If your dream is to start your own business, you’re just like many people, but it’s hard to tell when the “right” time is. Running a business can be an incredible experience full of adventure — not to mention an experience with lucrative returns should everything go as well as you plan.
But how do you know that you are ready to take a leap of faith and start your own venture? We’ve outlined a few signs it might be time for you to just go for it.
14 signs it’s time to start your own business
These aren’t hard-and-fast rules — plenty of people have broken them before. But if you say yes to most of this list, chances are you’re in good shape to step out into the wild and crazy world of entrepreneurship.
You’re excited about your idea.
You have a business plan.
Your product or idea has a market.
You understand the competition.
You are able to take on financial risk.
You look good to lenders.
You understand the risk of failure.
You understand the risk of success.
You’re ready to roll up your sleeves.
You’re ready to learn.
You are capable of managing your own time.
You are able to see potential.
You want to be your own boss.
You’re good with people.
Ready? Let’s go!
1. You’re excited about your idea
Of course, passion alone will not get the job done, but if you’re aren’t passionate about your business idea, you’ll be running on fumes before you know it.
Many things in small business ownership are “fake it ‘til you make it,” but this is not one of them.
2. You have a business plan
You’ve done the work. You’ve outlined just how you’ll run this thing. You know the numbers.
You will not be able to run a business without a solid business plan.
If you’ve yet to execute this all-important task, it might be time to pump the breaks on the idea you’re excited about until you can see what the big picture is.
3. Your product or idea has a market
You’ll figure this out as part of your business plan, but knowing there’s a demand you can supply is a sure-fire way to know that now may be the right time to start your own business.
Just make sure you’ve done your research and consulted with people who are knowledgeable about the product or service on the supply side.
4. You understand the competition
You’ve always wanted to own a coffee shop, the problem is, there are already three in your neighborhood.
Once you start your own business, how will it stand out? What do you have to offer that your competitors don’t?
This will be important to factor into your business plan.
5. You are able to take on financial risk
Plenty of business owners come from modest means. But it’s much easier to focus on your business if you have some money saved to live off until you get the business off the ground.
6. You look good to lenders
A big part of running a business long-term is the ability to secure financing when you need.
How is your credit score? Have you taken on too much personal debt?
Consult with a small business finance advisor to see what you can do to make sure you look good on paper.
7. You understand the risk of failure
It’s not as doom-and-gloom as you might think for small businesses today. In fact, 80 percent of businesses will make it through their first year, and about 50 percent make it to their fifth year.
But it’s still a pretty huge drop-off. Only around 30 percent of businesses make it to their tenth year.
Know the realities of your industry and make plans for the worst, just in case.
Risk of failure should never stop someone with a good idea and solid business plan from pursuing their dream.
8. You understand the risk of success
What will your life look like should your business really take off? It might seem strange, but many people don’t consider this. If business is booming, but you never have time to see your family, are you truly living the life you want to live?
Be honest with yourself about what your boundaries are and set expectations with your business partners and loved ones before you start your own business.
9. You’re ready to roll up your sleeves
Starting a business might mean doing things that feel “beneath your pay grade.” You’re the CEO/Founder/Boss-person, anyway, right?
If this doesn’t sound fun to you, starting a business from scratch might not be the right route.
10. You’re ready to learn
Oh, the knowledge you’ll gain through the process of starting a business.
No matter how many degrees you have or years of work experience you’ve put in, challenges will always arise when starting a business.
If you love the idea of learning something new every day, entrepreneurship is probably a good fit for you.
11. You are capable of managing your own time
Managing a business often comes down to a numbers game — the more time you have the better. You’ll be working under pressure no matter what, but stellar time management will make the process go much, much smoother.
12. You are able to see potential
Are you one of those people who believes in the underdog? Who can spot a success story before it breaks big? This will be an essential skill in running a business. You’ll need to be able to see the big picture when you’re sales have hit their goals yet or it feels like you’ll never break even.
13. You want to be your own boss
If you want to forge your own path, entrepreneurship is definitely a fit for you. If you have the ability to give yourself a daily structure and fly by the seat of your pants, it’ll suit you well to start your own business.
14. But … you’re good with people
Being your own boss does not mean you don’t have to be a people person. Managing a business is a social sport — you’ll have to work with your employees, vendors, clients, customers and more.
It’s likely you’ll be the face of your own business. Is this the kind of attention you want?
As a professional web developer, there’s a chasm you need to traverse between converting a client and starting their new project: that mysterious phase known as “client onboarding.” This process is crucial to ensuring you’ve got everything you need before starting the project, as well as making the client comfortable with how the project will progress.
Client onboarding: A guide for web designers & developers
Here’s what we’re going to cover in this guide:
Why formalize client onboarding?
Why you need an onboarding process.
Why your clients need an onboarding process.
Attributes of a successful onboarding process.
7 steps to execute a strong client onboarding process.
1. Collect information with a comprehensive new client intake questionnaire.
2. Solidify strategy with a paid discovery workshop.
3. Follow your formal administrative process.
4. Do the admin pre-work to get the project started.
5. Hold a project kick-off meeting.
6. Follow up with your welcome package.
7. Present plans for further follow-up.
Common onboarding errors.
Onboarding checklist outline.
Best practices for onboarding.
Let’s get started.
Why formalize client onboarding?
An established process relieves you from the stress of remembering every single question you need to ask, and helps you gather all of your resources in an organized way, enabling you to deliver the project smoothly.
This key series of steps provides the opportunity to build a strong relationship with your client, address early concerns, get everyone up to speed, and start on a positive note.
Why you need an onboarding process
As with just about everything in web design, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. The process that’s right for you might not work for others, but it’s critical in helping you:
Create a great first impression that paves the way for a trusted, long-term relationship.
Build efficiency via clear communication.
Reduce scope creep by confirming details and setting expectations.
Make sure you’ve got everything you need before starting the project.
Anticipate exceptions, misconceptions, and potential obstacles.
Breed loyalty, fostering better retention and reducing churn.
Why your clients need an onboarding process
Clients also have additional needs addressing the many aspects they may be unsure of, and their need to just “know” what’s going on. In addition, the process can:
Assure them you have a plan, which should relieve anxiety.
Increase their comfort level about how the project will progress.
Allow them to understand expectations so they can collaborate with you more efficiently.
Reassure they are being listened to.
Reinforce they have hired a pro who takes their business seriously.
Attributes of a successful onboarding process
A thoughtful and deliberate onboarding process lets clients know that you consider them a partner in defining the success of the project. To ensure successful onboarding:
Know what questions need answering
Essentially, the onboarding process boils down to two critical questions:
What do you need in order to deliver a successful project that runs smoothly?
What must the client do to make sure you get what you need?
Of course, nested under these are many more questions. For example, once you know which deliverables you need, there will be additional questions about timeline, format and ownership.
Craft an effective onboarding checklist
A checklist lets you focus on discipline and structure — and following it with each project brings peace of mind. Referencing your checklist ensures you don’t forget crucial steps or take actions out of order.
At the same time, build in flexibility and scalability.
Both factors are key to every single process you undertake as a web designer — it’s important to know when you can bend or break your own rules, and you’ll want to make sure that it’s efficient to execute the process multiple times, perhaps simultaneously.
You’ll want the ability to skip steps if warranted, and at the same time, anticipate the trade-offs in doing so.
Make supporting materials available to clients pre-sale
The onboarding process starts well before a proposal is accepted, with your very first contact with a potential client.
For example, your website could offer details on how you work on projects. This could be a paragraph, a dedicated Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) section, or even well-written case studies describing how you deliver a project.
Treat each client as a special case
We already know that each client is different, each project is different, and even your approach may be different. Use good judgment to customize the onboarding process as needed, taking the client’s unique goals and situation into account.
