Jim's Marketing Blog

Marketing tips & ideas to help you grow your business, by Jim Connolly

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Blogging and Punch Bag Heroes

From as early as I can remember, I have boxed. It was a popular sport in the rough area of London where I grew up and a way for poor kids to channel their energy into something better than crime and drugs. Today, I’m a 46 year old successful business owner and I still get the gloves on a couple of times a week.

Punch bags don’t hit back

One of my trainers had a fantastic phrase he used occasionally in the gym. He used it to describe people who loved to grunt and scowl as they worked on a punch bag, but who wouldn’t get in the ring and fight. He used to call them punch bag heroes. As he said, anyone can look tough hitting a punch bag, because the bag just soaks up the punches and doesn’t throw concussive punches back at you.

Blogging and punch bag heroes

When I started blogging, I quickly figured out there were lots of blogging equivalents of punch bag heroes. I found bloggers who would refuse to give their readers the power to question them, by deleting comments that disagreed with them.

A few weeks ago, I had a big problem with spam comments to this blog. I was getting around 2,500 a day. One of the options open to me was to turn comments off. It would have saved me time and completely eliminated the problem. The reason I decided to do whatever was required, in order to leave comments enabled, was that I figured out it was a cowardly option.

Here’s why:

  • Turning comments off would have refused you the right to have your say.
  • It would have stopped you being able to publicly question what you read here, where the rest of the blog’s community can see it.
  • It would have made me a blogging equivalent of a punch bag hero.

So, the comments are staying on here for as long as this blog exists!

Blogging or broadcasting?

It’s easy to publish anything, when you know your words will never be challenged within your own tribe, because you delete comments that disagree with you or because you refuse your readers the right to question you in public, by turning comments off. However, it takes courage to open yourself up to critics and allow people the freedom to question what you say, where you know it will be seen by your readers.

What do you think?

I believe a conversation based, accountable approach to blogging helps a person improve the quality of their work and the value of their blog.

Photo: Crustina

3 Lessons from the past week

I was reminded of 3 lessons this week, which I’d like to share with you.

  1. Never take good health for granted.
  2. Never think you know someone, just because you read their work.
  3. The Internet truly is making the world smaller.

The week started well. A long running throat problem I have been struggling with, has finally started to mend. It seems that the mixture of being surrounded by farmland and our area being hit by some very weird weather, resulted in me suffering from an allergy, which made my throat dry and inflamed. Just 1 day after taking hay fever tablets, the problem was recovering and has now almost fully recovered.

The middle part of the week started disappointing. The great author Ray Bradbury passed away. On the day of Mr Bradbury’s death, Seth Godin published a tribute, but inserted a sales message into it. It’s here.

There was a small uproar, quelled by a quick, successful damage limitation post, apologising. Sleazy, Seth.

The week ended on a real high! On Friday, I was contacted by a childhood friend. The last time we met, we were just 13 years old. He was the kid next door, but his family moved from London, back to Jamaica. He found me via this blog and saw my photo – leading him to ask where my hair was! ;)   Anyhow, we spoke on the phone for over an hour and I freely admit, I welled up with tears, when his daughter and son spoke to me. They are the age now, that their father and I were when we last met. It was a truly wonderful experience.

So, I started my day today, grateful for good health, laughter and good friends.

What are you grateful for right now?

Photo: Leigh Sexton-Clarke

This is so wonderful that I had to tell you!

Are you looking for a massively better way to attract high quality business leads? If you just answered yes AND you love the idea of never having to ‘push’ your services on anyone, this post is just for you.

Best in town? Aim higher!

If your business sells muffins, it’s no longer good enough to make the best muffins in town. People don’t spend their entire lives in town, they go to other towns, cities and countries. They are comparing your muffins with their overall muffin experience. You need to aim higher than ‘the best in town’. Yes, your muffins need to be wonderful. They need to taste and look wonderful. The experience of buying muffins from your store needs to be wonderful.

When people buy muffins like that from a store like that, it leaves them wanting to share the news. This is where the magic is.

Why good isn’t good enough

Most accountants, web designers, training providers and coaches, etc, provide services which sound, look and feel incredibly similar. They are good, very good, just like many of their competitors. That’s the challenge!

Most small business owners do not leave people feeling compelled to tell their friends and business contacts, how wonderful they are. So, they end up having to push an average message themselves, because the marketplace isn’t inspired enough to do it for them.

Instead of making their service wonderful, they go to networking events or join networking groups – to push an average message along with other group members, who have the exact same problem.

That’s a time consuming, expensive, unpredictable and extremely low leverage way to get the leads your business needs.

From good to wonderful

If you want your marketplace to talk enthusiastically about you, you need to go from ‘very good’ to wonderful. If you’d like some ideas on how to make that transition, think about what others have done, which got YOU talking about them for all the right reasons.

Here are a few places to look for inspiration:

  • Who was the last person you spoke with, who left such a great impression on you that you HAD to tell people?
  • What was the last customer service experience you received, which was so amazing that you HAD to tell people?
  • What was the last service you used, which was so exceptional that you HAD to tell people?
  • What was the last product you bought, where the value was so immense that you HAD to tell people?
  • What was the last act of kindness, which touched you so much that you HAD to tell people?
  • What was the last business or brand, who exceeded your expectations so much that you HAD to tell people?

