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5 Reasons to Love Webinars Explained

Webinars rock, but it seems my “webinars rock” illustration caused more confusion than it educated! To rectify the situation, I have cut up and explained my thinking in this article. 1. Awareness and Ideas The first reason to love webinars is that you get the opportunity to create a sense of event around your ideas, […]

Why Webinars Rock

Check Out Magnetic Webinars … or ask me any questions or let me know your thoughts in the comments …

Claiming Your Independence – 5 Years of Business Lessons

Five years ago I cut loose from my day job and launched myself into the adventure that is working for oneself. That was the start of my journey towards claiming my independence day, and I think there are lessons for you if you want to do something similar to what I have done.

I’m proud of where I am at but as well as talk about the successes, I am going to share with you the mistakes so you can avoid them.

If you just want the main lessons, skip to the end. Otherwise, see what you can learn from my journey …

I left my easy and relatively fairly paid job at a marketing agency to start a business. A real business, not the toy sidelines I had played with before. This one was going to be the sole income for our household. Knowing that your work has to pay all the bills concentrates the mind on what is really important.

State your intention.

The intention had been there for a while. You can see that I had been working up to the point for a little while in this image below. That image is taken from a site I used to frequent, I was defending blogging and saying why I did it.

This was April 2005. Shortly after I received a contract opportunity that allowed me to pull the trigger on my plans and finally leave. A few people have suggested that I achieved my goal because I wrote it out, I am not sure and I don’t think it matters if it was mystical or not. The opportunity arrived, I was prepared and well positioned for it, and I took that leap of faith.

Be prepared to grab the opportunity.

I see people get offered their ‘chance of a lifetime’ and not take it, only to live with the regret. It seems the sting of regret about something you did not do is worse than regretting something you tried. Our ‘what if’ fears tend to be overblown, and can cause us to not take risks that could be the trigger for wonderful outcomes.

Of course it was frightening. I had never been that classic “sold baseball cards in the playground” type entrepreneur. It’s still not a label I would associate with me, even though I am of course a business owner and investor. Crucial for us was that I was not putting the family at risk.

Like most decisions of this magnitude, you have to do a risk-reward analysis and crucially a game of ‘what is the worst that could happen? What is the best that could happen?’.

Know what you want to gain and what you want to escape.

As well as paying the bills, and preferably gain far greater financial rewards than that, I had certain goals that were not financially motivated. For a start, I wanted to avoid all the annoying day to day stuff I was very motivated to get away from. Listing everything out showed clearly that what I wanted to move towards and away from were very much in tune. See if any of these resonate with you:

  1. Do work that got results, and see those results reflected in my rewards – In my old job, working smarter or harder did not get rewarded, plus it was rare I was dealing with a decision maker at the client.
  2. Work with people I actually liked – A handful of my former colleagues are still friends, and even a couple of former clients, but now I get to choose who I work with or not, and that transforms your work day.
  3. Direct my own work and schedule – Since working for myself I have never had to miss any of my daughters school events. We have had more vacation time, I have taken more breaks, and also worked longer hours when necessary. Contrast that with having to ask permission to take a vacation day for doctors appointments and even surgery a couple of times.
  4. Travel to new places, see new people – There was a little travel in the old job, but I have many more opportunities for travel, to cooler places, and I have influence over the logistics. If I don’t want to go I can say no, which is probably the most important and most overlooked aspect. I find the people who dislike work travel are the ones who are forced or coerced into it. Much as I disliked being away from my family, and I take them along where possible, it is definitely a perk of my situation to be able to see parts of the world I have never visited before.
  5. Have customers come to me without pitching, proposals or spec work – An annoying aspect of marketing consulting is the amount of potential clients who sting you for free ideas and advise via the pitch and proposal process. I made the decision I would never pitch or write proposals again. If a customer wanted me they wanted me. This has saved me countless hours and helped me avoid the worst of the abusive clients, while also taking a lot of the stress out of the work. Has this meant I haven’t won work that I could have? Sure, but if I have to ‘win’ it, then it probably wasn’t mine in the first place.

Only the other day I commented on a Facebook thread that I now get paid for stuff I would likely do anyway. That is awesome, but what is even more awesome is after five years I have finally categorically ticked all the above boxes.

It did take five years though …

Learn from your mistakes.

The first big mistake was that plum contract that arrived at just the right time. Don’t get me wrong, it was fantastic – it set me up, the work was challenging, I still have friends from those days who I value greatly.

