they actually take. I block out 15 minutes for a task then discover it actually takes 30 minutes. I have learned this simple rule: whatever you think a task will take, double it. That way you won’t add too many tasks to your daily calendar and you will feel less stress because you know you’ve given adequate time to every task. Plus there’s a nice added cushion of time for a tea break!

7. Simplify. Is your business too complicated? Should some of your manual tasks be automated? Take a deep look at every task you do and ask yourself if there is a better, easier way to do it, or if a piece of software could do that task for you.

8. Know your Productivity Peak. When is your best, most productive time? Most creative time? For me, it’s 8AM to 2PM. That is the time when my intellect and my creativity is flying high. So I use that time to work with clients, teach classes, write books, and create training programs. Knowing and using your personal productivity peak times will help you be more productive and produce better quality work. Use your non-peak time for maintenance items that don’t require much brainpower (or willpower).

9. Give yourself the gift of distraction. Sometimes we push ourselves too hard. Owning a business is a marathon, not a sprint. Every few hours, take a break from your work. Step out your front door and get a breath of fresh air. Play some music. Go for a walk. Read a fun book. Have coffee with a friend. Do anything that takes your heart and mind away from business. You will be rewarded with a clear mind and a fresh perspective when you get back to work.

10. Get rid of clutter. For many people, when there are too many things in your visual field of focus, it is hard for your brain to concentrate on the task at hand. If out of sight really does mean out of mind, keep a file drawer for paperwork and put a note to yourself in your To Do list about where to find the necessary paperwork or email when you’re ready to work on that task.

11. Know your RQ (resistance quotient). Discover what you’re resisting when you use distraction and procrastination instead of doing your work. Stop self-sabotaging your success.

Specific Things You Can Do to Deal with Overwhelm

12. Just say no without guilt. Too often we try to please everyone and end up with too much on our plates. When you are feeling overwhelmed, look at the people and projects you’ve say Yes to that perhaps you should have said No to. Here’s a practical article I wrote on how to say no to people when they ask for your time.  Look at your To Do list and ask yourself if you can simply say No to any of the tasks. Remember, you are in control of your task list and your calendar. Only you can overbook yourself, so only you can say No to requests for your time.

13. Clear your desk. There is no better feeling than starting fresh and getting a complete handle on everything that needs to be done. By going through every paper, every pile, every note, you consolidate and prioritize. Remember to use your centralized To Do list and throw away all those individual To Do notes!

14. What’s most important? Each morning, enter your office and ask, “What are the MOST important tasks to get done today?” Make a careful balance about short-term emergencies and long-term tasks so that you can meet your goals without getting swept-up in daily disasters.

15. Do it. Sometimes, a bare-knuckle commitment to getting things done is necessary. That pesky colonoscopy you’ve been putting off? Do it. That phone call to a disgruntled employee? Do it. That 3,000 word article? Do it.

16. Ditch it. Some projects were never meant to be. Some catalogs and magazines can be thrown away.

17. Delegate it. Ask for help. Look at all the tasks you do, and for each one ask, “Am I the only person who can do this task in the entire world?” Some tasks are your sole providence; others can be delegated to a website designer, graphic artist, administrative assistant, etc.

18. Work for results. Which things you currently do are giving you the results you want? Stop wasting time on things that don’t give you the outcomes you want, even if other people tell you that you “have to” do them. Stop listening to gurus and start listening to your own intelligence and experience. The only thing that matters is whether you are creating the outcomes you want.

19. Get into task habits. For instance, the first thing I do each morning is handle emails from clients and students. Then I do social media because it allows me to use a different part of my brain. Next, I look at financials. Then I prep for that day’s client calls and classes. These four tasks take me about 60 minutes, warm up my brain, and allow me to serve my clients and students first, before getting into the main part of my day. Each afternoon before I leave, I plan my projects/tasks for the next day, answer any last-minute emails, and straighten up my desk. Having task habits each day allows you to get the important daily tasks done in an orderly fashion.

