Can you recommend a good and honest one?

I’m a subscriber to a vibrant and active online group of homeschooling parents in my area.  Like most vibrant and active groups – members of the group discuss more than just homeschooling issues.  People on the list frequently ask for recommendations for doctors, chiropractors, insurance agents, auto mechanics and everything in between.  Those requests to list often end with the same line which closed a recent request for a recommendation for an orthopedic surgeon:

“Can anyone recommend a good and honest one?”

This is the BEST reason to maintain a business blog

One of the best reasons to maintain a business blog is so that when people offer their recommendation for you, your products or your services, they can also include a link to your business blog as well.  Ideally this business blog contains ample “evidence” that you are the expert who is ready, willing and able to quickly and efficiently solve their problem.

It’s important to recognize that requests for information are happening all the time – both online and offline.  Some of those requests for recommendations are happening “behind closed doors” – like the email list to which I’m subscribed.  The recommendations offered on the list are very powerful… perhaps the most potent “marketing” tool known to mankind –  the personal heartfelt recommendation – made without any possibility of compensation.

These recommendations are so powerful that several local businesses have joined the group with the sole intent of responding to requests like the ones above.  What keeps this list “vibrant and active” is that those who join with the sole intention of promoting their business are quickly removed from the list.

Such requests for trusted recommendations are also happening on “public” sites like Facebook and Twitter.  Recommendations and responses on public sites can play a powerful role in crafting your online reputation.

It doesn’t matter where those recommendations are made, they can become much, much more powerful when people can refer to your business blog – filled with helpful posts which illustrate your expertise.

When a visitor arrives at your business blog based on the recommendation of a friend or trusted co-worker -do you think they care whether or not the current post is 15 hours old or 15 weeks old?  The answer is almost always a resounding “no” – as long as that 15 week old post isn’t touting an event that took place 14 weeks ago.  😉

What the visitor is looking for is additional “proof” that this professional – whether it’s an attorney, a doctor, a chiropractor, a CPA or a even dog trainer – knows his/her “stuff”.

Providing that kind of content – content which exhibits your expertise in your chosen field – is the KEY to creating a business blog that really “works” for your business.

Providing  evidence of your expertise is probably the best reason ever to begin blogging for your business.

 

Indecent Business Blogging Exposure and other forms of TMI

a.k.a. yet another reason why your business blog shouldn’t act like other blogs.

Blogging is great.  It allows you to publish content quickly and easily to the world wide web.  That content will live on long after it’s dropped from the front page of your blog and will continue playing a significant role in shaping your online reputation for years to come.

Business blogging allows you to create a search engine friendly comprehensive information archive about your business.  You can share the answers to frequently asked questions and share testimonials quickly and easily.  You can also choose to share any other content via your business blog as well.  The 30 second television commercial you paid to produce can “air” any time and the digital copy of your brochure can be downloaded  instantly.

Business blogging is truly a marvel- but like any other powerful weapon – it has a dark side.

Business blogging provides ample opportunity to create TMI business blog posts.

For some mystical, magical reason – writing on a regular basis seems to have the ability to “reveal” more than what is displayed on the page.

It’s called a Freudian slip when someone says something which unintentionally reveals what they’re really thinking.   Austin Power’s movie Goldmember provides an exaggerated illustration of this concept:

Austin: “Now who has my father?”

Dr. Evil: “Uh oh! Someone has some daddy issues.”

Austin: “Nothing could be my father from the truth.”

Dr. Evil: “Oops! You said ‘my father’.”

Austin: “No I dadn’t.”

Dr. Evil: “Did too!”

Austin: “Didn’t! Did not!”

Dr. Evil: “Shebah!”

Austin: “For me, this is a dad issue.”

Dr. Evil: “Hooh!”

Austin: “Dead issue! Dead dad! Dead beat dad.”

It’s funny when Mike Meyers does it – but if you’re not careful, it’s very easy to commit such Freudian slips.

Business blogging is at its best when it is authentic.

Business blogging works best when it’s authentic.  As you blog, you’ll be writing in a distinct “voice” – just as when you speak, you speak in a distinct voice.  The way you write – the way you share stories – the tone of your writing all comes together to create your authentic blogging “voice”.  The more of you that you share, the more distinct this blogging voice will be.

Like every good thing –  authenticity can easily cross the line and become TMI which is a BAD thing. You must be aware of this “danger” and be careful, that personal turmoil doesn’t find it’s way into your blog posts.