7 steps to execute a strong client onboarding process
A significant challenge we experience with any client is their lack of knowledge about what they need or why they need it. But if we are being fair to our future clients, should we expect them to?
As a website professional, you must be the facilitator, drawing out goals that even they might not realize.
1. Collect information with a comprehensive new client intake questionnaire
Start with a finely tuned and comprehensive client questionnaire that asks the right questions, so you have information even before there’s a project in place. It’s your first true opportunity to gather what you need, and asking the right questions will save both time and money.
2. Solidify strategy with a paid discovery workshop
The paid discovery workshop nails down the information you need to create the proposal and contract for the full project.
Sell this workshop as a true strategy session to work through the client’s needs, goals, and how they anticipate achieving those goals.
Through this engagement, you can walk your client through the steps to create a clear, defined vision for their website and what it’s supposed to achieve.
Offering the discovery workshop before website creation is critical in terms of building a website that works.
It also serves as a great way to be first in line for the job, before even offering a proposal. In the end, discovery will be helpful for the organization that needs the project built, not just for the ones doing the building. Still not quite sure what a discovery workshop is?
Digging into the discovery session
A discovery strategy session is a standalone paid service that clarifies what the project is all about before you even write a proposal. It covers information grouped into three sections:
Why, what, and who?
What is the Why behind what the client is trying to achieve, in terms of goals and impact they hope to make online?
What products and services do they bring to the market?
Who is the group of people that will most benefit from their What?
With answers to these questions, it’s time to define three to five SMART goals, where SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Bound.
Most importantly, each goal should focus on something they are trying to achieve online, and something the website can make happen.
In guiding clients to articulate SMART goals, use these guidelines:
Specific — Does it target a specific area for improvement?
Measurable — How are you measuring your success?
Achievable — Is it reachable?
Relevant — Is it realistic to achieve?
Time-bound — When would you achieve it by?
The buyer’s journey
What steps will website visitors employ to eventually take advantage of what is being offered? This can be broken down into five areas:
Attract: How will your client attract leads? Will you need to replicate the experience provided by current tools?
Capture: How does your client capture leads? What can be given away in exchange for their email address?
Nurture: Is your client set up to currently nurture these leads via email marketing?
Convert: Most importantly, does your client know what steps they want people to take to convert and make a purchase?
Measure: Lastly, how do we measure all this? This is where your client determines the metric that matters the most, based on their SMART goals. It might be site visitors, email signups or something as simple as phone call requests.
In addition, you may have the opportunity for additional discovery work such as:
Competitor research: Working with the client to evaluate their competition and what they do well. If clients are having trouble articulating what they want their website to achieve, or which market they are trying to reach, this could be key.
Design research: Working with the client to further clarify what they want the site to look and feel like. Style and design can be part of the discovery workshop if this helps determine how to attract the “who” identified earlier in the strategy session.
After the discovery session, follow up by delivering a consolidated document summarizing the findings.
Yes, from here any other web designer could take the project away from you — but you’ll have been paid for the strategy work.
Doing that work for free to create a proposal is selling yourself short.
The client gets their money’s worth — and while they could very well go off and use this deliverable with another web designer, chances are they will see the value of working with you.
3. Follow your formal administrative process
Once you have that clear vision, you can proceed to a formal proposal for the project.
Invest effort in further research on your client, their history, and their competitors. Spend time reviewing the questionnaire responses, drafting the timeline, and identifying deliverables needed.
Make sure the proposal, contract and first invoice are addressed promptly, before proceeding to any additional tasks.
4. Do the admin pre-work to get the project started
Whether you use a project management tool or rely on a shared folder via Dropbox or Google Docs, set up everything you’ll need for this client, and invite them to collaborate as appropriate.
Add them to your mailing list.
Invite them to follow your social media accounts.
Relax knowing you can efficiently and effectively manage your client’s new website with the free tools and resources available through Upfiv Pro.
5. Hold a project kick-off meeting
If you’ve already conducted the discovery workshop, you’ve begun the process of building trust and setting the tone. Now the project work begins in earnest so it’s time to reinforce the seeds already planted.
Conduct the kick-off meeting face-to-face if possible (or via video chat if not). Plan to cover the following topics:
Schedule, with a focus on next steps
Additional homework needed to proceed with the project
How you’ll handle future scope changes
Details about your work hours and availability via email or phone during specific office hours, including typical response times
How meetings are scheduled and take place — be sure they understand the platforms you use, such as Zoom or Skype, and how you schedule appointments, such as via Appointlet or Calendly
Preferences around how you want to receive deliverables
If you have any swag you like to share with clients, be prepared to distribute at the meeting, or mail to arrive in time for the meeting.
6. Follow up with your welcome package
A welcome package is a set of files that welcomes your new client and includes key information that is necessary for the project to finish successfully.
Think of it as a roadmap that will guide your client through the process of working with you, helping them to stay on track with their tasks and commitments, and answering questions.
Your welcome package should:
reiterate your policies
prepare them to do their part
position you as a professional
eliminate confusion on what happens when
set the foundation to ask for referrals and testimonials
7. Present plans for further follow-up
While the kick-off meeting included an explanation of your follow-up methods — especially on initial tasks to gather information — you’ll also want to follow up with specific next steps in terms of schedule and deliverables.
Even with the best intentions to strictly follow your process, the occasional exception could make sense.
What if the project requires a very compressed schedule? Can any steps be skipped or combined? What trade-offs might be associated with those changes?
What if this is a new project for an existing or former client? Can any one-time setup steps be skipped or combined?
Common onboarding errors
Looking for ways to blow it? The following lapses may be the sure-fire path to failure — or at the very least, time and/or money lost to re-work.
Not doing your pre-work from the start, in terms of really understanding your client, their current situation, their needs and their competitors.
Skipping steps without considering the trade-offs or consequences.
Making assumptions instead of asking questions.
Onboarding checklist outline
Start with this basic onboarding checklist to develop your own customized version that best covers everything you need to start the project off successfully.
Gather basic information
Confirm names, roles and contact information of each participant
Process intake questionnaire
Send questionnaire and instructions
Receive completed questionnaire
Check for missing information and request if needed
Execute paid discovery workshop
Confirm if being conducted for this project
Schedule discovery workshop
Hold discovery workshop
Send follow-up materials
Manage project proposal
Prepare and send proposal
Revise if necessary based on feedback or questions
Prepare and send contract
Receive signed copy of contract
Generate and send the first invoice
Confirm payment receipt
Wrangle project management
Set up internal project management systems and tools
Invite client to access any systems where information will be shared
Introduce client to any additional team members
Add client to communication and project management channels and tools
Plan and hold a kick-off meeting
Prepare meeting materials including agenda, to-do list with items needed from client, draft timeline including future check-in dates and milestones
Hold meeting: review agenda, review to-do list, review/adjust/agree on timeline, milestones, goals
Follow-up from the kick-off meeting
Update project management system
Send welcome package, summary and any follow-up information
Plan schedule for next follow-up conversations and/or reports
Gather and use feedback
Request feedback on onboarding process
Incorporate process revisions based on feedback
Best practices in onboarding
Now that you’ve got a strong client onboarding process in place, stick to some general guidelines to ensure a smooth experience for all involved.
Educate clients around expectations early and often
Explicitly set expectations around how you run your business — whether it’s payments, communication methods, or delivery of information. By including this information in your kick-off meeting, proposal, welcome package, and on your website, you optimize collaboration with clients to get your work done most efficiently.
Stay accessible and responsive
Be ready to address questions or confusion quickly and thoroughly. Reassure clients that you know what’s up, and that you’re there to guide them along the way. Encourage them to ask questions if they don’t understand — it’s preferable to answer early on, and nip potential issues in the bud.
Keep information flowing
Do your best to keep everyone in the loop regarding status, deliverables, timeline, budget and potential issues — and do all in your power to avoid surprises. It’s almost impossible to over-communicate about these topics.
