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Growing this blog

Posted: - Modified: | blogging

imageSometimes I wonder if I should do more of the “Right Things” when it comes to building a blog. You know the drill:

  • Focus on one or two topics so that people will subscribe because you’re consistent and reliable.
  • Research keywords so that you can optimize for search engine queries and write content that will bring people in.
  • Reach out to new audiences with guest posts, working your way up to A-list blogs.
  • Send e-mail newsletters so that you can build relationships and sell to people later on.

Why? Because it’s a way to scale up. Maybe I can save more people time. Maybe I can learn from more people. Maybe I can create more value for each hour that I spend.

It’s easy to see what success could look like, down that path. Sometimes I’m envious of blogs with tens of thousands of subscribers and hundreds of comments per post.

But then reading and responding to comments takes time, and other people glaze over when they see pages and pages. It’s okay. I like where we are – maybe half a dozen comments or so on a good post, and I feel good about writing many paragraphs in reply. I’m not entirely sure if I’m just sour-graping, but it makes sense. This is manageable. Slightly more is okay too, but we can grow slowly so that I can learn the skills I need along the way.

Sometimes I wonder if this should be more like other blogs. But then that’s a well-travelled path, with lots of other people exploring it and plenty of people willing to sell you courses along the way. I have this amazing opportunity to try something different. I should.

Actually, I already know what I should do: what works for me, what I should do more. The enduring posts on my blog are tech notes (Emacs, Drupal, etc.) and sketches. People also tell me they find this sort of reflective practice—this learning-out-loud—helpful. I can continue like this, growing slowly through links and search results.  Instead of spending hours on blog marketing, I can spend hours on learning and writing.

It’s good to reflect on what works or doesn’t work for you. A clear no saves you time and anxiety. I’ve figured out ways to hack around my introversion, and maybe the same will be true for blogging.

So here, I think, is how I’ll grow this blog compared to the “typical” advice:

    • Typical: Focus on one or two topics so that people will subscribe because you’re consistent and reliable. I’ll write about whatever I’m learning about, covering a variety of interests. People who want a focused view can use search results and category links. From time to time, I’ll work on organizing things to make it easier for people to browse around.
    • Research keywords so that you can optimize for search engine queries and write content that will bring people in. I’ll look at other people’s questions, and the search queries that are already bringing people to my blog. That will nudge me to write about certain topics if I’m curious about the ideas too. I don’t have to compete when it comes to topics outside my interests or experiences. I can start by making it better for people who care about things I care about.
    • Reach out to new audiences with guest posts, working your way up to A-list blogs. I’ll read other blogs and write about what inspires me, linking to those posts. Since many people don’t have their own blogs, I’ll invite people to share their tips and lessons learned on mine.
    • Send e-mail newsletters so that you can build relationships and sell to people later on. Since I find it difficult to send e-mail, I’d rather build relationships through comments (and the occasional e-mail for people who want to have slightly more private discussions). Instead of building a list so that I can sell exclusive premium content, I’ll give away as much as I can of what I know under an occasional pay-what-you-want model. There are all sorts of other non-monetary ways to show appreciation, so that’s cool too.

    So this blog will grow, slowly, sustainably, in a way that feels comfortable for me.

     

    That said, are there small things I can do to make it easier for you or other people to take advantage of what I know? Is there something I can do to lower the barrier to commenting or help people explore? I’d love to hear from you!

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    Experiment notes: Accounting, sales, and marketing–all the other parts of a business

    Posted: - Modified: | experiment

    When I started my experiment last year, leaving the familiarity of web development at IBM for my own adventures, I wanted to dig into several big unknowns that I had little experience with: the paperwork and accounting required for business, and the sales and marketing that’s even more crucial to business survival. I had tracked my personal finances and prepared our taxes for years, but business finances were new to me. I’d loved reading sales and marketing ever since I could clamber up my mother’s bookshelves, although my understanding was still abstract. So I expected to do favourably, but I was still a little nervous. After all, this was one of the key differences between an independent life and one inside a company. My experiences with this would determine whether I could survive on my own or whether I’d do better within a structure built by someone else. Would the benefits of managing my own business outweigh the overhead? Would the experiment be a long, hard slog, or could I get the hang of the fundamentals?

