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10 Reasons You Should Have a Company Blog

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Are blogs just for the big brands, or do they have benefits for you? Here’s a look at 10 reasons it makes sense for your company to be blogging!

1. SEO

Say you’re a new restaurant in town—by blogging regularly about community and about your cuisine, you increase the ways you can be picked up by search engines. What’s more, as you build valuable content, you build your authority in your industry and gradually rank higher and higher online.

Why This Matters: Higher search engine rankings mean more visitors, and more visitors mean more opportunities to promote your company and what you sell.

2. Authority

Building authority online is more than beneficial for search engine rankings; increased authority also increases your influence with users online. Creating regular content that demonstrates expertise in your industry builds your credibility in the minds of users.

Why This Matters: People are more likely to buy from brands they trust, so when you build your ability to be trusted, you build your opportunities to make sales.

3. Distinction

You want your audience to think you’re different from the other guys? Show them, by blogging. Regularly posting high-quality content that provides genuine value to readers establishes you as a unique player in your space. What’s more, your competitors might already be blogging, leaving you behind.

Why This Matters: Let’s start with what happens when customers don’t see your distinction—they confuse you with other companies, don’t know why to buy from you, and end up going with someone else. Communicating your brand to readers means showing them why to give their business to you instead of someone else.

4. Connection

The key to social media is connection, and that’s as true for blogging as it is for Facebook and Twitter. By blogging regularly, you provide one more way for readers to connect and communicate with you and your brand. They can share your content easily. They can stay up-to-date on your news.

Why This Matters: The more connected users are with your brand, the more loyal customers they become. Plus, when people are sharing your content, they’re essentially marketing for you.

5. Long-Term Results

Blogging is more than a one-time magazine ad or a two-week promotion—it’s the kind of consistent, helpful marketing that brings in new business for years to come. That’s because blogging pushes for what’s called organic growth, forged through natural relationships and increased audience trust.

Why This Matters: Long-term results mean greater sustainability. The longer you blog, the more valuable your site becomes, bringing in payoffs far into the future for quality work today.

6. Relevance

Today’s marketing world is increasingly about inbound marketing (marketing methods that attract customers to you and your content) rather than outbound marketing (marketing that goes out to where customers are and tries to sell to them).

Why This Matters: If today’s audiences respond better to blogs than to direct mailings, why waste your time? Instead of going to more trade shows hoping to make new sales, try blogging, which brings the customers to you.

7. Conversion

According to Forrester Research, before making their purchases today’s customers are doing more online research than ever before. Blogging influences customers—especially in terms of whether or not they’ll choose to buy.

Why This Matters: By amplifying information on your company and what you sell, your company blog could be a key factor in determining whether or not a customer chooses to purchase your product.

8. Improvement and Growth

The fact is, regularly blogging about your industry can do more than benefit your client base—it can benefit you. You might find that doing research on new topics teaches you a few things, even as you aim to teach your Web visitors. Maybe writing a post on “5 Ways to Boost Sales” helps you articulate the key areas on which you want to focus your business goals. Maybe interviewing one of your company execs reveals new ideas or strategies to implement. Whatever the case, blogging helps you stay up-to-date on your industry.

Why This Matters: Growing professionally is always a good thing, especially when it means improving the way you’re able to do business.

9. Convenient Setup

Starting a blog is not hard—in fact, the process is fairly simple to set up and manage. What’s more, whether you set it up yourself or hire the project out, it’s fairly inexpensive.

Why This Matters: If cost or lack of tech knowledge is an excuse keeping you from starting a blog, it shouldn’t be.

10. Customer Insight

Wouldn’t it be great if there were a way to tap into your customers and gain knowledge about what they like and respond to? There is, and it’s called blogging. A business blog allows customers to easily comment on your posts as well as to share your content—and simply by observing what your customers say and do, you’ll be able to learn a lot.

Why This Matters: One of the greatest keys to reaching your customers is knowing them. By observing them online and by engaging them in your content, you gain a powerful way to learn what they need.

