First Impressions Mean Everything

It turns out the first impression your business makes on consumers may be the only impression you ever get a chance to make.

Studies have shown that first impressions are actually more powerful than previously thought.  It’s possible our brains are actually wired so that the first impression made upon us by others actually become self-fulfilling prophecies.

One such study was done by psychologist Nalini Ambady.  During her time at Havard, she performed an experiment to examine the effect of first impressions on perception.  In this study, she divided students enrolled in a college class  into two groups.  She showed each group video clip of the professor “in action”.  One group saw clips which depicted the professor as cold and uncaring.  The other group saw clips which portrayed the professor as warm and caring.  Each student was asked to write an evaluation of the professor after viewing the clip.  Of course, their first impressions of the professor were carefully crafted – and students who were shown one set of clips had a distinctly different first impression that the group shown the second set of clips.  The students in both groups then took the class with the professor in question.

I wanted to believe that once the students EXPERIENCED the professor’s teaching firsthand that they would then be able to form an “accurate” opinion.  I wanted to believe that Instead of the carefully crafted first hand impression they had formed based on watching a few brief video clips, the students would end the class seeing the professor for who and what he really was.

However, that’s not what happened in the study.  Instead of the students revising their original first impressions based on first hand experience, they instead fiercely clung to their carefully orchestrated first impression.

At the end of the semester – the students who saw the videos depicting the professors as warm and caring still described him as warm and caring.  Those who began the semester thinking the professor was cold and uncaring ended by describing the professor as cold and uncaring.

This study – and several others that followed – seem to illustrate this disturbing fact:

The first impressions actually become self-fulfilling prophecies.

This study shows why it’s essential that your business make a good first impressions on consumers.  That’s one of the reasons business blogging is becoming such a powerful force for businesses big and small.

When you begin blogging for your business – it gives your business an opportunity to “speak” in a warm and caring manner.  You can influence consumers by “speaking” in a warm, caring voice via your blog.  You can write to address their problems and provide answers.  You can carefully craft the first impression your business makes on consumers.

So often, small businesses craft their web site trying to appear “cold and uncaring”…. a.k.a. “professional”.   I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with a static web presence that has a professional appearance – but the real question is –

Is that what consumers want when they visit your web site?

Your professional static web site may offer basic information consumers need – but chances are they need more.  They need a carefully crafted first impression maker which casts your business as the problem solver they need.

That’s the type of first impression your business blog can make.

Your business blog can do more than your static web site because it can tell daily, weekly or monthly stories of how others have used your products/services to conquer evil and save the world.

Maybe your stories won’t be Star Wars epic and grand – but you get the picture.

Your business blog can share real life customer testimonials – via the written word, via audio or even via video.  As you create those stories and share those testimonials – you’ll find that your business blog begins to almost magically begin attracting visitors who were searching for “keywords” contained within those stories.

That’s a “warm and caring” first impression every business owner should be striving to make.

Social Media’s Role in Branding

Before social media, branding was the buzzword of the marketing and advertising industry.  Like social media today – many in the “biz” were familiar with the term branding – but really didn’t “get” what it was really all about.  As a result a lot of “noise” has been made about branding which focuses upon the choice of colors, logo or other visual elements used in marketing.   But branding is so much more than just the visual packaging of your business or even your business name.  While the name and the visual elements are a way to quickly communicate the “core” or DNA of your business to consumers who don’t know you yet – your true BRAND is built through interaction with your customers.

I’ve always said that branding is not something you do to your business – but rather it’s something your customers do to your business.  Just as a calf does not control the hot metal which sears a symbol into it’s flesh – your company’s brand is controlled consumers.  This is why focusing upon the consumer and striving to meet their expectations is the foundation of branding.  Social media gives businesses a way to make that connection – to collect that information – and to actually see your business from the consumer’s point of view.

Peter Drucker was a self-described “social ecologist” whose insight helped to build some of the most successful companies in the world including General Electric, Coca-Cola, Citicorp, IBM, and Intel. Drucker attempted to unveil some of the “mystique” surrounding branding,

“Suppliers and especially manufacturers have market power because they have information about a product or a service that the customer does not and cannot have, and does not need if he can trust the brand. This explains the profitability of brands.”

According to Drucker – the essence of branding is building trust and long term business profitability ultimately depends upon building trust with consumers.  Branding is all about building trust with consumers.   When consumers can trust you – they’re more likely to buy from you.  Social media provide the communication tools necessary to engage consumers and build that trust.