    Accounting and paperwork was the first hurdle. I wanted to incorporate right away to have that separation between me and the company, so that any mistakes I might make wouldn’t bring us all down with it. It was probably unnecessary, but it was good to know that as long as I paid attention to the details, we’d be okay.

    For the most part, D.I.Y. paperwork has been sufficient. I filed my articles of incorporation online, registered my company with the Canada Revenue Agency. It took me a while to sort out getting a business credit card, but it was straightforward once I did so. There were a few stressful evenings of forum research and fact-checking on government websites, such as when I decided to cancel my cellphone claims and ended up owing additional taxes. (It turned out to be just a few dollars’ worth.) Reading entrepreneur forums like the ones at Red Flag Deals helped me watch out for common pitfalls, such as the installment payments that automatically kick in after you reach a certain income tax threshold. I’m still postponing the paperwork needed to figure out how to get money out of the company. One step at a time.

    I’ve grown to like that separation of saying, “This contract is between your company and my company,” or “The business will invest in buying ____.” It forces me to make decisions: is this worthwhile for the business? I have a trade name now, although I’ve kept the main company as a numbered company so that I can stick all sorts of other experiments underneath it.

    If I were to do it again – or even now – I’d love to have an accountant whom I could e-mail questions periodically. I’d still want to keep a close eye on my books, and my transaction volume is low enough that I can handle things myself with Quickbooks. It would be good to have someone doublecheck things, though, and answer my questions.

    One of the things that makes it easier for me is knowing that this too is an experiment, and that I can start up a different company with a different structure in order to try out other things. I don’t have to get everything gold-plated the first time around.

    That’s the paperwork and accounting part of the business, which is usually a thorn in people’s sides, but which has turned out to be doable and even a fulfilling Friday afternoon routine.

    Sales and marketing were other parts of business that I’ve heard many fellow geeks gripe about, so I wanted to find out what both of those were really like. Most freelancers I know have their plates full with referrals and repeat clients, and many don’t actively sell their services. I was lucky to have had clients for consulting and contracting right away, thanks to personal networks and my blog.

    In the past few months, I’ve been making myself scale back consulting so that I can force myself to learn more about sales and marketing. Digital conference sketchnoting gave me a great excuse to try it out. Sketchnotes are visual. People have built businesses around this before. Businesses have bought services like this before, although generally in other cities. The sales approach would be to reach out to conference organizers and event agencies, while the marketing approach might involve posting sketchnotes and resources for organizers. Illustration is a complementary service, too, and there are other services I can cross-sell.

    Here’s what I’ve come to enjoy about sales:

    • I like the process of mapping what I can provide (based on my own skills or including others) to what could create value for people.
      I like negotiating: cutting out the non-essential, adding options that people are curious about, and finding creative ways for everyone to get what they want.
      I like coming to an agreement on value and deliverables.
      I like receiving cheques and depositing them. Winking smile
      I’m even fine with following up and with turning down clients. Sometimes there’s a better fit elsewhere.

    My marketing has been a gradual process of building up my website and sharing more resources. I enjoyed designing a logo and thinking about how to explain what I do. I’m glad I can build my own website and tweak it based on the ideas I have. New entrepreneurs are usually advised to outsource web design and development, but I think there’s value in creating my own simple site and evolving it over time. There’s still so much more to learn.

    Looking back at this first year of my experiment, I think that the overhead of building my own business has been more than worth it. Many people see paperwork, sales, and marketing as distractions from the fun stuff, the work that they actually enjoy doing. For me, these activities are like programming, although in a slightly different form. It’s like learning more about the APIs (application programming interfaces) of the world, exploring the standards and specifications to find out what’s required from me and what’s possible. It’s like developing procedures, dealing with bugs, and improving algorithms. It’s like playing around with an interface until you figure out something that flows.

    I’m glad I started this experiment. It’s difficult to imagine a career path within a company that would shift me from development (which I’m good at and which I still enjoy) to learning more about sales, marketing, and finance (which I’d have no qualifications for, and which I’d probably be terrible at in the beginning). It isn’t optimal. It doesn’t make sense. On my own, I can make that decision to temporarily give up some productivity in favour of building a useful combination of capabilities, and then see where I can go from there. I am less awesome a developer than I could have been if, say, I’d spent a year intensely working with Rails in a boutique web development agency, but this combination of tech and business and creative and communication will probably come in handy someday.

