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Gmail Trying to ‘Fix’ Our Inbox and What it Means for You.

If capturing and sending email is a part of your blog – it might be your newsletter, affiliate programs, sales email or even just reader comment notifications – there are some changes (that have been looming for some time) that will impact the way you create and send emails …

Email services providers are taking matters into their own hands to “fix” our inbox’s.  

… and when Google start leading the charge with this, we all better pay attention.

The reality is that our own inbox is a never ending stream of important stuff mixed with the boring but essential stuff, mixed with the junk mail and spam. Sorting and organising it all takes time and if your not on top of it, important emails get lost in the noise.

It’s a problem we’ve been trying to solve since the dawn of email:

  • We were given functionality to use such as folders, and auto-filter rules
  • We were given blocking tools such as spam filters and junk folders
  • We were given techniques to try such as inbox zero

All of these things were created for users to help themselves — if they wanted to.

I realised this was all about to change when providers started to play with the idea of proactively helping us manage legitimate emails by trying to figure out the important emails over the less important ones. Google’s priority inbox is a great example of this.

However, now Google have taken another step and are organising our emails into groups — based on their own rules.

If you’re a Gmail user (not everyone seems to have this yet) at some point you’ll see the primary inbox, social inbox, and promotions inbox magically appear.

Google will, using it’s own wisdom, sort all your email into these groups.

You will be able to ‘train’ google by dragging emails from one inbox to another and hidden nicely away in the settings you can turn it off. But if history is anything to go by only a small percentage will actually do either of those actions.

So what will this mean for sending emails right now?

Time will only tell what the open and click-through rate implications will be as more users realise there are now three inboxes instead of one.  But I’m fairly confident in saying that we’ll all be aiming for the priority inbox.

Mailchimp have already release some preliminary findings, with a noticeable impact.

Now, not only will you have to be thinking about spam filters, trash folders and how your email looks on mobile, you’ll also need to be mindful of how Google will categorise your email.

Oh, and that’s of course after you come up with some great copy!

You can go on the front foot and ask your reader to tell Google to shift you to the priority inbox, but that’s difficult right now as not all Gmail users have the service.

Your best action, right now, is to track your open rates and click-through rates closely and start testing different approaches. Just like SEO and spam, Google won’t share it’s rules for classification, so we’re going to have to figure them out on our own. You might want to play with text emails, you might want to play with different from addresses and service providers.

It’s time to re-test some of the assumptions we’ve made when it comes to email.

What have we seen with our own emails

We’ve noticed on dPS that both our launch emails from new product (this week) as well as our weekly newsletter were put in the ‘promotional’ tab. What was probably more concerning what that the confirmation (opt-in) email from our newsletter also ended up in promotions tab.

Open rates were slightly down for both. So we’re keeping an eye on things – but it’s still too early to tell. I have received direct emails from a few people I subscribe requesting to be moved across to the priority inbox, but without knowing exactly who has the change it feels too early to ask that.

But that’s just the beginning

When spam filters first arrived there was period where they needed to earn our trust.  We needed to believe that they would do a good job of keeping out only spam and not the stuff we wanted to receive.  Over time they succeeded and the performance of spam filters are hardly given a second thought.  Once that same trust is given to the automatic organisation of our legitimate emails the complexities of this will skyrocket.   More venders will get involved, more rules will be put into play.

What I Like about this

For those creating quality email content that people want to read, these sorts of systems are designed to work for you. If your emails are a priority for your recipients you should benefit from this. There will be some slight adjustments to make, I’m sure. The people trying to push their way into peoples inbox’s will feel the impact more than those who’ve earned it.

What worries me about this change

Even as a bit of a nerd, I struggled to ‘train’ my inbox. It was even harder do it via my phone. So that has really drawn me to the conclusion that our challenge is not going to be in educating our subscribers, the challenge will be working within the rules that Google won’t share with us. We can’t forget that Google have a commercial interest in this, and the idea of paying for the priory inbox isn’t without question. Nor is the idea of 3rd party messages appearing in the promotions tab either.

Fun times ahead.

The 7 Angels of Blogging DOOM

This is a guest contribution from Rebekah Lambert, copywriter and owner of Unashamedly Creative.

Blogging is super fun, right? You get to write your own stories, express opinions, share what you learn, explore ideas, encourage debate and create a wonderful world of content that attracts like minded people.

However with all this joy inside the happy little garden of the blogosphere, there are some really poisonous, destructive people waiting to chop you down and smear their negativity all over that joy.

I call them the 7 Blogging Angels of DOOM!

And while they still manage to get their toxic tendrils in my head on occasion, most of the time, their negativity doesn’t take root- or doesn’t have hold for long.

Black crow silhouette

This is my guide to knowing thy enemy and counter why they do the things they do in the first place!

Wrong-athor:  “That’s not how you do it!”