Like most things I share here, this “lesson” is roote in personal experience. A few months ago, I was launching another business and asked a colleague to help with the branding and design elements.  She read the posts on that blog and assumed that I had hired a ghostwriter who failed to capture my “spark”.

OUCH!

I hadn’t hired a ghostwriter – but I was having serious reservations about launching that business.

Quick aside – Some businesses are like selling  encyclopedias door to door.  Back in the old days, prior to the internet, when someone purchased an encyclopedia set, it was a one time sale.  Few customers would be willing to buy a second set of encyclopedias no matter how happy they were with the original purchase.  These types of businesses don’t have repeat sales or repeat customers  and as a result, are tough to launch and then grow.

I hadn’t wanted to face the fact that the business I was preparing to launch was looking like it was definitely a “high tech” version of encyclopedia sales.  That internal conflict had come through loud and clear despite my refusal to acknowledge it.

Should you avoid transparency in your business blog?

I don’t think you can successfully blog without some element of transparency.  With that said, business blogging is too important to take a “I’ll wait to blog for my business as long as life is perfect” mentality.  It’s the most powerful social networking tool available and one that – like fine wine – improves with age.

If you’re waiting for the perfect time to launch a business blog – that time was five years ago.  You’re behind – get moving and get started.

However, if your business is in a state of turmoil – if your personal life is in a state of chaos – I would recommend that you hire a copywriter to assume your business blogging activities.

There are a lot of benefits to hiring a writing professional.  First and foremost, a true ghostwriting “pro” can write in your voice – without ever making a Freudian slip.

Your clients or customers may love you – but they don’t need to know the intricate details of your latest bout with the flu.  🙂 Just one of many things that are better left “unblogged”.

Business Blogging: Tools for Marketing

Business blogging is a tool – a tool you can use to promote your business as part of your social media marketing campaign.  However, just like any other tool – your business blogging success depends upon how you use it to promote your business.

Last night – I watched the latest episode of “Iron Chef America” where the winner of Season 3’s “Next Iron Chef” Marc Forgione faced his first challenger in Kitchen Stadium.  It was a twist of fate which allowed me to catch the first episode of the third season of “The Next Iron Chef” and I was instantly hooked.  In the end, Marc Forgione was crowned the champion and this episode of Iron Chef America was the first challenge for the newest Iron Chef.

The challenge of the competition was bell peppers and Forgione demonstrated why he is has been crowned an “Iron Chef”  by making the ingredient the “star” of all five of his dishes.  Meanwhile,  the challenger’s food while exceptionally prepared – failed to make the bell pepper “the star” according to the judges.

Business blogging  is the bell pepper of marketing.

Making an ingredient that is usually a supporting player the “star” of a not just one course – but all five courses in a gourmet a meal is what sets an “Iron Chef” apart.

Business blogging is often the “bell pepper” of marketing – used as a “supporting” player and not the “star” of most marketing strategies. For most marketing strategies- business blogging is an ingredient – sometimes an essential ingredient – but not the “star” of the show.

While it’s enjoyable to watch marketing masters use business blogging in a way that is the equivalent to red pepper sorbet – you first must master the “basics” of business blogging before attempting more “advanced” social media marketing dishes.

I like this analogy because marketing has a LOT in common with cooking.

Most people begin by following recipes created by more experienced cooks.  Faithfully follow a recipe and you can usually achieve edible results.  Epic kitchen disasters are usually the result of “tweaking” the recipe.   You can’t successfully “tweak” a recipe without first understanding the “why” behind an ingredient or a step.   Substituting ingredients may not destroy a dish – skipping a step may not destroy the final outcome- but stepping off the established recipe path without knowing the why behind the directions is usually a recipe for disaster in the kittchen.

Disaster awaits when you tweak without knowing the “why”.

My son has been passionately pursuing sports for the past decade but recently discovered he has a gift for food preparation.  (We watch Iron Chef and he’s seen “real men cook” which has inspired him to try his hand in the kitchen.)  He recently saw a cheesecake featured on the cover of a magazine – and purchased the magazine determined to achieve the same results.

However, even though it was his first cheesecake – and he doesn’t have a lot of experience in the kitchen – he began tweaking the recipe.

The tweaking began when didn’t have one ingredient – instant coffee – so he skipped adding it.  Next he substituted peanut butter candy for the crushed toffee bars.

These two “tweaks”  actually worked well together. The absence of the first ingredient made the substitution of the 2nd acceptable.  It was a “happy” accident and since the “core” ingredients of the recipe were still intact – he was still on the path to a tasty outcome for his efforts.

