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Constant Contact wants to help you succeed! We’re celebrating our professional service programs on the Constant Contact Community this month and you have a chance to try one of the services for free! Learn more.
A few months ago I decided that my dog Molly needed to go back to school. Even though she had been through two training courses and her Canine Good Citizen class there were still issues that had to be addressed. She didn’t like strangers and was developing issues with other dogs. I found a great trainer in the area where I live (Shiloh K9 Dog Obedience in Glennie, MI). The original intent was to put Molly in his board and train program. She was going to live with him for two to four weeks go under intensive training. Unfortunately, he was booked for the next month. He suggested we bring in Molly once a week for private lessons. For the next four weeks I brought Molly into his training center and we began my training. Molly was the ideal student. Once she understood what we were asking of her she did as asked. None of the issues we talked about appeared. I know for sure the trainer thought my mom and I were nuts. Why would we put a well-mannered dog through doggy school? So the trainer, my mom, and I sat down again and went over the issues. The trainer decided to leave my mom and me in the center alone with Molly. He went out one door. Then he came knocking at another door. You guessed it. My dear Psycho Molly appeared! See…we weren’t crazy after all. Prior to this test the trainer determined she was not an aggressive dog. His suspicion was that she was acting out in fear. It made sense now. Half of Molly’s life was spent alone with me. She felt she was needed to protect me and my house. Her problems with the dogs she did not know came about from attacks at the local dog park (she was always happy-go-lucky and ready for a good game of chase until a few untrained dogs at various times decided to take her down). We now knew the problem. We now developed a plan. The trainer then gave me the tools to address those problems and let Molly become the dog we knew her to be. I also purchased some items to help me utilize what he taught me better at home. It took and expert and the right training (I was being trained not Molly; Molly was responding to what I asked of her). What is the purpose of this story? Sometimes we need to turn to an expert to help us find the problem and help us get the tools to resolve it. Too many times, as business owners, we try to go it alone. We either don’t have the extra money to pay for the help or we’re too busy trying to keep the business running. Sometimes it takes an expert to put on the right track (SCORE is a great place to start). Maybe we need to get the right training or purchase the right tools (Constant Contact is a great tool to help market your business and the certified Solution Providers and ALEs are some of the best at what they do and can help you along the way). Either way, find a way to get the help you need. Your business’ life depends on you just like Molly’s life depended on me. (The picture is of Molly and Nelly in doggy school. They are learning the "watch me" command. This helps them to focus on me. Ideally I only need to give them hand signals over verbal ones.)
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I set up an API key for myself for the plugin Bloom by Elegant Themes. I'm now setting up a new Wordpress site for a client. They just signed on to use Constant Contact. I want to use Bloom as the plugin to sign up for the newsletter. Do I need to set up a developer account for my client in order to get an API key or can I use my existing API key to get her set up? It sounds like I can use the same API key but I don't know how to go about doing that. Please keep the instructions simple. It's been a long frustrating week with this new site.
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Last time I talked about outsourcing some of your daily job functions to companies that specialize in that particular area. Now I’d like to discuss the idea bringing on a college intern to help with some of these duties especially for your marketing.
Many colleges require that graduates spend at least one semester working for a company as an intern. While I agree with that as it is a valuable experience for the student, I find many times the intern site doesn’t know what is expected of them. The rest of the time they look at the intern as a free source of labor where the intern doesn’t learn anything. Pretty sad seeing that the intern probably just paid for a 3 or 4 credit class for that internship (they have to pay their school so they can work for free...seriously?).
What should you do with your intern?
Sit down with your intern and find out what goals they have for their internship. Many choose an intern site based on a weakness in their education. When choosing my site I decided I wanted to work for a printer. I knew how to design but didn’t know what happened to my piece after I sent it to the printer for printing. It’s like it got lost in a black hole.
Decide if this is a paid or unpaid internship. There are students who can’t afford to work for free. Some see what they learn as their pay. If possible try to pay the current minimum wage. The Department of Labor has specific rules regarding this. Basically unless you are a government agency or a non-profit you need to pay your intern.
