Cover image for Triberr Group on Facebook

Leaders of Triberr – Brand New Facebook Group for Triberr Members and Chiefs

I’ve created a new Facebook group “Leaders of Triberr” for Triberr members and tribe leaders.

You can join here, and make sure to turn notifications on for ‘all posts’ or Facebook will hide most of the posts from you. If you don’t see the stuff, nothing good can happen in the group.

We can network, share our best tips, or ask questions and get advice from fellow Triberr members.

If you don’t know what Triberr is: It’s a social network for bloggers. You can use it to promote your blog posts, and to network with other bloggers. To find out more read this.

Now is a perfect time to get more active on Triberr, because Triberr has found a new owner. With an entire team behind the platform I’m excited about the future of Triberr!

Here are some of the things I’ve planned for the new fb group

Ideas for chiefs

  • How to bring new bloggers to our Tribes
  • How can we better support new members
  • How to reactivate inactive members
  • How to get more shares on Facebook and LinkedIn

Ideas for bloggers

  • How to become better Bloggers
  • Writing and editing tips for stellar blog posts
  • Plugin & blog design tips
  • Blog promotion ideas

Plus, let’s do some networking offsite Triberr

  • How can we support each other beyond tweeting our blog post links?
  • How can we spread our reach beyond the existing Triberr community?
  • How can we use new and trending publishing platforms? (Medium, LinkedIn, Facebook Notes, Facebook Instant Articles)

Some things you can do right now:

Join the ‘Leaders of Triberr’ Facebook group.

  1. Turn notifications on for ‘all posts’ or Facebook will hide most of the posts from you.
  2. Add your links to the networking doc in the files section.
  3. Say Hi (if you like), and introduce yourself.
  4. Post your ideas or questions.
  5. Comment on existing group posts.

Hope to see you, and let me know what you think, either here in the comments, or at Facebook directly in the group.

 

 

Tony Robbins Quote

Decision Is The Ultimate Power

Decision is the ultimate power. When we read quotes like this one from Tony Robbins, we usually think about the big, life-changing decisions.

Putting an end to something, like

  • quitting your job,
  • stop drinking alcohol once and for all,
  • or filing for divorce.

Or starting something new, like

  • starting a business,
  • moving to a new country,
  • or deciding to build a home.

Yet, there’s another type of decisions. Decisions that have an equally dramatic impact on the outcome of your life!

They go unnoticed.

You make them unconsciously.

They secretly run your life.

The decisions that ultimately shape your destiny are the small ones you make every day.Click To Tweet

Seemingly “tiny” decisions are affecting the quality of your life. They are small, but their consequences build up over years and decades, like a powerful Tsunami builds up from initially shallow waves.

  • Do you want fries with that OR a salad?
  • Enjoying quality time with your spouse OR with a stranger you met on the chat?
  • Hanging out on the couch Or going to the gym?

And specifically in your business:

  • Going to the pool OR writing a blog post?
  • Socializing on Facebook OR calling prospects?
  • Sharing other people’s content OR creating your next YouTube video?
  • Starbucks OR Office?
  • Checking your email (again!) OR creating your next product?
  • Vising a cabaret show (they are very popular where I live) OR working on your web site?

Cabaret Show TheVenue in Pattaya

Man, choices are hard!

Fortunately you can make new and better choices every day!

Usually it comes down to one master choice, it’s a “meta choice” or blueprint for all the unconscious decisions in your life.

The master choice that rules all your small decisions day in day out is:

Do you choose short term comfort OR long term fulfillment?Click To Tweet

 

 

Google Plus Circles Tutorial – How To Use Google Plus Circles For Your Business

Google Plus Circles Tutorial – How To Use Circles For Your Business

Update January 2016: This article was first published in March 2014.

I have since given up on Google Plus, and I do not recommend putting any time or money into G+ marketing.

I’m pretty sure the service will shutdown within the next 3 years. User engagement has been a problem even at the best times of this fading service.

Now, since Google has separated the most popular features from G+, it is more than ever a place for Big G’s hardcore fans. Also, the recent massive user interface change has confused many.

Instead of hoping for this patient on life support to come back to life, rather invest your time and marketing budget into this professional but underrated network, and into this proven-to-be-successful marketing channel.

Don’t hesitate to connect with me on these two places.

And here’s the original article: “Google Plus Circles Tutorial – How To Use Circles For Your Business.”

Circles, and especially shared circles, are Google’s innovative tool to network with people and to manage your connections on Google Plus. Once you understand how circles work, you’ll fall in love with Google Plus. You’ll quickly see that no other social network offers such detailed and sophisticated networking possibilities.

This is a long post. 5000 Words, 29,000 Pixels long! 23 Images, Screen Shots, and Videos.

It’s NOT A QUICK START TUTUORIAL. To master Google circles, you’ll need 3 to 4 months of using them day by day. You’ll need time experimenting

  • how to find the best people to add,
  • how to manage circles and ‘circle shares’ technically,
  • and how to actually engage with people for best results.

Don’t be discouraged about the learning phase. You’ll make good use of your time!

While learning how circles work, you’ll build a strong presence on Google Plus, you’ll get followers [probably lots of followers], and you’ll increase your engagement rate.

I focus on using Google Plus for business, but if you use it just for fun, you’ll find a lot of the tips below helpful as well.

It’s worth noting that activity, time on site, and niches on Google Plus are still much less than on Facebook – despite what Google Plus enthusiasts are telling you.

You may not immediately find great activity in your specific niche on g+, so treat it strategically. Also, you don’t have the advertising opportunities Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter offer.

Why is it important, then?

Because 5 years from now Google Plus will be more important than Facebook. 10 years from now Facebook will be forgotten. Google will still be the biggest player on the internet.

If you haven’t yet, now is the time to position your business on Google Plus. If you’re one of the first in your niche to take it seriously, you’ll have an advantage. You can claim a leadership position for your business.

Craig Chamberlin - Quote-Circle-Customers-Clients

What Are Circles And How Do They Work?

A circle is a list of people who you follow on Google Plus. To ‚circle‘ someone means to add a person [more precisely a person’s g+ profile] or g+ page to such a list. It’s also called ‚adding someone to a circle.‘

From that moment on you’ll see this person’s posts in your ‘home’ stream.

If you’re new to circles, get started with this entertaining circle video by Google, named ‘What are circles?’

Throughout this post I’ll mostly talk about ‘adding people’ but it means ‘pages’ as well. The post covers how you can use circles with your profile to market your business.

  • A circle can contain up to 5000 people.
  • You can have many circles.
  • All your circles combined cannot contain more than 5000 people. If you hit that limit, you need to remove people before you can add new ones.
  • One person can be in many circles. It counts as 1 person towards your limit of 5000 persons.
  • Updates from people in your circles will show up in your main newsfeed.
  • You can exclude certain circles from your main newsfeed, or reduce the amount of content that’s shown from a circle in your main newsfeed.
  • Each circle has its own newsfeed. You can switch between newsfeeds to only see updates from people in one specific circle.

Circles are a lot like Twitter lists and Facebook lists for friends, but they do have important features, that neither Twitter nor Facebook offer. GooglePlus-circles Twitter-and Facebook-List-Features

Now for the truly awesome things you can do with circles!

  1. You can publish posts that are only visible to people in specific circles. Depending on their settings, those people might get notified or even emailed about your post. Learn  more: Google Help: Who Can See Your Posts
  2. You can share circles as Google Plus post. Such a shared circle can be visible to everyone, or only to people in selected circles.
  3. Everybody who can see a shared circle can add all or selected people from the circle to her own circles.
  4. You can embed shared circles into blog posts, i.e. on your own web site. Technically you embed the Google plus post that displays the circle. The circle post is functional within your blog post.

Here’s A Shared Circle Embedded Right Into This Blog Post!

In this ‘Circles for Business’ tutorial I’ll focus on more on social media networking strategy than on technology. It’s less about ‘where to click’ and more about ‘why to click.’ It’s less about ‘how to circle’ and more about ‘who to circle.’

We’ll start with an introduction to the circle management page, and then follow up with the best tips how to organize your circles, setting business goals, who to connect with, and how to find these people.

Circle Management

You’ll find the page for circle management by clicking ’People‘ in the left hand menu, and then clicking ‘Your circles’ in the top menu.

You can alsoaccess your circles page by going to this URL: https://plus.google.com/circles

A list with all your circles will open. Once you click one of the circles, the upper part of the screen will show you all members of this circle. Circle-Management - Circle Names

How To Name Circles?

Here are some ideas how to name your circles systematically. I’m sure you’ll come up with your own ‘naming system’ while working with circles.

Use Short Circle Names.

A few weeks ago I had several long names like:

Bloggers of G+ v1

Bloggers of G+ v2

Bloggers of G+ v3

The problem was, on my circle management page they showed up like this:

Bloggers o

Bloggers o

Bloggers o

I had no way to see which was which!

I’ve since chosen to use shorter circle names. You can see them in the screenshot above.

Prepend Circle Names With Meta Info.

That sounds weird, I know!

It’s like sorting several circles together into categories or groups.

I put my own shared circles together in one category. I put other people’s circles that I added in one category. And so on…

To categorize I prepend circle names with a prefix that shows me what type of circle it is. I will also sort these circles together on the circle management page. You can reorder circles with drag and drop.

Some examples:

When I add other people’s shared circles, the circle name starts with SC [short for Shared Circle] followed by the name from whom I got the circle, or by the date – in case I combined people from several circles.

SC Robby Ball

SC Feb 28

All my circles related to our community Bloggers of Google Plus start with the prefix BoG+. You can do the same when building your tribe.

BoG+ v1

BoG+ Community

You could also separate private and business circles by adding B or P.

B VIPs

B Prospects

B Clients

P Funny

P Friends

P Photography

The Circle Management Page

The top of the page shows all people you’ve circled. The bottom shows all your circles.

#1 – This is what a circle looks like when you hover over the circle icon.

#2 – This is what the circle looks like after you clicked it. The upper part of the page will now show only the people inside this circle.

#3 – This is the ‘normal’ state of circles listed on your circle management page.

You can click the icons within the circle icon to

  • edit the circle name [click the pencil icon],
  • share the circle to public, to selected circles, or to the members of the circle itself [click the arrow icon],
  • and to delete the circle [click the trash bin icon].

Circle-Management - editing Circles

How To Set Notifications And Menu Order For Circles

If you want to know more about managing circles, check out this video by Mark Vang.

How to set notifications and menu order for Google+ circles.

What Are Reasonable Business Goals For Marketing On Google Plus And Mastering Circles?

Before you start filling your circles, be clear about your business goals on g+. What can your reasonably expect to accomplish? How does your specific goal govern the specific circle strategy you use to connect with people?

I’ll establish 6 business and marketing goals, and throughout the article we’ll keep coming back to those goals, and see which circle strategy is best for which goal.

  1. Building your authority or brand.
  2. Building social proof.
  3. Connecting to potential clients.
  4. Keeping in touch with existing clients.
  5. Connecting with niche peers.
  6. Connecting with influencers.

When I talk about ‘clients’ I always mean ‘customers’ as well. I use ‘clients’ more often because a lot of my readers are agency owners, consultants or freelancers.

Goal 1: Building your authority or brand.

Building your authority means shaping what you stand for [if you’re a micro influencer or Youpreneur], or what the brand stands for [if you represent a brand other than yourself].

The more people view you as the go-to-person for a given topic, the easier it is for you to get new clients. Higher authority means more clients and higher prices.

People as well as search engines and influence measurement tools judge your topical authority based on 2 things:

  • What content are you posting?
  • Who do you connect with? [Who’s in your circles? Who circles you?]

The more you focus on your niche with both points, the easier it is for people to put you into the matching business category inside their heads.

On Google Plus, more than on other networks, there are people who present themselves as authorities in a given niche, but when you read their stream, you have a hard time finding out what niche they stand for. Their content is all cats and bacon, animated gifs, and stunning images of nature.

They have chosen to go for popularity by posting viral content that is NOT related to their actual business or niche. Viral content is great for being seen as a likeable and popular person. But it does not establish you as an expert in your field.

If you were to hire an expert with an hourly rate of $ 1,500 to help you, in whom would you make this investment?

  1. Would you hire the self-proclaimed expert who posts topically irrelevant, funny and entertaining stuff all day?
  2. Or would you hire the industry thought-leader who stays on-topic and publishes helpful, insightful, and respected content in her area of expertise?

Here are 3 social media experts combining highly relevant content with enormous likeability. They rarely post off-topic, probably 10%. Use them as role model for excellent positioning and networking.

[elements_animation animation_type=’element_from_right’]

G-Plus Rebekah Radice

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[elements_animation animation_type=’element_from_right’]

G-Plus Mari Smith

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[elements_animation animation_type=’element_from_right’]

G-Plus Peg Fitzpatrick

[/elements_animation]
I’d love to give you examples for #1, but obviously I’d hurt people’s reputation. Highly motivated, likeable people – but they fail to position themselves as full time expert. They value ‘popular’ posts higher than relevant posts. They focus too much on likeability, and not enough on showcasing their expertise.

For the goal of building your authority and influence, focus your content and the people you add to your circles almost exclusively on your area of expertise! To increase likeability while being relevant, focus on relationships instead of posting cats and bacon.

 

Authority Focus

Goal 2: Building social proof.

Increasing social proof in the context of social media means: increasing vanity metrics. Having lots of followers makes you look successful. Lots of plus-ones and comments also increase perceived success.

Some people criticize vanity metrics as being unimportant and meaningless, and they correctly say that vanity metrics can be gamed.

I agree that a follower count is no true measure of importance, influence, or authority.

But here’s a psychological fact: A profile with high vanity metrics at first glance looks more impressive than one with low numbers.

The average person totally falls for that!

This is why some marketers use large circle shares [chain-letter-circles] to increase their follower count quickly. Below you can see how my follower count started to increase once I joined circle shares. The #1 tool to gain Google plus followers fast is the chain-letter-circle-share.

Chain-Letter-Circle share Follower Increase

Boosting followers comes with a price, though.

As your popularity increases, your influence goes down.

The more you push to increase follower count, the more the average engagement per person goes down.

It takes A LOT OF WORK to get many followers fast, and increase meaningful engagement at the same time. The work is not hard, it’s actually fun, but lots and lots of hours go into it. It’s the most time consuming marketing task I’ve known in 27 years of doing business.

Engagement Statistics Guy Kawasaki and Peg Fitzpatrick

I chose Guy Kawasaki and Peg Fitzpatrick to illustrate the ‘influence paradox.’ Guy is THE perfect example to show that casting a wide net and amassing untargeted followers results in relatively low influence per follower.

It’s a simplified example – many factors come into play beyond the mere number of followers. For the purpose of circle management remember this: It’s easy to be influential in a small group, it gets harder, the larger the group of followers is.

Despite the low engagement Guy certainly is one of the most influential people in the social media sphere. Analyzing why, and how this fits together with the low g+ engagement is beyond the scope of this blog post.

The screen below shows Google’s search results page for “Guy Kawasaki.”

1. Did you ever notice Google offers the option to add people to your circles even on search results pages? Anybody still thinking G+ will fail?

2. The [social] proof is in the numbers! Announcing 5,829,695 followers next to your name is impressive. That’s why strategies to increase follower count DO have their place in marketing.

Guy Kawasaki - Google Search Circle Box

Pause For A Moment To Reflect What You Just Read: The Clash Of Concepts!

I spent more time on these 2 goals than on the next 4, because they are the core of your social media presence.

Networking on social media is a clash of 2 concepts – going for max people and max reach, or going for topical focus, less people, and higher influence per person.

These 2 goals define your branding, how you position yourself. The next 4 goals are about networking with people.

Goal 3: Connecting to potential clients.

This goes well with goal #1 above. People find you as authority in a given topic, follow you, and the more often they get in contact with your focused content, the more likely they are to consider your services or products.

Your circle strategy here is to publish and be part in niche or topic focused circles. That way you’ll be seen as connected to that niche or topic.

To then actually find and network with potential clients, you’ll want to circle those who interact with content relevant to your business. I’m not primarily talking about circle shares here. What I mean is: circle people who’ve shown interest in your topics, and start networking with them.

You can find those people who interact with your own posts, or who interact with relevant posts on other people’s profiles, and in communities.

Once you fill your circles with potential prospects, you need a plan how to find and engage those who are most likely to become customers.

Goal 4: Keeping in touch with existing clients.

Connecting with existing clients is one of the easiest and one of the most underused benefits of social networking sites like Facebook or Google Plus.

Unless you sourced your client on g+ in the first place, you’ll probably have a hard time connecting to them here. They are more likely to be active on Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest.

If you DO have clients on G+, putting them in a special customer’s circle is the smartest thing to do!

Goal 5: Connecting with niche peers.

When I entered business almost 3 decades ago, what I just called ‘niche peers,’ was aptly called ‘competitors’.

It’s one of the most enjoyable aspects of social media marketing:

People working in the same industry, competing for the same customer base, are now forming strong bonds, supporting each other fearlessly. Competitors even build business joined ventures through social media.

The 21st century replaces competition with cooperation.

And you’ll find lots of it on Google Plus!

A word of caution …

While you enjoy talking with your peers on social media, don’t forget to connect to potential clients. On social networks it’s easy to get carried away and spent time on the less important activities – like chatting with fellow business owners instead of marketing to your potential customers.

For most markets you should keep industry peers and prospects in separate circles. There are some ‘incestuous‘ markets, however, where peers and customers are the same people. That makes networking so much easier! For example,

  • Social media consultants selling social media programs to social media consultants.
  • Make-money-online gurus selling make-money-online advice to the people who also want to make money by selling make-money-online advice.

Hilarious!

So, stay aware who in your network is a potential customer, and who ‘peer’ only.

Goal 6: Connecting with influencers.

In recent years an entire industry was born with just 1 goal: to connect brands to influencers.

Here are 3 reasons why you want to connect your business to influencers:

  1. For business opportunities / joint ventures.
  2. To get your business in front of their audience.
  3. To [learn how to] become an influencer yourself, if you aren’t yet.

Influencer marketing agencies and influence measurement tools are making good money by helping brands to take advantage of influencers. Like with any young industry, we’re seeing some stupid developments, and unrealistic expectations.

On social media, you can do the work of finding and networking with influencers yourself. Naturally, the relevant influencers are a small sub-group of ‘industry peers’ mentioned in goal #5 above.

  • Most influencers built their influence on expertise and strong content. They have published books, built a major blog, or written blog posts on high profile web sites. They are speakers on industry conferences. Those are the popular people in your niche. They are the gurus, super stars, thought leaders.
  • Some are primarily networkers and connectors and deal brokers. They might be less popular, but they are in touch with many big players in your industry.

It’s a good idea to have [at least] 1 circle with the most important people in your industry.

Mari Smith - quote its who knows you

How To Buil Your Circles For Business? And Who To Add?

Let’s start filling your circles with relevant people.

  1. Decide which of the above business goals are most important to you. I know you love them all, but trying to make them all work at once will require insane amounts of time.
  2. Based on your goals, decide which kind of people you need to find for your circles.
  3. Create empty circles with appropriate circle names.
  4. Start searching for people and add them to your circles.

Over time you will find out your very own circle style. To get you started, here are some suggested circles.

  • Customers.
  • Prospects.
  • Niche Experts (peers).
  • Niche VIPs (influencers)

Identifying The Most Likely Prospects

A prospects circle can be further broken down into several circles based on how intensely someone is following and interacting with you.

  1. Followers (no engagement yet, tiny likelihood of becoming a customer)
  2. Engagers (Low quality or infrequent interactions.)
  3. Fans (High quality, or high frequency engagers)

For the 2 engagers circles (engagers & fans) add only people who interact on relevant posts. If someone shares or comments on funny gifs you posted, this does NOT indicate she’s interested in your business topics.

What do I mean by low and high quality engagement?

Low quality means little engagement effort on the part of the follower.

  • A plus one.
  • A very short comment, like ‘great post.’
  • Sharing your post without adding an introduction.

High quality means the follower makes the effort to reflect on your content.

  • A comment that adds thoughts to your post’s topic.
  • Sharing and adding a meaningful introduction to the share post. Here, too, ‘A great post by xyz’ does not establish a high value introduction.

Find Your Prospects From Other Social Media Sites On Google Plus.

An important point in increasing top-of-mind-awareness is getting in front of your customers more often. That’s why it’s worth the effort to connect to your prospects on several platforms.

Here are 3 groups you might want to add to your prospects circles.

  1. Your email subscribers.
  2. Your blog commenters.
  3. Important contacts from your other social media platforms.

Identify Your Influencers And Multipliers

The influencer circle can also be broken down into 2 circles.

  • Industry experts, thought leaders, authorities.
  • Multipliers (Power Sharers / Ripplers)

And industry experts circle can contain people who are recognized experts, no matter how active they are on Google Plus.

Multipliers are people with high influence on Google Plus. The next section of this circle tutorial shows you how to find the most powerful G+ influencers.

The Power Of A Ripple

Finding the influencers is the most rewarding work you can do on Google Plus.

To do that, you’ll use a tool called ‘Ripples.’

Craig Chamberlin Quote - The Power Of A Ripple

The Ripples Tool is a page on Google Plus that answers 3 crucial questions:

  1. Who has re-shared a G+ post on G+?
  2. Who has shared a web URL to G+?
  3. Who created the most re-shares for any given post or web URL?

Let that sink in for a moment.

Using Ripples you can find the sharers for ANY Google Plus post AND the shares for ANY web page on the internet.

You’ll get influencer information not only for your content, but for anybody’s content!

This is powerful stuff!

AND you can find who has the power to create LOTS OF RE-SHARES for you.

How cool is that?

There are a few more fancy features in the tool, but what counts are the 3 questions listed above.

Ripples is the feature that truly sets Google Plus apart from other social sites, in terms of networking. It’s an influence measurement tool for each and every post on Google Plus.

Here you can see the Ripples for a shared-circle-post of David Leonhardt. In this example I am an interesting ‘influencer’ for David, because I created lots of re-shares.

[The example is slightly flawed, because it was a shared circle that we did together. People didn’t share because of my supernatural influencer powers, but because they wanted to be in the next shared circle.  ]

Ripples of shared Circle

How Exactly Do You Use Ripples To Fill Your Circles?

  • Find people who have shared your blog posts to Google Plus.
    VERY FEW bloggers actually track who shares their posts.
    The sharers are your most important supporters!
  • Find people who have shared your G+ posts, and especially those who created many re-shares. [Multipliers]
  • Find people who shared relevant posts from your niche peers, and created ripples for them.
    They might as well create ripples for your posts, once they get to know you.

There’s even more: in combination with the circle management tool Circloscope [explained below] you can export exactly who plussed, shared, or commented on your G+ posts. Or you can add plussers, commenters, and sharers to circles.

How to find Ripples for a Google Plus post.

Hover over the post. At the top right, click the drop down arrow and chose ‘View Ripples.’ The Ripples page will open.

How to find Ripples for a web URL, for example blog post.

Use this URL example and replace WEBADDRESS with the actual web site URL:

https://plus.google.com/ripple/details?url=WEBADDRESS

Working example, showing you the Ripples for the blog post you are reading right now:

https://plus.google.com/ripple/details?url=http://ralfskirr.com/google-plus-circles-tutorial-for-business

8 Ways To Find People To Circle

  1. Visit relevant posts and see who engages with the post.
  2. Visit profiles of relevant people, scroll through their stream and see who they interact with.
  3. Search for matching communities.
  4. Search For Relevant Shared Circles.
  5. Use Google Plus Search.
  6. Browse Google Plus Explore.
  7. Check out Google’s Suggested User List.
  8. Search on Circlecount.com.

1. Visit relevant Google Plus posts and see who engages with the post.

A relevant post is a post on your topic, targeted at the same people that you want as client. Ideally a more in-depth post.

Once you open a relevant post on Google Plus, you can check who responded to the post. People who left thoughtful comments are interesting for you.

To find influencers, check the ripples of the post. Sharers who created lots of re-shares for this post, might also create shares for your posts – once you are connected to them!

2. Visit profiles of relevant people, scroll through their stream and see who they interact with.

You probably already know some people in your industry. Visit their profiles and check their contacts:

  • Who do they mention in their posts?
  • Whose content (from Google Plus, not from outside blogs) do they share?
  • Who comments on their posts?
  • Who shares their posts?

3. Search for matching communities.

Join communities and check who are the owners, the mods, and the most active users. If you’re really lazy, only add those who OWN communities related to your topic. That they created the community is proof that they are positioning themselves in that area.

Most communities on G+ are dead, or they are link graveyards. Don’t bother joining those. Focus on communities with actual engagement.

4. Search For And Add Relevant Shared Circles.

Adding shared circles is one of the fastest ways to find interesting people. You can bulk add up to 500 people from a shared circle.

Why is bulk adding people a good way to find relevant people?

Imagine you’d only search for people by visting profiles 1 by 1. Some people recommend you should do this.

The BIG PROBLEM is: 90% of Google Plus account holders are inactive. You go to their profile, only to find it’s dead. Google is even stupid enough to frequently suggest users to circle who haven’t posted a single post to their profile. Or who stopped posting 2 years ago.

So you’d visit a lot of dead profiles which needs a lot of time.

When adding a shared circle instead, at first you don’t go to profiles, you only watch the stream of the circle.

The stream obviously only shows active users! The inactive people never show up.

Christine Degraff - Quote vetting Circle

5. Use Google Plus Search.

The search bar is at the top of each Google Plus page.

Search for people, keywords or hashtags.

6. Browse Google Plus Explore.

Click through the relevant categories and check for relevant posts. From those click through to the poster and check their profile.

To learn what type of content goes viral, click ‘What’s hot.’

To access Explore, click ‘Home’ in the menu on the left, then click ‘Explore’ in the top menu.

Screenshot of Google Plus Explore

7. Check out Google’s Suggested User List.

When you sign up for Google Plus, Google will suggest a list with users from several categories for you to follow. You can access the Suggested User List anytime at:

https://plus.google.com/getstarted/follow

sul - suggested user list

Clicking at arrow #1 will open a popup where you can select people to add to your circles.

Clicking at arrow #2 will add all the suggested users from this category to your circles.

8. Search on CircleCount.com.

On CircleCount you can access tons of information for 25,634,902 Google Plus users. To find relevant people for your topic, use the tags at the top of the page, right next to the language chooser.

For your own circle management it is important that you connect your Google Plus account to CircleCount.com. I’ll cover this in more detail in part II of this post.

Circlecount Search Google-Plus People

Now you have several circles relevant for your business. Start interacting with people, start building relationships.

One Tool To Rule Them All: Circloscope

There are about half a dozen tools available for Google Plus.

The one you can’t live without is Circloscope. Seriously, there is no way to use Google Plus for business without using Circloscope.

Circloscope is an extension for the Chrome browser, and it’s a tool for circle management.

These are the Circloscope features:

  • Add people to your circles in mass
  • Remove people from your circles in mass
  • Export people information to CSV format
  • Get the list of people in your circles
  • Get the list of your followers
  • Get the list of inactive Google+ users in your circles (i.e. inactive in the last X days)
  • Get the list of people in your circles who follow / don’t follow back
  • Get the list of duplicates (people in 2 or more circles of yours)
  • Get the list of most relevant people in your circles
  • Get the list of members from any community
  • Get the list of people who have re-shared a post
  • Get the list of people who have +1’d a post
  • Get the list of people who have commented on a post
  • Get the list of people in a shared circle
  • Import the list of Google+ users from a web page (e.g. circlecount.com)
  • Search the lists by name, email, location, education, employment, etc
  • Include/exclude some of your circles from various lists
  • Profile and Page accounts supported!

