If you’re a business owner, there are so many reasons to start and maintain a blog. Not only is it a great platform for you to connect with your right people, it gives you a place to showcase your expertise, your work, and to gather new followers (and customers). Plus, it keeps you accountable. Your readers expect to hear from you regularly, so in that way, it forces you to keep creating new content.
Here’s a step by step guide on how to start a professional WordPress blog for your business, even if you’ve got a tiny budget and have no idea where to begin.
1. Choose a topic
As a blogger, you’ve got to have a niche that your content focuses on. Otherwise, readers can become overwhelmed or confused. Figuring out what you want focus on becomes easier when you remember that each of us has our very own set of talents, intrinsic gifts and personal experiences. This makes our individual perspectives one of a kind. Understanding what makes you different will help you chisel your ideal topic.
Leaning on that unique viewpoint, you can create content to attract your ideal audience. Share what you love, what you’re good at, who you want to help, and how you want to help (tutorials, series, etc.). Your genuine content and will resonate with the people you want to reach as it gathers legions of fans and followers.
2. Pick a Name
Next, it’s time to choose a name. Before you make any final decisions, do a quick search of the USPTO Trademark database to make sure the name isn’t trademarked by someone else. You wouldn’t want to invest time, money, and effort into starting something that has to be dismantled.
If you’re new to the wholesale market and want more exposure for your products, you may want to consider exhibiting in a wholesale trade show. A booth at a trade show can quick start sales to numerous interested retail buyers looking for new products.
So, what exactly is a wholesale trade show?
Trade Shows are temporary marketplaces, generally two to five days in length, where buyers (usually retailers) and sellers of wholesale products, come together. Most exhibitors at industry shows are producers (people who make or manufacture things), but booths may include reps, distributors, and importers. They may also include suppliers and service providers who target both retailers and producers.
Depending on industry, attendees and/or exhibitors may vary widely. For example, in many sectors, there are equipment trade shows which involve manufacturers selling to manufacturers, e.g. food or soap or supplement machinery manufacturers selling to manufacturers of those types of consumer products. Or the primary buyers might be service companies, for example, construction companies might be attending a show for construction equipment.
The primary business purpose at the vast majority of these shows is to check out new products or lines and/or place orders (buyers) and develop prospects and take orders (exhibitors).
Most shows are held at the largest convention center in a particularly large city where shows are held. Shows of national or international scope are often held annually in hotbeds of the trade show industry, for example, Las Vegas, Chicago, or New York.
Attendees (non-exhibitors) at a true wholesale show are usually limited to “members of the trade” who represent legit buyers. Often, you cannot get in to check out a show if you are just a producer or rep. Show management works to protect their exhibitors from pure competitors who are not potential buyers.
If you do want to attend a show as a buyer, proof of your buyer status might include a retail store or website (and your companion business card and/or marketing materials), where you offer goods for sale which are not your own. Or you might provide copies of invoices from your vendors for merchandise you purchase from them.
Just like marts or showrooms, trade show events are not open to the general public. Some shows will offer a couple of days of wholesale-only sales before opening up for the public at large in a “cash and carry” format.
Trade Show Schedules
Wholesale gift trade shows are typically scheduled one to four times a year in every large city where a gift mart or showroom is also found. Plus, shows are located in smaller, but still fairly large, cities. For example, in our area, the nearest gift marts are found in Seattle, Denver, Minneapolis, Las Vegas, and San Francisco. Wholesale gift trade shows are held in those five places, PLUS at “in between” locations including Billings, Montana; and Portland, Oregon. Again, most sites hold two shows a year, one in the late winter or spring and the other in summer or EARLY fall. The Billings Market used to show four times a year, but recently they dropped to three times, probably a sign of the times.
In other industries, shows might be annual, or twice a year in different parts of the country (e.g. Supply Side East and Supply Side West), or any combination.
THE TRADE SHOW BUSINESS MODEL
Wholesale shows are not for amateur producers or hobbyists. The cost alone can scare away anyone who is not serious about the potential opportunity a show represents. Your line needs to be large enough, and your packaging professional enough, to take full advantage of this type of prospect-generation system. Of course, if you offer one product and either the market or the cost is high enough, that one product might be worth exhibiting at a trade show.
From a business perspective, a wholesale trade show is a very different animal than a small retail show or fair where you sell directly to consumers. Because you are selling to an entirely different market (store buyers), your planning, booth design, and sales strategies will be completely different. If you want to learn more about how to successful exhibit and gain new wholesale customers from a trade show, check out my comprehensive guide Trade Show Exhibiting Secrets. It’s got everything you need to know to properly prepare yourself for optimum success. Happy exhibiting!
What questions do you have about trade shows? Let us know in the comments!
When you’re running a business and raising a family, twenty-four has a way of evaporating in the blink of an eye. Time is priceless, and we’ve only got so much of it. And once it’s gone, we can never get it back again. If you’re feeling strapped for time, overwhelmed, or otherwise buried, it may be time to reassess what’s getting done, and how.
Here are fifteen ‘freedom tools’ to help you make the most out of your precious time.
1. Set up Canned email responses
If you’re a gmail user, (especially one with a regularly jam-packed inbox) say hello to your new best friend- canned responses. Canned responses allow you to compose a reply to some of your most common messages and tuck them away to use as needed.
It’s extremely easy to get these set up. Google walks you through it, step by step, right here.
2. Use Gmail filters
Google keep you organized by helping to manage your incoming mail using Gmailâs filters. You can choose to have the messages automatically labeled, redirected to a particular folder, archived, starred, deleted, or even automatically forwarded. It’s a huge time saver. You can find instructions on how to set up filters in the help forum on Google, here.
Declutter your inbox by unsubscribing to newsletters and subscriptions that no longer serve you. There are several services that can help you with this. We use unroll.me. It’s fast, easy, and it’s free.
4. Get Your Finances In Order
Meticulously kept books are a top priority not only for your business, but for yourself, personally. Taking measures throughout the year to organize everything helps immensely when tax time rolls around. Setting up a trusty accounting system will save you headaches, stress, and time. Programs likeÂ Shoeboxed, Freshbooks, and Quickbooks will do all the bean counting for you.
*Follow this link to get our special ‘friends discount’ on Quickbooks for Small Business, and save 50% off. You’ll have to hurry though. It’s only for a limited time.
If you’d rather hire someone to handle your business finances, you can alwaysÂ outsourceÂ your bookkeeping to a trusted professional.
5. Hire a Virtual Assistant
So much to do, so little time. Sound familiar? Repetitive, routine (yet necessary) tasks can eat up a lot of clock. The solution? Hire some help.
Virtual assistants are abundant in supply online and are great for helping you lighten your load. If you know that your time would be better spent making money creating products or working with clients, find yourself a good VA, outsource some of your tasks, and afford yourself some much needed breathing room. This article will help you understand how to hire one. They truly can help out with just about everything. Except going to the gym for you. Sorry, but you’re on your own with that one.
6. Set up Autopay
Bills always have a way of finding us. It takes time and effort to make sure you remain on top of things and get them paid on time. Because of the sensitive nature of finances, this is a task you probably won’t be outsourcing. Instead, set up to auto renew whenever possible. For your business, this might include things like hosting and domain renewals, as well as any other bills you pay regularly.
7. Organize Your Projects
For business owners who regularly deal with clients, the ability to organize and manage the specifics of each individual project is essential. We use Basecamp. It’s a central hub that allows us to keep everything straight. We can loop the client(s) into a project, which eliminates the frustration and confusion of multiple back and forth emails and keeping files organized. Everything is in one place, under one individual project ‘roof’. Not only does it make life so much simpler, it looks and feels professional to the client.
Another option is Asana. We love it because it’s FREE for up to 15 clients. If you’re tech-challenged, or short on time or patience, and need a crash course getting your Asana set up quickly, this guide will tell you everything you need to know.
8. Schedule your social media
For most of us, a strong, consistent social media presence is an essential part of owning a business. Things move quickly online, so you’ve got to post great content regularly and often to keep people interested and involved.
