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What you need to know about your list size

How big is big? Is 500 people a big list? How about 5000? Or even 50,000? Many people will talk about growing your list, getting the biggest audience possible because it is a numbers game. And while growing your list is important because it gives your brand exposure, it isn’t everything.

Here is the truth about list sizes: it is quality over quantity that will make a list work for your business.

It is easy to take every unsubscribe personally and to worry that your list size isn’t the right size. But in doing so you are mis-directing your attention. It isn’t the numbers that makes your list powerful, it is the actions of the people on your list that makes your newsletter marketing powerful.

If you are creating a newsletter that people WANT to open, read and click then you have got a list that really works.

When I started my craft business, I had 50 people on my list. A large chunk of those were friends and family who were being supportive and the ones who were strangers to me were the really special ones. Because my list was so small I used to take every unsubscribe as a sign that my business wasn’t going to work, it used to hurt getting those updates.

I was paying attention in all the wrong places.

What I should have been focused on was the fact that over 50 per cent of my emails sent were opened and then over 37 per cent clicked on something I was sending to them. Not only that but when I grew my list these stats were not diluted. They stayed the same, if not increased. The people on my list were reading what I sent to them and interacting with it.

Now when I send a newsletter I know that I am likely to get sales from every single email. And that is what you should be focusing on.

What is the point of a list of thousands if no one opens, reads and buys what you are selling to them? This is not a numbers game, it is a means of communicating to your potential customers in a way that suits them.

All those people who unsubscribed from my list? Well they were not going to buy what I was selling anyway. Those who are subscribed want to hear what I have to say.

Do this one thing for your business today:

Go through your newsletter subscribers and do some house-keeping. Filter out anyone who has not opened your last five newsletters and remove them from your list. You might want to send them a courtesy email and see if they are still interested in remaining on your list but otherwise, cut them out.

They are otherwise not going to buy what you are selling but they are also skewing your metrics, which can lead you to false assumptions about what is working on your newsletter. More importantly, if someone is regularly not reading your emails then the chances are those emails are being flagged as junk. The consequence of this is that other emails sent to those who actually want to open what you are sending may end up in the junk folder too.

So when looking at your mailing list numbers make sure it is the right numbers you are noticing: open rate, click rate and conversion rate.

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3 Rules of E-mail Marketing

Newsletters are great for every type of business. They put you directly in your potential customer’s inbox because they asked you to be there. They actively opted-in to you telling them about the great things you are doing and you can see which of them are opening  your emails and clicking through to your content. This is why newsletters are big. But you need to be using your mailing list to be able to get the best out of it.

Here are my three rules for email marketing.

Consistency

You want your potential customers to know when your newsletter is going to land. Whether you do this monthly, fortnightly or weekly depends on what is right for your business but it must be consistent. This builds trust and expectation. If you send your newsletter on a Friday every week then your customers will expect it to arrive on a Friday. If you are putting the right content into your newsletter then you are going to be building some anticipation and you do not want to let your customer down.

So no matter what, make your newsletter consistent. This includes your subject line, your layout and what you put into your campaign.

Clarity

Why are you sending this newsletter?

What do you want people to do when they open this email?

What is your goal?

You need to be able to answer these questions before you hit send. If you are just going to email people for the sake of emailing them because it’s ‘newsletter day’ then you are going to lose the trust of those following you. You need to keep in mind when constructing your newsletter what your audience would want to know. What is going to get them to open your newsletter over the many other emails they receive that day?

If you are selling a product then do you have enough links for people to buy the product? Have you told them they need to buy the product? A seemingly obvious thing to do but one that is missed by many email campaigns.

If you are updating people on what is going on in your business or you are building trust or your brand, what do people need to know from you in order for this goal to be achieved? What are you teaching them.

Getting right down into what it is you want to achieve before you put your newsletter together will give you a much tighter campaign.

Cut Right To It

You wouldn’t tell your parents the same anecdote you’d tell your friends, would you? So why would you talk to everyone on your mailing list with the exact same email? Why sell to people who are already buying your product? Did you let the people who signed up last week know who you are and what you are about?

You need to segment your list and for each section just get to the point. You’re not emailing a group, you are speaking directly to an individual. What do they need to know? And what can you leave out that is surplus to them. Tweak your email content for each section of your list and know what you need to say to each.

5 Common Webinar Mistakes

I’ve been producing webinars for long enough to come across a lot of mishaps that are commonplace. Check this list below to see if any have happened on your last webinar:

There is no webinar recording

When you press ‘broadcast’ you also need to press ‘record’. Unless of course you do not want to record it. Now while there is an argument about whether webinar software is the right place to do a private presentation, there is functionality (and reason) for doing a private, one-off webinar that is not recorded or saved. If you are in the vast majority of people who want to share their webinar at the end, make sure you press record.

While we are on the subject of recordings, also check you have your settings properly configured so that your webinar autosaves to your software. This prevents any download issues that might happen in post-production ensuing in the loss of recording. This is your back-up plan.