The process of building trust with consumers used to be as mysterious and abstract as quantum mechanics.   Companies had no way of knowing whether they had made a “connection” with consumers other than to watch for the cash register to tally up another sale.    Social media is providing revolutionary insight into this once obscure concept but  it’s increasing the importance of actively striving to build trust with consumers as well.

Blog posts and building trust with prospective customers

In Blogging, Authority and Trust I talk about how in order to gain access to a prospective customer’s emotional triggers you have to engender a level of “trust” with a prospective customer or client.   That level of trust begins as “trust” and can grow into “authority” with time.

In “Trusting your Gut“I shared the word picture which illustrates how the whole process of building trust works. Now I’d like to illustrate the role trust plays in social media marketing by sharing a recent person experience on how a single blog post – and the comments approved on the post – worked to build – and then destroy – the elements of trust needed to make a sale.

I was searching for software which would automate a task I perform in my business.  Since I’m going to be asking this piece of software to eliminate the need to hire an employee – I know it’s not going to be freeware.   I entered the keywords to describe the software into Google and -not surprisingly – one of the first results returned was a WordPress blog post.  In the post, the author asked his readers to share what software solutions they had used to solve the same problem I’m having.  The blog post had almost 60 comments by the time I arrived and I had high hopes that I would quickly and easily discover the software I needed.

At this point, my trust account balance with this blogger is low.  However, I’m willing to give this blog author the opportunity to earn my trust.  After all – his post is appearing first in Google, it appears he talks about issues affecting my business.

The post itself was basically fluff  – asking readers to submit the solutions they had found. I didn’t mind this – as a matter of fact, I was happy to see it.  It’s great to see how others are solving this apparently common problem.

The first few comments were apparently authentic- each of which acted like a deposit into the newly opened trust account.  Most of the authentic comments on the blog post fell along the lines of “I still use pen and paper to perform this task.”  UGH!  That’s what I’m doing now.

Notice that these are what I call the authentic responses because it was obvious that these were real readers with real businesses.    Unfortunately,  there were only about a dozen “authentic” responses – followed by about four dozen “inauthentic” responses.

There were several comments which looked authentic at first glance.  They included a photo gravatar combined with a first name – like “John” – followed by a comment which went along the lines of “we looked long and hard for an easy to use, intuitive software program to handle these tasks and were delighted to find [insert software name here].”  The comment then went on to describe the software’s benefits in glowing terms.

The problem with “John’s” comment and many others began with a simple hyperlink.  See, one way a reader “gauges” the authenticity of a comment is by following the hyperlinks in the comment.  In the case of these inauthentic “shill” comments,  when you clicked on the link to see if you could “trust” the glowing recommendation.  – surprise surprise -you would find the hyper linked went directly to the website selling the software program described in the comment.

Congratulations “John” – you garnered some weak link juice and lost the opportunity for me to even download a trial version of your software.

John and several others were obviously shill posting as a satisfied customers promoting their software solution via this blog post. This may be what some people call “social media marketing” but it’s really just spamming the comments of blog posts by posing as a satisfied customer.   It’s yet another example of a blunder in online reputation management – one that can’t be easily erased.

The moral of this story is that several software developers who tried to promote their products via shill comments lost the valuable opportunity to be “authentic” and showcase their software product to a prospective customer who was actively researching a purchase.

Instead of leveraging the power of a blog post with a #1 SERP on a valuable – albeit long tail – keyword term to capture high quality sales leads by leaving an authentic blog comment – a surprising number of software developers settled for a link with very little SEO value and absolutely no potential for real customer engagement.

This experience illustrates a lot of “blogging truths”….

  1. Leaving thoughtful comments on other blogs which add value to the conversation are a great way to get new readers for your blog.
  2. Finding blog posts which use powerful keyword phrases and leaving authentic comments is a great way to promote your product or services.
  3. Trying to “game” social media is a waste of time and energy.
  4. Trust which is quickly earned is fragile – and must be earned over time to fully develop into authority.

The best social media marketing practices begin by recognizing that social media is transparent.  Unfortunately it’s relatively easy to “stand out” from the crowd by simply being honest and telling the truth. In the blog post mentioned above, one software developer was “authentic” in his comment – sharing that he was the developer  and asking for input about his software from readers.