Improve the process
Every new (or departing) client provides input to improve your onboarding process, which translates to improved client satisfaction, and more opportunity to differentiate yourself from the competition.
Of course, it’s up to you to determine the detailed onboarding process that will work best for your clients — based on understanding the success factors of your own established working environment, and their goals and expectations for the project.
Your ultimate objective is to have the right tools and processes in place, keep the workflow moving in the right direction, and deliver a final outcome that aligns with your client’s vision of success.
Use these suggestions and best practices to get a head start on defining the process that works best for you.
This article includes content originally published on the GoDaddy blog by the following authors: Aaron Reimann, Cody Landefeld, Kristina Romero and Tom Rankin.
With the recent surge in the popularity of podcasting, you might be wondering how to podcast for yourself or your business. After all, even former President Obama signed a deal to launch a podcast with Spotify, and other celebrities are hopping on the podcasting bandwagon as well. I recently learned that even NASA (yes, that NASA!) has not one, but several podcasts.
Podcasting still feels like the next big thing, and people want in on this platform before it becomes as saturated as other media platforms have become.
According to Podcast Insight, people are listening to podcasts in growing numbers over the last few years, and these numbers don’t seem to be slowing down any time soon.
Given that there are fewer than 800,000 podcasts online at the moment, this relatively new platform is a lot less noisy than the 75 million-plus WordPress websites that are out there competing for attention in a wide variety of niches.
In August 2019, I traveled to Orlando, Florida, to one of the largest, if not the largest, podcasting conferences in the world – Podcast Movement. My mission was to learn more about the still relatively new world of podcasting, connect with the power players of the industry, and get the inside scoop on how to do a podcast from the pros.
How to podcast — Everything you need to get started
Interested in learning how to do a podcast? Here’s what you’ll learn in this guide:
What you need to make a podcast.
Website and hosting.
How to plan a podcast.
How to create great podcast content.
Basic production tips.
Tackling difficult topics.
Recording intros and outros.
Best WordPress plugins for podcasting.
How to publish your podcast.
Publishing to iTunes.
Publishing to other platforms.
Publishing to YouTube.
Monetizing your podcast.
How to get more podcast listeners.
Conclusion and next steps.
The people I met, the sessions I attended, and the connections I made at Podcast Movement taught me about all of this and so much more. We’ve got a lot to unpack in this post, so buckle up because you’re in for an exciting ride.
So, without further ado, let’s dive into how to podcast.
What you need to make a podcast
When I spoke to people at the conference, the most widely debated topic was what you need to make a podcast.
Some people said you could just start with your smartphone and a really good sound editor. Others said you need a boom mic, editing software, a soundproof recording studio and a bunch of other equipment.
At the risk of ticking off the masses on this disputed topic, I’m going to try to be as unbiased as possible and give you a few different options for how to do a podcast.
I will preface this equipment advice with this — it’s understandable to want to purchase the most expensive equipment out there to give yourself the best chance of success. But, it’s also important to note that not everyone starts at the pro level. Sometimes we allow our desire to keep us from even getting started.
And, many of the well-known gurus I spoke to at the conference acknowledged that no matter how you start, your first episodes will always make you cringe.
Besides, you might start and realize you don’t like podcasting at all. Isn’t it better to just work with what you have to test things out before shelling out a bunch of cash? I think so! You can always upgrade later if you decide that podcasting is a medium you want to commit to.
Pat Flynn and John Lee Dumas are two well-known podcasters. Speak to virtually anyone about podcasting, and odds are they have heard of these two men.
They are considered authorities on how to make a podcast.
Both of them teach both free and paid courses on the subject, and both have been hired as consultants to help popular online business owners launch podcasts for themselves.
Because they were at the conference, of course I had to pick their brains on everything I could in the limited time we had. Luckily, since they get a lot of the same questions regularly, they were able to point me to some awesome resources they already had on their websites.
Pat’s show is called Smart Passive Income, and he runs a website of the same name. His show features weekly interviews, strategies and advice for building an online business. His show has had more than 47 million downloads.
John, known by most people as JLD, runs a show and website called Entrepreneurs on Fire. JLD’s claim to fame is being the first podcaster to do a daily show interviewing entrepreneurs of all types. He has more than 2,200 interviews on his website, and 1.5 million monthly listens.
Below is the equipment they say you need to get started.
Pat Flynn says you just need the following:
Microphone: He recommends the ATR-2100 USB microphone, or the Samson Q2U if you’re not in the United States
Microphone stand: He recommends a “Boom Arm” extension
Shock mount (to reduce vibrations being picked up on the mic)
A pop filter or windscreen (to reduce the explosive sounds made by B- and P-words, which blow air into the mic)
Editing software such as GarageBand for Mac users or Audacity for Mac and PC users (both of which are free)
JLD says at a minimum you need:
Microphone: No. 1 mic recommendation is the ATR-2100
Recording and editing software such as Garageband or Audacity
Headset or Earbuds
Other people I spoke with at Podcast Movement suggested having the following equipment before getting started:
A webcam in case you need to do video interviews
Skype/Zoom/some other video chat service to record interviews
The Blue Yeti microphone with USB connection (though several podcasters disagreed about this)
An adjustable boom microphone clip
A vanity URL for your podcast’s name — again this was a topic of significant debate
A shock mount
Backup hard drives (external or internal)/cloud storage service
Pro tip: Before purchasing any equipment, do your own research, read reviews, and be realistic about your budget. You don’t want to go into debt trying to launch your show!
Website and hosting recommendations
Do you really need to buy a domain before you launch a podcast? That’s a question that I never got a solid answer to. The most common response, however, was that it depends.
If you are launching a podcast of the same name as your business, for example, you might be able to get away with creating a podcast page on your current domain as Pat and JLD have both done.
On the other hand, if you want a name completely different from your business or blog name, it is a good idea to purchase a separate URL. Even if you never use it, it’s good to keep it in your back pocket so you have options.
I personally own several URLs with Upfiv just in case I use them for future business, blog, book or other product ideas.
What about hosting? Do I need a podcast hosting service when I’m just starting out?
The short answer is, yes. You do need somewhere to host your podcast episodes because you can’t exactly record some audio and simply load it to iTunes. You’ll need a podcast host to store and distribute your audio files.
Editor’s note: Need to find a podcast hosting service? Upfiv has you covered.
How to plan a podcast
Now that you’ve gotten the equipment under control, what’s next? Planning your podcast before you launch.
There are several things you need to consider before you record your first episode, let alone put it out for the world to hear. When you begin your planning process, here’s what you should think about at a minimum:
What will the title of your show be?
While this may not be your first consideration, it is important to figure out what you will call your show before you start recording.
There are several options for your show’s name. Some people choose to use their business name for their podcast, like Pat Flynn and John Lee Dumas. Others choose to use their personal name.
The Tim Ferriss Show by blogger, author and speaker Tim Ferriss
The Chalene Show by fitness, business and marketing guru Chalene Johnson
The James Altucher Show by entrepreneur and angel investor James Altucher
Then there are others who create a name completely different from their business and personal name such as:
Online Marketing Made Easy by online business guru Amy Porterfield
RISE hosted by New York Times best-selling author and motivational speaker Rachel Hollis
The Art of the Hustle Podcast by iHeartRadio and WeWork
If you choose to do an intro and/or an outro for your podcast, you’ll want a podcast name in place before creating it. It’s also a good idea to purchase your domain name once you’ve settled on your name as well.
You’ll also want to consider your show’s subtitle and summary or description. Your show’s summary should be 4,000 characters or less because that’s how much room iTunes gives you to promote what your show is about.
What are your podcast goals?
Are you hoping to make money directly or indirectly off of this new venture? Is this simply going to be a hobby? Or are you just learning how to make a podcast to see if you even like it?