Circloscope is about to get a MAJOR Facelift soon. Once updated it will be completely different from the current version, so there’s little use in adding an extensive how-to-use-circloscope today. I will add that once the new Circloscope has been published.

You can see a preview of the upcoming Circloscope in the video below.


RECAP: What We’ve Covered In This Post

  • You’ve learned what G+ circles are, how to create, rename, and reorder them on the circle management page.
  • You’ve got some ideas how to name and categorize circles.

Business Goals For Being On Google Plus?

  1. Building your authority or brand.
  2. Building social proof.
  3. Connect to potential clients.
  4. Keep in touch with existing clients.
  5. Connect with niche peers.
  6. Connect with influencers.

Who To Circle?

  • Customers
  • Prospects
    • Followers
    • Engagers
    • Fans [High quality/high frequency engagers.]
    • Your email subscribers
    • Your blog commenters
    • Social media contacts
  • Industry peers
    • Niche Experts
    • Influencers [Ripples!]

8 Ways To Find People To Circle?

  1. Visit relevant posts and find engagers.
  2. Visit profiles of industry peers.
  3. Search for matching communities.
  4.  Search for relevant shared sircles.
  5. Use Google Plus search.
  6. Browse Google Plus Explore.
  7. Check out Google’s Suggested User List.
  8. Search on Circlecount.com.

Tools

  • Google Plus Ripples
    • Find Sharers And Influencers
    • Who has shared a G+ post on G+?
    • Who has shared a web URL on G+?
    • Who created the most re-shares?
  • Circloscope [Indispensable!]
    • Powerful Circle Management
    • Find and remove inactive people.
    • Create shared circles in minutes.
    • Add and remove people in bulk.
  • Circlecount
    • Circle And Profile Statistics
    • Rankings for people and pages.
    • Your connections.
    • Your Shared Circles.

This Is Part 1 Of A 2 Part Circles-For-Business Tutorial.

Part 2 is about ‘How To Master Shared Circles.’

I’m also preparing a series of Google Plus Posts titled ‘Circle Mastery.’

To stay updated add me to your circles!


Now It’s Your Turn …

What are your tips for Google Plus For Business?
What are your questions?
Should I add anything to this tutorial?

Let us know in the comments below.

I'm Awesome!

Guest Blog Fail – The Most Ridiculous Guest Post Offer You’ve Seen This Year!

Since Matt Cutt’s recent remarks, we’re all a bit more self-conscious about guest blogging, aren’t we?

Today I received an email, offering a guest post for my blog at RalfSkirr.com.

The wording in this guest post offer is so hilarious that …

The Writer Disqualified Himself By Packing His Offer In A Bunch Of Narcissistic BS.

But don’t believe me, judge for yourself.

Here’s the letter:

Hello,

Being a well-versed, veteran, techno-savvy & enthusiastic blogger, I would like to express my interest pleasantly to become a part of your eminent platform as a Guest Blogger.

Indeed, on this platform, I would share & bring out my “know how” to contribute informative, inspirational & exclusive blog posts for the end-readers. I ensure that my write-ups on the latest web development technologies, new trends & innovations for diverse industrial sectors will enhance knowledge as well as keenness of the readers.

You can have a glance at some of my work-snippets, just go through the following links that reflect my proficient writing skills as well as allegiance:

[Sample post links removed. RS]

I am confident about that you will definitely like the following Guest blogs with exclusive title/topic. Currently, all these posts has become the most liveliest conversions among the web developers & designers. Please explore following topics, it will just take your few seconds:

[Titles removed. RS]

I’m sure that you will love to read my proffered featured blogs & you would emphatically admire my quality-rich, precise, keyword-oriented & search engine friendly write-ups on different topics on your website. The blogs, offered by me for your website, are absolutely free of cost. And as rewards, I just would like to gain backlinks for www.csschopper.com from your end.

Please Note: Hopefully, I will get your reply as early as possible (expected: “within 3 days”), else my forwarded content will be sent for publishing on the other websites.

I think that I have made everything crisp & clear. If you have any disarray or query regarding the aforesaid points, you can revert me for the same freely.

Eagerly looking for a convinced response from you on my requested blog proposal!

Thank you,

[Name removed. RS]

Hey, Despite Being Terrible, It Actually Worked!

Csschopper got their back link, after all. It’s a nice site, and assuming their work results are professional [which I don’t know], the pricing is good.

But the site might consider hiring someone

  1. who doesn’t spam blogs with generic copy-and-paste letters.
  2. who doesn’t write emails that make you fall from your chair laughing.

“Okay, Ralf, so you made me smile, or shake my head in disbelief. But is there actually something useful in this blog post?”

Ah, you got me.

Let’s turn this into something useful.

How To Make Guest Post Proposals That Don’t Get Deleted

Or even better, that get a favorable response by the blogger!

  1. Don’t hype yourself. It’s embarrassing at best, and wasting time. You don’t need to tell a blogger you’re Pulitzer material. Give him links to your sample posts, and he will see what you have to offer. Talk about yourself as little as possible. Talk about what you have to offer for the blog.
  2. Keep it short. Bloggers don’t have time to read long ramblings. Especially from people they’ve never heard of.
  3. Give links to sample posts. That’s about the only thing the above letter did right.
  4. Don’t threaten with deadlines, and with giving your precious post to another blog. Hello? You are the one, who wants something from the blog publisher. The blogger didn’t beg you to offer him your post. Don’t ever do this. Instead, you should be enthusiastic to write a post exclusively and tailored for this blog.
  5. Use a word editor with grammar- and spell-checking. Some of the grammar mistakes in the letter above could have been avoided using Microsoft Word’s automatic grammar checker. You don’t even need to pay a proof reader to do that.
  6. Make sure your topic is a perfect match for the host blog. I was offered 3 posts about web design. It’s not far off, but it’s also not a truly excellent fit.Explore each blog you want to win as guest blog platform. Make sure you understand what exactly it is about. Mismatch of topic is the number one reason I reject guest pots for InternetBusinessMastermind.
  7. Don’t send copy and paste letters. Nothings says ‘I’m an SEO spammer’ more than sending generic emails. The email above didn’t even include my name.
  8. Build relationships with bloggers first, offer guest posts second. If you remember anything from this post, remember this!Don’t drop guest posts to random blogs like a bird randomly drops its business on its way flying south. Don’t even offer guest posts to blogs you don’t read frequently and you don’t have a relationship with. This is the type of SEO that gives guest blogging a bad name.

    Guest posting is about building relationships with fellow bloggers, and about reaching new audiences. Connect with bloggers in your niche. It has numerous advantages, besides getting guest blog opportunities.

    Use blog comments, blogging communities, and social media to get in touch with bloggers. Once you’re already connected to a blogger, you won’t fall into the trap of sending a copy-and-paste letter.

Have you ever seen such a ridiculous proposal?

What do you think?

Guest Blog Fail

Klout Offers FREE Social Media Sharing Tool– What’s In It For Klout?

Klout Offers FREE Social Media Sharing Tool– What’s In It For Klout?

Just a few days ago Klout revolutionized its public facing service. It’s a gigantic shift; Klout transformed into something completely different – on the surface!

What’s in it for Klout?

Klout before the transformation

It’s an influence measurement service that tracks your activity on selected web sites. It also tracks how others respond and connect to you. As a result, it creates a Klout score, a value that is supposed to show how influential you are online.

On their web site Klout.com you have a profile which will show your influence score, your recent interactions, and some information how your Klout score is calculated.

  • If you don’t create an account on Klout.com, Klout will simply use all information that is publicly available about your social media activity.
  • If you DO create an account, you’ll connect your social media accounts to Klout, giving Klout direct access to your social media activities and connections.
  • You have the option to completely opt-out of Klout. Klout will stop collecting and publishing information or a Klout score for you.

The first thing you saw on Klout BEFORE the transformation was your influencer data:

Klout Offers FREE Social Media Sharing Tool– What’s In It For Klout - klout-score-page-new

Klout after the transformation

All the stuff that was Klout before (the ‘your-Klout-score’ stuff), has been moved to lower level pages, and it needs extra clicks to find that information. Klout has effectively decreased visibility of their controversial influencer scoring content.

Top, front, and center at Klout you’re now presented with article snippets from blogs and news sources. Klout has invented an easy to use sharing tool, and you can use it to share those article snippets to your social media accounts.

The ‘official’ reason for creating a new social media sharing tool is that Klout now …

“… helps you find shareable articles that are likely to resonate with your friends, fans and followers.

Klout … intelligently recommends content that will strike a chord with your unique audience on social. We can do this because we understand both the topical interests and the cross-network behavior of your audience.” Source

The first thing you see AFTER the transformation to the #NewKlout is the sharing tool:

Klout Offers FREE Social Media Sharing Tool– What’s In It For Klout - klout-create-and-share-content

 

What’s in it for Klout?

While a lot of blogs covered the new sharing features, surprisingly no one analyzed what the change means for Klout’s core business – measuring online influence.

Developing a large scale content curation tool (=social media sharing tool) is no small feat. Klout must have spent a lot of money on this. It’s also entering a field with lots of players, lots of competition.

Klout’s share tool sports features that you have to pay for with other content curation tools. For Klout, it means developer cost, server cost, and bandwidth.

But why?

  • Up until now, many people have ignored Klout, because they were simply not interested in their online influence score. By ignoring I mean: They didn’t sign up to Klout, they didn’t connect their social media profiles.
  • Some people have actively resisted Klout and opted out. They’ve cut off Klout from gathering their information.

How does the free sharing service fit into Klout’s business model?

Very rarely people talk about how Klout actually makes money.

Klout makes money by connecting brands to influencers.

  1. They collect data and create profiles of social media users, i.e. you.
  2. When a brand wants to run an influencer marketing campaign, Klout will filter its data to find the best influencers to target.
  3. Klout will then send the campaign to those influencers on behalf of the brand.

Brands pay Klout for the service of using Klout data to find good influencers for a campaign.

Brands pay the bills for Klout!

Well, actually the investors do, Klout is just up to be bought for 100+ Million, but selling services to brands is Klout’s core business concept. The more influencer data Klout has available, the more valuable it is for brands, the more influencer marketing campaigns Klout can sell.

Klout does not give your personal information to the brands, by the way. Your info remains within Klout, and Klout merely acts as a “messenger” between you as an influencer and the brand.

Here’s why Klout’s new service is a game changer.

With a free sharing service a site that was completely irrelevant for most people, suddenly becomes useful for everyone interested in sharing content on social media.

  • People who did not bother to sign up before, now may find reason to do so.
  • To use the sharing feature, you must connect your social media account.
  • BINGO! By connecting your social media account to use the share tool, you give Klout more direct access to your social media activities and connections.

Tens of thousands might now join Klout and give Klout access to their data!

Conclusion – What’s in it for Klout?

By offering a free social media sharing tool, Klout targets the number one bottleneck in its business model: the resistance of people to give Klout access to their social media profiles.

I couldn’t think of a more elegant way to eliminate this bottle neck.

Well done – a win-win for users and Klout!

What else might play a role?

Here are 4 more aspects I came up with. I’m not a Klout insider, so I don’t know if I’m hitting the nail on its head here.

1. Greater accuracy in defining your topics of influence. Another bottleneck of Klout is to accurately find out what topics you stand for. In the past Klout has used different means to find out what topics you are influential in.

  • They analyzed your social media posts, including cats and bacon. That often led to assigning completely false topics to someone’s profile.
  • They had a feature where others could vote you up on specific topics by giving you K+. [I’m not sure if this is still available.]
  • They allowed you to add and remove topics yourself. The question is, how many people actually used this option. I’m guessing very few bothered to inform Klout about what they want to be known for.

Klout’s new sharing tool might help them gauge your influence topics in several ways:

  1. They get first-hand information what you share.
  2. They also see what you DON’T share from the content they put in front of you.
  3. They’ve implemented thumbs-up and –down buttons on each piece of content. While many people may not have bothered to manage their topics, the voting buttons in content snippets are more likely to be used.  Your votes help finding out what topics you stand for.

2. By replacing the links you share with their own redirect links they can easily track spread of links and clicks within your network and beyond.

Like most services Klout replaces your links with their own.

When analyzing links you share through other services, they can only see who the same link. Now they’ll see the exact path through multiple generations of sharing over time (think Google ripples), and – more importantly – they can track clicks.

That helps them not only to gauge your influence in shares or retweets [they could do that before], but also to find out what the members of your audience actually clicked on.

Klout just came one step closer to measure real influence that results in actions. How cool is that!

Klout Offers FREE Social Media Sharing Tool– What’s In It For Klout?

3. Klout could make extra money by putting sponsored content in front of you. They are not doing it now, but it’s certainly an option to offer brands adding sponsored content to the influencer’s feed.

The sponsored content would only be injected into the feed of influencers with matching topic and sharing behavior, i.e. those who are most likely to share.

4. Klout might add a paid version of its new social media sharing tool, once the platform has matured.

I don’t expect that to happen, because a paywall will decrease the advantage the free tool delivers for Klout’s core business of measuring people’s social media activity.

It was revealed earlier today that Klout is about to get bought by Lithium Industries.

According to an article on TheVerge.com Klout’s previous business model failed and is dead. They even say Klout ‘measured online influence,’ please note the past tense. It’s an obituary!

I’m not so sure about that, yet.

Looking at Lithium’s web site, they provide a wide array of products and services about customer engagement across ‘all your digital platforms.’ Turning Klout into a simple paid sharing tool seems unlikely, especially looking at Lithium’s enterprise level client list. Giving up Klout’s brand also doesn’t seem too likely.

Klout’s current core business of connecting brands to influencers might fit well with Lithium’s enterprise clients. We’ll have to see what statements Klout and Lithium will make.

Klout Offers FREE Social Media Sharing Tool– What’s In It For Klout - Lithium

11 Ways To Make Klout’s Content Curation Tool Even Better

For version 1 this is a fantastic tool; it received positive reviews within days.

Finding, sharing, and even scheduling content is easy and intuitive.

Yet, in its current version I’m not likely to use it a lot. It needs to become good enough that I’m ready to give up my current sharing tools.

I don’t want to hop back and forth between a gazillion sharing tools. So, as long as Klout is missing the most important features for a power sharer, it’s not on my A-list.

Dear Klout, here are a few ideas for improving your sharing tool …

1. Including custom sources is a must.  For any social media enthusiast or power sharer it’s unthinkable to ignore all the sites that we are used to share from.

It’s great to discover fresh content that I would not have found myself. But being a power sharer it’s VERY important for me to be able to share from my own favorite sources, too.

I don’t want to hop back and forth between a gazillion sharing tools. So, as long as I can’t add my own choice of RSS feeds to Klout, I’m not likely to use it.

2. The suggested sources are too limited. Scrolling through the stream just for a few posts will already bring up the same sites again and again. 7 posts and 2 sites coming up twice as sources for my sharing? Given the size of the web that’s not good enough.

Hint: There’s more in the world of marketing and SEO than marketingland.com and searchengineland.com.

3. Make viewing content even easier. I can only see a handful of posts without having to click ‘view more content.’ Technically it is easy to load new content automatically as I scroll down.

Please don’t make me click 10 times only to load more posts. How many share-worthy posts to you expect me to find in the first 5 or 7 items you show me?

4. Offer to schedule multiple times. Right now it seems I can only schedule an item once. Being able to add a few more scheduled shares would be great. I find 3 to 5 reasonable.

5. Give us a browser bookmarklet that allows us to share ANY content while browsing the web. Firefox and Chrome, please.

6. When sharing a web site link, let me chose the image. When a post contains multiple images, Klout seems to use the first one or the featured image. It would be nice to be able to choose the pic myself. Not a big issue, though.

7. When sharing a web site link, let me edit or delete the preview snippet. Also not a big one. Just a nice-to-have.

8. Add more networks to share to. Right now I can only share to Twitter and Facebook. Not sure if there are more options, Twitter and Facebook is what I’m seeing for the moment. Everybody would love you double, Klout, if you add sharing to Google plus personal profiles. I’m aware of the API thing, though.

9. Improve relevancy of suggested content. Sometimes it’s impossible to see a connection between my topics of influence and the articles Klout suggests for sharing.

Klout Offers FREE Social Media Sharing Tool– What’s In It For Klout - klout-relevancy-problems

This is not a doctored screen shot. It shows the articles that Klout actually suggested to me today at the top of the articles list. Both are irrelevant for my topics.

10. Give us access to link tracking statistics. Link click-through is an important metric, Klout can now easily measure it.

11. Kick your web designers hard for thinking it’s chic to have light grey font on white background. Web design should serve usability first. I’m over 40, and I appreciate sites that favor contrast for readability over fancy design.

Again, version 1 of Klout’s social media sharing tool is an excellent start. If Klout keeps improving, they will give paid sharing tools a run for their money!

And they will attract new users connecting their accounts in leaps and bounds.

Mission accomplished!

featured image: facebook fan page marketing funnel

The Facebook Fan Page Marketing Funnel

2014 is the year social media marketing will grow up! Are you busy spreading yourself thin on all social platforms?

Did they tell you, social media will bring you tons of customers because everybody is on social media? Especially: You must be on Facebook because EVERYBODY is on Facebook?

Did you fall in love with the idea of  ‘free’ marketing?

Here’s how free social media marketing works for 98% of small businesses:

Infographic Facebook Fan Page Marketing

Copy source code below to embed this image on your site. Please keep the link intact.

Why Facebook May Have Reached Its Peak.

Excellent Analysis Of Facebook Compared To Google And YouTube.

2014 is the year social media marketing will grow up!

Right now lots of people are disappointed that Facebook isn’t sending them free customers in heaps and bounds.

The truth is: A successful business is rarely built on free marketing alone.

This year many will wake up.

This year many will learn how to combine free and paid.

It’s a chance for you to professionalize your business.

a lifebuoy adrift in the ocean surrounded by sharks

Social Media And SEO Won’t Save Your Struggling Business

Social Media is a self-perpetuating beast.

SEO multiplies by article spam.

As a result, in today’s blogosphere social media and seo are massively over-represented and over-hyped. Meaning: there are waaay too many articles talking about social media and seo as if they were to make or break your business.

But they aren’t.

What makes or breaks your business are fundamental business basics, which most self-proclaimed social media or seo consultants have no clue about. They never built a business except the business of bragging about sm and seo.

Unfortunately articles about business fundamentals don’t have the self-promoting nature of social media and seo articles built in. That’s why you rarely see them.

The overwhelming flood of social media and seo articles causes a misconception in business owners:

They feel forced to spend lots of time on social media and seo. And they think it will save their struggling business.

But they won’t. They distract you from saving your business. From working on your biz turnaround.

If your business is highly profitable, the biz owner has the luxury to waste away an hour or two every day on Facebook, Twitter, and Co. You have the luxury to write a guest post for obscure web sites that no human eye will ever see.

If your business is struggling, it’s your responsibility to NOT waste a minute, and instead invest your time in rebuilding your biz.

Focus on business fundamentals.

The best time to tweet, the best media to post on Facebook, and the trendy new back link strategy won’t turn a struggling business into a successful one.

You need to focus on your offers, your marketing funnels, and your conversions – until your business is profitable.

Cartoon: writing office

Calling Out A Fluffer [How To Turn Good Writing Into Garbage]

Definition of Fluffer:

A writer who increases word count by adding legions of meaningless or redundant words [fluff]. They also employ the technique of writing unnecessary stuff or repeating themselves in order to increase word count of their writing to get more text and write more words. I just did.

Sometimes a guest post slips through the cracks of my blog moderation. So it happened today, when I approved a post that should have been sent to hell right away.

It’s the kind of post that wastes 500 words to say what, if you deleted redundant and meaningless words, could have should have been said in 50 words.

I blame most badly written content on SEO agencies and text agencies hiring freelance writers to mass produce content.

cartoon: advertisement for article writing serviceA 2 sentence statement gets expanded into a 500 word article without adding any additional thought – just by creating long winded wordings and repeating the same idea over and over.

For your enjoyment: an original, paid for, article from a 1-cent article service.

The guest post I mentioned above encourages creating high quality content. I wonder if the writer appreciates the irony.

Since I approved the post, I had to spend some time fixing the bad writing, and here I’m sharing how I did it.

You can easily apply this strategy to make your own writing stronger.

What the seo writer delivered:

It would also be fair to say that the changes have come as a shock to many SEO consultants.

What he could have written:

The changes have come as a shock to many SEO consultants.

19 vs. 11 words

What the seo writer delivered:

The impact of Google’s key updates over the course of the past two years has certainly changed the overall scene.

What he could have written:

Google’s key updates over the past two years have changed the SEO industry.

20 vs. 13 words

What another SEO writer delivered:

Designing websites is a professional job if you really want to have a platform that is effective at essentially drawing in the maximum internet traffic as possible under given circumstances. Such methods are called as SEO or Search Engine Optimization

What he could have written:

SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, helps to draw more visitors to your website.

40 vs. 13 words

What the seo writer delivered:

What steps should website operators take, in order to build a successful business for the future?

It’s almost impossible to answer that question, without mentioning the need to concentrate on the production of great content. Indeed, I would suggest that content will be at the heart of all successful search engine strategies in 2014.

What he could have written:

What steps should website owners take, to build a successful business for the future?

They need to focus on great content. Content will be at the heart of all successful search engine strategies in 2014.

54 vs. 35 words

What the seo writer delivered:

In many cases, it also appears that there is a failure to identify what is required, in order to produce a sound strategy for the future.

What he SHOULD have written:

[Ctrl+A] + Del

This is how you turn mediocre sentences into powerful writing.

  • Shorten long winded phrases. The word ‘to’ is a good fluff indicator! In order to… Help to… etc.
  • Delete unnecessary words. Most adverbs and adjectives weaken their sentence.
  • Replace unspecific words with precise words. This will also increase the SEO value of your text.
  • Delete repetitions of what has already been said. Especially in short posts.

writing-quote-sol-stein

Rule of thumb: The shorter sentence is ALWAYS stronger than its longer brother.

Or, as I might have written:

It could be suggested, probably, that you, in order to create and write more high quality blog posts, could – as final step of editing before you finally and irrevocably hit publish – comb through each and every sentence and word of your post draft and delete unnecessary words, or repetitive thoughts, to make sure your sentences get stronger and more appaling to the audience who will be reading your well-crafted newly written fresh blog post. [Oh, I lost an e. In this case there’s truth in appealing without e.]

Futuristic woman looking at The-Age-of-Context book cover.

The Future Of Business And Marketing [And Everything]

My book review of Age of Context, by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel.

Futuristic woman looking at The-Age-of-Context book cover.

In 1973, when I was a kid, our black-and-white TV had 3 channels. We had no computer, no mobile phone, no internet. Even VCRs didn’t show up in people’s homes before 1975.

30 years later, in 2003, VCRs were already on their way out. 2003 – that was just 10 years ago.

We had no Facebook, no Twitter, neither iPhone nor iPad [or any tablet computer]. Most households were on dial-up internet, you could forget about watching videos, and YouTube didn’t exist.

At the beginning of 2003 there was no Google AdSense, no WordPress, no Skype, no MySpace.

Presidents couldn’t win elections via Facebook, and governments weren’t toppled via Twitter.

Pause for a moment, read the last 3 paragraphs again, and get a feeling for the change that has happened in just 10 years.

We tend to make our plans and projections as if things were stable. But they’re not!

  1. A lot has happened from 2003 to 2013. Compare, if you’re old enough, to the change from 1973 to 1983. It’s a joke. It’s like we’d been living in super-slow-motion back then.
  2. Increasing speed of change is a given. That means:
  3. A lot more will happen in the next 10 years than has happened in the previous 10 years. In your life and in your business, no stone will be left unturned.

This is what the book “The Age of Context” is about.

Quote Emily Greene Balch

Book Review: The Age of Context, by Robert Scoble & Shel Israel

In July 2012 Robert Scoble and Shel Isreal started to work on their book “The Age of Context.” It’s about how previously disconnected technologies come together and bring massive change to our lives and businesses, at a pace never seen in human history.

The authors are two veteran Silicon Valley journalists, Robert in the area of technology, Shel in the area of business. It’s their 4th book together.

Robert Scoble and Shel Isreal funded the book with $ 100,000 from sponsors, so they could research current trends, interview the trend setters, and write the book as fast as possible.

“We have found over 100 developers of new contextual technologies ranging from tiny startups to some of the world’s biggest companies.

We’ve also started to uncover some amazing stories that involve contextual football fans, social networks between technicians and jet engines, geo fencing entire tourist regions and the designs of entire contextual cities.”

Don’t be put off by the geeky word “contextual.”

It’s hard to think of a more boring word than contextual, and the authors could sell twice as many books with a catchier title.

But you better get used to the word. “Context” is where all big tech companies are putting their money right now.

It means that technology tries to understand in which context you are actually using the tech.

  • Search engines try to understand in what context you are searching for a specific keyword. Depending on what Google knows about you and your current situation, you’ll get different answers for your search.
  • Mobile tech considers where you are before offering its services.
  • Apps are collecting data about you, and use the data to deliver more personalized services.

If this is still a bit abstract to you, don’t worry.

Age of Context is chock-full with exiting [or frightening] examples how your context (where, when, your social connections, info about your health, info about your interests, and much more) will be used by technology and services to design your experiences.

From a business perspective the question is: how does contextual technology change the way you get customers, you deliver our products or services, you market your business.

The changes ahead are too massive to ignore.

Quote from Marc Benioff, Foreword Age of Context.

You’re probably already overwhelmed by what’s going on today.

  • You’re supposed to engage on umpteen social media sites.
  • You’re supposed to build a customer and a prospect list, and do email marketing.
  • It’s not enough to have a web site. You also need a mobile version. And you’re supposed to add content to a gazillion content platforms, and send guest post to other blogs.
  • SEO is driving you nuts.
  • Oh, and by the way, you actually have to find time to work on your core business. That is: fulfill your products and services.

Starting from that overwhelm, the Age of Context is a double sided sword: It’s exciting to see the possibilities of things to come. At the same time it’s scary to see how much more complicated things are going to be pretty soon.

My biggest surprise with the book was how far these technologies are already developed. The book is not about things that are going to happen in 10 or 20 years. It’s about things that are happening TODAY, that you just may not have heard of yet.

The Five Forces

The main driver of rapid change is the coming together of 5 forces that we already use every day:

Mobile devices + social media + location + sensors + data.

What’s new is that these 5 forces are now connected via cloud services. And that artificial intelligence is reaching a level where these 5 forces can be combined in an automated and intelligent way that was not possible before.

This will also help you to connect with your customers in entirely new, exciting ways.

5 forces: mobile, social media, location, sensors, data.

You’re well aware how mobile devices and social media have changed our everyday lives.

When it comes to context, both provide an enormous amount of information about you, which contextual technology will use.

Your mobile knows where you are, and how fast you are moving. It knows your contacts, knows which apps you are using. It’s also where most people’s social media activity is happening.

Age-of-Context quote: More phones than people.

“Social media is essential to the new Age of Context. It is in our online conversations that we make it clear what we like, where we are and what we are looking for.”

Plus, there’s tons of other information that has been collected about you: financial information, your credit score, social security number, credit card payments, job history, and so on.

All this data is now, for the first time in history, being brought together through services talking to each other online, in real-time!

A tiny, but for businesses extremely important, piece of this data is your location. People have accepted the fact that your phone is analyzing where you are located. Lots of great services are based on this tiny piece of information.

Map services. Hotel recommendations. Faster pizza delivery.

The shocker is that it now all happens automagically and between connected devices.

In the past most information collected about us was still provided by humans.

  • By yourself on social media. In your emails. On your web site.
  • By employees from businesses, organizations, and agencies. They had to enter your data into their computers manually.

