Tag Archive | "Manage"

Ask an SMXpert: Link prospecting and helpful tools to manage outreach

Content-led link building expert Paddy Moogan offers some practical tips on driving inbound links and collaboration tools to manage outreach campaigns.



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Try This System to Manage Your Blog Comments Faster (and with Less Stress)

I think the best way to introduce the topic of this post is to remind you that my favorite word is No. At the risk of sounding no-fun, I like rules. If you’re in a position to set rules for any given situation, they can help you reach solutions to issues faster and avoid future
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Google launches new Google My Business API, new dashboard to manage multiple locations

Now a single registered account on GMB will be able to manage an unlimited number of locations.

The post Google launches new Google My Business API, new dashboard to manage multiple locations appeared first on Search Engine Land.



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How to manage local listings for enterprise brands

Getting a handle on the data for multiple-location businesses can be a significant challenge. Columnist Brian Smith provides step-by-step guidelines to making it happen.

The post How to manage local listings for enterprise brands appeared first on Search Engine Land.



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3 Resources to Help You Create, Organize, and Manage Your Content

copyblogger collection - how to sort and use your content

Miriam Lafayette really knows what she’s doing. She absolutely has it together.

Who’s Miriam Lafayette? I made her up while washing dishes, but let’s have her represent a person whose work you love.

You look forward to her new content every time she publishes. You’d be so excited if you could have brunch with her in a fancy cafe. She’d radiate luminous energy as you both sipped tiny cups of espresso and nibbled on delectable cuisine.

But if you did meet Miriam, you’d discover that she’s not always pleased with her creations. Her run-of-the-mill aura is nothing to write home about, and she regards a lot of her content as boring and cliché. Don’t get her started on her mispronunciation of “Lactobacillus acidophilus” in her latest YouTube video — it was so embarrassing.

Miriam’s power simply stems from her unrelenting motivation to help her audience.

This is great news for you, because you can adopt Miriam’s work ethic to develop your authority and build your own audience. You just need to commit to a content production process that works for you.

This week’s Copyblogger Collection is a series of three handpicked articles that will show you:

  • How to use the law of (content) attraction
  • How to create a valuable membership site your audience will love
  • How to tame content creation chaos with rock-solid workflows

And if you’re still skeptical that well-known authorities criticize themselves, check out this video of Adele — yes, the master vocalist, Adele — disparaging her voice.

No one is free from self-doubt, but you can choose to overcome it, like Adele and all the people you personally admire. Now here’s your mini content production course …


The Law of (Content) Attraction

business-law-of-attraction

On the surface, content is a vehicle for attracting prospects and leads who will eventually become customers or clients.

Sonia Simone adds:

“We want to pull the right people in.

And if we’re smart, we want to chase the wrong people away.

But well-designed content marketing has a funny way of opening all kinds of doors you never realized were there.”

Discover how you can use content to open these unexpected doors in Sonia’s article, The Law of (Content) Attraction.


4 Ways to Turn a Mature Membership Site into a Treasured Resource Your Members Will Love

mature-membership-site

Debbie Hodge’s membership site was loaded with tons of value — ebooks, worksheets, audio, video, etc. It was a result of hard work, focus, and dedication. So, what could possibly be problematic?

Her members were intimidated by all the content. They either didn’t know where to start or couldn’t find time to study all of her materials. Debbie knew she had to transform her content library into an accessible resource that members would love and use regularly.

In 4 Ways to Turn a Mature Membership Site into a Treasured Resource Your Members Will Love, she explains the important changes she made. The best part is Debbie’s organizational tips are also helpful if you’re still in the early stages of building a membership site or you plan to build one in the future.


How to Tame Content Creation Chaos with Rock-Solid Workflows

workflows

If you perform the same types of tasks over and over again, you could benefit from simplifying your processes into workflows. Charlie Gilkey defines a workflow as “simply the regular sequence of tasks through which any activity is completed.”

Once you establish a workflow, you’ll notice ways you can be more efficient.