The web is big – and often you’ve got a limited opportunity to engage with a prospective customer.  Why would you waste it by lying and pretending to be someone you’re not?

Trusting your gut….

While building trust and establishing authority is a difficult process to “quantify” and measure –  it’s one of the best reasons to launch a blog for your business.

Years ago, a close friend of mine entered into therapy with her husband to try to save their marriage of 10 years.  Her therapist initially diagnosed the “primary problem”  in their relationship as my friend’s lack of trust in her partner.  The therapist provided her with a powerful word picture which she shared with me.

The emotional trust word picture goes like this:  Trust is like a bank account – when you initially meet someone – the trust balance on the account is zero.  Over the course of time, you make deposits to the account.  Deposits can be small at first – like calling when you say you’re going to call or showing up on time when you have a lunch date.  However, just like money – small regular deposits can add up quickly to create a sizable balance in the trust account of a healthy relationship.

Withdrawals from the account in this word picture are made when one party asks the other to take a leap of faith.  For example, in my friend’s case – when her husband called and told her he was working late – he was making a withdrawal from her trust account with him.   My friend’s counselor painted this picture for her because he believed that she had not been properly “crediting” her husband’s trust “account” and as a result – she didn’t trust that he was indeed working late as he claimed.

Hindsight is always 20/20 – and it turned out that my friend’s “trust accounting system” had been spot on. Shortly after sharing this word picture with me, my friend’s husband announced he wanted a divorce and revealed that he had been involved with a co-worker for over a year.  My friend’s gut instincts about his late night work sessions had been right on target all along.

While the therapist missed the mark in the above situation (caused by believing the narcissistic lying sack of sh*t to whom my friend was soon freed from the bonds of not so holy matrimony) his word picture about how building trust works is right on the money and one that every business owner who is considering using social media marketing needs to keep in mind.

When a prospective customer finds your blog post,  the balance of their trust account with you is low.  You begin making “trust deposits” immediately with seemingly simple details like the theme you choose.  However, the best way to quickly build the balance in the trust account quickly is to provide access to LOTS of high quality and relevant information.

Which is why a blog with a hundred or so blog posts is a great trust building tool for your business.  When prospective customers discover the first blog post about your product or service – they can dig deeper and learn more by simply reading other blog posts you’ve written.  When you create blog posts from questions asked by potential customers via email – it’s a powerful way to build a library of informative business building blog posts.  While fellow bloggers – who are the ones most likely to leave comments on your blog posts –  may find your blog posts “redundant” – prospective customers who are finding your blog for the first time won’t see redundancy but rather lots of valuable information they need to know to make a decision about whether or not to give your products and/or services a try.

Next – I’ll share a customer’s eye view of the whole “trust building” process and demonstrate how a blog post can serve as a powerful trust building tool.

Blogging, Authority and Trust

Dale Carnegie once said,  “When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion.”

It’s commonly accepted that people buy products and services based on emotional triggers.  Only after the emotional trigger has been pulled will consumers then try to use “logic” to justify the purchase.  That’s why – when you’re writing copy with the intention of “selling” something – you first try to pull the emotional “trigger” and then provide “evidence” to justify the purchase.

In order to gain access to those emotional buttons – it’s essential that the marketing materials engender a level of “trust” with a prospective customer or client.  Sometimes – in the case of minor sales – this level of trust can be achieved quite easily – a professional site design or a BBB label for example.  However, in the case of a major sale – the type of sale that any independent service professional is making –  achieving that level of trust can only be achieved by providing lots and lots of “evidence”.

One of the reasons blogs are powerful business building tools is that they offer quick, easy and lasting communication.   One of the most potent uses of a blog is creating authority.  In that post, I defined authority as trust + power… the power to motivate people to take action.

Adam Singer writes in his blog post Influence, Trust And Authority

Trust is a gray area to measure using quantitative metrics.  Measuring an idea as subjective and nuanced as trust is difficult because you can never escape the simple fact that trust is relative.  Someone may have a personal blog with only 20 readers, but those 20 readers soak in every word and trust the author deeply, taking any calls to action suggested and studying each word carefully.  That person may be more trusted by their small, but loyal following than far more popular bloggers with greater numbers.

In his example, Adam is showcasing a common scenario in the world of business blogging where a “small time” blogger has engendered a high degree of “authority” with a relatively small audience.

