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Speaking gigs: Pine Belt Entrepreneurs, February 2016

February 7, 2016

Photo: John Perry (CC)

I hope audiences learn something when I come to speak in their towns. Often, I learn something, too.

For instance, Hattiesburg is located in the Pine Belt, a region of eastern Mississippi. Don’t ask me to name the counties or define the boundaries.

I’m getting ready for the second of six trips to Mississippi before summer, and the first of two trips to Hattiesburg.

I’ll be at the February meeting of the Pine Belt Entrepreneurs to talk about “The power of digital storytelling.”

The official description:

Marketing has evolved rapidly with the rise of digital outlets. But what can cut through the din of commercials and crass come-ons? Stories. We are natural storytellers, but we must strive to improve our skills for our online audiences.

Wade Kwon, conference director for Y’all Connect Presented by Alabama Power, will guide you through the options and strategies behind compelling storytelling. His work as a writer, journalist and storyteller has helped companies reach audiences quickly and effectively. Learn the three questions that will transform your brand’s story into a saga worth sharing.

The free event takes place at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 18 at Regions Bank in Hattiesburg on 40th Avenue. RSVP online.

Can’t wait to check out Hattiesburg and meet these entrepreneurs. See you there!

• • •

Book me for your event, conference or workshop today …

Contact me

The state of the blogosphere: Constant flux

January 31, 2016

Jessica Jones

Krysten Ritter stars at the title character in the 2015 Netflix series, “Jessica Jones.”
Netflix original programming began 3 years ago today with “House of Cards.” 

Blogs evolve.

What they mean to publishers, to communities, to advertisers varies over time.

While reading an interview with Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos, I understood better how viewing habits have changed radically in the last 10 years. This from a company that evolved from DVD delivery to streaming service to entertainment producer.

Netflix has evolved to meet viewers’ changing needs, and viewers have evolved to binge, stream and share in ways that didn’t exist before 2011.

Blogging has been around for as long as Netflix, and so much has changed in those 20 years. The platforms, the promotion through social media, the commenting, the credibility, mobile. It would help if one of the big platforms (Blogger, WordPress) shared detailed reader data, as Sarandos did to a degree in his interview.

“Should I blog?” is a common question. The answer will never be as simple as yes or no. It depends on the goal, the audience, the brand and even the stage of evolution we’re in now.

Read the interview for an eye-opening look at how people around the world watch TV shows and movies in 2016. And imagine how different our viewing and reading experiences will be in the next 5 years.

• • •

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Video: The Art of the Brand [AAF Mississippi Gulf Coast]

January 25, 2016

Video: The Art of the Brand: What Your Blog Needs and Deserves

Driving into Biloxi Tuesday felt positively balmy. It may be because it was only 20 degrees when I left Birmingham that morning and a sunny 55 when I arrived by lunchtime.

No time for frolicking on the beach, though.

I came to talk with the AAF Mississippi Gulf Coast about “The Art of the Brand: What Your Blog Needs and Deserves.” This 39-minute video has the shortened version of my popular presentation on elevating your brand through blogging.

If you have a question, let me know in the comments.

My thanks to the folks in Biloxi for having me at their first meeting of the year.

Contact me if you want the slides and worksheet that accompany this presentation.

More videos? Visit my YouTube channel.

Speaking gigs: AAF Mississippi Gulf Coast, January 2016

January 17, 2016

AAF Mississippi Gulf Coast

My first speaking gig of the year will be on the Gulf Coast. I’ve spent a lot of time in the area, especially in the months and years after Hurricane Katrina, serving as a volunteer.

I’ll be at the January meeting of the American Advertising Federation Mississippi Gulf Coast to talk about “The Art of the Brand: What Your Blog Needs and Deserves.”

The official description:

Your blog stands for something. It represents your values and your personality, even if unintentionally. Branding might be more buzz word than tactic, but you must make it meaningful.

Join Y’all Connect conference director Wade Kwon as he explains how he turned a campaign launch with a so-so logo into a juggernaut. And how his online dating profile made him invisible. And how his adventures in branding helped his clients create and maintain standout brands.

The event takes place at 11:45 a.m. Tuesday at Bonefish Grill in Biloxi. Tickets, $20 to $25, are available online.

I’m looking forward to my trip to Mississippi. Hope to see you there!

• • •

Book me for your event, conference or workshop today …

Contact me

Blogging fear: Deadlines

January 10, 2016

the ultimate inspiration is the deadline

I asked for your biggest fears in blogging, and y’all came through.

This week’s fear: “My fear or challenge is meeting my own self-imposed deadlines.”