Image Credit: Bigstock

Debba Haupert talks about Building Online Communities

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You’re a content creator. Yay you! So, now what? Just because you put it out, doesn’t mean people will come to check it out.

NMX speaker Debba Haupert knows the ins and outs of building communities. In this exclusive NMX interview below, Debba shares her advice on how to establish your personal brand, surveying your community, being true to your goals, and the mistakes that online community managers make. Want to hear more from Debba? Check out her session at NMX this January, called “25 Ways to be more Re-Pinnable – Engaging Content and the Power of Pinterest.”

Debba is just one of nearly 200 speakers at NMX this January. Come learn more about new media from some of the most knowledgeable people in the industry by joining us in Las Vegas. Register today!

The #1 Thing You Need To Know To Monetize Your Blog

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[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-nLsqqnaVIs[/youtube]

Video Transcript:

I want to talk to you today about the most important thing you need to know about yourself and your blog in order to monetize successfully.

Now, first of all, let’s talk about this word “monetize.” People use it all the time. It seems to be the popular terminology that’s used by bloggers when they want to make money.

So, first of all, let’s put this to rest right now. Even though I teach people how to make money with their blogs, I’ll be the first to tell you that I think the word “monetize” is a BULLCRAP WORD.

And why is that?

Well, it tends to be an afterthought for bloggers. They create this thing and their entire focus is eyeballs and traffic and comments. Then they come in there with this after- reaction and think, “How can I make some money with this thing?” That is what monetize usually look like.

That is why most bloggers have a really difficult time monetizing because it’s an after-reaction. They are just blogging about some stuff without really doing it strategically.

See, the whole idea of content marketing and blog marketing is that the stuff that you create actually has a purpose to attract the type of people who want to buy something from you. So, that is why I don’t like the word monetization.

But what is the most important thing you need to know?

The most important thing that you need to know about yourself and what you’re delivering is…

What is the ACTUAL product that you are delivering?

And by that, I’m not referring to eBooks and membership sites and things like that. I’m referring to the ACTUAL OUTCOME that you’re trying to deliver into the lives of people on your site.

What are they there to achieve? What are you trying to provide to them? What is the end product that you want them to have as a result of helping them?

If you have that in mind, and you orient everything you do around solving this problem for them and providing something to them that they need and want on your blog, you now know the most important thing you need to know about monetization.

The Two Conditions

When you understand that, there are 2 things that definitely need to be in place.

One of them is it needs to be valuable. It needs to be perceived as being valuable by other people.

Secondly, it needs to be something that they’re going to buy from you. They need to see it as valuable enough to be willing to pay for it.

If you’re doing something and you’re not getting some exchange for it that is valuable to YOU from your audience, well then you really haven’t arrived. They’re not going to give you anything if they don’t perceive it as valuable and they don’t see that they need to pay for it in some way.

So, here are the two criteria:

1. It needs to be perceived as valuable by people.
2. It needs to be something that people are willing to pay for.

It’s just business 101 here, right?

Alignment Between Your Actions And Your End Product

We want to understand what this product is. I’m just going to call it “X”. It’s just some factor. This is what you want to create in the life of your prospect.

What you want is that everything lines up. Your actions and what you’re providing are going to be the same thing.

What exactly is going to get you paid? You want to make sure that this is going to line up and add up to this and that is where the money is going to come from.

Now, advertising seems to be a really popular way to monetize. But here’s the thing, in order to get paid for advertising, in order to actually make it VALUABLE and EXCHANGEABLE, you need to be making money for the advertiser. What they want is eyeballs and they want sales on THEIR website (not yours).

But here’s Mr. Blogger over here, and you are sitting here working and you’re trying to get eyeballs on your website. You want traffic. You want comments. That’s fine. It’s all well and good.

BUT if you’re just working so much on this, forgetting that you actually have to deliver qualified prospects to the advertisers so they’re going to be willing to pay you… then this is the mismatch
that can happen and that’s why a lot of bloggers have a really difficult time making good money with advertising.

