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In recognition of Martin Luther King Day, our Support Centers will be open with limited hours on Monday (1/20) from 10AM ET to 6PM ET. Visit our Help Center to see all of the ways you can find answers to your questions.
As a business owner, your customers are the priority and even the customers that you don’t have yet, are a priority – because you want to turn them into customers. But did you know that there is a potential 18% of your market that you are not serving. That 18% are people with disabilities.
“More than 50 million Americans—18% of our population—have disabilities, and each is a potential customer.” ADA Primer for Small Business
And it’s estimated that by the year 2030, approximately 71.5 million baby boomers will be over the age of 65 and will have physical limitations that we’ll need to special services.
Individuals with disabilities – as well as their friends and family – shop, do business, participate in the community, go to school, and attend events, just like all of us.
“Studies show that once people with disabilities find a business where they can shop or get services in an accessible manner, they become repeat customers.” ADA Primer for Small Business
So, why is it that so many small businesses are ignoring a potential 18% of their market? First, we all think of accessibility in regards to our buildings but we don’t think beyond our spaces. Second most likely, is that many business owners just don't know how to make their business more accessible.
There are many aspects of your business that should consider accessibility (beyond your building) including: signage, phone communication, email communication, personal service within your business, and (close to my heart) your website.
As a marketer and designer, one of the services that I provide are accessible websites. From a business standpoint, it makes sense to me to service all of your market. Personally, though, it just feels like the responsible thing to do.
There are a number of things that you can do to your website (and your Constant Contact emails) that will make it accessible to individuals with any disability. Next month on this blog, I’m going to outline what you can do to make your website more accessible.
In the meantime, if you’d like to learn more, the ADA Primer for Small Business is a great resource. And also the place that I got all of the statistics for this article.
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This month’s post will be short and sweet but get to a point that I feel very strongly. Recently I was at a launch party for the new website that my team and I created for a non-profit organization. This project had been a lengthy one, recreating the entire visual identity of this organization, creating a new highly functional website and setting up all of their social media. There were people there that were part of the organization and people that were “friends and family” and a lot of the discussion at the party was about everything that was accomplished during this project. At one point, someone said, “So did you set them up on Pinterest, Flickr, Instagram…” and on and on. My answer, to this person’s dismay, was no. Here’s the reason and here’s the point I feel very strongly about: they are an organization with limited resources – including time, money and staff (none of whom has much social media experience). Yes, I could have set them up on all of the possible social media platforms, and as part of the project, I would have managed those platforms for the first 90 days. After those 90 days though, the more platforms they had to deal with the less likely they would have been to keep up with high quality, engaging content. And from my experience, that’s the key – the high quality, engaging content. There is nothing worse, as a consumer, to find a business you like on social media and then see the dreaded “dead page.” You know what I mean. The profile page that was created, updated for a month or so and has now sat stagnant for a year. With my experience and my understanding of the organization I was working for, I set them up on Facebook and Twitter. And I did set up their first 90 days of posts to help get them started. Already, just a few weeks in, they’ve taken over and have had very few problems understanding how to manage either platform. They’ve also started to easily develop their own content and their pages are growing. With less to learn so quickly, they felt empowered to take this on themselves. So, that’s my short and sweet point. While everyone is going to tell you that social media is the end-all-be-all marketing tool and you have to use every bit of it you can; I’m saying no. Consider your resources, consider your strengths and then pick one or two that you know you can do well. Then, do them well and watch them grow!