You could hire a VA to assist with your social media management, or you can use any (or all) of these popular social media management tools to help:
Sprout SocialÂ is an excellentÂ management tool to help with just about any of your social media needs.Â Sproutâs collaborative platform ensures smarter, faster, and more efficient social communications.Â From monitoring to post scheduling, publishing across networks and devices to team collaboration and more- thereâs not much this well-rounded service doesnât offer. Sprout also boasts an awesome help desk,Â sophisticated analyticsÂ and unlimited custom reports all at veryÂ reasonable prices. Try it out for free,Â right here.
HootsuiteÂ is one of the more popular applications out there. It allows you toÂ scheduleÂ all of your social posts ahead of time and in one sitting. While Facebook also lets you schedule your posts, Hootsuite allows more flexible options and also gives you the option of scheduling in tandem with other platforms like Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn, and Instagram. They also mail youÂ weekly analytics reports regarding post performance. You can use it for free if you have only one account, but you will have to pay up if you want to handle multiple accounts. Test drive it for 30 days, here.
At a loss for words? You’re definitely not alone. One of our all time favorite go-to social media tools is The Social Spread.Â It’s a collection of done-for-you social media updates (more than 600 of them) written by social media guru, Prerna Malik.Â BecauseÂ the updates are already written for you, you can easily schedule posts, even when you’re not sure what to say. It also includes images you can pair with your updates. Use this guide in tandem with either of the scheduling tools above and watch your engagement skyrocket.
9. Set Up A FAQ Page
Having a well-written FAQ (frequently asked questions) page will prove to be worth it’s weight in gold. By having the answers to your most common inquiries available in one handy section for your visitors, you’ll save yourself the time of having to answer the same things, over and over again.
10. Create A Policies Page
11. Use An Editorial Calendar
We use our editorial calendar every single day. It helps us schedule our blog posts and quickly shift them around, as needed. The snapshot of the calendar makes it easy to group weeks into themes, etc. We opted for this WordPress plugin. It doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles as some of the others out there but it’s free, and it’s all we need.
12. Outsource your editing
For most of us, it’s far more fun to write than it is to edit. It’s a very time consuming task, but without it, you risk looking hasty or unprofessional. Our timesaver of choice is Grammarly. It edits your posts for you from spelling to grammar and even double checks for potential plagiarism. This is super important for us when we’re publishing guest posts. It would be catastrophic if we unknowingly accepted a post someone else swiped from elsewhere on the web and called their own.
Not only is Grammarly a huge timesaver, it offers some much-needed peace of mind. Use this link to try it free right now. Just drag and drop (or copy and paste) your text and they’ll instantly let you know if anything needs changing. It’s syntax magic.
13. Optimize your listings
Fabulous images and copy are must-haves for your online product and service listings. Without them, you’re just crossing your fingers that someone will make a purchase. Using professional looking pictures taken at a variety of interesting angles paired with well-worded copy will lessen those ‘additional information’ inquiries. Another tip is to make your prices and shipping (if applicable) as clear as possible. People don’t want to go hunting all over to find out how much something costs. Let them know upfront what they can expect to invest and let them decide if it’s worth it to them.
14. Exit stage left
Along the way you’ve probably joined a variety of online forums and groups to get some much needed networking and support. As your business, your expertise, and your client base grows, you may find you’ve begun to outgrow some of these.
Take some time to go through your current list of group memberships and stick only those you still find value in, and release the rest. No need to feel guilty about leaving, either. Most groups will not notify the facilitator that you’ve left, and of someone asks, you can simply let them know you’re scaling back. Most business owners understand that concept very well. Whatever the case, this is your permission slip to move on from that which no longer serves you.
15. Start an RSS Feed
RSS (Rich Site Summary) feeds allow you to instantly share live web updates directly with your followers. For example, you can set up an RSS campaign that automatically sends your latest blog posts right to your subscribers the moment they’re published. This article from Kissmetrics tells you everything you need to know.
* * * * *
Scheduling, outsourcing, systemizing, and eliminating some of your daily responsibilities will earn you the luxury of a few more hours each and every day, from this day forward.
Time once spent on mundane tasks can now be spent:
â creating new offerings
â marketing your business
â working with clients
â or even just relaxing with friends and family
What will you do with your newfound free time?
When youâre a busy entrepreneur and a mom, there never seems to be enough time in the day to accomplish everything. By the time you get the kids out of bed, fed, dressed and out the door, the morning is already half over, leaving you only a few hours to finish your next blog post or answer customer emails before you take on the afternoon chauffeuring shift.
And if you have a baby or toddler at home all day, time flies by in a crazy blur. Before you know it, itâs time to prepare dinner and put the little one to bed, leaving you to finish your work at night, when you should be resting.
Youâre nothing less than a rock star, so you manage to finish everything and meet everyoneâs needs every day.
Well, maybe not everyoneâs… What about you? All that running around is bound to take its toll, and if you donât make time for self-care, youâll eventually crash and burn.
If you think you donât have time to âwasteâ on your own needs, think again. Self-care can actually affect your businessâs bottom line for the better. After all, when youâre refreshed and recharged, youâll perform much better on the job.
Hereâs how you can incorporate self-care into your business routines to make sure you stay healthy.
1. Take a Dedicated Lunch Break
If youâre in the habit of multitasking to the point of checking email while you eat lunch, try taking a break. Studies show that eating more slowly is better for your health overall and can help you lose weight if thatâs your goal. Step away from your desk to eat lunch in a different room, and concentrate on chewing and enjoying your food. This bit of mindfulness will help you recharge for the afternoonâs work.
2. Eat Fresh, Healthful Food
Speaking of lunch, a major part of self-care is making sure your body gets the nutrients it needs to run at peak capacity. Fast food and prepackaged cookies are not brain food, and theyâll lead you straight into a sugar crash that leaves you unable to focus for a portion of your workday. Keep your energy up and your mind clear by stocking up on fresh fruits and vegetables to snack on throughout the day.
3. Avoid Alcohol During the Workday
When youâre having a stressful day at work â and you work from home â it might be tempting to crack open a bottle of wine to take the edge off. This is never a good idea! Working Mad Men-style will emphatically not lead to your best ideas, and it could cause you to make costly errors. One in eight women report binge drinking at least three times a month, and many moms of young children binge drink as a replacement for proper self-care. You should choose a healthier alternative to cope.
4. Take a Walk
Your body needs exercise. No matter how busy you are, thereâs always 15 minutes to spare for a quick walk outside. The fresh air will improve your mood, and cardiovascular exercise is always a good thing. Take your walk in a beautiful park and enjoy the sights and sounds of nature. If walking at a park isnât an option, take a walk outside and put on your headphones. Not only will your body thank you, you’ll also be more productive for the rest of the day.
5. Take a Day Off
The beauty of running your own business is that you can control your schedule, so take advantage! Schedule at least one day a week where you donât open work emails or take calls (you know, like a normal person). If you have employees, designate a go-to person to take charge. If youâre a freelancer, make sure you have a day without deadlines each week.
6. Try Adding Yoga to Your Life
Exercise is great for your health and overall wellbeing, but yoga is extra special for self-care because it teaches you to focus on your spirit as well as your body. Youâll learn to focus on your breath and meditate, and many yoga poses relieve stress. What more could you ask for from a workout routine?
7. Keep Regular Office Hours
After putting in an eight-hour day, itâs time to take a break and spend time with your family. They know when youâre not fully in the moment with them, and if youâre constantly distracted, your relationships will suffer. Closing the laptop at dinner time and keeping it that way gives you time to reconnect and feel fully present â a gift to yourself and your loved ones.
When you take a little bit of time to invest back into your own wellbeing, youâll come back to your work recharged and energized, and this will allow you to be much more productive. If youâre facing each day exhausted and running on empty, your work will suffer. It may seem counterintuitive, but taking care of yourself is actually great for business, so donât delay: Practice these self-care tips and reap the benefits today.
What self-care tips do you have? Share in the comments.
