Small Business Series – Leadership Revelations: Enforcer

FacebookGoogle+LinkedInStumbleUponPinterestRedditShare

This month I have 5 posts to share. These are just my own realizations/revelations over the years. The total topic is Enforcer, Steward, Manager, Influencer, Leader. Today I begin with Enforcer. This article may be wordy and it may not seem like it has anything to do with Business Leadership but in reality it has everything to do with it. Bookmark it and come back later if you don’t have the time to read it now because this is one of the “character development scenes” if this were a movie.

When were hear the word “enforcer” we may immediately think of a Hollywood stereotype of a big man in leather wearing a badge and carrying a big gun. In reality there are enforcers in many forms. Before I get into the main topic today let me explain just a little about this series of 5 posts on leadership.

Both in civilian life and the military I have studied leadership. My sister was a huge fan of the topic and left behind dozens of books on the topic. There must be at least 10,000 websites in the United States alone discussing (and selling) the topic of leadership. What I want to share today is what I personally have observed and experienced relative to leadership. Most of it is not from any book so you won’t find a branching set of links to follow – though I may toss in a quote here and there. What my goal is here is to help me learn more about how I perceive these 5 roles and to hear your thoughts on the same. Responses are invited.

From my observation there are 5 separate, main roles in the leadership game. There are others and if you feel I have missed an important one please share! I could have included “teacher” or “adviser”, and in fact had those in my notes last year, but decided to include those as parts of the other 5. After all, 5 are easier to remember than 7, right? These main roles, in no particular order of importance, are Leader, Influencer, Steward, Manager, and Enforcer. I decided to begin with Enforcer (which I use both capitalized and non-capitalized in this article) because that may be the most maligned role of leadership of the 5.

You’re Not The Boss Of Me!

When we are young we have a rebel streak. All of us. And if this rebellious desire is not curbed or properly shaped at a young age then it can become a problem, or major advantage, later in life. You may have heard or uttered yourself those words at some time. Teenage-Rebellion-in-AmericaWhile it’s far beyond the scope of this short article to examine the roots of that emotion it is important to note this is a base human attitude and actually signals, according to most professionals, a strong character. Later in life, when properly formed, this attitude can help shape the personality of the utter-er into a strong leader, manager, steward, or enforcer.

The graphic shows a few facts as reported by American students themselves to the CDC on a questionnaire. While these aren’t necessary horrendous ills they are a sign that young people have a tendency to ignore the dangers these activities pose. Even if they don’t ignore them they take action in spite of them. The circular arrow behind the facts indicates these activities affect the entire population and not just the individual. This is something that both youth and underdeveloped adults show a lack of: concern for how their actions affect others in society.

This is why we have enforcers in virtually every walk of like. If you just thought “judge” or “policeman” those are just the iconic enforcers in life. There are truly billions of others. You yourself have been an enforcer and have been engaged by enforcers you may never list. Parents and teachers may be the next most visible enforcers. They both have the position of correcting societal engagement malfunctions in their children or students.

Parents and family members, in my view, have the greatest responsibility. They are tasked with care and concern for the child as she or he grows and becomes an adult. In fact almost every discussion on wayward youth and lifetime criminals turns back to “home”. You will hear things like “he didn’t have a good home life” or “his parents were no good”. I suppose almost every religious writing, since some were plagiarized from others, includes something like, “train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it”.

Rules Enforcement More Than Law

Referees are just one form of visible enforcer most people expect and do not object too. (Photo: Jim Larrison, licensed CC)
Referees are just one form of visible enforcer most people expect and do not object too. (Photo: Jim Larrison, licensed CC)

Enforcers come in many different forms. We expect whenever we go to any sporting event there will be rules. Those rules must be enforced so there are people appointed to do so. Umpires, judges, and referees are an expected part. Even in pick-up games there is often an enforcer appointed to call the rules. Nobody seems to have any objection to these enforcers being present while a growing number of people are suspicious of, and object to, local, state, and federal law enforcement people both being present and simply doing their jobs.