It’s important to establish what you want to get out of podcasting before diving in. Like starting a blog, creating a podcast is not a fast thing to do.
Yes, you can start a blog in less than 30 minutes, but actually creating the content, building your audience and gaining traction with it is an entirely different ballgame.
Figuring out your initial goals may also help you with other decisions related to launching as well.
For example, if this will be a hobby project, you might not need the most expensive equipment to get started. If, however, this will be used as a tool in your business to reach a new audience or yield potential leads, you might want to put more thought into how you produce and launch your podcast.
Who is your target audience?
This might be based on your podcast goals. Your target audience might be the same as your ideal customer avatar if your podcast is launched as a business marketing tool. If not, you should sit down and think about who your ideal listener will be.
The reason this matters so much is you should never go into content creation attempting to appeal to the masses.
Like blogging, book writing and business, if you try to appeal to everyone you’re more likely to not reach anyone.
Let’s say your podcast will be about how to train your dog. Your target audience would be dog owners who are wanting to learn how to train their dog, and your podcast should be developed and marketed as such.
What topics will you discuss?
Using our dog training example, a podcast about that subject would likely have topics including, but not limited to:
Teaching them to sit/stay/come/etc.
How to stop them from jumping/barking/chasing/etc.
Training with treats (or without)
You get the idea.
Once you start thinking about the subject and title of your podcast, you can hone in on the topics, and subtopics, most appropriate to create content around.
Is the show going to be fact or fiction? Yes, there are fiction podcasts!
This was news to me at Podcast Movement! I naively didn’t realize that as with the book industry, there is an entire genre of fiction podcasts. And, like novels, they are broken down into romance, crime, horror, etc.
I was fortunate enough to stumble into a fiction podcast meetup at the conference, and I can honestly say I was fascinated by the various shows that are in existence right now.
The biggest challenge, these fiction storytellers told me, is that they sometimes hit a creative roadblock, and that can be problematic if they are trying to meet a publishing schedule.
Unlike a novel that is released all at once, if you have promised your listeners a new chapter or story each Monday, it can be difficult to continue a storyline without hiccups.
That’s not to say that fact-based podcasts are not without their hiccups.
Many podcasters — both fiction and non-fiction — told me they plan content several weeks, if not months, in advance to ensure they will have something ready to go live on the days and times they have set up for their listeners.
What will the format of your podcast be?
Podcast formats include:
While you don’t have to commit to a strict interview format, consistency is a good idea if you hope to build an audience.
Some of the podcasters I spoke with typically use the interview format, but they also have a regularly scheduled episode where it’s just them either recapping past episodes or doing a deep dive into a topic on their own.
Other hosts will dedicate one season to interviews, and another season to just sitting down by themselves with a microphone.
If you set up your podcast to be an interview series you’ll need to line up people for content creation.
You’ll likely need scheduling software, you’ll need to create a waiver or legal release for your guests to sign, and you’ll have to figure out how to actually host and record the interview.
Some podcast hosts even require their guests to have a certain microphone to be on their show to maintain audio consistency and quality.
Are there branding considerations you need to think about?
If your podcast is a hobby or new business venture, you may be creating a brand from scratch.
On the other hand, if you’re treating it as a business marketing tool, you’ll need to consider your business’s current branding, goals, values, etc.
For branding, you should start thinking about artwork including the image you’ll use on podcast platforms such as iTunes, as well as logos and other images you may want to use on your website, social media, newsletters and in all other messaging about your show.
One final branding issue to think about is whether to trademark your show’s name.
Virtual attorney Andrea Sager discussed trademarks and copyrights for podcasters at the Podcast Movement conference, and she explained you shouldn’t wait to trademark your brand.
As she explains, “One of the top reasons you shouldn’t wait to file a trademark application for your brand is because you want the maximum protection possible. Once your brand has a registered trademark, the world will have notice of your registration in the United States. It will still be important to monitor your registration for infringers, but your registration will appear in a TESS database search, which is what many new small businesses depend on when choosing a name.”
She went onto say that registering a trademark gives you “the ability to shut down an online business that is infringing on your registered trademark. If all of the online platforms close the accounts of the infringer, then you have shut down an online business without filing a lawsuit. This can save you an incredible amount of money and time.”
I highly recommend her blog if you want to learn more about your virtual rights.
How long will your episodes be?
The topic of how long a podcast should be was another heated one amongst several people I spoke with. And when I got home and researched it I couldn’t find a definitive answer.
Unlike a blog post where the length can affect SEO, a podcast can be as short as 10 minutes or as long as 90 minutes.
Some people I talked to said your content should be just long enough to address your topic. Others swore by keeping it to 20 minutes or less so that someone grocery shopping, on their commute, or working out could listen to an entire episode in one sitting.
The best advice I heard is to ask your audience what they want in terms of length.
You can send listeners a survey in a newsletter, or ask on social media. After all, you’re creating the content for them, so why not let them simply tell you how long they want the content to be?
What’s your message?
One of the podcasters I had a wonderful conversation with was David Hooper. He wrote a book on podcasting called “Big Podcast,” and he says the message you want to spread with your podcast “is the foundation on which everything else about your podcast will be built.”
He went on to say that “a general message won’t be motivating to you or interesting enough to keep listeners engaged — you need to be specific.”
In order to do that David says you need to ask yourself a few questions:
What are you excited about?
Where can you add the greatest value, and how can you do it in a unique way?
What outcome do you want for people who listen to you?
David explained that your podcast’s message starts with you, but it’s not about you.
It’s ultimately about your listener, and what they need and/or want to hear.
In a way, you’re just a messenger delivering the message.
How often will you release new episodes?
You have so many options for your release dates.
Some podcasters choose to release 10 episodes at once so their listeners can binge on them Netflix-style. Others commit to once a week or twice a month.
Then there’s JLD, who for a while was releasing new episodes daily. He’s since scaled back, but for several years his listeners got used to daily episodes of Entrepreneurs on Fire.
Whatever you choose for your release dates, do yourself a favor and stick to your schedule.
Like I mentioned earlier, consistency is an important factor in building a new audience. If your listeners expect a new episode every Friday and you suddenly take a few weeks off, they may move onto something else.
How many episodes are you willing to commit to before you launch?
Most podcasters I spoke to suggested launching with at least 5 to 10 episodes. The reason for this is the same reason you should launch your blog with that many posts. If you have a new visitor, you want to give them more than one thing to consume when they first “meet you.”
How to create great podcast content
At some point, you’ll need to start planning what will actually be recorded on your show. With that in mind, here are some simple tips for how to create great podcast content:
Winning at storytelling
At first blush, storytelling may seem like it’s only for the fiction podcasters, but it’s really not.
Storytelling is an important component for every podcast host. It’s the best way to relay your message or share a lesson with your audience.
You’ll set the stage with an interesting subject, you’ll paint a picture, and then you will tell a story that will begin with a hook that keeps the listener there through the middle and until the end of the episode.
Your story needs to have a theme or guiding concept — like in fiction, this key idea will give focus and meaning to your story.
You need a strong character taking action, moving the story forward. You also need a voice, whether it’s suspenseful, impassioned, or comforting, that sets the tone for your story.
With any luck, it will be so good that listeners will come back for another episode to hear another story.
If you are using an interview format for your podcast, there is an art and a science as to what makes for a good interview.
I have to share the brilliance from JLD’s session on top actions world-class podcast hosts take for every interview. Here are his best tips on interviewing guests on your show:
Ask unique questions that your guests haven’t gotten before.
This is sound advice because the truth is, the more popular podcasting becomes, the more likely your guests will be to have heard all the questions before.
A great idea would be to ask your interviewee if they have any questions that they’ve never been asked before. Do this before recording day so they have time to think about it, and give you a solid question and answer.
