Blog networks are a big deal. For people new to blogging, the idea of a professional blog network was born around 2004. The idea was to pull together a bunch of blogs on different topics and have them share resources, and use successful ones to successfully launch new ones through cross promotion. Calacanis and Denton were the first ones to make it work with their respective networks: Weblogsinc and Gawker Media. Calacanis sold Weblogsinc to AOL in 2005 and it makes AOL a lot of money. Gawker Media is still independent and recently conjectured to be worth about $150M. However, there's lots and lots and lots of blog networks around now. I blogged for Creative Weblogging for awhile. b5Media seems to be thriving. TechCrunch, GigaOm, PaidContent and a few other blogs have taken their popularity and used it to launch other blogs, thus creating blog networks. Federated Media and Glam Media have pulled together blog networks by recruiting a bunch of successful bloggers to outsource their ad sales.
There's a bunch of benefits to a blogger joining a blog network. Behind the scenes, there's a lot that goes into making a blog hum from design, building, hosting to ad sales, ad serving, research, fielding requests from public relations firms, writing, comment moderation, recruiting writers, payroll, etc, etc. However, the biggest benefit of being involved with a blog network is the cross promotion opportunities. A successful blog can quickly make a new blog successful by linking to them frequently, putting them in their blog roll and sometimes, just by association.
But, all blog networks to date are media businesses. They hire (or are started by) great writers and they sell ads. Their business model is gaining eye balls and selling impressions.
The bloggers in my network are not in the media business. They're in the asian cosmetic surgery business, the laser liposculpture business, the bulk mailing list business, the North Carolina whitewater rafting business, the sales force evaluation business, the aed implementation program business, the deformable mirror business, the museum exhibit design business, the after hours trading information business, the home renovation design businesss. The list goes on.
They don't sell impressions. They're not blogging about Audrina from the Hills' topless photos just to sell more ads. They sell real products and services. They have real knowledge and real experiences.
Why isn't there a blog network for them?
Blog networks have historically been run like journalistic enterprises. They've beaten the newspapers. They beat magazines. But, the motivations of the bloggers in my network are different. The means are the same. They must establish credibility, build a community and draw in traffic from search engines in order to build their readership. But, they want to drive traffic in order to generate leads and make sales. Not sell ads. Their products and services help people solve problems and create opportunites. They're not just sharing ideas and information for the sake of entertaining and informing. They're sharing ideas and information to establish credibility and make a prospective client feel more comfortable doing business with them. They realize they need to be informative and educational in order to build a readership. They realize they need to link to other bloggers and participate in the distributed conversation that is the blogosphere. They need to do all of the things that a professional blogger does.
So, why isn't there a blog network for them? Why shouldn't businesses have the ability to join a network and benefit from a little cross promotion? They're adding value to the web by sharing their knowedge. They are the true experts. They don't write about their topics for a living. They do what they're writing about for a living. Their writing comes from years of hard won experience as practicioners.
Joining the PC4Media online business network is not much different from joining a Chamber of Commerce or other business networking group. The reason business professionals join those groups is because it's an opportunity to get to know other business professionals, build relationships, do business directly and help each other out by referring business to each other?
Why shouldn't businesses have a blog network that allows them to do that online? Why shouldn't businesses proactively join a network and link to each other, promote each other, use LinkedIn and Twitter together? Why shouldn't bloggers who blog to benefit their business have a network that helps them establish their blog readership quicker, increase their search traffic and traffic from social media sites quicker? Join the conversation quicker.
Now they have that opportunity. Stay tuned as this develops. I'm excited and a bunch of my members are too. We're going to be having a lot of fun as we support each other in growing our respective businesses. You're invited to join us.
The other day, a prospect asked me what the average annual revenue of a HubSpot client is. I said "I have no idea". I also asked why she asked. Since this was over email, she hasn't answered yet.
I should have answered. "It's rising."