Charlie says:

“Even if you’re not at the point where you can or want to start delegating, using well-defined content marketing workflows makes you a more creative and productive content marketer because the structure they provide helps reduce cognitive load, prevent errors, save time, and maximize the results of the content you work so hard to create.”

He reveals a simple way to set up content marketing workflows in How to Tame Content Creation Chaos with Rock-Solid Workflows.

What do you have to offer?

Don’t let any self-doubt you may have hold you back from sharing your unique skills and areas of expertise. The benefits of helping others outweigh the drawbacks of embarrassing mistakes you may make along the way.

When your content attracts the right people, those individuals will stick around on your good days and bad days because they realize you’re human — just like them.

The post 3 Resources to Help You Create, Organize, and Manage Your Content appeared first on Copyblogger.


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Content Marketing: How to manage a change in content on your blog

There are plenty of great content marketing resources to help you start a new blog from scratch. But, what happens when your company undergoes a change in content? Read on to learn insights into how you can manage a change in content on your company blog effectively.
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7 Ways to Manage Comments on Your Site (Without Losing Your Mind)

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Comments.

For some bloggers, they are the fuel that keeps their content creation engines running. For others, they are a nuisance and a hassle — something they try to deal with quickly in order to get to the “real” business of creating content.

As a content creator, dealing with comments is part of your job. And I believe that comments are an incredibly important part of creating (and growing) an engaged online community.

But how do you maintain healthy boundaries on your site while still encouraging lively and engaging discussion? What are the best ways to manage comments in the blogging world today, and what do you need to think about when creating your own comment policies?

1. Moderate your comments.

All of the big blogging platforms allow you to moderate your comments. Adjust your blog settings so your comments come straight to your email inbox, so you can approve them before they get published on the site. That’s the easiest way to keep strict control over the conversation, and make sure things stay civilized.

We’ve all seen sites where the comments are clearly not maintained or controlled in any way, and we’ve seen how quickly the conversation can go from civil to disrespectful, and unwelcoming to flat-out abusive.

Moderate your community conversation, so your blog is a safe and respectful place for people to give their opinions or ask questions.

2. Use a strong spam filter.

Make your job easier by using a strong spam filter. Spam filters keep the creepies and spammers out of your blog (and inbox) and sequestered in a spam folder. Filters don’t catch everything, but they’ll snag most obvious spam comments. Use one, and your comment moderation life will become infinitely easier.

Akismet is my favorite spam filter plugin for WordPress, and it’s built into every default installation.

3. Have a comment policy.

Decide what you will and won’t allow in the discussion on your site, and write it down. Even if the document is just for you, take the time to sit down and write out your thoughts before you open the floodgates.

Consider sharing your policy on your blog, if appropriate. Michael Hyatt and the Huffington Post both have clear comment policies published on their sites, and those policies are enforced.

We also have a published comment policy here at Copyblogger, and those rules are enforced by the editorial team monitoring the comments on each post.

You can also choose the short and concise route — as Tim Ferriss does — and add a short “be cool” section in the footer of each post. Of course, you need to add a line or two describing what “being cool” means to you and your community.

4. Do your best to respond to questions from your audience.

I’m still working on managing this, but Sonia Simone is an absolute pro at it.

She seems to manage to answer every question in a timely and interesting way, and I love reading her comment responses.

She even takes the time to pull out interesting and relevant comments and puts them in standalone Q&A posts — a fantastic way to serve your audience with even more content .

Do you need to respond to every single comment? There are different schools of thought on this question. Some say it’s important to acknowledge every single comment you receive, even if it’s just a quick “Thank you” as a response. Others say it’s okay NOT to respond to every comment, unless the comment includes a question or other remark that really begs a response.

You need to decide what your policy is on answering comments. Keep in mind that your thoughts on this subject may change as your blog audience grows — as you get more comments, you may find you don’t have enough time to respond to every single one.

5. Have limits on what advice you’re willing to give away for free.

If you’re a coach, consultant or other service provider, you need to be clear about how much advice you’re willing to give for free when someone asks a how-to question in the comments section of your site.