Write your answers down and look for the things, which made you feel compelled to talk about them. You’re not looking for cut and paste answers here, but inspiration to do something wonderful yourself, based on what already works.

Photo: Carlos Maya

What everybody ought to know about words

Words are wonderful, however, our progress is defined by what we do, rather than what we say.

This is why it’s so important for us to check how we are doing:

  • On the promises we have made.
  • On the plans we have discussed.
  • On the decisions we have shared.
  • On the quality we have guaranteed.

Wise words, acted on in a timely manner. There is real value in those 8 words – so long as we work with them!

Hurry up – And wait!

I saw 2 people arguing earlier, about which was the faster browser, between Chrome and Firefox. It seems they couldn’t agree, but both insisted that one was a split second faster at delivering a page, than the other.

Hurry up and wait!

It’s a good idea to look for ways to manage your productivity more effectively. But if we spend major time on minor things, the day will always run away from us. We end up a contestant in the ‘hurry up and wait’ game.

Here’s what I mean:

If the guys in that browser argument were to save half a second per page view using the faster browser and they viewed 400 pages a day, it would save them just over 3 minutes a day. When it comes to saving time, there are bigger fish to fry than this.

Plus it’s going to take them almost a full working month, just to regain the hour they lost, arguing about browser speed – sharing benchmarks, statistics and graphs, over a total of 48 heated blog comments!

I see it like this:

  • If Bob has the fastest computer, uses the fastest browser and has the fastest broadband connection, yet he uses them ineffectively, he’s going to see little real benefit.
  • If Barbara has a 2 year old computer, uses the slowest browser and has a slow broadband connection, yet uses them effectively, she will fly!

Before working on the tools, we should make sure the person using them is managing their time effectively. Otherwise they gain time where it doesn’t matter, then lose time where it does.

Photo: Veggie Frog

How NOT to learn from the best

Do you copy what you see the top people doing, hoping to use it as a short-cut to success?

I received an email today from someone who started blogging a few months ago. He said that he had copied what Seth Godin was doing on his blog, by disabling comments and using a very basic looking blog design. It wasn’t working. He wanted to know why, as it was working fine for Seth.

One size doesn’t fit all!

His problem is common and highlights a potential pitfall, when you copy a strategy or tactic that works for someone in a very different situation to your own, with different goals.

Seth Godin says he needed to remove the comments section from his blog, in order for him to have the freedom to write things his way. With hundreds of comments coming in, it was just too time consuming and frustrating for him to respond to so many people, over so many different posts, every day. However,  disabling comments is not necessary for 99.9% of bloggers.

The problem of copying the top .1%

This got me thinking. I chatted with Robert Scoble last week, about his issue with poor noise control on Google+. Robert currently has 1.7 MILLION circling (following) him on G+. I myself have just 13,000 people circling me and it can be a little hard to deal with at times. With 1,700,000 following you it must be mayhem. However, Google+ noise control works well for 99.9% of G+ users.

In short: It’s extremely useful to learn from the triumphs and lessons of others. However, before copying what you see the top .1% of people doing, ensure you know how and why they are doing it.

Photo: Carbon NYC

Why I deleted my Klout account

As regular readers will know, I rejoined Klout back in April to see if the service had improved.

An apparent spate of stories earlier this year suggested people were being refused jobs for having too low a Klout score or offered better customer service, for having a high Klout score. I wanted to know what this was based on. I wanted to know if Klout had fixed the obvious problems with its influence scoring system, since I last used the service.

So, I rejoined Klout. Here’s what I found and why I elected to delete my account.

Klout feels like a game

The first thing you notice when you join Klout is that their website operates just like a game. With your score changing every 24 hours and badges and perks awarded for hitting certain levels of achievement, Klout’s team have really got the hang of gamification.

Of course, the game can’t be won, because your score changes daily and even a short break from social networking sites will result in your score heading south. A couple of weeks in the sun or even a period where you are too busy to constantly publish content across your social networks, will see the poorly developed Klout software assume you are less influential than you used to be.

Klout’s forums have many messages from people, explaining how they have ‘worked hard to get their Klout score to X.’ Instead of measuring influence as it claims to, it feels like Klout is awarding points to people who ‘work on their Klout score’.

Worryingly, many small business owners have told me that they feel pressured into flooding their social networks with updates, just to increase their Klout score. They do this, because it works. In my opinion, by creating a ocean of Klout-bait social network updates, you are more likely to damage your online reputation, than achieve something positive by driving your Klout score up in this way.

Klout was unreliable

Throughout the 6 weeks I used the service, it was unable to ‘see’ the vast majority of my Facebook Page activity. The highest number of ‘likes’ Klout was able to see was 11 in total – even though just 1 of my updates during that time had been liked 80 times!