Set some type of schedule. Many intern programs have a minimum number of hours they need to put into the program. It helps if they intern has a schedule with set hours per week. My internship required about 16 hours per week. Some weeks I worked 30 hours and some only 5. This was difficult for me as I was running my own marketing communications company plus taking two additional classes. At one time I worried if I was going to get the required 120 hours at the end of the eight weeks because some weeks had really low hours. This leads to #4.
Internships are not set up for you to manage the peaks and valleys in your production work. You don’t schedule your intern based on your backlog of work. This probably defeats their goals outlined in #1. When it is slow it’s a great time to train your intern in other areas.
Interns know they are not entitled to a job after their internship. But, if chosen carefully and trained properly you just may find your next employee who has been trained in your business.
If you’re not sure about compliance with the government the Department of Labor has specific rules regarding internships. By following these guidelines the internship program can be a win-win for your business and the intern you brought into your business.
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As a small business owner that just has one employee (me), I often wonder at what point do I start outsourcing some of my work. It’s something that has to be looked at by any solo-preneur. This is not just work in our office but household work. As much as we’d like more hours we only get 24 hours in any given day. Unfortunately, our bodies require sleep and that typically involves losing 6 to 8 hours that could be spent working. Yes, I know there are those that go with even less sleep. But, we know how unhealthy that is to our bodies in the long term. We can’t outsource anything here. That now gives us 16 to 18 hours per day. Then we have to take away hours for personal grooming and eating; don’t forget our household responsibilities (kids, pets, yardwork, household chores, etc.). You can easily lop off four hours to take care of your responsibilities. That could give you 10 to 12 hours to take care of your clients and do your own business responsibilities (marketing, accounting, responding to email, etc.). Yep, just like me, you need another five or more hours per day. Well, that isn’t going to happen anytime soon. Oh what to do! Let’s take a look at how much your hourly value is and what can we do to free up more time. First you need to determine how much a year you want to earn. Let’s choose $75,000 per year. The next step is to calculate the number of hours you work in a year. There are 220 days (after subtracting Saturday and Sunday). Multiply that by eight (number of hours in a typical work day) and you get 1760. Divide $75,000 by 1760 and you get an hourly rate of $42.00. Take this number and multiply it by 3 (the number that distinguishes between billable and non-billable hours you spend doing your marketing and accounting…1/3 productive and 2/3 productive other). The final number will be what your time is worth. Base Earning Target $75,000.00 Divided by (220 days x 8 hours per day = 1760) 1760 work hours in a year = Base hourly number $42.00 Times productivity vs. non–productivity multiplier 3 What your time must be worth per hour $128.00 *The above formula came from the book written by Dan S. Kennedy called No B.S. Time Management for Entreprenuers: The Ultimate No Holds Barred Kick Butt Take No Prisoners Guide to Time Productivity and Sanity . So, it comes down to this. If something costs less than $128 per hour it is time to outsource that work. Do you really need to spend a couple of hours doing yard work? Depending on the size of your lawn (and where you live) you can have your lawn cut for about $30. Need marketing work done for your company you can find a company that offers managed marketing services (like KSJ Marketing Communications) that can do the work for you for about $45 per hour (depending on the number of hours in your retainer agreement and duties to be performed). Same goes for your accounting duties. Now outsourcing some of your daily tasks can give you more time for what is important: your family. How do you put a dollar amount on the time watching your child’s baseball game or band recital? Just as Harry Chapin’s song says, “when you comin’ home Dad, I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then; You know we’ll have a good time then.” Give this some thought. Can you afford not to do a little outsourcing for the sake of your business and your family?