One of the biggest hurdles of starting an online business is figuring out what to sell online. This frustrating task can derail dreams of online business ownership before they even get off the ground. But, it doesn’t have to be that way.
In an effort to help aspiring ecommerce entrepreneurs,Â ShopifyÂ analyzed and reverse engineered hundreds of online businesses, their products, and niches to put together the most comprehensive guide to help you zero-in on a product and niche, so you can get started building your ecommerce business. And the best part is, it’s absolutely free to you.
How to Find a Product to Sell Online gives you an easy-to-follow framework for finding, evaluating, and validating product ideas that you can build a profitable online business around. It helps break down the process step by step to help you find the perfect product, from scoping out the competition to locating a supplier.
It’s a great tool for new business, as well as existing brands struggling to figure out what they should be selling.
Topics covered are:
- The 8 Product Opportunity Types
- Where to Look for Product Ideas
- Trending Product Ideas
- Selecting a Product & Niche
- Evaluating Your Product & Niche
- Evaluating Market Demand
- Evaluating Potential Competition
- Validating Your Product & Niche
- Make, Manufacture, Wholesale or Dropship
- Locating a Supplier
- Advice From Ecommerce Experts
I hope this resource helps you take that next step into the world of small business ownership.
As a business owner, everything you say and do represents yourself and your brand. That’s why it’s so important to be hyper-cognizant of your online life, both personally and professionally. Once something is out there, it’s out there. Even if you delete it, it remains forever archived in cyberspace.
There’s certainly no shortage of articles out there about what to say and do on social media. Knowing what NOT to say and do, however, is equally as valuable.
Here are some cardinal social media sins to avoid, and why.
1. Using ‘Borrowed’ content
Please, whatever you do, don’t ‘borrow’ someone else’s content without their permission, or at least without giving proper attribution. This includes images found on Google images, on Pinterest, memes, quotes, posts, and any photos that aren’t in the public domain. The influx of new content online is creating new copyright issues, many of which are yet to be dealt with. The very best way to safeguard yourself and your business is to create your own content, both verbally and visually. Luckily, there are plenty of places to grab stock images out there. Here’s a list of 25 sites you can use to get free CC0 stock images to use in your work. If you prefer graphics but aren’t particularly design-inclined, check out this post for tips on how to start designing your own shareables.
2. Being Overly Controversial
Opinions- we’ve all got them. Knowing when and which of them to share on social media is sometimes a fine line. I’m always up for a great discussion. And every now and then a good, controlled debate is beneficial, helping people hash out a topic where they may gain new insights and perspective. But sometimes, things can go too far and people wind up offended, or worse yet, hurt. Comments can come fast and furiously, spiraling beyond your control, quickly. Being opinionated is one thing, but being divisive is quite another. Be aware of how you’re wielding your opinion to incite change. The chances of turning people off are far greater than the chances of gaining new followers.
3. Publicizing Private Conversations
Conversations between two people (including with friends, family, colleagues, and customers) have an implied privacy. Sharing them with others is not only in poor taste, it’s violating. Even when what you’re sharing is a glowing testimonial from a client, it’s best to ask them if you can use their words – especially online. It may not have been their intent to have their feelings available for public consumption. Keep all of your conversations personal, unless you’ve been given the green light to do otherwise.
While it’s tempting to be the first to break some interesting or exciting news, being first on the scene doesn’t always have the best outcome. Whether it’s a rumor of a company going under, the release of someone else’s new offering, or some other juicy tidbit- unless you’ve got valid, verifiable proof (and approval) from a trusted, reliable source, don’t share it.
One of the quickest ways to lose followers is to regularly clog their newsfeed with stories. Social media is a type of conversation, and like any other conversation, it’s no fun when one person is doing all the talking. Oversharing doesn’t give people the chance to interact with you. It dilutes the information you’re putting out there, as there’s no time to process it all properly, thus lessening its impact.
Being a shadowy figure on social media, only emerging only now and then isn’t any better of an idea than oversharing. In order to keep people interested, you have to keep them engaged. Drive-by sharing isn’t the way to do that. Make it a habit to post regularly. If you’re having trouble coming up with topics, check out this awesome resource, where you’ll find enough done-for-you social media posts to last a whole year and then some. Armed with your content, you can then use these helpful (mostly free) social media scheduling tools to keep yourself in the limelight.
It’s not only ok, it’s expected to advertise items for sale on social media. Just don’t get in the habit of using your online hangouts as a billboard. Mix in some value, too. Use the 80/20 rule; share non-advertorial information the majority of the time (80%), and share your commercial posts 20% of the time. It’s a formula that works well across the board. You can also share other people’s public posts and link to them. It’s a really great way to get in front of another audience while sharing valuable content with your own followers. This is different from sharing content illegally. When someone shares their own story on a business site on social media, they’re often hoping it gets shared. They may just return the favor and share something of yours someday.
8. Not responding to messages
Make sure you regularly check your messages on social media. People don’t like to wait for a response. Because life gets busy and we don’t always have time to check every social media venue every day, having a failsafe in place is helpful. You can do this by customizing your notifications with each venue. Ask the site to send you an email when someone sends you a direct message so you’re sure to see it.
9. Allowing your emotions to get the best of you
Unfortunately, rudeness is no stranger to the online world. People tend to be more brazen when behind a computer screen. As such, they may leave negative reviews or comments on your public pages. It’s always hurtful when someone posts something like that. Before you act, take a breath and employ the 30-second rule. Calm down so you can respond as rationally as possible.
Depending on how offensive the comment is, you have a variety of recourse. You can take the comment down without incident, you can ban the person, report them, you can respond (though do so professionally even though it’ll be realllly hard), or you can private message them to try to get to the bottom of things. It all depends on what’s said and in what context. Each incident will have to be handled on a case by case basis.
Retaliating, no matter how tempting at the time, will surely backfire and reflect poorly on you. Keeping a level head and before you know it, you’ll have forgotten the comment. Some good can even come of it; you may gain some new champions who come to your rescue and have more respect for you for handling it in such a mature fashion.
10. Posting ads on other peoples pages or in groups
As a member of several online groups and a Facebook group host myself, it can be frustrating to see people continually plugging themselves and their offerings while taking no interest in anyone else’s posts. If you’re in a group, the idea is to network and share. It’s not a one-way street. And it’s not a free advertising venue. Pay attention to the group rules and share accordingly or you risk being banned, or at the very least, disliked. If you’re viewed as someone who is only there for themselves, you won’t be gaining new customers, either.
As a consumer, you know that buyers in the market for anything are always looking for helpful people willing to lend a hand, even when it doesn’t benefit them. You can make yourself that person by commenting and posting about things selflessly. The effects will certainly come back around eventually, and is likely to net you new followers and customers of your own. And that’s what groups are all about.
11. Adding people to groups without permission
Speaking of groups… few things annoy me more on social media than being added to a group without my permission. Inviting people to join a group is perfectly acceptable. It puts the choice in the hands of the potential member, letting their opinion count in the matter. To me, adding someone to a group without notifying or asking them is not only unprofessional, it’s assumptive and rude. Please don’t do it.
12. Spamming other peoples popular posts
When someone writes a post on any social media venue, they’re looking for engagement or feedback. What they’re not looking for is someone to use it as a chance to showcase themselves and their business. If you see an inquiry that you just know you could address with your solutions or offerings, then offer words of encouragement or helpful tips. You might even private message them letting them know you can help if they’re interested. But whatever you do, don’t hijack their post with an unsolicited link back to your services. If they ask what you do after you offer a helpful comment, then feel free to respond with a link. Otherwise, it’s just plain tacky.
13. Being passive aggressive
I really dislike when people post cryptic, blanket comments that are clearly designed to speak to (take a shot at) a particular individual or group. To me, it shows that you have a lack of confidence in your opinion. Otherwise you’d state it directly to the intended recipient where you have a chance to open a dialogue to hash things out maturely.