Give your guests the questions ahead of time.
Don’t treat your show as a shock value news interview. The last thing you want is your interviewee to be stunned or tripped up by the questions you’re asking. That is unless you’re going for a Howard Stern-vibe or trying to entrap your guest.
Chat before you begin recording.
Don’t just dive right into your interview. Most people are nervous to be recorded. So, a warm-up chat helps calm everyone’s nerves and ease into the interview session.
This next tip might honestly be my favorite.
Don’t waste time introducing your guest and reading their bio. You can do that in post-production. Use their limited time to focus on the stuff they need to be there for.
Remember this is a recorded interview and it can be edited.
If you’re having audio trouble such as a scratchy mic, background noise, etc., take a moment to pause the recording and make adjustments and note when in the interview you paused. It’ll be better for everyone, especially your audience.
Make sure your guest’s call to action at the end of the interview is clear and concise.
How can your audience continue the conversation with the guest? Where can they follow them on social media, buy their book/course, learn more?
At the end of the interview, after you’ve stopped recording, engage in a post-interview chat.
As a past guest on a handful of podcasts, I’ve been left wondering if I did OK, when it was going to be released, and what would happen next. In the post-interview chat, addressing these concerns will not only help your guest feel more at ease, it will give you the opportunity to ask for a share once the episode is live, and continue building the relationship.
I’ll add to this that you should also be prepared with backup questions on the fly. While you want to give your guests their questions ahead of time, some people will give short answers and need a little help. In other words, you may find you have to drag the material out of some guests.
Think of it like the people you send a paragraph long text message to, and they send back “Yep” or “OK.”
You need more than just a one-word response for a good interview episode.
Therefore, prepare some follow-up questions for those moments that you need additional information, clarification, or for lack of a better phrase “filler.”
Pro tip: Make sure you get a podcast release form from your guest ahead of time.
Attorney Gordon Firemark has a free podcast guest release form you can grab from his website.
Why do you need a release? As he says, without one your guest could demand you edit their episode a certain way, demand payment, force you to take the episode down, and a whole host of other issues. His best advice is to cover your rear, and protect yourself!
Basic production tips
Aside from storytelling and interviewing, there are some basic things you should do before recording your podcast episodes. These include, but aren’t limited to:
Check all of your equipment before you begin recording.
A test may be helpful if you haven’t used your equipment in a few days, or if you’ve had to unplug or restart anything.
I met a gentleman who had done an entire episode into his microphone, only to realize an hour later that though it was being recorded, the microphone wasn’t plugged in.
If you are interviewing someone, make sure they check all of their equipment as well. That’s why the pre-interview chat is so important — it’s a great opportunity to make sure everything is working.
If you don’t have access to a recording studio, try to find a quiet space to record in.
Many of the podcasters I’ve met actually recorded in their closets until they could afford better equipment and recording space.
Another method several people told me they have used was covering their workspace with a blanket while recording.
For additional ideas on reducing background noise, echo, etc…
Be conscious of where your microphone is in relation to your mouth, and keep that distance throughout your recording session.
This tip I learned from Pat Flynn is so simple, but I honestly never would have thought of it when researching how to podcast.
He said, “If you drift away from the mic or even look away briefly, that will reflect directly in the sound quality of your episode. The key is to stay consistent throughout the whole recording.”
Don’t begin recording without a plan.
You don’t need an entire script, but you should have a flow in mind to avoid rambling incessantly.
Try to avoid “ums” and “uhs.”
Don’t let it scare you to the point that you stutter and get tripped up, but at least be cognizant of how often these filler words are said. Remember, this can be edited later.
Keep in mind that your listener only has audio.
You shouldn’t reference something your listener can’t see. They’re not going to care that your co-host or interview guest is looking at you with a funny facial expression because they are unable to see it.
Try standing while you’re recording.
This can provide better air support while you are speaking because there is less pressure on your diaphragm. You’ll also come across more confidently in your delivery.
Use two microphones.
If you have a co-host or are interviewing someone, make sure you have two separate microphones, and record the audio of each person separately when possible.
Sharing a microphone will throw off the sound and make it awkward to talk to each other.
Do some vocal warmups before you start recording and stay hydrated.
Practicing some simple vocal warm-ups can help clear your voice and get any roughness out of the way.
You may also want to consider drinking some water or tea while recording. Avoid soda, milk and coffee, however, as those beverages can cause coughing, burping and other sound distractions.
If you’ll be recording several episodes, honey in a cup of tea may be a good idea because of its soothing effects on your throat and vocal cords. Take time between episodes to drink some water and relax your vocal cords a little as well.
Some of the podcasters I met even use a humidifier the night before they plan to batch record to hydrate their throats.
Understand that certain topics will be difficult to discuss
Depending on what your podcast is about, you will need to be cognizant of the fact that some subjects will need more thought than others.
For example, if you are bringing up the #MeToo movement, and women being sexually harassed or assaulted, you have to take a careful approach.
One of the sessions at Podcast Movement touched on this beautifully. The creators of the podcast “Believed,” discussed their multi-episode documentary about former USA Gymnastics national team doctor Larry Nassar, and how for years he got away with abusing hundreds of women and girls for two decades.
NPR’s N’Jeri Eaton, deputy director of programming and new audiences, moderated the session with “Believed” co-host Lindsay Smith and editor Alison MacAdam as they told the story of how the show came to be.
Before they recorded a single episode, they had to get clear on the story they were telling, and how their audience would react. The intention was to be honest, unbiased, and sympathetic towards anyone listening who may have suffered the same way as Larry’s victims.
Lindsay and Alison said they had an intense planning session to figure out just how much hand-holding would be necessary for their listeners and to make sure this wasn’t just a show about shock and awe.
Rather it was a show about helping listeners relate to the narrative to see how easily something like this could happen, and why women are scared to tell their stories for fear of no one believing them.
The truth is with hot button subjects such as abuse, diversity, politics, racism and many others, you will have to keep your audience and their reactions in mind.
It’s important to have facts before simply jumping into an episode so as not to offend or misspeak. You can’t bring your own biases into the narrative — instead, you need to do a little research before recording.
Even when your subject matter seemingly has nothing to do with hot button issues, it’s imperative that you plan ahead.
Off-color comments and jokes can destroy a show and a host’s reputation — and if it’s related to your business, it could shut that down, too.
While it’s easy to brush this advice off as “worrying too much about what others think,” the reality is your listeners will be from diverse backgrounds. How you handle what you discuss matters.
Of course, there are some shows that intentionally cross lines and push buttons, but if you want your show to be a thoughtful one, this is something important you must consider in your content creation.
The technical side of podcasting
For the most part, all you really need to do to record your podcast is plug your microphone into your computer, open your audio recording software, hit record, and start talking. Again, make sure everything is working properly before you sit down to record a full episode.
It’s OK if you’re nervous the first time. It’s normal, and with time, you will become more comfortable.
In fact, several podcasters I met recorded several test episodes that have never seen the light of day just so they could get used to being behind the microphone.
Another thing that may help calm your nerves is the realization that you can edit it. You don’t have to be a pro in the beginning.
As Jared Easley, co-founder and co-organizer of Podcast Movement, says, the most important thing when you’re ready to start a podcast is to just start.
It’s not going to be perfect, and that’s completely fine.
Just start recording, and packaging your podcast for public consumption. The faster you do that, the faster you can start learning, tweaking, fine-tuning your voice and sound, improving your delivery, etc.
Record your intro and/or outro
You might want to hire someone for this, but however you choose to do it, your intros and outros should be ready to add to your podcast sooner rather than later.
Some podcasters like to have a different intro every time, whereas others choose to use the same one.
If you are planning on using music for your intros and outros, you’ll need to make sure you are using music legally.