    I think this will give me a great foundation for further experiments. I spent the first year of my experiment learning that it’s not that scary to create something and get to the first sale. I’d like to spend the next year getting even better at taking a business from the sparkle in one’s eye to a prototype that people can look at, sign up for, or buy, learning more and more about de-risking ideas. Then three years to see what I can do with those skills, and then my first evaluation: back to the world of other people’s ideas, or onward with developing mine?

    I’ll still need to keep working on the fundamentals over the next year, of course. Some of the things I want to learn or practise include:

    • Moving money from the company to me (good for replenishing my opportunity fund!)
    • Elimination, delegation, and automation
    • Identifying prospects and reaching out to them
    • Following up with people
    • Building a library of resources not just for marketing but also because it’s good to share, like the way my blog has led to so many great conversations over the years

    This experiment rocks.

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    Sketchnotes: The Very Versatile Drip–Mathew Sweezey (Pardot)

    Posted: - Modified: | sketchnotes

    UPDATE: Dec 13, 2012 Want to watch the webinar? Here’s the video recording.

    In this marketing webinar hosted by Pardot, Mathew Sweezey shared tips on setting up a drip nurturing program for marketing and sales support. Click on the image to view a larger size, and feel free to share this with attribution!

    20121206 Pardot - The Very Versatile Drip - Mathew Sweezey

    Pardot has many other webinars and recordings, so check them out if you’re curious about marketing automation.

    Like this? Browse through my other sketchnotes, including my visual summary of The 5 Key Elements of a Better B2B Content Marketing Strategy by Nolin LeChasseur. I sketchnote technology/business conferences and presentations – if that sounds interesting, get in touch!

    Text:

    THE VERY VERSATILE DRIP
    Mathew Sweezey
    Dec 6 2012
    Pardot

    Email marketing
    Drip nurturing
    one-to-one conversations!

    #1 LOOK AT MARKETING LIKE SALES LOOKS AT DEALS

    Unidentified need -> Identified need not yet ready -> Starting to evaluate

    competitive vs greenfield

    Figure out your stages and buying cycles

    #2 RELEVANT

    context intelligence -> communication (must be relevant!)

    Not just automation!
    Relevance is key.

    #3 NOT E-MAIL MARKETING AS YOU KNOW IT
    HTML? marketer

    One-to-one relationship
    inbox = battlefield
    Make it feel like a one-to-one email (rich text)

    #4 HAVE A GOAL, THEN STICK TO IT!

    (I feel bad not working with this guy.. He’s so ATTENTIVE)
    Lost a deal? Nurture the relationship!

    #5 USE THAT COLD DATABASE

    Value per lead x Size of database = $$$
    * maximize your database
    * Find leads that slipped through cracks

    #6 GIVE SALES AN EXCUSE.

    Don’t get overwhelmed!
    Sales drip = great ROI

    Marketing – Sales
    Bridge the gap

    expecially for prospects that are challenging

    engaged -> excuse to call (Whew!)

    PROBLEMS/GOALS

    cold database
    automate lead nurturing
    event pre-/post-follow ups
    cold marketing/cold sales
    competitive
    lost deal

    TYPES

    3..2..1
    start with stage 3, then 2, then 1
    Good for cold databases, tradeshow lists..

    Why reverse?
    Engage HOT prospects right away!

    Event-specific
    straightforward

    Stage-specific
    Give people “carrots” to encourage them to move stages

    Straight
    simplest drip goal: engage, excuse to reach out

    (Give me your best emails)

    (Thought you might enjoy this..)
    ..doesn’t have to be your stuff
    Nurture relationship

    Q&A:
    Q: Whitepaper vs video for scoring?
    A: Topic, sales readiness
    Q: Rich text vs images?
    A: Images often make people think “marketing!” Images okay if fake-forwarded.
    FWD:…
    Hey take a look at this
    Q: # of emails?
    A: Start small. 3 emails, ~12-18 days. Then more. Iterate.
    Test List. at least 1 day before. ALWAYS.
    Q: Length?
    A: 1 goal, 1-2 actions
    Q: Replace e-mail blasts?
    A: Nope.
    Q: Bcc?
    A: Not needed – CRM, reply.
    Q: Timing?
    A: Overanalyzed
    Q: Timing?
    A: Ask your salespeople. 6-45 days is good. -> not twice in a week
    Q: From?
    A: Depends, can be dynamic.
    Q: Not engaging?
    A: Don’t remove the, keep on going.