But there are thousands of Enforcers we meet daily. In fact we ourselves become the Enforcer on a regular basis – even when it is not our obligation. It may be, however, that we see it as our civic duty. Sometimes that even gets us in trouble. In a moment I will share a personal experience about taking the roll of Enforcer when I should have chosen differently.

Have you ever been riding with someone who didn’t have on their seat belt and you asked or told them to “click it or ticket”? You were the enforcer. Have you ever shushed someone in church or a library – even just by giving them “the look”? Have you ever stepped into a fight as the peacemaker and tried to calm the situation? If so then you took on the Enforcer role of Leadership. You used your communications tools and interjected yourself into the situation hoping to shape the outcome to what you perceived as the best result. When you did this were you braced for an outcome which was different than that which you expected?

Personally Touched

I use the following example because it sort of shocked me – and I don’t shock easily. Many times I have advised to take consideration of underlying emotions when engaging with others. It opened up something I had not faced in years and really made me take a step back. It even made me, for a few seconds, question if my motivation had been based on race. It had not been, but the response definitely made me re-examine.

Some years ago just after the election of America’s first black president I was in a local grocer and noticed a lady actually grazing on the fruit table. It was not just her, however, she was also freely sharing with her nearly adult children – by the handful. I mean cherries, strawberries, blackberries, and grapes were disappearing into these well dressed people’s faces from these boxes and bags of pre-priced goods. After standing there and watching them for no less than 3 minutes I probably made the wrong decision, but it wasn’t the worst one I had considered. I said, “ma’am, do you know that’s stealing from the people who buy those boxes or bags after you eat from them?”

Evidently she thought I chose the wrong words and she let me know in no uncertain terms that it was impossible for someone of my skin color to understand what someone of her skin color was experiencing. That she had been ripped off by buying bad produce before and she was going to make sure her children had only the best to eat from now on. She went on to tell me that “y’all are no longer then enforcers of right and wrong”. I’m sure I had a huge WT_? over my head at that point…

I was hurt. And most strangers can’t really hurt me. I was hurt mostly that I had chosen the wrong method. I had become the Enforcer when I should have become the Influencer. She was wrong, but I did not make the right choice to lead her away from her wrong. My Leadership method was lacking. Oh, she was still very wrong, but so was I.

The Enforcer Role of Leadership

It’s just one of the major roles of leadership we all take on from time to time even when it’s not our appointed position and we do not have any real authority. From herding co-workers back to the grind at the end of a break to telling drivers to slow down as they go through your neighborhood and thousands of more scenarios those are all important social functions of leadership. They are valid, necessary and often un-welcomed. When taking on the role of Enforcer, even when you are appointed as one, it is crucial to work on your leadership communications and actions skills to help ensure the best possible outcome.

Here is a short “quiz” to help gauge your progress throughout this series on Leadership and it will email itself back to you so you can keep it for future reference. There are no “right” or “wrong” answers and it will never be published so answer in as much confidence as the Web can allow.

Your Name

Your Email (required)

A coworker is making copies of a school assignment for their child. Thinking about the Enforcer role of leadership how do you act?

Your child's teacher accidentally put a note to another student's parents in your child's folder to bring home to you for their daily activity report. In it there is a mention of "getting together for a little 'puff' this weekend"; what is your action?

You are sitting in your break room at work when a visitor who came to join a co-worker begins telling racist jokes. Thinking of Enforcer, what do you do?

Remember an event where you were "forced" into the role of Enforcer and did not feel comfortable. What was the event and how did it turn out? What would you do differently as you look back?

 

How To Build Your Customer’s Confidence In You

cutest-puppy-small-business-blogs
Don’t make your customers feel like this cute puppy!

First day of school, first day of a new job, first date, first day of boot camp…remember those feelings? Sometimes your customers are experiencing just those emotions when dealing with you for the first time. You’re in luck, though. I’m old and have been down that street from both sides. Plus I read a lot. Plus my sister was literally a master at confidence building. Of course this is not a self-help article; This is a helping other article.