Not so in the era of sensors.

We carry with us, and are surrounded by, an arsenal of technical sensors. They are able to collect tons of information about us and automatically add it to the pile of data about us.

It’s obvious that your car and your phone have sensors to know your location.

But did you know this?

“Microsoft Kinect for Xbox … has a 3D sensor that can see your heartbeat just by looking at your skin.”

Scary, isn’t it?

Or, did you know there are pills that can sense and inform your doctor whether you have eaten them or flushed them down the toilet?

It’s not science fiction!

Quote from The Age of Context. Image mobile phone, map, compass.

Mobiles have more computing power than a PC had just a few years ago.

Actual PCs are being replaced by tablets, which are mobile, too.

Plus, we’ll soon see new types of mobile devices coming to market. For example Google Glass and computerized glasses from other companies. Or smart-watches. A few simple smart-watches are already available today.

These new technologies will mature faster than, for example, the first mobile phones did. They will also be adopted by the masses much faster.

It’s important to understand this.

Imagine, for a moment, a future where computerized glasses are used by as many people as mobiles and tablets today.

Can you imagine that?

Guess what, your entire online marketing strategy, which worked so well in 2013, just vaporized!

I don’t know if it’s the glasses who will replace smart phones. But in a few years the mobiles we use today will be replaced by something entirely different. Smaller. Smarter. Voice based.

Smartwatch and quote on wearable devices from Age of Context book.

The new technologies will change how you run your business, whatever that business might be.

They’ll also enable entirely new types of businesses, new types of payment, new services, and new products.

Too much to cover in this review!

What I’ve talked about so far merely covers the first chapter of “The Age of Context!”

I’m not giving you the whole book in this post, only highlighting a few more topics.

One of the 13 chapters, the contextual self, talks about sensor based health technology.

Fitbit and Nike Fuelband are just the tip of the iceberg. I found that chapter particularly interesting. It’s amazing to see what companies are working on to improve our health!

Quote from The Age of Context about mobile health sensors.

How People Live And Work And Do Business: The New Urbanists

Chapter 6, the new urbanists, introduces another fascinating trend.

“Cites are growing younger and more affluent, while suburbs are shrinking, aging and experiencing increases in poverty.”

A new generation is reversing the trend to migrate out of the cities. They come back into the cites, and they do so well connected with the latest technical gadgets and contextual devices.

The quote from Age of Context in the image below hints at how the urban life is completely transformed by contextual technology. And, of course, your house will be managed by contextual technology.

Your business is embedded in this changing world – and will adopt.

Quote on New Urbanists from Age of Context.

Privacy Is Futile

Several times in the book Scoble and Israel talk about privacy, including one chapter entirely devoted to privacy problems and trust issues. They review the pros and cons of contextual technology and data collection.

I’m not sure if the authors truly care so much about privacy, or if they only included the chapter to prevent a backlash. A ‘political correctness’ chapter, so to speak.

The core of the matter: Each and every piece of tech, and all the services and businesses you are using, are collecting data on you. And they don’t keep the data for themselves, they generously share it.

People could be angry of fearful about that, but for practical purposes most people don’t care. They’d close their Facebook account in a second, if privacy were truly important.

To make a long story short:

Privacy is a thing of the past!

Big data is collected and connected, and there’s nothing you and I can do about it.

Quote from Age of Context about privacy.

Implications for your business

This “unstoppable perfect storm of epic proportion” will not stop to spare your business. As the world changes, the way you do business changes.

Each of the 13 chapters shows ideas how contextual technology and the 5 forces are changing the world. Throughout the book you’ll find many examples for businesses using contextual technology.

And lots of exciting inventions: Google glass. Self driving cars. Health monitoring tatoos. Intelligent mirrors. Robotic household assistants. Self cleaning clothes.

2 chapters talk specifically about how the Age of Context changes customer experience [the new buzz word], business transactions, and marketing.

Chapter 3, the customer in context, covers a wide range of new business applications. From retail, to sports stadiums and Disney. Travel, restaurants, cabs, and more.

Chapter 11, pinpoint marketing, is about – you guessed it – using contextual tech in marketing. Will advertising soon be history? Replaced by new business models?

These 2 chapters alone are worth buying the book.

Marc Andreessen quote from The Age of Context

Should YOU buy this book?

If you’re a tech enthusiast or early adopter, you won’t need convincing. You’re probably not even reading this because you have long clicked through to Amazon to buy the book.

But what if you’re not a geek?

Is this book for you?

I say: it’s a must.

We talked about how much has changed in the previous 10 years.

  • No book would have been able to predict those changes.
  • The next 10 years will be more disruptive than the last 10 years.
  • The book is only including what we already know. It can’t even hint at the surprises.

If you have been overwhelmed by the past and present, prepare yourself for the storm that’s coming. It’s amazing, but it’s also stressful for us business owners to adopt.

Besides, the book is EASY to read, and – thanks to the many real-life-examples, very interesting. Topics change so fast, it never gets boring.

Could I find something negative to say about the book? Sure, but it doesn’t matter a bit.

What matters is the big picture. And understanding where the world you live in is headed. And “The Age of Context” delivers exactly that!

Klick the image to get it from Amazon…

Book Cover: The Age of Context, by Robert Scoble & Shel Israel

Title illustration for post 'monster list of social media tools'

The #SMSS Monster List Of Social Media Tools & Services

44 social media experts presented 33 sessions at Social Media Success Summit and highlighted their favorite social media tools and services.

  • There are the usual suspects: HootSuite, Bufferapp, Feedly & Co.
  • There’s also a number of tools that I’ve never heard of before.

In this post I list as many tools from #SMSS as I can find while going through the live sessions, the Live-Tweets, session recordings, and transcripts.

The post is work-in-progress. I’m still going through the material, and as the final presentations will be posted this week, I’ll add more tools and descriptions. I’m open to feedback and expanding the article. If you want to add some info about the tools, use the comments.

I have included info on prices and free trials. Be aware they can change any time.

Some of the resources mentioned aren’t ‘social media’ tools by definition. It shows how connected the seemingly separate disciplines of social media management, SEO, content marketing, web design and web analytics are. You can’t just focus on one area and ignore the rest. Marketing with a long term focus will include all of those areas.

What’s next from SocialMediaExaminer?

The next important event is Social Media Marketing World.

Click here and discover all that Social Media Marketing World has to offer.

44 (and counting) Tools for Social Media & SEO & Content Marketing & Influence

Addvocate.com

http://Addvocate.com

Addvocate is a tool to manage employee advocacy. “Employee advocacy” means your employees represent and promote your company on their individual profiles.

Addvocate allows you to monitor and improve your brand’s social presence by making it easy for your employees to share interesting content—and easy for you to track their reach. There are tools for the employees to simplify content sharing to their profiles, for example a browser extension.

And of course there’s analytics to monitor the social media activity across your company.

There’s a free version “for the small scrappy startup” with up to 5 users. Above 5 there’s a moderate pricing per user.

addvocate

Agorapulse Facebook Page Barometer

http://barometer.agorapulse.com

The Facebook Page Barometer is a free social media analytics tool showing you statistics about your Facebook page.

Apart from the barometer Agorapulse offers a range of paid services as monthly subscription, starting at $29.

Services include apps: “Attract more fans to your page and engage them with fully customizable viral applications. Quiz, Photo Contest, Sweepstakes, Fan Vote, and many more. All our apps are optimized for mobile devices.”

Then of course the obligatory statistics, and a tool to manage posts on your page.

An interesting tool is the Facebook CRM to manage your Facebook fans. You can identify your most engaged fans, collect info about your fans, and export the data.

Ian Cleary: “When you go to the Barometer, you select your page, and it will show you some insights. On the insights, it will show you how you compare against other people that have run this tool. So you can see what is working and what is not working.”

barometer.agorapulse

Bitly.com

https://bitly.com/

This popular tool barely needs an introduction. You can create trackable short links to any URL, then you can use these short links in your social media posts or blog posts or emails and find out how many people actually clicked your link.

You can see the advanced features/benefits in the screen shot below on the right hand side.

bitly

bufferapp.com

http://bufferapp.com/

BufferApp let’s you schedule updates to Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Andrea Vahl: “You can use BufferApp to schedule out the times you want to post and where you want those posts to go, and you can set it very individually. You can say I want it to go out on Monday at these times, Tuesday at these times. What happens is, when you’re putting things into the buffer, it automatically plugs them into those perfect times that you’ve already set up with your editorial calendar. So it’s really great to use.”

There’s a free version with a limited number of posts you can schedule. The paid version is $10 per month, gives you unlimited scheduled posts for up to 12 social profiles.

bufferapp

BuzzSpice.com

http://www.buzzspice.com/

BuzzSpice is a tool to manage your Facebook presence. Their bold claim is: “Spend only 4 minutes a day, and let BuzzSpice run your page for you.”

Their feature description is somewhat cryptic. Sample: “DNA engine digests your page and creates your unique signature and profile. These are based on your page activity, fans and visitors, comments, likes and other statistics that are available for your page.”

Lol, sounds extremely cool, but do you have any idea what it means? Me neither.

Looking through the complete feature list, however, makes me think they might have some really useful tools in their box. It helps finding and posting share-worthy content.

It starts with a free 14-day trial, then $9 per month, which seems excellent to me – even for the smallest business.

buzzspice

BuzzStream.com

http://buzzstream.com

BuzzStream offers a set of link building and digital PR tools. Their claim is: “Web-based software that helps the world’s best marketers promote
their products, services and content.”

BuzzStream has 2 separate subscriptions:

  • Link building: automated tools for researching link prospects and conducting campaigns.
  • PR & Social Media: Team- based software for building and managing relationships with influencers.

Both start at $19 per month. This is the cheapest offer, and it is HIDDEN at the bottom of the purchase page. The main sign up area promotes the $29 subscription.

Ian Cleary: “If you are doing a lot of blogging and you need to reach out to promote your blog posts, BuzzStream manages this process.

What it does, within the tool, is you can add websites on, and it will automatically retrieve information, such as their Facebook page, their Twitter account, their domain authority, and then you can track all the interactions you have.”

buzzstream

Buzzsumo.com

http://buzzsumo.com/

BuzzSumo titles itself ‘Content Marketing Software – Social Insights for Content Marketers.’

Their claim: “BuzzSumo provides daily insight into the topics, stories and influencers with the highest engagement. They focus on content and influencers.”

  • The content tools help you to discover trending content in your niche. One of the features in this area that got my attention is: “Discover guest post and interview opportunities” [#SMSS13 podcasting session comes to mind.]
  • The influencer tools help you to find relevant influencers for any topic of your choice.

Lee Odden: “You can use it to research influencers as well as the social popularity of content. In fact, you can even use it to curate content.”

buzzsumo

Canva.com

http://canva.com/

Canva is a free online tool for creating graphics.

On a side note: The Canva.com web site itself is a gem, one of the best examples for current web design trends I’ve seen. Must see!

Ian Cleary: “Canva is a graphic design tool. We may not have all the skills for graphic design, and we can’t go out to graphic designers all the time.

What Canva does is it allows us to pick from a series of templates. From those templates, we can start customizing them. We can put in different texts onto it, we can select different images that we can add onto the template, lots of different images, and then we post this image as an image or as a PDF.”

canva

ClickToTweet

http://clicktotweet.com

ClickToTweet is a handy tool to create hyperlinks that will post a Twitter status update when clicked.

Click this link now to see it in action.

Can you guess what will happen? 🙂

The source code for such a link is somewhat complicated to create manually, so this tool really makes it easy. The screenshot explains how it works.

clicktotweet

ContestCapture.com

http://contestcapture.com

This easy to understand social media tool explains itself perfectly right in the screen shot below.

contestcapture

CustomFanPageDesigns.com

http://customfanpagedesigns.com

A web design agency specialized on social media profiles. Very reasonable pricing.

Great concept! Great portfolio on their site!

Amy Porterfield: “I always get asked, “Amy, who do you use for your timeline cover photo?” I use CustomFanpageDesigns.com. I’m not an affiliate. They’re just really good to me. I always give them a shout-out if you’re looking for someone to help you create your timeline cover photo.”

customfanpagedesignsagr

DLVR.it

http://dlvr.it

dlvr.it will auto post your RSS feeds to your social media accounts. For example you can have each new blog post promoted to your accounts automagically.

It starts at 9.99 per month for 50 feeds and 15 accounts [enough for most people] and is a really useful feature for those who don’t have the same feature through a larger social media management tool like SproutSocial.

Ian Cleary: “Dlvr.it is another really useful application. It’s an automation tool to help you share content.

What you can do with dlvr.it is when you post a new blog, it will automatically create a tweet, a Facebook update, a Google+ update, and also now LinkedIn company pages. So this type of automation is essential when you have a really good piece of content and you want your audience to hear about it.”

dlvr

eGrabber Account Researcher

www.egrabber.com/accountresearcher

At first sight eGrabber doesn’t sound like a social media tool. The web site says: “eGrabber Account-Researcher is a research expediting tool. It cuts prospect research time down to a few minutes. Built for Sales-Reps who do their own research on prospects and accounts.”

This sounds like traditional address provider, but it is not. Far from it!

eGrabber researches the online footprint of any given contact from your social media connections.

In other words: You give it a contact, and eGrabber “researches in real time on hundreds of publicly available sources at the time you request it.”

Viveka Von Rosen recommends it to get data for your LinkedIn contacts. Subscription is $79.95 / month.

Account Researcher eGrabber

Evernote.com

https://evernote.com

Evernote is a cloud based service where you can save your web research and content. It will synch across all your devices.

  • Save entire webpages to your Evernote account with our nifty web clipper browser extensions. You get the whole page: text, images and links.
  • Collect information from anywhere into a single place. From text notes to web pages to files to snapshots, everything is always at your fingertips.

Use cases for Evernote are endless. Given that we’re looking at social media tools, here are the 2 most likely examples:

  • As a blogger you can collect your research or blog ideas.
  • For your social media marketing you can collect post ideas, or info snippets you find in other people’s posts.

Evernote has a free plan and a paid premium plan with additional features. The web site wouldn’t show me the pricing in USD, so all I can tell you is, the premium plan is 150 Thai Baht per month. 🙂

evernote_2

Facebook Power Editor Chrome Browser Extension

http://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/facebook-power-editor

Mar Smith: “I’m going to recommend — I know Jon and I are on the same page about this — that instead of using that Boost button that’s ever tempting, you really familiarize yourself with Power Editor. You’re going to have so many better options. Using the Power Editor, you’ll be able to do much more advanced granular targeting and choose your ad placement.

  • Power Editor also allows you to customize your bid, whereas just doing the boost post doesn’t.
  • You can also create custom audiences. I love this feature. You can take your email database, upload it to Facebook, and find out quite a bit more about them.”

Facebook Power Editor

Feedly.com

http://cloud.feedly.com/

Ian Cleary: “Feedly is really useful. It allows you to subscribe to the blogs and then view all the latest posts directly within Feedly.

It supports Buffer, which is a great tool for scheduling the delivery of content to social media channels, such as Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and more recently they added in support for LinkedIn company pages as well.

You read content within Feedly, and if you see a good item, then you click on the Buffer button to share the content. What Buffer is doing is it’s placing that content in a queue and delivering based on the next available time slot that you have set up.”

cloud.feedly

Flare Share Button Plugin For WordPress

http://wordpress.org/plugins/flare

Flare is one of the many WordPress plugins that add a share bar to your blog.

What I like is that it looks beautiful. Unlike other share bars all buttons have the same size and a matching design.

What I don’t like is that the ‘buttons’ actually aren’t buttons. They are hover-areas. You must hover your mouse over the false button, only then the actual share button appears, and then you move your mouse over there and click. Strange concept, but probably the only way to achieve the nice design that I just praised a few lines above.

The WordPress Flare plugin page says “The Flare plugin isn’t in active development because we’ve created a hosted app version of Flare that works with virtually any website or CMS, including WordPress.” So, I’m not sure what is going to happen to the plugin. Use with caution.

Ian Cleary: “If you really want sharing, a useful WordPress plugin is called Flare.”

wordpress

Google Analytics

http://analytics.google.com

Google Analytics is a MUST for every web site owner and social media marketer.

It gives you lots and lots of valuable information, such as:

  • How many web site visitors you have.
  • Which pages they visit. How many pages per visitor, and how long the average visitor stays on your site.
  • On which pages you lose most of your visitors. Important!
  • How many people find your site through Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.

Ian Cleary: “Google Analytics is completely free and really powerful. At a minimum, you should be looking at your analytics every week.”

Google Analytics

Google Adwords Keyword Planner

Google Keyword Planner replaces the previous keyword tool. Unlike before it’s not public anymore, but only available from inside your AdWords account. You should definitely have one, even if you do not plan on buying Google’s pay per click ads.

The keyword planner tool is worth the effort of signing up. Not only will is show you which keywords have high search volume, it will also show you important related keywords.

For example I have enriched this article about ‘social media marketing tools’ with some relevant, related keywords that I found using Google Keyword Planner. Google gave me related keywords like “social media listening tools” and “social media marketing tools.” Can you see what I’m doing?

http://adwords.google.com/ko/KeywordPlanner

Ian Cleary: “Keyword Planner gives you information related to how many estimated searches per month are performed on the keywords you’re considering writing content on.”

Google Keyword Planner

HootSuite.com

http://hootsuite.com

Ian Cleary: “If Twitter is where your influencers hang out, HootSuite is a really good tool to use. At HootSuite, you can filter tweets into different columns. One of those columns could display the Twitter activity for the influencers that you want to keep track of, so you’re separating out that activity into this column.

What you do, is you create a Twitter list of all the influencers and then, within HootSuite, add this on as a column, which is known as a stream. This is a great way of being able to track conversations from the influencers. For example, imagine the key influencer asking a question. You may be able to join in that conversation, help answer the question, and just interact with them on a daily basis.”

Adrea Vahl: “If you’re spending more time in HootSuite, you can bring in RSS feeds into a separate tab. Just take a look at that, and those will also make it easy to share from there.

Twitter lists are a great way to prevent over-consuming. Just put the particular Twitter names on a list that you want to follow and break those out into a separate column on HootSuite.”

hootsuite

IFTTT.com

http://IFTTT.com

James Wedmore: “This is more automation. This is more cool stuff. Basically, you create these little recipes. When you take an action on YouTube or when something happens on YouTube, it can automatically, on autopilot, trigger something else to happen.

If you’re on LinkedIn, you can have your video posted to your LinkedIn profile or bookmarked on Delicious and numerous other bookmarking sites. Maybe you have a Tumblr blog, and you want your video published there as well.

These are all things that can be done on autopilot.”

ifttt

Knowem

http://smo.knowem.com/

Lee Odden: “Another handy tool is Knowem SMO, social media optimization. Basically, this tool will audit your site in seconds for the presence of microformats for Twitter, for Facebook, for Google+, for LinkedIn, as well as some key SEO metrics or SEO friendly characteristics of your site.

By the presence of these things, you’re making it easier for social networks and social media sites to use your content.”

smo.knowem

LeadPages.net

http://leadpages.net

Amy Porterfield: “LeadPages is my favorite tool. You can create lead capture pages instantly. This is what James Wedmore uses. It’s what I use.

At least go check out the tool. It changed my life — that sounds dramatic, but it’s true — in terms of how quickly I could build up a lead capture page to give something away.”

leadpages

LeadPlayer

http://www.leadplayer.com

David Siteman Garland: “It’s really that simple: Install LeadPlayer, embed the video using LeadPlayer, add calls to action in your video, and next thing you know, you’re going to be churning out those leads that you might be missing out on right now. So a very, very simple strategy using LeadPlayer.”

LeadPlayer

MyBlogGuest.com

http://myblogguest.com

MyBlogGuest is a guest blogging community.

  • For publishers: you can join free and find authors who will write unique guest posts for your blog. You can either contact authors directly, or chose from a large number of posts available for publication. MBG is dominated by seo agencies or seo freelancers who use it to build back links to their client’s sites. So, a lot of the articles are repetitive with the agencies promoting the same topics again and again. There are still a few great articles to be found.
  • For authors: you need a paid account for $ 30 per month. You can then submit your guest posts to the system and publishers can send you offers to publish your article. As an author you can reject or accept offers. The quality of available blogs varies widely. There are a few good ones, but don’t expect high profile blogs to look for your articles there.

No guest blogging community can beat individual blogger outreach. Yet, despite my critical remarks, MyBlogGuest is the best guest blogging community I know.

Apart from that members help each other out with social media promotions.

myblogguest

Nimble.com

http://nimble.com/

Ian Cleary: “Nimble is a useful tool to help manage and nurture relationships. It helps you track all the interactions that you’re having, and it prompts you when you haven’t interacted with relevant people for a while.

You can also drill down to see a particular contact within Nimble. You are able to display all the interactions a contact has on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ directly within Nimble, and that’s really handy. You can then interact with these updates directly within Nimble.”

nimble

Nitrogr.am

http://nitrogr.am/

Nitrogram is a social media monitoring tool for Instagram.

  1. Track the performance of your Instagram accounts and benchmark them against competitors’: audience profile, audience growth and churn, average engagement (likes, comments) and best performing posts.
  2. Access detailed reports for posts published on a specific #hashtag and the authors behind them.
  3. Engage with your community from a unified web interface. Switch between your different Instagram accounts.

Has a free trial and starts with paid accounts at $149 for their ‘Dynamite’ plan.

nitrogr

OpenSiteExplorer.org

http://opensiteexplorer.org

Ian Cleary: “There’s a tool called Open Site Explorer, from a company called Moz. They have an algorithm that scores websites out of 100. The higher the number you are, the better for you.

So if you have much higher numbers than your competitor in search results, then it’s easier to rank higher than them when you write content with similar keywords.”

opensiteexplorer

PicMonkey.com

http://picmonkey.com

Ian Cleary: “PicMonkey allows me to take an image, add text to it, change the look, and put borders on it. I use the free version. This is great for adding images onto your website or creating images for Pinterest.”

picmonkey

PostPlanner.com/

http://postplanner.com/

Ian Cleary: “One of the key features is the content discovery engine. If you want to find content to share based on your industry, you can just enter keywords in Post Planner. Post Planner will go off and find content that’s trending on the web related to these keywords.

I can sort these by the most recent, or the ones that are shared the most, or the ones that have the most likes. So I am finding trending content on the web that’s really popular, and now I can select this and add it to Post Planner.

It really saves an awful lot of time for scheduling content.”

Andrea Vahl: “I love this tool because it’s got some really cool features. You can add those RSS feeds. It’s got a content engine that you can use and pull from. Also, you can put in your own sources by adding Twitter feeds and adding Facebook page URLs. ”

postplanner

Salesloft Targeting Tools Prospector

http://salesloft.com/platform/prospector

As you can see it in the screenshot below, SalesLoft is a tool for prospecting on LinkedIn.

From their web site: “SalesLoft Prospector searches through LinkedIn’s extensive database of profiles to find you the exact prospects you’re looking for. Add prospects to lists with one click. Once you have your list you can start qualifying leads and tracking down new leads. Backed by Google’s powerful search engine, you can target unique segments of your market easily.”

SalesLoft has a free plan which is HIDDEN on the bottom of the pricing page. The paid plans start at 119 per month.

Targeting Tools Prospector

Semrush.com

http://semrush.com

Ian Cleary: “SEMrush is a tool for analyzing websites that provides a lot of information related to traffic a website gets, the keyword that drives that traffic, and a lot more very useful information. To use this tool, you just enter in your website address or your competitor’s address, if that’s what you want, and you click on Search.”

semrush

SEO For WordPress Plugin By Yoast

http://yoast.com/wordpress/seo/

I’ve tested many SEO plugins for WordPress, and this free plugin is by far the best I can recommend.

Besides what Ian mentions below it also takes care of important social media optimizations. For example it adds code to your pages that allow Twitter to show post previews directly on the Twitter web site. How cool is that?

It’s free, plus it has a few commercial Add-ons. The free version is very powerful, you don’t need the paid Add-ons in most cases.

Ian Cleary: “I’ll put in what my focus keywords are that I want to rank on. Then it will ask me: did I include that in the article heading, did I include it in the page title, and did I include it in the content? This is a very easy way of checking if I’m ranking correctly for this content. There is a more advanced section as well if you want.

It’s really having a look at your keywords, how many searches there are for those keywords, looking at where your competitors are in the search results, and then checking to see what their domain authority and page authority is. If you are higher and you put in the exact keywords, write your post and put it in the title and the page name, then you have a very good chance of ranking.”

Rich Brooks: “Once you install this plugin, a box appears at the bottom of every single one of your blog posts. So I can see what my SEO results are going to look like, and then I can put in a specific focus keyword. Then I get a checklist of what I’ve done right and what still needs to be done as far as SEO goes.”

yoast

SimplyMeasured.com

http://simplymeasured.com/

SimplyMeasured is a professional Social Media Measurement & Analytics Tool, just as the name suggests.

  • Works with Facebook, Twitter, Vine, Instagram, YouTube, Google+, Klout, and Google Analytics.
  • Tumblr, Pinterest, and LinkedIn will be added soon.

The feature tour is impressive, plans start at $500 which clearly makes it an enterprise tool and not suitable for the average small biz or freelancer.

simplymeasured

SocialCrawlytics.com

http://socialcrawlytics.com

Unfortunately one of those sites that give you next to zero information – which is a bummer when you want to do a quick review. 🙂 The web site features 3 areas that promise more info by changing color when you hover, but when you click, nothing happens. Usability at its best!

Here’s what you can find out without signing up:

“Identify your competitors most shared content. Social metrics, most shared authors, scheduled monitoring and a robust API – ALL FOR FREE!”

Ian Cleary: “What it does is it crawls through the content of a competitor’s website and produces a table showing how often their content was shared out on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter, and Pinterest.”

socialcrawlytics

Spinnakr.com

http://spinnakr.com/

This seems a really cool tool. Spinnakr analyzes your site visitors and can display targeted messages to them on your site.

  • For example you could show a specific message to visitors from Facebook, that other visitors won’t see.

This page gives lots of examples. I haven’t read them yet, but I’m definitely taking a closer look in the next days. There’s all kinds of opportunities to increase conversions, shares, etc.

They have a free plan, paid plans start at $18.

Lee Odden: “Another tool that you might like is Spinnakr.com. There’s a nominal cost to this tool. This is a real-time analytics tool. What this tool does is it interprets that data and literally gives you a feed of recommendations in natural language.”

spinnakr

Statigr.am

http://statigr.am/

Like Nitrogram, Statigram is a social media monitoring tool for Instagram, they claim to have 4 million satisfied members.

“Get your total number of likes received, your most liked photos ever, your average number of likes and comments per photo, your follower growth charts and more advanced analytics.”

They also allow to manage your Instagram profile, Statigram is “Instagram made more comfortable”

Statigram integrates with HootSuite!

It seems the sign up is free, I couldn’t find pricing info on the Statigram web site.

statigr

Timeline Contest Creator

http://heyo.com/timeline-contest-creator-live

Timeline Contest Creator does exactly what the name suggests. It lets you create contests for your Facebook page.

The point is to increase engagement on your page. Timeline contest creator offers contest, giveaway and coupon templates.

There’s a free trial, plans start at $8.50 per month.

heyo

Twitonomy.com

http://twitonomy.com

Twitonomy is a social media measurement tool exclusively for Twitter. Sign up is free, I don’t know yet if they have paid upgrades, couldn’t find any pricing info on their site.

The screenshot shows the feature list.