Then the recipe instructed that he line the spring form pan with foil and he  didn’t want to do that.  He wanted instead “grease the sh*t” out of the pan.  At this point, I stepped in and STRONGLY suggested that this time –  he follow the directions.   Maybe – just maybe – there was a reason WHY the recipe included this step.

Later the recipe called for filling the pan in which the spring form pan was sitting with water to bake the cheesecake.   When the cheesecake emerged from the pan, the reason for the foil became apparent.  Obviously my ancient cookware is not water tight and had he not followed the instructions – his cheesecake would have been ruined.

While substituting and omitting minor ingredients didn’t destroy his creation, the cheesecake was “saved” because he followed a really important step in the directions.  His inexperience in the kitchen however didn’t allow him to recognize the “why” so he could know what could be substituted or skipped and what could not.

Marketing is a lot like that.  There are a lot of “recipes” online for how to achieve success in social media marketing but if you want to create your own recipe variation – it’s important to know the WHY behind what you’re doing.  Begin by following the “recipes” prepared by others… then begin modifying the recipe once you’ve mastered the basics.

I’ve always taken a “teach you to cook” approach when working with clients… and I recently was reminded by a new client that this consulting style is truly “unique”. Digging into the “why” behind what you’re doing is what sets my business blogging tutorials apart from other business blogging “recipes” available.  It’s also what sets my consulting services apart as well.

Not everyone wants to learn to cook – or bake a cheesecake.  After all, you can pick up a cheesecake ready made at the grocery store – often for only a fraction more than the cost of the raw ingredients.  But if you want to some day become an Iron Chef – you’d better know the why behind every step of every dish you create.

If you want to become an “Iron Chef” of marketing your business- you’d also better learn the reasons “why” you’re doing what you’re doing.

What’s your favorite “business blogging” tool or ingredient for success?  Feel free to showcase your Iron Chef business blogging abilities in the comments section below.

Blogging for Your Business

When I say “blogs” – many business owners start seeing horrible visions in their mind’s eye.   Some see self-obsessed, narcissistic egomaniacs for whom the ultimate goal is fame – or infamy – either one, as long as people remember their name.  Others see blogging as a six inch thick chain, locking them to their computer – forced to compose dozens of blog posts daily without the benefit of spell or grammar check.

However, when I talk about blogging for your business, I don”t see the distorted visions most business owners see.  What I see when I talk about business blogging is a cost effective, powerful and affordable business building tool.

Most of today’s popular blogging software programs began as CMS – Content Management Software.  Their express purpose was to make publishing information to the web quick and easy for those who didn’t want to learn the intricacies of HTML, CSS, FTP and a dozen other alphabet soup web terms which were needed to get your marketing message published to the web not so very long ago.

So when I’m talking about blogging for your business – I’m talking about using software to make it easy to get your marketing message onto the web.    When you see an egomaniac who is using the software for shameless self promotion – your thought as a business owner should be, “If that idiot can operate a blog to get his/her message onto the web – I can use a blog to do something useful – like educate my customers via the web.”

While wild visions of colorful – and sometimes offensive characters – may fill your mind’s eye when it comes to business blogging – in reality business blogging is actually best suited for those with an eye to the future.  Business blogs do a great job of building authority and authority (authority =  trust + power… the power to motivate people to take action.) takes a lot longer to create than a fleeting case of infamy.

Creating a business blog post today takes a certain amount of time – which causes many business owners to join in the battle cry of  I don’t have time to blog.  However, while your blog posts do take some time to create – they continue to live on your blog for as long as your blog is in existence – and sometimes beyond as  it seems the internet never forgets.

Imagine if the radio ad you ran last week could continue to be aired indefinitely – and it only aired when a radio listener announced to the radio that he/she was interested in the products and services your business provides.  That’s exactly the way your business blog posts can work to promote your business.

So when you hear the term “blogging for your business” try to erase from your mind visions of reminiscent of an episode of Jerry Springer – and instead view business blogging through a new lens.  Business blogging is a way for your business to quickly and easily communicate with prospective customers via the web.  The informative blog post you create today will live on to continue working with other blog posts – bringing real customers to your business.  That’s the real beauty of business blogging.

Why Ask Why – a Tale of 3 Bloggers

social media marketing success“Why are you blogging?”

If you haven’t asked yourself this question lately, maybe you should.

Recently, I had back to back conversations in a single morning with three different types of bloggers and was struck by how different their individual blogging goals were.

While each fit a similar “demographic” profile and all three were business owners, their answers to the question, “Why are you blogging?” were all dramatically different.

The Conversationalist – blogging to build community and connection.