Building confidence in others is quite difference from building confidence in yourself. Also there are multiple personality types to deal with – certain actions cause specific responses in others. There is no way in this short blog post to cover all of that psychology so we’re going to look at just a few things that can be found in the Venn intersect of all things. In other words these should fit the bill across the board.

Be Open

This sounds like a no-brainer but it goes beyond the 8A to 9P retail hours you keep. This includes your website, your email, your social media, and other ways of connecting with you. Everyone already knows the first thing we all do with a new business or new business person is? Google them. You do it, I do it, your prospects do it. So be open. This does not (necessarily) mean having someone monitor Twitter 7/365 but it does mean having all major channels open.

Be Deliberate

Confession time for me would be that I can do so many different things for small business people that I have a difficult time focusing. Hopefully you will be much better than I am at focusing on your business and your interaction with future clients. If you click the “What I Do” link in the menu above you’ll see I have really tried to narrow it down and be deliberate in my choice of words and communication. Real Estate Agents, at least during the down times, were among the worst. And, I still see real estate agents who’s profiles say, “Social Media Guru, wedding planner, Network Marketer, and Diet Planner”. I think I’ve said enough. Be deliberate.

Listen

More confession time for me would include the thousands of times I blew this when I was younger. Have you ever been in a conversation with someone and it was very obvious the other person was thinking about what they were going to say the next time it was their turn instead of listening to you? Yes, we can all pretty much tell. Sometimes people just aren’t the right client for you. If you’re so desperate you have to bend your offerings to appease this client (guilty) then you really have some issues that need to be dealt with away from your clients. Listen to what they want even if you don’t have it. The best thing you can do is recommend someone who does.

Help Them Decide

Some people refer to this as “pressure” and it can feel that way. But when it gets down to it and you know your prospect is very interested in what you are offering then it is your responsibility to make sure they get it. This could be offering financing, throwing in some bonus, extending a stronger guarantee – whatever it takes within reason. If they weren’t interested in the first place they wouldn’t be there. Many years ago a partner told me, “If they weren’t interested in doing business with us they wouldn’t have dug out the yellow pages and called us.” Times have changed but he’s still right.

Get A Consultant

Do you have any idea how many ideas have exploded into life just during phone conversations with a trusted listener? Nor do I, but I know some that have happened with me. A super efficient grill was invented, a new type of radio telemetry device was created, a promising re-design of traffic signals is in the works and literally hundreds of others have been pulled screaming out of the incubator of some brilliant minds.

Be Consistent

Be consistent. Be consistent in your message. Be consistent in your offerings. Be consistent in your service. Be consistent in your support. Be consistent in your availability. Jimmy is a great plumber…when you can find him. Dinesh is an amazing web coder….when he returns messages. David is a brilliant young developer….when he doesn’t tell the client his boss is an idiot. See where we’re going? If corrections are needed, make minor changes.

Call Me

Seriously. I spend a lot of time speaking with people who never do business with me but many of them have become regular conversations. Of course I want to do something for you that helps you succeed and helps my mortgage company stay off my back. But the reality of it is I have been there, done that and got the tattoo.

Photo Credit: Sigma.DP2.Kiss.X3 via Compfight cc

What Is So Great About WordPress?

Every small business, every business even, every marketer, every church, every politician, needs a web presence. Years ago when I first began providing web presences for such people it took much more to convince them of the need. Today it seems almost every one of these people recognize the need even if they do not exactly know why. For the sake of this short article let’s assume everyone knows having a website gives direct access to your words, images and sound to nearly every person in your marketplace regardless of scope or size.