Wrongathor is a lemon lipped little critter, motivated by feeling intellectually superior. They really enjoy telling you you’ve got it wrong.  From how you blog to the opinions you express, you can count on Wrongathor to come up with 47 different reasons why your opinion isn’t valid, your research is cock eyed and you’re just wrong, wrong, wrong!

Countering them:

True to their character, the Wrongathor will be unable to admit they are wrong, even when they are.

If you want to get a Wrongathor off your case invite them to express their opinion as a guest blog, with research and links to back up their idea.

They’ll either back off muttering about how unworthy of your precious time they are, or jump at the opportunity. Either way, it’ll usually dampen their catcalls and screeches- and may even turn them into a loyalist because you’ve given them an opportunity to speak (something Wrongathors simply LOVE to do).

SEO-ola: “Without SEO, you are NOTHING!”

To an SEO-ola, being on top of a search is everything!

SEO-ola sees Google as some kind of scoreboard and will usually come complete with all kinds of nightmare stories about the internet being a place where no-one can hear you scream without a proper ranking. They are technically savvy, and have a benchmark of ranking well to shove down your neck- and won’t hesitate to use every opportunity to make you feel like you are languishing in obscurity ‘coz the big Google scoreboard says so!

Countering them:

SEO-ola has hung their hat on being great at ranking on Google. Find the ones that get a kick out of helping others and open yourself up to learning from them. Offer to help them, promote them in your own way, and they may even swap the joy they get from ranking well with you for your skills.

Knowing SEO can’t hurt you, so friendship is the best approach here.

Uselessys: “Why bother? You’ll fail anyway”

Poor old Uselessys- everything in life is a big fat sigh away from being yet another sign of an utterly pointless existence. Everyone is out to get them, the whole world doesn’t care, trying something new is pointless because it’s all been done before? Happiness, fame or enjoying life is something that happens to other people.

Raining on your parade is their way of making sure that you, you poor naive, happy little scamp, don’t let your enthusiasm lead you to a devastating fate.

Countering them:

You can’t cure someone else’s misery. Most of the time, Uselessys has chosen a path and no amount of pouring in positive thoughts, self esteem or encouragement will change their mind. The best measure here is ignore them. 

They won’t get your happiness, and it’s not up to you to justify it. Just make sure you don’t come to them to vent when things are tough, and keep on trucking.

Big Chief BullyPants: “It’s all about me, me, ME!”

Big Chief BullyPants can’t stand it when someone else tries to wrestle the spotlight from them.Whether they’ve imagined it or not makes absolutely no difference. To them, controlling the status quo, making sure they are in charge of everyone, and ensuring you don’t get a look in is all part of the game.

They are unable to respond to criticism, feedback or someone disagreeing with their opinion. As far as they are concerned, there is no right or wrong and no place where everyone fits. Unless of course where you want to fit is sitting at their feet looking upwards.

If you have dealings with them, tantrums will be common. Unfortunately, they will make it their business to lean over the top of you like a dark storm cloud.

Countering them:

If you get the sense that Big Chief BullyPants doesn’t play with others, you’re dead right. Silence is a brilliant technique because it gives them nothing to stand on.

If you have to deal with them on a regular basis, giving them something they can be in charge of that doesn’t involve other people is your best bet. Putting them in a leadership role involving people will usually encourage their stand over tactics, but giving them someone without a human can satiate their love of power and make them feel important.

If you have nothing to give them, adopt the toddler approach. Ignore them when they are out of control, don’t let them run the show, put them on time outs if necessary and reward good behaviour with plenty of praise.

Annie 1 Candothat: “Oh please, my cat could do better!”

Annie is a 5 minute expert. She only has to look at a concept sideways and she knows what’s what. Not known for seeking out too much depth, Annie is the sort of person who does a few things well and thinks by nature, the rest is in the bag!

Countering them:

The standard Annie counter is demonstrating what goes in to doing what you do. Have a conversation with them, show them your plans, send them a few links, recommend some helpful books and videos, and most of the time, Annie will be uttering “wow, I never knew how much went into it!” before you can bat an eyelid.

Vomitron: “You must write DAILY to succeed!”

Vomitron skipped the memo on relevance and went straight the paragraph about blogging often improving search rankings, and has been stuck there ever since. They don’t get that an informative post every week is far better than a nothing piece every day. To them, one line mini blogs of commonly known info is quite fine and are puzzled by people who throw a little more into things.

Countering them:

Go easy on old Vomitron, bad habits are hard to retrain. Demonstrating how social sharing helps rankings more and that this kind of peer validation only usually comes with content human beings (not search engines) like is key.

Asking questions about what they actually care about, sharing articles that show a tremendous following that have depth and layers, and gently pushing them into the new world with encouragement will have them calming down their pukedom and getting back to decent writing in no time.

Nitpacka: “But what about paragraph 4 section c…”

Nitpicka has already made up their mind about you and is looking for the one liner they can attach to in order to take you down. They’ll pick something completely trivial in a blog and make that 20 word their lynch pin for a thousand word campaign.