The first blogger’s journey into blogging began because she wanted to be able to easily update the content on her website.  Enter the WordPress self hosted blog as CMS (content management system).

However, as time has progressed, this client has been feeling “called” to begin blogging with building community in mind.  She wants to begin engaging in a meaningful conversation with prospective clients and visitors to her website.  Because we’re already using WordPress as the CMS for her site, this will be an easy transition.

Creating a community conversation blog means installing some plugins to encourage conversation (a.k.a. comments) – WordPress plug ins like:

It also means adding some “social media” plugins such as:

The change in direction also means setting up Feedburner for the “new” information sharing style web presence. (The easiest way to make sure all RSS feeds go through Feedburner, use the FeedBurner FeedSmith plugin.)

All of these plugins are designed to make conversation and community “easier” on a WordPress self hosted blog.

This client has begun regularly “blogging” about a new “life design” she’s implementing.  She’s started blogging regularly and making sure that her blog posts encourage others to join in on the conversation.

While it’s possible that this will blogging project will ultimately net her more clients – right now, the primary reason this client is blogging is because she really wants to connect with others and have them join her on this journey.

The Capitalist – blogging to achieve superior SERPS

The next client’s reason for blogging was entirely different.  When I asked this client the question – “Why are you blogging?” –  there was an uncomfortable silence as she considered her answer.

I “rescued” her by interjecting, “if you goal is to make the cash register ring – it’s OK! It just means there are some elements that you won’t want to embrace in your blog.”

The Capitalist knew that creating search engine friendly content is WAY easier when you build your web presence using a WordPress self hosted blog – and I think she was afraid that I would “condemn” her for not having “loftier” blogging goals.

In my book – a blogger who knows WHY he or she is blogging is already breathing rarefied air!!!

For the Capitalist, we skipped the plugins centered around “encouraging comments” but we’ll still be using the social media plugins because this client is very active on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.  She’s constantly making connections – not only to sell product but also has the goal of making joint venture connections via these valuable social media tools.

In addition to the tools above, we’re also using Viper’s Video to easily embed the informational videos she is creating for YouTube within blog posts. Creating YouTube videos is a GREAT way to leave  what I call “breadcrumb trails” back to your blog.

Of course, this clients product offerings are available on the static pages of her blog.  It’s amazing how many people I talk with who think that for some reason, a blog page can’t contain links to purchase products and services.

While the appearance of the blog is important to the Conversationalist – it’s even more important for the Capitalist. I can’t count the number of times I’ve “upgraded”  the design elements on a small business web presence and seen the conversion rate climb radically just because the design went from “home grown” to “polished and professional”.

The first time I witnessed the “design effect” was when a client came to me with a site that got nice traffic but sales conversions were dismal.  A simple “face lift” increased the conversion rate over 400% in a single quarter.

Content is king – but professional design is also important – especially to the Capitalist who wants to engender enough trust with visitors to get them to hand over their dough.

The Clueless Chump – blogging as a quick easy way to fame and fortune.

The first two conversations were with existing clients.  These are women who own successful businesses which they want to take to the next level.  The morning ended with a prospective new client call.  During the course of the third conversation I discovered that this woman is looking for a way to make a six figure income with a minimal investment of time, money and effort.   She’s obviously been infected with the “blogs as easy money” virus – which should be more feared than any strain of flu.  For that reason, I’m dubbing her the Clueless Chump.

Ah, if only she had opened the conversation with a quick, concise statement which communicated the information above- how much easier my life would be.

Let me be clear, this isn’t a woman who wants to launch or promote an authentic small business.  She’s not interested in adding value – which is what a blog with affiliate links must do to be successful. There’s plenty of value to be provided by the blog that offers reviews of products or services.

This woman is also not interested in selling products or services.   She’s also not interested in connecting with others unless they’re willing to give her money without her doing anything to earn that money.

I’ve been burned by this type of “money for nothing” client enough in the past that I’m getting pretty good at spotting these early on and steering clear.

This third call was not a reader of my blog.  When the Capitalist asked me why I blog – my response was I use my blog to try to “weed out” the Clueless Chump calls.  In this case, this particular Clueless Chump has never read my blog and probably never will – she found me by referral.

It’s days like this when I learn first hand why it’s so hard to give “one size fits all” advice around the issues of social media marketing and blogging.   As social media marketing emerges, it’s becoming obvious that crafting a social media marketing strategy is the most important step of all.

That’s why you should ask yourself “why”.  Asking yourself “why” can give you a solid foundation upon which to build your blogging strategy.