When the web first started gaining traction back in 1995 I could charge, and get, as much as $500-$1000 for a single web page, more for small business websites, that actually did something like accept information into a form or provide automated data responses to visitors. Plain static web pages would yield $150-$300 or more depending on graphics and how much content I created for the site owner. This trend continued for a few years and started to change when Microsoft and Macromedia (among others) came out with WYSIWYG, DIY solutions. Unfortunately this led to a proliferation of cookie cutter, amateurish websites which displayed awkwardly on various browsers, contained many errors in style and code, and all too often stayed out of date within days of being published.

By the opening of the new millennium various Content Management Systems were making their way onto the Internet to help solve some of these issues. These framework systems were created by groups of developers working on the code in teams and churning out stable, modifiable solutions almost always available for free. Many of these continue today and our subject, WordPress, was born in the same era and continues to grow and refine today.

But Why Choose WordPress?

Today’s selection of CMS solutions is wide. There are at least four major competitors, although another twenty or so would like to be considered a front-runner, vying for your attention today. Each of them offers a unique blend of solutions and all do so quite well. Only one is highly dominant, for reasons we will discuss, and that is WordPress.

While it is still possible to make a royal mess of a website and to present a cookie-cutter look and feel it is also possible to have a powerful solution, likely valued in the hundreds of thousands of dollars to have developed from scratch, for much less than I developed five page sites in the mid-nineties. Using the most widely supported CMS helps insure it is stable, secure and continually updated to keep up with changes and challenges every website owner eventually faces.

WordPress Uses Themes

Imagine clicking a button and your entire website look and feel changing instantly. You don’t actually have to imagine because this is exactly what happens with WordPress. There are thousands of free themes available, an equally exhaustive catalog of fee-paid themes, and even having a custom theme developed (most “WordPress experts” who claim to do this only change a few colors and images and do not actually create a custom theme) for a few hundred dollars. Once the theme is installed you can activate it, switch to another, or revert to the “out-of-the-box” default theme quite literally by clicking a button.

WordPress Uses Plugins

One of the most useful things about today’s smart phones and mobile devices is the ability to install min-applications. Plugins are very similar to apps. While I still contract to create custom web apps for non-WP sites today, often for thousands of dollars, there are thousands and thousands of plugins available for WordPress for free or very low fee. The range of what they do seems to be endless and when one cannot be found a custom one can be coded for just a few hundred to several thousand dollars depending on need.

WordPress Updates Regularly

For the same cost as purchasing WP, zero dollars, every time an update (major or minor) is released the site owner or manager can upgrade their installation with the click of a button. The same goes for themes and plugins when updates are available for release. Updates often are to enhance security, keep up with changes in HTML, CSS or other protocols, or simply to release a more advanced version.

WordPress Is Widely Supported

According to live reports on WordPress.com there are some sixty million websites using WP today. The development team has a core of full-timers and an army of contributors. Making sure the core of WP is secure, fast, functional, and forward moving at all times is what they do. Any time a report or suggestion is filed by a user it is taken seriously and considered toward future developments and releases.

WordPress Is Responsive

The word responsive, in this case, means it displays well on every browser including mobile. With the release of Theme 2014 the out-of-the-box version of WP is ready for mobile just like it is for laptops, PC’s, and even large screens. What once required a separate plugin and theme set can now be achieved within seconds of installing and activating WP.

 WordPress Is Easily Installed On Most Hosting Accounts

Whether your webhost uses CPanel or other management console it is almost certain they offer 1-click installation of multiple WordPress sites. This makes it possible, and simple, for virtually anyone to install and use WordPress online within a matter of minutes. Because each WP site can be installed in the same domain name creating dozens of sites like site1.myurl.com through site99.myurl.com is possible. This makes team management simple and even though it is beyond the scope of this article it is possible to tie all of those installations back together.

WordPress Is Simple To Use

If you can send an email with a photo attached you can post to WordPress. The management console is intuitive and even looks much like an email or word processing interface. Adding photos, changing text styles, including bullet points, inserting videos, and other common tasks are completed using the easy to navigate interface. With certain plugins it is also possible to extend the features and benefits of any WP installation.