— Nate Crowell

The paperweight on my desk reminds me how to write. It reads: “The ultimate inspiration is the deadline.”

It has never failed me.

But I am a creature of a different era, one who lived according to daily newspaper deadlines. You brainstorm, you interview, you ruminate, you procrastinate, you write, you panic, you rewrite, you edit, you cut, you proofread, you make deadline.

And then, you do it all over again. Repeat till dead (more appropriately, repeat till newspaper is dead).

Perhaps you are the super-organized type, a blogger who plans far ahead and arrives everywhere early.

We secretly hate you.

If you have self-imposed deadlines, you have recognized the importance of publishing on a routine basis on your site. But you may have difficulty following such a regimen for any number of reasons.

1. Poor time management. Some activities, vital and otherwise, interfere with your time for blogging. A blogger can compensate for this with another tradeoff, such as giving up time for sleep to finish a post.

We make time for what is important. Ultimately, blogging must be a priority to take up part of your schedule.

2. No risk/no reward. Many corporate bloggers miss deadlines because no one cares. Not them, not their colleagues or boss or customers. Whether they miss one post or a dozen, no one will be reprimanded or fired for skipping on the company blog.

Conversely, a salesperson may receive a hefty bonus for closing a big deal. Publishing a post that earns praise, awards or even leads may receive nothing but silence.

Either blogging is an integral part of a business’ goals, or it’s not. If a blogger stops blogging with no effect on sales, customer service, marketing or branding, why bother?

3. Poor resource management. A conscientious blogger can be derailed by many issues. At a newspaper, it wouldn’t matter if I turned in my story on time if the photographer lost the memory card with the images, or the computer system shut down, or a breaking story needed more space in tomorrow’s edition.

A corporate blog may need careful attention to available resources: people for art, editing, promotion and programming; money for research, licensing, freelancers and equipment; and time (see No. 1).

Dig deeper into how your blog posts come together — it ain’t by magic. If deadlines are set but not met, define the roadblocks and develop ways to go around or through them.

Tell me about your biggest fear in blogging,
and I might answer it in a future post.

More in our Blogging Fears series.

No need for repetition in writing

January 3, 2016

Photo: Julie Jordan Scott (CC)

Experienced writers find themselves blessed with a hefty vocabulary to deploy as needed. The mot juste can make or break a sentence.

I find that in crafting long articles and blog posts, I run out of words. Specifically, I repeat words unnecessarily.

During editing, I hunt down those offending scamps and replace them with synonyms. Judiciously, of course.

Careful editing and attention to word usage can improve writing significantly.

The best way to determine if a story is clanging with the echoes of repeated words is to use the free online tool TagCrowd. It can show the frequency of word usage for any article or Web page within seconds with a tag cloud.

I ran TagCrowd on one of my longer recent posts on email marketing.

tagcrowd tag cloud

Tag cloud generated by TagCrowd
(click image for full-size version)

Not surprisingly, the words “email” and “marketing” are the among the most used in the 729-word post. Other frequent fliers are “click,” “open,” “rates” and “newsletter,” since I refer to click rates and open rates. Overall, I’m happy with usage and frequency.

Had I written a 5,000-word feature story about pens, I’d expect to see “pen” pop up dozens of times. Would I replace them with synonyms fountain pen, marker, stick, nib, quill, reed, ball point and felt-tip? No way.

We edit to improve clarity and to punch up the writing. In editing the book “The Future of Birmingham,” I looked out for my essay writers by removing repetitive words within essays and repetitive words, phrases and ideas across essays.

For example, occasionally a writer would use the nickname “the Magic City” to refer to Birmingham. He might do it once, but across multiple authors and essays, it adds up. The easiest and most readable solution was to drop all the Magic City references and use either “the city” or “it” or “Birmingham.”

Using a well-rounded vocabulary adds shading and interest to writing. It shows an author’s focus on an audience. And it prevents the lull of unneeded hypnotic repetition.

Through careful editing and a quick review of word frequencies, a writer can craft a blog post or an article with maximum impact.

• • •

Don’t struggle with your blog posts in 2016:
Contact me today for a free consultation …

Contact me

The 2015 index to posts

December 27, 2015
Alabama Theatre

Photo: Bahman Farzad (CC)

The year is almost over. So what did we learn in 2015? Take a look at all 56 of my posts, organized by category.


Social Media

Digital Marketing

Leadership and Management

Last but not Least


• • •

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Video: The Super Easy Guide to Video for Content Marketing

December 21, 2015

Video: The Super Easy Guide to Video for Content Marketing

Last week, I shared my dismay at partial video.

In digging through my memory cards for video from my April talk, I found no video. Nada. Zip.