You may decide that you’re willing to address questions that dip into your service provider knowledge, as long as the question is relevant and useful for your entire audience. Or you might decide not to give away any advice that your clients would normally pay for.

But either way, you’ll need to figure out a diplomatic way to refer people to your “Contact” or “Services” page when it’s time to take the discussion offline (and possibly set up a consultation or coaching appointment with you).

As with everything in comment moderation (and in life) — decide what your boundaries are, and stick with them.

6. Don’t put up with trolls, bullies, abusive language or threats.

It’s your site, and you decide what you will and will not allow someone to publish on your posts. You are under NO obligation to publish every single comment that people submit, and you needn’t allow anyone to bully, harass, or push you around.

That said, a little healthy discussion is a good thing, so you shouldn’t arbitrarily delete any commenter who disagrees with you. If they make their point in a respectful way, it’s okay to have a little contention on your site. It might even be a good thing.

In other words, embrace thoughtful, respectful criticism.

Our post on grammar mistakes, 15 Grammar Goofs That Make You Look Silly, received a healthy amount of debate and discourse in the comments — and it’s also the all-time most popular post on our site. So don’t be afraid of a little heated discussion on your blog.

7. Take care of your guest authors.

Set each guest up as a user in WordPress, and have WordPress email that guest each time one of their posts receives a new comment. It’s an easy way to let your guest writers engage with their posts (and keep track of which comments they have replied to).

When you invite guest bloggers to publish posts on your site, it’s also your job to make sure no one abuses them. One of the things I love about Copyblogger (especially back in my guest posting days, when I was nervous about answering hyper-critical or trollish comments) is that Brian and Sonia would jump in on the rare occasion that a commenter was disrespectful or rude.

Your policy should always be to militantly protect your guest authors — they are your guests, after all.

Over to you …

Hopefully you’ve gotten some ideas for coming up with your own policies and rules about managing the discussion on your site (and I’ve made it a little easier for you to moderate your comments in a way that works for you AND your community.

Some popular bloggers have recently decided to drop public comments from their posts. Others keep them open, but employ a strict moderation policy that leaves no room for bullies or trolls.

What are your rules about comments on your site (and what stories do you have to share about commenting gone awry?)

See you in the comments?

About the Author: Beth Hayden is a Senior Staff Writer for Copyblogger Media. Get more from Beth on Twitter and Pinterest.

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Manage Your Reputation

How much value do you place on your good reputation?

If we looked at it purely from a financial point of view, our reputations help us get work, make money, and be more influential. On a personal level, a good name is something of which you can be proud. It is something tangible that makes you feel good.

You’re Everywhere

As it becomes increasingly easy for people to make their feelings known and published far and wide, many businesses are implementing reputation management strategies to help protect their good name.

This area used to be the domain of big business, who employed teams of PR and legal specialists to nurture, defend and promote established brands. Unlike small business, which didn’t have to worry about what someone on the other side of the country might have said about them as it didn’t affect business in their locality, larger entities were exposed nationally, and often internationally. It was also difficult for an individual to spread their grievance, unless it was picked up by mainstream media.

These days, everything is instant and international. Those with a grievance can be heard far and wide, without the need to get media involved. We hear about problems with brands across the other side of the country, or the world, just as easily as we hear about them in our own regions, or market niches. If someone is getting hammered in the search industry, you and I probably both hear about it, at roughly the same time. And so will everyone else.

Media stories don’t even have to be true, of course. False information travels just as fast, if not faster, than truth. Given the potential, it’s a wonder reputation problems don’t occur more often that they do.

This is why reputation management is becoming increasingly important for smaller firms and individuals. No matter how good you are at what you do, it’s impossible to please everyone all the time, so it’s quite possible someone could damage your good name at some point.

Much of the reputation management area is obvious and common sense, but certainly worth taking time to consider, especially if you haven’t looked at reputation issues up until now. When people search on your name, do they find an accurate representation of who you are and what you’re about? Is the information outdated? Are you seen in the same places as you competition? How does their reputation compare to yours?