A Word Of Caution

Just because you can sit in a race car doesn’t mean you can win a race. Just because you can sit at a piano doesn’t mean you can perform Beethoven. There is an art and a science to excellent presentation online. While it is possible to create a functional website using WordPress, and to be very proud of your results, if you are depending on your website for lead generation, customer interaction, or other crucial business tasks I encourage you to contact me for a free consultation. Sometimes that is all it takes.

QR Codes for Facebook Profile on Android App?

Facebook Profile QR Code Android App (screen shot)
Screen shot from my Android app for

Facebook, it seems, may have done something with a QR code others have been richly criticized for doing; using a QR code on a screen. Over the past few years I have read, heard, written about, and discussed the merits of using QR codes. Often my enthusiasm, and verifiable results, have been met with almost a disdain from people who hold a modicum of trust. Interestingly one of the biggest poo-pooings (I don’t think I made that word up) is for the use of QR codes on web pages or in mobile apps.

If you are not familiar with QR codes they were invented to be a quick response for automobile robotics and high speed manufacturing, designed to hold vastly more information than the bar code or snowflake already in use.  The QR code, in fact, can store up to 4,296 alpha-numeric characters. The UPC barcode, in contrast, represent only 12 numeric characters; there is not much a marketer can do with just 12 digits!

QR Codes for Facebook?

Ahem, check it out. The graphic is the screen shot from my Android using my Facebook app to display the QR code which goes directly to my timeline. In the tradition of my support of such uses Facebook even builds in a scanner to make sure everything you need is in one location.

When making my case for using QR codes on webpages I used the example of making it easy to get content into a smart phone or other portable device rather than taking the time to type out a long URL taking the viewer directly to the content being featured. I tested it on my own blog, here at TheKenCook, and did receive some views to those codes. This told me people were using the feature exactly as I had intended. Now, with the addition of this feature to Facebook, I will be trying it again. Go ahead, if you see a QR code for this post and you’re on your desktop or laptop, or if you have a friend nearby with a mobile device, scan the code linking directly to this post.

QR Code For This Post

[qr-code]

Let me create a QR campaign for you. If it doesn’t work I will refund your investment 100%. All of it, no questions asked.

Now let’s discuss. Is it worth it to go to all this to get maybe one new client? Make just one more sale? How about just add one more reader?

Avoiding Small Business Failure: Accountability Partners

small business partnersAny reader who has served in the military knows the concept of the “Battle Buddy”.  The idea is multifold, but with one goal: accountability. Regardless of age or rank if a soldier has a battle buddy that battle buddy knows where the soldier is, what they are doing and that they are safe and compliant at all times. From making sure your uniform is squared away to keeping you from harm your battle buddy is like a guardian angel who goes with you everywhere.

Independent Business Owner Failure

Independent, in and of it’s self, means alone and separate. Remember the saying “no man is an island unto himself”? Well, it’s true. Too often, however, as small business owners we feel like an island and we operate with abandon because of that feeling. What we all need is a battle buddy, a coach, a guide, or whatever we call it. The buzz vernacular today is “sherpa”. Okay, whatever works.

Corporations, with larger numbers of employees, have an innate safety net simply due to their numbers. If one person falls short the remainder of the company is there to hold up the overall function and operation of the corporation. When a sole operator falls short it can be crippling or even devastating. One man, or woman, is no match for everything the world has. The solution? An accountability partner.

Selecting A Partner

Perhaps the best news is that an accountability partner is not a financial or obligated partner. Fulfilling the role of an accountability partner is often as simple as a daily chat to simply “take the temperature” of the entrepreneur needing accountability. While this is good on a base level it really is worth consideration to retain the services of a professional accountability company who will treat you more like a sergeant would his platoon to make sure your compliance with your own rules, and the world’s, is intact.