I did record audio at Craft Content Nashville, so I put it with my slides and added a few demo videos to re-create my presentation. (I would’ve had to make the demo videos anyway since my camera was pointed at me and not the screen.)

Too bad about the video: You don’t get to see the part where the speaker from the previous session returns to get his laptop and gear while I’m in the middle of an onscreen demonstration. Oy.

Please watch “The Super Easy Guide to Video for Content Marketing” to learn more about the simple ways to add video to your blog posts and techniques to promote that content.

And if you have a question, let me know in the comments.

Slides and worksheet from “The Super Easy Guide to Video for Content Marketing.”

More videos? Visit my YouTube channel.

Video: Content Curation for Smarties

December 15, 2015

Video: Content Curation for Smarties

It’s annoying having partial video.

I’ve done it to myself too many times: The camera and microphone are both ready, but I lose part of the presentation anyway. The battery died, or the memory card filled up, or some other stupid oversight.

And sometimes, I receive partial video from event organizers.

Such is the tale of the talk, “Content Curation for Smarties: Know Everything All the Time,” delivered in fall 2014 at SouthWired. I had most of it, but not all of it.

But I finally got around to recording audio to round out the last few missing minutes and slides.

My 49-minute presentation shows why content curation matters and how it can help you build an audience and your own expertise.

Watch it, and let me know if you have any questions by leaving a comment below.

Slides and worksheet from “Content Curation for Smarties.”

More videos? Visit my YouTube channel.

What I’ve learned from 10 years of blogging

December 7, 2015

Photo: Joel Kramer (CC)

I hit a great milestone in October: 10 years of blogging. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to meet and help people, to explore ideas and to use my creativity.

Before I get too far into the next 10 years, allow me to share a few quick lessons I picked up after thousands of posts …

I love leaving comments on other blogs. Commenting on blogs has become passé, sadly, but I still like to think of submitting my comment along the lines of a handwritten thank you note (almost).

(Which is why I die a little when the comment never makes it out of moderation.)

Are you commenting on your favorite posts? (And not via social channels …)

• If I had to do it over again, I’d have started with a mailing list form. I discussed how in my three-part series on email newsletters.

Are you keeping in touch with your readers?

• It’s never too late to do something new. In 2014, I resumed posting daily (in addition to haiku) on my original blog, Wade on Birmingham. Just to see if I could do it. Just to explore. Just for fun.

I could do it. I learned a lot. And it was great fun. You’d think after 9 years I wouldn’t have anything new to try, but different formats, different ideas, different promos kept me moving forward.

Are you trying new things out on your blog?

• You can always surprise yourself. In writing a string of posts on my city, I wrote a long tirade about a university and the damned thing went viral.

My site crashed for a couple of hours from all the traffic, first time ever.

I was a bit nervous before I hit Publish, but I knew it was a solid essay and one that reflected my views and values.

Are you playing it safe or putting out posts that distinguish you and your brand from all others?

• No one cares what you write.

My pal Keith Lee, in a funny series of tweets, pointed out the absurdity of human vanity (a condition that I, too, suffer from often). We all think that people will point and laugh when we let it all hang out, whether in the locker room or on our sites.

Sometimes, they do. (Just read the comments on one of my videos here.) It hasn’t killed me yet. Most of the time, no one reads or cares.

Write what you want, and learn to deal with criticism, abuse and raging indifference.

Have you taken a risk on your blog lately?

• Comparison is the thief of joy. Don’t worry about other blogs or bloggers. I’m proud to know other bloggers who are better writers, faster, funnier, who have bigger audiences, more talent, more revenue and are more helpful and nicer. That’s how it goes.

I can waste time worrying what they’re up to, or I can focus on the handful of goals I have to make clients happy and earn more cash. But I really can’t do both.

Are you struggling because you feel your blog doesn’t measure up to others?

• I’ve been telling myself for 8 years I’m going to update the theme and the look on several of my blogs. This will probably never happen. Sigh.

I can’t wait to learn even more from the next 10 years.

• • •

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LinkedIn for smarties, a five-step program

November 30, 2015

LinkedIn - Someecard

I took a few months off from LinkedIn (in Wade time, that’s nearly an eternity!).

The invites piled up. The messages went unanswered (for a while). I had consciously bumped LinkedIn down the priority list.

The other day, I started responding to all 100 invites. Soon, I’ll resume checking in with my network. And lately I’ve been asking friends to help me connect with leaders at companies I want to reach.

But why spend any effort on LinkedIn? What’s in it for you?

1. A better job. You might be restless, or plain sick and tired of where you are. Having an updated profile and connecting with hiring managers will get you to a new job more quickly.