14. Adding customers as friends on your personal Facebook account
When I first started on Facebook, I reached the 5,000 friend mark pretty quickly. That’s because I accepted every single request out there. It didn’t matter if it was a customer or a complete stranger. What eventually happened was that I had a large gathering of a totally disjointed group with no common thread. I didn’t know what to post and I didn’t know who I was sharing with. It was a terrible idea all around. I would up closing the account down and starting a new one where I accept only those whom I know and trust.
If you’ve got a customer who sends a friend request, kindly direct them to become a fan of your page. When I receive friendship requests from customers or strangers use a canned response that you can feel free to use yourself. It reads “Thank you for your friend request. I have opted to keep my personal page for close friends and family only, although I would love it if you could join me on my business page (link) so we can connect there.” SO far it’s been working like a charm because most people can relate to (and respect) the whole privacy thing.
15. Using Profanity
I know a lot of people (including some of the ‘big names’) out there freely throw around expletives in their public posts, but it’s just never been my thing. Swearing and using harsh language for shock factor isn’t how I want to be known professionally. As a wordsmith, I just feel there are better ways to utilize the English language to drive a point home, especially when you’re representing yourself and your business to the world.
16. Not paying attention to your stats/insights
If you don’t know who you’re talking to, you’re just talking. Knowing who your audience is and what they want is imperative to the success of your business. Paying attention to your stats and analytics is a non-negotiable, not just on your website but on social media. If you’re a Pinner, check out Boardbooster. It’s a great tool for Pinterest users. And, a while back we shared some of our favorite social media tools for other social media sites. You can find them here and here.
For those unfamiliar with the acronym, TMI stands for ‘too much information’. Social media is a fantastic place to share your story both in pictures and in words, and you should absolutely share some select bits about yourself in an effort to connect with your right people. The main reason is that it’s difficult for people to humanize a brand when they’re ‘all business’. Creating a brand persona is a far more effective way to endear people to you and your business. Just be aware of how much you’re giving away. (Don’t put yourself or your family at risk by sharing too much information about your whereabouts.)
Just because you have an audience, doesn’t mean it’s the stage to air your dirty laundry or seek validation on something that set you off. While being mildly controversial can sometimes be a good thing (as noted above), steer clear of complaining about your neighbor, a customer, or any other errant incident that ruffled your feathers. Negativity draws more negativity and you don’t need a post loaded with comments to commiserate or validate your emotions. You’re not getting anything from it, so in the end, who’s really benefitting? No one.
18. Bashing competitors
Speaking ill of other providers is not the way to win people over. Even when your thoughts are seemingly completely valid (sometimes, maybe even warranted), there’s no good reason for you to be the purveyor of negative information about another person’s business. You may have the best of intentions in trying to help a potential customer from making what you believe to be a mistake, but in the end it’ll be their decision to vet and settle on a company they feel is right for them. If you really want to secure a customer, do so on your own merits. Show they why you’re a better choice. Play up your features, but more so, focus on the results and benefits you can offer.
19. Using someone else’s hashtag
Did you know that some hashtags are actually trademarked? I was surprised to hear about that, myself. Trademark infringement can mean big trouble for you and your business. Even when it’s completely unintentional, using someone else’s content is not only unethical, it’s illegal. Before you create a hashtag, make sure it’s safe to use. We talked more about that, here.
20. Comparing yourself to others
This is one of the big ones. Comparison on any level has a way of robbing you of your confidence and stunting your progress. You can (and should) peek on on competitors every now and then, but don’t try to measure yourself against them. You’re each on your own journey. Trying to parallel the two simply doesn’t make sense on any level. Keep forging your own path and speaking to your right people as you serve your true calling. As SinĂ©ad so famously said, ‘nothing compares to you’.
What do you think? Did I miss anything? Feel free to share your social media peeves in the comments.
I’ve always had a mind for business. In fact, my favorite television show is Shark Tank. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen every episode! I’ve never had a lack of drive or passion and my years of competing in 5 consecutive Olympic Games attests to that. I often wondered and even worried if I would ever find something that moved and inspired me in the way my athletic career had done. Over the years, I’ve learned that many of the most successful companies are those that fill a void or satisfy a need in the marketplace.
Statistics show that 75% of all pregnant women will experience swelling in their ankles and feet during pregnancy. Even though doctors recommend women wear compression socks to alleviate these symptoms and several other side effects, no one made a compression sock specifically for the maternity market. So my question was, “Why not?” There are millions of pregnant women who experience these uncomfortable symptoms. It’s precisely for this reason that I created Tootsies Maternity Compression Socks.
I’m a Certified Personal Trainer. Last year, a good girlfriend of mine was pregnant, and as I was leaving the gym one day following a session, I stopped to speak with her. She complained that her ankles and feet were so swollen and that she was experiencing a lot of soreness and fatigue in her legs as so many women do, especially during their third trimester of pregnancy. I just so happened to have a new pair of athletic branded compression socks in my car that I recently bought and suggested she try them to relieve her discomfort. Throughout all my years of training and competing, I wore compression socks as a means to help with blood circulation, soreness, and recovery, so I knew they were exactly the right product for her.
Suffice it to say, the following day, she contacted me to let me know how much relief she felt in her legs. I suggested she go to the maternity store and find a more stylish, non-athletic branded pair of compression socks. Much to my surprise, she said such a thing did not exist. I did a bit of research online and went to several maternity stores myself, just out of curiosity. Sure enough, everywhere I went, including several national chain maternity stores, whenever I asked if anyone ever came in asking for compression socks, the answer I was repeatedly given was some version of “All the time! We send them to the local sports store/ medical supply store/ drug store.”
My brain started churning and the idea for Tootsies Maternity Compression Socks (a fun and fashionable line of compression socks specially branded for the maternity market) became a reality. Itâs a perfect marriage of 3 things:
Running an online business is no small task. With so much to do, automation is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity. Luckily there are some plenty of resources and tools out there for the busy entrepreneur. Here are some of our favorites, in no special order.
1. Google Office
Google helps organize and with a suite of cloud-based office assistants. The software helps you create, edit, store, and share documents from your computer or mobile device quickly and easily from anywhere. Shared collaboration is in real-time to keep things current and editing is a breeze. All for free. Google, is there nothing you can’t do?
- Google Docs. Write, edit, and collaborate with easy to use editing and styling tools that help you easily format text and paragraphs. They’ve also got hundreds of fonts and images to choose from to help make your documents truly unique.
- Google Sheets. Save time and simplify everyday spreadsheet tasks with built-in formulas, pivot tables, and conditional formatting.
- Google Slides. With a variety of attractive presentation themes, hundreds of fonts, embedded video capability, animations, and more, Google Slides makes it easy to create, edit, collaborate, and present.
- Google Forms. Do your market research and data collection online. Build surveys, develop polls, gather email addresses for a newsletter, create quizzes, and more.
Canva is a surprisingly simple design tool that instantly gifts users with some super-savvy design skills. Through professional-looking templates, fonts, images, and graphics, users can choose from a host of designs or customize their own. Ideally sized social media graphics are also provided, or users can create using their own measurements.
Evernote allows you to create lists, take snapshots, take notes, and so much more. Once you’ve captured your work, it’s accessible from any device. It organizes and synchs all your files, making collaborating and sharing with others quick and easy. This free tool has so much capability you’ll likely be able to get rid of other, costly tools that you don’t even need.
Because it has so much functionality, you’ll need to invest some time familiarizing yourself with the platform. To make it easy on yourself, we highly recommend SystemsChicks’s Evernote For Small Business. Developed by a productivity expert, this all-in-one guide walks you through exactly what you need to do to optimize your use of Evernote, right from day one. You’ll learn to make Evernote your go-to tool for managing your business, increasing your productivity, and getting your clients great results. It’s a well-spent $57 that’ll save you countless hours later on, paying for itself many times over.
Having a strong, steady social media presence is undeniably important. Also undeniable is that fact that there are only so many hours in a day. Time logged on social media can almost always be more profitably spent working on other aspects of your business. Buffer connects users’ social media accounts allowing them to schedule a day, week, or month’s worth of social media posts ahead of time. By pre-planning your social media strategy and scheduling your posts in advance, you’ll keep your audience interested and engaged, and you’ll have more time to work on (and in) your business.
