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I hope you find my writing and business tips and observations useful. My business and blog are dedicated to helping businesses communicate clearly and reach their potential. Read, subscribe to my newsletter, enjoy! Tash

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Only make useful references

I’ve been reading a number of privacy policies and notices lately – not very exciting but necessary with new privacy laws coming into effect on 12 March.

One policy included the following (slight edits made to protect that business):

Disclosure to overseas recipients

We may disclose your personal information to overseas parties. If we disclose your personal information to overseas recipients, we will do so in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth).

Links in a circle interupted by one faulty link

Circular links don’t really help people follow the information flow

Under new laws, you must specify if any data will be stored outside of Australia so this section is necessary. But I don’t find it particularly helpful to be told to read their policy to find out if my data goes overseas – especially as I am already reading their policy…

make references useful

  1. never refer back to the same document (a different section of the document is fine, of course) as it is circular and meaningless
  2. give enough information to make the reference easy to follow up on. For example, ‘refer to the product section of our website’ or ‘see page 6 of the member handbook’ give clarity
  3. if online, add a hyperlink to the appropriate page, not just the home page.
  4. give some idea of what can be found at the reference so people can judge if it is relevant to them. It doesn’t have to be a long list, but some guidance helps – ‘details on widget sizes’ or ‘widget care instructions’ or even ‘background research about widgets’ is more useful than ‘for more information’.

 

 

Getting procedures used

Procedure for using a stapleless stapler

Short, practical procedures work

If you have gone to the effort of creating some procedures, you want to have your team make use of them.

Let’s face it, many of us have tried putting together an Ikea unit before reading the instructions – often to use them later. But we don’t want that happening to the procedures we spend time on writing to benefit our businesses.

Here are four tips for encouraging use of your procedures:

  1. when presenting them (for instance, if emailing it out to your team), sell the benefits.
    Would you respond better to ‘procedure you must use’ or ‘record sales data quickly’?
  2. lay out each procedure clearly and neatly
    if it looks easy to read and follow, people are much more likely to use procedures  so use the basics of good procedures such as lists rather than paragraphs, decent size fonts and short instructions (‘hit submit’ not ‘use your mouse to click on the submit button’)
  3. make the procedures easy to find
    if you have a shared computer area (intranet or a shared folder somewhere) or a physical shelf or cupboard, put the procedures there so everyone can always access to most recent version. For specific equipment, keep the procedures nearby – I don’t want to have to visit the main office to use the machinery in the workshop. Then make sure procedures are named clearly so it’s easy to find the relevant procedure when it is needed.
  4. keep procedures up to date
    imagine following a procedure that has an old password or refers to an old version of software (especially a major change so steps have changed) – it’s very frustrating. Let people get frustrated with your procedures and they’re less likely to refer to it again. Most updates are quick but if it is a big change and will take time, note that on the existing procedure so at least people know to expect changes and that a new version is coming.

What makes you use any procedures you find helpful?

Growing your blog readership

Starting a blog may have sounded like a great idea (and it often is!) but is maintaining it harder than you expected? What do you find particularly hard about it?

I think a key to having a useful business blog (personal blogs have different measures of success so it may be very different) is frequent posts. From personal experience, I know the number of people viewing my blog are higher when I post every few days than when I miss a week or so – even when the popular posts at any given time are not the most recent ones.

So here are a few tips from me on building a good business blog that people will keep reading:

  • post regularly – if it suits your style, choose particular days to post so it becomes habit which also helps your readers know when to look at your blog
  • remember that posts don’t all have to be long – the occasional short one can be effective for variety and to maintain the frequency
  • link to other information from your blog – previous posts of your own, your own website, blog posts by other people, relevant websites. This gives people further information, shows your commitment to sharing information (rather than just chasing a sale) and also has search engine advantages. Note this doesn’t mean having a big blog roll
  • encourage a community within your blog – ask questions, answer comments and share other input (for example comments from people you met in real life)
  • how much do you promote your blog? Just having a blog and writing in it won’t get you hundreds of readers – you need to let people know it exists which you can do in many ways, including joining blog carnivals, commenting in related blogs, using keywords effectively, getting listed in directories, adding your blog URL to signatures and business materials, and being a guest blogger.

If time is a big hurdle in your blog development, consider delegating some of the tasks so it builds momentum without relying on you as much.

If finding things to blog about is causing you worry, set aside an hour or so and brainstorm potential topics. That list can then be used any time you need inspiration.

If you have been blogging for a little while and are worrying about its popularity, think about these points:

  • a niche or tips blog will have fewer readers than a blog associated with a major newspaper or movie star so don’t judge your success against blogs that are totally different to yous
  • depending on your topic and style, people may read your blog but not comment – either your audience is not the type of people who want to comment or perhaps your topic just doesn’t inspire comments (for example, a controversial news story will generate discussion but if you are giving 5 tips on how to care for your lawn, not as many people will have anything to add)
  • in a business sense, a successful blog could have a number of purposes – building credibility, developing trust, sharing expertise, bringing in more website traffic – so look at more than the number of comments as a marker. Other factors such as number of new leads, visits to your main website and number of time-wasting emails may show you the effectiveness of your blog

Back to my original question though – what do you find hard about maintaining your blog? Let us know and you may just get some solutions to rocket your blog success!

Writing useful tips

Yesterday, I wrote about the value of giving clients some tipsto develop a relationship with them as a form of marketing. Of course, the tips need to be useful for your clients and presented well to be an effective marketing tool for you.

Try the following tips to make your tips effective:

  • keep each tip simple and preferably short
  • only give each tip once– repetition is pointless and boring
  • make sure the tip is clear – give an example if you think it will help
  • brand the page – add your logo and URL as a minimum, but consider coloured paper or a professionally designed template
  • make the tips genuine – giving general statements everyone knows is pointless and won’t show your customers your generosity or your knowledge/skills base
  • avoid jargon so it’s easy to understand
  • check for correct spelling and grammar– although full sentences aren’t necessary in a bulleted list of points
  • be consistent in your presentation and writing

Taking some effort to get your tips good is worthwhile as you can use the list over and over. It can be given to clients as a printed page or emailed as a pdf.

Do you already have a tips sheet? Have you checked it recently for the above points and to make sure it is still current and accurate?