2. More money. Job offers from competitors can help you turn your good job into a great job with more perks, flexible hours, better title and yes, more money.

3. Stronger network. Connections matter. Keep up with who you’re already connected, and reach out to people you know, including colleagues, former colleagues, club members and fellow volunteers.

4. More sales. Do people understand what you do and what your company does? This is the place to show off your knowledge of what problems your customers face and how you solve them every day.

5. Year-round recruiting. Talent is in limited supply. Make sure you find who are the true superstars and take steps to bring them on board.

LinkedIn - Picard

Those are compelling reasons to invest a few minutes daily on LinkedIn. It won’t cost you a dime (heck, you can even get a Pro account for free).

So while you wind down the year, get in the LinkedIn habit with these suggestions:

LinkedIn - Wonka

1. Update your profile. Look back at 2015. Add your accomplishments. Your new titles. Your new volunteer activities. Your new skills. Your awards. Your current headshot. And please update your contact info.

Pro tip: Spell out your accomplishments in terms of results (increase in sales, decrease in costs or time spent, etc.).

2. Delete your evil twin profiles. You left your old job in 2012. When you got to your new company, you forgot to update your LinkedIn contact info with your new email address. Oops. So you create a new LinkedIn profile from scratch.

Now you have two profiles, one badly out of date and one sorta out of date. Double oops.

Delete the rogue profile by contacting LinkedIn using this form. (And let us never speak of it again.)

3. Congratulate others. LinkedIn will let you know when one of your connections takes a new job or a promotion. Find those notifications either in the upper right corner of the main page or by email. Take a moment (a few seconds really) to Like or comment with Congratulations to your friend.

(Too many email notifications? Adjust your settings under the Communications tab.)

4. Share regular updates. Become a trusted resource within your community by sharing questions, articles, updates, photos, charts, tips and ideas. You might already be sharing these on other social networks, or on your blog or newsletter. Even if you’re logging in daily (which I hope you are), you can use a free service (Hootsuite or Buffer [referral link]) to schedule them in advance.

Help others by giving out good information for free. I share multiple updates every single day.

5. Promote your profile. Just put a link to your LinkedIn public profile on your business cards. Or email signature. Or other social media profiles. Or on your company blog or staff listing. The URL can be found along the lower edge of the top profile module.

LinkedIn - profile URL

Pro tip: See my profile for more ideas.

Spend your December getting into the LinkedIn habit. I promise that the time you invest will pay off in 2016. (And if you have any questions, drop a comment below.)

Want your LinkedIn profile to be the very best?

Try my 1-hour video course for just $19!

LinkedIn - sexy beast

Four business books to boost your 2016

November 23, 2015

book covers

Quickie reviews of four books I read (or re-read) recently …

“SPIN Selling,” by Neil Rackham. I’m always reading up on sales, an area where I look to improve all the time. I can’t recall how “SPIN Selling” landed on my reading list recently, but what caught my eye was the amount of research put into validating these methods. The author carefully dismantles the tried-and-true techniques of selling and offers an alternate approach of quickly solving problems for potential clients. Aff. links: Amazon | iTunes

“The Ernst and Young Business Plan Guide,” by Brian R. Ford, Jay M. Bornstein and Patrick T. Pruitt. How many times have I counseled people to write a business plan? I’ve offered them resources and classes in town, as well as several books including this one. I had been meaning to read it for years, but finally took it on this month. The authors are thorough in mapping out what entrepreneurs and veterans will need in writing an impressive and effective business plan. I didn’t need all the details on manufacturing and capitalization, but the rest has come in handy. Aff. links: Amazon | iTunes

“The 4-Hour Workweek,” by Timothy Ferriss. This book receives a regular shout out from me. I re-read it again recently, and plan on reading it once a year. It’s that good. Learn how to cut out the least productive habits and build a business requiring little maintenance. A couple of weeks ago, I bought a copy for a friend who was looking for focus in her life and her work. This was a necessary first step. Aff. links: Amazon | iTunes

“The Flinch,” by Julien Smith. More of a Kindle single than a full book, the author pens a long essay on taking chances. It’s a quick read, as more than half of the “book” is comprised of teaser excerpts from other books. Aff. link: Amazon

Need more reading suggestions?
“Business books for your reading list”

Adding hours of reading time with one audio app

November 16, 2015

Voice Dream Reader

Screenshots of Voice Dream Reader: left, reading screen;
right, list of books and articles.

I made a 10-hour road trip earlier this month super productive. No, I didn’t watch 10 webinars or hold a really long conference call. I finally knocked out two business books, one of which I’d been wanting to read for a couple of years.