I had made the mistake of agreeing to forgoe any other activity, to give 100% to the project. This is a huge mistake, do not EVER agree to that, and never expect someone else to do that either.

  1. When the startup ended in a bit of a tangled mess, I had no ‘Plan B’.
  2. My goals above were centered around me making my own decisions, being my own boss. Instead I went from one boss to another.
  3. I had no freedom, having to constantly report in. My wife still reminds me of the time she threatened to throw my pocket pc into Lake Louise because I was trying to check in while on vaction.

That all said, even though I had clearly gone against goal #3, I was closer to my dream situation and the contacts I made were incredible.

Right around the time the startup folded and got bought out, I started this blog, scrambled around and got some more contracts. I also made a bunch of new mistakes.

Are they clients or bosses?

When a freelancer or consultant needs work there is a smell of desperation. That desperation can often be exploited. I went from one contract boss to a whole bunch.

Things did become much better and far easier. My blog took off, and thanks to my friends in the blogging world I managed to attract the attention that paid off in terms of contracts, speaking gigs, and other opportunities.

The downside to this was I started to coast out of complacency.

As I said above, I am not that Donald Trump driven entrepreneur type. So long as I was paying the bills and enjoying my work, I didn’t have the hunger to hustle.

My growth stalled, I withdrew while I juggled competing demands for my attention from my clutch of clients, and then withdrew even further when my daughter had a couple of major health panics, and some less major but still worrying ones.

When you have a predictable income from super supportive clients who stick with you even during some enormous personal life crises, it is hard to complain or see how things could be much better. But I should have been pushing ahead, I should have remembered what I had set out to do.

Another mistake I made was pulling back on the promotion.

Out there on the interwebs there are some harsh critics. I normally do a pretty good job of working out who to listen to and who to ignore, but there came a point where I was been repeatedly attacked for being over exposed. And I was, to a degree. But it meant that I pulled back from guest posting at Copyblogger, Problogger and other places that had been very good to me. Most of the people complaining did not have my best interests at heart, I should not have given them that level of influence.

You must grow a carapace of protection around your ego and not rely on other people for your self esteem.

Good news, bad news.

The best possible news was we got through the health issues as a family, and my awesome clients stuck by me, even offering support.

Really we were very happy once we got through it, but it did highlight major flaws in my business:

  1. It only really ran when I was present.
  2. My business was never designed to scale.
  3. I was spreading myself very thin, my family was hardly getting to see me, and my own health was suffering.

Two business models.

At this point I had to choose my business model and re-engineer my processes around them.

  1. Charge more with fewer clients.
  2. Create products to serve a greater number of people for lower individual cost.

I started with #1 but there is a limit to what I was willing to charge. My financial thermostat kicked in and rebelled when I realized I could never get myself psychogically to a $22k day rate. Our plans to move to Canada also meant that my higher paying face to face clients would soon be having to look to alternative providers, and in fact that is what happened as our plans progressed.

Which brings us to #2, and the situation I am in now. You will notice I do not have a coaching and consulting page any longer and lately I have launched quite a few products.

Effort vs Reward.

In your business you can put your activities onto the Effort-Reward scale to see how they compare.

In my business, even though providing consulting is rewarding on a personal and financial level, over time the incremental effort of providing consulting stays level or increases. Contrast this with product creation where you do the effort once, then the incremental effort is far lower but the rewards keep coming in. This is scaling.

It’s not purely a monetary decision, reward also includes how enjoyable the work is and if you get to work with the people who you like to work with. I’m not going to cut off consulting entirely, but I am not going to take on any new coaching or consulting clients and will restrict that work to on-site workshop days teaching internet marketing, social media, copywriting, seo and so on. This will allow me to maintain the face to face client contact I enjoy without going back to all day every day that was unsustainable.

I’m glad to say this isn’t all theory, it has worked out in practice. It’s a great combination of more profit combined with more free time to enjoy it. Even better, I have a business that I can move to Canada without as much risk.

How I got from there to here – the big lessons.