The Beastie Boy’s lyric “They can’t, they won’t, and they don’t stop” has had a lasting effect, that’s for sure.

Countering them:

Some Nitpicka’s do no research whatsoever and come entirely from the gut. You’ll spot this kind because their argument won’t reference things of any great note. Therefore they are usually defused with a quick injection of factual information. Or at least sent to the benches, looking a little sillier.

Others come prepared with facts for that one line, and forget the whole picture. It is this entire picture you need to focus on. You need to keep reminding them they’ve picked a drop from an ocean and are basing the entire contents of their argument on it.

All else fails, wear ear muffs

The doom bloggers do have their own valid points, but so do you. Being different, having a diverse approach and remaining true to your own goals and voice is what will make your blog work for you in the long term.

Yes, you will have to face off with tumbleweeds on your blog when you first start. No, not everyone will understand why you do it. And maybe some will seem to do it better. But isn’t that like anything in life?

The truth of the matter is, if the bloggers of doom had it right, they’d be famous. Or they’d have blogging so sewn up that none of us would want a look in. Or they wouldn’t be so worried about anybody else they’d feel the need to breathe down your neck because they’d be too busy blogging.

So don’t let the doomsters get you down. Blog on fellow word nerds and don’t look the bloggers of Doom get to you.

What other bloggers of doom have you come across? What do you to put a sock in their mouths?

 

Rebekah’s a word weaving ninja who combines 17 years marketing experience with creativity and in-depth knowledge of consumer behaviour to build copy and campaigns customers love. Well, at least that’s what her mum keeps telling her. You can catch up with her rambles at Unashamedly Creative or read some confessions here.

7 Reasons I LOVE Running Webinars for My Blog Readers

Over the last couple of years I’ve run semi-regular webinars for ProBlogger readers (sign up to get invitations to these free webinars here).

These webinars have not only received a lot of positive feedback, they’ve also been among the most energising things I’ve done on this site.

Here’s a few quick thoughts on why I love doing webinars:

1. Real time Interactions

When I first discovered blogging, one of the things I loved was that it opened up the potential to have almost immediate reactions and feedback from readers. You can have a post up and then 10-25 minutes later there might be a comment or two there.

A webinar speeds up this interaction to the point where it is virtually instantaneous. I can ask webinar attendees a question and within seconds, see a stream of responses.

Someone can submit a question and I can ask for clarification and get it immediately.

I can share what I’m thinking on a topic and get a gauge on whether it is resonating with those listening very quickly.

I find this live interaction is very energising. It keeps me on my feet and thinking fast too!

On the other side of this interaction is that after a webinar I notice that those who attended are more interactive with me. For example, I often see webinar attendees leaving more comments on blog posts, tweeting and even writing blog posts that link to mine on their blogs.

I guess a webinar has the benefit of opening the flood gates of interaction with some people – a very valuable thing.

2. It is personal

Quite often, the reactions I get after a webinar are readers telling me that they felt like they ‘know’ me more as a result of listening to my voice for an hour – as opposed to reading words on a page.

While I try to write as I speak, something often gets lost in the written word. A webinar allows me  to more easily convey emotion, humour, tone – all of which has a big impact upon those listening.

Webinars have the ability to humanise your brand and break down false perceptions of you.

3. Verbalising your ideas has benefits

Verbalising your ideas in a webinar type situation also forces you to think about your topic in a different way. As a result, I quite often get moments of clarity on issues I’ve been struggling with in the preparation or running of a webinar. I’m not sure exactly what happens but something about ‘hearing’ myself rather than reading myself seems to crystallise my thinking.

4. ideas for content

One of the biggest benefits for me about doing a webinar is that I ALWAYS come away from running them with ideas for things to write about here on the blog.

Quite often, as you’re speaking, you get ideas but the ideas also come from questions and responses from your audience.

One of the things I do every time we run a webinar is include an option on the signup form to submit a question for us to answer on the webinar. These questions are GOLD!

I also like to run purely Q&A webinars at times which are great for this too.

Earlier this week we ran one of these Q&A sessions and had 600 questions submitted! While we could only get through a fraction of them I read each question and many of the posts I write in the coming weeks will come directly from those questions.

5. They scale ‘you’

One of the challenges that bloggers face when their audience begins to grow is that there is a ceiling on how accessible you can be to all of your readers.

While you start out responding to every question, email and tweet there comes a point where the incoming messages get beyond what you can respond to while still maintaining creating content and managing other aspects of your blog and business.

I’ve grappled with this for years now and find that webinars go a long way making yourself more accessible to readers.

6. Webinars Lend Themselves to Different Types of Communication

I’ve tried a variety of different styles of webinar over the last few years including:

Interviews/Story Telling – where I interview a blogger about their story and what they’ve learned. This story telling approach has been very well received. A couple of popular ones include webinars with Tsh Oxenreider and Ana White.