20. Chunk your schedule. Do you have scheduled time each week for marketing? For administrative work? For speaking with clients? If you block out scheduled time each week for your work, you will know that you have a plan for how to tackle the work. For instance, I use all day Friday to write articles, books and new classes. I use Monday morning for administrative work. I teach on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 1PM. What does your ideal workweek look like?

21. OMD: Off My Desk. Make a concerted effort to handle each item that comes across your desk ONCE. Do not stack it in a pile and think, “I’ll get back to it later.” Each morning, make a clean sweep of your desk while reciting the mantra: OMD, OMD, OMD!

22. Bit-sized chunks. Divide big projects into mini-tasks. Grab a piece of paper and write down all the tasks you can think go into the project. Divide any task that takes more than 60 minutes into smaller, doable chunks.

23. Find it in 60 seconds or less. Create a rule for yourself that you will be able to get your hands on anything in your office in 60 seconds or less. When you put something away, put it away in the most intuitive place you can think of, so that it will be at your fingertips when you need it. Find a home for every item in your office and return it to its home after each use. Fall in love with your filing cabinet.

24. Just three tasks a day. Stop overscheduling your time. Choose just three tasks a day to complete. If you are done early, you can always take on another task (or escape from the office for a little hard-earned play time).

25. Admit that you will never get caught up. Your To Do list will never be empty. Humans are the only animal who, once they complete a task, create new projects and tasks to occupy their minds, their time, their creativity, their energy. We’re hard wired this way.

26. Stop multitasking. While there are conflicting scientific research findings about whether multitasking causes productivity loss or not, my clients tell me that trying to do too many things at once causes them to do a poorer job, both in productivity and quality of work.

27. Out of sight, out of mind. When you need to focus deeply on a task, especially for a long amount of time, try clearing off your desk first. We get overstimulated, visually, by having many items within our view. By putting them out of sight, you can then focus more fully on the task in front of you. I use this technique when doing in-depth strategy work for myself or with clients. It forces my visual focus, and therefore my mental focus, on just one thing.

28. When you need to focus, get away from your desk. When I’m working on a big project, like writing a book, I find it best if I take my laptop and leave my office. If the weather is cooperative, I will go site by the lake and write; if not, I will find some quiet corner of a coffee house or hotel and write there. Even moving from your office to your living room will help. Because there is nothing else to grab your attention, you are able to focus for longer periods of time.

29. Check it off. Make a list (a To Do, a Task list for a big project). Put a big checkmark next to each task when you get it done. It’s very satisfying!

30. Make an appointment with yourself. Having a To Do list is great, but the real payoff comes when you move tasks from your To Do list and put them in your actual calendar as an appointment with yourself. In this way, you can estimate how much time something will take, and know that you have blocked out enough time to get it done.

31. Celebrate. When you get done with a big project, don’t automatically move to the next one. Find some wonderful way to celebrate your achievement!

32. Put on your CEO Hat. What are priority tasks for the ultimate success of my business? Sometimes what seems like the right thing to do in the moment is exactly the wrong thing to do for the future.

33. Get it out of your head and on to paper. Are you trying to carry your entire project plan in your head? Are you carrying your shopping list and your weekend appointments in your head, too? Stop it! Find a place to write down all these things, and use it consistently, so that you have a clear mind.

34. Unsubscribe. Do you belong to too many email newsletters that you never read? I have a litmus test: Every quarter, I go through all the email newsletters I have received from a specific person. If I don’t find at least one brilliant idea, one great tip, or one deep insight, I unsubscribe. By knowing why you subscribe to email newsletters, and using those values to judge whether a newsletter is delivering value to you (or not), you’ll easily be able to unsubscribe from those that don’t meet your needs. Life is too short to wade through emails that don’t sing to you.

35. Close down your email and social media sites during peak work periods. It’s too distracting, too tempting. (It’s like not keeping ice cream in the house when you are on a diet.)

36. Set up a good filing system. Keep big projects in their own 3-ring binder or an electronic folder on your hard drive, so that all your material is in one place. Archive old financial papers, client files, etc. into storage drawers or boxes.