The music you use must be royalty-free, bought and paid for by you, or an original creation by you. Do your research into the music you are using before using it. It’s better to be overly cautious and safe.
Side note: Some of the podcasters I’ve talked to online and at the conference used freelancers found on sites like Fiverr and Upwork for their intros and outros only to get hit with legal trouble.
One had to remove every episode, re-edit with new music, and reload them. Another was hit with some pretty serious fines.
There is a myth that you can use seconds of a song without getting in trouble for copyright infringement. Several attorneys that were at the conference told me this is completely false.
Don’t risk your podcast, your money, your business or your reputation. Make sure whatever music you use on your podcast is legal.
Bottom line: Be careful who you hire, and the music that is used in all aspects of your podcast!
Editing your podcast
Even if you will eventually outsource the editing, it’s a good idea to get a grasp on basic editing techniques.
This is especially important if you have a tight schedule because if you have to publish an episode by Tuesday and your editor is suddenly sick with the flu, it will fall on you. It’s better to have some understanding of what to do.
While we obviously can’t go into a full lesson here on how to edit your podcasts, Pat Flynn has created a free tutorial for editing in both Audacity and Garageband.
If you aren’t using either of those software programs for editing, there is probably a tutorial for whatever program you have.
Check YouTube and the website of the software you’ve acquired. Learn the ins and outs, and you might just surprise yourself with how quickly you can nail down the process.
The other popular software programs I’ve heard about for recording and editing podcasts include:
Apple Logic Pro X
Note: I have not personally used any of these programs, so I cannot attest to their quality. I’m simply relaying information from those I’ve met on my journey of researching how to podcast.
Best WordPress plugins for podcasters
Some of the plugins recommended to me are:
Seriously Simple Podcasting
Smart Podcast Player
Simple Podcast Press
Again, do your research, and read all the reviews before simply installing a plugin on your WordPress website.
What about mobile recording?
I have met several people who record podcasts on their phones.
They said the trick for using a phone to record is to use a high sound quality microphone made specifically for recording audio with your smartphone and install an app made for podcasting on the go such as Anchor or Audioboom.
The most common complaint I heard about mobile recording is that the audio quality is never as good as using a computer.
However, I did learn there are SaaS (software as a service) companies that can take your mobile audio and clean it up, making it broadcast ready. But again, I can’t speak to which of the options available are the best for the money.
How to publish your podcast
Once you have recorded your episodes, it’s time to publish for the world to hear.
Publishing to iTunes
iTunes is the most popular to get podcasts, so you should start there. Here are the steps for publishing your podcast to iTunes:
First, take your final audio file and load it to your podcast hosting service. This is where your audio and video files will be stored on a server, and from there you can broadcast those files to users on the Internet.
With your podcast host, you’ll be given a unique web address — an RSS feed — of your podcast. Before you can load it to iTunes, Apple requires you to test and validate it.
Review Apple’s full instructions for testing a podcast.
Once you have tested it, learn how to validate your podcast.
Additionally, Apple requires the following for submission:
Make sure you have an Apple ID
Give your podcast a title
Write your description
Load your artwork
Choose the category that best suits your podcast—many podcasters recommend choosing up to three
Select the language of the episode
Mark whether the podcast is “Explicit” or “Not Explicit”
Once you have tested and validated your podcast, and provided the requirements mentioned above, you should be able to simply copy and paste your podcast’s RSS feed into iTunes and click “Submit.”
At this point, you will need to wait for Apple to approve your podcast. This can take up to a few weeks, but could be approved in as little as one to a few days.
Publishing to other platforms
Many podcast directories actually use iTunes to distribute your podcast, but you may need to load it to others. The top four that most people suggest adding your podcast to include:
Google Play Music
For most directories, all you will need to do is create an account, add your RSS feed, verify ownership, and then press publish. Click each of the directories mentioned above for their instructions.
Publishing to YouTube
A lot of podcasters are choosing to upload their podcasts to YouTube as well to increase their reach and tap into some SEO juice.
Simply create an image for your podcast, convert the MP3 to an MP4, add the image as a static graphic, and voila! You’ll have a video version of your podcast that you can load to YouTube.
Your static image for Youtube should include your podcast name, the title of the episode, who’s featured on it (i.e. the host and/or guests) and a logo.
Some podcasters choose to add an additional graphic to this static image that represents what the show is about, or who is appearing on the episode.
For example, if I was interviewing an ice cream shop owner, my static image might have an image of the owner, their shop, or a scoop of ice cream.
Of course, to convert your audio to a video file and add a static image, you’ll need video editing software. From what I’ve learned most PC users can get away with using Windows Movie Maker and Mac users can use iMovie for this step.
Tips for monetizing your podcast
At this point, you might be thinking, “Wow, this is a LOT of work.”
And, the truth is, it is.
The work involved is the biggest thing keeping so many people from launching after learning how to make a podcast. However, it can be rewarding, and yield income over time.
In fact, with a little planning, you could start monetizing from the moment you release your first episode.
Here are some ideas and tips you can use to monetize your podcast:
Patreon was one of the sponsors and speakers at Podcast Movement and the crowdfunding platform provided some interesting insights:
Have a timeline to launch and a plan for how you will deliver rewards to people who are donating money
Start your donations at a minimum of $2
Make it scalable so that you aren’t doing a lot of work
Limit patrons to make it more exclusive
Only offer recurring monthly donations instead of one-off donations so that you can continue earning income
Patreon’s advice for the easiest and most scalable rewards were:
Early access to episodes (24-48 hours prior to it going live for others)
Livestreams of your podcast
Special Q&A sessions after the episode is over
Shoutouts of your donors in episodes
Check out more of Patreon’s ideas podcasters can offer fans.
If you have a knack for sales, you could start asking brands to sponsor for your show. In the beginning, you might not be able to command much money, but it could be enough to at least offset your equipment, domain and hosting fees.
I highly recommend reading Entrepreneurs on Fire’s Ultimate Guide to Podcast Sponsorships if you want to go this route.
This is by far the fastest and easiest way some of the podcasters I spoke with have monetized their podcasts.
They write show notes for every episode, and in the notes they include a section for products mentioned with affiliate links to those items. I’ve also seen people add a section at the bottom of their show notes for their favorite podcast tools, equipment and services — all with affiliate links, of course.
Pitch your business services at the end of every episode
Let’s say you’re a coach or a photographer, and your podcast is a marketing tool for finding new clients. You could monetize your podcast by delivering a call-to-action in your episodes that you are taking on new clients, with a link to your website.
Charge your guests to appear on your show
While this is certainly not popular amongst podcasters, I did meet and learn of a few in the industry who actually charge appearance fees for their guests. How much to charge is certainly open for debate, but some charge based on how big their following is.
When you’re just starting out, this might not be a good option for you, but in trying to be unbiased in this post, I’m sharing actual strategies I’ve heard people using.
Sell premium content for “after the show”
Some episodes simply aren’t long enough to dive deep into the subject you’re discussing on your podcast.
As a result, you might want to consider creating virtual workshops or extended episodes that you sell for download to your audience.
For example, let’s say you’re discussing how to get more mentions in the media. Your premium content could be a digital workshop you sell on your podcast that breaks down the exact strategies someone can use to get in the press.
How to get more podcast listeners
Once your podcast has finally been launched, how can you get more listeners? Honestly, it’s the same way you would get the word out about any other venture you’re working on — you market and promote like crazy, and then you keep doing that even after you start gaining a large audience.
Essentially, you’re going to have to market your podcast forever to keep growing. Here are some ideas to help you do that without breaking the bank in advertising costs:
Start by telling friends and family: Tell everyone on your email list and in your circle about your show and ask them to share it.
Share it on social media: Use relevant hashtags when you can, and share it to all the places.
Blog about it: You should create a blog for your show, and have a post for every episode complete with show notes so that you can take advantage of SEO.
