Archive for September, 2014

Can You Explain Your Target Audience in 15 Minutes?

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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

Email Marketing: Include Full Articles or Only Links?

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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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Getting Help through Your SBDC

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Did you know you have already paid for business counseling services? America’s Small Business Development Centers are funded through tax dollars and grants, and offer free counseling and low-cost classes to small business owners.

I sat down recently with three people from my local Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) and asked them to help me understand how they serve for-profit small businesses like yours.

Lorraine Allen is the Regional Director of the SBDC hosted by The College of New Jersey in Ewing. Like many SBDCs across the USA, she and her team provide counseling to startup and established businesses around important small business topics: business planning, financing, government contracting, marketing and human resources. (Click here to see the SBA’s definition of “small business” based on the industry you’re in.  ). They typically focus on small business with under 100 employees, and sometimes those with under 50 employees. They especially focus on high growth businesses with over 10 employees and over $1 million in revenue in many industries, such as retail, manufacturing, professional services, online businesses and franchises.

Lorraine says, “We’re here to help small business owners make good decisions, take good actions and create good habits. We offer them information and resources so they can make well-informed CEO decisions. We can be very effective at helping turn around a company that’s on its last legs.”

SBDCs don’t offer “done for you” consulting services; they won’t write your business plan and they won’t create marketing materials for you. Instead, they help you think through what you need to do to create the business you want. And while the counseling and classes may be free or low-cost, there’s one hugely important thing to remember — you must be willing to invest something precious: your time and your commitment.

Bruce Downing, Counselor at the SBDC at Widener University  shares some amazing statistics:

  • 85% of businesses who work with an SBDC are still in business eight years later. (This is huge. It’s no secret that over 50% of small businesses fail within the first five years of business, according to the SBA.)
  • 49% of the businesses they serve are in the pre-venture category or within the first year of business.
  • 80% have 10 or less employees.
  • Small business owners often come for long-term counseling: 2 to 3 years is common.

Rural small business owners know that local help and resources are sometimes hard to come by. And busy business owners don’t always have time to travel to take a class. Ernie Post, Executive Director of the SBDC at Kutztown University, has the answer: lots of online training classes and webinars. Six years ago he set out to serve both his urban and suburban clientele, and to focus on creating an online presence and online workshops for his rural clientele and busy owners. Today his SBDC offers 90 online workshops, 24 of which are bilingual. They also offer live webinars on specific topics. He says, “We have 1.8 million adult learners interested in entrepreneurial learning in our four-county service area, but we have people from all over the world taking the online classes, especially from overseas American military bases.”

Most SBDCs have startup training classes, either in-person classes in the area they serve, or convenient online classes. This ensures that everyone has the same baseline of information before working with a counselor. These classes cover the fundamentals: business planning, cash flow projections, finances and funding options, QuickBooks, government procurement contracting, operations, international trade, and taxes. Check with your local SBDC: some have classes and counseling in Spanish as well as English.

Some SBDCs have specialists to help you with international trade questions or how to get government contracts, and there are over 100 special Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs) to help nationwide. (You can find out more about them here.) Bruce Downing is a Government Marketing Specialist and says, “We help small business owners find opportunities at agencies with the government, or help them become a subcontractor under a prime federal or state government contractor.”

There is a huge amount of help out there at your local SBDC. Whether you need to learn how to write a business plan or create a slideshow to get an SBA loan, or you want a more strategic approach to growing your business and your CEO skills, an SBDC can help. And if you can’t find a nearby SBDC, check to see if an SBDC in your State will work with you over the phone. And remember that many SBDCs host online classes and webinars that you can access from anywhere in the world.

Lorraine Allen sums it up perfectly: “Don’t be a lone ranger. If you could do it on your own, you would have. You can gain so much faster if you take advantage of the resources, counseling and classes available to you.”

There are close to 1,000 SBDCs in the United States. Click here to find a SBDC center near you.

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Category: Business Strategy & Planning

What Should Your Service Fees Be?

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Don’t just charge what your competitors charge.

Don’t just charge the lowest price.

Don’t roll the dice and guess.

Instead, do the math.

Here’s how…

1. Determine What You Need and Want To Make

Part of the calculation in setting service fees is how much you need (and want) to make. If you first decide how much profit you need to make, you can then “reverse engineer” the math to determine what to charge in order to make that profit. It’s necessary to do a personal and family budget first, to determine the minimum you need to bring into your home each month.

In addition to that minimum, add the amount you’d like to make which would give you the lifestyle you want. You need to have a goal of the full amount you want to bring home each month when you have a successful business. While income isn’t the only measure of success, NOT making enough money in your business will bring frustration and dissatisfaction.

Take time to dream a little. If you could earn as much money as you ever wanted, what would you spend it on? Maybe you’d send the kids to college. Or go to Paris. Or tuck it away for retirement savings. Or give to your favorite charity.

Take into consideration any business expenses, both routine ones and wish list expenses. Maybe there’s a conference next year you want to attend in Bermuda? Or you need to replace your printer soon. Perhaps now is the time to hire an employee or subcontractor to help you grow your business?