37. Embrace the PDF. Get the paper off your desk by using electronic PDFs of anything that’s important. You can scan anything that comes in to your office on paper to a PDF. You can also print any online or electronic file to PDF using your operating system’s PDF creation software. If your computer’s operating system doesn’t include a PDF creation software package, try the free PrimoPDF.

38. Create an at-a-glance project planner. I juggle many projects each month. So once a month I grab a piece of art paper and create multiple squares, one square for each project. In each square, I write down the five most important tasks that need to be done for that project in that month. When I glance at it, I can see how all the puzzle pieces fit together and where the demands on my time will be felt the most.

39. Big rocks first. Do you know how to plan your priorities? This wonderful video with Stephen Covey will help you see the big picture.

40. Perfectionism kills. I know, because I tried to do every task perfectly and it nearly killed my business. Some tasks are critical for your success and need to be as good as they possibly can be. Other tasks are not so important and just need to be done without a lot of glory or perfection.

41. Backlink tasks to a project deadline. If you have a project with a deadline (like a class that starts on a certain date), put that deadline in your calendar. Then, working backwards, fill in the tasks on your calendar that lead up to the project conclusion. Then you will know when you have to start the project in order to complete the tasks in time.

42. Use GanttProject software. I’m a geek. I love software. I love Gantt charts. A Gantt chart is a visual way of seeing and linking tasks within a project, assigning time to each task, and connecting the tasks to figure out how long the entire project will take. I use a free software program called GanttProject for mapping out project/task work for big projects. You can download it for free here: http://www.ganttproject.biz/download (Don’t use the big green “download” button on this page. That doesn’t download GanttProject. Instead, look for the link in the upper left corner that says “GanttProject 2.5.” That’s the correct link.

43. Allow for Murphy’s Law. No week is complete without something going wrong. So plan for it. Allow time in your week for tasks to take longer, phone calls to take longer, emergencies to crop up. You’ll be happier planning for breathing space.

44. Action alleviates anxiety. Pick one high-priority task on your To Do list and do it. Nothing relieves stress better than getting off your butt and taking action. Don’t fall in the trap of picking a low-priority task just because it is easy. Do the things that matter.

Whew! That’s quite some list! As I said earlier, don’t try to do all 44 tips at once. Pick one that feels like it will work well for you and take a month to make it a habit. Then pick another and another until you can feel your overwhelm and anxiety lessen.

I’m wishing you a peaceful and productive business life!

Which one of these tips have you tried?

copyright (c) 2012, Karyn Greenstreet. All rights reserved.

   

64 comments for now

Category: Managing Projects, Tasks & Time, Running a Strong & Efficient Business
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Email Marketing: Include Full Articles or Only Links?

Posted by on Sep 15 2014

It started as an innocent question on Facebook: do you prefer to get email newsletters with the full article in the email, or do you prefer to get a short description and link to read the article on the author’s website?

The response was intense on Facebook, so I sent an email to my entire list asking their preference, too. And the results are: 60.1% prefer to get the entire article in the email, and 39.9% prefer to get just a link in the email and to read the article on the author’s website.

What I decided to do…

Sometimes I write short articles (around 400 words). Those I’ll put in full in the email newsletter AND include a link for those who prefer it.

But for my longer, more sophisticated and strategic “how to” articles (like this one, which is topping out around 2,250 words), I’ll include a short blurb and a link in my email newsletter. And I’ll let you know why you’re not seeing the full article — because it’s rich and juicy and has a lot of incredibly practical content but it’s too big to put in an email.

If I include a link, I’ll tell you what you can expect to find on the other side of that link, so you can make a decision if that information is valuable to you or not.

P.S. I love you…

Before I get into the nitty-gritty of how to make this decision for your own newsletter, I want to share a heart-felt thank you to everyone who replied to my “vote now” email. Not only did you state your preference, but so many of you shared that you loved my articles. As a writer, this is what I need to hear! Writers often wonder if there’s anyone out there reading their material. :)

So thank you for letting me know that what I write is important to you. It means a lot to me.