People are unable to dial-in

If you have a multi-national audience then you want to make sure they get the correct dial-in numbers to access the webinar. You cannot just assume that people will log in through their laptops. People have lives which are separate to yours, they may be on the school run, travelling or sat in the office. They may have issues with their hardware and the dial-in option is their back-up plan.

You need to ensure that all the country code options are checked AND that people who get the emails can see them. There are always going to be problems for the odd person unable to get logged in. Sometimes they will give up and you have lost a potential client, sometimes they are eager to hear your presentation that they will contact you to help them log in. If this happens, you can guarantee it is right when you are about to hit start (and record) and throws you off your introduction.

You didn’t rehearse

Planning is everything when it comes to webinars and you need to test everything. You need to test your presentation, make sure all the software works. You need to check how it looks for the audience, how it sounds and how they can interact.

You can have your presentation nailed down but if you don’t check the software, see what the waiting screen looks like, make sure the invites outline what folks can expect, then you are not getting the most out of your webinar. Whether to build your list or target your sales funnel, you need to be getting the most out of this webinar.

There is an echo

It was way too easy to put ‘sound problems’ on here. From not being able to hear the presenter to crackled lines or an echo. Good sound is essential for a good webinar. This comes under the testing issue above but you can test and retest your equipment and still find a weird echo on the line. This is more of a common problem when you have multiple presenters. A good producer will have a check-system to troubleshoot the sound and sort it out right away. Your clients cannot take away something from a webinar they cannot hear properly.

You don’t follow up

Your webinar has gone smoothly, the sound was great, your presentation rocked. You hit ‘end’ and take off the headset. Congratulate yourself and go grab a cup of tea because your work here is far from done. You have just engaged potential clients on a very personal level, you need to act upon this before they move onto the next thing. While they are sitting there, reading their notes or thinking through their ideas, get that baby editted and uploaded. Post it on your site and have the replay ready and sent out within 24 hours.

Get your sales funnel working for you, send out emails and get those guys engaged. Following up is probably the most important thing about the webinar and you need to do it well.

 

 

Are You Sat In Your Pyjamas?

People who work from home roll out of bed when they feel like it, potter over to their computer and tippety tap in their pjs while watching daytime tv, right? Aside from in Summer when they are just sat in the garden or pub working. I mean they are not really doing work, are they?

This is what I used to think when my job was chasing up journalists, who were inevitably freelance. Working from home seemed like the golden ticket to free time and creating your own work day. And it many ways it can be like that but more often than not you spend half your time chasing leads, chasing money, fitting around others’ work days and the rest of the time wondering when you get to step away from the keyboard.

I love being able to work from home, it suits me, it suits my family and I have the temprement to knuckle down and get the work done. But the reality of working from home is different to the expectations. Yes, I save time not travelling but that travel time is also a chance to press the reset button, escape into a book or podcast. I can’t spend half an hour sat on my sofa reading before I start my work day.

And the whole getting up when I want and ambling over to my laptop in my pyjamas is about as realistic as it is that I’m sat in a hipster coffee shop writing this blog post on my silver thin notebook. I’m not. I got dressed at silly o’clock, I ran the kids to school and thought about my day on the short walk home. I cleared up the breakfast mess, stuck the washing on and finally sat down at my desk while looking wistfully at the bed because I’ve been up half the night with my 2 year old.

Oh and I started to draft this post two weeks ago but everytime I got into the flow, something would come along and disrupt it. Delivery guys know that I work from home so all the neighbours packages get left with me. Salespeople think I am being rude for not answering the door because they can see me working from the kitchen table but cannot hear the fact I am mid-presentation on my laptop to people in another country. Or that I am interviewing someone for an article with a deadline that afternoon which I cannot miss as I’d spent 3 days pitching and chasing and wanting the work.

I’m busy and I love it but work doesn’t stop at 5pm. It ebbs and flows with my day. For every Friday afternoon that I sneak a cuppa in with a friend, there are more evenings of catch up to follow. I fit around time zones for office workers in LA while juggling the kid’s tea. Most of the webinars I produce at the moment are from 4-5pm. They get my full attention while I chuck toys and films in the direction of the children because that is the work which means I get to take school holidays off with them, give them more of me and more of my time.

Recently we had a spate of family illness. It came at a tough time because I was pitching for coverage on a project. I had built up a good flow of press which was converting to sales and it all came to an abrupt standstill because I had to press pause while I looked after the kids. It is hard not to flop exhausted on the sofa at the end of the day and list all the missed chances and opportunities because I was mopping up sick and had a feverish child cuddled up on my lap for the past 8 hours.

I get envious looks from friends and family that I work from home and I don’t take it for granted for one second that the good outweighs the downside. But I sometimes yearn for that separation between home and work-life which you cannot get from a desk in your bedroom or at the table where you eat meals.

 

How Taking A Technology Time Out Helped My Business

I found myself checking my Instagram in my sleep. That was the moment I knew that something had to change. I run a craft business and like most online entrepreneurs I have a worldwide customer base. Also like many new entrepreneurs I hold down a full time job and am raising a family. I have to fit in work where I can but in doing so, I wasn’t giving any of them my full attention and all parts of my life were suffering.