I have learned far more in the short time I have had my own business than all the time I worked in other people’s businesses. Here is how you can learn from my last five years and what you need to build:

  1. Content and Audience – Content is the core to attracting the attention you need, and to build the reputation that will gain you customers. I have been continiously writing online since 1994, but it took having no other choice for me to focus and develop a real asset, which is the blog you are reading and the associated email lists. Really I should have developed many more assets than this by now. Something I am going to correct.
  2. NetworkWithout a strong network you will struggle to make progress and you will not gain the opportunities that take you further. Thanks to friends like Brian and Darren, back in 2007 when I thought my world had collapsed I was quickly put back on my feet. You need to know there are people out there who have got your back.
  3. PromotionAs anyone with even a small audience will tell you, content alone will not get you where you want to go, you need to promote. Much of my promotion was done through Guest Posting like a mad man, appearing everywhere at once.
  4. Partners – With partners you can create more compelling products, you will find it easier to build awareness, and you will have greater motivation to continue. All five of the books I have been involved in, most famously the Problogger Book, have been co-authored. Most of my products and courses are collaborations.
  5. Systems – While working in your business, work on your business. These systems help you scale, and are also assets that can be turned into products. You need systems for attracting, retaining, converting customers, and fulfilling your promises to them. Over the last two years my systems have improved greatly, and so have my profits. I have systems for putting sales letters together through to delivering online courses quickly and effectively using membership sites and webinars. You might want to concentrate on ebooks or group coaching, but you must develop systems.

With these lessons in mind, it is hardly surprising that the free ebooks I give away on this blog are about creating killer content and developing partnerships. These two elements are the cornerstone to my business. If you haven’t read them yet, go grab them now, they are free.

Summary

I have been wanting to share this journey with you for a while, ever since I found that thread comment featured at the top of this page. At one point I was going to share it as a free webinar, but I realized there were many tangents it could go in and I wanted to make sure I kept my thoughts organized. Then I had an opportunity to sit down with Chris for coffee and during our discussion I realized how similar our thoughts, experiences and ideas are on what he calls Escape Velocity. This is how I achieved Escape Velocity, and I think it is appropriate to think about on Independence Day.

If you are looking forward to achieving your own Escape Velocity and Independence, start now. Put your content together, start promoting it, network, partner and develop your systems. You will get there, probably faster than I did.

Most of all, enjoy the ride!

Do you have any thoughts to share on creating your independence and achieving escape velocity? Please go ahead and comment now …

5 Reasons You Should Invest Your Time in Networking

Networking has delivered more return on investment than any other tool in my business. Both financially and in non-monetary terms, my network has delivered so much value that I can not imagine what my situation would be like without it. If there is one thing that I could suggest that would be guaranteed to boost any business, networking would be it.

The problem is, everyone who believes in networking recommends it the same way.

“It works, try it!”.

But how does it deliver value exactly?

Lewis and I are about to run the training class for Shy Networking tomorrow. One of the most surprising questions I have seen over and over during our launch has been people asking how they might benefit.

You see, networking takes time. It is not an instant gratification thing very often. OK, so we have all experienced that chance meeting where everything clicks and we come away with a brilliant, but random contact. That’s not the norm. We are talking about human relationships, and they are not always fast burning things.

People are asking if they should devote time to networking over, say, SEO, blogging or social media.

I have to tell you, being so close to things it took me a while to articulate. It’s like explaining why we need to breathe, drink and eat – my network is like food, but the other tactics are like water and oxygen to my business. It’s not either-or, it’s and. So if you are crunched for time, why should you add networking to your mix?

Of course you wouldn’t be reading this article if I hadn’t managed to give you concrete reasons why you should invest your time in networking, so here they are.

Networking ROI

There are many benefits to networking but you have to remember that we are dealing with people. You have to keep that in mind. Going out with a “what can I get?” attitude is going to sink your efforts before you begin. But, of course you need to know what return you are going to get before you invest, so here is what you can expect:

1. Friendship Benefits

I wanted to start with a benefit that does not necessarily convert to Dollars, Pounds or Euros. Do not overlook the simple benefit of having friends in the business with no strings attached. We need to know someone has our back, that we have people who are there for us. It can be lonely when you work alone, with only a monitor light to keep you company.

Having someone who understands is extremely valuable on a psychological and emotional level. Your friends can chat to keep you motivated and cheery, are a sounding board for ideas, or will listen to you moan when you need it. When Sonia, Jon and I get together on Skype an hour can go by in a flash, I am not always sure if we actually do solve the world’s problems, but those conversations are something I look forward to each week.

When you are in a strange town it is nice to have company even just for meals. Deb NG, Becky McCray and Andy Hayes keep me safe on the mean streets of the USA, help me dodge my diet, and stop my ego getting out of control.