Also, some marketers offer reputation monitoring and management as an add-one service to clients so it can be a potential new revenue stream for those offering consultancy services.

The Indelible Nature Of The Internet

In some respects, I’m glad the internet – as we know it – wasn’t around when I was at school. There were far too many regrettable nights that, these days, would be recorded from various angles on smartphones and uploaded to YouTube before anyone can say “that isn’t mine, officer!”

You’ve got to feel sorry for some of the kids today. Kids being kids, they sometimes do stupid things, but these days a record of stupidity is likely to hang around “forever”. Perhaps their grand-kids will get a laugh one day. Perhaps the recruiter won’t.

Something similar could happen to you, or your firm. One careless employee saying the wrong thing and the record could show up in search engines for a long time. If you’re building a brand, whether personal or related to a business, you need to look after it, nurture it, and defend it, if need be. We’ll look at a few practical ways to do so.

On the flip side, of course, the internet can help establish and spread your good reputation very quickly. We’ll also look at ways to push your good reputation.

Modern Media Is A Conversation

People talk.

These days, no matter how big a firm is, they can’t hide behind PR and receptionists. If they don’t want to join the conversation, so be it – it will go on all around them, regardless. If they aren’t part of it, then they risk the conversation being dictated by others.

So a big part of online reputation management is about getting involved in the conversation, and framing it, where possible i.e. have the conversation on your terms.

Be Proactive

Most us haven’t got time to constantly monitor everything that might be said about us or our brands. One of the most cost-effective ways to manage reputation is to get out in front of problems before they arise. If there is enough good things said about you, then the occasional critical voice won’t carry as much weight by comparison.

The first step is to audit your current position. Search on your name and/or brand. What do you see in the top ten? Do the results reflect what you’re about? Is there anything negative showing up? If so, can you respond to it by way of a comment section? This is the exact same information your customers will see, of course, when they look you up.

If you’re not seeing accurate content, you may need to update or publish more appropriate content on your own sites, and those sites that come up in the top ten, where possible. More aggressive SEO approaches involve flooding the SERPs with positive content in an attempt to push down any negative stories below the fold so they are less likely to be seen. This is probably not quite as effective as addressing the underlying issues that caused the negative press in the first place, unless the criticisms were malicious, in which case, game on.

Next, conduct the same set of searches on your competitors. How does their reputation compare? Are they being seen in places you aren’t? Are they getting positive press mentions that you could get, too? How does your reputation stack up, relatively speaking?

Listen

You can monitor mentions using services such as Google Alerts, Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, and various other tools. There’s another big list of tools here. Google runs “Me On The Web” as part of the Google Dashboard.

Monitor trends related to your industry. Get involved in fast breaking, popular trends and discussions. Be seen where potential customers would expect to see you. The more other people see you engaged on important issues, in a positive light, the more credibility you’re banking for the future. If you build up a high volume of “good stuff”, any occasional critical voice will likely get lost in the noise, rather than stand out. A lot of reputation management has to do with building positive PR ahead of any negatives that may arise later. You should be everywhere your customers expect to see you.

This is a common tactic used by authors selling on Amazon. They “encourage” good reviews, typically by handing out free review copies to friends, in order to stack the positive review side in their favor. The occasional negative review may hurt them, but not quite as much as if the number of negative reviews match the number of positive reviews. Some of them overdo it, of course, as twenty 5 star reviews, and nothing else, looks somewhat suspicious. When it comes to PR, it’s best to be believable!

Engage

Create a policy for engagement, for yourself, and other people who work for you. Keep it simple, and principle based, as principles are easier to remember and apply. For example, a good principle is to post in haste only if what you are saying is positive. If something is negative, pause. Leave it for a few hours. If it still feels right, then post. It’s so easy to post in haste, and then regret it for years afterwards.