I was talking to Frank Damelio this morning and this is a paraphrased quote of what he said to me: "I'm really excited for you Pete. Over the years, it's been great to have someone like you to share stories with as we've both built our businesses and learned hard lessons. And you are working on the cusp of something huge and I can tell based on how things are going for you and your excitement, that you're really in a good spot. And that all of the things you've learned, you're putting to good use and really helping a lot of people.
Previously, large businesses had access to the capabilities that HubSpot provides. But, now it's possible for every small business to afford these tools. And business is going to increasingly be initiated online at Google, blogs, LinkedIn, etc. And you are positioned to really help small businesses make the transition. No matter whether it's a hair salon, a tire repair place, or whatever, they're going to need someone that can give them the tools and guidance to switch from old ways of marketing to using the web to attract prospects to them. The web is where their customers are looking for someone like them. They need to be there."
I certainly couldn't have said it better myself. I think Frank could even deliver it almost as well as HubSpot's CEO has in this video, since Frank is a public speaking coach.
Frank's right, though. This stuff is now affordable for small businesses. It's less about the dollar investment. It's more about whether they can spend the time and whether they have the aptitude to pull it off. It's not rocket science. But, it takes committment.
HubSpot's clients include large businesses like Kelley Staffing, Geico Insurance and SolidWorks, the leader in 3d design software. But, we also have lots of clients who are 5-10 person teams just setting out to change the world like Darcy's Safety and CPR training business, Boston Micro Machine's Adaptive Optics, Objective Management Group's sales recruiting business, Midnight Trader's After Hours Trading Information business, B&B Aesthetics revolutionary laser lipo procedures or Frusterio's Home Renovation Design business. HubSpot even has plenty of successful one person shops like Doug Sauerhaft's 'Buy Mail List' business, Paul Orselli's Museum Exhibit Design company, Bob Mattingly's River Rafting Adventure business, Dr. Edward Kwak's Asian Plastic Surgery business and Mari McCarthy's Journal Writing Therapy Business.
There's lots more. I'm proud to have brought many of these businesses on board. And what gets me really excited is when they start building readership on their blog, doing their own keyword research and tracking for SEO, improving ppc performance and leveraging social media so that it has an impact on the topline of their business.
And it's even more exciting when customers talk about it themselves. Here's the latest HubSpot internet marketing case study from telecom expense management software provider, Vocio. (Video editing by Catie Foertsch.)
It's amazing to think that we've had a part in helping this business grow their business. It's amazing to think about the fact that 46 new clients signed up last month to embark on the same process. The impact that we'll have on their business and their lives is awesome. We're putting people in control of their marketing, something that has been pretty much a guessing game for more than a century. I think it's a high point for the direct marketing business. Now, it's possible to not only measure things, but engineer, predict, and improve with instantaneous feedback. I'm pretty sure that Gutenberg didn't think that would ever be possible when he invented the printing press.
I reached out to Marge Powers, Owner of Winning Ways after she ran her website through website grader.
Not because of procastination, but she hasn't started her blog yet. So, I invited her to write a guest post. It would be a great thing for all of us if she did start a blog.
One of the main reasons people don't hire me to help them with their online marketing is because they just don't make the decision to get started; they let a bunch of B.S. in their head make up their mind for them.
I'm sure that's the reason people don't make progress on a lot of things: Like me cleaning out the basement or organizing my closet.
Here's her guest post about procrastination:
If you don't stay ahead of it, procrastination and feeling stuck are insidious little varmints that scuttle around the baseboards of life, contaminating your best intentions. These little saboteuers love to perch on top of your to-do list, gloating, knowing full well who's Boss.
For twenty years I've been coaching people how to defeat their own self-defeating behaviors, especially feeling stuck in procrastination. Clients ask why they sabotage themselves, and why they can't seem to follow through.
Clients expect me to do more than just brainstorm with them for resourceful solutions. They want me to point out a bad habit or unworkable strategy that skews their perception or gets them off course. Here then, gathered from my 20 years professional experience as a Career and Life Coach are my (2) Top Ten Lists of why people procrastinate and feel stuck. As you are reading, consider which ones you use and how you can change what is not working.
List Number One: What Do You Say To Yourself?