2. Research Your Fee Options

First, examine carefully your skill level. It is common practice in business to charge based on skill. The more skill and experience you have, the more you charge. Also consider the value of the results you get for your clients. If those results are something they strongly value or need, they’re often willing to pay more for those results.

You have several choices on how your services will be billed:

  • per hour
  • per session (regardless of how long a session lasts)
  • per month
  • per project
  • per “program” (you define what the program includes and how long it lasts)

Next, find out what others are charging for similar services in your industry and location. You may have a difficult time getting clients if you set your fee at $100 per hour when other providers in your area are only charging $60 per hour, unless you have more experience, are more well-known, or have a unique offering that is different (and better!) than your competitors.

One interesting note is that you often can charge much more in big cities than anywhere else: in the suburbs you might be able to charge $75 an hour and in New York City charge $150 a hour. And even within a city, you might be able to charge more in exclusive neighborhoods than middle-class neighborhoods. Keep your eyes open to the subtle differences in pricing structures all around you.

Look at your target audience. Are you trying to reach high-income people or is your target somewhere else on the economic spectrum? Are you intending to sell to corporations, or to non-profits? Knowing your ideal target client can also impact your pricing model.

Ask others in your industry what they charge. It is not collaboration or price-fixing to simply inquire as to industry norms. Ask your attorney if you have concerns about enquiring within your industry about pricing.

Another consideration is how much your education cost you. As an example, some massage therapists can spend $4,000 to $6,000 to get their certification. These education expenses need to be figured into the mix when setting fees. You’ve got to recoup those expenses and make a profit, too! And the more education you have (and the more experience you have), the more valuable your services to your client.

Finally, decide if you will offer discounted fees and how you will apply them. Some people create their fees on a sliding scale, based on what the client can afford. Others offer either full fee or free sessions, with no discounting in-between the two extremes. Some take one or two free clients per month as a way to give back to the community, or offer discounts with a deadline attached. The choice is yours.

3. Determine Your Payment Policies

Decide if the client must pay in advance, over time, or after the work  is complete.

Also decide if you will offer a discount for early payment of invoices, say a 5 percent discount if paid by a certain date. This encourages those clients you invoice to pay their bills early, thereby giving you earlier access to your cash.

Finally, if you will be invoicing clients, determine how much time they have to send you the payment. Typical time periods are 15 days or 30 days after the invoice date. You must be willing to be assertive in collecting past-due accounts and be firm with people who don’t pay on time. For example, if your policy is that payment must be received in your office by the first day of the month, consider warning, then firing, clients who habitually are late in sending in their payment.

EXERCISE – How Many Sessions Do I Need To Do?

For this exercise, you’ll need a piece of paper and a calculator.

1. Calculate the income you need to bring into your home (after taxes and business expenses) so that you’ll have a comfortable life. Don’t short-change yourself here; be honest with what you really need and want. This number is the net profit you need to make from your business.

2. Net profit isn’t the same thing as gross income. Gross income is all the revenue you bring into the business. Net Profit is what you get to keep after paying all your business expenses, taxes, etc. Add 30-40% to that number to your desired net profit number from Step 1 above, to figure out the gross income (total income) you’ll need. This covers taxes and expenses. (Adjust the percentage if you will have higher business expenses, like employees, office rent, etc.)

3. Determine the fee you’ll charge for one session (hour/program/month).

4. Divide your total gross income by the per-session fee to calculate the number of sessions you need to do in a year.

5. Now divide the yearly sessions by 12 to determine how many you need to do per month.

6. Assuming you’ll work an average of 20 days per month, divide the total monthly sessions by 20 to figure out how many you’ll need to do per day.

For example:

1. Desired Net Income: $135,000

2. Plus 30%: 135,000 x 1.30 = $175,500

3. Per Session Fee: $80

4. Number of Sessions per Year: 175,500 / 80 = 2,193.75 (let’s just call it 2,194 to round it off)

5. Monthly Sessions: 2,194 / 12 = 182.8 (round off to 183)

6. Average Daily Sessions: 183 / 20 = 9.15

In this example, you would have to do around 9 sessions per day in order to reach your annual profit goals. Now think about this carefully: If a “session” is 30 minutes, then doing 9 of these a day is possible. But if a “session” is 60 minutes, then that means you have to work 9 hours a day, 20 days a month to make the income you want! Do you have enough time and energy to do that many sessions?

Your Calculations: Do The Math

Net Income:

Plus 30%:

Per Session Fee:

Number of Sessions per Year:

Monthly Sessions:

Average Daily Sessions:

Look closely at that final number. Can you physically and emotionally do that many sessions in a day? What about the time you need for administrative and marketing work?

Final Thoughts…

There more involved with setting your pricing and payment policy, but these tips should give you a solid foundation. Until then…be happy, be prosperous, be ambitious for the sweet life.

Comments?

So, what did you think of this post? Did you find it helpful? Do you like these longer, meaty articles or do you prefer shorter ones? Let me know what you think!

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Category: Business Strategy & Planning, Running a Strong & Efficient Business