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Back December Facebook announced a new feature. It’s a CTA (call to action) button. You’re probably asking what is it and how can it help me using Facebook for my business. Here it is! When designing anything to market your business you need to have a call to action. This means giving your market a way to reach you right away for more information or better yet, to buy. This could be a phone number, a visit to the store, a link (or a QR code) to a landing page, email address, or even a live chat. The ideas are limited by your imagination. Why use the new CTA button on Facebook? With the new algorithms on Facebook our business posts are not reaching your fans like they used to. It’s a pay for play world now. The new CTA button can help with that missing engagement. Before the CTA button you had to configure an app on your page. Problems with an app is that they can be hard to find (you only have 4 tabs to show; anything else has to be found under the “more” tab). They also don’t show on a mobile phone. Why is that important? According to The Verge 30% of Facebook user only use their phones to log in. Now you get the idea behind a CTA, here are the choices when setting up a CTA on Facebook and what you can do with them: Book now: Allow your fans to schedule an appointment or book a reservation. Contact us: Send them to your contact page on your website or if you’re a brick and mortar store give them a map to your location. Use app: send your visitor to your app download page (remember: 30% of them are using their phone to access facebook). Play game: Do you have a game you created? Have people get to the game directly from your page. Shop now: You can give a direct link to your sale page from your eCommerce store. Sign up: If you’re not using a designed widget for your email communication system this is an easy way to get people to sign up for your newsletters or promotional email blasts. You can also use it to get people to sign up for your webinars or ebooks. Watch video: Great way to drive traffic to your YouTube channel. Make sure you update and change often to keep getting people to come back. At this time you can only use one CTA at a time (unless you go back to the older way and have a custom tab). You also can’t customize the buttons. You are stuck with what Facebook has set up. A useful feature that would be nice to have is to have the Contact Us dial your phone when you’re using Facebook from your phone. But, you can always direct them to your mobile responsive website and they can call from there. Just as you modify your call to action on a regular basis take the time to also modify your cover photo. Keep that updated to reflect (and notify) of the newest call to action. Your cover photo should be updated about once a month anyways. It will be interesting to see where this new feature takes businesses. I hope Facebook grows this neat tool to something bigger.
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I recently started reading a book called Promptings: Your Inner Guide to Making a Difference by Kody Bateman. Kody is the found of Send Out Cards. In his book (and his seminars) he mentions how he was moving back east for a job. He had a “prompting” to stop and say good-bye to his older brother Kris. Like many us he ignored that prompting. He figured he had time to talk to his brother another time. Time had other plans. A few months later his brother died in a freak accident. Since that time whenever he had a prompting to do something he acted on it. Life is so unpredictable that you can’t say I’ll take care of it next time. There may not be a next time. How many times have we as business owners decided not to act on our promptings? Did we see an opportunity and didn’t act on it? Did we note a problem in our business and didn’t take the time to fix it? Or could we have helped a client resolve an issue that may not have been in our area of expertise (but would have left the client feeling grateful that we cared enough)? We’ve all been there especially in our personal lives (when was the last time you told a loved one that you loved them and are glad they are in your life?). One of the promptings I didn’t act on was a local chamber’s website. When I relocated my I started locating the chamber of commerces in the area. Many had websites that have not been updated in years. Forget them even being mobile friendly. I had a prompting to contact them to see if they would be interested in a new mobile friendly website. I didn’t act on the prompting. Months later I attended one of their meetings to discuss offering Constant Contact as a member benefit. I planned on presenting a proposal to update their website. I was too late. They had a graphic designer in their meeting to go over a directory she was working on. She had discussed last month redesigning their website. So sad for me. I didn’t act on this prompting and lost a potential project to someone that had no training or experience in web design. My goal for 2015 is not to ignore my promptings. It doesn’t matter if it’s business related or personal. I will act. So, if you feel something prompting you to do act, don’t ignore it. It could improve your business or change your life.
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One sunny Sunday afternoon in October I loaded up my “girls” (my chief barking officer Molly and my presidential not so secret service agent Nelly) into the car for an adventure. The destination was to view the fall colors in northern Michigan. I chose M-33 to travel (the scenic route to our beloved Mackinac Bridge). Fall in northern Michigan is gorgeous. You certainly see nature at some of her best. It is also sad at the same time. We know what is coming. We don’t need the Starks of Winterfell to tell us “winter is coming.” Gone are the tourists that feed many of the local residents. The business owners scale back (or even close their businesses) for the season. They hope they did well enough to survive the winter. If they planned their marketing properly they will. If not, spring won’t see them opening again. When a business hits a slow period it is certainly not the time to hunker down for a long winter’s nap. The time can be better used to do building and equipment maintenance, or better yet, write next year’s marketing plan. I find many small businesses don’t have a marketing plan (even business plans are none existent unless they are going for some type of business loan). They say they are too complicated to write or too time consuming. But the old adage is true. Having no plan is a plan to fail. Sadly that happens more times than not. A simple written document with some goals and how to achieve those goals is better than nothing. The real problem is that many don’t know where to begin in writing a marketing plan. They are not difficult. They do take some time. It helps you understand your business and what is needed to make it thrive. Check my blog at http://ksjmarketing.com/wordpress/ on December 1, 2014 for some simple steps in creating your marketing plan. (Note: My girls waiting for their adventure. Nelly, on the left, likes to "drive"; Molly, on the right, prefers to be chauffered).