When I deleted my Klout account, it took 2 attempts. A number of people told me they could still see my Klout account, so I checked it myself and it was indeed still live, though showing a score of 10, which is the usual score for a new account. I then made a 2nd attempt to delete the account, which seems to have worked. Almost 3 years after Klout’s launch, it was still frustratingly buggy to use.

Klout and influence

Ultimately, for a Klout score to be taken seriously, Klout needs to be able to do 2 things correctly:

  1. It needs to be able to correctly identify accounts from people, who have online influence.
  2. It needs to be able to correctly identify accounts from people, who lack influence.

In my experience, it wasn’t able to do either reliably.

The biggest problem I had the first time I used Klout, was that anyone could fake a high score, simply by publishing massive amounts of even low quality updates through their social networks and auto following thousands of people. There are people who have scores over 70, which is very high, who seem to do little other than play with Klout all day. They don’t get lots of retweets or ‘likes’ for what they share, but it seems Klout can’t tell the difference between someone with no influence, who shares 20 tweets and gets 1 retweet for each of them, and an influential Twitter user, who shares 1 tweet, which is retweeted 20 times.

Conversely, truly influential people online slip through the gaping holes in Klout’s influence measuring software. Ron Conway for example, has a lower score than most people reading this, even though he is extremely influential in the world of online business (online influence is what Klout claims to be the standard for!) Ron invests millions into companies like Facebook, Google and Paypal. Ron is also a business associate of Henry Kissinger, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tiger Woods and Shaquille O’Neal.

When I researched Ron’s score, it was just 48 out of 100 and lower than most of the small business owners I know.

Why? Because Ron doesn’t play the Klout game or ‘work on his score’!

My own Klout score was 62 and totally failed to reflect my online influence, as someone whose work is read online thousands of times every day. However, the long term unemployed son of a friend of mine, has a Klout score of 71. It was as high as 74. It’s hard to take Klout seriously, when it scores that kid 23 points more influential, than Ron Conway!

Is a low Klout score really losing people job opportunities?

As I said at the start, one of the reasons I invested the time and effort to research how effective Klout was at measuring influence, was that reports were rife that people were being refused jobs through having too low a score. I spoke with the HR people at a number of companies, small and large and in every case they said Klout would be no part of the hiring process, regardless of the position. I then discovered that there were just a small number of verifiable stories of jobs being refused because of low Klout scores, but these stories were repeated and quoted over and over again.

Surely, common sense suggests that any company ready to refuse you a job, just because a piece of software failed to allocate you a high enough number, would not be worth working for?

I would be equally suspicious of hiring a consultant, coach or trainer who seems to have nothing of substance behind them, other than a high Klout score. One thing that has come back to me again and again, is that Klout is the darling of smoke blowers.

Goodbye Klout

Following my experiment, I chose to delete my Klout account and allow people the chance to judge me for themselves, just as they did before. Anyone genuinely interested in learning more about me can check out my blog or chat with me on Twitter, Facebook or Google+. They can then decide what they think of me and my work.

Even after supposedly improving the Klout algorithm, the service is extremely unreliable and too easy to fool, to be taken seriously. All the same problems I had with Klout when it launched almost 3 years ago remain, though at least today, they allow us to delete our accounts.

Check out these cookies!

cookie policy

Someone asked me a great question last week, about a new page I added to the blog. She wanted to know why I bothered to publish a new page all about cookies, (that’s browser cookies, not the delicious ones!)

The new EU cookie regulations!

I explained that there was a new ruling here in Europe. It means that every Europe based site that uses cookies, has to make its European based readers aware that the site uses cookies and what they use them for. In case you don’t know, cookies are stored on our Internet browsers and are used for things like the Twitter and Facebook buttons we see on blogs and also for the software that people use, to measure their site traffic. Cookies are also used on sites that carry advertising, sites that have a commenting section and sites that allow you to personalise your visit, etc. As a result, pretty much every blog uses cookies and the massive majority of websites do too.

I wanted to be among the first to comply with the cookie regulations, so the page went up along with a new banner in my sidebar, so people could see it on every page they visit here.

Blogger concerns about cookie disclosure

Over the past few weeks, many bloggers have told me that they are in no hurry to disclose their use of cookies. It isn’t that their blogs do anything weird with them. Their concern was that by being among the first to offer cookie disclosure, they may lose traffic.

Their logic looks like this: Most people (and many bloggers) have no idea that almost every blog uses cookies, so if they make a point of highlighting THEIR policy, before the other bloggers, some readers will wrongly assume the other blogs don’t use cookies. They think this, even though cookies usually make the reader experience better and allow the blogger to improve the quality of their blog.

I see transparency as an opportunity

One of the best kept secrets in business, is the amazing power of transparency. People like the idea that the people around them are being open and honest with them. Conversely, they lose trust in people, who they discover have been hiding something relevant from them.

In my experience, whenever you are gifted with an opportunity to display your eagerness to be transparent, you should grasp it with both hands. This is even more important online, where people often connect with your work, before they have the chance to meet you or check you out in person. Transparency helps us earn trust and build credibility.

Those are 2 extremely valuable assets, which every business needs.

Photo: Qfamily

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