Seek feedback often. Ask people how you’re doing, especially if you suspect you’ve annoyed someone or let them down in some way. If you give people permission to vent where you control the environment it means they are less likely to let off steam somewhere else. It may also highlight potential trouble-spots in your process, that you can fix and thus avoid repeats in future. I’ve run sites where the sales process has occasionally broken down, and had customers complain. It happens. I make a point of letting them vent, giving them more than they originally ordered, and apologizing to them for the problems. Not only does going over-and-above expectations prevent negative press, it has often turned disgruntled customers into advocates. They’ve increased their business, and referred others. Pretty simple, right, but good customer service is all part of the reputation management process.

Figure out who the influential people are in your industry and try and get onside with them. In a crisis, they may well help you out, especially if they see you’re being hard done by. If influential names weigh in on your behalf, this can easily marginalize the person who is being critical.

Security

Secure your stuff. Check out this awful story on Wired:

In the space of one hour, my entire digital life was destroyed. First my Google account was taken over, then deleted. Next my Twitter account was compromised, and used as a platform to broadcast racist and homophobic messages. And worst of all, my AppleID account was broken into, and my hackers used it to remotely erase all of the data on my iPhone, iPad, and MacBook.

Explaining what happened and getting it published on Wired is a pretty good crisis management response, of course. When you look up “Mat Horan”, you find that article. Separate your social media business and personal profiles. Secure your mobile phone. Check that your privacy settings are correct across social media. Simple stuff that goes a long way to protecting your existing reputation.

What To Do If You Do Hit Trouble

We can’t please everyone, all the time.

A critical factor is speed. If you spot trouble, get into the conversation early. This can prevent the problem festering and gathering it’s own momentum. However, before you leap in, make sure you understand the issue. Ask “what do these people want to happen that is not currently happening?”.

Also consider who is saying it. What’s their reach? If it’s just a ranter on noname.blogspot.com, or a troll attempt, it’s probably not worth your time, and engaging trolls is counter-productive. Someone influential, of course, requires kid glove treatment. One common tactic, especially if the situation is escalating beyond your control, is to try and take it offline and reach resolution that way. You can then go back to the online conversation once it has been resolved, rather than having the entire firefight a matter of indelible public record.

It’s illegal for people to defame you, so you could also consider legal action if the problem is bad enough. You could also consider engaging some PR help, particularly if the problem occurs in mainstream media. PR can be a bit hit and miss, but reputable PR professionals tend to have extensive networks of contacts, so may get you seen where it might be difficult for you to do so on your own. There are also dedicated reputation management companies, such as reputation.com, reputationchanger.com, and reputationmanagementagency.com who handle monitoring and public relations functions. NB: Included for illustration purposes. We have no relationship with these firms.

Practical examples of constructive responses to negative criticism can often be seen in the Amazon reviews.

For example, a writer can respond to any reviews made about their book. A good approach to negative statements is to thank the reviewer for taking the time to provide feedback, regardless of what they said, and address the issue raised in a calm, informative manner. Future customers will see this, of course, which provides yet another opportunity to sway their opinion. One great example I’ve seen was when the writer did all of the above AND offered the person providing the negative review an hour of free consulting so the reviewer could get the specific information he felt he was missing! One downside of this strategy, however, might be more copycat negative reviews aimed at getting the reviewer free consulting!

The same principle applies to any negative comment in other contexts. When a reader sees your reply, they get editorial balance that would otherwise be missing.

It’s obvious, yet important, stuff. If you’ve got examples of how you’ve handled reputation issues in the past, or your ideas on how best to manage reputation going forward, please add them to the comments to help others.

I’m sure they’ll remember you for it :)

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The Rockstar You Need to Hire to Manage Your Blog

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At this stage in the game, you know blogging is a crucial element to the success of your inbound marketing. But that doesn’t mean you’re doing it consistently like you know you should.

Why don’t marketers and business owners find time to blog even when they know how important it is to meeting their marketing goals? Because blogging takes time you don’t have; you don’t fancy yourself a great writer; you can’t think of good topics on a regular basis; or any of the other myriad reasons people don’t blog when they know they should.

