Growing Your Business with Marketing, Week 8: Newsletters and other webalicious marketing

This is Week Eight of a 52-week project/experiment in DIY marketing. Armed with nothing but a copy of the 2009 Grow Your Business Marketing Plan + Calendar and my bare wits, I'm applying the skills you need to grow a business in real time, day by day, and reporting on them week by week. You can follow along here every Monday; check in with my companion blog, A Virgo's Guide to Marketing, for additional links and information.

This week's official task was to pull together samples of great newsletters in preparation for putting together your own or, if you already have a newsletter, to aggregate past issues into an archive on a page of your own website. My own tasks this week centered around updating and adding to my online content as needs arose, in addition to keeping up with the relentless, now-regular cold calling duties.

I'm sort of a militant fanatic-maniac when it comes to newsletters.

They have such tremendous potential to deliver great information (to the reader, your prospect or future fan) and they are such a great resource for you (hard to get an email list off of a blog), it horrifies me to see them abused. And they are—so much so that I wish there was a better name for them than "newsletter" (and no, "ezine" is most decidedly not better) so that I wouldn't have this uphill climb to get other militant fanatic-maniacs to at least test-drive mine.

The archives page is a good way around this. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I'm in the process of moving all of my back issues from my old design site to my new home base, communicatrix-dot-com. If you're in a similar situation, I'd suggest at the very least setting up one page on each site you think people might find the newsletters on; I have one on the old site and one on the new, with a note on the old saying—you guessed it—to go to the new for latest versions.

Before I did so much as sketch out a list of ideas or daydream about names, I read dozens (no, really!) of newsletters to see what I liked and didn't like. You can read my findings here; they're old, but they stand.

With two years of monthly lessons under my belt, there are some additional things I'd address. I've learned a ton from producing 22 monthly missives. (And please let me know in the comments section if that's something you'd be interested in reading, and if you have particular questions you'd like to see answered.) The chief one, though, is to allow yourself enough time, so you're able to maintain a regular publishing schedule. Along with rich content, I think that's the key to building a loyal list of readers.

Planning vs. creating on an as-needed basis (i.e., marketing whack-a-mole)

While my newsletter is pretty much slotted into my schedule at this point, I'm discovering plenty of stuff that needs to be similarly corraled and scheduled. I'm finally starting to get the point behind the individual dates on the calendar (the Veteran's version says horrible things like "1 Hour Calling"—an HOUR!?!).

Most of my other long-range, nothing's-on-fire stuff—improvements to the website, adjustments to the website, updating of print marketing materials, etc—I tend to put off until, well, there's a fire.

South by Southwest (SXSW), the conference I'm heading out to in a couple of weeks, is one of those fires. Having it looming and having made a promise to my friend (and first-time attendee), Gretchen Rubin, that I'd write up a how-to-prep post, finally got me to craft and post something last Thursday. (You can read it here, and do let me know if you'll be there!)

Similarly, a follow-up on a query for speaking materials forced me to finally put up a page dedicated to speaking: topics, testimonials, video, etc. Sadly, the potential gig fell through when the whole conference was axed because of this crazy economy, but it's far more important that I got the page up than that I landed one particular gig.

For the next few weeks, I have a list of individual webby tasks I created during my weekly call with Ilise. They're all about clarifying the information for new visitors and prospects, reducing "noise" and making it easier to find what they're looking for (and, hopefully, hire me!) They include:

  • Streamlining the main sidebar navigation Despite it being a little off-beat, the stuff I do for actors and the stuff I provide for Crohn's and ulcerative colitis sufferers is a big part of who I am. I plan to keep it, but to craft smaller buttons to sit in the far-right column, so the commerce-type stuff stands out. Also, at Ilise's suggestion, I'm going to create separate buttons for consulting and speaking. That means…
  • Revising my consulting pages, and creating one main landing page for consulting The individual pages will stay "supersecret" for now, as I continue to work on my pricing, but it's time for one solid landing page that describes my consulting philosophy and technique, along with my ideal client. For the record, I ordered Mark Silver's mini-course on writing your website to give me ideas. I think he does a great job of letting people know they're in the right place, and I was curious about his process.
  • Testimonials! I have a ton of great ones from all kinds of happy readers and clients. I'm still struggling with the best way to display them; my ideal solution is some kind of randomizer that displays different, funny/excellent quotes with each click. But maybe for now, just a blog post or separate page? What do you think?

Dealing with overwhelm

These are some crazy times, and it seems like we have to work three times as hard to stay in the same place, much less get ahead. It worries me that this pace may not be sustainable. I went to two back-to-back networking events on Wednesday evening, one of which I hosted, and while I had fun and think that both were worthwhile, I was wiped out the rest of the week. On Sunday, after more running around, my body finally succumbed to the cold I've been dreading. (On the other hand, a friend's movie was up for an Academy Award—there's no way I was going to miss that celebration!)

I try not to get discouraged. I understand it's a process, and eventually, like everything else, things will fall into place and only need minor upkeep for a while.

In the meantime, I'm doing what I can to pace myself, get things done, and not beat myself up for (always) falling short of what I think I could be doing. What do you do to keep yourself sane these days? And who's got some tips to give me an extra two hours per day?