Ian Cleary: “If you are on Twitter and you need to have a tool for checking Twitter, Twitonomy is really useful.”

twitonomy

WordTracker.com

http://wordtracker.com/

Rich Brooks: “Another tool I like is Wordtracker’s Find Keywords. The way I recommend using this tool is you put in a broad keyword term, in this case “organize.” Then Wordtracker, using its partner search engines, gives us a whole bunch of different keywords that can all be used for blog posts — garage organize, organize your home, your house, clean laundry, whatever it is.

It gives us a whole bunch of terms. Then, in the next column, it tells us the search volume for those terms, how many people in the last month have searched on them. Keep in mind this is only the search volume of their partner sites, which doesn’t include Google or Bing. So the actual number of searches is much higher.

The next column is competition, which is their way of saying, “Well, however many sites are out there that are actually ranking for it, there are only three sites in the last month that are actually optimizing themselves for this particular search term.” So that might be some great opportunity.”

wordtracker

WPTouch

http://bravenewcode.com/wptouch/

Rich Brooks: “There’s a free version, and there’s a Pro version. The Pro version gives you a tablet friendly version as well, where the free version only gives you one for the smartphone. That’s a great way to go.”

bravenewcode

YouTube Tab for Facebook

http://www.facebook.com/appcenter/youtube-tab-app

James Wedmore: “If you just go into Facebook and type in YouTube tab, you’re going to get what’s called the YouTube Tab for Facebook. It will show your latest video up at the top and then little pretty thumbnails of all your past videos.

That can go as one of your tabs or pages on your Facebook page, and it’s all automated. This can literally take about 45 seconds to set up. I’m a big fan of doing it once, automating it, and never having to worry about it again.”

YouTube Tab for Facebook

Zapier.com

http://zapier.com

Ian Cleary: “Zapier allows you to set up automation tasks.

An example is when you have a YouTube video. As soon as the YouTube video is loaded, it automatically goes into Buffer, and then Buffer sends the details out onto Twitter and to Facebook.

The automation tasks are called Zaps. So you can set up Zaps and do lots of great automation.”

zapier

22s.com

http://22s.com/ and http://22social.com

22s.com, also called 22Social, is a fan page app for Facebook. Unfortunately there’s no web site [it redirects to Facebook], and on their Facebook page there isn’t any written description to be found what the app does. The sentence in the screen shot below is as much info as you can find. Pricing is secret, too.

So, what I know is: you can use this Facebook tool to create tabs for your Facebook page, and you can do some secret stuff that has to do with getting ‘real leads.’

Anrea Vahl: “Mari Smith and Michael Stelzner recently had an embedded Google+ hangout on the Facebook page. Just wanted to highlight that too as something fun you can do. They used the 22Social app to port over the Google+ hangout into Facebook and create a really fun, unique experience that way.”

22s

Featured Social Media Success Summit Presenters

These are the authors that I quoted above with their statements about the individual social media tools.

Amy Porterfield | AmyPorterfield.com | @AmyPorterfield

Amy PorterfieldAmy Porterfield is a social media strategist and co-author of Facebook Marketing All-in-One For Dummie. She teaches biz owners how to use social media to gain greater exposure, attract quality leads and turn their fans and followers into loyal customers.

Andrea Vahl | AndreaVahl.com | @AndreaVahl

Andrea VahlAndrea Vahl is a social media coach, speaker and strategist and also co-author of Facebook Marketing All-in-One For Dummies. She also uses her improv comedy skills to blog as an entertaining character named Grandma Mary, a social media edutainer.

David Siteman Garland | TheRiseToTheTop | @therisetothetop

David Siteman GarlandDavid Siteman Garland is the founder of “The Rise To The Top” and author of Smarter, Faster, Cheaper. David’s interviews have been downloaded over 6 million times with guests including Tim Ferriss, Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, and Seth Godin.

Ian Cleary | RazorSocial.com | @IanCleary

Ian ClearyIan Cleary is the creator of RazorSocial. He’s a social media speaker, writes for some of the leading social media blogs and has been published on Social Media Examiner, Huffington Post and Business Grow.

James Wedmore | JamesWedmore.com | @jameswedmore

James WedmoreJames Wedmore is the author of The YouTube Marketing Book
, and founder of “Video Traffic Academy.” He launched his first online business in 2008 with an Online Bartending School. James teaches the importance of online video to small business owners.

Lee Odden | TopRankBlog.com | @leeodden

Lee OddenLee Odden is the author of Optimize: How to Attract and Engage More Customers by Integrating SEO, Social Media, and Content Marketing. He is also the CEO of TopRank Online Marketing, a marketing and PR agency.

Mari Smith | MariSmith.com | @MariSmith

Mari SmithMari Smith is one of the world’s leading social media strategists and widely recognized as THE top Facebook marketing expert in the world. She is author of The New Relationship Marketing
and coauthor of Facebook Marketing: An Hour a Day.

Rich Brooks | AgentsOfChangeCon.com | @theRichBrooks

Rich BrooksRich Brooks is president of web design and Internet marketing company flyte new media. He’s the founder of The Marketing Agents, a blog, podcast and YouTube channel, providing free advice to small business owners and marketers. He’s also founded AgentsOfChangeCon.

 

2 funny guys

6 Ways To Inspire Commitment In Your Tribe Members

Today we’re looking at 5 + 1 powerful emotional triggers that will make your tribe members committed to you and your tribe – or any tribe.

8 years ago Blair Warren published a very short, free e-book on persuasion. It’s called

“The One-Sentence Persuasion Course. 27 Words to Make the World Do Your Bidding.”

It’s the most concise, practical, and useful course on persuasion I’ve ever read. I own the ‘old’ free download, but I recently bought the updated 2012 version for my Kindle.

The One-Sentence Persuasion Course has been hugely popular, and is still quoted today by internet marketing gurus, like Rich Schefren.

Blair Warren has condensed 5 powerful persuasion insights into one sentence. He writes:

“They are simple, they are immediately useful, and they can be almost frighteningly powerful.

Hitler used them and nearly took over the world. Cult leaders like Jim Jones, David Koresh, and Marshall Applewhite used them and commanded such loyalty that many of their followers willingly – even eagerly – died for them.

And yet, these five insights are not only tools for madmen, but for marketers, salesmen, seducers, evangelists, entertainers, etc.

In short, they are the tools for anyone who must connect with others and, more importantly, make these connections pay off.”

Here it is:

Quote from the persuasion book.

 

It’s profound!

There are 2 parts in that sentence.

“People will do anything for those who …”

This is what you want in your tribe. Committed members who are eager …

  • to follow your lead.
  • to act on your “call to action.”
  • to buy your stuff. [if the tribe is your business]
  • to comment on your posts.
  • to recommend your tribe to their friends and business partners.
  • to share your content on social networks.

The second part of the 1-sentence-persuasion are 5 emotional triggers.

1 / 5 Encourage Dreams

The DREAM is not only the first of the one-sentence-persuasion principles, it’s also what Seth Godin defines as the core of each tribe.

Yesterday I quoted Seth Godin saying a tribe

“tells a story about who we are and the future we’re trying to build.”

If you haven’t read it, check out yesterday’s indepth post:

Emerals city and the ruby slippers. Representing the desire for a better world.

The primary emotion triggered by the dream is hope.

The central thought you need to establish is the belief it can be done.

2 / 5 Justify Failures

Justifying your member’s past failures helps you to overcome one of the biggest obstacle we all face: Our experience that in the past we have failed again and again.

Does ‘New Year’s Resolution’ ring a bell?

It results in learned helplessness. Our fear that we’ll continue to fail stops us from committing again. Stops your tribe member from fully committing to your lead.

By shifting the blame on someone else, or on some external circumstances, you relief people from that burden.

If done blatantly by blaming others, the draw back is that the person doesn’t take responsibility for her results.

But often that’s exactly the goal of this tactic.

By blaming the ‘previous guru’ YOU become the savior, you’re the good one.

screenshot sales letter

3 / 5 Allay Fears

This continues points 1 and 2. The dream needs to be seen as doable.

There are 2 main areas of fear to cover:

a)      The person’s fear of not being good enough to participate in the tribe’s dream. I talked about learned helplessness above. Another way to look at it is self-efficacy, the measure of the belief in one’s own ability to complete tasks and reach goals.

b)      All topics specific to your tribe that might appear daunting to a newbie. For example, when you create a tribe of soon-to-be-bloggers you have to deal with the fear they might not master the technical aspects of running a blog. Or the fear of not having enough ideas. Or the fear of being a bad writer.

4 / 5 Confirm Suspicions

Confirming suspicions helps your tribe member building a big ego.

“I knew it!”

If you’re looking to build a tribe of investors who rely on [and pay for] your financial advice, you’ll do well confirming their suspicions how EVERYBODY is after their money. No, they won’t get the irony.

You’re selling investments in gold? Confirm their suspicion how the dollar is doomed. How the economy will collapse, and gold is the only save haven.

You’re not planting new suspicions, but you tap into the strong convictions people already have.

Boy with tin foil hat.

5 / 5 Establish Enemies

The second effect of confirming suspicions is that it starts to divide the world into separate groups, and one needs to decide to which group to belong.

The others obviously are the bad guys. Or the stupid guys.

Justifying failures and alleviating fears positions you as the good guy and increases your tribe member’s belief in oneself.

Establishing enemies helps to tie your group together by pointing fingers at ‘the others.’ The outsiders cannot be part of your tribe. The bad guys cannot be part of your tribe. The stupid guys cannot be part.

Depending on the topic, your tribe might even become a lifesaving necessity protecting its members from the enemy.

So far a quick overview over 5 emotional tactics you can use in your tribe communication.

Whenever and whereever people form powerful bonds, these insights are more often than not lurking in the shadows.” ~ Blair Warren

I have only scratched the surface. It seems silly when stripped down to a few sentences, but once you start paying attention, you’ll see those principles popping up everywhere.

  • Read sales letters.
  • Listen to recordings from so-called gurus.
  • Watch presentations from thought leaders.

They all position themselves as the good guys – but they do it using the powerful psychological mechanisms described here.

Now for something very important!

Depending on how you mix these triggers together, you’ll get tribes that ‘feel’ different.

This is what the second part of this post is about:

There’s a continuum of emotional and mental maturity in tribes you can build. Here are tribes at 3 different levels of maturity.

1. Emotionally Immature Tribes

Justifying fear, confirming suspicions, and establishing enemies resonates with low-level emotions. It gets most approval from mentally challenged people; people who fail to create an accurate mental model of the world.

Many providers [but not all!] of the ‘make money online’ and ‘business opportunity’ niches cater to people with little self-control and lots of blaming others for their circumstances.

screenshot internet business sales letter

Source

If, as a leader, you connect to their frustrated emotions, it’s easy to build a tribe. It’s easy to sell the dream again and again to the same people. Not based on them actually changing their life, but based on tapping into their emotional frustrations.

This tribe also resonates well with conspiracy theories.

Of course, you get what you ask for:

  • Those are the customers with the highest refund rates.
  • They are the ones, who flood your support desk with complaints and who won’t follow your instructions.

There’s no peace to be found in catering to a tribe based on low level emotions, fault-finding, and complaining.

It can be a viable business model, though. There’s lots of money in these tribes because they are so emotional. If you want to go for it, I recommend not to attach yourself to the tribe, but to outsource content creation and customer service.

2. Intellectual Tribes

Once you leave emotional immaturity behind, you’ll encounter tribes who shift the blaming and fault finding to an intellectual level. [Welcome to my world. 🙂 ]

Here you’ll find the thought leaders. The Seth Godins.

They’ll thrive on distinguishing the ‘old’ and the ‘new.’ The blaming, of course, is targeted on ‘the old.’

But it’s done on an intellectual level.

  • You can leave the torches at home in this tribe.
  • All you need is a pen, a book, or a keyboard and a blog.

For Seth Godin’s tribe the enemy is the old corporate world, the factories, the age of industrialization. It’s the system that raises you to be a functioning part in the machinery.

The thought leader thrives on calling-out the old and announcing the new age of progress and individual dreams.

The dream is needed. After all, HOPE is what fuels tribes.

3. Enthusiastic Tribes

It’s possible to build a tribe without negative emotions and without intellectual fault finding.

You don’t need to point fingers at enemies, and you don’t need to engage in blaming.

I believe these mature tribes are on the rise. Or is it wishful thinking?

Obviously you expect that kind of tribe from spiritual leaders, like the Dalai Lama or Eckhart Tolle.

But you can also find them in business.

Think of Stephen R. Covey. He’s calling out our faults – but there’s zero blaming attached. Neither emotional nor in intellectual disguise.

Or, take a look at the tribe of Mari Smith.

Screenshot Facebook Page of Mari Smith

You can scroll through Mari Smith’s fan page years back.

  • You won’t find her saying a bad word about anyone or anything.
  • Instead Mari’s always enthusiastic, always positive, always uplifting.

The same is true for her entire tribe. It’s a joy to participate in her closed Facebook groups because everyone is enthusiastic, helpful, and engaged.

For more examples of leaders building their communities with enthusiasm look at Guy Kawasaki or Rebekah Radice.

It doesn’t mean that all followers share the same level of maturity, but it means they are drawn to the role model the tribe leader represents.

The 5 tactics from the 1-sentence-persuasion will get a better response in the first 2 types of tribes above.

For what I call the “Enthusiastic tribe” I like to add one more element.

“People will do anything for those who …

… make them feel alive.”

This is fairly abstract.

I could have written:

  • Who uplift them.
  • Who ignite their enthusiasm.
  • Who interrupt their boredom.
  • Who distract them from their depression.
  • Who give them the energy to follow their dream.

Like the desire for a changed world [the dream], the desire for feeling alive is a very basic need.

That’s why it works so well.

Joseph Campbell quote.

The enthusiastic tribe fits well with the dream. Once we’ve removed their fear, justified their past failures, the best thing to do is creating the energy to work on the dream.

The circle closes.

We start with a dream. Then we move our member through the emotional and intellectual steps needed for commitment. Then commitment makes creating the dream possible.

How does this information help you build your tribe?

In this post

  • You’ve seen 5 + 1 powerful emotional triggers you can use when talking to your tribe.
  • These triggers can be attached to any topic, can be used for whatever tribe you wish to build.
  • The more triggers you use, the more ‘fanatic’ your tribe will be.
  • You’ve encountered the new concept of thinking about your tribe in terms of emotional and mental maturity.

Based on these insights you can start designing your own tribe communication.

  • If you’re a multi niche marketer, you can design your tribes on all levels. Attach the different styles of communication, the different messages, to your content for the different niches.
  • If you’re a personal brand, you’ll most likely build a tribe that matches your own level of maturity. It would be outright stupid and frustrating to build a tribe below yourself.
  • If you want to stretch yourself, you might decide to target beyond your own current development. Because you will consciously work to inspire your tribe beyond your current level, it will speed up your personal development.

Final thoughts: This may all sound very technical to you, and it can be used that way. Copy writers, book authors, and speech writers have check lists, and they make sure to pull as many triggers as possible.

The more you’re focused on selling, the more busy you are with the technical aspects of integrating the psychology into what you do.

The more you are devoted to a passion, or a higher goal, the more natural all the pieces will come together. Not as a result of check lists, but as a result of being fully engaged. Awareness of the psychological principles is still useful, but it won’t be your top priority.

Emerals city and the ruby slippers. Representing the desire for a better world.

The Psychology Of Tribes

In my previous post on Building Your Tribe I recommended answering 9 crucial questions in order to start building a flourishing tribe. Your answers are the blueprint for building your tribe.

building-your-tribe

Today we’re taking the next step, and delve into the ‘Psychology of Tribes.’

This is, first of all, the psychology of the individual tribe members. I’ll cover the group aspects of tribes in a later post. Today and tomorrow I focus on how the individual becomes attached to a tribe in the first place.

  • What makes your readers, podcast listeners, and video viewers feel connected to you, your content, and your community?
  • What makes them feel compelled to stick with you [and your tribe], and not move on to one of the other ‘experts’ covering the same topic?
  • What are the emotional triggers at work in enthusiastic tribes, compared to communities where people come and go and rarely participate?

A tribe doesn’t flourish by itself, simply based on a nice idea. If you, as a leader, don’t put the emotional triggers in place, your tribe will get nowhere.

Think of a blog post with a boring title.

It’s not getting the attention the author would love to get. Why? Simply because the author was too lazy, or too proud, to write a title that triggers an emotional response.

[I’m aware the title ‘psychology of tribes’ pathetically falls into the boring category.]

The same is true for building your tribe. If your ‘recruiting efforts’ are lame and ignore psychology, not much is going to happen.

Boook cover: Seth Godin Tribes

The most popular expert on tribes, and probably the author who established ‘tribe’ as metaphor for online communities, is Seth Godin.

In his book “Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us” Seth Godin says:

“Tribes are about faith-about belief in an idea and in a community.” [p9]

Before our future tribe member is interested in the community, she must first be interested in the idea. Godin gets more precise:

A tribe “tells a story about who we are and the future we’re trying to build.” [p27]

And finally:

Photo of Seth Godin's book: Tribes.

The Core Of Your Tribe Is A Shared Dream. Your Tribe Members Gather Around Their Shared Dream Like Our Ancestors Gathered Around A Campfire.

At this point, it might still be an individual dream.

An individual person will join a tribe catering to the dream she already has. Or a tribe leader might actually ignite a fresh dream and seek to inspire others to join the ‘new’ idea.

The Dream Has Three Components

  1. The desire to go from here [undesirable current state] to somewhere else [desirable future].
  2. Hope that it can be accomplished, fueled by
  3. A “way to get there,” which is essentially what the tribe leader is “selling.”

Number 3 is what makes you an authority in the desired field, ideally the authority. Knowing and showing the “way to get there” is what makes you the leader of the tribe.

It seems tribes are initially fueled by dissatisfaction. By a discrepancy between what someone is experiencing, and what she wants to experience instead.

If this is so, then we can learn a lot about the psychology of tribes by looking at psychological triggers used by marketers and persuasion experts.

It’s no secret that dissatisfaction and selling the dream fuels most of today’s sales and marketing. Think of the biz opportunity market, make money online, self-help, anti-aging, seduction, dieting, and many more.

On a philosophical note, dissatisfaction with the “undesirable current state” is the also root and symptom of humanity’s unhappiness. Eckhart Tolle [I pick him as example] calls it “our inherited dysfunction,” and it results in people feeling a constant “background unhappiness.”

The solution would be to become free from being dissatisfied and from longing for a “better” future.

That’s essentially the same message we were supposed to learn from Dorothy Gale.

movie quote: there's no place like home

She was dissatisfied, too, and went on a quest over the rainbow – only to come back and tell us:

“There’s no place like home.” A romantic way of saying:

  • The current state is the desirable state.
  • Be happy with what you have.
  • Don’t look to find your happiness somewhere else.

I didn’t believe her for a second.

Did you?

We didn’t watch Wizard of Oz to see the farm!

You’d swap your “current state” for Emerald City and a magical wand any time, right?

Even at the end of the movie, “home” is still black and white, and Munchkin land is Technicolor.

That’s why the dream is the core of a thriving tribe – because the underlying structure is the core of our everyday experience and psychology. The never-ending and unquestionable need for improvement is deeply ingrained in our western culture, and Asia is rapidly adopting the same model.

Given that tribes [and religions!] work best when centered on big dreams [from here to there], you are dealing with fairly heavy stuff!

The weirdest thing is that the same psychological principles are at work in a world-spanning  religion, a political party, a football club, or a blogger community.

In my next post I’ll continue this one and cover 6 psychological ingredients that work exceptionally well for people trapped in the force field of dissatisfaction and hope.

2 funny guys

This is some high-concept stuff, probably not for everyone, and not the usual ‘What’s the best time to send a Tweet’ type of post.

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

business man with declining revenue chart

If Your Business Sucks, It’s Because You Suck!

That’s probably the last thing you wanted to hear from me today, right?

Yet, it’s entirely true.

Your business is an extension of you!

Your character flaws, your bad habits, your most stupid choices – they all become visible [for everyone to see] in the state of your business.

You tell me about …

… your business growth and revenue.

… your customers‘ satisfaction.

… your products and prices.

And I will tell you what kind of person you are!

That’s great news, actually. Because it puts YOU in control.

4 business men

Change yourself, change your business!

  1. What’s not working so well in your business?
  2. What does it show about you?
  3. What change would create a better you and a better business?

Here are 6 areas for personal improvement that will result in better business:

  • Habits, good and bad.
  • Productivity and time wasting.
  • Service or Ego orientation?
  • Reliability – the habit to follow through.
  • Consistency.
  • Self-confidence. [Source of your biz growth and prices?]

By the way, it also works this way:

If your business is excellent,
it’s because you are excellent!

Boy playing super hero.

Crazy? Why You Don‘t Need Facebook Google+ & Twitter & LinkedIn & Pinterest

This month I’m spending my nights live tweeting from Social Media Success Summit 2013. More than 40 social media experts share their favorite social media strategies in 33 sessions.

There’s a BIG problem with that:

Each speaker makes it look as if his or her favorite social media site were indispensable. His or her specific site it the best opportunity out there. Once you listened to 40+ speakers you know:

If you’re not active on all umpteen social media sites your business is doomed to fail! You’ll miss out on Billions of customers, all waiting to flock to your business. You’d miss the train to the future. Dinosaur. Extinction is your destiny.

After each #SMSS13 session you can see people tweeting: „Wow, I didn’t know how great that platform is. I’ll have to start there, too!“

It’s not a #SMSS13 specific problem. [The sessions are great!]

It’s an industry problem. An entire industry has forgotten sound business principles and as a result millions of businesses all over the world are spreading themselves thin over lots of platforms without getting focused results.

The few companies that use social media professionally are dwarfed by the number of those wasting their time.

It’s a trap that most of us fall for.

We’re active on 4, 5, or even many more social media sites. For me the magic number is 8. Eight sites that I frequently dabble on.

Dabbling is what most of us do in social media.

If we were to be honest, we’d say: „Well, actually none of them is making a striking income for my business.“

[The most likely exception are those using Facebook advertising professionally.]

It’s sick. It’s noise, and empty promises. As fleeting as a tweet.

Imagine for a moment you’d focus exclusively on Facebook marketing and improve it to a level where you’re getting a constant stream of leads.

Imagine, Facebook would be sending your more business than you can ever handle.

Wouldn’t that be great?

It’s not an unreasonable fantasy, after all, there are 1.2 Billion people on Facebook. And Facebook has the most advanced advertising system from all social media sites.

  • So, if Facebook gave you more clients or customers than your business could ever handle, why would you [still] feel the compulsion to add Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn, and Pinterest to your workload?
  • Seriously, if 1.2 Billion is not enough potential for your biz, what are you hoping to additionally get on LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, and Google Plus?
  • Seriously, if you can’t make one platform really work, how much better are your chances spreading yourself thin over five platforms? Or over eight?

My focus on Facebook here is just an example. I might just as well make the same argument with LinkedIn, or any other site, as long as you’d use it for professional marketing.

There’s an argument to be made for each of those sites. Of course. The same is true for ANY existing marketing channel on the planet.

ANY marketing channel could do something good for your business. ANY marketing channel has its plusses.

But does it mean you MUST implement each existing marketing channel ever invented by mankind?

Rhetorical question!

Of course not.

Why is this so easy to see for „each existing marketing channel ever invented by mankind,“ but not for social media?

If you’re like most businesses, you’re on many platforms, because you fear you’d miss opportunities.

  • Yet, you’re not using a tiny fraction of the opportunities from any of the platforms.
  • You’re missing the real opportunity because you’re running after imaginary, future opportunities.

Moral Of Story:

You really don’t need Facebook AND Google Plus AND Twitter AND LinkedIn AND Pinterest.

[Vine, Instagram, YouTube, SlideShare, ….]

one-is-enough

One is enough.

Stop dabbling.

Start marketing.

Expected results:

  • A tighter community.
  • A constant stream of leads, clients, customers.
  • More business for your business.
  • Enough income to pay for tools and assistants.
  • Less work, less stress, less platforms and features to learn.

Oh, it’s 1:59 AM. Next #SMSS13 session starting in 1 minute.

See you there?

Knocked out business man lying on the floor.

Another Blow For SEOs [Updated]

Breaking SEO news. If you’ve followed my blog, you know I’m on a mission to convince you NOT to build your business on traffic from Google search.

Here’s today’s SEO news, confirming just that.

One of the most important things you need to know to optimize your web site efficiently is:

From which search terms do you actually get traffic to your site?

At first this information was readily available through Google Analytics. You could exactly see what people were searching for when Google sent them to your web site.

2 years ago Google started to hide some of the information for a small percentage of search queries. Within 2 years this has gone up to 40%.

Meaning, after 2 years:

  • For 40% of your search traffic you could not find out the search terms they used.
  • For 60% you still could find out the search terms and optimize further.

Within the last 6 weeks the hidden search traffic has gone from 40% to 74%.

It is expected to go up to 100% within days or weeks.
[For details read more here and here.]

Infographic showing rise in hidden search terms.

Conclusion: Via Google Analytics you can no longer find out which search terms people used to find your site!

I’m not blaming Google. Google, like everyone else, must change, must evolve. The result, however, is not good for small business relying on search. Or, for the SEO industry.

Today’s news is just another piece of the puzzle.

The big picture is: Google is changing, and within a few years it will send dramatically less traffic to business web sites.

Update 1: Brian Pasch’s video response to this post.

Brian Pasch has written an excellent response to this blog post, titled “The Death Of Visible Keyword Referral Traffic Is A Premature Claim“, and also created a detailled video. While he’s talking specificlly about automotive dealership websites, the article and video are just as relevant for any other industry.

I’ve included the video below.

  1. Brian shows real life statistics from actual business web sites.
  2. He’s showing how to access the keyword information in Google Analytics.
  3. And he shows you 4 strategies how to get keyword insights besides those covered in this blog post.

Update 2: My own web site analytics.

This post was originally published Sept, 23, 2013. I’m adding my latest statistics today, October 8.

After Google Hummingbird I’m seeing a slight increase in traffic across almost all of my sites. Not sure if Hummingbird is the reason, might as well be seasonal effects.

I went to my analytics and checked for the current state of ‘keyword not provided.’

As of today I have several sites in the 70’ies, one site above 80%. Clearly, the days of getting this valuable keyword information from Google are gone.

Google Anayltics Screen: keyword not provided 72%

Google Analytics Screenshot, keyword not provided 81%

 

But again, this is not important in itself, it’s important as an indicator of the overall trend: SEO, as we knew it, is dead.

Young man drawing a cloudy blue sky on the wall.

3 Ideas To Improve Your Blog

I’ve made a few improvements to my blog over the weekend, and I share them with you [including screenshots and resource links] so you can get ideas for improving your own blog.

1. Remove clutter from your blog.

Before blogs became popular most web sites were pretty focused. With the rise of content management systems [like WordPress] all kinds of unnecessary stuff started to clutter web sites.

Clutter comes in 2 forms:

  • Unimportant meta information
  • Unimportant widgets

2 real life examples for blog clutter

Until today my blog had 2 useless pieces of meta info.

a) The blog post titles were preceded by the date.

The date is pretty useless for reading the article, especially given that the year was not included. So you couldn’t even figure out whether the post was from this year or 10 years old.

Removing the publish-date makes it easier for readers, and it moves the content up.

Before

wp-meta-2-before

After

wp-meta-2-after

b) There was a clickable category link below every article.

Why was it useless? Because my blog has only one category. So the category link gave readers the same content that the Blog page already presents.

Before

wp-meta-info-before

After

Blog screenshot.

Removing this unnecessary link

  • Prevents the reader from clicks with frustrating results.
  • Frees attention for the actual content.

Consider a big clean-up for your blog and rigorously remove everything that does not serve a clear purpose.

Clutter is bad!