Teaching – in these webinars I almost ‘lecture’ on a topic. I use slides and take attendees on a journey through a topic from A-B. For example recent webinars on Finding Readers for a Blog and Monetizing Blogs

Q&A – in these webinars I’ve either had open Q&A sessions on any topic or have named a topic and made attendees focus their questions on exploring more narrow areas. For example here’s last weeks open Q&A session in which we covered a heap of topics.

Selling – I’ve not done much selling in webinars (I like to keep mine pitch free) but occasionally have run webinars with a pitch at the end (I warn attendees that there will be). I still make sure that these webinars are high in value/usefulness so that even if they don’t respond to the pitch that they come away satisfied.

7. Great Practice for Public Speaking

Lastly, webinars are a great way to get practice and experience for public speaking.

One of my favourite things to do is to speak at events. However, due to my location in Australia and the fact that the majority of speaking invitations I get come from overseas, I’m not able to accept the vast majority of them.

Webinars are a great way for me to get a ‘fix’ of speaking but I’ve also noticed that they’re a great place to hone my presenting skills. They’re also a good place to showcase what you can do and land you presenting gigs too!

What is Your Experience with Webinars?

I’d love to hear your experience with webinars.

Have you run them? How did they go?

Do you attend them? If so – what makes a good webinar in your experience?

2 Thoughts on Opportunity and Success to Kickstart Your Week

Yesterday I tweeted a couple of thoughts on Twitter leading to an explosion of retweets but also questions, reactions and ideas. I thought I’d put them here on the blog too, in the hope they might help to kickstart your week!

So many of us wait for opportunity to knock on our door. Most successful ppl are prolific door openers & don’t wait for knocks [tweet this]

Sometimes, I find myself giving myself permissions to be ‘passive’ in my blogging (and life) and ‘hope’ that good things might happen to me – that opportunity might come knocking.

However, the reality is that almost every time a good thing has come my way, it was the result of me taking some kind of small action. 

I’m a fairly reserved and shy person. I don’t like to push my way into situations or force things to happen. However, over the years I’ve learned that by taking action to push doors open (even if only a tiny creak) I often find the opportunity waiting for ME!

Many times SUCCESS is more about DOING the things you know you should do, not learning the ‘secrets’ that you don’t know [tweet this]

I’m a firm believer that bloggers who’ve been blogging for more than few months already know 90% (if not more) of what they need to know about blogging successfully.

Of course, there are always new things to learn about writing, technology, techniques for finding readers etc but the fundamentals of blogging have not really changed over the last 10 years.

The challenge is DOING those fundamental things, consistently and at a high quality, over the long haul.

I like this response to my tweet yesterday by Jacqueline O’Donnell:

“It’s a bit like healthy eating and exercise really… but the ‘shiny’ secrets & promise of shortcuts has a lot of pull power :-)”

I think this is spot on.

Most of us have enough knowledge of how to be fit and healthy. We understand that a modest, balanced and nutritious diet along with regular exercise will result in a healthy body. Yet so many of us struggle to actually apply the things we know. SO many of us are drawn to look for the latest silver bullet diet or program that will solve our issues.

Knowledge isn’t bad – but gaining it is a waste of time if it doesn’t lead to action!

Ask the ProBlogger Team any Question: Register for Our Next Free Webinar

Just a short post today to let readers know that next wee we’ll be holding a ProBlogger Webinar.

You can register for it here.

It has been a while since we’ve had a webinar here on ProBlogger so we’re going to make this one a Q&A session where you can ask any question that you might have that relates to blogging.

To help me answer your questions I’m bringing a couple of members of my team here at ProBlogger onto the webinar with me. They are:

  • Jasmin Tragas – Jasmin is our ‘producer’ works with me to produce the eBooks that we release (mainly dPS eBooks but also ProBlogger eBooks) but also our live ProBlogger Event here in Australia. In her role as an eBook producer Jasmin coordinates between our eBook authors, designers, editors and marketing team. So if you’ve got questions on that front – she’ll be the person to direct your questions to.
  • Shayne Tilley – Shayne has been working with me for several years in helping with Marketing our eBooks and events but has recently also been helping to coordinate the redesign of dPS (which is almost ready to launch) and also has been helping to get some new plugins coded that operate behind the scenes here on ProBlogger and on dPS. Shayne also wrote our Guide to Online Marketing eBook. So he’s going to be useful to ask anything about marketing but also is great on some of the more technical aspects of blogging.
  • And then there’s me – I’m happy to take questions on anything and if I (or one of my team) can’t answer your question we’ll point you to someone who can.

You can ask questions on any aspect of blogging including:

  • Finding Readers
  • Monetization
  • Content Creation
  • Building Reader Engagement
  • Time Management
  • eBook Creations
  • Live Events
  • Marketing etc

This free ‘no pitch’ webinar will run for 60-90 minutes from 8pm Eastern US time next Tuesday night (23rd July) – if you’re in other parts of the world the international times and dates are listed on the registration page.