But now, let’s look at something more along the lines of affiliate marketing or product creation…Again, we have the “X” that we’re shooting for which is the product that we’re shooting for and you know what it is that you want.

To get them to that and see the money, actions are going to be a matched up because you can promote affiliate products that are going to help your prospects get that. You can make your own products that are going to help people get that.

Everything is in alignment towards that. You’re not out there talking about something completely different. Everything is pointing to this direction of helping your prospects get this little product X
here and they’re happy about it.

That is how you actually make real money. And here’s the thing… if this is an exchangeable thing, if this thing that you’re helping them provide is something they assign a real world value to… Bingo! You’ve got yourself a business here!

So that’s really what it comes down to. That is the most important thing when it comes to monetizing a blog. The word “monetize”, the way it is traditionally used, is not a very smart word because it tends to be an afterthought.

What you provide on your blog is in alignment toward helping them achieve a certain product X like we’ve got on my screen, and your products, your affiliate products, everything you do is all
aligned around that… and that thing is actually something that people would be willing to pay for, then you’ve got yourself a business model.

Otherwise, you really don’t have a business model. Your actions don’t add up to something that makes money.

So, it really comes down to knowing what it is that you’re providing that is of value.

You’re providing eyeballs on somebody else’s website and that’s what you’re doing if you’re in the advertising business. OR you want eyeballs on YOUR website, in which case the most efficient way to monetize is to provide your prospects with some kind of an outcome that they need and want and you provide them solutions to get to that point, and BAM… you’ve got yourself a good solid business there!

Are you going to be at New Media Expo in Vegas? Well, I am too! I’m actually going to be speaking on Sunday, January 6, doing a blog monetization overview – answering the question of “What are your options to make money with the blog?”

I’m actually going to be covering 11 different ways to make money with your site and we’re going to do the whole thing based on the real solid premise that I just talked about and that is approaching it from the real business standpoint. No fluff, none of the crap that you’ve probably heard from a lot of other places even though we’re going to talk about mainly the business models you’ve seen before.

We’re going to be orienting everything around what it really takes to make money doing it. So, this is going to be down the brass text, we’re really looking forward to talking to you. That’s going to be Sunday, January 6 in Las Vegas at New Media Expo.

I’ll see you then!

State of the Blogging World in 2012

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Imagine how differently things would be if WordPress were never created. Before I started my blog five years ago at ZacJohnson.com, everything I did was through basic HTML and if I ever wanted something complex done, I would have to contact a programmer or just didn’t end up pursuing it.

Jump ahead a few years and WordPress and blogging is everywhere! WordPress isn’t just for blogging anymore, but it’s a full content management system that can do anything you can dream up. Thanks to all of the programmers, coders and designers out there who have made a living out of WordPress customization, we can all focus on using WordPress to create anything we like.

The days of blogging just being for people to write their thoughts and opinions online are over… WordPress is free, yet it still powers some of the world’s most known web sites that are worth billions of dollars! The Wall Street Journal, Yahoo, eBay, People Magazine, New York Times, Wired, Mozilla… all WordPress running platforms and blogs!

State of the Blogging World in 2012

Just the thought of blogging and WordPress in itself is enough to blow your mind, but having some fun stats and an infographic to break it all down is even better. Let’s take a look at some of the mind blowing numbers behind WordPress and the millions of users who rely on the software every day.

There are an estimated 31 million bloggers in the U.S. as of July 2012.

Businesses Blogging Stats

  • 60% of Businesses have a Blog
  • 35% Blog At Least Once A Month
  • 65% Haven’t Blogged Once In The Past Year

U.S. Blogging Stats For 2012

  • 42,000,000 Blogs in the US
  • 329 Million People View A Blog Monthly
  • 25 Billion Pages Viewed Monthly
  • 500,000 Daily New Posts
  • 400,000 Daily Comments

For even more crazy WordPress stats, check out the full infographic below.

Special thanks to Blogging.org for the creation of this infographic.

The Recipe for a Successful Blogging Business: How to Minimize Your Liability

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… by Nellie Akalp

You’ve logged long hours behind the glare of your laptop display, battled writer’s block valiantly, and tried your best not to get rattled by the occasional negative comment or flame war. Along the way, you’ve produced some great content and have joined the growing ranks of more than 175 million blogs worldwide.

While blogging has become a serious industry, most bloggers don’t necessarily consider the business aspects of their blog when they’re just starting out. But soon enough what may have started as a casual interest turns into an extra source of income, or even a full-time business.

If you’re a self-employed or self-starting blogger, you’ve got to be aware of a few things as you navigate the legal and business aspects of your blog.

Liability issues

Yes, I know, it’s hard to imagine that sitting behind a computer can put you at any real risk of a lawsuit. And certainly managing a blog is inherently less risky than managing a sky diving business. However, there are some liability issues to consider: What it you accidentally plagiarize another writer’s work? What if you write about a mobile phone prototype left behind at a bar? What if you’re fined by the FTC or named in a class-action lawsuit for positively reviewing a defective product?

If you’re involved in blogging or social media, you’re most likely aware that back in 2009 the FTC revised their guidelines to bring social media and Internet advertisers into the mix. At the heart of this revision was a concern that recognizing ads in social media was becoming increasingly harder. And since then, we’ve seen a handful of controversies surrounding celebrities not properly disclosing brand relationships.

Here’s my recipe (just three simple steps) to minimize your liability as a blogger:

Step 1: 1 cup of disclosure

You need to disclose any ‘material relationship’ with an advertiser or brand. A material relationship can be anything and everything from receiving cash, free samples, a free product, or free trip in exchange for a product review or blog post. Let’s say that Jimmy is an online gaming expert who drinks lots of energy drinks and blogs about his gaming experiences. A game manufacturer sends him a free game and asks him to write about it. Accepting this free game creates a material relationship that must be disclosed or Jimmy can face substantial fines.

If you’re not sure what constitutes a material relationship, err on the side of caution. After all, do you think Jimmy’s readers will be upset to learn he received a free game (particularly, if he’s known for enthusiastic, albeit dead honest, reviews)? Beyond FTC penalties, I believe that disclosure is good practice, as it maintains the relationship of trust that you’ve built with your audience.

Step 2: Sprinkle reviews with results that consumers can ‘generally expect’

It’s no longer acceptable for a blog review to make outrageous claims like “I made $30,000 last month from home selling on eBay; I lost 50 pounds in 2 months.” This is true even if you put a disclaimer ‘results not typical’ in fine print. Like advertisers, bloggers are required to disclose results that “consumers can generally expect.” If you don’t comply, you could receive substantial fines or a consumer protection lawsuit. In most cases, the company itself will be the defendant, but as a participating blogger, you could also be named in the lawsuit.

Step 3: Form an LLC or corporation

Most bloggers aren’t really thinking about business structure when they first start out, meaning that most begin as sole proprietors. While you may think you should incorporate in order to lower your taxes, the main benefit of incorporating or forming an LLC has to do with separating your personal and business finances and minimizing your personal liability.

With an LLC or Corporation (S Corp or C Corp), your personal assets, such as property or a savings account, are shielded from any judgment if your blog happens to be sued or fined. On the other hand, if you’re sued as a sole proprietor, you’ll be sued personally. This means that your personal assets are all at risk. And what you initially started as an interesting side project could end up wiping out your down payment savings.

Also be aware that creditor judgments can actually last up to 22 years. This means that if you’re sued today, your personal assets will still be vulnerable for up to 22 years.

This may sound like scare tactics. And I’m not a fan of scare tactics. But I am a fan of education. Most likely, you’ll never run into any sort of problems with your blog except for the occasional troll. But following this simple recipe of shielding your personal assets through an LLC or Corp, using common sense when choosing your advertising/marketing partners, and always erring on the side of transparency will help make for the sweet success of your blog and business.

Nellie Akalp is a passionate entrepreneur, small business advocate and mother of four. As CEO of CorpNet.com, an online legal document filing service, Nellie helps small business owners form an LLC or incorporate a business in order to start and protect their new business ventures the right way. To access free guides, advice and informative videos on small business legal topics, visit here: http://bit.ly/pChZbV

At next week’s BlogWorld in LA; Nellie will be exhibiting information for attendees to learn the benefits of forming that business structure to a new venture and why it’s an integral part of the success of a business. She will be giving away one iPad2 on November 4th and one on November 5th to BWE attendees. People just have to stop by the booth and look for the ‘Word of the Day’. Once they find it; they need to Tweet to @CorpNet or comment on the CorpNet Facebook page with that word to be entered to win. If they tweet and comment; they are entered twice.

The Top 5 Reasons Why Bloggers Should Work with a Virtual Assistant

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Session: How to Work with Virtual Assistants to Help Build, Grow and Monetize Your Blog
Speaker: Chris Ducker

Blogging has come a long, long way since the days of ‘online journals’. It’s a completely different animal nowadays! And with more and more casual bloggers wanting to take their blogs and online brands to the next level, things can start to get a little more complicated and certainly more hectic for them, than ever before. This is where a little virtual help can become a lifesaver!

As someone that has been in the outsourcing business for over a decade, and currently has approximately 300 VA’s working for him, I can honestly say that I see the benefits of working with virtual staff every single day.

However, gone are the days when VA’s were just meant for busy executive types, and people that just needed ‘letters typed up’. New age entrepreneurs, Internet marketers, affiliate superstars and bloggers everywhere are enjoying the freedom factor that engaging the services of a VA, or even building a team of virtual staff. And the really good news is that you can, too.

So, today, as a quick intro to my upcoming session at BWELA, entitled “How to Work with Virtual Assistants to Help Build, Grow and Monetize Your Blog”, I’m happy to present a little teaser, in the form of the top five reasons why bloggers should be working with VA’s!

Buckle up, here we go…

1. Working with a ‘General VA’ will create massive amounts of additional time to work on other things.

Having someone doing the mundane blogging tasks such as online research, formatting posts in WordPress, searching for copyright free images, embedding video and audio files, creating and embedding SEO info, such as meta tags and descriptions will enable you to free up a ton of time to be able to work on other, more stimulating tasks. These hotshots can also help manage and build your social media presence, too – amongst other things.

2. Having an ‘SEO Specialist VA’ on your team will make sure that your blog gets ranked where it should be – at the top of the SERPs.

We all know what SEO is and how important it is as bloggers. However, we’re also told to produce content for our tribes, not for the search engines. Because of this, off-site SEO couldn’t be any more important. Utilizing SEO-savvy VA’s will enable you to get ranked for all your chosen keywords. Because of this, you’ll enjoy great amounts of regular and new traffic… daily. They will also make sure that your on-site SEO is fired up, to help in your overall SEO mission.

3. Video and Audio VA’s will help you take your brand to the next level.

If you’re a blogger and you’re not already enjoying the additional exposure and traffic that hosting a podcast, and recording great video content brings, then you’re behind the front-runners. Snap out of it! The thing is, a lot of really good bloggers don’t get involved in these additional mediums because they don’t have the skills needed to make them look and sound great. Relax. You don’t need to. There are tons of great VA’s out there that can help you edit your videos and podcast episodes. Try them out on a few simple things first and you’ll be pleasantly surprised, I assure you.

4. Hiring a ‘Web Developer VA’ will enable you to get your blog looking exactly the way you want it to.

Can you install WordPress on your own server? I can. Cool isn’t it!? I can even install and tweak themes, too. However, when it comes to really customizing the way my blog looks, I am a complete dullard. Embedding Google analytics and opt-in form code, adjusting image sizes, graphic design, including automatic thumbnails and excerpts. You name it. Sure, I could probably learn that stuff, too – but, I enjoy engulfing myself with number five on this list, way too much! Speaking of that…

5. Overall, working with Virtual Assistants means you can focus on what you should be focusing on, as an online publisher – creating awesome content!

I absolutely, without a doubt, whole-heartedly enjoy creating content for my online tribe. Don’t you?! Whether its written content, video clips or podcast episodes, putting together as much worthwhile, thought-provoking and helpful content is my focus, as a blogger, and it should be yours, too.

So, there you have it – the top five reasons why you should be working alongside virtual assistants, as a blogger wanting to take your game to the next level and enjoy the full-time blogging lifestyle that so many of us are already living.

If you’d like to learn more about these five areas, plus a whole lot more in regards to utilizing VA’s, I’d love to see you at my session in LA, “How to Work with Virtual Assistants to Help Build, Grow and Monetize Your Blog”, which is taking place at 1.30pm-2.30pm on Thursday 3rd, November. I’ll be going into a lot more detail, as well as exploring other important topics such as where to find quality VA’s, how much to pay them, as well as how to get the most out of them as employees.

See you in LA!

Hear what Chris has to say about his session and why you should attend BlogWorld LA:

Watch more videos and see why other speakers are attending BlogWorld LA. See all Speakers here.

Learn more about BlogWorld LA and register Here!

Chris C. Ducker is the Virtual CEO of the Live2Sell Group and Virtual Staff Finder, the number one provider of home-based Filipino virtual assistants online. When he’s not blogging at VirtualBusinessLifestyle.com, he can be found getting beaten up by his three children, or eating donuts!

How to Make Massive Money During Q4 2011

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It comes around the same time every year, yet so many of us just let the huge holiday cash cow craze pass us by. I know I’m guilty of looking at the coming 4th quarter of the year and always saying, “Next year I’ll be ready!”… but then I find myself in the same spot the next year, wishing I did more and was ready. One of the major problems with gearing up for the fourth quarter and all the big sales events, is knowing what to focus on. Instead of trying to make money off everything, you have a lot to choose from and focus in on.

Halloween

One of the most exciting and profitable times of the year! Forget about the candy… everyone wants the costumes, and they are willing to shed out the big bucks to get them. Sure, there might be huge Halloween outlets stores in your area, but everyone is really flocking to do their research and buying online. Through the use of affiliate programs, you can simply create a resource web site or blog about Halloween costumes, then earn any where from 10-40% on all referred sales. Some families are buying all of their costumes online, which can bring in orders in the $200-$300 range! If you aren’t ready for Halloween this year, make sure your spook yourself into doing something next year!

Black Friday

If you didn’t have to wake up in the early morning hours to go to work, would you? It’s amazing what people will do to find discounts and deals during black friday. Standing outside of a store for days to find that perfect gift for just a few dollars cheaper. How are people finding the right stores to go to, and those most have deals? Easy… they are looking online. There is a massive amount of money to be made by having your own black friday deals web site. You can offer coupon codes and link directly to online stores… all earning you a commission on each signup or sale!

Christmas

Even if everyone has spent all their money during Halloween and Christmas, they will do whatever they can to scurry up some extra money for Christmas spending. It’s the craziest time of the year and we are seeing better online revenue numbers every year. How long before you get in on the auction. Don’t worry about focusing on Christmas as a whole, but instead focus on the hot items and gifts that everyone is trying to buy. If you can’t find a direct affiliate program to earn commissions on an item, try looking at Target, Amazon and Best Buy.

New Years

Oh no! The year is over… there’s nothing to cash in on any more… NOT! Now you have New Years, when everyone is telling themselves they will look better in the new year, eat better and live a better life style. Sure, it may only last few a few weeks or a couple months at best, but it doesn’t mean people aren’t going to be spending a ton of money on weight loss methods, ways to quit smoking and so much more.

If you aren’t taking advantage of any of these massive opportunities in cash in during the next few months, you really need to look at your priorities. Even if you aren’t ready to dedicate a lot of time into something new, make sure you make an attempt, and it will make it that much easier for you to cash in next year!