  • Unnecessary items make it harder for readers to quickly ‘get’ the important parts of your page.
  • A cluttered pages is visually less attractive. [uuugly]
  • It distracts readers from the actions you want them to take. I.e. from your marketing goals.

The 2 examples above required editing the WordPress theme, which is not doable for most people. It’s quite easy, however, to find someone on Freelancer sites or forums who can make these changes in minutes.

Often clutter can be removed through easy-to-use theme settings, and through removing useless widgets by going to “Appearance – Widgets” in your WordPress dashboard.

It’s as easy as drag and drop.

2. Enhance your blog comments.

Comments are the most fun aspect of blogging. [Hint!] But the rise of social media and the rise of spammers makes it harder to build a commenting community on your blog.

Many people will comment on Google Plus or Facebook or Pinterest instead of writing on your blog. Like many things blog commenting is getting more and more fragmented.

Jim Connolly, one of my favorite bloggers, took it to the extreme by completely disabling blog comments and sending readers to social media sites for commenting.

One the other end of the spectrum is Mark W. Schaefer who enjoys an awesome community of commenters on his blog, despite Facebook & Co.

I’m going the Schaefer-way, at least for comments, and hope one day my blog community is just as busy and enthusiastic.

There are numerous ways to enhance the blog comment section of your blog.

  1. You could integrate comment systems from social media sites like Facebook or Google Plus.
  2. You could add a comment notification systems that emails commenters when follow-up comments are published.
  3. You could add features that reward commenters with do-follow links and additional goodies.

Beware that each “enhancement” can also increase complexity for your readers and for yourself. That’s why I kept my update simple.

For now I avoid integrating external comment systems. I rather have as much conversation as possible on my blog.

I installed the free version of the popular CommentLuv plugin.

Then I adjusted the settings to remove as much plugin clutter as possible. For example I removed the CommentLuv logo, and provided a clearer description next to the CommentLuv checkbox.

What does it do?

CommentLuv looks up the blog of every commenter and allows you to add one of your blog posts to your comment.

Why do I like the idea?

  1. It’s a great reward for commenters, because the chance that a reader clicks an actual post title is higher than clicking the blog link that’s attached to the commenter’s name.
  2. It’s interesting for me and for readers, because seeing the post title gives you an immediate idea what the commenter is writing about.

blog-comments

3. Keep readers on your blog by adding different ways for content discovery.

Many readers will read or skim one post and, even if they like it, click away to other web sites.

You goal, however, is to keep readers on your site. That’s why I added 3 ways to discover more blog posts to my sidebar.

  1. SocialMetricsPro [afflink] displays the most shared posts. It includes post thumbnails.
  2. The native WordPress latest post widget shows the newest posts.
  3. The Better WordPress Recent Comments plugin shows the latest comments and a pic of the commenter.

 

blog-post-discovery

I don’t know yet, whether this change will have the desired effect. I will find out in a few weeks when checking if the average number of pages viewed per reader has increased.

Other popular methods to help readers discover content are hover popups presenting post topics, often combined with info from social media. For example: “Your friend John Doe like post XYZ on Facebook.”

Since, as a reader of other blogs, I hate those hover popups getting in my way when reading, I decided to not use them.

Now it’s your turn.

If you want to improve your blog consider these 3 options:

  1. Remove clutter.
  2. Enhance commenting.
  3. Facilitate content discovery.

 

Woman with alarm clock representing time management.

How To Master Your Social Media Accounts In 30 Minutes A Day

Have you ever scratched your head how busy entrepreneurs manage to keep several social media profiles alive?

How they seem to be online 24/7, posting updates, engaging with followers, and still find time to run their business?

And, the most important question of all:

How can you do this with your own social media presence?

It’s easy to get lost in social media. With my clients and with fellow business owners I typically see one of these scenarios:

  • They feel so overwhelmed and ‘social-media-incompetent’ that they don’t even start.
  • They have created several profiles, but they post very infrequently. A Facebook page may get a few posts in a row, then they forget about it for 3 months, then they go back to posting … and so on. You probably know the routine!
  • They are frequent posters and engagers, but it costs so much time, that vital areas of their business suffer. They engage a lot, while conversions and sales are dying.You just can’t hang out 90 minutes or more on social media profiles every day. Especially if your following is small and you’re seeing dismal results.

Here are 5 steps how you can master your social media profiles efficiently. If you implement these ideas, you’ll achieve more in 30 minutes a day than you’d otherwise achieve in 2 hours.

I’ve ordered them in a step by step sequence. Start at #1; only move ahead to the next step once you’ve mastered the previous one.

1. Know Your Goals

Being clear about your social media goals will not only save you time, most of all it will help you getting much better results from your activities. Most people developed their daily routine randomly. They’ll login to their accounts, skim the news, check for interactions from their followers. As a result of what they find, they’ll post some random shares and answers.

You guessed it: regarding your social media MARKETING this won’t get you far while costing precious time. Knowing your goals not only tells you what to do, it also tells you what not to do, what not to waste time on.

2 examples for social media goals:

  • If your goal is getting traffic for your web site, you’d focus on posting links, finding the right words to get great click through rates, finding the best time to post for maximal response.
  • If your goal is to connect to influencers who can help your biz, you’d spend time on reading their posts and interacting with them. Everything you’d do on social media would be VERY different from what you’d do for the goal ‘traffic to my site.’

Wouldn’t it be great if we could mesh it all together? Yes. But, sorry, not working. Your results follow your focus. You need to decide what your goals are.

2. Follow A Daily Routine

This post is about being efficient with social media. Of course there are times when you go to Facebook for fun, for connecting with friends. But during your working hours I recommend not getting distracted and focusing on using social for your business goals.

How to do it? It’s easy. Establish a daily routine and stick to it religiously.

You’ll need to find out two things:

  • What to do? This includes which sites to visit (and in which order), what tools to open, and what activities to do with sites and tools.
  • How much time to spend on each activity each day?

At first you’ll need a few days to figure out how much time you need for the specific tasks. Fortunately, everything you can do on social media is repetitive (see daily routine list below). Once you’ve established the daily routine, things are easy.

3. Use Tools

Your daily routine will most likely include these 5 activities.

  1. Share your own updates with your followers.
  2. Review content (blogs and other people’s social streams)
  3. Share other people’s content with your followers.
  4. Interact with other people’s content (commenting).
  5. Review interactions and answer (comments on your updates, messages).

Once you’ve mastered the ‘what to do’ manually, it’s time for the next step: using tools to do things faster.

The first thing that comes to mind are probably external tools like SproutSocial or HootSuite.

These tools combine information from several social media sites into one dashboard. Using these dashboards you can review other people’s streams and their interactions with you, and you don’t even have to visit Facebook, or Twitter, directly.

You can use RSS readers to speed read the daily posts from hundreds of blogs on one page. Using feed readers from inside tools like SproutSocial even allows to directly share blog posts to your social networks.

The second group of tools are the features social media sites themselves offer. My favorite example are Twitter lists. I’m following more than 3000 people. As a result of that my ‘home’ twitter stream is useless. Too much noise, too much unimportant tweets.

That’s why I use Twitter lists to quickly see (and interact with) Tweets from people who are important to me. Facebook has lists as well, and Google Plus has circles.

4. Use Automation

What we’ve seen with tools so far was still manual work at the time of posting. You’ll save a lot more time automating things.

You can use tools to schedule posts to go live at specific times, so you don’t have to be online several times a day.

Other tasks to automate might be automatically sending messages to certain people, automatically posting content from trustworthy sources to your streams, and more.

The number of tools is large, and so are the tasks they can perform for you.

5. Get Assistants

Employing assistants is the final step in our hierarchy of managing your social media accounts. It’s the last step because you should have done everything yourself first before you start managing people for the job.

Your assistants might be some of your employees, if your business is large enough to have them. Or they might be freelancers hired to consistently perform specific tasks for you.

I still like to be in control of my social media content, so I’m only outsourcing ‘risk free’ tasks to other people.

When you look at my Twitter stream, for example, you’ll find frequent Tweets listing my new followers and saying ‘thanks for following.’ This is a repetitive task that I don’t need to do myself, I’ve delegated it to my assistant.

And while I’m writing this post, my assistant is adding 150 new blog feeds to my SproutSocial RSS reader.

How much or how little you delegate to others, is entirely up to you.

Infographic: Saving time on social media management

There you have it, five steps to manage your social media accounts with maximal efficiency. If you ever wondered how the social media celebrities get it done – there isn’t really a secret. It’s as simple as having a daily routine and not wasting time getting sidetracked.

Are You Killing Your Brand For Peanuts [Without Knowing]?

A well-known social media guru is promoting his new blog post on Triberr today.

I followed his link and came to a site … well, I’d like to show you a screen shot, but I don’t want to harm anyone’s reputation.

The first thing that jumped at me was a big ad space with Google Advertising.

  • It was inserted after the first sentence of the blog post, shoving the rest of the post below the fold.
  • It advertised Etihad Airways to me – not a good fit on a social media blog.

Etihad is a great airline, by the way. I had 2 flights with them last week, and their service was outstanding.

Refreshing the page gave me „Aktion Deutschland Hilft. Bündnis deutscher Hilfsorganisationen. Jetzt spenden.“

Translation: „Donate now.“

Yes, I’m sure he needs the money!

He’s not alone.

I’ve seen this on countless web sites of marketing professionals, consultants, personal brands, web agencies, and SEO agencies.

Don’t do this!

AdSense on your business site makes your brand look poor.

  • You’re asking $ 600 for a 1 hour consultation, but you need the cents from AdSense?
  • You’re selling $ 3000 SEO services on your web site, but you need the cents from AdSense?
  • You don’t trust your web site to monetize itself by selling your services?

How good a consultant can you be?

Well, I might just go somewhere professional!

AdSense on your business site distracts from the content that’s supposed to sell your service.

  • Readers might follow the ad and click away from your site. Google AdSense doesn’t even open in a new window. Once I clicked the ad, your site is gone for good.
  • It shoves your article content below the fold. Readers might be … let me correct that… Readers ARE too lazy to scroll beyond your ads to find your valuable content.

Please, if you want to build a professional brand, don’t litter your business web site or blog with AdSense!

 

Science-of-marketing-book-cover

The Science Of Marketing by Dan Zarrella [Book Review]

Hey, it’s time for my first book review on RalfSkirr.com!

The Science of Marketing by Dan Zarrella is one of my favorite marketing books in 2013.

It will be a favorite for you too, if you like a book chock-full of actionable marketing tips and social-media-for-business advice.

The premise is that your marketing strategies must be based on what’s proven to work, not on wishful thinking and touchy-feely marketing advice that doesn’t work.

Most marketing and social media advice floating around isn’t based on facts.

Dan Zarrella is known from Hubspot’s “Science of…” webinar series, has written several books and of course is writing on his blog DanZarrella.com.

He analyzes thousands of Tweets, Facebook updates, or whatever, and measures what happens, measures what people are doing.

In his own words:

“As a social media scientist, I use data, experimentation, and real science to understand how people behave online and how we, as marketers, can leverage that behavior. I want to give you the data you need to get stuff done and to be successful.”

This is his promise on page 1 of the book, and he delivers.

Zarrella reveals his findings on 10 topics, each chapter is short [around 15 pages] and to the point.

  1. E-Books
  2. Webinars
  3. SEO
  4. Twitter
  5. Facebook
  6. Pinterest
  7. Blogging
  8. E-Mail Marketing
  9. Lead Generation
  10. Analytics

With each topic, you can open the book and just swipe the instructions from the page:

  • When to tweet to get the most retweets
  • When to get the most Facebook shares
  • When to send out your email newsletter
  • What days are best to post your blog updates
  • What to post
  • And many more.

Here’s an example what insights you can expect:

Image shows a page of the book.

So more Tweets seems to be better! Later on the same page you’ll find out how many tweets you can safely post each day without annoying your followers.

What’s not so great?

  • LinkedIn is missing.

What’s great?

  • Actionable tips literally on every page.
  • Short book. No fluff.
  • Covers the most important social media sites PLUS important topics like blogging and e-mail marketing.

Check out the reviews & read the free sample at Amazon:

Dan Zarrella: The Science of Marketing: [aff link]
When to Tweet, What to Post, How to Blog, and Other Proven Strategies.

Man whispering secret in woman's ear.

The Secret About Social Media Engagement

Today I’m debunking a piece of sweet social media advice that simply doesn’t work as promised. [Remember the Unicorns?]

The holy grail, they say, of social media marketing is engagement.

You want your stuff to get noticed, liked, and shared.

After all, zero engagement is zero encouragement, isn’t it?

Then they say, to get noticed, to get engagement, you need to consistently…

Post Great Content!

That speaks to the goodness in your heart. Be a giver. Provide value. And people will flock to you and love you.

Well, I tried.

Didn’t work.

😉

The truth is: you can post great content 24/7, and no one will ever look at it. Let alone like it, share it, or comment on it.

People aren’t interested in your awesome content.

Here’s the SECRET what EVERYONE on social media really is interested in:

me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me look at me me me  me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me like me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me follow me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me share me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me talk about me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me

People start looking at you only after you’ve given them what they want.

When you comment on their great content, share their great content – suddenly they come visiting your profile and look at your content in reciprocity.

It’s ironic.

Yet, it makes total sense.

It’s not about content, it’s about networking.

The rule that works is:

Post great content. Then start engaging on other’s great content like crazy.

I tried.

Works every time!

Cartoon robot representing business automation.

Business Automation: 9 Time Savers For Everyday Tasks

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Or, to remove the blame from life, when you screw up, write a blog post about it.

In this post you’ll discover 9 ways to automate tasks, and the best tools to use.

My goal for RalfSkirr.com is to publish a new post each day. Yet, in the last 7 days I’ve published only 2 posts.

My mistake.

I was travelling and upfront I made the smart plan to post from airport lounges and hotels.

With Wi-Fi everywhere, what could go wrong?

Well …

  • delayed flight arrivals,
  • 2-minutes load time per page [try browsing image libraries to find images for your post],
  • an uncooperative notebook,
  • Justin Bieber [don’t ask],
  • and Bangkok’s night life

… killed my plan.

It could have been so easy: write a few posts before travelling, and load them into WordPress using the feature for automatic, scheduled publishing.

Lesson learned, again: It’s smart to use automation in your business.

With automation your business keeps working when you are not. Plus, you can save lots of time.

This week’s blogging fail gave me the idea to make a list for you how I’m currently using automation in my business. And which tools I’m using.

The choice of automation tools I’m presenting below is the result of 10 years of testing. I rarely stick with the first tool for a job. I screen the available tools and give them a test drive.

WordPress, for example, is my 3rd blogging platform after using Serendipity and Drupal. And after testing Mambo, Joomla and Typo3.

1. Use WordPress automatic scheduling.

Write your posts a few days ahead and use the automatic scheduling of WordPress for smooth, consistent blogging. I usually do this with the posts [including guest posts] at InternetBusinessMastermind.

The screen shot shows where to enter the publishing date for a scheduled publishing of your future posts.

Screen shot of WordPress automatic scheduling feature.

I’m also using the Editorial Calendar plugin. It doesn’t automate anything itself, but it helps you schedule your posts with drag and drop and gives a great overview over your scheduled posts.

The real thing offers more screen space than the screen shot below. I squeezed that screen shot so the full view would fit into this post.

Screenshot WordPress plugin Editorial Calendar

2. Manage multiple WordPress sites automagically with InfiniteWP.

http://infinitewp.com

WordPress requires a lot of maintenance work.

  • Updating WordPress, themes, and plugins
  • Deleting spam comments
  • Cleaning the database
  • Security backups

I’m using InfiniteWP for those tasks, except for backups (see below). It takes a few clicks and infiniteWP will automatically login to all your WordPress installations and perform the maintenance tasks.

infinitewp

I recommend this only for you if you manage multiple WordPress sites. If you have only 1 or 2, manual maintenance will be just fine.

ManageWP is also an excellent tool and better known, but InfiniteWP does the same things at a significantly lower price. I save $ 480 each year since I switched from ManageWP to InfiniteWP.

3. Use BackupBuddy for WordPress backups

http://ithemes.com/purchase/backupbuddy

BackupBuddy is the Mercedes among WordPress backup solutions. I’ve tested many.

Automatic backups require certain features to be available on the web server. Less professional backup solutions often work only with a few perfect web servers. Backup buddy has never failed me, no matter how weird the client’s web server was configured.

You can schedule automatic updates, store them locally or send to remote locations (important!). You have tons of options, for example you can exclude directories. Or you can automatically remove old backups.

Screenshot WordPress Plugin BackupBuddy

It also comes with an easy to use program to restore a site from your backup within a few minutes.

Bonus: Use BackupBuddy for installing new sites in minutes.

This is handy for people who frequently create new sites, for example for web agencies.

I’ve created a backup of a fully configured WordPress site, including premium plugins and settings. Using the restore tool I can quickly install this complete WordPress to a new domain.

For each new site this saves me between 90 minutes and 2 hours of work.

4. For other backups use GoodSync, especially for your local computer.

http://www.goodsync.com/

Backups are important! GoodSync allows to make backups or synch files between different storage locations.

First use would be to back up your daily work files on your local computer. But GoodSync allows backups and synchs between an astonishing range of locations.

  • GoodSync backs up files to portable drives, mobile devices and to FTP, S3, GDocs, SkyDrive, DAV or another computer.
  • GoodSync syncs files between your computer, mobile devices, FTP, SFTP, Amazon S3, Google Drive, SkyDrive, WebDAV, Azure.

Screenshot GoodSync

Of course you can make manual backups, but since this article is about automation – yes, you can schedule automatic backups and synchs.

5. Login automatically to any site with RoboForm

http://www.roboform.com/

When I founded my business in 2001 I managed logins with Excel files.

Ugly, and lots of manual work!

Now I’ve automated the process using RoboForm.

Example: Let’s say you’re logging in to a new WordPress site for the first time. When you submit the login form, RoboForm will automatically store the login info.

Logins are then available in your browser toolbar:

RoboForm Toolbar

It takes only one click to:

  • Open the login page in your browser.
  • Fill out the login info.
  • Submit the form.

RoboForm’s main features are:

  • Auto Logins to Accounts.
  • Fills Checkout Forms for you.
  • Stores multiple addresses to use with 1 click. (See my 3 addresses in Germany, Thailand, and US in the screenshot.)
  • Stores bookmarks. (I’m not using that.)
  • Stores any other information that you wish to have in a safe, encrypted place. (I store license numbers for software and my ftp logins.)

6. Use an autoresponder for email marketing. I use arpReach.

http://arpReach.com
[aff link]

Autoresponders manage a variety of tasks.

  • You can automatically or manually build a list of email addresses and manually send emails to the complete list or a selection of that list.
  • You can automate the sending of emails. For example you can subscribe a lead to your autoresponder and then automatically send previously saved marketing emails every 7 days.
  • You could even use it to schedule individual emails to individual clients. But that is something that’s probably not used much, although I see some use cases for it.

arpreach_features_montage_autoresponders

I use arpReach, and have been using the arpReach’s predecessor AutoResponse Plus for about 8 years. I’ve tested several others.

My main reasons for arpReach:

  • It’s up to date, professional, and under continuous development. Unlike some others who are resting on their laurels!
  • It’s a one-time purchase and as such it’s much, much cheaper than autoresponders with monthly subscriptions like aweber. (the same way InfiniteWP mentioned above is cheaper than a ManageWP subscription)
  • It has several advanced features. For example you can add tags to your contacts and have your autoresponder perform automatic actions on contacts with a specific tag.

Among self-hosted autoresponders arpReach is my favorite.

7. An easy to use sales system: DLGuard.

http://www.dlguard.com
[aff link]

I automate payment and digital product delivery with DLGuard.

If you’re selling digital products (ebooks, online courses, membership sites, video and mp3 downloads) you need a software to:

  • Deliver the product to your customer [only after successful payment]
  • Protect your downloadable files from thieves

You don’t want to do those things manually.

  • Customers expect immediate product delivery the moment they complete payment.
  • Handling purchases manually is a lot of work.

There are literally hundreds of solutions available which will do this, some great, some not so great.

When I started selling digital products I used the most sophisticated system that was available. It had all the bells and whistles one could dream of. But it also had a learning curve that seemed harder than getting a PhD.

After some years I switched to DLGuard. Short for Download Guard.

Its set of features is limited, but it has everything you really need to sell digital products.

Sometimes less is more, and for me it was a huge simplification to switch from the monster sales system to one that does what’s needed: Collect the money and deliver the product.

dlguard screen shot

8. Automate webinars for lead generation and sales with Evergreen Business System

http://EvergreenBusinessSystem.com
[aff link]

Speaking of sales, the biggest current trend are webinars. You can use them to get leads [the people who sign up to see the webinar] and to generate sales [by promoting a product within the webinar].

Often webinars are held live for the audience of a specific affiliate partner.

  • Holding the same webinar again and again is very time consuming.
  • How about recording it once and then replaying the recording for all future webinar dates?

I’ve just bought a system that will automate the complete process from managing subscriptions, to playing the [pre-recorded] webinar again and again for months or years to come.

The screen shot shows a subscription form where the potential customer can chose a webinar date. The software will then subscribe him, send him email reminders, and play the webinar at the scheduled date.

EvergreenBusinessSystem Subscription Form

I’ve not used it yet on a live site, but I created and tested one project. Evergreen Business System works flawlessly and is one of the most stunning marketing solutions I’ve ever tested.

The feature list is endless, and well thought out.

If you’re doing webinars for marketing and sales, take a look.

9. Automate posting of social media updates with SproutSocial and Triberr.

Some people detest automation of social media, but I find it crucial.

For your profile to succeed you need to post lots of useful content, so you need tools to create these posts fast, and to schedule the posts throughout the day.

Take a look at my Twitter account https://twitter.com/RalfSkirr to see the results – lots of Tweets at different times.

My favorite tool for finding and posting content is SproutSocial.

https://sproutsocial.com

SproutSocial’s features are superior to the more popular HootSuite. Unfortunately it’s also more expensive. They don’t even dare to disclose their current prices on the page falsely called pricing. Poor choice.

Whatever, SproutSocial’s ease of use is fantastic.

  • You can easily view, filter, and share streams with updates from your social media contacts. [Reading your stream in SproutSocial compares to HootSuite like Ferrari compares to horse-drawn carriage.]
  • SproutSocial also sports a super smart view and sharing of your favorite RSS feeds. This is where you find lots of share-worthy new content.

The screenshot shows the feed from one of my Twitter lists. You can switch lists or even profiles quickly with with the menus on the right.

Screenshot SproutSocial

My latest surprise discovery: Triberr

http://triberr.com

I only started using Triberr this month, but I’m blown away by the results. This platform is widely underestimated.

Find me here:

http://triberr.com/ralfskirr

I’m not going into all benefits of Triberr, that’s beyond the topic of this post.

Regarding automated social media sharing on Triberr this is important:

You can build a stream that will show you new blog posts from ‘tribes’ you’ve joined. A tribe is a group of bloggers.

  • Once you’ve joined a few tribes your stream will show you dozens of new posts each day. You can semi-automatically share to multiple social networks with 1 click. Of course not all posts are share-worthy. But I find enough to fill my Twitter stream with great links.
  • You can also share manually one by one for full control over your shares.
  • You can collect lots of updates by clicking each of them once, and Triberr will schedule them automatically for distributed posting. For example 1 post every 90 minutes.
  • You can even decide to share your favorite bloggers fully automatic. This makes sense for those bloggers where you’re certain they post only great content.

For example I’m auto-sharing everything Mark W. Schaefer posts through Triberr. I know it’s good!

Here’s a screenshot of Triberr’s stream with blog posts you can share.

Triberr Screenshot

I’ve kept the best for last:

Triberr is free!

You should definitely give it a try. Here’s my link again: 😉

http://triberr.com/ralfskirr

So far my 9 tips to automate or speed up tasks in your business.

What are you using to automate business tasks?

Share with us in the comments and make this post more useful.

 

Business man in heavy rain.

The 7 Biggest Trends In Google Web Search

Today I’m listing the 7 most important trends in web search that I think will soon spell disaster for businesses who rely on Google search to get traffic, leads, and customers.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t do SEO. But in my everyday work I see lots and lots of small businesses for whom Google search is the ONLY source of traffic.

For “internet marketing experts” it’s easy to forget that offline businesses don’t have our knowledge; they don’t have our enthusiasm for social media or content marketing. They don’t have viral YouTube channels, or whatever.

Google search is changing massively, and it’s going in a direction that ALMOST ALL small and medium sized businesses as well as many SEOs completely ignore.

Trends 1 and 2: How Google moves traffic away from your small or medium biz web site.

1. Direct answers. Googles goal is not to send searchers to your web site. Google’s goal is to answer whatever question a searcher might have. In an ideal Google world the searcher does not need to click away from Google at all.

The trend is that Google will answer all questions directly on the search results page [SERP].

Looking at the sometimes still questionable quality of current search results you may think Google is not technically able to so. But this is wishful thinking, and the future will prove it wrong sooner than most people would believe. Artificial intelligence is in the making. Google’s [and Bing‘s] ability to provide answers is already improving at astonishing speed.

These machine generated answers will be shown prominently on SERPs, with traditional web site listings way below.

2. Authority over relevance. Now more than ever Google favors authority sites over “smaller” sites, even if content found on the smaller sites is more relevant to the search query.

Authority sites are those with the most pages, most back links, most frequent content updates, most frequent new content, and sites that have been around for years.

For smaller sites it will be increasingly harder to outrank authority sites. Soon the first SERP will be filled almost exclusively with authority sites.

Additionally 75,000 new domains are registered each day who also want to compete with you on Google’s top spots.

Trends 3 and 4: Why SERPs [search engine results pages] will lose importance.

3. Voice based search. What – in public perception – started with Apple’s Siri will become the norm in a few years.

People will change from using a keyboard to using voice. Often they will also get the answers to their search via voice.

Ask yourself: what’s the point of being on top of SERPs when the user doesn’t look at the SERP anymore?

4. Tiny Screens. While smart phones are getting bigger screens, we’re seeing new types of devices coming up with tiny screens. For now those are smart watches and glasses.

Both do not have enough screen space to show you traditional SERPs in an easy to skim and easy to use manner.

Once smart watches and glasses are well developed I expect other types of wearable computers which might not have any screen at all.

Trend 5 and 6 and 7: Why Google web search will lose importance.

5. Decline of Google web search market share. I’m using the term “web search market share” loosely.

Not in the statistical sense that compares searches between traditional search engines [for example Google vs. Bing], but acknowledging that people increasingly perform their searches on sites other than search engine sites.

The most prominent alternatives right now are Facebook, YouTube, Twitter.

Every search performed on these sites is one where your top placement on traditional Google SERPs is wasted.

Apart from that I expect Bing to gain greater market share at the expense of Google.

6. Diversified Discovery. Not only will people more often search on sites other than Google, they will also more often skip “searching” completely and instead “discover” content.

For example instead of typing their query into a search box, they might type it into the status update box on Facebook and ask their friends instead of asking Google.

Or they might discover content by clicking #Hashtags instead of using Google search.

7. Alternative ecosystems. A few years back being online meant being within a web browser looking at the internet.  Now traditional internet is losing viewing time to closed ecosystems separate from browser based internet.

The majority of those are smart phone operating systems. They do have traditional browsers, but they also offer tons of content jailed within apps with no direct connection to Google search.

Plus, people start viewing content on devices like Kindle, again being in a space somewhat separated from traditional internet and traditional SERPs.

Conclusion: For the seven reasons listed above businesses can expect to get less and less traffic from Google search. At the same time achieving top positions on search requires more work.

I’ve written a few posts about the risky changes in search before.