In the post “Trust is not Transitive”  I wrote about how it takes quite a while to build trust and how trust is not easily transferred from one person to another.  While Andy Beards’ readers trusted him – they weren’t ready to instantly “trust” some of his recommended resources.  Andy had achieved a level of “trust” with his extensive blogging audience – and when he used his blog to sell his products and services – his audience was responsive.  However, when Andy began recommending other resources – his readers did not respond.  Andy had achieved “trust” with his readers – but hadn’t reached “authority” status with his readers.

Building a level of trust that is transitive is what I refer to as “authority” – the ability to recommend products and/or services beyond your control and have your audience act upon your recommendation.

Cath Lawson demonstrates just such “authority” in her post about making money online by selling what you know.  In her post, she not only promotes her own ebook  Write an Ebook in 7 Days – but she also promotes the ebooks of other authors as well. In our whole “trust vs authority” example – Cath’s post will effectively “sell” her ebook to readers with whom she has established a certain level of trust.  Meanwhile, Cath’s post will sell the ebooks of other authors to readers with whom she has established authority.

That’s an important distinction which  the “get rich quick with blogging and promoting affiliate links” gurus frequently overlook.

In order to sell the products and services of others with your blog, you need to establish a level of trust known as authority.

Eric Holmlund has clearly demonstrate the power of how powerful blogging authority can be in his post “Am I liable for this – you be the judge“. Eric shares an email he received from a reader who hired a copywriter – Nicolas Cole – based upon Eric’s recommendation in an earlier blog post.  Long story short – the copywriter didn’t deliver and the reader was asking Eric for a refund, because after all – he wouldn’t have hired Nicolas had Eric not recommended him on his blog.

When I first saw the post  – it had over 700 comments.   Forty eight hours later, that number had grown to over 900 and when the dust settled the number of comments had grown to over 1000.   Imagine having hundreds of prospective clients gathering in one place to debate whether or not someone who recommended your services should offer a refund because you didn’t deliver.  Talk about an online reputation nightmare in the making!

However, beyond what was happening to Nicolas Cole’s online reputation – notice how the reader hired Nicolas and paid him over $1300 to write copy based solely upon Eric’s recommendation .  Whether you think Eric was liable or not – the reader obviously felt enough of a connection with Eric to act upon his recommendation without further research. This is an clear illustration of the power of authority. Eric built a such a connection with a virtual stranger powerful enough that when he recommended a copywriter – the reader hired him and paid him over a thousand dollars to retain his services.

You don’t build that kind of a connection with strangers in a few blog posts.  It takes time and it takes consistency.  Eric has been blogging regularly since 2006 and this particular recommendation was from a post dated October 2009 which Eric then went back and revised.

Creating authority with your business blog does NOT happen in the matter of a few posts but it does happen.  It begins by creating a level of trust with your readers – and then slowly but surely progresses to a level of authority.  By the way, that kind of trust is only created when you overcome your business fear of sharing.

Only when you’ve created trust with your readers will they open themselves up enough to allow you to pull the emotional triggers which encourage them to purchase your products or services.   If your marketing efforts are falling flat – it’s time to take a good hard look at whether you’re doing what it takes to establish trust with your target audience.

Blogging for your business – It’s a numbers game

In Blogging for your business I shared that one of the reasons a business blog is a valuable business building tool is because you can quickly and easily publish content to the web.  The value of this ability is often lost upon those who don’t eat/breathe/sleep the web.

The Web Game is Just Another Numbers Game

Most “ordinary” business people think that a single web site with only three or four pages can effectively compete when it comes to the web.  What they frequently overlook is that many of the results returned on the first few pages of a search query are often web pages which are part of mega sites with hundreds – in some cases – thousands of pages.

Take for example – Wikipedia.  Do a search for specific information and chances are – a Wikipedia article will  be listed on the first few pages of the search.  According to Wikipedia – the official count for the number of articles which appear there numbers in the 750,000 range. Because these articles are very specific in scope – they often provide exactly the information a web visitor is seeking.

This is why I sometimes have been known to snarl and foam at the mouth when a blog owner who has written 5 blog posts over the past year complains to me that his or her blog is not “working” because it’s not appearing at the top of highly competitive searches.