1. I'm afraid.
2. I'm overwhelmed.
3. I can't see an easier way to do it.
4. I don't have the time.
5. I keep trying the same thing and I can't get the results I want.
6. I don't want to deal with this right now.
7. I'm too _____, to handle this right now.
8. It's not my responsibility.
9. I don't want to let go.
10. Yes, but ...........................
List Number Two: What Holds You Back?
1. Perfectionism (performance anxiety). "If I can't do it RIGHT, I won't do it at all." "I'll start just as soon as I get every single thing I need."
2. Paralysis (too much paper; too many stacks, boxes, cartons, albums), "I don't know where to start. It's too overwhelming."
3. Poor Procedures (lack of strategies, systems), "I don't know how to make it better." "I need a system. But first of need someone to install the system, what system?"
4. Pack Rat Programs (fear of not having enough), "As soon as I throw it away, I'll need it." "You never know when you'll need a ... (ripped shirt to wear when painting)."
5. Perceptual Problems (rationalization, denial), "What mess?" "I've got plenty of time. It isn't even due until.. (April, next week)."
6. Permissiveness (spoiled brat syndrome), "My momma always did this for us kids."
7. Peculiar Priorities (avoidance), "I'll write that term paper just as soon as I practice more guitar chords."
8. Petulant Passivity (passive-aggressive resistance), "Nobody can tell ME how to .. (organize a business, clean out a garage, etc.)."
9. Penitence (personal put-downs, guilt trips, Poor Me in disguise), "I know, I know, I just keep letting (myself, others) down." "I'm just screwed up.)
10. Partner Punishing (See #8).
Which of the above statements do you usually gear towards? So, is it working for you to use them? So, what do you need to do to get past your procrastination?
I'll be speaking at the Next Level Executives again. (Last month's slides.)
This time, I'm speaking with Catie Foertsch, online video maven, and fellow web guru, Linda Sevier.
Linda is also a PC4Media partner. She and I are just starting to help a Framingham MA real estate attorney and a Central MA commercial real estate firm to start their new media marketing activities.
If you're local and interested, you should attend. Apparently, there are only a few guest seats left. So, register if you want to come.
I don't plan on writing a book. And I haven't ever written a book. If you add up my 5 years of blogging, it would be as thick as a book. But, I have trouble focussing from blog post to blog post on just one topic. I don't think I'll be writing one anytime soon. I do plan on writing a "How To Generate Leads" eBook. But, for different reasons: I plan to offer it as a free download as a way to generate leads for myself.
However, when Ken Lizotte suggested that his Deputy Imaginative Officer (DIO), Mike Brown at emerson consulting group inc write a guest blog post about how to start writing a book by welll... starting to just write, I saw a lot of parallels between the 'how to start a blog' advice I give to would-be business bloggers.
You know why you want to write a book-the credibility, the accomplishment, the embodiment of true "thoughtleading" in your field. You're just unsure how the heck you'll actually write it. OK, you're very unsure.
• What will I write about?
• Where will I write?
• Will I have enough time?
• The longest thing I've ever written in recent times, beside business memos or emails, was a birthday card
• Am I really up for this?
Overcoming writer anxiety is the first step and most important step when making the decision to write a book. Envisioning yourself hammering out page after page of copy can be an extreme source of apprehension and self-doubt, especially for people who don't consider themselves writers. Maybe you're picturing yourself with a nasty case of writer's block, like Jack Nicholson in the movie The Shining, isolated from the outside world, crumbling up page after page, paralyzed for ideas, copying "all work and no play" etc. all day long, and so you figure that writing a book "maybe isn't for me."
Maybe not. Writing a book is definitely not for everyone. Those who seek to become thoughtleaders, however, are in fact quite capable of such feats, as they have already made the most important commitment: they want to publish their ideas. Without this objective in mind, the agonizing process would make Jack's Shining antics seem like that of a preschool teacher.