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Last week I attended the Connecting Entrepreneurial Communities (#CEC2014MSUE) conference in East Tawas, Michigan on October 8th and 9th. The conference was put on by the Michigan State University Extension program. The idea behind the conference is to promote, educate, inform, and connect entrepreneurial communities. Huh? Many small towns are struggling to remain in existence. Their young are leaving. Some will say they are leaving to spread their wings. Mostly they leave because they don’t have job opportunities to keep them around. Businesses don’t want to relocate to an area they don’t have the trained labor force to work in their business. So what are we to? We’re in a Catch-22. As the CEC clearly states “…we all have a part to play in supporting local businesses and entrepreneur development in our communities.” As business owners it is up to us to step up to the plate and get in the game more than we ever have in the past. Some of the initiatives include programs for our children to get hands on training with a particular project. The Ogemaw Humane Society and the Ogemaw Commission on Aging are two great examples of students learning a trade by doing. They built both of these buildings as part of their classroom training. In Oscoda County they have a donated building and wood working equipment to help train our kids with strong skills that will support them. I belong to a local chapter of a national women’s group. They just started a program called Twenty Torches. This program pairs a young woman with a mentor. But we need to do more. (Note: these are northern Michigan counties and were hard hit by Michigan’s one-state recession) Many of our kids are lacking in the entrepreneurial spirit our forefathers had. Can you imagine any of them packing up and moving across country to a new and dangerous territory? How about moving to a country you can’t speak the language? My grandfather did it. He understood to have a better life he had to show some initiative and take risks. So at 17 he left Italy and never looked back. It’s time to teach our kids that risk is not failure at all. Not taking that risk is certain failure. Our children are also lacking in basic business etiquette. They don’t understand proper attire in an office setting. Some don’t understand the value of being on time. Too many times I walk into a place of business and the young adult is playing on their cell phone. One of the concerns I keep hearing about is the succession of an existing business. Sometimes a business owner doesn’t have family to leave the business to. Sometimes his family just has no interest in it. How do we match up a retiring business owner with a young adult willing to buy into the business and keep it running and creating jobs for the community? Before they can do this they need to be trained in all aspects of running a business. There are plenty of organizations out there to do this such as the SBA (Small Business Administration), SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives), your local EDC, etc. They can help many new business owners. As a small business owner what are you doing to help the next generation of young professionals and entrepreneurs? Let’s share our ideas and grow our communities.