That’s why more and more marketers are turning to hiring an employee dedicated solely to blogging in order to keep their blog fed with top-notch content on a consistent basis. The problem is, the job title “Blogger” is relatively new, and as such, it’s hard to know what exactly you should be looking for when hiring someone to blog for you. Luckily, we’ve hired more than one blogger in our day. So we thought it would be helpful to share the qualities to look for when hiring a blogger for your company — whether freelance, part time, contract, or full time.

Writing Ability

Let’s get the most obvious one out of the way. A blogger should obviously be a great writer, but blogging is very different than writing a book, a grant, or even marketing copy. Your blogger must excel at explaining complex concepts through short form content, and be clear and concise so your audience finds the content helpful. While applicants who excel in other forms of content creation may also be fantastic bloggers, those qualifications don’t necessarily mean they can also blog.

Subject Matter and Industry Expertise

In order to provide relevant content for your audience, your blogger must be an expert on the subject matter about which he or she is writing; therefore, it’s crucial to hire a blogger who is knowledgeable about your industry. Does your blogging candidate stay up to date on what your competitors are working on, what thought leaders are publishing, and what developments are happening in the news that they should be commenting on? During the interview process, ask them about what blogs, publications, and authors they read regularly. Then follow up with more detailed questions about which types of content they find most helpful from each source and why. This will give you insight into whether they are truly an active member in your industry’s community and passionate about the subjects that matter to your company.

Company Knowledge

A blogger should make active efforts to understand your company’s mission and integrate themselves with members of every department — sales, customer service, development, everyone. Working with other departments not only acts as helpful content fodder, but it also provides insight that’s crucial to bloggers’ ability to understand their audience and write content that addresses the issues they deal with on a daily basis. Couple that with really “getting” your company’s mission, and you’ll have content that consistently aligns with your thought leadership position, even on the most controversial issues. While this quality can only truly be sharpened once the candidate is hired, you can get a sense of whether your blogger understands its importance by the company knowledge he or she brings to the interview. Have they done their homework about your business? Do they bring up the importance of company knowledge as a blogging best practice?

Detail-Oriented

Now that’s a resume buzz word if I’ve ever heard one! But if you hire a blogger who pays close attention to detail, he or she will be able to take your blog from good to remarkable. So ask them — do they notice if text isn’t wrapping around an image correctly? Do they preview posts before publishing them to make sure there are no layout problems? Do they check links to ensure they aren’t broken or directing to the wrong page? This kind of due diligence should be second nature to them, and a great blogger will already have a process they use to ensure posts are buttoned up before they’re published.

Socially Active

Online, at least. Blogging and social media are two peas in a pod; as your social reach grows, so does your blog readership, and vice versa. Your blogger should take an active interest in growing blog readership through social media. Even if you have a social media manager dedicated to your growth on social networks, your blogger must understand the importance of social media and actively work to promote blog content on their own networks.

SEO Knowledge

Likely, one of the reasons you’re blogging is because of its SEO value. And whether you have a dedicated SEO manager or not, your blogger will be dealing with SEO concepts every day. The best bloggers not only understand SEO concepts and the part blogging plays in organic search success, but can also execute SEO initiatives in their blog content. That means they effectively internal link, write great anchor text, craft effective meta data, know which keywords to target in each blog post, and can create keyword-rich content without keyword stuffing.

Editor Extraordinaire

A great blogger is good at self-editing and editing others. Being a great editor means much more than just proofreading, too. They should be able to identify the difference between a good and bad topic, give critical and useful feedback to other blog contributors, and help make people better writers so the quality of the content on your blog is upheld.

Understands Effective Blog Layout

There’s more than one way to lay out a blog post and structure your business blog, but there are some best practices every professional blogger should know. Ask your blogging candidate to draw out what a good blog post looks like. Did they draw social sharing and follow buttons? What about a subscribe module? Does their post include an image and a call-to-action? How many lines of text do they allow at once? Have they used headers, bullets, and other formatting tools to visually break up text and make information digestible? If these concepts are second nature, you have a good blogger on your hands.