Usually, I’d search the library ahead of time to find audiobooks, either digital downloads or CDs. But I’d need to spend at least half an hour prepping the audio files so my iPhone could play them at double-speed. It’s almost always worth it, since a 10-hour audiobook takes only 5 hours. (Sadly, CD players don’t have playback speed control.)

But I found an app to help my audiobook addiction, Voice Dream Reader [aff. link].

When I outlined how to triple your reading, I showed how the free service Instapaper allows me to save all the articles I want to read in one place. A bonus feature is that the Instapaper app will read any article aloud, letting me listen to them at regular or double speed in the car or on walks.

Sadly, the only hurdle in Instapaper has been other file types, such as PDFs and ebooks.

Adding Voice Dream Reader made it possible to listen to audiobooks simply by importing the PDF or epub files. This is especially helpful when the audio version doesn’t exist, because the book is out of print or never offered an audiobook.

Yes, instantly turn any ebook into an audiobook!

It is easy to import files of all types, including Instapaper articles. Voice Dream Reader has a few advantages over Instapaper. First, it automatically plays the next article in the queue; with Instapaper, I always had to bring up the list of articles to play the next one, which isn’t much fun while driving.

Second, it maintains most recent position within an article; Instapaper would sometimes forget where I had left off, meaning a few minutes of scrolling to find my place, which again isn’t much fun while driving.

Third, not only does it have optional male and female voices but also a customizable pronunciation dictionary. I’ve been able to tweak words, proper names and acronyms for a better listening experience.

Like most e-readers and apps, Voice Dream Reader does not read DRM-protected files, but does include the following note on its features page:

Books in Kindle, iBooks, Nook and most online bookstores are protected by DRM and cannot be loaded into Voice Dream Reader. It’s possible to remove DRM, but it violates your contract with the online bookstores.

For me, having an app that reads aloud anything and everything has been a huge help. I’m looking forward to taking deep dives into my extensive reading list every time I hit the road.

Voice Dream Reader is available for $9.99 on iOS [aff. link] and Android.

• • •

If you need help with communication,
contact me today for a free consultation …

Contact me

Apple News? Online and offline habits in 2015

November 9, 2015
iPad Flipboard

Photo: Johan Larsson (CC)

With the latest iOS software, Apple foisted yet another undeletable app on us, Apple News.

Naturally, I set up my blogs to be available in the new service, which costs nothing to publish or to use. Open these links from your iOS device:

But am I actually using Apple News? Not really. It’s no better or worse than Flipboard, Zite or the RSS readers I used to replace Google Reader. I’m simply not using them as much as opening Facebook or Twitter.

And plenty of people are content with no news. Studies have shown that each new generation has about the same ratio of news consumers to news ignorers. Technology has disrupted many an industry, but news consumption habits remain remarkably steady.

News I care about: local and state, technology, communication, entertainment, social justice, food, friends and peers. News I don’t care about: sports (though I still keep an eye on college football), business, international, national, politics, crime and on and on. However, I still try to read a variety of topics and perspectives to understand the world more deeply.

I still visit news sites (almost all local to Birmingham) regularly, as well as skim news from my carefully cultivated groups on Facebook and Twitter. As both a recovering journalist and a recovering news junkie, this is sufficient for my needs.

I don’t typically see TV news (though I do see their social media updates) or hear radio news. I don’t pick up printed newspapers or magazines (again, I see much of their work on their sites or on their social media channels).

I’ll skim headlines in daily or weekly email updates. I probably get one or two notifications on my phone (usually app alerts instead of texts) on breaking news.

I know plenty of people who default to Facebook or Twitter for their news. It might be shares from forgotten classmates or rumors from their own drunk uncles or funny cat videos, but it’s news.

While Apple may want to try and squeeze some ad revenue out of its latest attempt at a news app, it doesn’t look promising. Especially when everyone can be fickle about their news consumption, while also playing reporter, videographer, gossip columnist, thought leader and critic.

Where are you getting your news these days? Sound off in the comments.

Email marketing (3 of 3): Big numbers, big rewards

November 2, 2015

Part 3: For advanced marketers


Photo: Jeffrey (CC)

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Create 25 newsletters. Send them punctually.

For monthly publishers, it’ll take 2 years. For weekly publishers, about 6 months. And daily publishers will knock it out in a month.

That gives us a starting point in understanding metrics and building momentum. Let’s move on to advanced tactics.

The goal was never to have a million subscribers. It’s much better to have a thousand engaged followers rather than a million strangers who wouldn’t notice if the newsletters stopped coming. A thousand subscribers have brought me tens of thousands of dollars in revenue over the years.