Which is not to suggest that simply wanting to publish your ideas will make writing them an effortless task, far from it. In Ken Lizotte's latest book, The Expert's Edge: Become the Go-To Authority People Turn to Every Time, just out from McGraw Hill, he discusses the value of publishing a book as a method of positioning yourself as a thoughtleader and offers this relevant insight:
"Writing and publishing a book is not a commitment that everyone is ready to make. It's akin to every other major life commitment: getting married, having a baby, raising a family, buying a house, studying for a Ph.D., or starting a business. It will take a lot of your time, persistence, reflection, research, organization, and writing. Yes, and writing: writing, writing, writing-and rewriting!"
ow you might be saying, "The only thing worse than writing is rewriting."
Well, stick with it. Getting started is the hardest part, and the more you pour your ideas out onto the page, the easier they will flow. You'll develop a strong sense of ownership with your drafts, and like your house or your business, you'll have a vested interest in keeping it healthy and vibrant.
So don't let your dream of writing a book turn into a Stephen King nightmare. Stay confident, take a deep breathe, clear your schedule, stow yourself away at your local library... and start writing!
If you want more book writing advice, you can email Mike mike at thoughtleading.comat or visit www.thoughtleading.com for more info.
My buddy, Greg Gershman, founder and chief architect of blogdigger, one of the first blog search engines has sold his business and landed a nice gig.
I've been talking and blogversating with Greg since the beginning. I can't believe it's been 5 years. When Greg started, blog search was nascent, but I enjoyed covering the space because I figured it'd be big. Greg and I had lots of email conversations passing ideas and feedback back and forth. He thanked me over email when I congratulated him today. However, I played a very very very small part. It's very cool seeing him be able to take what he's doing to the next level. In other situations, maybe I could have played a bigger part. But, it's satisfying to me to see a 1.5 man startup take a project, turn it into a self sustaining business and then use it to build a career at a potentially game changing startup. Greg stuck it out. That takes a lot of sacrifice and committment. Something most would-be entrepreneurs completely underestimate.
I don't think the promise of real time blog search and discovery - so that true serendipitous blogversations can happen - has been fulfilled yet. But, I'm glad Blogdigger and Greg have landed at a place where he can continue to work on it.
And congrats to your wife too, Greg. :-)
The Worcester Business Journal ran an article about online advertising the other day quoting 3 local marketing agencies about online advertising.
The majority of the article quotes Laura Briere, owner of Vision Advertising, which is good. Laura actually knows her stuff quite well. Not as well as she thinks she does, but if I had to pair someone up with a local full service marketing agency who gets the web, Laura is a good bet. She doesn't make the mistakes that marketing agencies outside of Central MA stopped making in 2001. (I haven't used Laura myself so I don't know what she does and doesn't know. But, on the surface, she's dangerous with this stuff.)
The other two are pretty hopeless. They're still placing online ads on newspaper sites, designing banner ads and all flash websites (SEO no-no #1) for their clients instead of doing search engine optimization, pay per click advertising, blogging, landing page optimization, and leveraging social media successfully. (Not just expensively.)
I am sure this problem is not unique to Central MA. But, if marketing agencies want to stay relevant they better learn how to shift their thinking of "how do I spend my client's advertising budget effectively?" to "How do I do things that generate a predictable and measurable ROI for my clients by generating leads that turn into business for them?"
If the WBJ wants to provide informative articles about online marketing to their readers and help Central MA businesses really leverage the web effectively to grow their businesses, they should look for some more experts past 495. Maybe even hire an online marketing expert to do the writing. This is such an important thing to get right for the future of the region's business health.
It's been awhile since I've ranted or called anyone out. Sorry, in advance, for those that I've offended. You deserve it, even though it should be privately directed.
I'll be returning shortly to educational blog posts about online marketing and my networks' activities.
Jame has an interesting post about what skills a salesperson must have in a world where a buyer can educate themselves via blogs, company websites, social networks and the search engines.
I have my own thoughts. I'll reserve them for later when I have some time to process. I thought maybe my sales buddies would weigh in first.