I had become obsessed with my metrics, needing to respond to comments as soon as they were made and ensuring I posted something somewhere every single day. That was on top of the hundreds of unread emails which were causing a certain level of stress. Without realising it, I was working in one way or another quite literally around the clock.

Then I was forced into taking a technology time-out. We were on a short family break in Wales where there was no phone reception and no internet. After the initial anxiety of not being able to constantly check my stats subsided I realised that this imposed break was a good thing. It broke the habit of refreshing my emails and checking for notifications.

I had three days without phone, email or social media. I returned relaxed, focussed and more productive than I have ever been. Plus, I had also made some sales. I realised that the way I worked needed to change, for my mental health and for the health of my family.

Before I turned on my laptop on that first day back I made a plan as to how I could work better so I wasn’t working all the time. First on the list was to impose a rule that if my children were at home then they got my full attention and my technology went and sat in a time-out. The business didn’t collapse between the hours of 3pm and 7pm weekdays without my sitting there responding to tweets.

Then I scheduled my social media time into each day. I split the week up to focus on one of 5 social networking tools each day, leaving my weekends to be weekends. I spent a couple of evenings writing blog posts and set them up to run over the upcoming month. And while I still have to work some evenings, I make sure I don’t work all the evenings. I take at least two off during the week and I don’t do anything on a weekend.

I should have known better from the start; the focus of my business is the slow craft of knitting and I promote how good knitting is for your mental health. To sit and knit on an evening is still doing something to better my business as well as reduce my stress and anxiety.

One month into stepping back and taking regular technology time-outs and my productivity has increased with my sales doing the same as a result. Yes, sometimes I don’t answer emails straight away and don’t catch every comment on social media but the business is still thriving and now I am too.

Have you ever wanted to start your dream business?

Dream businesses are meant to be things of dreams, right? Things for the people who are financially able, have funding or investment. Not for the ordinary folks with kids and bills to pay. I seriously wish I’d had the impetus to do what I did in a few months of this year a long time ago because I cannot imagine what I could have done with the time and lack of responsibility freely available to me then.

I have thought about this a lot since having my kids because work as I knew it just wasn’t working for me. At the same time I couldn’t work out how in the precious little time between the kids going to bed and my falling asleep on the sofa I would muster the energy and motivation to do something for myself that needed, you know, brain power.

I couldn’t quit my day job to chase a dream because then how would I pay rent, cover child care and eat? I had an idea, a great idea that was eating up at me and itching me to be done but where would I even start?

Then I did this one great exercise (plus a bit of squirreling away of the wine money) and a few months later I launched my own business that I love, that motivates me and gives me energy to do because growing this thing is one of the best things I have done in a long time.

Here is step-by-step what I did and I hope you find it useful too:

1.Write down the big things you want to achieve

This should be a short list of the great big things that you want to do, like now. Mine was a list of three but that was probably two things too long. Those things were launch my knitting business, expand the types of events I worked on to include subjects I love and write.

2. Take note of the first thing you need to do to make progress

Don’t make a full on list of everything you need to do to achieve your dreams, that will overwhelm you and totally sap at the motivation. Just put on the page the very first thing you need to do to take a step forward in your plan. For me that was make a budget for the knitting business so I knew how much I had to save, how long it would take me to save it and what date I could have that cash ready by. For the other two things I wrote down ‘pick a date for a craft event for my husband’s marathon fundraising’ and ‘spend the first 15 minutes of each day free-writing’.

Each of those three things were really simple and probably don’t take up too much time. I will be honest, when it came to the next step I was surprised at how much of the above I didn’t get chance to do.

3. Check in on yourself

On the last day of each month I go back and I check in on how I have progressed on the last step. Did I do that one thing in the space of the month? Most often it was no because I made my list two items too long and instead of wanting to complete one thing that month, I was trying to complete three. Make the list short. This is important else you will have completed something but not everything and that doesn’t half sap at your motivation levels. Then, and this is very important, if I hadn’t done my list from the previous month, I just accepted that and tried again the following month.

4. When you complete something, add one more thing

This bit is obvious but when I finished one step, I added another and would aim to get that one done in the same month if I could. Before I knew it those snatched minutes here and there were really adding up. I didn’t feel overwhelmed by the mammoth ideas, I didn’t set myself unrealistic deadlines and most importantly…

5. Roll with it

When I look back now at that first page I wrote in January, it looks nothing like I expected it to right now, today. It is better and different. It is bigger than I could have hoped. It also moved so much faster than I anticipated.

Here’s what I’ve done in the past 8 months:

New Logo

Put on a crafternoon at my local community rooms and raised almost £200 for MIND.

Created my own website from scratch and launched my craft business http://www.sonicknits.com

Grown my list and following from zero to the hundreds

Interviewed lots of women who run their own craft business and learned from them.

Written a synopsis and outline for a book plus three chapters.

Filled three notebooks with writing.

Shipped out three months of craft subscription boxes and have a queue of people lined up to work with me.

Given myself the confidence to grow with my goals and acheive what once seemed impossible.

Set a fantastic example to my kids

Started to learn to drive.