To get to that thousand subscribers requires strong consistency, both in newsletters and in website content. Newsletters maintain an open line of communication, an opportunity to speak with each person one on one. Blog content builds search traffic and site equity, giving marketers a bounty of material to share on many channels.

Consistency helps a site and a brand stand out, even in a crowded competitive industry. Being helpful to readers, being timely with information, being easy to use and quick to respond makes for a compelling resource. Of course people will want to subscribe to a newsletter from a trusted source. It doesn’t hurt to be witty or personable or anything but bland.

Anyone struggling with consistency may need the help of an editorial calendar (download our template) or professional freelance writers or editors (contact me for recommendations). Pros handle everything from email newsletters to annual reports to catalog copy and blog posts.

Building a following quickly requires savvy choices in outreach. Asking people to subscribe is the most basic way, but so much competition, we need better incentives and pickup lines to woo would-be customers.

Try the following:

  1. Bribe people. Offer a free book/ebook or 30 percent off the first order. Show readers ways to save time or money. Have a drawing for a $50 Amazon gift certificate or Apple Watch. Do it right, as I have done, and hundreds of people will jump on a new list.
  2. Use popups. Marketers worry about annoying visitors. Personally, I hate sites that ask me on every single visit. That’s why I use the WordPress plugin OptinMonster, made by my friend Syed Balkhi. I set it to pop up once every hundred visits. Other settings allow for popups based on user behavior, such as when she’s about to close the browser page. Try it!
  3. Set up autoresponders. Many mailing list services (including our Y’all Connect sponsor MailChimp) offer this feature. Having several emails that welcome new subscribers allows marketers to fulfill incentives (such as a link to a free ebook), give a tour of a blog, provide resources that hook newbies and offer fans a chance to share the newsletter with others.
  4. Be exclusive. One special factor about my mailing lists is that they are exclusive. Subscribers receive the royal treatment: first look at posts, first chance at tickets and the best opportunity at prizes and discounts. Some marketers share their email newsletters with everyone, but I’m not a fan of that approach. (I do love when my subscribers forward my emails to others and share them on social media, but that’s because it’s fan-based publicity.)

Once a larger list is in place, marketers have more options available to test and grow.

One option is to divide and conquer. Segmenting allows marketers to drill down on mailing lists: customers vs. fans, or by age, geography or offer (subscribers via an offer, a purchase, a contest or a social media channel). Have newsletters and updates reach the right audience each time. I even use a dynamic segment every week, resending newsletters to people who didn’t open it within 48 hours … boosting my open rate to 33.6 percent.

Another option is A/B testing. The ability to test more than one subject line, offer, headline, photo or layout can make a huge difference in opens and clicks. Some services automate the process, ensuring that most subscribers receive the more popular version after early testing.

Focus on the basics before attempting these advanced tactics. (Or contact me to get started today.) A mailing list built properly will bring great rewards to companies and to readers, but it requires smart deployment and consistently good content from the start.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

• • •

Join our exclusive free mailing list right now …


Email marketing (2 of 3): Expand your reach

October 26, 2015

Part 2: For intermediate marketers


Photo: Dafne Cholet (CC)

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Email marketers ask people to subscribe to their lists and then contact them regularly (at least once a month). Beginners who haven’t done either of these tasks should visit Part 1.

At the intermediate level, we want to build a sustainable engine. Like blogs, I’ve seen too many email newsletters sputter and die within months. Don’t let that happen to your company’s precious marketing outreach.

I want you to work on these two tactics at the intermediate level: measuring open and click rates and creating an editorial calendar.

Regular readers know how much I care about tracking numbers. It’s important for you to know how effective your emails are, and tracking metrics should always be a part of your digital marketing.

Fortunately, most email providers have such metrics baked in. For example, I use MailChimp, a sponsor of my Y’all Connect annual conference, to send thousands of emails each month. I know that my emails usually have a 20 percent open rate, meaning that 20 percent of subscribers will open it at least once.

The industry average is 19 percent, so my goal is to beat that every time. Now you know exactly how many people bother to open your lovingly crafted email, and who they are.

(See why it’s not worth it to add subscribers without their consent? All you’ll get is a lousy open rate and possible fines.)

Your email might be simple and straightforward, with an image, some text and a button or link to click (you are providing a call to action, right?). Or your email might have multiple stories and links. Email metrics help you understand what subscribers click.

Understanding their behavior helps you provide better content, craft better pitches and sell more widgets. The higher your click rate, the more likely people are following your directives, whether to click to your site or elsewhere.

My click rate hovers between 1 and 2 percent, which leaves a lot of room for improvement with an industry average of 2.15 percent.