Winning the web game is in part a numbers game.  Wikipedia has over three quarters of a million “articles” in there competing for a top spot when the search engines provide a list of links containing the information the web visitor has entered to search.   Most of those articles link liberally to other articles on the site.  Because the articles are frequently displayed on the first page of various searches – blog owners and webmasters liberally link to the articles as well.

Compare this “winning” web strategy with the typical “set it and forget it” static web site preferred by most business owners.  The business owner creates a web site and populates the three to ten pages with the content a copywriter created years ago for the company brochure.  The content was stale before it was published to the web – and it continues to languish in the deepest, darkest corners of the web.   It’s like buying 10 tickets for the lottery on the day you launched the website – and then not buying any more tickets yet expecting to win.

Winning the web game is a numbers game.  The business blog with 300 blog posts – created over the course of three years – stands a much better chance of coming up on what is known as a “long tail search”.  Long tail searches are words not searched upon frequently.  Often, these “long tail search” terms are often performed by people who are actively researching a purchasing decision.

For example, 1,000,000 people used the term “lower back pain” to search the web last month.  That’s a LOT of people searching for information on lower back pain.  However, while there are a lot of people searching for the term “lower back pain” there are relatively few who are searching for “lower back pain relief in Boca Raton, Fl.” If you’re a chiropractor – you want to be sure your business web presence is one that is seen by the person who types those words into a search engine looking for answers.

If you’re a chiropractor with a blog though – it’s easy to create a blog post on how chiropractic can help relieve lower back pain.  By the simple act of creating this informative blog post – you instantly create an “article” much like the 750,000 articles which are featured on Wikipedia.  This blog post joins your other blog posts – where you’ve written about how you’ve helped patients with severe lower back pain, chronic lower back pain, and even lower left back pain.  Before you know it, by simply blogging about the different conditions you see in your practice – you’ve created a robust library of helpful “articles” (a.k.a. blog posts) on various specific topics which your prospective patients might use to find information on the web.

Will you create such a robust repository overnight?  Of course not – but one of the best reasons to begin blogging for your business is over the course of time – you can create a robust online resource which will continue to provide a stream of prospective patients long after you’ve written the initial post.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.  Start blogging today so tomorrow your blog posts have a chance of “showing up” when your prospective customers/clients go searching for answers on the web.

Your Business Blog is Good for Business

I’ve been saying for a long time that business blogging is by far the best investment of time/energy/resources you can make for your business.  Well’ now it’s official –  a recent study proves that your business blog is good for business.  Emarketing commerce reports:

Majority of Business Blog Traffic Comes From First-Time Visitors

Two-thirds of respondents to a survey conducted by Compendium Blogware found that more than 80 percent of all of their blog traffic was from first-time visitors.  For the survey, Compendium Blogware, a social media and search platform provider, gathered data from 266 companies about blogging traffic, visitor trends and Twitter usage. … First-time visitors come from two major sources, Compendium said: referring sites and search engines.

These results are hardly surprising.   Blogs – especially the WordPress variety – are extremely search engine friendly in their architecture.  Combine that with the fact that the act of blogging about your business tends to create content which is rich in the keywords your desired prospective customers/clients are using to find the very solutions you and your business offer.

However, the fact that your business blog can be found more easily by your ideal customers is just the tip of the iceberg.   Once those prospective customers/clients discover your business blog – the blog posts you’ve created over the months/years go to work establishing your authority.

So if blogging is indeed good for business – why aren’t more business owners blogging?

One of the most common objections I hear from business owners about blogging is that they don’t have time to blog.  Sometimes this objection is based upon the mistaken belief that to “blog” means to write incessantly – creating multiple blog posts each and every day.   However, it’s been my experience that most objections about perceived time poverty are instead a cover for the “real” objection to business blogging: not knowing what to write about.

In Unseen Business Killers, I offer a sure fire way to determine if  “I don’t have time to blog” is a reason or an excuse.

It’s easy to determine if “I don’t have time to blog” is an excuse or a reason.  If you really don’t have time to blog for your business, you can either

  • hire someone to blog for your business or
  • hire someone to assume some of your duties so you can find time to blog.

It’s just that simple.  You can usually find time to do what’s important – and blogging is important for your business.  It’s a great way to get found by prospective clients/customers – and it’s a great way to establish enough trust with them so they’ll take the next step and contact you.

The act of business blogging can be as simple as reworking emails you (or members of your staff)  have sent to both current and prospective clients/customers. As a matter of fact, sometimes the subject lines of those incoming emails make GREAT blog post titles.