If you need help coming up with sure-fire social media updates that attract attention and encourage sharing, check out The Social Spread. Created by a social media professional, this strategic guide shares more than 600 ready-to-use updates for you to use. It also includes ready-made images you can pair with your posts. That’s enough highly engaging content for you to share 2-3 times a day for the next year. All updates are customizable to suit your unique business and campaigns. For about 35Âą a day you’ll increase visibility and engagement, drive traffic, and watch your social reach grow. It’s really a no-brainer.
5. Mail Tester
Mail Tester is a free tool designed to help keep your emails out of recipients’ spam folders. Using a custom algorithm, the program views your message as a spambot might. It scans your email for potentially spammy content and reports back to you with feedback. Just send a test email to the unique email address they provide you with and wait a few moments for your results. Nothing can promise your emails will be received flawlessly, but you can increase your odds with Mail Tester.
Dropbox is a cloud storage, file synchronization, personal cloud, and client software solution for small businesses. Users on the free plan are given 2GB of storage, SSL encryption, and integration with Microsoft Office 365, among other perks. If you ever need more, you can always seamlessly upgrade. It’s a great way to organize, share, and collaborate with team members and clients.
7. Free WordPress Plugins
Users on the WordPress platform have an enormous host of plugin options available. Plugins are individually chosen tools that are quickly downloaded and installed. They help customize your site, making it function at optimal efficiency. All of these WordPress plugins have made life easier and more streamlined for us.
- Editorial Calendar. We use this free plugin to schedule our blog posts out months in advance. It’s made my life as editor exponentially easier. Users get an overview of how the month looks at a glance. If you need to move something around, simply drag and drop. You can add guest users to your calendar, too.
- Akismet is one of the very best ways to protect your blog from comment and trackback spam. By identifying and filtering potential spam messages, it keeps your site protected, even while you sleep.
- iThemes Security. This virtual bullet proof vest protects your site from hackers and malicious login attempts. It’s protected us more times than I can remember.
- Yoast SEO helps you ensure all those titles, tags, and keywords are up to snuff.
- Jetpack hooks your self-hosted WordPress site to WordPress.com’s infrastructure. The dashboard lets you manage plugins and menus, publish posts, and view enhanced site stats for all of your sites.
There are plenty more to choose from, but these are the ones we use regularly.
Instead of spending $20+ a month on project management software, check out Asana. This free tool is a convenient and welcome alternative to other comparably equipped paid platforms. You can manage virtually all aspects of your business with Asana. Breeze through daily tasks, reduce your email load, complete never-ending projects, nurture relationships, collaborate with your team members or contractors, manage your business systems, and much more.
With this much functionality comes a learning curve. You can make the curve less steep for a one-time fee of $57. For absolutely everything you need to know about Asana before you get started, check out Asana For Small Business. It’s currently the only product on the market that provides you with a comprehensive and systematic approach to using Asana for your business. Learn everything you need to know upfront, then you’re off and running.
PicMonkey is to photographs as Canva is to graphics. This simple to use tool makes photo editing easier than ever. Crop, rotate, sharpen, adjust exposure, add text, and even change the color of your picture with a few clicks. Take it a few steps further with creative icons and other customization options. You don’t need an account to use it, but if you want to take advantage of the extra features you’ll need to upgrade to a paid version. Give it a test ride and see what you think.
10. Google Alerts
Find out who’s talking about you online and what they’re saying by setting up a few simple Google Alerts. This post walks you through how to set them up. You can also use alerts to follow topics and people of interest.
Crowdfire lets users connect, engage, and grow on social media. Build a following of active and engaged users by filtering only those most likely to be interested in what you share. Use it to keep tabs on your community by tracking regularly updated lists of new followers, unfollowers, non-followers, and those who are inactive for a length of time.
That’s it! The latest roundup of some of our very favorite free (and on-the-cheap) tools to help you get more done every day.
What do you think? Did we miss anything? Let us know your favorite tools in the comments.
What is Shopify?
Shopify is an all-in-one ecommerce system. For a low monthly rate you can host a web store and have access to all of their design,Â product management, and online shopping tools. Everything is right at your fingertips and very easy to use. We use it for the majorityÂ of our new branding clients, because we feel it’s the best choice for most online sellers.
Having everything all under one roof streamlines and simplifies the task of running the shop, leaving you more time to work on your business, not in it. It’s a great resource for those who don’t want to spend a lot of time and money with website development and maintenance.
There are literally countless reasons to choose this platform as your e-commerce super-station. Having worked with hundreds of clients on website development, setup, design, management, and maintenance, Shopify is a Godsend.
Especially if you’re new to the online selling scene. Back in the day a new seller had to go to one site to secure a URL, another to set up hosting, find a content management system (CMS), choose payment processors, find a shopping cart provider and then figure out how to put it all together. On top of that, they had to hire a designer and developer to produce the visual brand they had in mind. Getting started was a full-time job all its own. But gone are those days. Shopify has it all and, beyond the customization options which are all yours, the majority of it is done for you, right in one centralized place. No extra fees for every little change or update. I can’t say enough great things about it.
Some key features include:
- Hundreds of intuitive themes makeÂ customizing your own brand a snap
- Eliminate the need for a developer with their intuitive design tools
- Quickly and easily customize every facet of your storefront
- DIY contentÂ management system
- Expert assistance is always available
- Includes a built-in mobile commerce shopping cart
- Use your own domain name, or purchase one through Shopify
- Free SSL certificate to show shoppers your store is safe and sound
- Multiple languages helps translate your store andÂ reach more people in more countries
- Integrates with over 70 external payment gateways from around the world (from bitcoin to PayPal)
- Shopify will automatically handle major country and state tax rates
- Set up shipping rates your way (fixed-price, tiered pricing, weight-based, and location-based rates available)
- GetÂ automatic shipping rates from major shipping carriers like UPS, USPS, and FedEx
- Recover lost sales by automatically sending an email to prospective customers with a link to their abandoned shopping carts
- Accept credit cards
- Know who’s buying from you with the Customer Profile feature
- Encourage repeat shopping with account creation, or let customers check out as a guest
- Capacity to work with drop shippers and fulfillment centers
- Plenty of professional Email templates available to customize your communications
- One click order fulfillment
- You can even manage everything from your phone
Marketing & SEO
- SEO is automatically optimized for you
- Create your own coupons, gift cards, and discount codes
- Help with email marketing
- Product reviews
- Simple social media integration
- Sell on Facebook, accept credit card payments, and use Buy Buttons for only $9 per month
- Offer product variation (size, color, style)
- Manage inventory with ease
- Sell physical or digital products
- Organize products by category, type, season, sale, and more
- Use multiple images to showcase your items
- Sell an unlimited amount of products
- Import or export your products using CSV files
- Never run out of space with unlimited bandwidth
- Daily backups
- Email forwarding (Create email addresses like email@example.com)
- SSL certificate
- Instantly updates the latest features
- 99.99% uptime and 24/7 monitoring
- Actionable dashboard shows everything in a single snapshot
- Google analytics so you get the whole behind-the0scenes picture of your traffic
- Product reports to see what’s selling and what’s not
- Traffic and referral source reports available
One of the best features is their 24/7 support. You’ll always have help when you need it through a dedicated support team, a knowledgebase, forums, and detailed tutorials.
Here’s how to get started:
1. Open a Shopify account.
Head to their website and click the Get Started button in the upper right hand corner. Enter your email address, then your desired password and store name. If your store name is already taken, you’ll need to choose some derivative of it for the purposes of getting set up. For example, if your shop name is TLC Designs, you may need to opt for TLC Designs Online.
You’ll be prompted to a form where you can add your address to set up currencies and tax rates. Then, a few more simple questions to help them do their part to set up your store and get you up and running.
2. Customize The Look
You can perfect customize each element of your visual brand and storefront using from colors to logos and beyond. Choose a theme of your own or visit their online theme store. There are literally hundreds to choose from. See what strikes your fancy.