Diligent Researcher

No matter how much subject matter expertise your blogger has, he or she will have to write on subjects about which they need more education. It’s only natural; with new developments and natural inclinations toward certain topics over others, continual learning is just a part of life. But a good blogger won’t be intimidated by the prospect of learning new ideas and will know how to go about finding more information to help inform their content. Make sure the blogger you hire incorporates research and personal education in their day-to-day routine, and make a practice of hiring lifelong learners.

Metrics-Driven

Does your potential blogger know how to report on how many leads your blog drives? The inbound links you’re getting because of blog content? How much traffic your blog gets? Your business blogger should understand how to measure the effectiveness of a blog and consistently analyze the metrics that will let you improve your blog’s performance and meet your monthly marketing goals.

Totally Gets Blogging

Finally, ask yourself one question: do they *get* blogging? Sure, sure, blogging is really important and marketers should be doing it. But do they really believe that, or are they just touting what inbound marketers are saying? An exceptional blogging hire truly believes in the critical importance of blogging to reach your marketing goals and can explain that to any dissenters — whether internal or external. Candidates who are drunk off the blogging Kool-Aid will be the best gatekeepers for your blog, and they’ll be the ones who work tirelessly to make your blog even more amazing than it already is.

Have you hired a business blogger for your marketing team, or do you plan on hiring one this year? What qualities do you look for in a blogger?

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How to Manage the Risks of Having Your Own Business

image of tightrope walker

Starting a business is risky. Horribly, terrifyingly risky.

Nearly all new businesses fail — that’s the official statistic, right? Some say 4 out of 5, some say as many as 95%.

Successful entrepreneurs have a different kind of DNA from the rest of us. Ice water runs through their veins. They thrive on risk. The more insane the odds, the better they like it.

For those of us who have families, or who just don’t feel like living on ramen for the next four years, we’re probably better off keeping the day job.

Do you believe any of those?

Because I call B.S. on all of them.

Life is risky

Day jobs are very risky. You’re making a bet that your company is well-run enough to survive the economy’s twists and turns, and that they’re always going to want to keep you around. Either of those can change in a heartbeat, and you’re left without a safety net.

Crossing the street is risky. Using an ATM is risky. Having kids is almost unbearably risky.

Almost 100 people in the U.S. are killed by lightning and bees every year. Going outside: super risky.

You can cut down a lot of risk by getting a job at the post office and spending all of your non-work hours in front of your television. And if that sounds like your idea of a life well-lived, you should go do that.

For the rest of us, let’s talk about intelligent risk

Michael Ellsberg, in his terrific new book The Education of Millionaires, devotes a juicy section to the myth of the extreme riskiness of starting a business … or at least, to the perception of extreme risk.

Most people, when they think of the idea of starting a business, see it as an incredibly risky proposition, one that entails not just egg-in-the-face, but total ruin. They are nearly hysterical about the risks they could incur if they left their safe, boring jobs.

Ellsberg goes on to say that,

Most of the self-educated people featured in [his] book took pains to make sure that their “downside was not so exposed,” to use the parlance of investing: they made sure that a failed business would not mean total ruin; it would just mean a few scrapes, a few good lessons learned, and up they are again at a new one. No biggie.

About those statistics

The scary statistics about new business failure get quoted all the time. If you mention at Thanksgiving that you’re thinking about starting a business, your Aunt Mary will definitely dredge them up.

But gross statistics compiled by government agencies can’t give you the picture of what those “failures” look like.

They don’t tell you how many were experiments. They don’t tell you what the “failures” taught the business owners. They don’t tell you how many of those businesses changed into something else — something more fun or more profitable. They don’t tell you how motivated the owners were. They don’t tell you what the owners went on to do next.

Now don’t get me wrong, lots of new businesses don’t make it. Many of them start out with fatally high overhead — rent and employees are expensive. If you’re a restaurant, a dry cleaner, or a fitness club, you don’t have a lot of choice on those.