Once you’ve got a great blog post title that gets your blog found by the search engines, then get to work creating relationships.  Once people find your business via the search engines, they then needed to form a relationship with the people behind your business.   Building a relationship is part of  the whole TRUST thing I go on about here.  Building trust is what social media does best.

THAT is why business blogging is so darned good for your business.  Not only can those blog posts act as bait to bring in first time visitors who are seeking the solutions your business provides – those same posts can also carry some of the “trust building” weight as well.  Prospective clients/customers find your blog – read your blog posts – and decide after reading a few dozen articles that – yeah – you really can help them achieve their Goals – quench their Desires – or solve their Problems.  In other words, not only can your blog posts act as bait – they can also start to work on establishing your connection to your prospective client/customer’s GDP.

No wonder business blogs are so good for business!

Creating Authority with Your Business Blog

I’ve talked a lot about how your business blog can be used to build trust with prospective clients – especially if you’re in the business of “selling your knowledge.”  However, there’s another term which is emerging which may be an even more compelling reason to begin blogging for your business.

That term is AUTHORITY and it’s becoming a buzz word in the world of business blogging because business blogging is a powerful and effective tool you can use to establish your authority.

Authority is powerful stuff.  According to Dictionary.com, one of the definitions of authority reads:

“right to respect or acceptance of one’s word, command, thought, etc.; commanding influence: the authority of a parent; the authority of a great writer.”

Think of authority as the natural next step in the whole “trust building” process.

Authority =  trust + power… the power to motivate people to take action.

There have been lots of behavioral studies surrounding the power of authority.  One of the most cited works on obedience to authority is the Yale study conducted by Stanley Milgram.  In the study, inspired by the trial of the Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann, Milgram sought to answer the deeply troubling question of whether authority could cause a person to contradict their deeply held beliefs.

In the study – volunteers were recruited and told they were part of an experiment which tested memory and learning in different situations.  The “administrator” was dressed in a lab coat and armed only with a clip board. and  the “student” was actually an actor.  The true subject of the study was the volunteer – who was assigned the role of “teacher” in the experiment.   The volunteer was instructed  to administer increasing electric shocks to the “student”.  The results of the experiment were sobering to say the least… 26 of the 40 volunteers went on to administer the maximum (fatal) voltage three times, despite the student’s pleas for mercy and apparent impending death.   Only one participant refused to administer shocks to the student.

That’s the power of authority.

In the study – the stage for the administrator’s authority was planned carefully.  The administrator was dressed in a lab coat and given a clipboard.    In later subsequent studies, it appears the “uniform” is an important control in creating the appearance of authority.  While the uniform in the original experiment was a lab coat and clipboard, subsequent experiments and a few well known scams have used police uniforms to create the authority required to quickly gain the trust needed to influence people to act in ways they would not without the misuse of the  power of authority.

Blogs are the “uniform” of authority on the web

So if you’ve been wondering what all the “fuss” is over business blogging – it’s this:  Business blogs are great tools for building authority.  Bloggers in every niche are constantly being cited regularly as “reliable sources” by various media outlets.  Search is a tool used by journalists worldwide – and blogs are very search engine friendly.

Which is why – blogs are quickly becoming the “uniform” of authority on the web.

However, it’s important to remember that trust – and the resulting authority – are not earned quickly nor easily.  The newly minted police officer who abuses the privileges his uniform imparts is quickly dismissed from the police force.  The same is true of your business blog.

Blogging authority does not come from a single blog post.  It doesn’t even come from a dozen or so blog posts.  In many cases, it comes from literally HUNDREDS of blog posts on a specific subject.

The path to authority begins with building a foundation of trust.  You gain the trust of your blog readers by providing lots and lots of quality content.  You answer the questions your readers are struggling to answer with your blog posts.  You give behind the scenes “glimpses” of how you solve problems.  You demonstrate your expertise time and time again through your blog posts.

Lather – rinse – repeat.

That’s how you “earn”the uniform of authority via blogging on the web.  It doesn’t happen overnight – but it does happen – one authority building business blog post at a time

Business Building Secret: People are actually pretty smart…

billymaysI think that Billy May’s great success as a pitchman lay in the fact that he truly believed that people are smart.