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    Sketchnotes: The 5 Key Elements of a Better B2B Content Marketing Strategy–Nolin LeChasseur

    Posted: - Modified: | sketchnotes

    Nolin LeChasseur of Brainrider shared these 5 key elements of a B2B content marketing strategy:

    1. Prioritize measurable objectives
    2. Articulate the business you’re in using customer terms
    3. Profile target customer segments
    4. Identify content that’s working now
    5. Develop content aligned with what your customer wants to know

    Click on the image to see a larger version.
    20121129 Brainrider - The 5 Key Elements of a Better B2B Content Marketing Strategy - Nolin LeChasseur

    For more details, check out the slides and the video of a previous talk!

    Like this? Check out my other sketchnotes for business- and technology-related visual summaries. Want me to draw for you? Get in touch!

    Text:

    The 5 Key Elements of a Better B2B Content Marketing Strategy

    CUSTOMER-focused content that demonstrates ExPERTISE
    – supports programs
    – easy to share
    – measurable performance

    BETTER CONTENT IS NOT ABOUT YOU

    Solve problems

    Google – popular searches: Not branding, but problem solving

    Key questions:

    What’s my problem? Define, build consensus
    – Trends
    – Benchmarks
    – Analysts
    – 101, How-to

    How do I fix it? Different approaches
    – Comparisons
    – Assessments
    – Pitfalls

    Are you right for me? Credentials, decisions
    – How to buy
    – Business case
    – Expertise

    Align it with your programs!

    Acquire -> Nurture -> Determine sales readiness

    1. PRIORITIZE MEASURABLE OBJECTIVES

    Awareness: Find you
    Acquiring prospects: Identify and give permission
    Nurturing prospects: Active, Engaged; Segmented interest, profile info
    Determining sales readiness: Qualified leads, readiness to buy
    (Retain/cross-sell/upsell)

    2. ARTICULATE THE BUSINESS YOU’RE IN USING CUSTOMER TERMS

    I’m in the good times business.

    3. PROFILE TARGET CUSTOMER SEGMENTS

    What do your best customers have in common?
    Ideal customer?
    Events/initiatives that create a need?
    Ex: acquisition, repositioning

    4. IDENTIFY CONTENT THAT’S WORKING NOW

    What? How organized? Most engaging? What do people like about it?
    Repurpose: anything > 5 min, split it up and repurpose
    Make sure this is aligned with your business

    5. DEVELOP CONTENT ALIGNED WITH WHAT YOUR CUSTOMER WANTS TO KNOW

    Use their words

    How to… Should we… How do I… Comparing… Do I need… Choosing…

    Post-it notes: Group based on key questions, topics: 3-6 works well

    Measure! Categories: engaging?
    Reorganize: Format -> Customer needs

    Examples: Empathica, STR, Livingston, Hubwoo

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    Sketchnotes from #torontob2b: Dragging an Organization into the Digital Age; 7 Steps to Social Media Success

    Posted: - Modified: | sketchnotes

    Brainrider hosts these wonderful monthly meetups for marketers (digital and traditional) in Toronto. Click on an image for a larger version of the sketchnotes. Feel free to share these under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Canada licence!

    Dragging an Organization into the Digital Age – Sarah Major and Jeanie Hendrie

    20121115 TorontoB2B Dragging an Organization into the Digital Age - Sarah Major and Jeanie Hendrie

    7 Steps to Social Media Success, Richard Marginson

    20121115 TorontoB2B 7 Steps to Social Media Success - Richard Marginson

    Like these? Check out sketchnotes for previous #torontob2b meetups or my other sketchnotes!

    Text:

    DRAGGING AN ORGANIZATION INTO THE DIGITAL AGE
    Sarah Major and Jeanie Hendrie
    #torontoB2B
    Nov 15, 2012

    First!
    Content strategy and framework
    Current clients start conversations
    Associates engage
    Prospective associates
    Great place to work

    Rest of the world
    SEO, etc.

