Focus Groups for City of Austin Small Business

As part of an ongoing project with Austin Independent Business Alliance and the City of Austin, I will be hosting two lunchtime focus groups in the first week of November. One is for small-medium businesses with an interest or active operations that involve import/export and the other is for anyone in the arts, as a performer, artisan, producer, publisher, promoter, etc…

These event are free to attend and lunch will be served. If interested, please RSVP as space is limited.
Links to register are provided below.

Focus Group for Import/Export
Nov 2nd from  Noon – 1:30pm
@ Precision Camera
Lunch will be provided
Click for more info & RSVP

Focus Group for People in the Arts
Nov 6th from Noon – 1:30
@ Austin Creative Alliance
Lunch will be provided
Click for more info & RSVP

Write A Better Subject Line

I get a lot of questions about how to write a better subject line. It is possible to write one that makes a big difference in the number of people that stop and read your email. In a previous post, I explained that we all subconsciously categories our emails into three categories – Now, Later and Never. If someone stops on your name then you’re probably not a never. Your subject line – or a headline if it’s on facebook or linked in – is what will help your reader make the decision between now and later. And you don’t have a lot of time.

Typically when someone gets your email, you have about three seconds, total, to get them to stop and read your message. The first second is used stopping on the from name (where it says who the email came from or who posted it on a social media site). From there, you have two seconds left to compel someone to open your message and read it.

Use the 2-2-2 Principle to write a better subject line
2 seconds. First 2 words matter the most. Why does this message matter today? (Today is the third 2)
2 seconds is what you have left after that first of 3 seconds was used stopping on your name. It’s not 2 seconds to read your message, it’s 2 seconds to DECIDE to read it. 1 Mississippi. 2 Mississippi. it’s longer than you might think.

Those first 2 words really do matter. In the quick scan-to-the-point manner that many people sort their emails and social media posts,
they very often only read the first two or three words of a subject line or headline in order to make the determination. To decide whether you are a now, a later or a never.

Why does this email or message or social media post matter TODAY? This third 2 in the 2-2-2 principle is key. You must matter today. If you cannot answer this question, go back and rethink why you are sending this message and how you might make it relevant today. This does not mean that you go to the urgency well everytime – “Today only!”, “By close of business” or “Limited Time Offer” — this can get old and you may lose the weight of the words over time. Instead, this is more about making the message or offer relevant or timely.

People on my email list sometimes see workshop invitations that have a subject line that says something like “15 seats open tomorrow”. It’s compelling and it’s timely. It builds a sense of urgency without over doing it. Sometimes my subject line says “some seats open tomorrow” – but that’s when there are a lot of seats open. “52 seats open tomorrow” isn’t terribly compelling, right? 🙂

I’ve seen people tie their message or offer to a current event so that their subject can be timely and “matter today”.  If you have a lot to say, choose the ONE thing that matters most today to put in the subject line. Be honest, be clear, be brief. Answer the question “why does this message matter today?” as close to the first two words as you can and you’ll get more people to stop and give your emails a chance.

Now, Later or Never – 3 Little Words That Rule Your World

Think about this morning when you opened your email. Most people – especially small business and nonprofit professionals, go through a similar dance with the contents of their inbox. You quickly scan that first page of waiting emails for any major “fires” that need to be addressed and then you start at the top of the page and make your way down the list, quickly sorting each email into one of three categories – now, later or never.

You were likely not conscious of this. And I’ll apologize now for calling it to your attention because the next few times you open your inbox, you will be strangely aware of this usually subconscious process.  You may find yourself cursing me for the next 48 hours each time you begin to fight this battle of priorities – which is the right word for this dance. And you need to be conscious of it, not so much as a recipient, but as a sender of important messages — and for the record, this applies to social media as well as email.  You sort facebook posts and tweets in much the same way.

So how do you make sure your messages and posts fall into the Now category? You obviously don’t want to be a never. And the truth is, a later is a hopeful and well-intentioned never. There are three pieces that play a roll in the Now, Later or Never game.

The From Name – meaning who the email came from or who posted the social media post
The Subject or Headline – that short title we give our messages to entice a reader to give it a few minutes of attention
Timing – are you sending and posting at the optimum time for your own audience?

The most important of these three is the from name – who sent or posted the message. I’ll write about how to write a subject line that works and how to figure out the best time for your messages and audience in separate posts. But for now, let’s look at the from name.

The from name in an email is where it says WHO sent the email – it’s not the email address but the name that appears in the list of emails waiting for attention in your inbox. It’s most important because relationships and our connections rule the universe in terms of our priorities. WHO the message comes from is your make or break moment between a now, a later or a never.

If you can send from a person’s name, or post as a person (not a brand), you’ll get more people stopping to take a moment and read.
When we get emails or see posts from a brand name, we very often will mentally file these messages as “marketing” – and immediately throw them into the later or never category. But if it comes from a person, we generally pause and consider the message. (which is when your subject line kicks in) so send from a person’s name.

If you think they only know your company name and not YOUR name, then piggy back off the recognition of that brand name by combining your name with the company name. When I send emails to Constant Contact customers, I send from Julie Niehoff, Constant Contact so that they stop because it’s a person’s name but they recognize me from the brand name they work with.

If you have multiple sales people who manage groups of accounts, send to those accounts from that sales person’s name. That is the person they have the relationship with so having them see that name in the from line is going to give you a better shot at winning the battle of priorities.

Stay tuned for posts on subject lines and timing. For now, keep this in mind – it’s extremely important that people on your email list recognize you and reasonably expect to get an email from you.WIhtout that basic and implied level of permission, you will not see real results from email or social media activies. And make sure you are asking your customers and fans to share your messages and offers. You cannot over estimate the power and value of word of mouth.

A Simple Rx for Marketing

For small business and for nonprofits, marketing can sound like a complicated, overwhelming time and money cruncher. It can be intimidating. But it doesn’t have to be. When I explain marketing in a seminar or workshop, I like to break it down into a very, very simple formula that anyone can approach with hope that it can actually be done. When I use the word marketing, I mean something very, very specific. It requires three simple steps.

1. Define an Audience
So, decide on a group of people you want to reach out to. Usually, that means they have something in common – maybe they live in the same area, have purchased the same product from you or maybe they all attended the same event. This can be as simple as pulling together a list of all your customers in the last year. The point is, start with a list.

2. Reach out with a message specific to that audience
This means that you put together a message or an offer that is just for those people. If you’re using a service, like a Constant Contact, you pull in the recipient’s first name for an even more personalized message.

3. Elicit a physical and measurable response
This is the part that makes it marketing. Up to this point, with 1 and 2, we were really in the land of communications. With this third piece, you begin to really market. A physical and measurable response is a click, a reply, a forward, sharing your message on facebook or linked in or twitter. Walking into your store, picking up the phone and calling you, buying something. Any physical act that a person takes as a result of getting your message or offer.

Rinse and repeat. That’s it. It does not have to be more complicated than this. This is marketing in its most basic form. Sure there are many ins and outs in terms of audience segmentation, branding, design, etc.. but in it’s simplest form, marketing is about measuring response.
If something works, you do more of that. If it doesn’t work, you stop doing that.

What real marketing does is provide an environment where you can remove assumption and emotion from your decision-making in terms of where to spend your marketing dollar (or hour of work). Because you are measuring, you know what works. So you can continue to hone your message, your timing and your offers to get the highest possible return over time.

Define an audience. Reach out with something specific to that audience. Elicit a physical and measurable response.
You can do this.