Accountability can come from anyone who is reliable, they need not be an expert in your field. If they are reliable, have an attention to detail, care about your either personally or because you are paying them to, or even are a family member, you are looking in the right place. Think of these things an accountability partner can do for you:

  • Verify you are keep up with your bookkeeping duties
  • Watch your marketing calendar to see if you are staying on track
  • Ensure you are taking your continuing education as required
  • Ask you about your annual licensing status
  • Call you on occasion to make sure your phone procedures are satisfactory
  • Check your blog and social media to guarantee activity, follow-up

As you may see an accountability partner is not a coach. They are not a proof-reader or a book-keeper. They do not perform tasks for you, but rather help make sure you are on track with your tasks. They are not there to give marketing or business advice and should never be expected to answer legal questions for you!

3d Business Meeting” by David Castillo Dominici

Think about how an accountability partner could help you. What are some of the things you know, today, an accountability partner could help you track on?

7 Components For Online Success

online-success-guideWhile there may be others, and there are, added to this list these are almost crucial to success. Can success be had without all, or any, of these? Yes, it can. These are the most common, high reward components which should not be easily discounted.

ANCHOR SITE www.yourname.com
Have a site you control, not on some free service or social network. Do your business here. Think about user experience and conversion ratio on this site as your most important tasks. Keep you blog separate or in a separate directory. Blogs have a tendency to overpopulate the index page and with today’s necessary trend toward flat and mobile design this is crucial to conversion success.

TWITTER ACCOUNT twitter.com/yourname
Having a Twitter site that matches your brand is one great way to push out relative content, build a following, and listen to the Internet on your topic. Learn to monitor Twitter with third party tools like Hootsuite and your life, and results, will be much better.

FACEBOOK BUSINESS PAGE facebook.com/yourname
While Facebook should never replace your anchor site not having a custom Facebook business page is a big mistake in today’s world. The content and design should emulate your brand and serve as a giant handshake to encourage people do to business with you.

Start With A Goal

Did you know I can help you assess or re-assess your online efforts and make dramatic improvements in the return you are seeing from your investment of time, resources, and money? Yes! In fact it is why I write all the articles… here’s one now.

Goals For Improving Online Performance

What better day could there be to talk about goals than here on the first full day of NFL football?

business goalsSuffice it to say most of us do not simply go out in the morning, get in the car, and start driving. Or, if you are one who uses public transit, you likely do not go to the subway and get on just any train. Generally speaking, we know where we are headed when we leave our homes. Perhaps it is to work, to school, or even to see a friend. Most of the time we know where we are going. In other words, we start with a goal.

For longer trips we have certain segments of our journey planned. On the subway you may know you need to take the M train to Sandler Ave., then change to the L train to Duncan Center. That change point is called a “waypoint”; it’s a method of knowing you are truly on the way, and on schedule, to your final destination.

Why is it, then, that we think it is okay to start a website, a blog, or a business profile in social media with no clearly defined strategy, waypoints, and goal?

Wait a minute, I know what you just thought. You just thought, “But Kenny, I started with a goal. Before I even registered my domain name I knew I wanted to tell people about my services and increase my business because of what I do online.” Continue reading Start With A Goal

How Much Should I Spend On Online Marketing?

I have no idea. Thank you for stopping in. Good-bye.

That’s not fair of course, and in reality, I do have an idea. Together, in fact, we can probably come up with a realistic, working number for you right now. First you’ll need to know some things about your own business. I will give you the numbers to work with later but for now be thinking of the following:

  • How much are you willing to spend to get someone to buy your product or service?
  • How many new customers do you need, per month, to reach your goals?
  • What amount have you budgeted to new customer acquisition?

Now that you have those numbers in mind …. what’s that? You don’t know how much you have budgeted? Well, consider yourself Jane or John Average. Most small business owners and entrepreneurs are in the same position. So, let’s begin with that first question, “How much are you willing to spend to get someone to buy your product or service?” Continue reading How Much Should I Spend On Online Marketing?

