Newsletters Are The Backbone Of Any Good Business

We just spent more time than most people would consider reasonable researching award-winning newsletters.

And after we write this post, we’re probably going to hide the rest of today’s to-do list in a drawer and conduct even more research (research should probably be in quotes here, because this certainly doesn’t feel like work).

Want to see some award-winners?

Webby has you covered.  Here’s 2016 and 2015, for starters.

There’s more inspiration here and here, as well as here and here.  Mailchimp makes inspiration a part of their routine. Constant Contact does, too, although their inspiration isn’t really that inspiring, ioho.

Let’s back up, though. There’s a lot of work that goes into actually designing an award winning newsletter. And, even if you’re not out to win any awards, designing and managing a newsletter is lots of work.

Here at HeyAmyLou, these are some of the tools we use:

Mailchimp is our email marketing platform. It’s user-friendly, fairly robust and cost-effective for most small businesses.

Canva for creating graphics, either with our own photography, or images supplied by Canva.

Creative Market and Death to Stock Photo for images.* When we don’t have our own and Canva’s just aren’t doing it for us, we’ll reach out to one of these three for commercial-use photos. Creative Market is priced by the image. Death to Stock Photo has a basic pack that’s $15 a month and has a sizeable library.

Pictaculous and Paletton for color schemes.

We like Easel.ly for infographics, although Canva is a good option, too. We recently completed an infographic for a client’s annual report depicting the different countries where her subscribers live.

From there, it’s all about the marketing. That’s what a newsletter is, right? Email marketing. It’s all about branding, design responsiveness, effective communication, and compliance.

Newsletter design isn’t for everyone and there’s no shame in that. Chances are you went into business to do anything but design newsletters, right? And it’s probably taking up more of your time than you want it to. Or worse yet, you’ve put off doing it simply because you know it’s not something you want to spend time on.

Here’s the thing, though. We wrote a post on the very fact that email is not dead. In fact, it’s one of the best methods of generating revenue for your business when used correctly (as in, no spamming, quality call-to-action when applicable). Plus, unlike social, email marketing is still controlled by the user, not the platform. In other words, online friendships (Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Pinterest, all those platforms we’re told will revolutionize our marketing) do not change the fundamentals of friendship. Or loyalty. Email marketing can, when used correctly, foster loyalty to a brand.

Hiring someone to design and manage your newsletter doesn’t mean hiring someone to do the fun stuff:  picking colors, making infographics and writing the content for your newsletter, although a quality newsletter designer also works with your brand color scheme, designs infographics based on your content, and formats your content to fit the chosen design.

Hiring someone to design and manage your newsletter means  hiring someone to manage compliance, DMARC, mailing list maintenance (bounces, duplicates and unsubscribes) and deal with every glitchy design platform that never puts the text box/photo/headline/video were you want it, no matter how much time you spend trying.

Hiring someone to design and manage your newsletter means hiring someone who gives you back the time to do what it was you wanted to do when you went into business in the first place. The thing you do that doesn’t feel like work. The thing you’d do for free if money weren’t an option. Is that thing producing newsletters? For HeyAmyLou, it is

So, why not hire someone to design and manage your newsletter? What’s stopping you?

*As with all content, always, always, always abide by the terms of service, and credit the work.

© copyright HeyAmyLou 2017 – All rights reserved

 

I Like Newsletters

I do. It’s true.

As A reader, I look forward to seeing them in my inbox. I have complete control over what lands in my inbox, unlike Facebook, Twitter and other platforms that want to “curate a user experience” for me. I can read them on my time as opposed to having to drop everything and read it right now or run the risk of watching is swallowed up by the increasingly unmanageable “timeline”.

As someone who not only reads them but creates them, I believe they are one of the most cost effective, efficient and client-centric ways to communicate. I wrote a post here discussing the benefits of newsletters. Short answer: developing and sharing content of importance to your clients is one of the best ways to illustrate loyalty and commitment to your clients, as well as showcasing your expertise. Newsletters, done correctly, are personal.

As a reader, some of my favorite newsletters are: Austin Kleon, DO Lectures, and HeyAmyLou.

As a creator, I find inspiration from Really Good Emails, CreativeMornings curated list, and Mailchimp’s Look What You Can Do.