But that’s just part of the story…

It was the responses where people shared their reasons for their reading preference that got my attention. Here’s what some of them said:

From those in favor of the FULL article in the email:

  • Full article in the email, Karyn. If I have to click through I will often save it for “later” and as we know, later usually doesn’t come!
  • The whole article. I like to read it on my BlackBerry and don’t have a good web connection (or unlimited data), so it allows me to read it wherever I am.
  • I prefer newsletters to be in full in an email with a link to the website if I prefer. This is so I can go to an internet café with my laptop or hook it up with my cell phone regularly download your emails and then read them when I have the time and environment to digest (like on a plane).
  • Full article in the email. Less clicking, plus I usually read these kinds of things on my phone, which is sometimes slow loading web pages — so I often don’t click.
  • I like to have the entire article in the newsletter but don’t want to necessarily see the whole thing until I’m ready.  I like to scan all the headlines then go back & read the articles that interest me.  Going to another window or website makes me lose track of what I was doing in the first place…oh yeah–checking my email!
  • I prefer the full article because seeing it all at once saves me from having to click.
  • I would prefer the full article. It takes extra time on my phone to pull up a link so alot times I don’t bother.
  • Full letter in the email – otherwise I get distracted and don’t read it.
  • I prefer the whole article. Sometimes links do not work.
  • I rarely click through on newsletters…. If it is important enough to get to my inbox, it must contain what I need or I will unsubscribe usually.
  • Have to admit to a small preference to have the whole thing right there – easier to copy snippets that I like and want to keep to think longer about.
  • Full – because of the potential for viruses
  • I prefer getting the full article so I can read on the go, forward to Evernote for future reference, or share via email. I also like having the link to the full article so I can quickly share via LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
  • Full article in email with web-link for sharing!
  • I like the convenience of reading them in my emails. It also lets me keep your articles as a reference or reminder too!
  • I prefer the full article.  Many, many times I don’t follow the link to complete the article, but there are very few that I don’t complete when it is in the email.

From those in favor of a LINK in the email:

  • I like a short blurb with a link. I’d rather see snatches of all the articles offered and then choose which to pursue.
  • I like either method.  However going to your website allows for more variety and innovation.
  • I prefer a link personally. That way I can add it to my reading list to read and share later.
  • I prefer the link method. That way I can save it in your file in Evernote for later reference. I don’t always read them right away, and Evernote is easier for me to organize than my email. Thank you for asking.
  • I like a link as long as the link sends me directly to the article and I don’t have to hunt for it once I arrive on another page. If it’s hard to find the article, I’ll simply click off.
  • Teaser with link would be my preference because I like to share great articles on Twitter.
  • A link to your website because then I can look around and see what else you are up to! ;)
  • I prefer the link. If I’m trying to quickly clear the more than 70-100 emails in my inbox every morning, I typically delete all but the shortest ones. With a link, I can put your newsletters into my “To Read” folder on my desktop.
  • My preference is shorted article with the link to the full but that can also depend on how many articles and how long the articles are.  I scan all newsletters first then decide what I want to read.  Like in the newspapers, the headline is most important, then the first two paragraphs.  If they grabbed me, I always hit the hyperlinked “more” and view the entire article.

In favor of both ways:

  • It makes no difference to me. I guess it depends on how mobile friendly your site is for those who only access the internet via mobile.
  • I prefer to receive both. If it is a interesting small article I like to finish it while reading email. If it is longer I like to save the link for later reading.
  • Can Both be an answer? There are times where its very easy to just read it in gmail, and other times where I have other email that I have to get to, but it’s nice to be able to just click a link and save it in pocket or instapaper.
  • My preference is the whole article in the email. I wanna get the goods ASAP and without a lot of clicking and waiting for a website to load. If there’s a link within the email that gives me extra info related to the topic then I don’t mind clicking through to go deeper.
  • If there’s just one article in the newsletter, I prefer the full text. If there are multiple articles, I prefer blurbs and links.
  • Honestly Karyn, because I value your content, I don’t mind having to click to read the link. Most of the time, I prefer the content to all be right in front of me.
  • If it’s just one article, I like reading within the newsletter, but if you have more than one section, I’m ok with excerpts and links.
  • Whichever prints easier.  I sometimes like to print the article to read it while relaxing.  Otherwise, either way is fine.