One feedback I got this week was that my last post on Google SEO raised a few eyebrows. ‘

This is the best I can hope for, and in this spirit I’m presenting these 7 search trends open for a lively discussion.

Motivatoinal Trainer On Stage

Motivational Alchemy – The Cure When Motivation Doesn’t Work

I admire Tony Robbins. And many of his colleagues.

But when I use their motivational strategies, the farthest I get is … to the swimming pool.

That shouldn’t surprise you; it’s the most common complaint about motivational trainers.

You’re motivated while you listen to them, the moment you’re supposed to get to work, the elusive energy called ‚motivation‘ has vanished.

Here’s my idea what makes you feel motivated, what makes you get to work.

It’s the combination of 3 things – none of which a motivational trainer, seminar, or book can give you.

I call it ‚motivational alchemy. ‘

Superhero Cartoon

If you find that you’re not working on your goals, that you’re abandoning your resolutions, take a look at these 3 items.

  • Do you feel you can actually reach your goal? Or is there a lack of faith? A lack of competence or confidence?
  • Do you enjoy the actual tasks that you need to work on consistently?
  • Is it worth the effort? If not, you might have chosen the wrong goals.

Reversing the 3 elements, by the way, will successfully eliminate your motivation – which explains a lot of what’s happening in business every day.

Audience cheering at concert.

How To Gain Visibility On The Web And Beyond – Part 3

Today we’ll boldly go where Amazon, Apple, Google, and Microsoft are going. In part 1 we focused on presenting your business on your web site and your other web presences. In part 2 we expanded to sites and presences of your business contacts. Those were easy tasks, requiring little time and little technical expertise.

All of them were about creating content on web sites.

Today’s suggestion is to take your marketing beyond the boundaries of the internet. Or, more precise, beyond the internet browser.

Fragementation of media and platforms is one of the biggest challenges for marketers. The smaller your business, the bigger the challenge.

That’s why today’s idea requires some effort.

It means creating content for the closed ecosystems of Amazon, Apple, Google and Microsoft.

Mindmap Online Ecosystems Amazon Apple

There are numerous ways to do this, and lots of platforms and technologies you can use.

This post is just an idea starter.

2 Ways To Use The New Online Ecosystems

1. You can use existing content and reformat it into one of the media types.

Examples:

  • Reformat your PDF eBooks into Kindle eBooks.
  • Publish your audio books in Podcast format for iTunes.
  • Create an iPad app that displays your blog web site.

2. You can create entirely new content specifically for those platforms.

  • Gamification is a big trend. Create an app.
  • Digital magazines is a big trend, too. Create a new niche magazine for Amazon or iOS.

It’s a 2 step process:

  1. Create the media. [The ebook. The App. The mp3. Whatever.]
  2. Add it to the platform. [iTunes Store. Kindle Store. Whatever.]

This trend is just starting.

I could tell you about the awesome business opportunities in those platforms, but actually for most businesses it’s just addtitional work.

The EXCEPTION is when your business is focused on those platforms. For example if your main business is publishing Kindle ebooks. Then it’s not additional work but indeed a great opportunity.

I could also tell you you can savely ignore those platforms, but…

Amazon, Apple, Google and Microsoft have billions of users, literally, and consuming content within each of those platforms REPLACES consuming content on the internet.

Every minute spent within those systems is a minutes not spent on the internet, and thus a lost chance to find your web site or your social media profile.

Plus, we’ve already covered that – because of changes in web search – the visibility for your business web site is expected go down.

That’s why we’re looking for additional ways to get your business noticed.

 

Audience cheering at concert.

How To Gain Visibility On The Web And Beyond – Part 2

Today’s tip is not your everyday online marketing advice, and you should not follow it mindlessly.

It might spark some new ideas, but it’s best to evaluate each idea for what it adds to your business.

Yesterday I talked about updating and aligning your most important online presences, including your business web site, and your social media profiles.

visibility-on-the-web-mindmap-1

Today we’re taking it one step further.

We’ll look at your OFFLINE presences, and then move online from there.

What do I mean by that?

It’s quite likely that you have some business associations in the offline world.

  • You might be associated with a local Better Business Bureau.
  • Or a chamber of commerce.
  • Or you might be a member of an industry specific organization.
  • An organization of local businesses.
  • You might have contact with speakers.
  • Or journalists.

And many, many more.

Step 1: Start making a list of your offline associations with

  1. Organizations
  2. Businesses
  3. People

Step 2: For each relevant association you find, write down THEIR online presences. Do this the same way you did with YOUR online presences. Their web sites. Their social media profiles. And whatever else there might be.

MindMap: Organizations and their online presences.

Step 4: Find out how you can get visibility for your business on THEIR online presence.

  • An organization might allow member profiles.
  • A business partner might offer a link and a short description.
  • You might post updates to their Facebook page.

Once you have them listed, it’s actually quite easy to see the opportunities.

Step 5: Chose which of these opportunities are worth the time, and expand your presence on theirs.

  • On sites where you can post yourself, simply do the work.
  • Where you need to make personal contact, write the email, or make the call.

Even if you’re well connected, this isn’t more than a few hours of work. If your connections are few, it’s a matter of minutes.

It’s a piece of the puzzle of getting greater visibility, and it will bring your business to audiences who did not see you before.

Audience cheering at concert.

How To Gain Visibility On The Web And Beyond – Part 1

SEO traffic will dwindle even more than it already did, and in yesterday’s Google Prophecy I wrote the new goal [replacing soon to be futile SEO goals] is gaining broad visibility on the web and beyond.

Let’s do this step by step.

First look at your online presence

  • your business website
  • additional sites showcasing you and your business [social media sites, guest blogging sites, content distribution sites]

Mindmap: Web site in center, social media profiles around.

Visit each of those sites while going through this short check list:

  1. Get an overview which sites belong to this group. Make a list.
  2. Make sure all profiles are up to date. Check your contact info.
  3. Put a current profile picture on all platforms.
  4. Align the message you’re sending on the individual platforms.

Let me explain #4: Don’t have Twitter say you’re an AdSense expert and Facebook say you’re a marketing consultant. It’s not the same.

Create a unified branding across all platforms. Since your about section is only a few sentences on most sites, this will only take a few minutes.

That’s it for today.

If you act on it, you’ll have improved your marketing with little effort, and you’re ready for the next step tomorrow.

death-of-web-search

The Google Prophecy

Businesses rely on SEO to fill their sites with visitors, and their sales funnel with leads.

The common belief is that SEO has become harder, especially after Panda and Penguin, but that you can still make it to the top of SERPs [search engine results pages], simply by working harder.

Every time Google makes SEO harder, you work harder – and up to the top you rise.

That’s a fatal error of judgment, and many will find out the hard way.

It’s a fatal error because a few years from now there won’t be any SERPs as we know them today.

Read that prophecy again:

A few years from now there won’t be any search engine results pages as we know them today.

You may not believe this right now, but it will happen anyway.

The sun doesn’t need you to believe that it’s the center of the solar system. It won’t move a bit if you want it to revolve around earth.

And Google won’t keep search as it was because you want it to.

That’s why the question ‚How do I stay at the top of SERPs?‘ is the wrong question.

The right question is:

„Where do I get my traffic from, when Google STOPS sending people to my web site.“

The new goal isn’t visibility in search, the new goal is visibility on the web and beyond.

Those who understand this early enough will not only survive, they will do well.

Others will weep.

TV with static representing hacked wordpress site.

Blog Blackout – How To Secure Your WordPress Blog Against Brute Force Attacks

This is not a technical blog. But today it was down for quite some time because hackers started a brute force attack.

So here’s, in light of today’s events, a series of tips how to secure your WordPress blog.

What is a brute force attack?

Hackers try to login to your blog by submitting the login form thousands of times with random passwords.

Depending on how fast they do this, and on how many sites, your server simply may go down due to server overload. This is why all my sites were offline today.

Worst case would be that they accidentally find the correct login and take over your WordPress.

Three tips to prevent hackers from finding your login info:

  • Use strong passwords.
  • Don’t use ‘admin’ as login name. Set a different name when installing your blog.
  • Don’t have your login name show up in the URL for your author page. [Here’s how.]

Two alternative ways to stop brute force attackers dead in their tracks:

  1. Use the .htaccess file to only allow logins from specified IP addresses. That would be your IP address, of course. Your host can help you set it up.This is a good solution when your Internet Service Provider is using the same IP for your internet access all the time.For me this solution isn’t working, because my IP changes daily. In that case do this:
  2. Use a WordPress plugin to hide the login page. When the hackers can’t find the login page, they obviously can’t start a brute force attack.

Happy blogging!

Building Your Tribe – More Questions Than Answers

5 1/2 weeks ago I started to blog. I didn’t have a plan what I was getting into. I didn’t have any idea how well received my blog would be in short time.

I’m not blogging as a marketing feat, but to conquer boredom that had crept into my 12 year old business. To replace routine with something new. With something that would not look for a market place, but simply express my own ideas and thinking.

With so little regard who would read my blog, I’m stunned by the support I’m seeing via social media shares.

For example, my most popular post ‘How To Make Your Business Future Proof‘ received 55 Tweets and 21 Facebook shares within a week.

“Thank you!” to everyone who’s reading and sharing my blog.

So I’m thinking about that elusive topic of ‘building a tribe.’

It’s quite popular for bloggers these days, and also goes under the name ‘building a community.’ You might think building a tribe is easy to do and there’s an abundance of ‘How-to’ information available.

I did some research, and I find the opposite to be true.

Most advice on building a tribe is either

  • not actionable [be authentic],
  • or trivial [enable blog commenting].

Some tribe building tips are traffic-getting tips. I believe there’s a huge difference between being able to drive lots of traffic and building a committed community.

Today’s post is just opening the topic, and I will explore it in more depth in future weeks, months, and posts.

Let’s open with a few questions.

Why?

Why would you want to build your own tribe?

Why would someone want to join you?

What?

What is your tribe about?

What’s happening in your tribe?

Who?

Who are you looking to gather in your community?

Where?

Where does your tribe ‘happen?’

When?

When does your tribe ‘happen?’

How?

How are you going to build your community?

How are your members participating?

If you’re interested in building a tribe yourself, start pondering these questions. I’ll add my own two cents soon.

Coints and plants representing financial growth.

3 Surefire Ways To Improve Your Profits

Today’s tip is so simple, you’ll kick yourself you didn’t think of it. 😉

Here’s a clear strategy to make more money:

To improve your profits simply improve what leads to profit.

1) Improve your product or service

Improve usefulness.

Make your products and services more attractive than your competitor’s by making them better.

Improve appearance.

People love something ‘new.’ Give it to them by releasing new, improved versions of what you’re already selling.

 2) Improve your marketing

Improve your conversion rates.

Get more click-throughs from ads, and more purchases from sales pages, or any point of sales.

Improve your marketing channels.

Stop using unprofitable channels, and add more channels that connect you to your most profitable prospects.

3) Improve yourself

Improve your habits.

Get into the habit of consistently (=habitually) working on the most profit producing tasks in your business.

Improve your leadership skills.

Increase productivity and quality from your employees or freelancers by being more inspiring, more clear, more likeable.

Pick just one, put it into practice, and your income will … [fill in the blank].

 

Business owner giving soup and medicine to poor boy.

No Onions Here, Just Straight Up Tears. [VIDEO]

PHNjcmlwdCB0eXBlPSJ0ZXh0L2phdmFzY3JpcHQiIHNyYz0iaHR0cDovL3JhbGZza2lyci5jb20vZXZzL3BsYXllci9aMmwyYVc1bkxYbHZkWFIxWW1VPS8/Y29udGFpbmVyPWV2cC00WFA2SFM3QjhSIj48L3NjcmlwdD48ZGl2IGlkPSJldnAtNFhQNkhTN0I4UiIgZGF0YS1yb2xlPSJldnAtdmlkZW8iIGRhdGEtZXZwLWlkPSJaMmwyYVc1bkxYbHZkWFIxWW1VPSI+PC9kaXY+

Living in Thailand most of the year, this commercial from phone provider TrueMove H got my attention.

At a loss of words, I swiped the title from YouTube comments. 🙂

He’s running one of the many small businesses you’ll find in Thailand.

Begs the question:

“What could we change in our business to give more?”

There are more answers than giving away our products [soup] for free.

Answers that will make a difference.

Image Global Network, representing WorldCommunityGrid.

Test: How Fast Can You Go - A Simple Tip To Increase Productivity 30% In 1 Day.

How Fast Can You Go – A Simple Tip To Increase Productivity 30% In 1 Day

210 words. In the spirit of productivity, today’s tip is short and to the point.

A very common productivity tip is to block a certain amount of time for a given task or project.

  • For example, you’d block 3 hours of your work day to continue writing your e-book.

While it works, it doesn’t prevent the slowing down of productivity that naturally occurs while working on a specific task.

For most people the productivity decline works like this:

  1. When you start working you’re pretty fast.
  2. After some time, you find you’re slowing down.
  3. You’d take a short break and continue working.
  4. But still, you’re not as fast as you were when you started.

Try something new instead.

  1. Start working on the given task. Again, you’ll start fast.
  2. Work until you feel you’re slowing down.
  3. Take a short break.
  4. After the break start working on something else!
    To your surprise you’ll be super-fast again – until step 2 kicks in again.
    [repeat steps 2 to 4]

Summary:

  • Work on each task only as long as you maintain your initial maximum speed.
  • When slowing down switch to a completely different task.

Give it a few days and decide based on your experience and results.

Specialization Strategy, represented by target and arrow.

The #1 Reason Why Your Marketing Fails

Today I’m inviting you to re-think your business strategy.

I’m not offering a small change, but a radical one. One that you are likely to dismiss at first sight.

But what if a changed strategy would give you easier access to clients, more referrals, and higher profits?

Sounds interesting?

Then give yourself a chance to evaluate the effects of a new strategy by thinking it through and collecting ideas.

3 Strategies Demonstrated

These strategies work for every business. As an example I’ll explain them for a web agency.

Imagine, for a moment, you owned a web agency.

  • Monday, a plumber calls who needs a new web site. You’re happy to get a new client.
  • Tuesday, a real estate agent calls who needs to update his existing web site for better SEO. Happy!
  • Wednesday, a dentist asks to have Google Maps integrated into his site. Uh, you never did that before. But you’ll figure it out. It’s actually easy to do.
  • Thursday, a roofing supplier sends an inquiry for a site where visitors can search for roofers by zip search. Wow, that’s really something you have no clue about. But you’re a web design company, so you’ll figure it out.
  • Friday, researching available ‘zip search’ solutions you find that there aren’t any. At least none that’ll work out of the box. You’re getting nervous.

This is demonstrating the problem of trying to do everything for everyone.

It’s the marketing strategy most businesses use. As long as it’s somewhat in their area of expertise, they will offer every service to every possible client under the sun.

The problems are obvious:

  1. You’re constantly working on solving problems in different areas. It’s stressful.
  2. You marketing lacks magnetic attraction because you’re a me-too business.
  3. You offer the same stuff everyone offers to the same people everyone is going after.
  4. You don’t have any competitive advantage. Instead you have lots of competition, often beating you.

Diversification, no specialization.

A Change Of Mind, A Change Of Strategy

Now imagine, while making the dentist and the roofers happy, it occurs to you that the Google-maps-thingy and the zip-thing are related. Both are about business location.

And local marketing is a huge trend. One that’s sure to last years to come.

So you focus on creating a new solution for local search on web sites.

  • A few months later your solution is better than anything else on the market.
  • Soon you’re the go to person for businesses who have zip based search as a central part of their biz model.
  • The more you work with them, the more you learn about how to make your solution even better.  [see innovation strategy here] It’s becoming harder and harder for competitors to win against you in this specific area.
  • The better your solution gets, the better known and recommended you are as the go-to-person.

By specializing on solving a specific problem you’re becoming a market leader in a tightly defined niche.

Table. Specializing on solution.

What if you focused on a specific industry?

Jep, forget about zip-search, and imagine you’d focus on real estate agents.

What would happen?

  • You would soon have better solutions for web sites for real estate agents than most other agencies.
  • You would soon know more about the needs of real estate agents than anyone else.

Remember, your competitors are splitting up their time between dentists, butchers, roofers, lawyers, etc. etc.

By specializing on a specific industry you’ll get the same advantages you’ve seen above about specializing on solving a specific problem.

Table. Specializing on industry.

The 3 Strategies At A Glance

Strategy 1: Offer everything for everyone. The me-too business model.

Strategy 2: Focus on solving a specific problem and creating the best solution. Offer that solution across all industries.

Strategy 3: Focus on a specific industry, and offer the complete range of solutions for this industry.

For extreme specialization you could even combine strategy 2 and 3.

The Fear Barrier

Businesses are afraid to specialize because they’re afraid to send customers away.

  • Think about the agency specialized on real estate agents. They’ll have to send away the roofers, lawyers, dentists, etc.

As long as you think about the business you’ll have to send away, you’re not understanding the advantages of a specialization strategy.

You’ll only understand it when you think through in detail what would happen with those customers within your specialization.

If you’re interested,

  • start making notes and collecting ideas.
  • Start talking with people about it.

It’ll take a few weeks until the pieces fall together.

Then you can decide what to do, or what not to do.

specialization-vs-diversification

People poiting fingers at guilty business man.

„It’s Not My Fault,“ Said The Entrepreneur.

I got an email this week, from an entrepreneur.

“An SEO company that no longer works for us posted articles using my name and that contain links to our web site.

They did this without our authorization and now we need to remove this article from your site.”

Really?

What he should have written is:

“Ah, sorry, we didn’t care a bit what the SEO guys were doing. And besides, it was before Penguin and Panda, and everybody thought it was a cool thing to do.”

I get a few of these emails every month. Saying things like “without our consent” or “without informing us.”

Again, really?

There’s only one person responsible in your business.

Guess who that is?

If you’re an entrepreneur, and employees, freelancers, or agencies are doing things you have no idea about, it means you’re not doing your job. You’re not in control of what’s happening in your business.

For 26 years I have been learning everything that has to happen in my biz. Literally. There is not one single task, not one tiny little detail, that I couldn’t perform myself if I wanted to.

  • Learning everything myself was a lot of work.
  • I could have saved tons of time by not doing it.

But it puts me in a comfortable position.

  • I know what’s going on in my business.
  • I can instruct people working for me.
  • I can competently evaluate the work of agencies, freelancers, and employees.

I’m not saying an entrepreneur must learn everything. [Being a control freak is my personal obsession.]

But as a leader in your business the right thing to do is taking responsibility for what happens.

future office illustration

How To Make Your Business Future Proof

Lamenting the speed of change has been en vogue since before I entered the business world.

That was back in the 1980ies.

Rapid change is a given. Disruptive change is a given.

What can you do to keep up, to avoid risk of extinction?

Here are 5 strategies any business, small or big, can use.

Future Proof Strategy #1

Keep up to date on major trends in your industry, in marketing, and in technology.

Those are the three areas that are most likely to affect your business.

Use [customized] Google news, blogs in your industry, marketing and business blogs to inform yourself what’s going on today and what’s on the horizon.

In your industry use conventions, books, magazines, and personal contacts to find out where the industry is headed.

Future Proof Strategy #2

Move early once a trend becomes clear that will affect your business.

We know things change, but at the same time we act as if they didn’t. You’ll sleep better if you proactively adjust your strategies to upcoming trends.

Think about SEO, as an example. For about a decade many businesses got all their profits from Google search. They fully relied on Google to send visitors to their site.

For about 5 years experts have told us that Google was changing – and not in the best interest of online business owners.

A proactive strategy would have been to build additional marketing channels, besides SEO. Many web site owners didn’t, and Panda and Penguin hit them like a brick, and destroyed their business.

Future Proof Strategy #3

Build marketing channels you control.

See the SEO example above. Don’t build your business relying on Google, Facebook, YouTube, EBay, Amazon, iTunes, or whatever.

Use those channels to add to your profits, but don’t depend on them 100%.

Many won’t like this and argue. Especially those who DO rely 100% on one of the mentioned sites.

But does it really feel right to put your business at someone else’s mercy?

Future Proof Strategy #4

Keep an eye on the underlying need that your products and services fulfill.

If you define your business through your product or service, an outside change can put you out-of-business.

Imagine you were a highly specialized consultant for Facebook advertising. All your positioning, all your writing is about Facebook advertising. Everything you know is about Facebook advertising.

  • What would happen, if Facebook went the Myspace way?
  • What would happen, if Facebook changed its business model to paid accounts and stopped advertising?

You’d be without a job! Your business would go from hero to zero in a day.

What’s the underlying need of Facebook Ads? Getting in touch with new potential customers.

What if your business, your marketing, your positioning were focused on that need? [Instead of being centered on Facebook.]

Facebook could go out of business, and you would just move your business to other marketing channels, while keeping your brand.

Future Proof Strategy #5

Innovate your products and services before there’s a need to innovate.

Even if your products sell like hot cakes, don’t rest on your laurels.

With the underlying need as starting point [see strategy #4], consistently improve your offers.

  • How can you make existing offers better? Use customer feedback!
  • What can you add to better fulfill the underlying need? [Go beyond customer feedback.]
  • How can you alter your offer to meet trends that your competition is still ignoring?

Be a driver of change, not a victim.

Abstract image represents finding your blog voice.

How To Find Your Blog Voice

Becoming a better writer means becoming a better person.

This is my 31st post and it marks the completion of my first month of blogging.

I’ve written about priming your creativity in ‚How To Write A New Blog Post Every Day.‘ Today we’ll explore the peculiar metaphor of finding your blogging voice.

„Finding your voice“ is one of those metaphors that sound so nice but are hard to understand. Hard to turn into actionable steps.

It’s in one category with “be yourself” or “be authentic.” Practically useless!

In “finding” there’s the presupposition that your voice is hidden and needs to be discovered first.

How do you do it? Where do you look?

  • Is it hidden in the depths of your cluttered desk?
  • Secretly encrypted on your hard drive?
  • Is it an esoteric entity in your mind that makes words flow into your keyboard?

You see, nice metaphors lead to all kinds of confusion.

First, let’s be clear we’re talking about your voice in writing. Not about speaking or singing.

Here’s the secret …

Here’s The Secret To Finding Your Unique Voice In 30 Seconds Or Less

  1. Open any blog post you’ve written.
  2. Take a look at what you’ve written.
  3. There you’ll see your voice.

Took you just seconds to find it.

Sorry to be blunt!

Once you’ve found your voice, how can you [as I promised above] become a better writer and a better person?

Here’s a wonderful insight from Edmund Blair Bolles:

“Like stage presence in actors, voice emerges from a writer’s being. The writer is often unconscious of it and does not always try to create it.”

Now we’re getting somewhere.

The way you write is affected by your personality.

Depending on your character you will show a specific way of wording the things you write. If you had different character you would say the same thing in different words.

That’s what I mean when I say you’ll find you your voice simply by looking at what you’ve written.

  • It’s not something that needs to be searched for.
  • It’s not something that’s not here yet, not something that’s supposed to bubble up from hidden depths in the future.

Are you up for an experiment?

Ok, let’s try to find my blogging voice.  🙂

Take a 30 second look at what I’ve written above.

  • Can you feel the know-it-all behind the writing?
  • The condescending teacher?
  • The author[ity] who feels a serious need to set things straight?
  • To heal humanity from its muddled thinking?

Ah, yes, you got me there!

Or look at these 3 quotes from my other blog posts.

“To build the lifestyle you desire you must conquer the freedom-commitment paradox! “

Link to post

“The back links you hoped to generate with distributing content are under intense scrutiny by Google. “

Link to post

“Today, Internet marketing requires time, money, and knowledge far beyond what was needed ten years ago. If you’re not willing to upgrade your internet marketing to a professional level, you might as well just STOP.”

Link to post

Wow! Isn’t that depressing? Sounds like there’s a tough world out there, and lots of hard work with little rewards.

What kind of guy would write stuff like that?

Do you see how looking at your writing can reveal not only your voice, but also the ‘writer’s being?’

</END OF EXPERIMENT>

Refining Your Voice

Once you’re paying attention to your voice, you may want to refine it. For the sake of your readers. Or for the sake of your own personal growth.

What I find, looking back at one month of daily blogging, is that you can’t upgrade your writing without upgrading your thinking first. That’s pretty cool.

It’s too early to proof, but I firmly believe that doing so consistently will not only change your writing but also your personality.

Finally, see three examples from this very post.

1) “The way you write is tainted by your personality.”

Huh? My personality is tainting my writing? You got to be kidding me! But that was actually the first sentence that popped into my keyboard.

Rewording this was more than rewording. It required a change in thinking.

[The tainting metaphor is worth a blog post in itself. And probably a Freudian therapy for the author.]

2) “Huh?” The innocent “Huh?” a few lines above read “WTF?” in version one.

It’s a conscious choice to not use this type of vocabulary in my posts.

I fully expect to lose this vocabulary in my real-life conversations automatically within a few weeks. Simply because refining my writing voice will transfer into everyday life.

3) “Edmund Blair Bolles said:”

Doesn’t that sparkle from excitement?

If you’re curious, scroll up and see what I wrote instead.

Rewording this was more than rewording. It required a change in feeling.

The reader isn’t the only one who feels better with the upgraded version.

The Voice You’re Finding Isn’t The One You Were Looking For

When we talk about “Finding our voice” we’re thinking about the great one, the inspiring one. The one that readers will love us for.

But this one isn’t found.

It’s developed, by looking at your current voice, and changing it sentence by sentence to reflect a better, more inspiring you.

 

 

 

 

Luxury car. Text asking: Should You Put Prices On Your Web Site?

Should You Put Prices On Your Web Site?

Whether your web site reveals your pricing or not will make a huge difference in how many inquiries you get, and what kind of people will contact you.

Most business owners reject the idea of publishing prices on their web site.

There are two reasons for not publishing prices I hear most often:

  1. I don’t want my competition to know my pricing.
  2. I might lose customers who don’t contact me because they find my prices too high.

Regarding #1 my take is that the competition can easily find out your pricing anyway. It takes five minutes to email you an inquiry, and you’ll happily send them back your prices.

Regarding #2 I understand the business owner wants to get in contact with the prospect and sell benefits before revealing the price. That’s a valid sales strategy. I’m simply too lazy to do that. I let my web site do the work. 🙂

For my web agency I have been publishing my prices since 2003. Here’s why:

1. Publishing prices pre-qualifies your prospects. I found that lots of people expect to get services for less than what I’m asking. By publishing my prices upfront I don’t have to deal with their inquiries. It saves me tons of time.

I’m happy if those who expect a custom web site for $ 50.00 don’t even bother to ask me.

2. Showing prices on your site builds trust. Imagine your prospect is browsing your site and several competitor web sites. Your site is showing prices, but your competitors make the prospect jumping through hoops to get a quote.

It’s most likely that the prospect is more drawn to the site that offers all relevant information.

I buy quite a lot of stuff and services online, but I usually pass offers where the service provider wants me to ‘get in touch with a sales rep.’ The mere fact that they don’t trust me enough to quote their price without a sales rep at hand turns me off.

The decision is yours.

It won’t make or break your business, but it’s a convenient way to filter with how many people and with who you’ll have to deal personally.

Mountain and social media icons, representing social media goals.

The Only Two Social Media Goals You Should Ever Work On

When it comes to marketing, overwhelm is the #1 problem for small and medium sized businesses.

Big businesses have their own marketing departments, big budgets, and a lineup of marketing agencies working for them. Small businesses don’t.

It’s simply not doable anymore to create and distribute all the media, and to engage on all the platforms you’re supposed to.

The only solution is focus.

Do some things, and ignore others.

In this post you’ll find a way to simplify social media marketing.