After Business Plans for Bloggers

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… by Thursday Bram

Business plans can be a scary topic to bring up with bloggers: many of us have very clear ideas on how we want to make money with our sites and the consideration that there are numbers change the ball game can be terrifying.

I knew this going into my session at BlogWorld Expo in New York. I honestly wasn’t sure how many people would be interested in talking about the nuts and bolts of running a blogging business. But I was pleasantly surprised — and I think the audience was, too. We got to talk about what really makes sense, in terms of monetizing a blog, as well as the mechanics of actually putting together a business plan.

The Surprise of My Session

My audience more than managed to surprise me. I expected to attract a crowd that was familiar with blogging as a platform but were newer to the idea of a blog as a business. There were certainly a few folks in that boat, but there quite a few people who had actually already experimented with different strategies to make money from their blogs.

Now, I’m personally a fan of running the numbers on a new project before I get started. I have several blogs (at different levels of success or even starting), but for each of them, I have an informal business plan.

At the same time, though, I didn’t have business plans of any sort for the first couple of blogs I launched. A few of those died quiet deaths and the rest got business plans after the fact. It is more than acceptable to write a business plan even after you’ve been in business for a while; in fact it’s often necessary. With some more traditional models, the only time a business plan goes beyond the informal stage is when the owner wants to sell it!

If you’re in the position of working on the business end of your blog after the site has been up for a good while, that’s perfectly fine. It happens to a lot of us. But, just as I said at #BWENY, it’s important to sit down and write out a plan for that business. If you’re working with a written document, no matter how informal, you’re far more likely to actually get the numbers necessary to help you figure out how much your blog might earn, as well as address the potential barriers to increasing your blog’s income.

Your Secret Blog Decision-Making Weapon

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When you own your own blog, lots of decisions have to be made. What color should you make the background? Is the font too small? How often is too often when you’re posting content? Which logo looks best? And on and on and on…even after you launch the blog, there are decisions to be made. It doesn’t ever end.

Hopefully, you have enough vision for your blog that you can make most choices rather easily. Well, perhaps easily isn’t the word, but hopefully you can make a choice and feel confident that it’s the right one.

But what about the times when you can’t? What if you feel like there are two or more choices that could be equally “right”? What if the decision you are making isn’t something that can easily be changed if you choose incorrectly? Decisions like that can keep you up at night. They certainly have caused a number of sleepless nights for me, and when it comes to business decisions, I’m usually pretty confident.

I’ve found the perfect way to make decisions, though. Over the years of blogging that I’ve done, there’s one weapon, one secret weapon, that I return to again and again and again…and it’s a weapon that every blogger had in their arsenal. In fact, even if you don’t yet have a blog, even if you only have a Twitter account or Facebook page, this secret weapon is something you possess.

What exactly is the weapon I’m talking about? Your audience.

I’m not suggesting that you should crowd-source every decision you make, but when you truly don’t know the right way to turn, your audience – the people who are your readers or who will become your readers – can help point you in the perfect direction. What they reveal could be extremely helpful – often their answers are skewed one way or another, not split 50-50 like the choices might be in your own mind.

The easiest way to ask your audience what they think, in my opinion, is to set up a poll. You can do so for free at Survey Monkey*, which is my personal favorite poll tool, though there are other options as well, some of which you can even embed in a blog post or on your sidebar (Survey Monkey allows this, but it can also be hosted on their site). Once you have your poll set up, blast it to everyone – your email list, your social profiles, even your friends and family if you think their input will help. If you don’t have a huge fanbase yet, you might not get much of a response – but even ten people weighing in can give you some insight, especially if all ten people feel strongly one way or the other.

Seeing responses might also give you a reflection of your own opinions. If you see everyone voting one way and find yourself feeling upset that they’re not picking the other choice, it’s a good indication that you didn’t feel 50-50 about the choices anyway. Remember, you don’t always have to listen to your readers. One of the things I like about Survey Monkey rather than on-site poll options is that they’re blind – people make their choices, but they can’t view the results. This discourages bandwagoning, as well as gives you more freedom to choose what you want, not the popular vote, when the poll closes.