Reasons Why Blogging May Not Work And What To Do About It

Fortunes are made providing tools to optimize conversion rates on blogs and websites. Google searching on “visitor conversion tools” returns a few million hits and reading the first few pages reveals a very telling story: this is something needed, something people are willing to pay for and a topic on which many people have a wide ranging set of opinions. Since most people have, chances are, already spent many hours and possibly many dollars trying to cure the blog conversion rate on their sites the point of this article is to show factually accurate data on before and after scenarios.

You may say, “I write all the time and never get any results from my efforts.” The sad news is you are not alone. The good news is there is hope. More news, is it what it is, this is going to require more work or more money or both. Hopefully we will lessen that investment for you.

One of the greatest “sins” I see all across the board is having a pinpoint focus. It is far better to have multiple blogs, as do I, than to have one blog with multiple topics. In face to face networking they call it being an “And Also”. In other words if you introduce yourself and you say, “Hi, I am a real estate agent and I also sell Amwell products” you dilute your message. While it is okay to be both you truly need to keep them separate especially on your blog or your website.

Writing regularly is the way to build a community. People expect new and relevant information from you so if you write one article every 8 months chances are your community is going to be small. Granted there may be times when you slow down or speed up yet try and remain somewhat consistent using the acronym APE FUR*.

ape-furAssess – the A in APE FUR is assess your situation. How many readers do you have and what is your conversion ratio? Can you afford not to hire a professional to help you or at least get you started? How many conversions to you need to meet your goal?

Plan – make a plan to do what needs to be done to achieve your goals. Whether this is writing more text, creating more video or adding a podcast to your line up your plan needs to be a solid foundation. Plans change and can, and should be, easily modified as time goes on.

Execute – begin on your plan and do so quickly. The longer you keep it on the back shelf the more opportunities you miss to solve someone else’s issues and is that not, after all, why we do all this to begin with? Don’t rush out and do things wrongly just to get it going but be expedient in your planning so you can execute sooner rather than later.

Frequent – execute your plan frequently to keep your audience engaged and growing. One action per year is likely too far apart. Even if you are in the tax preparation business you will want to keep your clients and prospects engaged throughout the year so that you are constantly top of mind to them and they think of no other when that important time comes.

Unique – people do not like reading the exact same information on your site they already read on another. Even if it is only closely and not exactly duplicated they want fresh information. While your topic and solution may be the same make sure you do a little research (Google, ahem) and keep your content unique to you and your prospects.

Relevant – perhaps most important of all is that your actions deliver relevant content with answers relevant to your prospect’s needs. Black hat and even gray hat techniques such as keyword stuffing have long made this an issue online. If you simply write or create content for your visitor’s you know specifically with help them you will be fine. Avoid cheap tricks and simply follow APE FUR.

Solve Problems With Your Writing

The first solution to converting readers from your blogging efforts is to write content which solves a problem or at least part of a problem. This accomplishes two crucial tasks which are both Google pleasing and people pleasing: (1) it makes you more likely to be found on Google and (2) makes it more likely for readers to engage you in email, social media or the comments section. Imagine yourself as a visitor to your site when you are writing and answer think about how your words empower the reader to more success.

The second solution to converting visitors to your site is invite them and make them feel welcome to interact with you or other visitors through your site. One of my greatest success stories is the free eBook campaign I ran for my own company during the 2000s. In fact it was highly successful. That was in the mortgage industry so the failure was not through much we did. In essence I offered a variety of eBooks in exchange for contact information. Here may be a slight difference in what I did when offering the eBook from what I have seen on other sites: I made it patently obvious I intended to offer my services to the visitor. In fact many of them were surprised when I sent a quick email message addressing them directly within a few seconds to couple of minutes after they pressed send. Here is one I give away now called “Five Things You Should Never Do On Twitter“.

Use specific landing pages for engagement on specific topics (here is an example of a simple landing page). Landing pages are much maligned because of bad use. Having screaming video of you jumping out from the sidebar which cannot be silenced or stopped is generally a really bad idea. A really bad one. You do, however, want to make it easy for your visitors to engage and you also want to give them an alternative method of engagement. Today’s alternative, as odd as it may seem to older readers, is the telephone. Make sure your phone number is up there on the screen because there are people who would rather pick up the phone than to give you their email address.

