Sunday, May 20, 2012

Kerpoof! You're an author!

Kerpoof is one of my new favorite sites for budding authors. The Disney-owned site is surprisingly non-commercial, and it's really and truly FREE to use. The registration process requires a parent's email but in my experience, I can honestly say I haven't noticed any spam as a result of our use.

Why I like it: the storybook feature gives kids a chance to create their own illustrated books online, and as a bonus, they're getting great keyboard practice at the same time.

If you need to take your kid to the office this summer, I highly recommend sitting them at the keyboard and sending them to Kerpoof. Then, make sure you take a break to read what they're writing. You just might find you've got a talented writer in the family, and the next thing you know, you'll be sending out query letters and learning all about the publishing industry.

Hey, worse things could happen. :D

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

What's your newsletter done for you lately?

How many newsletters did you read this week? One from your local winery? bike shop? Did your corporate wellness program send you one? And did you read them?

I'm guessing you received more than you think; you read (at least the headline and possibly first graph of) almost every one. And even if you "just" touched delete on your slick phone screen, you thought - for a brief and shining moment - about the sender.

That's called mindshare. Get enough and you've got a brand. Do it right and you've got a valuable brand. 

But newsletters can do so much more than occupy an atom of your prospect's mind for a moment.

What else can newsletters do? 

Glad you asked.

Well-crafted newsletters can help train and develop employees, get new customers, retain your current clients, and improve your employee satisfaction rates - for a song.

Now I sound crazy, right? Well, give a crazy idea a chance. Done right, newsletters can help you reach your goals.

Regardless of their intended audience, the most effective and cost-effective newsletters are both timely and evergreen. Sound like a tall order? Well, I invite you to stretch with me.

Your newsletter can (and should)...

Be practical and just a tad inspirational. Employee newsletters reinforce (and sometimes replace!) training initiatives and remind everyone on the team that they are part of something bigger than themselves.

Increase sales. Newsletters directed at customers can increase sales, encourage referrals, and deliver coupons. Beyond that, they educate your clients, reduce unnecessary calls, and remind customers why they chose to shop with you in the first place – why they, too, are part of the team. But customer newsletters aren't the only newsletters that should add to your bottom line.  Employee newsletters can also increase sales. How? Have you ever been convinced (or just plain pressured) into buying an extended warranty for a new product, because the salesperson simply wouldn't take "no" for an answer. Maybe that contest was in his company's newsletter. Maybe he wants his name in the next newsletter under the "winners" column. And maybe, just maybe, an underperforming salesperson (or two) will read the list of winners and think, hurumph. I can do better than that.

Newsletters can tell stories, and stories build relationships. Remember newspapers? I bet you read the features, didn't you? The ones with a photo and a headline like, "The Reason I Became a Bottle Washer." Good stories - ones that ooze good news about your brand and have a human interest factor, to boot - are likely to get shared. Go viral, in other words. Another word to say viral advertising is "free" advertising. I bet you see where I'm going with this. Maybe you'll even share it :D

Do you have a newsletter? If you do, is it current? Is it working for you?
If you don't have a newsletter - does your competition?
Related & really interesting
Does anyone read that long copy? Marcia Yudkin settles the long v. short debate.
Do you need a newsletter or a discussion list? One author vs. many contributors - it's your call.
Want a newsletter, but it's just too much work? Get help, get it done.