Fast Track to Blog/Newsletter Launch

A blog + a newsletter are foundation building blocks for ANY BUSINESS that wants to use the internet to marketing or promote their business.

I’ve already written a "primer" on newsletter basics.

Once you have your blog launched with a sign up for your newsletter, it’s time to get to work getting people to sign up for your newsletter.

The second toughest trick is to get people to sign up for the list.  (The toughest one is to create a newsletter that readers will actually READ!) 

The obvious first place to "fish" for subscribers is your own email contacts list. 

WARNING: I do NOT advise that you send out a mass email using Outlook or some other email client to 50, 100 or more people on the cc or even the BCC.

I do advise that you can send out INDIVIDUAL emails to the people (both in your email contact list AND those whose business cards you have collected)  to TELL them about your new blog and newsletter. To make CERTAIN it doesn’t get reported as spam, you need to send a each an personal email.

Here’s a sample email:

"Judy,

We met at [insert name of event] and you gave me your business card and told me to stay in touch.  If you’ll remember, we talked about [insert what you discussed at event].

I just wanted to let you know that I’m launching a newsletter to keep people just like you informed of what’s going on in the [insert activity/group/business type] community.  If you’d like to subscribe, just visit my blog [insert blog url] and you’ll see the newsletter sign up box in the right hand column.

It was great meeting you at [insert name of event].

Kathy

Another great tool is to include your blog url in your signature file so every email you send is a promotion for your web site/blog/newsletter.

With this said, I STRONGLY suggest that before you issue these individual party invitations until you’ve got a LOT of choices on your "blog buffet".   Don’t send out this invitation while your blog has fewer than 10 posts. 

I often use the word picture to encourage clients to view their blog as a party at a public park.   You pick a pavillion, decorate it with balloons and streamers… and set out an impressive spread of food to delight your guests.

As guests are enjoying the food and company, you’ve provided a discreet way for them to be notified of FUTURE parties you’re having.  You provide a sign up for where people will sign up to RECEIVE the newsletter, which will act as their invitation to future events. 

The problem is, if guests arrive before the food is set out, they’re not likely to sign up to be reminded to return.  In other words, if visitors don’t see anything of interest on the blog, then they probably won’t sign up for the newsletter.  That is UNLESS you provide a legal bribe or a gift for signing up for your newsletter.  Offering a free resource of value as a legal bribe does increase your sign up rate signficantly and will help you grow your newsletter even more quickly.

Remember, visitors who subscribe to your newsletter want to know more about your products and services.  These are HOT prospects.  The more information you provide on your blog, the more subscribers you’ll find you get.  (Seems counter intuitive, but it’s true.)

A Primer on Email Newsletters

This past week I’ve responded to a very similar question from FOUR different clients.  When I get asked ANY question more than once in a 7 day period, well it’s a sign that it’s an issue I need to address on my blog.  Here we go.

The issue of newsletter mailing lists is a popular one.  An email newsletter is a powerful tool you can use to stay in touch with clients/customers and potential clients/customers.  I highly recommend that clients develop helpful and informative newsletters to stay in touch with both potential clients and current clients.

However, the sending of unsolicited email is a HUGE issue these days.  When you mass email a message to people who haven’t give you PERMISSION to email them, it’s called SPAM!  Amazingly, many nice, respectable business people want to do just that.  They want to take a stack of business cards that they’ve collected over the years and input the information into a database and begin emailing those people without first obtaining their prior consent.  Again, it’s called SPAM or UCE (Unsolicited Commercial Email) 

Sending SPAM is a HUGE no-no in the world of the internet.  It hurts your credibility with your unsuspecting "victims" and, if they’re wise in the ways of the internet, they can get your IP blacklisted.  If your domain name is registered with Godaddy and they complain to them, you’ll find yourself with a nice hefty fine levied by them as well.

So your job is to make sure your messages do NOT get reported as SPAM and the way to do that is through a double opt in list.

A double opt in is where a subscriber signs up for your newsletter via a form on your web site or blog.  Once the subscription request is made, the system automatically sends a second message to confirm that the email address owner WANTS to be added to the list.  To confirm this, the email address owner clicks on a special link which CONFIRMS that yes, he/she/it does want their email address added to this list.  The email address owner is giving the list owner PERMISSION to send email to them.

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Is your free blog worth what you paid for it?

I’m a HUGE fan of blogs, especially as powerful marketing tools for bootstrapping entreprenurial types.  The easy to use blog interface removes many of the barriers to web site success.  Business owners can update content easily, add reciprocal links, and even interact with potential clients/customers via the comment feature of blogs.  Blogs, in general, are merely Content Management Systems that even the most un-technically savvy business owner can use to harness the power of the internet for any business.