A few minutes of research bring up lots of goals you’re supposed to [according to experts] accomplish with social media.

Build your brand |Create sales | Reduce cost | Build the organization | Generate leads | 24/7 multi-channel customer  support |Crisis management |Build a large following |Drive traffic to your site |Recruiting |Market research |Product and service innovation |Content marketing | Get lots of shares and re-tweets | and more.

Those are all valid and interesting goals.

But just because something is possible doesn’t mean you actually have to, or should, do it.

With limited resources you need to focus on

  • What’s most important
  • What’s relatively easy to achieve.

Unless you have spare time or extra money to spend, there are only two goals you should work on in social media.

Social Media Goal #1: Connect To Your Existing Customers.

Social media sites are new channels [besides the traditionally used email, snail mail, and phone] to stay in touch with your customers.

It’s easier to sell more to existing customers than to acquire new ones. But only if you stay in touch.

Many businesses even forget to keep contact with their customers via old channels. But it doesn’t mean you can’t change that today.

Social media offers more points of contact. More points of contact means more chances to remind your customer you exist.

It’s not primarily about selling to them via social media. It’s about achieving that profitable top-of-mind-awareness for your business.

As a rule of thumb, search for each new customer on social media and connect them to your pages and profiles.

Social Media Goal #2:  Generate Leads.

Please note:

  • I didn’t say ‘generate sales.’ [Leads will become buyers later.]
  • And I didn’t say get lots of friends and followers. [Engaging on a large scale with followers who’ll never become customers is a waste of time and money.]

Goal #2 is a little bit more complicated than #1. Because you need to have one or more lead funnels in place, additionally to your social media activity. You need a planned way to communicate with a lead until a purchase happens.

It’s not enough to have the lead like your Facebook page or click through to your web site. Once you have the connection, you’ll follow up with the goal of selling. [Not with the goal of ‘keeping in touch.’]

  1. Use social media ‘softly’ to keep in touch with existing customers.
  2. Use it tightly focused to find new leads for your sales funnels.

If you set up your social media profiles to fulfill these goals, your daily social media activities will be more clear and easier to accomplish. You’ll stop wasting time, and you’ll increase your sales.

Cartoon Skeleton Celebrating On Graveyard

How To Achieve Life Goals For Mortals

Out of the blue my NLP trainer lashed out at me. It felt like a slap in the face.

“You’re thinking you’re immortal!”

I didn’t get it. I was pissed.

That was 15 years ago. Now I see others who aren’t getting it.

Many people have a long term goal. A life goal. Or a dream that isn’t fully defined yet.

Only, they don’t do anything about it. They’re not moving towards their goal.

They keep it as an issue to take care of later.

As if they were immortal.

But we humans are not immortal. Our time to reach a life goal is limited.

We cannot afford to let they daily to-do’s prevent us from working on our long term goal(s).

We know for sure those daily to-do’s will always show up and distract us. There’s no end to distractions.

If you let this happen, you’ll also know for sure you’ll never reach your life goal.

Let’s change this now!

This is a 2-step process how to move towards your life goal – no matter what.

  1. Decide what your #1 life goal is.
  2. Each day, before you work on anything else [before you allow distractions to kick in], do 1 thing working towards this goal.

It’s so easy a child could do it, and once begun it will work miracles in your life.

Snail moving upwards.

The Easy Way To Success

When we’re dissatisfied with our progress, we tend to make big resolutions.

We decide to finally make the quantum leap.

From this moment on, we’ll change everything.

We’ll work harder. Focus more. Stay true to our goals.

Only, it almost never works for us mere mortals.

The motivational gurus telling us [the truth] about their quantum leap are rare as a Kwisatz Haderach, compared to the number of those who fail to follow their lead.

So, if you know ‘from now I’ll change everything’ won’t work, why not try something easier, something with a higher chance of success?

Here’s a strategy that’s easy and works for many. It’s called

Slow and steady.

About 4 weeks ago I re-launched this web site, RalfSkirr.com.

I didn’t wait to put it online until it was finished. It would still be collecting dust on my hard drive.

Instead I published an unfinished web site [which, as all gurus will earnestly tell you, you must NEVER do.]

  • I still have a few spots with dummy text on this web site.
  • My newsletter subscription box was done so quickly, it got me 80% fake-name sign ups.
  • And I didn’t even send out my newsletter once in August.

Nothing to brag about. But it’s not a problem, because instead of waiting to get everything right, I took the slow and steady approach.

In August my goal was to add one blog post a day. Not exactly a breakthrough of mythic proportions.

Yet, as a result after less than one month I have 36 pages of content.

Now that this is accomplished, for September I’ll add my email newsletter to the things to do.

  • I have already added Facebook and Google Plus subscribe options. Doing this will bring down the fake-name sign ups to insignificant numbers. [I know this from my sign ups at ibmm.com.]
  • Next week I will start to actually send emails to my list.

Again, not an accomplishment that makes a legend.

But one year from now, these small additions to my business will have added up.

How about 5 years? 10 years?

That’s the magic of ‘slow and steady.’

Even at a snail’s pace you’ll reach your goal faster than the one who’s waiting to make a quantum leap from loser to achiever.

What is a small thing you can start doing this week, that’ll make a difference later?

Get moving.

2 images of business coaching and consulting

What’s The Difference Between Coaching And Consulting?

Have you considered hiring a business coach or consultant? Getting help could be the best thing you’ve ever done to grow your business.

Be careful who you hire and where you put your money.

Business coaching is this year’s major trend in the business opportunities market. Every marketer and their grandmas [and probably their dogs, too] suddenly feel a calling to become a business coach.

Or, to top the nonsense, to teach others how to become a business coach. Even if they’re clueless. No skill required!

What I find, when looking at their offers, is that many don’t even know what ‘coaching’ means. They think explaining a business concept to you via Skype [for example ‘How To Publish A Book At Amazon’] is business coaching.

It’s not!

That’s a misunderstanding about the content of coaching. That’s also a misunderstanding about the purpose of coaching.

Initially coaching was popular in the domain of sports.

  • A high profile tennis player would have a performance coach.
  • A high profile basketball player would have a performance coach.

Then the idea of ‘performance coaching’ was transferred to business.

Corporations would hire coaches to ‘optimize’ performance of their stressed CEOs. The coach would meet with the CEO in confidential 1:1 meetings to discuss ‘personal issues’ of the CEO. Some call it couching, in reference to a therapist’s couch.

But the performance coaches are not the guys to explain a business strategy or crunch the numbers. Because crunching numbers and recommending business strategies is the domain of McKinsey & Co.

And those, you guessed it, are called ‘consultants.’

Conclusion: all those upcoming business coaches are actually business consultants, except they lack the training and the skill for consulting. Heck, they don’t even know they’re consultants. 🙂

I’m not splitting hair about this for the sake of linguistic perfection.

Coaching and consulting are 2 entirely different professions, and require an entirely different skill set and education. That’s why it’s important to know the difference betwen coaching and consulting.

  • If you need a coach but you get a consultant, you’re losing time and money.
  • If you need a consultant but you get a coach, you’re losing time and money.

Look at it this way: You don’t hire an auto mechanic to fix your pneumonia, and you don’t hire a physician to fix your car’s brakes.

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Coaching

Coaching is about the personal aspects, about character, habits, and personal excellence. A coach will talk with you about topics like:

  • Goal setting and life planning
  • Time management and efficiency
  • Accountability [following through on your plans]
  • Work – life balance, and  stress management
  • Solving communication problems
  • Preparing for important meetings
  • Developing leadership skills

Coaching can also help overcome self-sabotage, and obstacles like procrastination or entrepreneurial ADHD.

A coaching session

Coaching is a confidential 1:1 relationship between coach and coachee.

The coach will primarily use questions to help you set your own goals and find your own solutions.

This is the opposite of the consultant’s job, who will give input, provide recommendations based on his business education.

Skills and education of a coach

The education of a coach is focused on psychology and communication.

They don’t need a therapeutic education (unless regulated by law), but will have lots of education in fields like NLP, nonviolent communication, and the like.

Even if called business coaches they don’t necessarily need business or industry specific education.

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Consulting

Consulting is not about a person, it’s about a business or organization.

A consultant will help with the actual plan how to make money and grow your business.

It’s about understanding markets and trends, about knowing what works now, and what will work 3 years from now.

  • Analyzing your business data, for example sales statistics, conversion rates, etc.
  • Analyzing markets and consumers
  • Planning product funnels
  • Creating marketing strategies

A consulting session

A consulting session is not necessarily a 1:1 meeting; team meetings are quite common. Except for a 1 person business, of course.

The consultant [often a team of consultants] will analyze the business and give precise recommendations what to do.

The larger the business, the more specialized the consultants will be.

Skills and education of a consultant

The education of a consultant is focused on business and marketing. Additionally they need presentation skills to present their findings and recommendations.

Consultants are often specialized:

  • One might focus on tax specific issues.
  • One might focus on Human Resource topics.
  • On might focus on IT topics.
  • One might focus on a specific industry.

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The Small Business CoachSultant Hybrid

In large companies you will never find someone mixing the different jobs of coaching and consulting. That’s because a large business is so complex that it needs highly specialized consultants.

One would hardly be considered a reliable consultant for ‘overseas tax avoidance for global companies ‘ when he offers to coach you for your marriage problems in between.

In small business the lines get blurry.

Someone with a founded coaching skill may also have learned some marketing skills and provide a mix of coaching and consulting to small businesses. Or vice versa, a full time marketing consultant may have added coaching skills to his education.

Hiring separate people for different jobs will always give you better results. [Given they’re professionals.]

  • You’d get a 100% high performance coach to help you with your goal setting and procrastination. Because he spends all his time on coaching, he’ll be better than a part-time coach.
  • You’d get a 100% marketing consultant to help you with your next marketing campaign. Because he spends all his time on marketing, he’ll be better than a part-time marketer.
  • You’d get a 100% web tech expert to help you setting up your sales systems and web site. Because he spends all his time on web tech, he’ll be better than a part-time web expert.

That’s the optimal state in theory.

In reality there are a number of reasons why you might end up hiring a CoachSultant.

  • You don’t have the budget for an army of specialized consultants and coaches.
  • You don’t find the right people. Many small biz consultants are afraid to specialize.
  • The coaching part is small and related to the consulting topic. For example, your marketing consultant might coach you to keep you accountable for implementing the marketing plan.
  • You’re already working with someone you trust, and you rather keep working with the same person.

Let me wrap up this article with 3 recommendations for success with a coaching-consulting mix:

  1. You and your CoachSultant must be clear about the goal of each session. Today, are you working on personal development, or on business strategy?
  2. Your CoachSultant must demonstrate coaching skills and business knowledge. If you feel he lacks in one area, get a new one.  In my experience coaching skills are lacking more often, even with [part-time] coaches charging 4-figures per session.
  3. The coaching part is not the place to force someone else’s ideas on you. The consulting part is not the place to leave you searching for your own answers.
Confused business people.

7 Warning Signs You’re Suffering From Entrepreneurial ADHD

Have you been running an online business for some time but you’re not getting anywhere?

You might suffer from what I call ‘Entrepreneurial ADHD.’

It’s not a medical condition, it’s a psychological one. One that makes you create a business that doesn’t work.

I speak from experience. I’ve wasted years of my life dabbling in businesses without making much progress.

How Many Of These Signs For Entrepreneurial ADHD Describe Your Business?

1. Your business is having financial problems.

  • You can’t pay yourself an appropriate salary.
    [If you work for free it’s not a business, it’s a hobby.]
  • You don’t have money left for a marketing budget.
  • You don’t have money left to hire help or pay for tools and services.

In today’s open world it’s really hard to consistently work on a reasonable business plan and not earn money. If you find you work a lot but aren’t financially successful, you need to stop what you’re doing and start focusing on how to make profits.

2. Your business is turning a profit but hasn’t grown in years.

Unless you made a deliberate decision to stay small and not grow your business you should see at least a slight improvement every year. If you’re not growing you might have lost focus.

Business isn’t getting easier; creating growth will put you in a better position to survive and thrive despite increasing competition.

3. You have several web sites without offering anything a customer could buy.

Take a look at each web site you own. If several of them don’t have offers that can make your money, you know you’ve wasted your time.

You need to focus on putting monetizable offers on your sites.

4. You have lots of unfinished projects and unfinished products.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Having lots of unfinished projects is a tell-tale sign of Entrepreneurial ADHD.

The only way out of this mess is to commit to one project and dismiss all others until it’s finished and profitable.

5. You’re easily excited for every new business idea that comes along.

It’s self-evident that you’ll never build a profitable business if you’re changing your business plans every few days or weeks.

6. You spend a lot of time wasting time.

do-not-disturb signChecking your email every 30 minutes isn’t going to make you money.

Neither are Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. Or reading Google news.

But you knew that already, didn’t you?

7. You’re living in the future.

If a big part of your thinking revolves around thing’s you’ll do and accomplish [tomorrow|next week|next month|next year|in your next life], you won’t.

The only way to accomplish something is to actually work it.

Planning it won’t get it done.

The Solution. I’m an accomplished expert in each of those 7 disciplines. Fortunately I can tell you there’s a 3-step solution that’ll cure all 7 symptoms at the same time.

  1. Choose one business model and make it a priority.
  2. Work on it every day. The harder, the faster you’ll see the turnaround.
  3. Avoid distractions like the plague.
Cubes, and text. Marketing Matrix.

The Marketing Matrix – Your 90 Second Marketing Plan

Did you ever feel it can be hard to stay focused in your daily marketing activities?

Marketing is more fragmented than ever, and often I find myself spending time on things that may not be worth it.

For example, how much time did you spend yesterday on expanding your business web site, compared to time you spent on social media?

For most businesses, expanding their own web site would bring a much better long term ROI (return on investment) than your daily Tweets or Facebook posts. Yet, many small business owners spend time on social media every day, while checking in with their own web site only every few weeks or months.

The Marketing Matrix is a simple system to prioritize your daily marketing activities.

All you need is a piece of paper and a pen.

A napkin works well, too.

I recommend you keep it simple and quick. Don’t turn it into something fancy, complicated, or time consuming.

You want to be able to make a new marketing matrix in seconds, as your priorities change every few days or weeks.

1. You start with drawing an empty matrix, like the one you see below.

It’s ok to make it hand drawn. No need to get any tools for nicer lines, buying specifically formated paper, or whatever.

2. Then you write your most important marketing channel in the center.

I firmly believe the center should always be your business web site. But feel free to put whatever you want in the center of your marketing matrix.

marketing-matrix 1

3. Next you fill in all fields next to the center. These are your second most important marketing activities. I call it ‘the inner circle.’ [Although geometrically it’s not a circle. 🙂 ]

The graphic is just an example. Again, make your own choices what’s important for your business.

marketing-matrix 2

4. Finally, fill in the outer fields. Those are the least important from the many activities you could spend time on.

It’s not necessary to fill all fields. Use as much as you need to write down all your marketing activities.

You can customize your marketing matrix by adding numbers, short notes, or scribbles.

marketing-matrix 3

Your matrix is a visual reminder of your priorities.

Keep it near your work space.

  1. Each day make sure to work on the center first.
  2. Then move on to the ‘inner circle’ activities.
  3. Only after your content with that, move on to the outer level.

 

Alien

Persuasion vs. Inspiration – A New Paradigm For Getting Clients

You want to add new customers to your business. But selling is hard. Selling is unpopular.

Most people think of selling with an outdated frame of mind. They’re stuck in thinking that has its roots more than 100 years ago.

The old thinking asks:

How do you make someone [anyone] buy from you?

The question is getting it all wrong. It’s the 20th century sales paradigm of PERSUASION.

The assumption is: You have to work hard turning someone from mindset 1 “I don’t need your stuff” to mindset 2 “Where do I have to sign to get your stuff?”

You take someone who’s not a buyer, and work on him, manipulate him, to make him a buyer.

It’s like “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.”

You’re changing a person.

Movie Quote Invasion Of The Body Snatchers

Selling this way is hard work, indeed.

Fortunately there’s an easier way.

The new 21st century sales paradigm asks:

How do you connect to people who are naturally inclined to buy your stuff?

Instead of selling fridges to Eskimos, you’re offering beachwear to tourists booked for Hawaii.

Instead of turning someone’s mind, you talk to people who don’t need to be turned.

You connect to that part in their thinking and feeling that already resonates with your offer. Building that connection in sales, finding that resonance, is called INSPIRATION.

INSPIRATION works [resonates] with what’s already ‘inside’ the person you’re talking too. INSPIRATION connects you with like-minded people. That’s why it’s so much easier, so much more enjoyable than PERSUASION.

What To Do When Your Project Gets Stuck

What To Do When Your Project Gets Stuck

Sometimes we keep working and working, but a project just isn’t going anywhere.

Some details aren’t working out the way we want them.

Days and weeks go by quickly.

The solution could be simple, if we were willing to let go of our [irrational] intention to create perfection.

Maze representing customer confusion.

Dedication Is A Game Changer

Start the video before you read the article. It’ll make your day.

 

Dedication Is A Game Changer

It takes dedication to play and record the same arrangement 14 times. Playing 4 instruments. Arranging 3 movie and TV soundtracks, to create something new. Learning to play the instruments in the first place.

Jason Yang is an inspiring example for dedication. For finding your thing and doing it.

In business [or at work] what was once an exciting undertaking can become stale over time, and sometimes we didn’t even notice the change.

What’s your day to day experience?

  • Excitement or boredom?
  • Routine or creativity?
  • Dedication or work?

Dedication Is A Choice.

A choice you can make right now.

Fire Power

How To Add Proven Sales Power To Your Marketing Material

It’s easy to get lost in your own head when creating your marketing material and messages.

  • We write brochures and web copy about what we think is [or even SHOULD BE] important to the client.
  • We promote the products and services most that we think the client is most interested in.
  • We create lead funnels and sales funnels that we think the client will find attractive.

You get the idea: our marketing could be more effective if we knew for sure what’s really attracting your clients.

Here’s an easy way for you to get more clients with less selling.

1. Take a look at your past clients. What feedback have they given you? Is there a common theme in their testimonials?

2. Take a look at your referrals. Why did they come to you? What did they tell you at first contact? Is there a common theme why they had been referred to you?

3. Take a look at web site and social media content. Are there specific topics repeatedly generating the most engagement? [Make sure to look for engagement from actual clients! We’re only interested in info from those who actually hired you.]

You might be surprised when you discover common themes that you didn’t pay attention too before.

This is information from real clients, revealing to you WHY they bought from YOU!

No more guess work or wishful thinking in your marketing! You can capitalize on this by focusing your marketing on these topics.

As an example, here’s what I found out for my web agency. Looking at feedback from 10 years there are 2 recurring themes:

  1. Clients again and again told me they bought from us (or referred us) because they felt my web site and my explanations on the phone were easy to understand. My ability to explain complicated internet marketing topics to non-professionals is the #1 trust maker for my clients.
  2. The second most mentioned theme was that I always answered their questions quickly and fully. This was mentioned for pre-sales communication and for the actual projects.

How does this help to improve my marketing?  [Again, this is an example. For your own business, you need to find your own client’s answers. They will show you your business’ hidden strengths.]

  • I will write many more newbie-friendly articles for my agency web site. [It’s not RalfSkirr.com.]
  • In my marketing material I will specifically mention how much attention we put on making complex marketing stuff easy to understand for our clients.
  • I will purposefully refrain from stressing points that were never ever mentioned in feedback, even if I considered them to be important up until now.

Doing this I’ll get the attention of clients who are naturally a good match to my agency.

You can do the same.

  1. Find the ‘why’ of your past buyers.
  2. Magnify the ‘why’ in your future marketing.
Genie's lamp

How To Get Whatever You Wish From Your Business

There’s a million opportunities to start a business. There’s a another million opportunities to go on with your business.

The problem: jumping from opportunity to opportunity won’t get you anywhere. Waiting won’t get you anywhere. Not making choices [i.e. not excluding the majority of opportunities] won’t get you anywhere.

This Is Why The Genie Grants Only 3 Wishes

You can have anything, but you can’t have everything at the same time.

If you’re business isn’t going where you want it to be, maybe you need to make some choices.

Stop doing a hundred things and start focusing on one.

  1. What is the single most promising business model to pursue?
  2. What is the single most promising customer group to connect to?
  3. What is the single most profitable marketing channel to use?

Get to work…

Wish granted!

Image Quantum Physics Representing Hard To Understand Web Site

Are You Making This Costly Mistake On Your Business Web Site?

Here’s a short tip helping you to identify one of the most costly web site mistakes.

Take a look at the current articles on your business web site.

  • Are they interesting for your prospects and customers? For people who are looking for a new vendor in your industry?
  • Or is your web site actually more interesting for your peers, i.e. your competitors?

In my own industry [internet marketing] I see it again and again:

  • A web designer publishes in-depth articles about HTML, CSS, and web design. It earns him respect from his peers, but drives away clients.
  • An agency for search engine optimization [SEO] is having sophisticated discussions with other SEO experts on their web site. Understanding the topics requires an intense SEO knowledge.
  • A programmer uses his web site to publish PHP source code [huh?] and plugins he’s written. For an average client it’s as confusing as quantum physics.

There’s a place for communicating with other experts in your industry – but it‘s not your customer facing business web site.

Each and every piece of content on your site should be written with the average customer [or prospect] in mind. If you find that’s not the case right now, consider a clean-up and re-launch of your site.

 

 

Revenue graph going up.

5 Ways To Increase Revenue And Profit

180 words with the power to consistently boost your profits

1. Increase Price

Raising your prices is the easiest and fastest way to increase revenue. Dan Kennedy says the key to getting higher fees is being able to keep a straight face while quoting the fee.

2. Add More New Customers

You do this by increasing your marketing activity. Can you scale your existing marketing? Or add new marketing channels?

3. Sell More To Existing Customers

Make a resolution to get in contact with all your ‘old’ customers. It’s easier and faster than finding new ones. What can you offer to existing customers that’s likely to get their interest?

4. Create New Offers

Invent new services or products that are a good tie-in with your existing offers. Use as upsell, bundle them together, or use them as first purchase offer for new customers.

5. Reduce Or Eliminate Costs

Like raising prices is the fastest way to increase revenue, reducing cost is the fastest ways to increase profit. Check all your business expenses and see where you can reduce costs. Cancell unnecessary services and memberships? Stop unprofitable ads? Find cheaper vendors?

 

 

confidence competence matrix

Add THIS To Your Business To Attract Better Customers And Command Higher Fees

What if you could discover something lacking in your business that – once added- would immediately increase your profits?

Would you be interested?

It’s a way of analyzing your biz that you’ve probably never seen before.

Yesterday I talked about the nonsense of being a ‘clueless’ business owner. I talked about competence and confidence in business.

Today I recommend you measure your own confidence and competence [in the context of your daily work].

Because if you strike the right balance of both, you’ll make the most money. You’ll reap the biggest rewards.

Low Confidence & Low Competence

The worst place to be. If you have neither confidence, nor competence, you’ll have a hard time building a profitable and sustainable business.

Interestingly, being low on confidence and competence is a natural starting point whenever you do something new. From here move on to building competence.

High Confidence & Low Competence

The most dangerous place to be – for yourself and for your clients. People who overestimate their competence will easily sell their services to new clients – but they fail to deliver the promised results.

[I cringe thinking of all the freelancers I fired because their competence was way below what they first told me they were capable of.]

There’s all sorts of risks for your client, depending on what your work is.

An incompetent doctor might cause a death, an incompetent marketing consultant might cause a potentially profitable campaign to fail and lose money for the business.

For yourself not being able to deliver the promised results means:

  • Losing clients faster than you can add new.
  • Having unhappy clients. Not getting referrals.
  • Having to work on low fees.

Obviously, your best choice would be to build competence.

Low Confidence & High Competence

The most depressing place to be. It’s a pity. If you’re in this quadrant you have the competence for great success, but you fail to realize your potential.

Lack of confidence in business means you sell yourself short.

  • Your fees are too low to finance an even average lifestyle.
  • Your fees are too low to finance business growth.
  • You’re not fully booked because you’re not confident in selling.
  • You’re scared to go for bigger, better paying clients.

Your confidence is on a downward spiral because you’re painfully aware that you’re not utilizing your potential.

High Confidence & High Competence

This is where you want to be. Competence combined with confidence is where all the rewards are.

  • You deliver valuable results for your clients.
  • You are happy. Your clients are happy.
  • You don’t need to worry about selling. Because:
  • You can ask higher fees. You can go for bigger clients.
  • You’ll have long term customers, and you’ll get referrals.

Now it’s your turn.

Your business grows when you grow.

Where is your bottleneck?

HINT: If your confidence it too low, you’re probably painfully aware of it. If you’re confidence is truly over the top, you probably have no idea you’re lacking something in the area of competence.

Do you need to increase your confidence, or your competence?

Or both?

Magician promising business riches.

This Will Make You Rich – Even If You’re Clueless!

One can make good money by selling the ‘business opportunity dream’ to the hopefuls.

Yet, today I wonder what their ‘dreams’ really are. I saw this sales letter (not the first of its kind) saying:

“Using this product you can build a successful business even if you’re completely clueless.”

Clueless, in my mind’s thesaurus, means incompetent.

  1. The idea is to get into the SEO business. [Doesn’t that require a HIGH degree of competence?]
  2. Then – while being clueless – convince local biz owners to buy expensive SEO contracts from you.
  3. Then – still being clueless – outsource the SEO work to someone who knows more about SEO than you do.

The question that bugs me all day:

“Why in the world would anyone be interested in creating a business he’s clueless about?”

How does it usually feel when you have to work on something you feel incompetent about?

It feels awful, doesn’t it?

  • You feel insecure.
  • You feel uncomfortable.
  • You feel stressed.
  • Your confidence is below ground.

Why would you want that?

[Fish out of water.]

On the other hand, what are the conditions that make people feel fulfilled?

Here’s a summary of Mihály Csíkszentmihályi popular findings on the ‘flow experience.’

  1. One must be involved in an activity with a clear set of goals and progress. This adds direction and structure to the task.
  2. The task at hand must have clear and immediate feedback. This helps the person negotiate any changing demands and allows him or her to adjust his or her performance to maintain the flow state.
  3. One must have a good balance between the perceived challenges of the task at hand and his or her own perceived skills. One must have confidence that he or she is capable to do the task at hand.

So, the business opportunity for the clueless provides the exact opposite of what you need to experience fulfillment in your biz.

Why? I can only guess that people go for this …

…because of fear.

Because they don’t believe they can build a business based on something they’re excited about.

Because they’re stuck in an ‘I’m clueless identity.’

They don’t understand, yet, that today everybody has the freedom to build a business tailored to his own perfect lifestyle and enthusiasm. I’m not saying it’s easy. But it’s doable, and it’s easier than building a business you’re not interested in.

I wish I could give them a dose of confidence.

*teleporting confidence now*

Energizzzzze.

The 7 Chakras

Image Global Network, representing WorldCommunityGrid.

Make A Difference – By Donating Idle Computer Time

How would you like being able to make a difference – with a one-time investment of 10 minutes?

No money asked, ever! Just 10 minutes of your time, once.

The next time you step away from your desk for a quick latte at your local coffee bar, your computer can get to work….

  • doing calculations for AIDS research,
  • or genome comparisons for drug development,
  • or sample analyses for better cancer treatments.
  • Or finding new materials for the next generation of solar cells.
  • Or developing low-cost water filters for 1.2 billion people lacking access to safe drinking water.

In fact, your computer can do the calculations while you’re actually using it for something else. Simple tasks like browsing the internet, or writing emails, leave 80% of your computer’s processing power unused. You can donate your unused computer power to speed up scientific research.