I had only recently caught an episode of Discovery’s series “Pitchmen“.  The series followed the late legendary pitchman Billy Mays and his British counterpart Anthony Sullivan, giving viewers a “behind the scenes” look at all that is involved in creating a successful marketing campaign.

One of the business building “secrets” to success practiced by Billy and Anthony was that they would only “pitch” great products.  In the episode I saw,  Billy believed a product had potential – but the inventor had to first work out every possible ‘kink’.

In the case of this episode’s  product, the spray on fertilizer which painted brown spots in your lawn green had to be environmentally friendly before Billy would agree to pitch the product.  An early version of the product could make pets and/or children ill if they came in contact with the treated lawn.  May was unwilling to pitch a product that could be harmful to pets or small children – so the product was sent “back to the drawing board.”

Billy Mays knew that his reputation as a “pitchman” was only as good as the products he promoted.   He knew that his reputation was on the line, so he fully vetted each and every product he pitched.  If Billy was pitching it – you could rest assured it worked as promised.  From Oxyclean to Kaboom, I have yet to try a product Billy pitched that didn’t work exactly as promised.

Billy Mays knew his ability to sell product lay in his ability to communicate with a vast audience – and repeat sales to that audience meant he had to continually to earn that audience’s trust. His distinctive delivery style – combined with his dedication to only pitching products he knew were worthy – made him one of the greatest pitchmen of our time.

If Billy Mays didn’t believe people were smart – he would have pitched any product – as long as the sponsor was willing to pay his fees.

Contrast that with the “people are idiots” business style of a self proclaimed “internet marketing guru.”  I subscribed to this lesser known “pitchman’s” newsletter a few years ago.  The reason I  subscribed  (using my “real” email no less)  is that I had purchased a book he had written.  His book was wealth of information and I was anxious to discover any other nuggets of wisdom this marketing expert had to offer.

I began to start doubting his great marketing wisdom when he shared some “complaints” that he had been receiving from newsletter subscribers in one of the early issues.

In essence, the letters he shared were from people who expressed disappointment at the content of his newsletters.  Instead of sharing ‘behind the scenes stories,” each newsletter was simply a long copy sales letter – with a “buy now to learn more” call to action at the end.  His readers were obviously asking for more…. more reasons to “trust” him before they bought from him.

His published response to the complaints was simple and along the lines of “I’m here to make money – not share free information.”

I continued to subscribe because – quite honestly – his newsletters were truly brilliant examples of effective sales copy.

It’s not surprising that one day, I fell victim to the master’s skillfully written marketing copy.  I purchased one of the reports he was selling.  I paid $39.90 for the report.  Because I had been so happy with the content in his published books, I was fairly certain I would be equally happy with the report.

Because his books had been previously published with a national publisher, he had to include a “disclaimer” at the beginning of the report.  In essence, the disclaimer shared that the information contained in the report was originally published as part of one of the author’s previously published books.

OUCH!!!!   Fool me once – shame on you.  Fool me twice – shame on me.

I have never unsubscribed from this newsletter because I will continue to keep his brilliant sales letters in my “swap” file.  However, I will NEVER make the mistake of paying $39.90 for one of his “reports” again when  I can just as easily pick up one of his books (new) on Amazon containing five times the material at half the price.

He made a one time to sale to me – but I will NEVER be his customer.

There’s an old customer service axiom  which says, “the customer is always right.” Maybe the marketing mantra should read:

“The customer is always smart.”

Ditech aired an ad a few years ago championing the concept that people are smart…

The commercial is more than a bit ironic given the state of the current mortgage markets.  However, I have to disagree with the vast wisdom contained in the YouTube comments and side with the commercial’s message – that people really ARE smart.  They will frequently make the absolute BEST choice – as they see it.

It’s your marketing materials job to show them that your product or service is the “smart” choice.

In my book Beyond the Niche: Essential Tools You Need to Create Marketing Messages that Deliver Results I suggest that you create your marketing copy with your ideal customer in mind… and to think of such “conversations” in the same way you would think of a conventional conversation at a dinner party or networking function.

You wouldn’t approach someone at a dinner party and strike up a conversation using a tone that implies that they’re an idiot – so why in the world would you adopt such a tone in your marketing copy?

Of course, in the end, it doesn’t matter how brilliant your marketing copy – if you truly believe that your customers are idiots – then that thinking is going to show up throughout your business.