For a high-overhead business, marketing is a necessity, not a luxury. You don’t have the time to wait around for word of mouth. If you don’t get enough customers through your doors before you run out of cash, you lose.

Unfortunately, a lot of those bricks-and-mortar business owners have never educated themselves about marketing or sales. They “don’t have time” to read and implement a free course like Internet Marketing for Smart People, or a few Dan Kennedy books.

The greatest risk to any business is that no customers will show up

The problem isn’t that business is inherently risky. The problem is the mentality that customers are going to drop out of the sky just because you’re so cool.

Maybe marketing feels weird. Maybe selling feels impossible. (Trust me, I have been there.)

Maybe you’re making excuses for not pushing out of your comfort zone, by telling yourself that great products don’t need to be marketed and sold — they just sell themselves.

If you’ve ever thought this, make a note of what I like to call Sonia’s Law:

Sonia’s Law: Nothing Sells Itself.

Great products and services deserve great marketing, so they’ll find the audiences they can help. Your brilliant business idea is only as good as your ability to sell it.

You can choose to get over it

Believing that marketing and selling are for “other people” is a little bit like hanging on to the idea that the earth is flat.

It’s an idea. (A wrong idea.) You can decide to get over it.

And when you do that, you can manage your risk to a degree that you never thought possible.

You can learn something about copywriting and the techniques of direct response. This is simply the art of taking effective salesmanship (in text, video, or audio) and getting it to a larger audience. It’s going out and asking for the sale, instead of hoping it shows up somehow.

I don’t care if you use your copywriting skills online, in TV or radio ads, in flyers, by direct mail, or by carving your message into the moon.

You can also learn how to use content marketing to make selling a lot easier, by showing potential customers how much they would enjoy your product or service. By showing you aren’t a sleaze. And by using creativity and talent to attract attention to your business, instead of paying tons of money for advertising.

You may never become a ninja

Not everyone who studies copywriting and content marketing gets good at it.

But if you even become marginally competent, you’ll be ahead of 90% of your competitors. You don’t have to be faster than the bear — you just have to be better than the other guy.

And by making a serious study of marketing (which, by the way, starts with the art of creating products that customers truly want to buy), you’ll learn what really good sales and marketing look like. And that means that if you choose to, you can hire or partner with people who are truly masters.

So how do you get started?

First, I’m never going to tell you to “leap and the net will appear.” That’s just not smart.

Don’t quit your day job or radically restructure 100% of your business because you have a “passion” for a certain approach or topic.

Self-help gurus will tell you to follow your dreams, and I think that’s excellent advice. But follow them the smart way.

  1. Start with prototypes. Create small “minimum viable products” that respond to urgent customer needs. Don’t create products and services just because you think they’re cool — make sure customers think they’re cool, too.
  2. Study the art of content marketing. Create content your potential customers will love — content that gets the attention of your ideal customer and doesn’t let go.
  3. Study the science of copywriting. Giving serious thought to product benefits, the language of your market, and clear calls to action doesn’t just make you a better marketer, it makes you a smarter business owner.
  4. Do more of what works well, and less of what doesn’t work. This means you have to pay careful attention and have some simple measuring tools in place.

And there’s nothing wrong with using a framework. Some people like to reinvent every wheel from scratch, but most of us do well by modeling what’s worked in the past.

That’s actually why we created Teaching Sells. To create a framework of proven business models and techniques for one of our favorite businesses for the 21st century — the online education business.

(One of the reasons we like it? It manages your risk by keeping overhead low and making sure you have an audience of buyers before you create anything.)

We’ll be re-launching the course in a few weeks, so if you want to find out more about it and how it works, drop your email address here. We’ll send you some high-quality articles and other goodies to get your juices flowing, and all the details so you can decide if Teaching Sells will be a good fit or not.

How about you?

How have you managed risk — or the fear of risk — in your business? What helps you get more customers in the door?

Let us know in the comments.

About the Author: Sonia Simone is CMO of Copyblogger Media and co-creator of Teaching Sells.

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