MailChimp has a great up-to-date table of benchmarks for open rates and click rates.

The click map is another tool to study user behavior.

click map

Click on the click map to see larger version.

You can improve open rates by experimenting with:

  • subject lines;
  • delivery time and day;
  • consistency in timing and frequency;
  • great content inside.

You can improve click rates by experimenting with:

  • wording of calls to action;
  • newsletter layout;
  • buttons (like the one at the end of this post);
  • teasers vs. full stories;
  • understanding what your audience craves.

I also track other email-related statistics. For example, how many people reading my latest post came via my email newsletter? How many sales and queries did I generate through this week’s newsletter?

Working with your email newsletter falls under my three-step plan for all aspects of digital marketing: 1. Experiment. 2. Measure. 3. Adjust. A spreadsheet, by the way, is an excellent way to record all of this data you’re tracking.

Long-term planning requires an editorial calendar. This tool helped me plan content at every media outlet I managed and will help you organize topics, writers and deadlines.

Brainstorm topics for future email newsletters, then organize them chronologically in a spreadsheet. Set aside a few hours to write your newsletters for the month or the quarter; batching can be a huge time-saver. Coordinate with colleagues who have roles in publishing the newsletter (writer, editor, photographer, designer, boss).

And coordinate your emails with your other marketing efforts: ads in traditional media, events, blog posts, social media campaigns, webinars and anything else.

A great editorial calendar keeps everyone in sync and allows for changes as marketing plans and audiences evolve. The hours invested in putting it together saves time and money down the road.

Download my free template to start building your own editorial calendar for email newsletters:

By working on metrics and an editorial calendar in advance, your email newsletter will grow in readership and engagement over the coming year. This is where you start to leave your competitors behind.

Parts 3 coming next week, with advanced tactics.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

• • •

Keep up with our award-winning newsletter
by subscribing today …


Email marketing (1 of 3): Start spreading the news

October 19, 2015

Part 1: For beginners

Photo: Toms Baugis (CC)

Photo: Toms Baugis (CC)

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Email marketing is one of the best ways to build and maintain a great customer base. But for one reason or another, companies are reluctant to use this effective tool as part of a marketing strategy.

They are pulled to the bells and whistles of social media, or let their personal annoyances at email newsletters dissuade them.


Two millennial entrepreneurs built the Skimm, a daily email newsletter with bullet point news, and amassed 1.5 million subscribers in 3 years. Your brand should be sharing as much interesting news as possible on a regular schedule.

They didn’t reinvent the mass email — but they did infuse their product with style and a distinct voice.

I want you to accomplish two tasks at the beginner level: collecting email addresses and sending the first email.

Collecting email addresses is super easy. Sign up with a mailing list provider. I recommend MailChimp, which is quick to set up and sponsors my annual Y’all Connect conference.

Have your Web developer take the code snippet from MailChimp to install on your website. This will create a form so visitors can subscribe. Don’t worry about getting their name and address and blood type: The more blanks they have to fill out, the less likely they are to click Subscribe.

(We’ll talk about incentives and bribes and pop-up forms in Part 3.)

Use a simple call to action: “Subscribe to our free weekly newsletter for the latest …”

Do not dump your customer database into your email newsletter subscriber list. Absolutely do not do this. You want to play by the rules, specifically the CAN-SPAM Act, which means allowing every single person to opt in to your list. Can you imagine just how many spam emails you’d receive if every company you’d ever spent a dollar with decided to add you to all their mailing lists?!

Put a link to subscribe in your email signature. On your business cards. On your brochures. In Facebook ads. On your product packaging.

At events, have a signup sheet for people to fill out, or have a fishbowl to collect business cards with clear signage on the intent.

Some companies have been collecting email addresses for years without sending a single email. Talk about wasted effort.

It took me months to send the first email, and it went to 39 people. I had to start somewhere.

Now, my emails go to nearly 40 times as many subscribers. I’ve sent out more than 400 weekly newsletters, with another 100 coming in the next 12 months.

I had to start somewhere. You have to start somewhere.

(If it’s been awhile since you sent an email, get on that right now.)

Once you get a few subscribers, start writing that first email.

Make it personal. Make it intimate. Write it to me and only me.

(I’m still working on this myself.)

This is your opportunity to talk to your customers and fans like real live human beings. Many companies worry about “spamming” their customers. The ones who feel spammed will stop reading and eventually unsubscribe. That is a very good outcome. (On occasion, I’ll invite subscribers to unsubscribe.)

I want to reach people that want to hear from me and learn more about communications. If that’s not their thing, no worries.

