Category: Process+Best Practices

Making Your List, Checking It Twice

List of names

If you use an e-mail service to send newsletters or blasts, how did you build your list? If the answer is that you invited people or they added themselves via a form on your website, three cheers for you! No coal in your Christmas stocking.

Email is still one of the most powerful ways to connect with customers or prospects short of having coffee together, even if automated (because you can personalize it with the recipient’s name). You’re not competing with a stream of cat photos in Facebook or random Twitter chatter. It’s a great way to further your brand and personality, and become a go-to person in your field.

But you don’t want people scratching their heads when your third e-blast of the week arrives in their in-box, wondering if they forgot they signed up for your list.

There are three types of emails from businesses: total spam, almost spam and not spam. If you invited people to your list or they signed up (knowing what they were getting), that’s not spam.

We all know what total spam is.

Almost spam is everything else, such as adding people to your list, even people you know, even good friends, who might very well have said, “Yes, sign me up Scottie!” if only you’d asked.

But they can delete emails, right? Trust and respect rule here. The burden shouldn’t be on the recipient. Your goal is to inform, inspire and delight. It’s a sign of respect to ask permission to add someone to a list, even a client. Read more

Brain Picking in a Connection Economy

More than ever before, businesses put a high value on connection and collaboration in order to thrive. And we expect information (including advice) to be largely free. This new way of interacting has allowed us to connect in ways that would have been difficult in years past, making it easier now to reach out and ask if you can pick someone’s brain.

I do it. We all do it. But it’s easy to forget that some people make their living problem solving and using strategic thinking. I’m flattered when someone asks to pick my brain because it means they desire my opinion. The key word here is desire. Desiring and valuing are two very different things. We value what we pay for. Giving away too much of your time affects not only you but the people you aim to help, not to mention the people who do end up paying for it.

It’s a challenge to draw the line, especially for do-gooders. Bernadette Jiwa puts it beautifully here why it’s important to value yourself enough to put your energy towards high-impact work. If the goal is to help people, you can’t very well do that if you don’t value your time and expertise. The little dribbles of advice here and there don’t add up to much…for anyone. Read more

A Fine Line Between Fluff, Storytelling and Dry Facts

running in a field of flowers

It’s refreshing to land on a website of a company that has clearly hired a good copywriter. The words have life. The phrases weave a story, paint a picture, create an aura. Someone thought words mattered enough, indeed, that they’d be the very thing to connect to the visitor.

That is until you can’t find a clear explanation of what the business does. You dig through the fluff not finding the information you need. You wonder if you’re stupid or if it was intentional on the part of the company or if someone didn’t care enough to make it easy on you.

There are businesses that deliberately create mystery and aura around a product or service just like the TV commercials that make you want to frolic in that field of flowers even if you don’t know what they’re advertising.

But it’s a rare business that can get away with that.

And advertising isn’t branding. Branding is meant for building long-term, trusting relationships.

Then there are websites that totally underestimate the value of delight. They rely on just the facts ma’am to describe the work they do, forgetting that people make decisions based on emotions first, then they follow up with rationale.

If I’m looking for an accountant, sure, I need someone to prepare my tax forms and inform me of any changes to the tax code. But I might first like to know the human side of her business, who she prefers to work with and why, why she’s decided to devote her life to crunching someone’s numbers and how she delights in taking the pain out of the most painful day of the year. That’s the kind of storytelling that distinguishes a ho-hum presentation from a humanizing one.

Caveat: that story shouldn’t be a fire hose of information limited to an about page, but instead, should appear in spirit throughout the website.

Delight doesn’t have to be knee-slapping funny or jaw-dropping beautiful. Delight can be as simple as showing that you understand the fears, aspirations, challenges or needs of the person visiting your site. You can do this through words, through the thoughtful way you organize information so it’s intuitive to find and through using labels your visitor would use and not your company’s internal jargon.

If you’re going to take someone on a frolic through a field of flowers, make sure they end up, continuously, at well-marked signposts that point them in the direction they need to go. And that means truly understanding what they came for.

(Image: lambertwm)