As a mini case-study, let me show you what I’m doing right now. My next blogging project, which is zombie-themed, doesn’t yet have a URL, and after thinking about it, I just couldn’t decide on my own. So I came up with my top picks, based on what was available, an created a poll, which you can see here. A few things to note:

  • It’s super simple, with only one question.
  • There’s an optional comment box where users who are so inclined can explain their answer. This really helps me out, but it doesn’t pressure people to leave a comment if their choice was just a gut reaction.
  • I gave people a way to sign up for my mailing list at the end. Most of the people responding are already on my mailing list, but I’ve put out a net to catch people who aren’t, but who want to be.

I hope that some of you will head over there and vote – and for the reason I’m not going to tell you my results so far, but I will say this: there are two strong front runners. I didn’t really expect that, but now that I’m thinking about it, it makes sense – they really are the two best URLs on the list. Chances are that you’ll vote for one of them if you do vote.

Asking my audience has time and time again helped me make decisions about my blog. As an added bonus, making my readers part of a decision helps build buzz about my projects and makes the community strong – people like to be a part of your choices when they feel connected to your site. Even if you ultimately don’t go with the popular vote, polling your readers can really help you make blog decisions. Have you tried it before? What have your experiences been?

*FYI, the link to Survey Monkey is not an affiliate link or anything. My post sounds a little gushy about them, so I wanted to make that clear. I don’t know if there’s even an affiliate program associated with Survey Monkey. I legitimately just love their service!

How to Get Left Behind-B2B Sales and Social Media Predictions

Author:

To be successful in B2B sales today AND tomorrow, you need to actively build your social media presence. I assume since you are reading this blog that you already know that, or at least you are interested in knowing more. But it frightens me how many small to midsize companies behave like ostriches when it comes to a serious evaluation of their social media strategy.

Here are five serious ways that you will be left behind:

  1. Thought Leadership. You are not actively engaged in developing a point of view about your industry on behalf of your company. You and/or your employees are not publishing articles and white papers, or participating in online discussions, or asking and answering questions in the leading social media sites for your industry and/or your state and locale. Therefore you will not become known as an industry leader and will increasingly be perceived as irrelevant.
  2. Website. It’s a marketing piece all about you. It is not interactive, inviting visitors to participate in any way. It doesn’t offer any links to unbiased information or free white papers or eBooks or any little way to promote extra value. It just sits there, doing nothing for you. Therefore, you are by definition losing ground to competitors who are upgrading their interactivity.
  3. LinkedIn. You have a minimal presence or none at all. Only one or two of your employees are engaged here. There is a lack of personal photos, complete profiles, and connections to other professionals. You are not members of relevant industry groups. If groups don’t exist, you haven’t taken leadership to create them and invite others. Therefore, interested prospects will not find you, nor will you find them.
  4. Google Alerts. You have not set “Google alerts” (they are free) to help you monitor what is being said about you personally, your company, your industry, and your key executives on the Internet. You do not have any system to monitor the flow of industry information and where you may, or may not, fit into it. Therefore you have no basis for an improved marketing strategy.
  5. Opt-In e-mail List. You are not actively building your list of friends, current customers, and prospects, so you have no reliable and inexpensive way to reach them with news, special offers, or simply thanks for their business. Therefore you run the risk that your competitors have a much better list and the capacity to reach your customers and prospects regularly.

You may not need a Facebook page. You may not need a Twitter account. Those channels depend highly on the nature of your business and where your audience is engaging online. But even if you think today that your market is offline, I challenge you to think again and to investigate or ask your youngest, newest employee to investigate on your behalf.

Today’s communication channels will change, as did the mail, telegraph, telephone, cell phone, etc. They will continue to evolve. But the basic premise that you need to be connected will not change. If you’re not sufficiently connected, the steps you take today will pay you back many times over!

Do you have a connectivity story or comment to share? We would love to hear from you.

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