The best emails (and voicemails, texts, calls, letters, DMs, etc.) come from people and brands about which we are most passionate. You already know which of your hundreds of daily emails you open right away, regardless of subject line, and which ones you might skim or ignore. Make your weekly or monthly email as compelling as your favorites.

Many of your subscribers will be reading your emails from their phone screens. Make sure the mobile experience is a good one.

Send yourself a test copy. Check the links, check the spelling, check the subject line, check the date. (Trust me, I’ve screwed up all of those things and more.)

All that’s left is to send it to your list. And repeat the process the next day/week/month.

You are now on your way to building a great mailing list and expanding your marketing to one of your best customer groups.

Parts 2 and 3 coming soon, with more action steps at the intermediate and advanced levels.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

• • •

I hope you’ll look at my newsletter info in action
in my free weekly email …


Marketers, what’s fun about what you do?

October 12, 2015

Working solo is interesting. You don’t have to put up with your coworkers’ weird tics, but you also don’t have anyone to chat with over coffee and shared misery.

I make my own fun, though like many things, I often forget to do so.

Marketers, what’s fun about what you do? What brings you smiles and giggles in your daily work? Let me know in the comments.

I’ll get us started with a few things I find fun in my different duties.

• Surprising others. It might be a nice note or a small token of gratitude. Or simply a fun reveal to an audience. I just like making people happy when possible.

surprised babies

Photo: photogramma1 (CC)

• Staying up late writing a cool blog post. I do write a lot of posts, but it’s rare that I get so into it that I’m in the zone. It has to be the right combination of topic and energy.

late night computer

Photo: Asher Isbrucker (CC)

• Teaching others to blog. As an editor and a coach for much of my career, I love being able to guide bloggers and writers in improving our craft.

teaching violin

Photo: Nathan Russell (CC)

• Gossip. Heck, I ain’t perfect. But if I’m with a trusted someone, I will gossip like crazy.


Photo: Art G. (CC)

• Negotiating. I like numbers, and I like haggling. I’m terrible at poker, but I’m pretty good at working with others on securing a fair deal.


Photo: Spot Us (CC)

Don’t forget to share your answers in the comments.


Video: Blogging for collegians 2015

October 5, 2015

Video: Blogging for collegians 2015

A couple of weeks ago, I gave a short talk on “Blogging for collegians 2015” to a social media marketing class. Plus, I threw in a round of Family Feud, complete with prizes.

The goal was to arm students with what might help them the most when pursuing a marketing career after graduation. Rather than push blogging as the only right path, I showed how it’s one possible path. Even if it turns out to be the wrong path, the skills and benefits from blogging in college can work in many other areas.

While I gave the talk to college students, it’s also appropriate for anyone looking to start a blog. What will you gain? What will your readers get out of it? Is it the really the right way to advance your marketing?

Take a look at this 31-minute presentation, and share your questions and feedback in the comments.

More videos? Visit my YouTube channel.

400 posts and counting

September 27, 2015

Wade Kwon

The clumsily named Birmingham Blogging Academy blog has reached its 400th post! What a day, what a milestone.

I haven’t marked many other milestones here, except for occasional anniversaries. This site’s first post was on March 14, 2009, and I created it to talk about blogging and my company.

Since then, it has grown to include topics on social media, my speaking engagements, marketing, best practices in communication and this and that. It’s really the first site I’ve focused on one specific area.

Readers can keep up with new posts not only through the site itself and the newsletter, but also through RSS, the mobile version, a Kindle subscription, a WordPress subscription (below) or the new Apple News app.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

I’ve had only one guest blogger all this time, Rachel Callahan, who has been kind enough to write two posts, one on graphics and another on Pinterest statistics. I should really recruit more bloggers, huh …

I’m marking another milestone on my first ever blog, Wade on Birmingham. We’re in the middle of a 26-part series on the Future of Birmingham, which includes an ebook launch, at This special project marks 10 years on that site.

In tossing around statistics, sometimes the most mundane make the biggest impression. A couple of weeks ago, I told my cocktail companion that I had eaten six Pop-Tarts for breakfast that morning (a cheat day). She looked on in disbelief. For the record, they were frosted brown sugar cinnamon (toasted twice and a little burnt) with me adding peanut butter.

I didn’t get there overnight, and clearly 6.5 years for 400 posts isn’t any kind of speed record. It saddens me that most bloggers won’t reach the 400-post mark, in 6 or 60 years. But if blogging is the right vehicle for sales, marketing or customer service, I encourage beginners to go for it.

Thank you to the more than 25,000 visitors to this site! I’m grateful for their time and their comments and their support.

I can’t wait to see what the next 400 chapters bring …

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