How does it work?

This is not some ”pie in the sky’ project. It’s called World Community Grid [WCG], and is sponsored by and runs on servers of IBM. WCG supports projects by reputable scientists in the area of health or environmental sustainability.

  1. You sign up to the World Community Grid (WCG). The WCG is the world’s largest computer network to tackle science projects that benefit humanity.
  2. After signing up you download secure, free software from their web site.
  3. You install it on your PC.
  4. You start the software and enter your login info from the World Community Grid.

From that moment on, your computer will use idle time to process scientific research. Without you having to do anything else.

The video shows how to sign up

Make a difference now, sign up here.

Make a difference now, sign up to World Community Grid.

Dancer. Text: Breaking Free From Terrible Clients.

You’re Fired! Breaking Free From Terrible Clients

Today’s the last day I worked for Nadja B.

Have you fired a client lately? Sometimes you should!

I fired her.

Told her, she needs to find another agency, and moved her web site to an external web host.

“The client’s always right,” you say?

I don’t think so.

It’s not your purpose to take the drama of each of the 7 billion people on the planet.

I wonder who came up with ‘the client’s always right‘ in the first place, and why?

If I were the Dalai Lama, ok. Or Buddha, ok. I’d keep her as client. But I’m not quite there yet, spiritually.

Like in romantic relationships, in business relationships, too, some persons aren’t a good match.

If a client consistently doesn’t work well with you, you should part ways.

There are tens of thousands of agencies, and millions of clients.

  • Each client can easily find a new agency that will better fit his special needs.
  • Each agency can easily find a new client that will be easier to work with.

 

Storm Representing Disruptive Changes In Internet Marketing

The Two Most Disruptive Changes In Internet Marketing

The recent years brought 2 significant changes to the internet, affecting internet marketing for small and medium sized businesses on a scale that is overlooked by most consultants.

Professionalization

Disruptive Internet Marketing Trend # 1

People keep calling the internet “a level playing field” where the little guy has the same chances for success as the big guys.

Nice talking, except it’s not true anymore.

  • 10 years ago, yes, even the big guys were amateurs.
  • 10 years ago, a one-person-business could slap up a crappy looking web site, fill in a few keywords, and start making money.
  • 10 years ago, you could start a PPC campaign, paying peanuts, laughing all the way to the bank.

Those times are over.

Google Search Screen HuffingtonPost

  • Today, large publishers (who didn’t even exist 10 years ago) operate with teams and budgets bringing tears to the little guy’s eyes.
  • Today, Internet marketing requires time, money, and knowledge far beyond what was needed ten years ago.
  • Today, advertising prices are astronomical compared to 2003. Profitability is really hard to achieve.

Amateurish efforts that might have turned a profit 10 or 5 years ago will lead nowhere today.

If you’re not willing to upgrade your internet marketing to a professional level, you might as well just STOP.

The best way to survive the next 5 years on the internet is to learn more, professionalize your marketing and conversion funnels for higher profits, and increase your internet marketing budget.

Fragmentation

Disruptive Internet Marketing Trend # 2

My first web site in 2001 was a static site with no other content than text and images.

No blog. No social media. No content marketing. No YouTube.

Since then we’ve seen a 2-fold fragmentation in internet marketing. A fragmentation of media, and a fragmentation of platforms.

Text and images isn’t enough anymore. Marketers need to fill their content marketing queue with

  • Videos [In tons of variations, from talking heads, to explainer videos, to 3D animations, and more.]
  • Podcasts
  • Infographics [incredibly complicated compared to the animated gifs we’d put on our sites 10 years ago.]
  • Presentations
  • Ebooks, Whitepapers
  • 3-D product views

Having a business web site also isn’t enough anymore.

Now you’re supposed to have presences on:

Facebook & Twitter & Google Plus & LinkedIn & Pinterest.

And you’re supposed to monitor those 24/7 and respond quickly to any engagement.

Having 6 internet presences [your site + 5 social media presences] still isn’t enough.

Marketing has spread to …

Mobile [Ideally with a site especially oprimized for mobile marketing success.]

iTunes [Distribute your content through your own app.]

Kindle [Another unique format to master. Another ecosystem to manage.]

Plus 2 upcoming fragmentation trends

  • Augmented reality [Eat this frog, local business!]
  • Voice based search [Where’s your URL when Google answers searches via voice?]

Adopt or perrish!

You may think you can ignore these trends and still make great money.

  1. Yes, it’s true in 2013.
  2. A little bit less true in 2014.
  3. Even less true in 2015.
  4. Starting to seriously worry you in 2016.
  5. Killed you by 2017.

How can small and medium sized businesses adopt to these dramatic changes?

At first I was afraid. I was petrified.

One thing is sure: you can’t ignore them.

The fragmentation trend, as well as the professionalization trend, can and must be answered with higher internet marketing budgets.

To survive, small and medium sized businesses can adopt 2 strategies:

  1. Develop a much tighter focus on who you want to reach, and which channels to use. Internet marketing is becoming too complicated and too expensive for a scattershot approach.
  2. Next, as  I mentioned above, you can develop more sophisticated marketing and conversion funnels to increase profitability.

Businesses with a tight focus and with eyes on profitability will blossom. Despite the increasing complexity they will use these trends to their advantage.

And I grew strong. And I learned how to get along.

disco-ball

2 puzzle pieces representing building blocks of business

The Two Building Blocks Of Your Business

The core of each business are two building blocks. Improve on these blocks and you’ll grow your business.

Building Block #1: Your Offers

You can’t start a business unless you have a service or product to offer. It sounds obvious, and in the offline world you’ll have a hard time finding someone starting a business without anything to sell.

  • You won’t find a restaurant without a well-filled fridge.
  • You won’t find a woman’s apparels shop without a nice selection of dresses, pants or shirts.
  • You won’t find a lawyer’s office without a lawyer inside who’s ready to charge you for his consultation.

On the internet it’s different.

The number of people seeing themselves as having an online business without anything to sell is legion.

  • The affiliate who doesn’t send offers to his list.
  • The info product author (to be) who’s been blogging in his niche for 3 years – yet he never created the info product to sell.
  • The coach who’s positioning himself, yet his coaching offer is nowhere to be found.

To make money, you need something to sell. A product or a service.

3 starting points to improve your offers to grow your biz.

1. Make sure you have several products or services that can serve as entry point for your customer. Customers go through different cycles in what they might need from you.

Make it easy for them to connect with you by offering a variety of products/services that might make the first purchase.

2. Make sure you have follow-up products to sell to those who bought before. The first-time purchase is the least profitable for your business. Often it will hardly cover the marketing cost to acquire the new customer in the first place.

Turning a first-time customer into a repeat customer will dramatically grow the profitability of your business.

3. Make sure to have products or services with different price points. If most of your products are cheap, think about how you can add some high priced products to your offers. If most of your products are expensive, consider adding lower priced items.

The easier way to grow your business, however, are high priced products. It’s easier to sell a $ 1000 item to 100 people than to sell a $ 1 item to 100,000 people. Yet, both variations create a revenue of $ 100,000.

Building Block #2: Your Clients Or Customers

You offers are no good if you don’t have people ready to pay for them. Besides offers your clients are the only other essential part of your business.

Everything else is secondary and subject to change. As long as you have offers and customers who buy them, you’re business is essentially working.

3 starting points to grow your biz by improving your customer base.

1. Go for more profitable clients. Assess your current customer base. Have you been going for the low hanging fruit? The customers that are easy to get but less profitable than the ‚other‘ customers?

Brainstorm who could be your most profitable customer or most profitable group of customers.

2. Become the go-to-business for a specific niche. Focusing on a specific niche gives you advantages over businesses in the same industry who serve everyone. You’ll get more specialized knowledge about the niche and deeper connections within the niche.

For example, a web designer could focus on real estate agents only. By having that focus within a few months he’d have an advantage in real estate specific knowledge plus niche specific web site solutions that others don’t have.

3. Contact each and every single one of your existing customers and find a way to sell something more. Existing customers are the easiest customers. They are also the most neglected customers for many businesses. Don’t leave this fully available potential untapped while pouring time and money into finding new customers.

Now it’s up to you!

You have 6 ideas to improve on your offers and clients.

Pick just one, implement, and your biz will grow a little more.

Why your vision fails

Why Your Vision Fails

My visions failed me.

I first read that I must [!] have a big vision for my life or business in 1987.

Guru after guru keeps repeating the need for a vision. It’s a standard prescription.

Yet, they never worked for me. And it seems I’m not an exception in this.

Big visions aren’t working for millions who read the same advice but can’t get themselves to move their butt even an inch.

Visions are big by definition, but the average person, like [maybe] you and [certainly] me, perceive themselves as relatively small.

Image showing the gap between capabilities and vision.

The gap between the vision you were told to create and what you believe you’re capable of is too big to even make an effort.

That’s why our visions fail to move us.

If larger-than-life visions don’t work for you, try these 3 adjustments.

1. Change the size of the vision or the time frame.

Instead of focusing on something overwhelmingly big in a distant future, focus on a smaller vision closer to your current reality.

This will eliminate the huge gap between what you feel you can achieve and what you’re visioning.

2. Increase your belief in what you are capable of.

You can do this by creating smaller results faster. Worded differently: Get to work!

Don’t wait for super-human motivation to kick in from your vision, but simply start doing the work.

The more results you create, the more little things you achieve, the more your belief will grow.

You can also try affirmations to increase belief.

3. Reinforce your vision daily.

A vision is not a set-and-forget solution.

Apart from the ‘capabilities-belief gap‘ the number one reason visions don’t work is that they’re not reinforced.

Make revisiting your adjusted vision an indispensable daily habit.

secret-to-success-doing-the-work

The Essential But Rarely Talked About Secret To Success

These guys made my day while I was having a late breakfast at Starbucks earlier today. They’re flip-flopping their way through Bangkok’s electricity wires, either adding new wires, or removing old ones.

The guy on the left, sitting on nothing but wires, would take a short break every now and then and send a bright smile to passersby.

While I was watching they moved about 5 or 7 meters from right to left, doing their work.

It’s not glamorous.

  • Meter by meter they keep Bangkok’s electricity working.
  • If they decided to call it a day, a tiny part of the city would have a tiny problem.
  • If some of their colleagues did the same, problems would start piling up.

It’s the little work that needs to be done ‘behind the scenes’ to make Bangkok the popular city it is.

Success coaches and motivational speakers talk about how we can build our dream. How we can follow our bliss. How we’ll do the work that we love.

Yet, building a business requires a lot of mundane, not-so-glamorous work, just like maintaining Bangkok’s electricity.

  • The entrepreneur building the almost proverbial Golf business finds that his business isn’t growing while being on the golf court.
  • The dog lover building the almost proverbial dog grooming business finds that his business isn’t growing while playing with the puppies.

As biz owners we often find the list of mundane, daily tasks is longer than the list of exciting tasks. Yet, if we stop doing them [or never start doing them], our business won’t even exist.

This is the not-so-glamorous success secret the motivational speakers forget to tell us:

Turning your dream into a real success requires doing the little and boring things day in, day out.

Take a moment [30 seconds should be enough] and make a quick list:

  • What are the simple, boring tasks in your biz you resist or avoid? [but know you should be doing]

The resistance is actually tiny. It doesn’t take much to break it once we put our mind to it.

Or, as M.R. Kopmeyer wrote:

“DO the thing and you will have the power!”

How To Write A New Blog Post Every Day

How To Write A New Blog Post Every Day

7 days. 7 posts.

Wow, it’s been a full week now at the new RalfSkirr.com. And, looking at my blog posts, it’s been a morbid week. [I always wanted to be a horror author. Maybe that’s why I took the chance to bury clients, unicorns, and SEO.]

How do you go from posting 7 posts a year [my average since 2007] to 7 posts a week?

It starts with a resolution. I won’t call it a day on any day before the daily post is published. [Last night it kept me up until 4:30.]

Next you have to come up with a topic. That’s where for many aspiring writers panic sets in. The proverbial ‘writer’s block.’

There’s no such thing as writer’s block. It’s completely made up.

People don’t have writer’s block, they just don’t have an idea how to get started. They’re under the false impression a writer starts with a blank page and pulls something out of … nothing.

If you do it that way, of course you’ll be out of ideas quickly. No productive person creates content on a daily basis based on blank pages and a big fat …  nothing.

What you need is a starting point. Here are the starting points that I’ve used during my first week of consistent blogging.

1. I keep a notebook. Every day I spend a few minutes adding new ideas to the notebook. When it comes to actually sitting down and writing my daily post, I simply open my notebook and pick one of the ideas. That’s better than a blank screen, isn’t it?

It’s a pen and paper notebook. See image below. Digital notes never worked for me. I tried them all: Word, Scrivener, Excel, OneNote, etc. etc.

2. I move aspects from my current blog posts into my notebook for a future blog post. Let me explain.

When writing a sentence like ‘SEO is dead’ my mind immediately pops up 50 shades of why this isn’t entirely true. Why it needs to be explained in a specific context. Why this needs to be discussed in more detail. Yada, yada, yada.

If put all that stuff into the post, it’ll end up having 2000 words, and the message will get drowned in complexity.

So I restrict my post to the main point and move the ignored aspects to my notebook for future posts.

3. I use images to get my imagination started. Almost every day I visit Bigstockphoto.com. Not only to find images for my blog posts and business presentations, but also to find ideas. I’m a very linear and left-brained person, so this is a very unusual approach for me.

4. I react to thing I find on the internet. The death of social media was a reaction to a friend’s Facebook post, where she stated how overwhelmed with social media she was. You can also find inspiration in other people’s blog posts, or on Google news.

Those are just 4 starting points, but surely enough to get you through one week of blogging.

The main point being the notebook to collect ideas.

Ralf Skirr's Blogging Workspace At Starbucks Tukcom, Pattaya.
My workspace 🙂 and my notebook showing the pages for the 2 posts death of seo and death of social media. The one saying OK was published, the other still unpublished when I took the photo.

Return to accountable marketing.

Return To Accountable Marketing

Two days ago I issued a death-certificate for SEO. Yesterday I killed a unicorn and pronounced social media marketing dead.

Why? What’s wrong with SEO and SMM?

What’s wrong is that business owners fell in love with SEO and SMM for all the wrong reasons.

The SEO hallucination

Client: „Can you seo my web site for me? “
Agency: „Uhm, why would you want this? “

Client: „I’m getting ZERO business from my web site. “
Agency: „So …? “

Client: „I need SEO. If I had more traffic, I’d finally get some business. “
Agency: „I see. Your current traffic gets you zero business? “
Client: „Yes. “

Agency: „So, by raising traffic ten times via SEO you’d expect ten times as much business?“

Client: „Don’t confuse me. I don’t want more business. I want free traffic from Google! “

It’s not my fault

Business owners seem to avoid accountability like the plague. They love to be busy with marketing, but they hate to be accountable for the poor results of their efforts.

So it’s best to invest in marketing that won’t ever be measured against desirable business results like leads or sales.

„It’s not that my web site isn’t working – we’re just not having enough traffic. “

For the same reason they love social media. There’s no accountability built in.

Partners in laziness

A consultant or service provider couldn’t find a better ally than a client who’s scared of accountability.

The SEO industry sold lots of back linking without ever talking about conversions. And the social media industry was busy grooming their unicorns.

The return of accountable marketing

Change is coming. With SEO becoming unmanageable, small businesses will have to turn to other traffic sources.

People thought they were ok having survived Penguin and Panda, but they’re not. We’re just seeing the beginning of Google going all crazy on web site owners and setting the wrong priorities.

The easiest and most likely alternative to ‘free’ search traffic is paid traffic, i.e. advertising.

Within 3 years –as people get more frustrated with SEO – we’ll see a shift of budgets from SEO to traditional advertising. [Although enriched with new technology and data – 21st century style advertising.]

A trend, interestingly, that is also on the rise in social media marketing.

The gurus who have long touted the unicorn-horn most recently started selling an entirely new product to us. Have you noticed?

Every marketer and his grandma suddenly is raving about Facebook ads. And selling their latest course on how to get the most out of Facebook advertising.

They conveniently forget to mention, that they changed sides. From social media softie to conversion oriented advertiser.

So, after some detours, it seems, we’re coming back to good old advertising.

  • Markers will focus on building lead funnels and sales funnels again.
  • They will fill their funnels with paid advertising.
  • They will measure the results of their ads.

The fragmentation of marketing will increase, but overall I predict a return to, and a new found appreciation for, accountable marketing.

The Death Of Social Media Marketing (Unicorns and rainbows image)

Social Media Marketing Is Dead, Too.

One of my Facebook friends has been posting several updates a day to her Facebook business page for more than 2 years. Almost every single day, as far as I scrolled back in time.

Her consistency is adorable, you’d guess she’s having great results from her Facebook marketing.

Yet, during 4 1/2 years since the page was founded only 130 people have liked the page.

And she’s been sharing good stuff. Daily. More than 2 years.

What gives her motivation to publish day by day when it’s seen by almost no one? [Thanks to EdgeRank she’ll probably have 3 or 4 views for each post.]

It eludes me.

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Another Facebook friend, also a daily Facebook marketer, occasionally posts about how she’s overwhelmed with the tasks of social media marketing. [I can totally understand that!]

She’s also posted, that her business doesn’t make enough money to pay for a $ 8.99 Hoostsuite account that would make social media marketing so much easier.

What’s the point of social media marketing, if the return doesn’t cover a monthly bill of $ 8.99?

It eludes me.

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Why is social media marketing broken?

The problem starts with social media gurus preaching what HubSpot’s social media scientist Dan Zarrella calls „unicorns and rainbows.“

It’s touchy-feely marketing advice that doesn’t work, unless probably in Hobbit Town or Fantastica.

Engage with your customers.
[Waaait a moment … they aren’t customers yet. Nor do I think they ever will be if I follow your advice, Mr. Guru!]

Be yourself!
[Huh, how am I going to do that? Thanks for this actionable piece of wisdom!]

Post great content.
[Yeah, right. I see how that works out for my friend above!]

Why do business owners fall for unicorns and rainbows advice?

Business owners love unicorns and rainbows because SELLING has a bad name.

A sales person potentially is a bad person.

  • A networker, a social marketer, per definition, is a nice person.
  • Someone who puts people first (or claims to do so), is a nice person.
  • Someone who doesn’t care about business profits, but only about providing value, is a nice person.

That’s also why social media gurus position themselves that way.

  • Promoting the human touch makes them likeable.
    [Which means more business for them.]
  • It also makes them unaccountable for their advice.
    [If it wasn’t meant to make money in the first place, who’d ever complain?]

For business owners scared of being seen as a sales person unicorns and rainbows seems the easy road to marketing. It’s the [illusionary] solution to their fears and negative self-image.

Sure, it sounds nice.

But, after a few years of social media hype, people are waking up. They start asking questions. Evaluating the time and money they’ve invested.

For many small businesses, social media hasn’t added a penny to their bottom line.

Even worse – the time and money spent is lost. While chasing unicorns we failed to grow our business.

The Unicorns need to die.

What we need is a return to accountable marketing.

Death of SEO

SEO Is Dead. Really, Now.

For the average small business SEO isn’t a viable marketing option anymore.

It has been one of the cheapest ways to bring leads to your web site for about 10 years.

For those who didn’t take advantage, the window of opportunity has closed.

Vanished.

Poof.

Gone forever.

Google wants to END SEARCH by directly showing visitors what they are looking for.

Google rather keeps visitors on their own property instead of sending them to your web site. Search results pages are increasingly filled with Google generated content.

The technology to have a machine understand and answer search queries is in its infancy. Once Google’s artificial intelligence makes a quantum leap [minds immeasurably superior to ours], traditional search results will be history.

The web is dominated by a few large publishers who didn’t play a big role 10 years ago.

Google massively favors authority sites and news sites over small business sites.

A new web site [working on a small business budget] can’t catch up in a reasonable time frame. Or with a reasonable amount of work.

Content marketing for SEO is futile.

The amount of content published each day is insane. Making a dent in search based on adding even more content is a Sisyphean task.

The back links you hoped to generate with distributing content are under intense scrutiny by Google. [Slowly and surely they drew their plans against us.]

Whether a link will help your site or not has become unpredictable.

The SEO industry wiggles in frantic attempts to redefine itself and, by usurping content marketing, getting an even larger piece of the pie (which isn’t so tasty anymore). Small businesses will soon find that SEO agencies aren’t delivering on their promises as reliably as they once did.

That’s why, for the average small business, SEO isn’t a viable marketing option anymore.

Those hoping for free leads from Google will have to turn somewhere else.

Tomorrow we’ll mourn the death of another dear friend …

 

Sniper targeting person. Text: Don't shoot your clients.

Don’t Shoot Your Clients

A target is “a person, object, or place selected as the aim of an attack.” [According to professor Google.]

Targets were first used in archery, before they became the center of military thinking and sniper vocabulary.

So, how’s your target {group|market|audience} doing?

Have they survived your attack?

And what will be left of your clients and customers after you’ve executed (!) your business strategy? Strategy being the “the art of distributing and applying military means to fulfill the ends of policy,” or “the employment of battles to gain the end of war.” [According to Wikipedia, Ph.D.]

I know you have no intention of putting your customer to death.

But the metaphors we use are proven to have a psychological effect on a deeply, deeply subconscious level. [Subconscious language processing and wicked associations.]

That’s why the speeches of propagandists and politicians are filled to the brim with metaphors.

That’s why We need to STOP using military metaphors in our business.

‘Targeting’ thingifies your client or customer. We look at them as business functions and overlook the wholeness of the human being we’re actually talking to in our marketing.

It’s easier to recognize the mensch-ness of your client in personal communication, but in marketing it’s often impersonal [broadcasting messages]; and bad metaphors remove us one step further from the person.

That’s one reason I love coaching. It’s a glimpse beyond the mere business function of the client. I’ll see how much more is going on in their lives than just running their business. And how tiny actually my products and services are in the bigger picture of their lives.

Practical implications?

You bet!

The more the ‘target’ becomes a conceptualized entity in your thinking, the more your marketing messages get out of synch with the real people you are selling to. The real people you are serving.

It’s also true for service or product development.

If you lose touch with people, you’ll create services and products that just don’t resonate with your ‘targets.’

No resonance, no cash in your bank account.

Simple.

Don’t shoot your clients!

Image of sunken boats representing failed businesses.

How To Outlive Everyone [Including Your Competitors]

Looking at your biz 26 years from now – which of the boats above will be yours?

26 years ago I started my entrepreneurial journey.

  • My first ‚self-employment‘ generated a 3 figure revenue over its lifetime.
    [After deducting expenses … a pathetic loss.]
  • Working with a fraudulent network marketing company left me $ 40,000 in debt. I didn’t have enough cash left to buy a bread roll for breakfast.
  • I started a business partnership that burned money faster than we earned it.
    [My wrong lead.]
  • I’ve created more than 100 almost finished digital products that never saw the light of a web site.
  • My first business web site didn’t make a single client in 2 years.

Today I’m living ‘my dream.’

My location independent business, alternating between Thailand and Germany.

[A location independent business. I’m alternating between Thailand and Germany.]

  • In 26 years I have met a few zooming past me to higher successes.
  • I’ve met hundreds who gave up and returned to a day job. I didn’t.

Perserverance pays!

It’s your choice.

why-lifestyle-entrepreneurs-fail

Why Lifestyle Entrepreneurs Fail

Hundreds of thousands of people buy products how to build their lifestyle business, how to work from home, or how to live the laptop lifestyle.

Yet, it’s common knowledge that most don’t even get started. Or, if they get started, never arrive at the finish line. They’re stuck in place like the petrified man in the image above.

If you’re in this trap, this post will help!

Looking at myself, I have more unfinished ideas and products on my hard disk than I like to admit. It’s a 3 digit number of unfinished projects!

What’s holding us back?

  • Some say “I don’t know how to do it.” Yet, there’s enough information available on how to build a business.
  • Some say “It’s information overload. I don’t know where to get started.” Yet, anyone truly committed would just get started somewhere.
  • Some say “It’s fear of failure.” An unproven cliché.

Questioning the cliché reasons and finding the real reason has been a huge DISCOVERY for myself.

Once you’ve looked through smoke and mirrors and find out what’s holding you back, you’re free to move towards the rich life you desire.

The reason WHY you want to be a Lifestyle Entrepreneur is also the reason that’s holding you back.

It’s a vicious act of self-sabotage.

It’s not fear of failure, that’s holding you back.

It’s fear of success.

Success is the worst thing that could happen to you.

Think about it.

What’s the number one VALUE we all have in common? The reason why we want to fire the boss and live life on our terms?

It’s our irrational craving for FREEDOM!

And what happens the moment you actually follow through building a business? What if you truly succeed? [God forbid!]

You’d lose the freedom you value so much!

  • You’d have to be available for customer support 24/7.
  • You’d have to create follow up products or deliver services.
  • You’d have set dates for webinars with JV partners.
  • You’d have to keep working on your marketing.
  • You’d have to file tax reports.

The only way to keep your freedom is to NOT succeed! Even if it means you’re stuck in your current life situation.

To build the lifestyle you desire you must conquer the freedom-commitment paradox!

These 2 steps will do it:

1. Understand that you’ll always be free to ditch the biz. If you have given yourself the freedom to not follow through until now, you can also give yourself the freedom later to stop the biz at any time you want.

It’s not enough to understand this on an intellectual level. Unless it’s in your feeling you won’t believe it.

  • Use your imagination for some made-up scenarios: Imagine future success and then your free choice to stop the biz and throw away everything. Stay relaxed and calm imagining this.
  • Think about previous jobs or hobbies that you’ve given up. Today they are most likely meaningless to you. That’s good. It means you’ll always be free to change course. To make new choices. You won’t be stuck in your commitments forever.

2. Embrace the freedom-commitment paradox. Commitment is hard for freedom-seekers. But sabotaging yourself is the opposite of freedom. Your irrational desire to be free is keeping you locked in where you are. It’s a straitjacket that we’ve put on ourselves.

Try the try the following brain twister.  Use it as a mantra for a few days, and see what it does:

“I’m free to commit myself to building this business.”

Rome-Sistine-Chapel-Creation-Of-Adam

Re-Inventing Yourself, Re-Inventing Your Business

Tadaaa! Welcome to the new RalfSkirr.com. I’ve replaced the old static site with a new WordPress based site. And added a new Blog. Here we go…

Creating a new site for your business is a chance to re-think what your business stands for.

Take a look at your current web site.

  • How are you presenting yourself and your biz?
  • What are you selling?
  • Who do you talk to?

Is this still who you want to be, what you want to do, and who you want to work with?

If not, why not re-invent yourself and your business?

For the past 10 years my sites (especially my German sites) have been focused on getting clients for my web agency.

I and my team build web sites. As a result most of our clients primarily see me as a technical solution provider. We often get contracts from clients who aren’t really interested in making business with their web site.

They’re just making a site because a biz needs to have one. They don’t put any work into preparing their site, and they never put a minute of work into it once it’s online.

That’s not how I see myself, though.

  • There’s no value in building sites for people who don’t even believe the site will contribute to their business.
  • Or for people who hope to get new biz from their site, but never lift a finger after their site is launched.

That’s why I’ve decided to shift my focus on consulting for online entrepreneurs (they ARE interested in making money from their site), and to target my web agency specifically to people who are in the internet marketing game for real.

It’s about turning a meaningless business into one that makes a difference.

I’m re-inventing myself, and re-inventing how the world sees me and my biz. My new web site will reflect this.

You don’t need a new web site to re-invent yourself and biz.

All it takes is a moment to think about this question:

Is the current state of your biz still who you want to be, what you want to do, and who you want to work with?