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When it comes to running our businesses, we’re lucky to have such amazing tools at our disposal now. The internet has exploded with sites and apps all promising to make the Small Business Owner sleep better at night. But like any blessing, I think we have to be careful not to take these tools so much for granted that we forgot some old fashioned business wisdom. Business is not just doing deals; business is having great products, doing great engineering, and providing tremendous service to customers. Finally, business is a cobweb of human relationships. - Ross Perot Those relationships are built by personal interaction and personal touch. So today, I’d like to give some advice on how we can add a personal touch to one of our favorite tools – email marketing. Here are my favorite ways to keep your email marketing personal: Your lists: Segment them. This is a simple step that can have a huge impact. Take a minute to think like your customers and figure out what categorizes them. Then use that information to segment your lists. When you send an email make sure you’re addressing the needs of that specific segment. Subject lines: Use their names. First, you’ll have to make sure you have their names. This is a really easy step that can have a lot of impact. The From field: Use your name. Again, a very simple step that can have a large impact. We like to stay branded and get our company names out there, but never forget that they’re “your” customers and the feeling that you are sending them a message can make a big difference. The Email Message: Answer their questions. This is another one of my favorite easy steps. In the day to day of your business, most likely many of your customers ask you questions. When you send your emails, think about what your customers have been asking about recently and address that. For every customer that asks the question, there’s probably a lot more wanting to ask it! Don’t just use email. It’s true. Email marketing is a great tool but like many tools, it’s stronger when partnered with something else. Think about ways to se your email marketing in conjunction with something much more personal, perhaps a handwritten note that follows up to the email. And then I contradict myself. Well, I’m not really, but it may seem that way. My last bit of advice is: don’t get too hooked on personalization. If you think about it, you probably know what I’m thinking of here. Every once in a while you get an email that has your name or personal information throughout it so much that it’s just too much. The key here is natural personalization, not forced! Good luck and happy marketing!
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About six weeks ago, I moved back to beautiful Alaska from our long-term stay in Florida. Being back in a place where friends, hiking, boating, mountain climbing, fishing, whale watching and more, are always pulling me away from work, the idea of work-life balance has been on my mind. Honestly, it’s not a new idea. There has been a lot of media attention given to it lately, and it comes up pretty often when you’re self-employed (and even more so if you run a small business).
My Alaskan View
I love what I do and truly believe in the power of hard work, but I am also committed to working to live not living to work. So my goal is to work hard and work smart. I have put some thought, research and planning into this lately, and I’ve come up with a few strategies that I’m going to test out this summer.
I thought I’d share them with you here.
I will tell you the truth: I absolutely have an issue with multitasking. The issue is that I am always multitasking. In fact, I watched this video , and it might as well have been about me – so true!
Sometimes, I’ll catch myself “working” on four things at once. I put “working” in quotes there because I honestly don’t feel like I’m getting the full benefit of my work when I’ve got so many things going on at once. It’s easy to get caught up in small distractions, so my first step is to start prioritizing my time.
The Task List: I developed a simple list of all of things that I do every single week (social media, website updates, content writing, scheduling, file backups, etc.) and mapped out which days and times every week that I will tackle those tasks. Now, my focus is sticking to it. If I see something online that I’d like to post on my social media, I used to immediately go to HootSuite and set up a scheduled post for all of my accounts with that link. Now, I simply bookmark it and leave it alone. Then, when it’s social media time on my schedule, I have a nice list of bookmarks to work with, all at once. It’s amazing how much faster the whole process is. To develop this into a habit, I even printed out the task list and stuck it right on my desk where I see it every day.
Email Twice a Day: “Email is the largest single interruption in modern life,” according to Tim Ferris (author of the Four Hour Workweek). Tim promotes a proactive approach (getting your work done) rather than a reactive approach (responding to emails as they appear in your inbox), so he recommends checking your email only twice daily. This one will be tough for me because I can say that I am without a doubt an email junkie, but I absolutely believe in the value of starting to develop a more structured approach to email. So based on my research and lots of recommendations, I’m going to the three-a-day approach (I can’t cut to down to two, just yet). My mailbox will stay closed and then first thing in the morning when I sit down to work, I’ll open it, check it and respond to all of the new mail. Then, halfway through the day and at the end of my workday, I’ll do the same thing.
Most of the work I do is done remotely from my “virtual office” and my actual office in my home. I interact with clients and project teams relatively regularly, but I do not have the benefit of constant team interaction. The benefits of team interaction are numerous but for the purposes of this discussion, I think the most important benefit is the ability to “check in.”