In Summary

  • Stay on topic
  • Watch your statistics
  • Learn to use available free tools like Analytics from Google
  • Keep it simple and to the point
  • Ask for engagement
  • Be easy to contact
  • Use spell check
  • Hire a professional to help guide or even do the work for you

In the end, at the bottom line, at the end of the day (insert expression here) it is all about answering your reader’s questions or empowering them to be better in business, sports, life, religion, or whatever may be your topic. Cut the clutter. Get to the point. Ask for the engagement. Build winners from your readership. Praise them when you know it worked for them. Cash your checks.

The end.

*APE FUR is mine. If you use it make sure to attribute it to me by linking back to this page. I have been using this since 2008 and while I do not mind you using it I do mind if you do not give credit where it is due. Fair enough? Thanks!

Image “Western Lowland Gorilla Portrait” by Hal Brindley / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Secrets of Small Business Success: You Can’t Do Everything

The same spirit that drives us to become independent professionals often is our own worst enemy when it comes to task performance. Our ambition and our recognition “if anything is going to get done I’m going to have to do it myself” leads us to take on important functions we are neither qualified for nor prepared to handle. In the end it may, put some emphasis on may, turn out fine but even then at what cost?

Are you really the super hero you’re trying to be? Probably not but don’t sweat it – you don’t need to be!

My First Audit

Back in 1985 I had my first IRS audit of a business. I had done all of my own bookkeeping and taxes throughout the years and kept my own record. The visit from the agent was not as frightening as I had expected but the follow up was quite intense. In the end it did turn out fine but the very real stress and anxiety I faced as we went through to process was in no way worth the $750 it would have cost me (back then) to have had the part I did done by a professional. From that point on I never did my own.

Tasks Like SEO or Web Content

Or maybe they are not really less crucial but less well know. At that same business I took quotes on having a 4’x32′ sign painted with my logo and some text. The total cost would have been $900 not including installation. Of course I could do it myself and I sat out to prove it. My final cash investment was $230 including installation. How’d the sign look? Well, it wasn’t bad as they say. It also wasn’t the professional, sleek look I wanted for my business.

Things We Never Think of Doing

Most of us never think of installing our own alarm system, doing our own electrical work or building our own office furniture. What is the difference between the two functions I mentioned performing on my own earlier and these? Why not just go ahead and build my own executive chairs? If you answered like I did, “because I can buy one already professionally built that looks and works much better than mine”, you’d be on the thought track I was searching for.

So if there are things we simply never consider doing what is the line and how do we cross it to do things we “can” do but should not? I mean it’s almost common place for people to take on their own taxes, bookkeeping, advertising, web mastering, and other functions. Trust me, I’ve seen the websites that look like they came with the server for free and have all those free themes and plugins. Your clients and competitors see them too.

When you listen to the radio or watch cable it’s not very difficult on some ad spots to tell which ones were written by the business owner. Likewise for print ads with generic clip art you see in a dozen other ads throughout the year. Does performing these tasks save you money? What about that old “long run” view – do you win or lose over the term?

Get Some Advice

Perhaps one of the most crucial steps in the life, both business and personal, for the Independent Professional is finding a worthy go-to adviser. Without the few I have it would have been impossible to reach the levels of success I have enjoyed. Some may come from family, some from the community and some from your existing roster of close friends. When choosing and adviser make sure it is someone you can trust for the type of advice you’ll be needing.

Whatever you do take time to pause and think then spend a little time investigating the cost and benefit of paying a professional to perform the tasks with which you are faced. Not all tasks may have the dire consequences associated with doing your own business taxes (and I understand some of you are fully capable of handling that task) but their may be farther reaching, more fiscally damaging results from some of them.

Image courtesy of digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net