Doug Sauerhaft wrote a post about postcard marketing vs email marketing. I don't have any direct experiences with postcard marketing, but I concurr on the email marketing. There are so many different ways to market via email, but I do think that the only true way to do it successfully (w/out pissing off people) is to market to people who have opted in. There's all kinds of ways to build an opt-in email list. But, it's certainly not going to be as timely as buying a direct mail list and sending a postcard.
Darcy Cook and Joe Ceccarelli have relaunched their Safety Trainers
website with a full description of their first aid
and cpr training
and safety programs
for a variety of industries
. I wrote about Darcy here
. I've known them for a few years now. Look up "hustle" in the dictionary, and there's a picture of those two next to the word. They're now going to be applying that same hustle to their SEO, social media and blogging activities in order to intelligently drive new business.
I wrote a post over on the HubSpot blog entitled "Top 10 Most Egregious Search Engine Optimization Mistakes
I'd like to eventually write the Top 100 list. So, go leave your list in the comments.
Blitztime is a genius concept. It takes the benefits of traditional networking and the benefits of online networking and puts those benefits together in an online/phone speed networking environment.
I've been sending it around to people and encouraging others to check out their weekly open networking events. I've also been talking to the founders. I'd love nothing more than to take the time and promote the hell out of a Blitztime event, like I did with Art, Wine and Networking, but given the fact that I have more leads than I can possibly call, doing that is not a priority right now.
What I do plan to do, in the future, is leverage Blitztime to create interaction among my clients so that they can help each other out in their online business growth activities. Having 50 business owners and marketing professionals working together networking online will be a powerful force in the social media world. But, that's a few months off. And the plan isn't fully plotted. But, Blitztime will be a part of it.
In the meanwhile, you should check out Blitztime and attend a SpinCycle event.
Linda Sevier, PC4Media partner, web designer, and all around great person, wrote a great summary after she attended one. I offered to post her thoughts up on my blog:
Have you ever heard about something new and thought to yourself "Wow! What a great idea! It is so simple and obvious, why didn't I think of that?". I had that kind of experience today. I was invited to a Blitz event (Spin Cycle: Business Networking Made Easy) at BlitzTime.com. It is a new way to network over the phone, in the comfort of your office! I followed the emailed instructions to call and logged my computer into the website. After a quick explanation, I was networking! I was spun into one on one conversations with other networkers. A time clock on the web site kept track of each "spin cycle" and the profile of each person I networked with was displayed automatically on my computer. No squinting trying to read a name tag or worse yet, remember their name and company after the introduction. Will it replace face to face networking? Not any time soon but it is something I will do again in addition to traditional networking events. If you are up for a new experience, take BlitzTime.com for a spin!
I sent out an invitation to some people to write guest posts on my blog. Ray Schavone, owner, founder and chief bottle washer (literally) of Deja Brew, a brew-it-yourself beer making business, wrote an excellent how to article on starting a brew your own beer store. There's also lessons for anyone starting a business:
So you want to start your own business? Why? It's a lot more work than you might suspect. You'll have a jerk for a boss, and get to deal with everything, EVERYTHING, related to your business. You won't be able to call in sick, or take time off because the day is nice. And nobody, nobody, will sweep the floor as well as you will. Everyone else in your company will be an employee, and you know how much you care as an employee.
I started my own business over 10 years ago. Here's a couple of things I learned about starting a business.
It starts with a business plan. I'd strongly encourage, urge, or cajole you to start with the Small Business Development Center. You can find them at your local business college or through your local Chamber of Commerce. Or, you can locate on of the centers through the SBDC website; http://www.asbdc-us.org/
This is a free service btw. Well, you pay for it through your tax dollars, but why not use it? Their goal is to help entrepreneurs realize their dream of starting a small business. Did I mention it was free? They ran me through the paces to get my business plan to the point where I could qualify for an SBA guaranteed loan.
If you've got all the funding you need, you can skip this step. I brought my plan to about 20 banks before I found one that was interested. It took Walt Disney 297 banks to find one to fund his Disney Land project. So don't get discouraged. I had to put roughly 50% of my own funds into the financing. They very much want you to have some skin in the game. Last thing about funding; you need to have enough operating capital set aside to get you to profitability. That's why most small businesses fail. Not because of bad ideas, or bad business people, but they were under funded, and couldn't make it to profitability.