3. Set up your domain
You can register a new domain name or use one you already have. The process is simple and the prompts walk you through exactly what you need to do.
4. Choose a 3rd Party Payment Processor
Click on the Payments tab to select from over 70 different payment processors such as Paypal, bitcoin, Stripe, Authorize.net, etc. Shopify also offers its own easy to use payment processor. (Hint: If you’re new to online selling, I recommend starting out with the Shopify proprietary payment processing option.)
Choose the ones that you’d like to work with and follow the steps to activate and set them up. And just like that, you can accept payment for your goods and services.
5. Add your products
Shopify makes it very easy to populate your site with products. Just fill in details (title, description, price, vendor, etc.), add your image(s), and click save.
6. Launch It
That’s it! Click the Launch button to bring your store to life.
Congratulations! You now have a fully functional online store of your own.
Ready to share it with the world? Check out Get Famous and Get Social, our guides to breaking into the social scene and getting eyes on your brand.
P.S. If you’re hesitant and want to test drive it first, Shopify offers a 14-day free trial. (Click here to get it.) You don’t even have to share your credit card information with them until you’re ready to commit.
That’s what we love about Shopify- everything is at your fingertips and on your terms!
If you think Shopify is as awesome as we do, but you’ve already got a WordPress platform in use, you can now use Shopifyâs new WordPress Plugin to turn any WordPress site into an ecommerce site.
Do you have experience with Shopify? Tell us about it in the comments.
Over the years, we’ve become quiteÂ comfortable withÂ borrowing and sharingÂ photos from the web. It’s so tempting, so easy, and yet, so dangerous.
A quick Google Image search yields a breathtaking oasis of imagery to choose from. But, unbeknownst to many (maybe even most)Â Copyright Law protects a vast majority ofÂ thoseÂ images. That means, if you use them without permission, you’re on the hook.
What does that mean?
No matter what the reason or rationale, you cannot use Copyrighted images on your website or blog without explicit permission under any circumstances, or you are financially liable.Â
Even if you:
So what can you do?
1. Take your own pictures
As is often the case, the mostÂ obvious choice is the best choice. However, there are a few issues with this option. Not everyone is adept at taking quality photos, others just don’t have the time, and still others need so many it just wouldn’t make sense, productively, to spend time snapping the day away.
PRO: You can choose your own subject matter and bring your vision to life with no worriesÂ ofÂ someone else having the same image.
CON: Time, prop, and equipment shortages.
2. Buy rights
There are plenty of stock sites out there where you can find delicious images that are just perfect for your project. Designers frequent these sites all the time because, other than taking your own shots, this is your best bet. Check out Shutterstock and iStock Photo are a couple popular pay-per-use choices.
CON: It costs money.
3. Forego Pictures Altogether
When it comes to creating for your site of blog, you might forget about using photos altogether, instead opting for graphics alone. Sites like Canva, PicMonkey, and Creative Market all offer beautiful fonts and imagery you can use either free or for a nominal fee.
PRO: No worries about getting pinched for using someone else’s photography improperly (even if you did so innocently).
CON: If you’ve got your heart set on using photography, this isn’t your ideal solution.
4. Scour free stock photo sites
PRO: Plenty of free imagery to choose from.
CON: A lot of people source images from these sites, and as a result you may see the photo you used hawking someone else’s items online. This can be confusing for people as they may potentially confuse your ‘thing’ with someone else’s ‘thing’.
Here’s some more on those ‘free stock image’ sites and how to navigate them with care:
What to look for
Without further ado, here’s a list of free stock photos that currently share CC0 licensed imagery. It’s imperative to note that NOT all of the images you find on these sites fall under the CC0 license.Â Remember to always check the terms on each and every single image before using. A lot of these sites are curated by different photographers, some of whom may have special caveats about using their work. And, even though you may have gotten the green light on a site’s content in the past, check again.Â Some of the termsÂ may have changed since you last visited. Better safe than sorry (and $8,000 poorer).
Free Stock Photo Sites
Death To The Stock Photo
Public Domain Archive
Photos Public Domain
Old Book Illustrations
1 Million Free Pictures
New Old Stock
You can take it from here
While I’ve done my due diligence to share sites offering truly free photos, you’re still cautioned to do your own research to ensure that you’re using the individual images properly and legally. I cannot be held liable for theÂ illicit or improper use of any of the images you find throughÂ these sites. You’re on your own with that.
If you’re looking for some fantastic commercial fonts for your website, this article has you covered.
What are some of your favorite stock photography sites?
Setting a new goal is exciting, isn’t it?
On day 1, you feel like you can take on the world! Nothing is going to stop you this time. But fast forward to day 32, or 96, or 125, and things don’t always look as bright as they did at the beginning. Unfortunately, accepting a new challenge, and finishing that challenge are two entirely different things.
Take it from me: After trying my hand at a few unsuccessful side hustles in the past, I’ve finally landed on Freelance Writing, and it’s a perfect fit for me. But to get here, I had to take the road less traveled and I felt like giving up. Several times. Almost daily.
So in my years of experimenting, I’ve had to find ways to keep pushing myself forward. Today I’d like to encourage you by sharing six ways I’ve found to succeed with your goal, even when you feel like giving up.
1. Get rid of the perfectionism mindset
It’s easy to envision the end point of the life you want to have after you’ve accomplished goal X, but getting to X can sometimes be messy and uncomfortable.
When the discomfort hits and you have to make a tough choice, don’t get caught up in figuring out which choice is perfect. My experience with waiting to make a “perfect” decision is that this will always lead to analysis paralysis, which results in not moving forward at all.
Chances are, your choices are not really between good and bad, but between two good options (which is what leads us to ask, “which one is perfect?”) Listen, if you’re juggling two good choices, just pick one and keep moving. There will be bumps and there will be tough spots no matter which option you choose. Reaching your goal may never go as perfectly as you envisioned and that’s ok. Keep at it and keep pushing past perfectionism.
2. Throw “feelings” out the window
How many decisions do we make every day based on how we feel?
I feel tired, so I’m not going to get up and go to the gym today.
I feel bored, so I’m going to go find something to munch on.
I feel like this is too hard, so I’m going to watch TV instead.
What I’m learning lately is that no good decision is made when it’s based on our current mood. So if you’re working toward a goal and you’re getting to the point where you feel like giving up, identify that this is a feeling.
Maybe take a step back and take a break, but DON’T throw in the towel based on your immediate feeling. Take some time to think, meditate, or pray. Take a week off if you’re feeling burned out and need it. But DON’T give up just because you’re feeling like things are getting too hard.
3. Remember your Why
Most people set a goal for a very personal reason, but when things get hard, it can be easy to lose motivation. When motivation starts to wane, remember WHY you wanted to achieve this goal in the first place.
Do this: Take a moment to think, and then write a sentence about why you want to meet the goal you’ve set for yourself. What’s your reasoning? Do you want flexibility? More time with family? A chance to finally finish your passion project?
For instance, I’m a mom of two who is confined to a 9-5 job, and I don’t like being confined. I’d like to be able to take an afternoon off if I want so I can take my kiddos to the zoo. I want to be able to write from my in-law’s lake house so we can go there whenever we’d like and my time away from home isn’t reduced to PTO days. My why is all about flexibility.
Ok, so, now that you’ve got your sentence written out, hang it up somewhere where you can see it, and see it often. Make it your vision for everything you do when you’re working toward this goal. Mine reads: “Flexibility to spend time with those I love, while doing what I love.” When times get rough, I refer to this vision.
4. Share your goals (but with the right people)
It’s been said that telling others about your goal will help make it more real and keep you accountable. While I absolutely agree with this, I also want to add that you should consider only sharing your goals with the right people.
I know it’s easy to get so excited about your new goal that you want to share it with the world! But in all honesty, you may find that not everyone will share your excitement. Any negativity you receive will mostly stem from love (your parents might perceive that you won’t make any money, and they’re concerned for your safety when they imagine you living in a box) or lack of understanding for what it is that you’re doing exactly (my husband had no idea that freelance writing was even a thing when I started).