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Mark Twain once said “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.” Procrastination. Not a word any of us want to hear. The negativity associated with the word gives us a sense of failure even though we don’t procrastinate because we’re lazy. Oxford Dictionary defines procrastination as: The action of delaying or postponing something We’re all guilty of procrastination at one time or another. There are many reasons for it. We either don’t like the task, or we don’t have the skill sets to quickly get the task done, or it’s the old “parent tapes” playing over and over in our head (these are all the negative comments we heard as a child growing up). This article can’t address the last one. There are many good books and professionals that can help with self-esteem blocks. But we can address the first two and come up with solutions to make your business run smoothly. You just don’t like the task. No amount of “recipes” is going to get you to like something. Accept that. Your best option is to hire someone that likes to do that work. How much is it costing you by not getting it done because you keep putting it off? Dan Kennedy in his book “No B.S. Time Management for Entrepreneurs: The Ultimate No Holds Barred Kick Butt Take No Prisoners Guide to Time Productivity and Sanity” had a great little formula to calculate the value of your time. Say your number came to $100 per hour. Now, should you be spending two hours of your time cutting the grass? How about 4 hours a week to clean house? Unless we really like those tasks we tend to outsource that work. But what about your marketing tasks? How many of you pay each month for a service like Constant Contact and can never get out your newsletter? Maybe it’s time to hire a certified Solution Provider to help you out. Your skill set does not include the task and it makes you slower in getting things done. We can’t be good at everything. Take bookkeeping for instance. We’re good at bringing the money in. We’re not so good at keeping track of that money. Plus there are so many rules we have to know to be compliant with the IRS. We just can’t know them all. It’s better to have your books done correctly when it comes time to do your taxes. If you rely on social media can you keep up with all the changes? What about new applications hitting the market trying to be the next Facebook or YouTube? Do you really have the extra time to keep up with all that? When it comes down to it there are a lot of ways to eat that frog. Some of them you just need to feed them to someone else. I’m off to eat a frog or two. :catvery-happy: Disclaimer: No frogs were hurt (or eaten) in the writing of this article.
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When you make the decision to have a website designed (or even redesigned) who is responsible for the content? Many times a web firm does not include the content. They expect you will supply the content that is ready to be dropped in to your website. If you want them to write the content you can expect to pay on average $100 to $200 per page (if not more). But many times they are not trained in content writing and it sounds like Robot from Lost in Space wrote it for you. So, what do you do? Here are some helpful tips to write your own content. These are basic writing tips that not only can help you write content for your website but producing your print pieces and enewsletters. Let your personality shine. When you try to write in a style that is not you, you come across as stiff and boring. You will sound confident and your expertise will be noticed. Just mind your grammar and spelling. Have a second pair of eyes look for errors. Remember KISS. We’re not talking the rock band Kiss but Keep It Simple Stupid. You need to write for the lowest educational level of your audience. Did you know the average newspaper writes to the 8th grade level? Keep the content simple and clear. Don’t talk down to your audience. If you’re using Wordpress SEO by Yoast they will test your content using the Flesch Reading Ease (http://goo.gl/JnIV6p). KISS…Keep It Short Stupid. You want to make sure you write using short sentences and paragraphs (1 to 4 sentences). Using bullet points to call out important items is a great way to help your readers. In the late 90s I started saying that we stopped being readers and have become scanners (no, not the early 80s sci-fi movie of the same name). I found that I was not reading websites but scanning them for relevance to what I was looking for, Drop the Techy-Geeky stuff. It is so easy to fall into talking in your industry’s lingo. Your audience may not understand you. You may as well talk in a foreign language because they don’t understand. If you need to use an industry specific term take the time to explain it. Spell out your USP (unique selling proposition). Your USP is that thing that makes your business special. It could be your quality product, excellent service, expertise, etc. The USP makes you stand out from your competition. Let your reader know this right way before they click the back button. Writer’s block is normal. All of us freeze up when trying to write the perfect piece especially when we’re under a tight deadline. One of the things my advertising instructor would have us do is just write. Her copy writing assignment was to write about a specific kind of candy bar. Whatever popped into our head we were to write it down. Eventually we had enough information for our copy. The vending machine down the hall was also empty of this candy bar that day (yeah…all of us got hungry during that writing assignment). I always wondered if my instructor got her commission on those sales. Even websites need headlines. Your headline is the content that tells your reader they want to read more. They are not always simple to write. Sometimes you need inspiration. I have a file of headlines I liked and collected over the years. I use it as an idea generator. The late David Ogilvy (of ad agency Ogilvy & Mathers) called it his “creative larceny file”. He also said that five times as many people read the headline as the copy. If you can’t catch them with your headline you’ve lost them to their back button. Writing your own content is not difficult with a little bit of effort. No one knows your business better than you. Once you start writing it does get easier. Your web designer can help you tweak the content to make it SEO friendly.
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I have a general list with my entire database in. I just created a new list where I excluded some on the list because they are too far from the event I'm sharing. Does the do not mail list span both lists or will I be mailing to the second list people that opted out?
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