Go to podcast conferences and meetups to meet people in the industry: I don’t even have a podcast and I came home with hundreds of business cards to check out and podcasts to look up.
Get on other podcasts: The best way I’ve learned to grow your podcast is to hijack other people’s audiences. Try to become a guest on other podcasts, and in your call-to-action at the end, tell people how to find your podcast. Guest podcasting is the new guest posting — so many people with and without podcasts are using it to reach new audiences.
Find a way into the media: If you can set yourself up as an expert in your field, leverage that expertise to become a source for your local media outlets.
Conclusion and next steps
We’ve covered a lot in this post. From the research I’ve done so far into how to podcast, I know firsthand how overwhelming all of this information can be. Here’s a brief summary of what we’ve discussed here today:
Get some recording equipment, but don’t pull out the credit card just yet. It’s OK to start with the less expensive equipment and upgrade as you grow your podcast.
Plan ahead for all aspects of your podcast — like the name, topic, format and content — before recording a single episode.
Record the podcast, edit it, and get it ready for publication.
Load it to your podcast host, and share the RSS feed to podcast directories, starting with iTunes (since it’s still the most popular).
Use crowdfunding, sponsorships, affiliate marketing, etc. to monetize your show.
Become friends with other podcasters, collaborate with them, and promote like crazy to grow your show.
There you have it, folks. The down and dirty guide to how to podcast. I hope this has inspired you to consider creating a podcast for yourself or your business.
I know it has personally inspired me to start my own, which I plan to launch in early 2020.
To close things out, here are some additional tools and resources to consider as you research and prepare to launch your own podcast:
Podcast Launch: How to create, launch, grow & monetize a Podcast, by John Lee Dumas
The Podcast Journal: Idea to Launch in 50 Days, by John Lee Dumas
Superfans: The Easy Way to Stand Out, Grow Your Tribe, And Build a Successful Business by Pat Flynn
Big Podcast – Grow Your Podcast Audience, Build Listener Loyalty, and Get Everybody Talking About Your Show by David Hooper
The Messengers | A Podcast Documentary
A Step-By-Step Podcasting Tutorial by Pat Flynn
Free Podcast Course by John Lee Dumas
Podcast Movement Community—For Podcasters
Podfest Multimedia Expo Community
Want to launch a new podcast, or grow your existing podcast community even faster? Upfiv has your back with fast and affordable podcast hosting.
Whatever your niche or sector, email marketing is a promotional medium that will generate amazing results — if you do it right. Harness that power for holiday email marketing and you stand to increase brand awareness, grow your audience and boost your bottom line, big time.
Studies show that more than 50% of U.S. consumers check their personal email account more than 10 times a day. And it’s their favorite way to receive updates from brands.
During the holiday season, eight in 10 shoppers are influenced by online information before making a purchase.
When we say holiday email marketing, we’re not just talking about Christmas or Thanksgiving. There are countless annual holidays and celebratory seasons out there. By tapping into the right ones, you can transform a promotional email into an invaluable profit-generating tool for your business.
Guide to holiday email marketing
We’re going to show you how to create a holiday email marketing strategy for your business from start to finish — a definitive guide that you can use for seasonal success all year round.
A few steps to get started with holiday email marketing.
Know your audience.
Consider your email subject lines.
Building your holiday email marketing strategy.
Create a holiday-themed design.
Share holiday gift guides, deals and teaser emails.
Produce a holiday marketing video.
Holiday email marketing optimization and retargeting.
Set up referral rewards.
Deliver post-holiday or follow-up emails.
Embrace email automation.
Don’t forget holiday email mobile optimization.
Research, track and refine your holiday email efforts.
Benchmark your results.
Peek at your competitors.
Conclusion and next steps.
Without further ado, let’s get started.
A few steps to get started with holiday email marketing
Whether your holiday email efforts are centered on Hanukkah, Christmas or Groundhog Day, to enjoy maximum promotional success, you need to start planning early.
Get together with your colleagues or team to decide on the holidays you feel will work best for your business and mark them in a dedicated content planner as early as possible. This will give you ample time to prepare, plan, create and deliver.
But, before you start creating content, the first thing you need to do is get under the skin of your customers.
Know your audience
If you don’t know who you’re aiming your holiday email marketing efforts at, it’s unlikely you’ll see any return on investment (ROI). That said, you should build a holiday-specific buyer persona so that your marketing communications will resonate with your audience.
By building a solid customer profile or persona, you’ll be able to personalize your emails to offer a level of personal value to all of your recipients, based on their preferences and needs.
Armed with your buyer persona (or personas), you should make sure that your existing email lists are up to date and your subscribers are segmented into sub-lists (such as repeat customers, frequent buyers, new subscribers, special offer redeemers, etc.) so that you can enhance the personalization of your content for maximum results.
Consider your email subject lines
If you’re going to send out a holiday email, you need to get your subject lines right. It’s the headline that will make people click though, after all.
Tip: Always aim to make your email subject lines short, sweet and relevant.
Here are a couple of our favorites from Black Friday for your reference:
“Let’s sweeten the Black Friday Deals with …”
“Are you taking time for YOU this Black Friday?”
Once you’ve taken the time to plan, get to know your audience and create effective email subject lines, it’s time to start rolling out your strategy.
Building your holiday email marketing strategy
When creating content for your holiday email marketing strategy, you should always try to speak to your customers on a personal level, remaining conversational while designing your emails in such a way that makes your intent clear and concise.
These tips will help you create promotional email content that works for any holiday or occasion.
Create a holiday-themed design
When it comes to holiday email marketing, a digestible design coupled with striking themed imagery will excite and inspire your customers. And that’s likely to result in action — people buying stuff from you.
By creating a holiday-themed email banner image and creating call-to-action buttons (“Buy now,” “I want one,” “Start shopping”) that match it, you’ll build a sense of festivity.
Plus, if you place your discount codes, deals or offers near the top of your holiday email, you’re more likely to encourage click-throughs and increase sales.
Share holiday gift guides, deals and teaser emails
When you’re creating a holiday marketing email strategy, it’s important to provide a unique level of value while offering exclusivity and, of course, creating urgency — for example, “Quick, buy now while you still can!”
With this in mind, when crafting a holiday email, employing these additional tactics to encourage your subscribers to buy your products or services will yield positive results:
Create a holiday gift guide with tips, advice and consultancy on what’s best to buy this holiday season.
Send out holiday teaser emails leading up to the holiday in question, getting your prospects excited by promising to deliver exciting seasonal content, news, and offers. Our guide to email drip campaigns will help you get your timing and ideas just right.
Offer exclusive holiday-based deals, offers and discount codes. Encourage your customers to take action by placing a redemption time limit on the offers you provide.
Send last-minute emails offering free shipping or reminding your subscribers of their deal, offer or discount redemption deadlines.
Offer one-click or instant purchasing options.
Launch a holiday-themed competition, encouraging your email recipients to enter by replying to your email or sharing a piece of content via social media. Brand awareness and engagement in one neat promotional package.
Go the traditional route by designing and sending out an eye-grabbing custom graphic or image to use as a greeting card.
Be aware: While encouraging action and creating urgency works, don’t over do it.
Putting too much pressure on potential prospects to subscribe to your list or buy your products could hurt your brand reputation.
Offer deals and incentives and implement redemption time limits, but whatever you do, be natural and conversational when speaking to your customers rather than forcing their hands toward the shopping carts. Essentially, you should create excitement and leave the hard sales pitch at the door.
Produce a holiday marketing video
As humans, we’re visual creatures. In fact, 54% of today’s consumers want to see more video content from the brands they subscribe to or follow.
By creating a fun, inspirational or topical holiday-themed marketing video, not only are you likely to boost your brand awareness, but you’ll have a powerful asset to share in your promotional emails.