    Anchor
    -> Outpost
    -> Outpost
    -> Outpost

    What questions do clients ask you? What language do they use? -> Organize into framework -> Blog categories (Targeting, Brand strategy, …)

    Plan on a page
    Goals
    Ways of working

    Translating analogue behaviours to digital

    Content strategy is not permanent.
    BrainRider
    -> Review using data

    Analytics: tie it back to goals to make them actionable

    Generate Content
    Views
    Posting momentum

    Expand deployment
    Reader loyalty
    Length of stay

    Fostering engagement
    Client breakdown
    Comments

    drum up internal engagement
    highlight client comments

    Video objectives
    Share and celebrate
    Recognize and reward
    Have fun!

    Evolution of SKW
    Before and after
    Stats
    Blog team

    Challenge:
    Keeping writers writing, otherwise stale!
    -> buckets of inspiration

    Q: Guest bloggers?
    A: Clients co-write some posts. Those are very successful.
    Q: Most commented vs most read?
    A: Often different.

    7 STEPS TO SOCIAL MEDIA SUCCESS
    Richard Marginson (@RickyInMotion)
    #torontoB2B
    Nov 15, 2012

    Word of mouth of SUPER STEROIDS
    listening
    connecting
    publishing
    Chris Brogan

    One-to-one dialogue

    1. Got the vision? Get the support!

    Not the decision-maker?
    GET BUY-IN.

    Community manager

    monthly, etc.
    Steering committee
    –agency
    Community manager
    -SMEs
    -Editorial

    2. Who knows your BRAND better than

    YOU?
    Be engaged instead of handing it all

    off to an agency.

    3. Start with free tools.
    Understand what your customers see.

    4. Rules and guidelines are important.
    – resolve ambiguity

    5. Engage!
    converse
    comment
    curate
    create

    6. you’re already making a ton of

    stuff.
    Reimagine it for social media

    purpose -> content -> measurement

    7. Measuring success
    mentions per day
    positive, negative, neutral
    trends, opportunities, threats

    Google authorship, Bing and Klout,

    Google Panda update

    Social proof
    Restaurant
    full of your friends.

    Q: Talking to clients?
    A: Survey, key search terms, call

    centre, content..
    sales team may also know, can

    summarize over many customers.

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    Sketchnotes from #torontob2b (antispam, mobile websites, marketing programs)

    Posted: - Modified: | sketchnotes

    torontob2b-20120823-antispam-mobile-programs

    Click on the image for a larger version.

    At today’s TorontoB2B Marketers Meetup, Sweeney Williams told us about Canada’s upcoming anti-spam legislation, Ian Fleming shared different approaches to mobile website design, and Scott Armstrong talked about how they’re working on a program-based marketing playbook at Brainrider.

    I’ve just put my Evernote sketchnote collection online, and you can browse and search within it on the Web. If you use Evernote, you can add the notebook and browse through it there. =) Enjoy!

    Like these? Check out the sketchnote for the previous #torontob2b meetup (lead generation, Q&A) or my other sketchnotes!

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    #torontob2b: Sean O’Donovan on managing content for lead generation + Q&A with Ben Harrison and Scott Armstrong

    Posted: - Modified: | marketing, meetup, sketchnotes

    Update 2012-11-15: Here’s the video recap!

    20120628 torontob2b - sean odonovan - managing content for lead gen

    20120628 torontob2b - ben harrison and scott armstrong

    Click on the images for larger versions. Feel free to share these under the Creative Commons attribution license.

    In Sean O’Donovan’s talk on managing content for lead generation, he shared tips on mapping your content to the customer’s buying journey, repurposing what you have, and making it easier for people to find the information through metacontent and packaging. If you’re having someone else develop your content, it’s a good idea to ask them to develop the promotional materials for it too.

    Ben Harrison and Scott Armstrong shared some of their experiences and opened the floor up for Q&A. It was interesting to hear about the marketing side of things.

    If you like this, you might also want to check out my sketchnotes from the previous torontob2b meetup:

    Other links:

    To find out about the next #torontob2b event, check out Brainrider’s events page.

    Enjoy!

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