If you find that you will be met with a bit of resistance by some of your family and friends, in the beginning, consider picking just a couple of people who will encourage you and keep you accountable for your endeavors.
5. Break down your goals into smaller, more attainable ones
Setting a big, new goal is a mix of excitement and fear. You can envision your life as you finally reach the finish line, but thinking about all the steps it will take to get you there can feel overwhelming.
I don’t know about anyone else, but sometimes overwhelm leads me straight to Quittersville. It can seem easier to just not even start. (Remember analysis paralysis?)
When you start to feel overwhelmed by your audacious goal, remember: You don’t need to reach the finish line yet, you just need to accomplish one thing at a time.
What’s worked best for me is to break down my huge goal into smaller 90-day targets. Then I create steps to help me reach that 90-day target. Instead of saying, how am I going to get all the way from Point A (today) to Point Z (my exciting new goal), I instead ask, what can I do today to reach my 90-day target? I’ve found this helps me get over the fear of needing to do everything at once.
6. Take a moment to look back and see how far you’ve come
Pat yourself on the back. Literally. Or get a pedicure, or take an afternoon off to do whatever it is you love to do most. Really celebrate after reaching a goal!
The best way to keep yourself going is to look back and see how far you’ve come. What goals have you already achieved? In what ways have you built your business that six months ago you never thought possible? What have you already done today or this week that’s taking you one step closer to Goal X?
The point is that you can do it. The proof is in how much you’ve already accomplished.
Sometimes the world seems like it’s against you and your dreams will never come to fruition. But don’t give up! Keep working, keep moving, and keep doing you.
Which one of these tips spoke to you the most? Are there any you can try today to keep you moving forward with your awesome goals?
As a small business owner you’ve been on both sides of the spam issue. You’ve received it in your inbox, and you’ve likely had some of your email marketing messages marked as spam by others.
But what IS spam, really? Most people would define spam as every bit of annoying or unrecognized email that lands in their inbox. While that answer may seem intuitive, it’s not necessarily true. So what’s the actual definition of spam?
An electronic message is spam if (A) the recipient’s personal identity and context are irrelevant because the message is equally applicable to many other potential recipients; AND (B) the recipient has not verifiably granted deliberate, explicit, and still-revocable permission for it to be sent.
With so much conflicting information out there, it’s understandable how people can be confused by spam and how to handle it. The following should help clear things up for both email marketers and recipients alike.
::FOR EMAIL MARKETERS::
Even if you’re a completely legit email marketer boasting a 100% opted-in mailing list and doing everything by the book, complaints are inevitable.
Here are some ways you can diminish the chances of having your messages marked as spam.
We use a double opt-in for new subscribers. This means that even though someone submitted their name and email into our signup form requesting to be added to our list as a subscriber, they must still give their consent and approval using the confirmation email we auto-send upon receiving their request. Not only is this the law in some states, it’s a good way to reduce spam complaints because you’re only sending emails to those who truly want to receive them. If someone opts not to confirm, then they can simply delete the email, and they will not be added to the list. Simple as that.
Segment your lists
You have the option of maintaining several lists with your email service provider (ESP). You can have a general mailing list for those interested in everything you’re sending, and then other, custom lists for those who asked to only hear about particular topics. For example, if someone requested information on branding, you can add them to that list, and that list only. That way, they’re only receiving the messages you’re sending that relate to branding.
You can do this by having them choose the topics they’re interested in on your opt-in form.
One of the reasons we recently switched to ConvertKit as our ESP is because they have a highly functional segmentation system that makes maintaining these lists so simple. One of our favorite features is that they allow you to set up automation rules when a pre-determined event occurs. For example, if someone buys a product, you can create a rule to have them automatically tagged as having purchased that item. These tagged customers will remain on the general list but instantly opted-out of marketing emails for something they already purchased. With tags, you can narrow down your subscriberâs interests and preferences. Because it makes for a more personalized, custom experience, this system helps reduce complaints quite a bit.
Who Can I Add To My List?
At The Mogul Mom, we like to think of our email marketing not as our business, but as an extension of the customer experience. It helps us hone and deepen the relationships we have with our fellow entrepreneurs who look to us for business information and advice. The emails themselves are our delivery vehicle to get information into the hands of those who are interested in hearing what we’ve got to share.
We set up a dedicated page on the site to let new subscribers know what they can expect when they sign up. This is our promise and is an implied agreement between ourselves and a subscriber. Our list is 100% opt-in meaning every single person on our list signed up on their own at one time or another. This is called permission based marketing, and it’s really the only way to go.
The only people who should be on your list are those who gave you their express consent to be added. Plumping your list with names for the sake of quantity is never a good idea. Don’t add friends, family, colleagues, vendors, or even email addresses from business cards you’ve collected at networking events. All of these are considered violations, and can cost you.
Even if someone made a purchase, received an assessment, proposal, or another offer from you in the past, you are unable to add them to your list unless they explicitly gave consent to receive future commercial mailings from you.
You can reduce spam complaints by:
- using a double opt-in
- sending only relevant information and offerings
- not sending more often that you promised
- keeping your word
As noted above, it’s against FTC rules to add email addresses to your subscriber list without permission. In fact, whenever you add a name to your database, the email service provider will likely specifically ask you if you obtained permission to add the name(s).
It’s also against FTC rules to breach promises outlined in the original agreement. For example, if you sign up for a newsletter that promises to send weekly, but is sending daily emails, this would be considered outside the original expectations you agreed to, and thus, would be considered spammy.
We work hard to align our emails with our mission at The Mogul Mom, which is “to provide timely, relevant, actionable content that our subscribers can really use”. Sometimes that comes in the form of a weekly roundup of our latest blog posts, new product or service offerings, and sometimes it might be a survey or other feedback mechanism to help us serve our readers better. All fall under the umbrella of the original promise.
How much is too much?
When it comes to receiving spam complaints, the industry standard for an acceptable percentage of reports per email campaign is less than 0.02%. That’s less than 20 per every 1,000 emails sent.
That’s why it’s important to:
â Â Have a welcome message automatically sent when they sign up, letting them know what they can expect.
â Â Email regularly so your list doesn’t get stale, and your subscribers don’t forget you or lose interest.
â Â Send quality content that remains along the lines of what was promised initially.
â Â Maintain a quality list of doubly opted-in, engaged people.
If, at some point in the future, you ever want to increase the frequency of your messages, you must give your readers a chance to accept or reject this new arrangement. You can do it by creating a separate list of people who want to receive more often, and then sending an email to all existing subscribers offering them the opportunity to add themselves to this list or remain on the current list. Making the choice up to them reduces the risk of spam complaints.
Why do valid subscribers mark my messages as spam?
Lots of reasons, though not all are legitimate or fair. Some people may think it’s an easy way to unsubscribe. Some people get a little kick out of it. Most probably don’t realize that it penalizes you, the sender, both with their ISP and your ESP.
The only reasons a message should be marked as spam by a recipient are if the message was unsolicited or falls outside the boundaries originally set forth when they signed up.
I like to think that people don’t realize the impact it can do to mark an email as spam as opposed to simply hitting unsubscribe. The only reasons a message should be marked as spam by a recipient are if the message was unsolicited or falls outside the boundaries originally set forth when they signed up. For all other undesired messages, an ‘unsubscribe’ is called for.
Let them go
Unsubscribes are to be expected, and for seasoned business owners, they’re appreciated.
A popular marketing tactic used to build lists is content marketing which is the exchange of free information in exchange for your email address. Website owners, myself included, expect that some people will grab their freebie, and for whatever reason, will immediately unsubscribe. And that’s ok. If the content wasn’t for them, or if they felt it didn’t resonate, personally I would actually prefer that they unsubscribe. There’s no reason they should feel compelled to continue to receive messages that don’t benefit them. And I don’t need a list of people who aren’t getting value from what I’m saying.