© copyright HeyAmyLou 2017 – All rights reserved

This Is Your Year

Are you ready to make your small business the best it can be? Have you decided that the best use of your time doesn’t include website maintenance or social media marketing? Or maybe this is the year to turn your part-time dream into a full-time gig (congratulations you!). HeyAmyLou wants to help and we’ve got just the right tools and services to strengthen you and your business.

During the month of January many of our services are specially priced because we believe in you and want to be there when you succeed.

  • Website Design and Maintenance
  • Newsletter Production and Design
  • Mailing List Development and Maintenance
  • Marketing Audits
  • Client Scheduling Software Setup and Support
  • One-on-One Collaboration
  • Training – We’re expanding our trainings this year, including how to create the perfect social media plan for your clients / customers and emergency preparedness for small businesses. Trainings can be conducted in small groups or one-on-one.

And, you can receive 20% off any service Feb-Dec. 2017 when your friends hire HeyAmyLou.

Contact us today to bring your small business dream to life.

© copyright HeyAmyLou 2017 – All rights reserved

cross-posted to IrishYogaChick

How, And More Importantly, When To Delegate (pt. 2)

Click here for a free download.

This is the second of a two part discussion on delegating. And It’s backwards from the title. To read pt 1 “The When”, click here.

It’s time to discuss the “How”. Delegating can be (who am I kidding? For small business owners like us, delegating IS) scary. Deciding what to hand over to someone else is one thing. Deciding who to hand it over to is another thing entirely.

I recently had an unsolicited email from someone looking to “partner with” me to “enhance” my business. I’m using quotation marks here because I consider those words and phrases to be red flags. My choice of a “partner” in my business is wholly my decision and certainly won’t be made based on an unsolicited email. And anyone who wants to “enhance” my business with no concrete follow up on how (see what I did there?) they plan to do that hasn’t researched my business. At all.

Which this person hadn’t. After a little back and forth it turns out this person wasn’t aware of my website, my blog (I have two), my fairly robust Twitter and Instagram presence (although lately both have been taken over by Pokemon Go) or my weekly client newsletter (all things this person wanted to charge me heftily to implement). And, as an added extra bonus, after I politely stated  I wasn’t in the market for any new employees at this time the next (very lengthy) email I got was an aggressive, argumentative still-unsolicited commentary on what I was doing “wrong”.

I’m super thick-skinned, so it mostly made me laugh. Until a couple of days later when I started thinking about how other small business owners would handle an aggressive, ego-centered, cookie cutter approach to out-sourcing.

Here are my tips:

  1. Skip the elance-type online freelance market. There’s rarely any actual relationship-building. Why would you trust any part of your company to someone who will always be a virtual (no pun intended) stranger. Instead, opt for referrals. Talk to your friends, family, the people you see at yoga class or your cycling peloton. Chances are they know someone who does the tasks you want to delegate.
  2. Meet with them. In-person. A real sit-down-and-let’s-talk meeting. Not at a networking function or while walking to your car after a super-sweaty workout at your shared gym. A scheduled meeting devoted to discussing your needs and their skills.
  3. Do your homework. Know what you want them to do for you.
  4. Pay attention to how they respond to #3 above. Do they immediately launch into a pitch offering you a “suite” of services? Walk. No, run, from that. This is someone who didn’t hear much of what you just said in favor of trying to sell you a typically high-dollar low return package of services that you pay for whether you use or not.

    There is no cookie-cutter approach to your business. I cannot stress this enough. 

  5. (this is actually 4b) The correct answer to #3 above usually goes something like this: “I’ve researched your company and I’ve noticed x, y and z. Here are some of my ideas”. Followed by a fairly in-depth analysis of their findings that incorporates what they just learned about you when you told them what you want them to do for you. This is telling in two ways: First, they did their homework. They’re interested in getting to know you and your business. That’s a good sign. Second, they’re good listeners who are willing to mold their expertise to fit your needs.
  6. Always, always, always skip the freelancer with the aggressive, high pressure pitch. It’s a good sign that how they act during your first meeting is how they will always act. Do you want to invite (and pay for) that kind of pressure into your business?
  7. If, after all this you still can’t find the right fit for your business, contact me. Seriously. If we don’t work together I’ll make sure you have resources to keep you moving toward finding the person you do want to hire.

And, one other note. It’s not ok to ask a freelancer to do free or spec. work as a “try out”. It’s disrespectful. If you like them and want to work with them on a temporary basis to see if they’re going to be a good fit in the long run, say so. Then give them a short term paid project.

And now, as promised, a free download of the first draft of my newest time management tool.

© copyright HeyAmyLou 2016 – All rights reserved

 

How, And More Importantly, When To Delegate (pt. 1)

Sneak peek of my newest time management tool.
Read part 2 for a link to download it.

This is the first of a two part discussion on delegating. And it’s backwards from the title. Today the “When”. Next post will be the “How”.

So many small business owners I meet with are overwhelmed. Most are trying to Do. It. All. and they are floundering. Too much time spent on administrative time sucks and not enough time actually interacting with clients, which ultimately results in not enough cash coming in to sustain their small business.

It’s a true statement that the value of your time is exactly the same no matter what you are doing.

For instance, you’re a photographer who gets paid $175 per hour to shoot photographs. The value of your time is $175, whether you are shooting photographs or you are posting a status update on Facebook. Whether you are editing a shoot or writing a blog post. Whether you are advising a client who is setting up for a shoot or managing your newsletter mailing list.

Here’s the question: Did you start your photography business to take photographs, or did you start your business to post Facebook status updates, write blog posts and manage newsletter mailing lists?

My guess is you started your business to do what you love to do and the social media, marketing and other administrative tasks are necessary evils. Here’s the kicker: as a small business owner who thinks it’s up to you to do it all, you are getting paid the exact same hourly rate no matter what you are doing.

Why not actually earn money doing what you love to do and delegate the necessary evils to someone who gets paid to do what they love to do. Quite possibly it’s a true statement that you have the skills to update Facebook, write blog posts and manage mailing lists.

It’s also a true statement that just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

While you are doing those things, who is out taking photos, editing shoots, and advising your clients? Not you.

And then there’s this:  Who is paying you to do what you love to do? Your client. Who is paying you to post Facebook status updates, write blog posts and manage newsletter mailing lists.?

YOU are.

You are paying yourself the exact same $175 in lost revenue that your client could be paying you in actual cash. Is it cost effective not to delegate?

Here’s a pretty nifty exercise. It’s the exact same blog post with a “fill in the blanks” option. Click this link and fill in the blanks with what it is you do and the hourly rate you get paid to do it and then re-read and see what happens.

© copyright HeyAmyLou 2016 – All rights reserved

Planning A Blog Planner

Blogging makes me happy. I like writing, I’m proud of 90% of what I’ve written here and when I know what I’m doing I look forward to writing in this space.

Did you catch that little admission right there? The one where I admitted I don’t know what I’m doing? Yep. Most of the time I’m winging it. I have no set schedule for blogging. What? When? Why? I don’t know. I rarely know.

I’ve tried it all: blocking off time in my planner, developing long lists of topics, drawing nifty diagrams and pinning them to the wall opposite my monitor. And the only thing I do with any consistency is blow by all of it. Not because I don’t like writing, I truly do. My “planning” doesn’t have a consistency to it.

I mentioned in an earlier post that I was developing a blog planner. When I hit on that idea I had an ulterior motive: it was really because I wanted to learn how to design printables. And a blog planner designed using those new-found skills seemed like a useful thing for folks.

Publishing said blog planner has taken me longer than I originally thought it would. That’s not because of any deign learning curve. It’s because I’ve become my own best customer. I am the person for whom I’m designing a blog planner. For real. The one who needs a consistent plan for getting it done.

It’s getting there. It’s almost a blog planner I see my self using. Consistently. Watch this space for more on when it will be available. And an “insider” series on how it came to be. Because now I know what I’m doing. 🙂

___________

If you’re curious about what’s going on elsewhere in the land of me, head on over to Irish Yoga Chick later today where I’ll be talking meditation.

© copyright HeyAmyLou 2016 – All rights reserved

Unplanned Themes

Full disclosure: The newsletter comes together each week because I bookmark everything I come across on the internet. There’s never any planning as to how it will come together, or what will be included, right up until the minute I open my “bookmarks” folder in Google Chrome and click on what looks good right then and there.

So find it fascinating when an issue like today’s comes together.

Late last week I stumbled upon Escape From The Internet, by Virginia Sole-Smith, about the owners of the blog Young House Love. I read that particular blog infrequently. Although, I do remember the rather intense dust-up when they announced they were shuttering it in 2014. So the behind-the-scenes read on what led up to the decision promised to be interesting.

What I got was so much more than I expected, both as someone with a blog and someone who spends quite a bit of time reading the blogs of others (Seriously. It’s built into my Sunday morning schedule.) On it’s surface, it’s about the struggle to determine what we owe our readers.

Factor in the unintended consequences of building a career around the details we’ve decided to share, the reality that what we share never really gives readers a complete understanding of who we truly are, even though said reader may think of us as their “friend”, with all that entitles simply because they spend so much time (albeit online, behind a computer screen) with us and ta-da! As they say in the article, the lines between blogger, customer and best friend get very fuzzy.

Examining it from the other side, that of the reader, is no less complicated. Some of the anecdotes shared in the story, mostly comments from readers, were disappointing at the very least.

“You make big bucks from this blog and IT’S YOUR JOB.”

“I bought you your house.”

I’m not a commenter and I have more than a few reservations about comments in general. What makes people so brave, and often so mean, when safely sheltered behind some sort of computer screen? Well, apparently there’s a lot that goes into answering that question.

We Are Hopelessly Hooked by Jacob Weisberg points out that in our “always on” society, where the bulk of us check our phones an average of every 4.3 minutes, we’re truly never alone anymore. Solitude is what allows us to see each other as separate, as independent. A point quite possibly proved by Mike Murphy’s article (and subsequent “test“) suggesting that Facebook has decreased our six degrees of separation to roughly 3.57 degrees.

All of which contributes to a loss in our ability to empathize with others.

At some point during the previous week, I came across a Brain Pickings post on David Foster Wallace and was reminded of his commencement speech to Kenyon College in 2005, which I frequently play on on loop in the background while I’m working, hoping to retaining the wisdom of it through osmosis. Being accidentally exposed to that that video again, after having read all of the above somehow seemed fated.

That’s also about the time it occurred to me that this particular newsletter is about more than sharing trends in the industry, tools to make us all better entrepreneurs, and goofy stuff that might, for a second, provide a much needed break in our jam-packed days.

As my clients will attest, I’m a big believer (some would say nag) that we don’t depend exclusively our platforms to communicate with our clients. Offline interactions will always matter more than most anything we do online, because that’s where the real people live.

Be kind.

© copyright HeyAmyLou 2016 – All rights reserved
cross posted to Irish Yoga Chick

Say Hello To AL

image © copyright HeyAmyLou 2016

AL is my timer. My most creative tool. Yep.  Setting a timer makes me infinitely creative. Seems counter-intuitive, doesn’t it? Forcing creativity? Being creative only between the times of “x” and “y”? That’s ridiculous.

Yes. That is ridiculous. Using a timer to get me through all of the minutia that crops  up throughout the day, giving myself set parameters in which to address it and forget it. That’s not ridiculous.

  • 30 minutes to go through my email inbox every morning.
  • 30 minutes to file the wayward documents on my desktop each evening
  • 1 hour Monday-Friday to listen to the podcasts and read the blogs I enjoy
  • A Power Hour* every Friday afternoon to tackle the things I keep putting off (contacting the attorney about the latest probate hitch, tackling that soon-to-be overwhelming pile of documents that must be shredded, to pay bills, to file receipts.)

All of this is set to a timer. All of the things mentioned above are important to keeping this ship sailing smoothly. They are also the very things that get in the way of creativity. Without a timer, 30 minutes of email becomes 2 hours of restructuring my inbox. 30 minutes of document filing becomes half a day of cleaning off my hard drive. 1 hour of podcast listening / blog reading becomes a whole day down a rabbit-hole. And without the Power Hour* every Friday, that shredding pile is soon taller than I am.

The timer reminds me. Not about the task at hand. About the infinite number of hours left in the day to create, to connect (truly, not via facebook or text), to stay present.  It’s my most creative tool.

*Hat Tip to Gretchen Rubin My New Habit For Tackling Nagging Tasks: Power Hour and her podcast about it here.

© copyright HeyAmyLou 2016 – All rights reserved