So how do you serve both types of readers? 10 things to consider…

As an email newsletter publisher, I needed to make a strategic decision that both served my audience and served my business needs. Here’s how to think through this decision:

  1. You may not be able to please everyone – While I decided to post full articles under 400 words, and post excerpts with a link for longer articles, that may not make everyone happy. I think you have to do your best, and if people find your content helpful, practical, inspiring — and if they connect with you, then they’ll read what you write.
  2. If engagement is important – One of the ways that Google decides if you should have high rankings on search results is whether your content has engagement: comments, shares and likes. If good SEO is important to you, put LINKS in your email newsletter, and at the bottom of your blog posts, encourage discussion and sharing.
  3. If site traffic is important – Another way Google decides if your site is rank-worthy is by how much traffic you get to your site. Also, if you’re trying to get a book published with a big publishing house, or trying to get hired for keynote speeches, these folks want to know if you have a platform and an audience. So if site traffic is important to you, put LINKS in your email newsletter.
  4. If sharing of your article is important – I did a test last year, putting the FULL article in the email newsletter and including “share this” buttons in email newsletters where people could then share the article on Facebook, Twitter, etc., to see how many people actually shared the content. Then I did the opposite: put the excerpt and a LINK in the newsletter and put the “share this” buttons on the website blog post. FIVE TIMES the number of people shared it via my website than via my newsletter.
  5. If having your readers actually read your article is important – Just reading through the comments above tells the story. People are busy, distracted and time-constrained. If you want them to read the article, put it in FULL in the email.
  6. If you include multiple articles in your email newsletter – I got a lot of comments from people saying that they prefer LINKS when there is more than one article in the email newsletter.
  7. If your article is very long – Some email systems won’t deliver long emails (they might think they’re spam). Some mobile devices have a limit of what they’ll display in an email. So if your article is over 400-500 words, consider providing a LINK in the email. (And tell them why you are using a link: because the article is long and contains an in-depth discussion of the topic.)
  8. If your article is short – Include the FULL article. People love it. :)
  9. If your article includes phrases that might trigger a spam filter – Sometimes as marketers and writers, we actually are talking about ways to grow a business, selling Rolex watches, or talking about losing weight. But using certain phrases might trigger a spam filter, even if they’re a legitimate part of your article. If you have been dinged in the past by spam filters for phrases like this, use a LINK in your email and avoid using those phrases in the excerpt you provide with the link.
  10. If your readers typically read on a mobile device – Let’s face it, reading long articles from small screens can be tough. Do you know if your email newsletter is mobile-friendly, with large fonts and a good layout? Also, some people prefer to download their email and then read it on the go, and if they don’t have internet connection when they read your newsletter, they won’t be able to click through to your article In this case, include the FULL article. If you are going to provide them a LINK and have them click through from the email newsletter to your website, make sure your website is mobile-friendly.

When you send your email newsletter, test it…

 I have been publishing my email newsletter for over 10 years. And every single time we do a test run first, sending it to all of our own email addresses in all of the major email services and software: Outlook, Windows Live Mail, Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook.com, Mac Mail, iPad email, etc.  We look at the email in the full screen version and the “preview” pane for all these email readers.

This way we know two things: the email is formatted properly for easy reading on any email reader, and all the links work. It’s just plain embarrassing to have to send a follow-up “Oops, wrong link” email to your readers.

And remember to also test it in the major browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari, etc.) because some browsers may render your email newsletter differently than others.

Do the obvious…ask your audience!

Just because my audience is split 60/40 on this topic doesn’t mean yours will be. Send out a simple email asking them about their preferences, and tally the results for yourself.

Was this article helpful?

I’d love to hear from you! What are you thinking about regarding your own email marketing?

And, yes, I’d love it if you share this article with your audience. :)

   

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Category: Internet & Social Media Marketing
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