In response, I’ve created a site where all I do is sell self hosted blogs….and inevitably, I am asked WHY would someone PAY for a blog when they can register at wordpress.com or blogger.com and get their very own blog for free.

For the record, I USED to recommend free blogging accounts to my clients.  I had one client who signed up for a free blog, made a few posts and then got distracted and didn’t post to her free blog account for a few months.  While doing a random check of her essential keywords, my client saw her free blogsite posts topping the list.  She was thrilled and shared her experience with me. 

As a result, I opened my own free blogging account and encouraged other clients to do the same.  After all, it made sense.  A free blog account wouldn’t suffer the "google sandbox" sentence imposed upon new sites and if a client did "fall down" in their blogging efforts, then their content could still "rise to the top" of long tail keyword searches.  With minimal cost, it seemed that free blogging accounts really were a good investment of time and effort for my clients.  They could use these free blog sites to drive traffic to their web sites.

One client to whom I made this recommendation discovered she had a real talent for blogging and REALLY went to town on her free wordpress.com blog.  She would blog 3-4 times a week, keeping her potential clients updated on the latest in her industry.  We included links from her web site (which was enjoying exponential traffic growth) on her site and she made frequent mention of the blog and the address in her ever expanding newsletter.

As luck would have it, this is a client for whom I perform monthly traffic analysis and after about 8 months, I began to notice that her free blog wasn’t delivering ANY traffic to the site.  (Remember, we’re talking 8 MONTHS of blogging efforts!!!)  Since the free blog account doesn’t offer the ability to track traffic, I only had one side of the story…. but the lack of incoming traffic from a blog with THAT many posts put me on alert.

So, we began an "experiment" (which is really the BASIS of good "marketing.")  We set up a self hosted Word Press Blog and my client began her regular posts on her self hosted blog rather than on the free blog. 

The very next month after launching the self hosted blog, my client’s web site was already seeing a trickle of traffic coming from the self hosted blog.  The self hosted blog wasn’t the top referrer… but it made the top 10.

There’s a great post over at Return Customer which advocates using domain based email addresses for your business instead of the FREE variety.  There’s a more indepth post at the Aweber blog communications blog.  

I’m a bootstrapper at heart and as much as I’d like to report that your time is well spent blogging on a free web site, I’m afraid the same principles which apply to free email accounts, apply to your free blog as well. 

Unlike the free email address issue addressed in the above posts, your blog posts to your free blogging account are consuming a non-renewable resource: YOUR TIME! 

See, your money…. that’s a resource which you can renew. Once you’ve spent or invested what’s in your account, you can earn, beg, borrow or steal more money.  On the other hand, your TIME can’t be replaced or renewed so easily.  You can’t earn more time on the planet.  You can’t beg and get more than 24 hours in your day. 

In my client’s case, I recommended that she invest her valuable time posting content to her OWN web site rather than posting it for WordPress.com’s benefit.  As a prolific blogger, it won’t be long until her blog becomes a force in her niche market.  In the mean time, she’s building content for HER site instead of building content for the free blogging site. 

After just a few weeks, her brand new self hosted blog is already doing it’s job of driving customers to her web site where they can purchase her products and services.  Since 100% of 0 is still zero, I can’t say that her self hosted blog is performing a level of X% improvement.  We went from zero to something by launching the self hosted blog. 

I’ve been searching my log files for referrals from my blogger account.  There are none, just as in the case of my client above. 

I’m open to success stories from free blog hosting accounts.  Any out there?

Focusing on the RIGHT things….

I once read an interview with the mulit-talented entertainer Will Smith where he was asked  if he were surprised by his success.  His response went along the lines of , "I just put my head down and start running.  On occassion, I look up and am AMAZED at where I am, but I then put my head back down and get back to running as hard as I can."

Will Smith doesn’t spend a lot of time "measuring" his success.  He’s not obsessed with the markers to measure his progress.  Instead, he says he tries to define the actions that create success and then he gets down to business PERFORMING those actions. 

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What’s Your Excuse?

During one of the earlier episodes of the television show "Married with Children", the character "Steve" from next door lost his job and was forced to look for another.   Well, Steve decided he liked goofing off MUCH better than he liked working.  However, rather than admitting this fact to his wife Marcy, he instead would tell her he was looking for work when instead he had spent the day at the zoo.  In response to her query about his job search for the day, Steve regales her with the reasons he heard for his supposed "rejections" from potential employers, "I’ve heard it all: too smart, too educated… too good looking!"

I’ve had a couple of people regale me with similar "silly" excuses for their reluctance to get on board with the latest in communication technology.  Whether it’s a posting to a blog or learning to use a cell phone that shoots and sends video messages…. your advanced age is NOT an excuse.  Technology is not just for the young… but it may well be for the young at heart.

Cross Media/Transmedia Entertainment says it best in the post If 91 year old Mavis from Mudgee can do it…