To help you on your quest to video marketing perfection, read our guide on different types of video content to move customers through the sales funnel.
Holiday email marketing optimization and retargeting
With your timing, content, deals, design, offers and visuals firmly in place, now’s the time to optimize your holiday marketing email efforts while thinking about retargeting subscribers to enjoy maximum value from your campaign. Here are four ways to do that.
Set up referral rewards
Reward repeat buyers or first-time holiday purchasers by sending a follow-up email offering an exclusive referral reward.
The reward could come in the form of a discount code, two for one offer, first dibs on brand new products or free shipping for a month — the choice is yours.
By prompting existing holiday customers to encourage their friends or relatives to subscribe to your email list, you’ll have a bigger, more engaged audience to target when the next holiday rolls around. A real win-win.
Deliver post-holiday or follow-up emails
Follow-up or retargeting emails work well when delivered near the end or shortly after your holiday marketing campaign.
When it comes to following up with a holiday marketing email recipient, there are several approaches you can take.
First, if a promotional email recipient has clicked through to a purchase page but for some reason, decided to stop their transaction, it’s possible to retarget them with a cart abandonment email.
Cart abandonment emails allow you to re-engage your subscribers with some sweet holiday messaging while reminding them of their previous purchasing activities.
If sent in a timely fashion, cart abandonment emails earn solid results. If you have a template up your sleeve that you can edit according to campaign or occasion, sending out these types of emails will take minimal effort.
It’s also possible to send follow-up or retargeting emails with personalized holiday gift suggestion or, as mentioned, free shipping or deals with expiration dates. These approaches boost engagement while creating a sense of urgency.
Whatever approach you decide to take when following up with a promotional email, it’s important to include a clear-cut call-to-action to guide your customers to the next stage of the sales process — whether it’s a product page or instant purchase shopping cart.
But, whatever you do, make sure you avoid these costly mistakes.
Tip: When creating calls to action for your promotional emails, keep it simple! Even adding a linked phrase like “Shop Now” can do the trick.
Also, you should make your links noticeable. Most clicked links have slightly larger text or are in all caps, with a different color than the rest of the text surrounding them. Red often works well.
Try to stick to just one link per email to keep your promotion simple and clutter-free.
You also can try using a linked image. Visuals immediately catch the eye and you can use them to incite a call to action. The example below features a clickable image that yielded the lion’s share of the clicks:
Embrace email automation
Email automation is a process that makes it possible to send time- or action-triggered emails to your subscribers with relevant content.
With automation, it’s possible to create and schedule emails to be sent to different segments of your subscriber base at times when they’re most likely to be engaged.
Essentially, you can set everything up and monitor your success with minimal intervention.
For a seamless, time-saving email retargeting experience, there’s no denying that email automation is your best option.
This practical guide will help you get started, saving you time and money in equal measures.
Don’t forget holiday email mobile optimization
Studies suggest emails that display poorly on mobile are usually deleted within three seconds. And, when you consider that emails are now opened more on mobile than desktop, making sure your holiday email marketing communications are optimized across all devices is essential.
It’s a make-or-break situation.
Your promotional emails must be fully mobile-optimized, offering a seamless level of user experience (UX) while looking great on screen. Otherwise, your customers will put them in the virtual trash bin, posthaste.
With testing, time and development, you can ensure that all of your emails work perfectly on mobile devices. But the most effective solution is to use an email marketing tool like Upfiv Email Marketing that will optimize your designs automatically.
Doing so will allow you to preview them across devices before sending them to your recipients, resulting in time and money well spent.
Research, track and refine your holiday email efforts
Sector or niche aside, your marketing success as a business owner will depend on your ability to test and refine your activities for future holiday campaign success.
Testing your holiday emails boils down to good common sense.
In terms of checking and testing your emails before sending them, you might catch typos or broken links, or discover a better way to lay out a module. And by measuring the success of your emails after your campaign, you’ll be able to identify what works well in addition to areas that require improvement.
If you don’t have a marketing team to test your emails, you should send a test to yourself or a trusted friend. It really does help to see your newsletter as it appears in your readers’ inboxes.
Plus, if you’re starting a drip campaign, or continuing one, it’s important to ensure your campaign is functioning optimally.
Here are two tried and tested strategies to ensure you holiday email efforts work for you time and time again.
Benchmark your results
By using email campaign data to your advantage, you’ll be able to benchmark your holiday email marketing efforts, empowering you to make vital improvements during the next seasonal period.
The best way to benchmark your campaign efforts is by analyzing metrics — such as open rates, click-through rates and conversion rates — based on the performance of individual emails. You can do this through platforms like Google Analytics or your email marketing platform’s built-in performance data, using your discoveries to understand your strengths and weaknesses.
By drilling down into your performance data, you’ll be able to decide the best and worst times to send emails, the types of content or offers that work best, and figure out which elements of your holiday marketing efforts need improvement, so you can take action where necessary.
If you measure, track and benchmark your efforts on a continual basis, you’ll keep evolving, increasing your holiday marketing sales year after year in the process.
Failing to do so will only dilute your promotional email efforts.
Peek at your competitors
The best thing about holiday email marketing is the fact that the holidays (in their various forms) happen every year, offering a fresh opportunity to dazzle, amaze and engage your audience every 12 months.
One of the best ways to get inspiration for your holiday marketing efforts is to look at what your competitors are doing.
Follow them on social media and sign up for their email lists to gather as much intel as possible.
Peeking at the competition is great because not only can you utilize the best parts of their campaigns to your advantage by placing your own spin on their ideas and delivering them to your customers, but you can also spot content gaps to exploit.
For example, if your competitor is doing a “12 offers of Christmas” campaign — sending out a different deal each day on the lead up to the big day — you could evolve this idea by delivering an email that includes a “12 days of Christmas advent calendar” graphic that your customers can open for exclusive deals and content.
With holiday emails, the sky really is the limit. But it certainly doesn’t hurt to look at what your competitors are doing with their holiday email marketing activities.
Conclusion and next steps
There’s no doubt about it: for businesses of all shapes and sizes, the holidays offer a prime opportunity for increasing your sales, boosting brand awareness and growing your audience.
By planning early on and delivering content that will inspire as well engage your audience in equal measures, you stand to enjoy great success with your holiday email marketing campaigns.
“Email has an ability many channels don’t: creating valuable, personal touches — at scale.” —David Newman, author of “Do It! Marketing”
As a quick recap, here is a rundown of the best general practices for holiday email marketing:
Be clear and direct
Always have a clear goal for every promotional email you send to make your communications concise and impactful. Plus, if you’re looking to attract new subscribers, make sure your opt-in information is easy to read, letting prospective subscribers know what you intend to do with their contact details.
Stay recent and engaged
When dealing with your email marketing lists, make sure you remove any subscribers who are inactive or unresponsive, giving yourself the space to focus your efforts on new customers or existing recipients who are likely to engage.
Exert no pressure
Adding a sense of urgency to your holiday emails with deal and discount code expiry messaging, for example, is effective. But, don’t over-pressure your holiday prospects as it could damage your brand reputation. Make sure your communications are as natural as possible, leaving the hard sales pitch at the door.
Test your emails
Measuring, tracking and testing your emails is essential to your ongoing holiday marketing success. Testing your emails before you send them will ensure you capture any typos or formatting issues across devices.
And, by drilling down into your performance data, you’ll be able to see what works and what doesn’t, empowering you to make improvements for future campaigns.
Care for your customers
Make sure you reward loyal subscribers with exclusive content and incentives, and always remember to offer a unique level of value with every single piece of content you send.
Whether it’s a greetings card, gift guide or an exclusive discount code, you should always strive to keep your holiday email recipients coming back for more.
This article includes content originally published on the GoDaddy blog by the following authors: Christina Berry, Emma Wilhelm, Macdara Bracken and Mira Lynn.