We will attempt to record this webinar and will email anyone who registers for it with a link to the recording in the days after it is run. So to get the recording please register.

Please note that this webinar is filling up fast. On the day we can only fit 1000 people on the live webinar so apologies if we can’t squeeze everyone in. To avoid disappointment please arrive a little early to get your spot. If you miss out you’ll get access to the recording if you’ve registered.

Register today here for this webinar and we’ll see you on the call next week.

Don’t Quit Your Job To Chase Your Dreams… Until You’ve Read This

“I’m quitting my job to chase my dreams!”

When I hear someone say those words I experience two feelings simultaneously.

1. Excitement. You can’t help but admire someone with that kind of passion. Exciting things often happen when people step out of their comfort zone and make space to go for their dreams!

2. Fear. What if their dreams are not realistic? How will they pay their bills? What impact might that decision have upon their family?

I never know what to say (and doubt there is any right thing as each situation is so different) but as someone who has quit jobs to chase dreams I thought I’d jot down a few thoughts.

Warning: my thoughts don’t all mount a single argument to either quit your job or stay in it. They’re some things to ponder when you’re making the decision.

1. Chase Your Dreams

First and foremost – chase your dream.

So many people stop chasing dreams. They end up looking back on missed opportunities with a sense of regret.

If you have a dream that won’t go away I think you owe it to yourself – and the world around you – to pursue it.

2. Be Responsible

Don’t chase your dreams in a way that leaves a trail of ruin behind you.

You owe it to yourself to chase your dream – but not at the expense of those around you.

Too many times have I seen men and women chase dreams in ways that put their family in the way of harm. I can recount a number of new bloggers who quit their jobs to become full time bloggers only to find that their family no longer had an income stream or health care. I’ve seen marriages break down and tragedy strike as a result of chasing dreams without a safety net or backup plan.

I know ‘be responsible‘ doesn’t sound as sexy as ‘chase your dreams‘ – but it’s important.

I think a lot of it comes back to your life stage and situation. When I started blogging, I was engaged to be married and we had no kids. I was still conservative with my decision-making and always had a part time job until I was sure blogging would pay our bills. If I were starting out again today, as a husband and father of 3 kids, I’d certainly take things even slower than I did.

I personally set up the move between employment and chasing my dreams as a something of a transition.

I started out studying part-time and working one main job and a number of part time jobs. As my dream of becoming a full-time blogger became more of a reality (i.e. as I began to earn more from my blogging) I was able to give up some of the part-time work.

This transition took over a year to complete and even then, at one point I got a part time job when my blogging income dipped for a time. I didn’t want to put my family in harm’s way so I always had a backup plan.

3. Take a Run Up…

Long Jump

My part-time work and study allowed me to transition in this way. I understand that this won’t always be possible for others. That doesn’t mean you have to quit your job immediately in order to follow your dreams.

There will almost always be a way to get your dream started – even while you work a job. Think about how you can get momentum up and to position yourself to make that eventual leap.

When I was in high school I used to compete as a long jumper in athletics. I wasn’t particularly good at it but had a great coach who showed me the basics. Interestingly, a lot of the work he did with me was focused not upon my jumping technique but my running and timing.

He told me that the key to a good jump was getting good momentum going in the run up, and then timing the jump and positioning to perfection.

Yes ‘jumping’ was something I needed to get right but without a good run up the eventual leap (and landing) was never going to be successful.

What can you do – in your current situation – to create momentum and to position yourself well for that time when you might actually make the leap into giving up employment to chase your dreams?

Answering this question might result in any number of things. It could lead you to part-time study. It could lead you to more intentional networking. It could lead you to working in the evenings on your project. It might lead you to creating a business plan. There are many small and achievable things that you can do today – even while working a job – that will put you in a better position to chase your dreams.

4. You May Never Need to Leave Your Job

I can think of many people who actively pursue their dreams while also working full-time and part-time in ‘real jobs’.

  • I know a full time accountant who has set up a charity and who supports orphanages in Africa by using his evenings and annual leave to travel and fundraise
  • I know a lawyer who is writing a novel in the evenings and on weekends
  • I know a teacher who started a craft business and makes her products in the evenings and sells them online and at markets on weekends
  • I know a woman who is a stay at home mother with 5 kids, who also cares for her mother who lives with Alzheimer’s, who has built a blog that generates the equivalent of a 3 day a week job

None of these people wants to give up their work but each is also living their dreams – fairly significant dreams at that.

The reality is that not everyone’s dream is of doing something that requires you to leave employment for it to be achieved. The hard reality is that some people’s dreams don’t end up coming true (at least not in the way that they imagine that they will).

Also, keep the possibility open in your mind that perhaps a part-time job will be enough to sustain you so that you can pursue your dreams. I know that this isn’t always feasible in every industry but I know a number of people who found part-time work and simplified their lifestyle in order to sustain themselves while they also worked on making their passions and dreams a reality.