Existing subscribers who never seem to open your messages are called Cold Subscribers. Some ESPs (like ConvertKit) maintain a list of cold subscribers automatically. These are the subscribers who havenât opened or clicked an email from you in the last 90 days. If your ESP keeps a list for you, you have the option to send a message to just that group, or to unsubscribe them. This helps limit your list only to active, engaged readers.
Why would you want to voluntarily reduce your list size, you ask?
While it’s great to be able to boast a huge list, if people aren’t actively engaging, then you’ve got nothing more than an audience who isn’t really all that interested. And no one wants to talk when someone isn’t listening, or worse yet is being annoyed or aggravated by the conversation.
And now for all of you on the receiving end of annoying email…
If you’ve got an inbox, you’ve undoubtedly received spam messages. Probably a lot of them, and probably pretty regularly. Unfortunately, you’re not alone. Spam is a scourge of the online marketing world. It annoys you as the recipient, and by making readers skeptical, it threatens to blemish the credibility of legitimate senders.
To Unsubscribe or To Spam?
As a businesses owner, you know all too well how hard we work to provide valuable incentives to entice potential subscribers. The idea behind these marketing tools is to let you into their business to have a look around, get a feel for things and get a taste of how they work.
Sometimes, you’re on the receiving end of things when you requested something from another business. If it turns out that after receiving the gift, you don’t feel it’s a fit, you’re under no obligation to stick around. Unless the marketing piece was blatantly different than what was promised or some other outward violation was committed, just unsubscribe and move on.
A spam complaint says, âI never gave you permission to email me.â or ‘This is not what I signed up for.’
By marking something as spam you’re reporting the sender for violating the sanctity of your inbox, and they will be penalized on some level for it. As noted earlier, once enough spam complaints are racked up against a company it can damage their reputation with an ISP (internet service provider) and with their ESP.
An unsubscribe politely says, âNo hard feelings, I’m just no longer interested in receiving these emails.â
ESPs will automatically remove any email addresses instantly upon request. They will not allow the sender to manually add you back. If you ever want to resubscribe, you’ll need to go through the opt-in process again.
*Note that you do not have to unsubscribe from transactional emails that are only sending you a receipt for a purchase or return you made with them.
How Can I Find Out What Newsletters I’m Subscribed To?
Sometimes you might sign up for an offer or some other incentive and forget which companies you subscribed to. If you aren’t sure which lists you’re currently on, try unroll.me. It’s a free service that teases any subscriptions you currently have out of your general emails and puts them in a list that allows you to unsubscribe quickly from as many as you like, all in one action. Just tick the boxes of those you no longer want to receive, and the rest is done for you.
What happens when I mark something as spam?
When you mark a message as spam, you’re essentially saying that the message was either unsolicited (sent without your permission) or that it went beyond the expectations and promises made by the sender when you initially signed up for the subscription. For example, if someone states they’ll email you once a week, yet you begin to receive daily correspondence.
Once an email is marked as spam:
1. It gets filtered.
When a message looks suspicious to your email service provider’s bots, it gets automatically whisked off to your SPAM mailbox where you can manually scan messages to see if they are, in fact, junk.
2. It gets reported to your Internet Service Provider’s (ISP) administrator.
For example, Google is the administrator for Gmail. When a message is marked as spam, the administrator records the complaint. Get enough complaints and a company risks being blacklisted by an ISP. That means if enough people from Outlook.com or Yahoo.com mark their messages as SPAM, they may be unable to send any messages to anyone who uses those services.
3. It gets reported to the sender’s email service provider. (ESP)
Enough complaints can prompt an ESP to limit or suspend their account. Serial violators may even be forced to close it.
As a recipient, what constitutes an unsolicited emails is really your call.
Here’s how I handle it: As the owner of The Mogul Mom, I accept pitches from PR firms and media companies. Most days I will receive between 2-3 dozen of them. All (or most) of these messages are expected, though not all are relevant to us. For those that aren’t, I either respond letting them know I am not interested, or I simply delete it. If I tell them I am not interested, and they continue to pester me with the same pitches, I may mark them as spam.
What happens when I unsubscribe?
MOST legitimate emails will have an unsubscribe link somewhere within the email itself, usually at the bottom. When you click it, a message is sent to their ESP, and you should automatically be removed from their list. They will be unable to add you manually back. If in the future you want to get back on their list, simply sign up again. Again, unless the company did something blatantly wrong, there’s no need to spam it. It will be removed as soon as you unsubscribe. Remember, spamming counts against the sender. Don’t put a dent in their credibility unless they deserve it.
When you unsubscribe, you may be asked why with a short survey on the unsubscribe landing page.
Choices might include:
â Â I never signed up for this list
â Â This is not the content I expected
â Â I am receiving email more often than I expected
â Â This is spam and should be reported
â Â Other
Answering this is optional. You’ll still be removed, even if you don’t offer a response.
Note that using the unsubscribe link is not a guarantee that you’ll be removed, and can sometimes actually create more issues for you.
Here’s a tip you may not have heard before:
If something feels off with an email or a sender, don’t just click through on the unsubscribe link, right-click on it and ‘copy link’ instead. Paste the link somewhere where you can see it in its entirety. It should appear to direct you to somewhere to unsubscribe using the word ‘unsubscribe’ and/or the name of the user’s email service provider (ESP).
A legitimate unsubscribe link will look something like this:
While that’s not a real link, you can see that the ESP’s website is clearly in the link itself, making it very likely that this is a valid unsubscribe link. Phony links, on the other hand, may lead you to a website or worse yet, threaten the security of your system. Take a few seconds to safeguard yourself when unsubscribing to a suspicious email.
A few more helpful tips on how to limit the amount of junk you receive.
1. Don’t respond to unsolicited email. Ever.
Some tricksters will ask you to reply to the message with the word REMOVE or something similar. Don’t. And no matter how tempting, don’t respond with a sassy retort. It may feel good for a moment, but you’ve given the spammers what they want- assurance that your email address is valid and that you check it. Simply mark it as spam or create a filter. We’ll talk about how to do that in a moment.
2. Avoid displaying your email addresses in public places or online directories.
When you purchase your URL, you have the option to add Privacy to your domain. This means people are unable to see the owner or any other information when they search WhoIs or any other ways. Not only does it keep your personal contact information safe, but it also reduces spam because spammers can’t get instant access to your contact email address.
Namecheap.com offers FREE privacy on all their domains, even when you don’t host with them. If you got your URL somewhere else, consider transferring it to Namecheap to take advantage of this offering.
3. Never sign up with sites that claim to remove your name from spam lists.
Some sites that promise to remove your email address from spammers are legitimate, but most are not. By signing up with them, you’re actually doing the very thing you’re trying not to do, hand over your email address to spammers.
4. Create filters.
To curb spam many email transfer agents make filtering capabilities available to their customers. You can create an unlimited number of filters, but be careful of being too picky or you may miss some important messages along the way. You can create filters based on sender, subject, keyword, URL, or another variable. You can also create them based on individual messages themselves.You can find out how to filter messages using your own email provider with a quick Google search, or by checking their FAQs or support forums.
As a recipient on the flip side of the spam filter are the messages you actually want to keep. For example, if you sign up for a company’s newsletter, you’ll want to be sure they aren’t being sent to your junk folder. You do this by adding someone to your safe senders list. We developed this handy reference to walk you through how to do that.
The FTC’s CAN-SPAM Act has explicitly defined parameters when it comes to sending commercial emails.
If you have any questions on whether something is on the up-and-up, check out this list of frequently asked questions.
For marketers, itâs not difficult to comply, but it takes some time and effort to make sure your email processes are set up correctly from the start. Doing things right not only keeps you compliant but also builds the confidence and trust of your readers. And, it helps you avoid potential penalties, both monetary and beyond.
Most importantly, your email list will be full of subscribers who truly want to read what you have to say. And isn’t making that genuine connection what it’s really all about?
To learn more about how to increase your readership and pack your list with legit subscribers, check out our new mini-course, List Building 101- How to Build a Profitable Email Marketing Machine in 18 Days or Less. It’s all the tactics we used to help grow our list by more than 1,000 subscribers in about a month. Check it out. You’ll be glad you did.