If you think your customers are idiots, don’t expect to find long term success online – especially in the world where social media rules.

In an age of Facebook Fan Pages which can easily be created by your customers and which can operate beyond your control, you had better hope and pray the supposed “idiots” you call customers aren’t smart enough to figure out how to create a Facebook account – let alone a Facebook Fan Page.

See, there’s a difference between “idiots” and the “uniformed.”  The former are unable and unwilling to learn.  The latter are willing and able to be informed – and are open to enlightenment.  Check out Blogs and the Art of Deception for an example of the kind of “enlightenment” that happens online and you’ll see why it’s best to assume that people are smart – and ready to be enlightened.

After all – your audience won’t remain “uniformed” forever.  At some point in time, some blogger somewhere will eventually shed light on the subject during a Social Media Marketing Reality Check

“The Internet is VERY PUBLIC and it never forgets.”

Buyer Beware: Be an Informed Consumer

The customer SHOULD be king -but sometimes, some businesses tend to treat you like a dog!

I created the 8 Week Power Blog Launch  because after 6 months of blogging, my clients would come back to me with various questions about what else they needed to be doing to make their blogs successful.

Because my clients are not “web savvy”, a significant part the course is education about web basics.   While I don’t guarantee that you’ll become instantly “web savvy”, when you finish the course you will have the basics you need to become an informed consumer on the web!

One of the things it teaches you to do is to “spy” on what’s going on behind the scenes  which in the context of building your blog, is ESSENTIAL information.  However, it’s can also serve as a sort of “truth detector” when used to evaluate the claims of various “success” gurus.

It made my day when I got an email from an 8 Week Power Blog Launch user:

“I was in talks with an SEO expert who wanted to work on my blog.  However, when I used the “secret spy tools” you shared in the course, I didn’t like what I saw.  This information alone was worth the price of the course.”

YEAH!!!

Quite honestly, those stories are ALMOST as good as the stories of phenomenal traffic growth from using the program.  One of those stories is Sara Healy.  Sarah is one of my blog clients who was the first in line to grab a copy of the program.

When Sara started the 8 Week Power Blog Launch program, I didn’t grab a screen shot of her Alexa ranking.  However, as I was composing this post,  I went in to check and see what progress  she had made over the past 3 weeks.  Here’s what I saw:

Her blog has seen a 939% increase in reach and has moved up over 4.1 Million positions in the past three months.  (Most of this has happened in the past month as she’s been working the steps of the course.)

I want to be QUICK to point out that this jump is the result of Sara’s hard work!  She’s a wonderful writer and has a gift for communicating effectively.  The course  didn’t provide any “magic”, it just provided the education she needed to make her blog a rising star!

I use these tools ALL the time in my journey about the web.  The other day, I followed a link to a product that claims to be very similar to the 8 Week Power Blog Launch product.   It was one of the dozens of “Make Easy Money Blogging” products available online and like a good Internet Marketer it is being sold via a long one page sales page site which features:

  • a picture of the “author” working on his a laptop under a palm tree by the beach
  • a photo of his collection of rare antique sports cars parked in front of a mansion
  • a “screenshot” of his earnings
  • a long LIST of testimonials.

Now, since his product PROMISES  A Ton Of Free Traffic (copied and pasted from his sales page -explaining the font and color), I decided to check on the blogs which he lists as “testimonials” for his “secret system”.  (Remember, his system is effortless so there’s no reason WHY the testimonials wouldn’t have blogs with amazing Alexa rankings!)

The first thing I notice is that several of the “testimonial” sites are not blogs but simply single page websites selling their own info products.  The few that are actual blogs are not doing well by ANY stretch of the imagination when it comes to traffic.

What was this guy THINKING?   Doesn’t he know how EASY it is to copy the URL and visit the site?

So much for A Ton Of Free Traffic without any effort on your part.

With that said, while the  8 Week Power Blog Launch program is not HARD, it does require an investment of time and effort on your part.

If Sara had purchased the program and then done nothing – well, then her blog would still be sitting in the dark corners of the unexplored areas of the web.  Instead she’s working through the program and as a result has increased traffic to her blog – and she’s not even to the “blog promotion” part of the course!

One of the “tools” I recommend you use in the course is the Firefox plug-SEO Quake.  You have to be using Firefox as your web browser to use it – but you should be using Firefox anyhow!  Install it and it will change the way you view the web!