Our business needed a brick and mortar location, and we had to have a lease in place before we could get the funding. As they say; location, location, location. It made a huge difference for us. We get about 35,000 cars a day driving by our location.
You may be able to move right into a space and go from there. We needed to build out. We were lucky, it was empty warehouse space, and the landlord was willing to cover the cost of the build out, as they were building out a couple of other store fronts at the same time. If you've got to build out, stay on top of your contractors. If the ideas in your head can easily transfer to paper and diagrams, then great, if not, you need to be there. I had great contractors. I was still there every day to answer their questions whenever a change had to be made.
We needed to get town approvals for our business. We needed a Zoning board variance, and Board of Health approval. Don't be shy; get in front of these folks early on. I did and found them to be incredibly helpful. It may have been dumb luck on my end. But, if I can relate a comment made to me by the BOH when they were reviewing my plan; "I just wish that everyone who needed our approval to open a business in town would do what you did. Get into us early and discuss what they want to do, and let us suggest changes It would save them time and money"
Since this was new space, we needed permits from the plumbing, BOH, and fire department. The fire department wanted additional sprinklers. We had to get the plumber back to do the job, and then the fire department back for the approval. This caused us a two week delay. See my note on town approvals above. We did not engage with the fire department prior to completing our plumbing and build out.
We had a "soft" opening a couple weeks prior to our Grand Opening. This allowed us to test our system and processes to get them correct before we opened to the public.
I'm not much of an advertising guru. But, as soon as the sign went up, it was like an invitation was sent out to every advertising sales person in the area. Ugh.. We have a unique business. It's a brew-on-premise. We were the first in Mass., the 2nd in New England, and about the 50th in the US of A. So, I felt we were newsworthy. As the barrage of advertising execs started through the door, my response was simple; run a news story about us and how unique we are. If it drives phone calls and generates interest, then we know you are a good advertising vehicle for us. Some took us up on the offer, others didn't. The best advertising is word of mouth.
Love your customers. Yeah, they can be a pain in the neck sometimes. We have no problems telling them that when they are and that they need to chill out and have a beer. We've made some great friends through our business. I wouldn't have it any other way.
HubSpot just launched an 11 page free internet marketing eBook. If you're a small business owner, marketing or sales professional and are frustrated with not generating enough leads from your website, you should go read it online or download it.
Here's the sections:
1. How the Internet Has Transformed Business
2. Outbound vs Inbound Marketing
3. B2B Marketing Research
4. Organic vs Paid Search
5. On Page Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
6. Off Page SEO or Link Building
7. Starting a Blog
8. Convert Website Visitors into Leads
9. Web Marketing Analytics
10. Other Internet Marketing Resources.
I'll be attending a virtual marketing conference tomorrow
. I'm standing in a virtual booth. This is a new thing for me. The conference is free if you want to attend. Lots of great free seminars and companies exhibiting.
I started reading Tim Ferriss's 4 Hour Work Week over the summer.
I've tabled the goal til 2009, as I'm really just starting to build my business so that growth and the workload is sustainable. I am no longer "doing the work" anymore, as I was in 2006. So, I just focus on bringing in new clients. I stay in touch to make sure they are making progress towards their goals, but getting them going and making progress is other people's responsibility.
It's nice. Very nice. Life is simpler and manage-able.
My goal is to bring on 240 clients this year, which involves me working my butt off. By the end of the year, though, I want the majority of my business to come from referrals from clients. At that point, I'll be able to get a lot closer to working 4 hours a week.
Right now, I'm probably working about 80 hours/week.
And I'm thinking that I need to figure out a way to outsource some simple tasks. I was never good at "simple tasks" anyways.
I started talking to the founders of AskSunday about a month ago. It seems like a very reasonably priced service which enables anyone to outsource all kinds of tasks.
Here's a video about them: