June 25, 2013

REDISCOVERING EMAIL NEWSLETTERS

envelopesYou've probably heard this before: your most valuable business asset is your mailing list.

That’s because your audience — clients, prospects, collaborators, suppliers — are very difficult to replace.

These days, your list is the collection of  email addresses you obtained with permission. How are you protecting and growing this asset in the age of social networks?

PASSIVE

I've been using social networks to stay in contact with my network. This is easy but ineffective because your target recipients may never get your message. They already receive too many updates from their connections. How can they pay attention to you too?

Let's use Twitter as an example. One time-effective technique is to set a duration (e.g., 15 minutes) to read and participate. You ignore what happens outside this window. That means you could be ignoring most of the activity if you follow more than a few people.

On LinkedIn, I used to check all the updates from my connections since the last time I checked updates. That works when your network is small and relatively inactive. Mine keeps growing. Starting in January 2013, I stopped exploring all updates. I’ll explore for a few minutes but rely on emails from LinkedIn to tell me what's happening.

What do you do? Chances are good that you limit your time on social networks too.

You may post a message that many could see but which few do. I figured that posting an announcement or two about my trust workshops would be enough to fill the room. Not quite. Even after three events, I’m finding people who didn't know about them. Or who’ve forgotten.

The solution is a more active approach.

ACTIVE

Email remains the most effective way to get your message to specified people. Yes, boring old email still has a role. You might not get an immediate response. Your message might get sent to a spam folder, but you've still got a reliable way to reach most of the people you intend.

How humbling. Since email is difficult to personalize and track, using an electronic newsletter is an ideal solution. I sent out Marketing Reflections for 42 months. I stopped last December ago because I thought using social networks would work instead. Wrong. There is still a need for email.

I had been using Benchmark Email, which worked fine. Now there are free options like MailChimp (free for 2,000 subscribers) and Mad Mimi (free for 2,500 subscribers). They both allow you an easy way to experiment. Benchmark Email also has a free for life plan but only for people who subscribe through a signup form. Importing a mailing list is much easier.

Protecting Your List

These days, your list is 100% opt in. You can no longer email messages without permission. Your audience can opt out anytime — and report you for spamming them anytime. Adding value and acting properly are both essential.

The Plan

My plan is to
  • put connections into a social CRM system (underway)
  • restart a newsletter (details here)
  • start autoresponder campaigns (e.g., to help workshop graduates reach their goals)
  • find ways to build the mailing list
  • find ways to connect the mailing list to the CRM system (easiest with MailChimp)
I'll share the experiences with you.

Links

PS How do you keep track of your mailing list?

June 18, 2013

THREE STEPS TO GET REPLIES TO YOUR EMAILS

hourglass
How dare you not reply!

Have you felt like saying that when you don’t get an answer to an email?

Do you wait? If you followup, how do you proceed? In recent months, I’ve been moving away from posting messages on social networks and back towards boring old email. That’s because of my recent workshops on how to build trust needed a targeted approach.

Here are three effective ways to get responses to your emails.
  1. Become a welcome guest
  2. Personalize
  3. Followup with a light touch

Become A Welcome Guest

Help your connections get to know you before you ask them for something. Nearly everyone I email is already a connection on LinkedIn. That means they’ve already agreed to accept messages (100% opt-in). They can see my ongoing activity (mainly links to articles intended to be of value to them). That familiarity helps build a connection, even if they don’t read every word. By giving, you invoke their desire to reciprocate (the #1 universal principle of influence).

You can do the same. When you send an email, it’s more likely to get opened (even without a clever subject line).

Personalize

If all your email is about something you’re selling, you can easily be seen as a mild spammer. That also applies for email newsletters.

My emails sometimes use templates (e.g., information about the next workshop) but I usually customize them for each person. That’s possible because I’m very targeted.

If you want to reach lots of people with a generic message, a newsletter will simplify your work but also reduce your effectiveness. As an offset, you’ll need a larger mailing list, which means more generic content.

Followup With A Light Touch

Now you’ve sent a personalized email to someone you know, waited and received no reply. What next? Chances are good that the person you contacted is busy — just like you. They likely have a system for dealing with their inboxes. Resending the same email may annoy them and add to their clutter.

Send a short, friendly email, possibly on a different topic.

That’s often enough to remind them of your original email. For a workshop, that’s even easier because I have a link to more details in my email signature. There’s no need to say anything more.
If they usually respond quickly, something unusual may be taking place in their lives. Example: I haven’t heard from you in a while. I hope everything is okay.

You could ask a direct question if you’re seeking a yes/no answer. Example: Are you coming to my workshop? I want to make sure there are enough workbooks.

You could also send a link to an article you think may interest them. When they thank you, you’ve got an opening: I was wondering if you had a chance to (whatever your original email was about).

You won’t always get a reply to your emails but you can increase the likelihood.

Links

PS Do you have other techniques?

June 11, 2013

STARTING YOUR OWN PRIVATE SOCIAL NETWORK: NING 3.0 BEATS SOCIALGO AND GROU.PS

Before starting the Sanctum private social network, I looked at the options for creating an online community and explored : SocialGo, GROU.PS and Ning (in that order).

Ning 3.0 plansNing 3.0 Wins

Ning is the most popular, with over two million communities. That’s an indicator they’ll stay in business.

The latest iteration, Ning 3.0, launched in March 2013 and is still under development. Some capabilities I want won't be ready until summer (see the roadmap). Normally, I would not wait but I'm so impressed by what Ning is offering that I will.

Ning has a new pricing model. All accounts get all the important features. The price depends on the size of the community. In contrast, competitors give you more if you pay more. That’s annoying. Just because your network starts small doesn’t mean you need fewer capabilities.

Ning 3.0 makes other options look dated. Why would you want to start a community that looks like it’s from 2008?
Bad News Is Good News
You’ll find lots of criticism of Ning going back to the days when free accounts were eliminated. I understand the anger. Meetup also dropped their free option. Ning 3.0 has changes that Ning 2.0 communities may not appreciate. Since I’m starting fresh, the transition process doesn’t matter.

I was impressed that Ning allowed the discussions to take place on their site. They certainly cannot please everyone. By allowing the discussions in public, they show in extreme level of transparency. Some complainers look like whiners — best ignored.

Some suggestionsCreating a Ning 3.0 page have led to changes. What more could you want? Having a lively community of network creators is very valuable.
Support
When building a community, there are many questions arise (at least for a novice like me). I tried Ning’s online chat support and got good results. There is also extensive help online. 
Ease Of Use
I’m finding Ning 3.0 is very flexible while remaining easy to use. When creating a page, you decide on the layout and who sees it. Most of my pages are only for community members. Some are restricted to different classes of members. Others are public, such as this page showing recommended sites and tools.

SocialGO = TooSLOWSocialGo

My previous choice was SocialGo Network Maker. Support is very poor as the screenshot shows. All I wanted was to reset my password. Normally there is an instant automated way. Their “ASAP” took days.

Also, I wanted a trial longer than 14 days. A rep contacted me but then disappeared without doing anything. I’ll spare you those emails.
This company offers another product called SocialGO, which does not allow member billing. Combining both products might free up resources to support customers.

LinkedIn Recommendation withdrawn
Be careful where you click. I accidentally recommended SocialGO on LinkedIn. Since I thought I would pick it, I wrote a recommendation. I’ve now deleted the text but there doesn’t seem to be a way to remove all references to me.

GROU.PS

GROU.PS has a weird, too-clever spelling (though I’m fond of the initials “PS”). They seem to be the second most popular way to build an online community after Ning. They have made several very odd decisions.

odd discount, odd timingWhen you first look at the pricing page, you’re offered a 10% off if you signup within 10 minutes. Who would? You need time to explore. Also, 10% is a measly discount. Why even bother?

You only get a 7 day free trial. That is way too short. One month is ideal, though two weeks seems to be the norm. What’s going on? Do they want to lock you in before you’ve explored what’s there?
GROUP.PS resells your communityThe Dark Side
Something went wrong in the registration process and I was unable to enter my credit card information. My site still got created but was shown as having no owner. Anyone who wants can buy your site … that’s not right.

It seems that the site you build does not get deleted if you cancel or close your account. This is not clear while setting up an account. Would you like someone else to takeover your creation? What a trust killer. I didn’t explore further.

Careful

Selecting the right host for your private social network is important and there are clear differences. In particular, you want to pick a provider that’s likely to stay in business. I could have saved time by starting with the leader, Ning (which Seth Godin uses for triiibes.com).

Links

PS If your needs are limited, try a free Google+ Community.

June 4, 2013

WHY BOTHER SEEING A SPEAKER LIVE?

lots of empty seatsI’m more likely to watch a movie on a tiny tablet than on the big screen in a movieplex. Thanks Netflix. The experience is different but the convenience and flexibility more than make up for the small screen. No travel time. No parking hassles. No lining up.

I’m more likely to see a speaker for free online than live at a venue. This is scary because I’m a speaker too and want people to see me in person. I’m also starting a term as area governor for six Toastmasters clubs in west Toronto. These speakers need audiences too.

Quiet And Decisive

The nature of professional speaking seems to be changing.

Chip Heath and Roger Martin (Rotman 2013-05-27)Consider Susan Cain, author of Quiet. I’ve seen her TED Talk about introverts, listened to the audiobook and read interviews. She has a free live video chat on June 5th through Goodreads. I’ve got no strong desire to see her live in person. That’s not because I’m an introvert (though I am). It’s because I’ve already had enough.

Decisive is the new book by the Heath brothers. I saw Chip at Rotman last week. I already watched Dan's book launch webinar (see the WRAP on Decisive) and listened to Chris Brogan’s interview. Dan Pink interviewed both brothers on Office Hours.  That's enough. I’ve got the book. My next step is to read it and apply the lessons.

What’s Missing

In a live audience, I want interaction instead of a canned speech. Here’s a formula with appeal. I want to see speakers who show their contact information and reply to sensible emails.

I want to see speakers who have built a community (not a sales funnel). For instance Seth Godin started noncommercial Linchpin Sessions and Icarus Sessions to help us meet the like-minded locally in 1,000+ cities. I’ve found great connections there.

All-Day Speaker Events

The Art of MarketingThere are day-long events with speaker after speaker. You get a big name or two and filler. Examples for Toronto are
  • The Art of Marketing (Jun 5, 2013; $449+): Biz Stone, Seth Godin, Jonah Berger, Charles Duhigg, David Usher
  • A Passion for Life (Jul 24, 2013; $329+): Tony Robbins, Robert Greene, Chip Heath, Loretta LaRoche, Joe Plumeri, Desiree Rogers
I’ve attended several times in the past but am not going this time.

Local Heroes

You can see local speakers at local TEDx events. This is often better because you can also forge relationships with people in your community. That’s often the real value. The schedule has frequent long breaks to allow interaction.

Cheaper Options

Sometimes speakers are in major cities for low cost events. For instance, Rotman attracts many speakers. Last week Chip Heath. Next week, Mitch Joel. The admission price is roughly the list price of the book — and you get a copy of the book. It’s as is the speaker is free, as in a webinar or interview. Plus, you often get to talk to the speaker.

One + None

Tony Robbins live (click to enlarge)I’d rather see one speaker for longer.

For instance, Tony Robbins is excellent live. You can see him for five hours in Calgary for $289+.

You can see Seth Godin for a full day of Q&A in New York for $955+. In 2010, I attended The Linchpin Session, in which Seth presented in the morning and did Q&A in the afternoon.

What Still Works

If I can’t talk to the speaker, I’m not interested. If the speaker doesn’t provide contact information afterwards, count me out. If there isn’t a good chunk of time for Q&A, I’ll stay at home.

I still like attending live events in the audience or on stage. I’m much more selective and demanding, though. Do you feel the same way?

Links

PS Who’s the last speaker you saw live and in person?