It can be difficult to create our own strategies and prioritize our own efforts because we’re too close to it all, but a coworker, mentor, coach, or friend can provide you that “forest from the trees” perspective to help you make clearer decisions.
There are many options available to help find this partnership:
Co-working Spaces – these drop-in workspaces are popping up all over the country and provide numerous benefits for people that normally work out of their home or in an office by themselves. Unfortunately, up here in AK, we don’t have one of those yet, so I’ll have to rely on these other resources.
Small Business Associations/Chambers of Commerce/etc. – our Small Business center here in town has a Thursday Brown Bag lunch program for local business owners to stop by and have lunch together. There is no structured presentation, just a few announcements and then a time for everyone to discuss any issues or concerns they’re having or new ideas that they would like input in, etc. It’s been by-far the best resource for business advice and future clients that I have used.
SCORE - "Counselors to America's Small Business" Score offers mentoring services (face-to-face and online) for small business owners. They keep a list of volunteer mentors on their site and you can easily find someone in your area or industry to provide you with free insight and advice.
It's helpful to note too, that all of these resources are great for marketing yourself and your business. It's a win-win.
The most crucial step..
And finally – it’s not a strategy but just common sense – give yourself actual downtime. It can be difficult to completely step away; I know, I have this problem. I want to be available to my clients, simple as that. But, not long ago I developed the terrible habit of having my cell phone practically attached to my hand (day and night), so I could respond to emails right away. The problem with this, though, is that I was losing that valuable mind-cleansing time away from work. That valuable time away is most often the most beneficial strategy of all. My work benefits from it, I benefit from it, and subsequently, my clients benefit from it.
I'm looking forward to having a lot more of these moments.
Do you have strategies you use to create a better work/life balance? Please share them!
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Someone said email marketing was dead. Honestly, I completely beg to differ, for a lot of reasons. I won’t waste time with my opinions, though, and instead will offer you facts such as these: 91% of consumers check their email daily 74% of consumers prefer to receive commercial communications via email 66% of consumers have made a purchase online as a result of an email marketing message Email marketing has an ROI of 4,300% (see more statistics at Hubspot) Pretty solid statistics that are hard to ignore, right? If you’re reading this, you probably are either (a) using email marketing now but feel like you’re not getting all you can out of it, or (b) you’ve got an inkling that you should be using email marketing for your business but have never gotten it off the ground. Today, I’m going to dish out some advice for those of you in group A. First, congratulations on using email marketing to promote your business. Second, here are my top two pieces of advice for how to easily revitalize your email marketing. Know Your Metrics: I always emphasize to my clients that the key to the success of your marketing is to know how successful it actually is. So, you’ve got to keep tabs on results and metrics and analyze them. There’s a world of information in those metrics. For email marketing, there’s a world of information in the metrics and they can easily help you improve your marketing just by seeing what gets results and what doesn’t. These are the three most important metrics that you should be paying attention to (if you are using Constant Contact, all of this information is available to you). Open rate: How many people opened that email you sent them? Look at this number and compare one email to the next to see what’s working and what isn’t. Want to know how you compare to the averages for your industry? Compare here. Click-through rate: How many times did your subscribers click the links you’ve included in your email and which links did they click? Use these numbers to test your calls-to-action. Try out different wording and colors, etc. to see what people respond to. Bounce rate: This number will tell you how many of those emails never made it to the inbox. A high bounce rate most likely means that you need to clean up your lists. Polish Your Lists: In email marketing, quality is truly much more important than quantity. A quality list means better results, fewer unhappy subscribers, and often, lower costs. So, take the time to polish your lists by doing the following: Clean out all email addresses that your email marketing service has deemed undeliverable: they’re just in the way and not getting to anyone anyway. Manually sift through addresses: remove the bad addresses manually, taking out duplicates and emails that are improperly formatted. Consider sending a segmented campaign to the addresses that don’t read your emails: ask them if they’d still like to hear from you and if so, what would they like to hear about. If you don’t hear back from them, take them off. Photo courtesy of David Joyce
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