5. A Job Can = A Dream Coming True

Similarly, I can think of many people whose dreams have come true through employment.

Sometimes I wonder if we put working for yourself on a pedestal as being the only truly fulfilling end result. Why is this?

Some people are just not wired to work for themselves and do their best work when working within a team of people under the leadership of someone else. Some people’s dreams fit very comfortably into that scenario.

I think of a friend of mine whose dream was to have an impact upon global poverty. She used to think that to follow that dream meant having to charity of her own. She tried that and quickly found that it wasn’t for her. This ‘failure’ could have been the end of her dream but she decided to find another way and ended up taking a job working for not for profit organisation. After 10 years of service in that organisation, she’s risen through the ranks and looks like becoming the next CEO of it. Her dream has come true – through her employment.

I know of another friend who took a similar path. He dreamed of starting a business that developed iPhone apps in a particular field but ended up joining another company who did that and working for someone else. Interestingly by taking that job he learned the skills he needed to also pursue some personal projects and ended up starting his own company on the side.

This is a path that many people would do well to consider. It may mean re-skilling and switching the fields in which you work in (and perhaps taking a pay cut to get in at the ground level) but could be a way of following your dream and keeping a steady stream of income.

6. Sometimes You Do Need to Jump

pular...

Sometimes, there comes a time to make the leap. It’s not for everyone and not something to rush a decision into but there comes a point where you’ve created enough momentum and you hit a ceiling of how much you can pursue your dreams while having a job.

Sometimes you also come to a point where you are just too comfortable with a ‘good life’ to do what it takes to create a ‘great life’. You need to put yourself into an uncomfortable position to make yourself fight for your dreams!

Make sure you wrestle with this decision a little. Listen to the ‘fear’ (fear is actually a good thing – it keeps us alive but also is often a precursor to doing something significant!) and involve others who care for you (and who you care for) in the decision and then make the move.

Sometimes you just need to jump and put yourself in a place where you’ve got no other option but to work your butt off to make your dream come true.

What would you add?

I’m sure I’m not the only one who hears people saying that they’re quitting jobs to chase dreams. What do you say to them?

And to those of you who’ve made the leap (or attempted it) – what do you wish people would have said to you?

The Power of Personalisation

A year back, a new cafe sprung up in our area. At the time, I didn’t really pay much attention to it as I was satisfied with the 2 cafes I already went to each week. But last Christmas morning, I was desperate for a coffee and it being Christmas Day, no cafes were open in our area – except this one.

So I went in that fine Christmas morning, ordered a take away latte and went on with the day’s festivities.

The cafe had been bustling, which I put down to it being the only place open. The coffee was great and with it, they gave each customer a free nut slice/biscuit. That made an impression on me.

Here in Australia, many cafes shut down over January as it’s our summer holidays and everyone goes to the beach. This new little cafe stayed open so I went in every day, to get my coffee.

During what is a quiet time of year for most cafes, this little cafe was HEAVING with customers.

I would sit at a corner table, working on my laptop (as I am today as I type this). I’d watch the staff work and customers come and go. As I did, I noticed something.

At least half of the customers who came into the cafe were greeted by name, by the staff.

When I first noticed it I thought it was a fluke, or that the staff member I was observing just had a freakishly good memory. But after watching for a few days I realised that it wasn’t just one person. All the staff were doing it.

They not remembered names, they remembered orders.

A customer would walk in and the staff member taking the order would loudly say, “Hi Jeff, large soy latte again today?”

Over the next couple of weeks, I watched this happen every day. One day I even kept note of how many names and orders they knew. It hovered around the 50% mark. If they didn’t know the customer’s name. they would ask and then write it on the cup along with the order. When they handed the person the order, they always looked them in the eye and used their name.

It struck me that while many cafes write the names of their customers on cups, as part of their workflow/organisation, this cafe was different. They went the extra mile and committed the details to memory.

A funny thing happened to me while I saw their watching them personalise their service in this way… in fact two things happened.

  • Firstly – I felt like I was in a place that cared. I heard other customers comment on this to each other too “Wow, they know everyones name!”
  • Secondly – I wanted them to know my name/order too!

It took me 4 days of going in before they got my name and order committed to memory but boy it felt good when they did. I belonged…. I had been noticed…. I was a ‘regular’.

It’s no wonder that this little cafe is almost always full (in fact many days I can’t work there because there are no tables) and has a line of takeaway customers.

Personalisation is a very powerful thing.

Personalisation on Blogs

Today, I’m sitting here in the cafe watching the power of personalisation in action and I’m pondering how (and if) it could be applied on a blog.

I’m sure there would be many ways and would love to hear some suggestions of how you’ve seen it done.

One that springs to mind was a practise I did in the early days of my own blogging, quite intuitively, and that was emailing anyone who left a comment on my blog. If I saw a new commenter, I would always answer the comment and then send the commenter an email to thank them and to let them know I’d replied.

This personalised wasn’t really scalable after a certain amount of readers (without me becoming a full time community manager instead of a full time blogger) but it had a big impact in the early days of my blogs.

I would get many, many emails back thanking me for doing what I did and I know for a fact that quite a few of those people became regular readers.

How have you tried personalising your blogging to take note of individual readers? I’d love to hear your experiences!!!

How we Built our 2 for 1 Sale

You might have stumbled across the 2-for-1 sale we’re currently having on Problogger. We’re also having one over on dPS too if you’re interested in Photography!

As soon as we launched this mid-year sale, we received a heap of requests from people who had picked up a bargain and wanted to know the logistical side of making the sale happen. So today we thought we’d share how we put it all together…

Setting up eJunkie

The idea of a buy-one-get-one-free sale seems pretty simple but the functionality behind it can get a little crazy.

Campaigns like ‘Buy this book and get a free bonus’ or ‘save X% on this product’ are much more straightforward and easier to set up. You have a product, you add the freebie or apply the discount and you’re done! With a buy-one-get-one-free sale, you introduce choice plus shopping conditions. You can select any book, and then pick a second book (of equal or lesser value) for free.

Our first step was to figure out if we could actually do this in eJunkie – the shopping cart solution we use on Problogger and dPS.

eJunkie has a neat function that allows you to combine two separate products into one. However, with over a dozen books on dPS we didn’t want to have to set up a different product bundle for every possible combination. Our only hope was to add two products to the checkout and then apply a discount code, dependent on what was selected.

The discount code

The Problogger products have three different price brackets: $19.99, $29.99 and $49.99 so we set up three discount codes for each value.

Then we had to ensure that some enterprising person wouldn’t use, say, the $50 voucher on two x $19.99 eBooks. Luckily, eJunkie has the ability to set a minimum cart value for each voucher code.

Thus:

  • To use the $20 discount, you must have at least $39 worth of products in your cart.
  • To use the $30 discount, you must have at least $58 worth of products in your cart.
  • To use the $50 discount, you must have a least $99 worth of products in your cart.

For example, If you wanted to grab 31 days to Build a Better Blog ($29.99) and Blog Wise ($19.99) your total cart value would be $49.98 and the only voucher you can use the $20 code – the lesser value book free.

Alternatively, you wanted to grab 31 days to Build a Better Blog ($29.99) and The Copywriting Scorecard ($29.99) your total cart value would be $59.98 and you can use the $30 voucher.

That was hard enough for me to explain in a blog post, let alone asking a user to pick the right voucher! So we used eJunkie’s auto discount apply feature by adding ‘&discount_code=voucher’ to the Buy Now button link.

With discounts sorte,d it was time to attack adding two products to a checkout with one button.

Multiple products

eJunkie has a multi add function. The problem is that it’s unsupported and doesn’t reliably work in some browsers (which is beyond my ability to explain!).

I would like to tell that I found a nice push button solution to this issue, but it took a developer working solidly for a couple of days to actually get it working reliably. I can’t tell you want he did (other than go to JavaScript hell and back) but the code is there for you to see and use if you like.

By solving this problem, we unearthed another.

There is no nice way to clear someone’s cart. So, if you click checkout then close the popup for some more window shopping and then click checkout again with different eBooks, everything broke. To solve this, again with some nifty work from our developers, we added some smarts on top of eJunkie to control this.

Again – I’m not sure how it works technically… but it does the job.

Once this was covered, I knew we could run the sale without having to resort to a new checkout system.

A note about eJunkie: I realise that there are checkout systems that can do all of the above beautifully. But for a one-week campaign, it didn’t make sense for us to change to a new and unproven provider. Our solution isn’t perfect, nor is it elegant, but gets the job done! Some of you will be able to use what we’ve set up here yourself, but others will be confronted with your own set of limits. As long as you’re campaigning the way you want to and seeing these challenges as hurdles not barriers then you should be happy…

Okay let’s move on!

The sales page

So once we proved we could actually get someone to the checkout with the correct items, it was time to put a layer of paint on the sales page. We didn’t have a lot of time as we wanted to run a mid-year sale, not a couple-of-weeks-after-mid-year sale, so I quickly put the copy together along with a wireframe and sent it off to our designer. With little time to spare and a review via my phone, I sent the first concept to be turned into a web page.

The site elements were very simple.

  • A headline.
  • A short description.
  • A dropdown to pick your first eBook.
  • Then a dynamic, second dropdown that appeared to select your free book.
  • An Add to Cart button.
  • And a countdown timer to signal the end of the campaign.

Darren and I were perhaps happier that it was done, that at the page itself, but with not much time to spare we made it live and start spreading the word.

With the sale going well, we couldn’t silence the little voice that kept saying, “This could be better”. So, a couple of days after launching the sale, Darren and I spent the day together throwing around ideas around how we could improve the page.

The problems we identified were…

  • The page was selling the sale not the benefits of the eBooks.
  • The page was visually a little boring.
  • There was nothing more than a title to help you choose your eBook.
  • The page wasn’t helping people make a decision about the book you needed.

Our web guys agreed and had some great ideas of their own!

We then had to make a call on whether or not we invested time correcting this, with a few days left on the sale, or we just kept this in mind the next sale.

Given the fact that we had another last minute push of the deal in mind, and knowing we could extend the offer if need be, and our web developers hating the idea of leaving a job half done we agreed. Three day’s later we released an updated version. A version we’re all much happier with.

Perfect no, but vastly improved yes, and now ready for our final hoorah for this campaign.

The lessons

While the campaign isn’t over and I haven’t really reflected in full, there are already a few lessons I personally took from this experience.

Worrying about what’s possible will hinder your creativity. I decided which campaign I wanted to run long before I knew it was possible. By focusing on what needed to be done, not on what could (or couldn’t) be done, we were able to find a solution that many wouldn’t have bothered seeing to the end.

Let the little voice in your head guide but not paralyse. I’ve never hit publish on a sales page I was 100% happy with. If I waited until it was perfect I’d never publish a single page. You need to find the balance between ship at all costs and perfection.

Your customers don’t care about how hard something was to build; they care about how well it works for them. I was so impressed with the functionality we created that I forgot to stop and objectively think like a customer. Time may have got the better of me, but you should always take a breath and look at what you’ve done through someone else’s eyes.

So that’s a behind the scenes tour of how we put this campaign together, the challenges we faced and the lessons we learnt. I hope some of you can put them to good use! If there are any other apsects you’d like to know how we did that then please let me know in the comments.

As for me, I’m off to dream up the next impossible campaign!

An Offer that isn’t too Good to be True

Recently, Darren shared an amazing bundle of blogger training available for just 72 hours.

As someone who is very selective about what training and personal development I participate in I wanted to put my own perspective forward as to why I think is something very much worth considering.

Blogging is hard

It takes effort, commitment and determination. As a blog owner you need to master multitasking, a willingness to roll up your sleeves and get things done. You need to be able to cop your fair share of criticism and be willing to make peace with the fact that your To Do list will always be longer than time permits.

Because blogging is hard, it’s a great opportunity for people to create products that make life easier. Some of these products would have you believe you can simply sit back and watch the page views, and profits, roll in. The copy is compelling, painting a picture of the vast green pasture on ‘the other side’.

We all look at them and think… I must be doing something wrong if it’s all that easy! I better find out what.

You put your hand in your pocket with high hopes. Sadly, more and more of these products are being sold exceptionally well but delivering nothing on their promise. Of course, it could be worse.

And then there are the other products

Why I particularly like about the latest collection of Problogger courses for bloggers is that they don’t prey on your dreams. It’s a collection of courses designed to make you a better blogger in a bunch of different ways. They are all very practical and real, and it’s refreshing to see.

Unlike Darren, I don’t personally know any of the people behind these course. I do know Darren and he only has respect for those who truly deserve it – so some points are instantly awarded right there.

But more importantly let’s look at the topics covered.

Breakthrough Blogging

I love that this course is aimed at people who have started a blog and then stalled. At one point or another we’ve all felt that progress isn’t what we’d hoped for. That we’re not moving forward, fast enough. This is when many people give up. Through this course if you can find the inner motivation you need to get to tipping point of your blog. This course is worth the $200 on it’s own!

How to Connect with Anyone

This might be more personal to me, but I envy people who seem to be able to network and connect in their sleep. I walk into a room of people simply hoping that someone will talk to me. It’s been said that your worth is driven by your network, and I this course could help me with that. It would be a lifelong weakness of mine conquered!

Better Web Videos & Rapid Video Blogging

We all started blogging because we like to write and like to share. Then, there was video to add to the mix and all of a sudden we were movie producers as well as writers. We can make videos I’m sure, but it takes too long and they lack polish. Both these courses change that. Videos done right and done easily — Yay!!

Publish Your Book on Kindle

7 out of 10 of the questions I get asked are about getting an eBook published. I would have loved if this course wasn’t specific to the Kindle but you cant win them all! Knowing how to get your book on a Kindle is a major barrier and the rest comes pretty easy after that.

Podcasting

Postcasting was cool, then uncool, and now it’s cool again. There are some small but very important things you have to when you’re podcasting. I really like the post that was shared here quite recently and I know this course kicks it up a level.

All these courses will:

  • give you the motivational kick up the backside you probably need
  • help you be a networking superstar
  • see you producing great video content easily
  • reduce the unknowns in publishing your eBook on the kindle
  • … and if you’re up for it, get in on the podcasting resurgence.

That’s a pretty good piece of personal development as a blogger!

Typically, I keep my thoughts on these sorts of things to myself and Darren had already shared the deal. But this was one was too good to keep quite about — I couldn’t resist!

It’s amazing value for the price. If you didn’t know Darren, you might think it sounds too good to be true, but he’s a generous guy.

So go, check out the courses now!