Now I am feeling guilty for not listing all the people who have kept me company, fed me, or joined me in friendship and conversation over the years. Hopefully you will forgive me for not linking you up this once, I will buy you a drink next time we meet while you tell me what a horrible friend I am. Deal? :)

My point is people need people.

2. Opportunities

Now to contrast with the touch-feely first benefit, here is where the big bang of ROI kicks in. The most significant monetary benefit my network has brought me, and we are talking six figures from just one contact, is the opportunities they expose me to or introduce me to.

If you are not getting enough opportunities, then you need to build your network. Opportunities like joint ventures, client leads, partnerships, speaking and writing gigs, businesses or assets bought and sold … you name it.

All the best opportunities are shared person to person in back channels. Everything from prime domain sales through to employment opportunities. If two people are equally qualified then it goes to who you know, like and trust. A lot of the time even when the person you like is less qualified. Getting passed over for plum gigs? This is why.

This one networking benefit alone has to be worth an astronomical amount.

There are two problems that stop people thinking of this benefit, though:

  1. People do not give credit to their network when opportunities arise. They either think “Of course I got this opportunity, I am awesome” or they think they were just lucky.
  2. Bad networking leads to a lack of opportunity, and can actually damage your ability to attract the best opportunities. It is better for nobody to know who you are, rather than be known as a jerk. Sorry, it is a simple truth.

3. Advice

We all like to give friends advice, and sometimes they even ask for it!

There are some things The Google can’t tell you. If I had gotten all the free advice I have received over the years from paid consultants then … well, I would have a massive deficit in my bank account or wouldn’t be writing this to you now.

We rely on our networks to advise us and keep us on track, and we give back to our networks in return. Give a lot and you have credit in the bank when you need to make a withdrawal. The better your network the more knowledge you can tap into.

Just in the world of SEO, people like Aaron Wall, Dave Naylor, Doug Scott, Jason Duke, Michael Gray, Rae Hoffman, Joost DeValk, a certain Google employee, and numerous others have given me golden tips over the years. They have kept me from making dumb moves, and have put me right when I have been confused (ok, that happens more times than I like to admit). When people confuse me with being a search engine expert I tell them I am not but I know plenty who are the real deal. It would be impossible to get this much expertise on the payroll, the only way to have contact with this much awesome is to try to be worthy of their friendship.

There are informal advice channels like those, and there are formal arrangements such as consulting swaps or masterminds. I am doing a consulting swap with a self development expert, he is fixing my brain and I am helping him with online marketing. Masterminds are where a group of people with common goals and values get together to push, encourage and advise each other.

If you only get occasional advice from your network then you are in significant net profit from your efforts.

4. Assistance

Someone once told me the definition of a friend is someone who will help you move house with no notice and no expectation of payment. I’m not sure about that but I think mutual help is definitely part of the definition, and one of the ways you can benefit from networking. Not the house thing, the helping part.

  • Promotion – Giving you a boost in traffic, reputation, or sales
  • Community – Helping you build conversation and community
  • Links – Links in terms of Google juice, or sharing news and info from their networks
  • Introductions – Connecting you to people you would like to meet or who they think are awesome
  • Getting you out of a hole – Fixing dodgy code, giving you a heads up when you goof, or having your back when someone attacks

5. Positive Influence

You become who you associate with. This works in the negative, as any parent will have thought about while considering who their kids friends are or will be. It also works in the positive, if you surround yourself with the right people then the attitudes, habits, world view, and associations will rub off.

Apparently there is some scientific basis for this, but I have seen it enough in my own life to know it is true. I grew up in a place where success and wealth were considered wrong. If you had nice things then you must be a bad person. You can see all around you what that does to a community. So I gravitated towards people with a more positive mindset, who shared my goals and values. If nothing else I am happier for having motivating influences rather than depressing ones.

Modeling successful people is a proven way to improve your own performance, what better than to be able to model people up close and personal?

The tribe you select will have a profound impact on your work and life, so choose well.

Summary

One of the worries with an article like this is that people will focus on the “bragging” or “name dropping” rather than on the message. Thank you in advance for pointing out what a jerk I am, and you are welcome :)

The fact is I owe a great deal to my friends, contacts and extended network. If you get anything out of this article I want you to understand that every single new friend or contact you make is worth their weight in gold.

There is a danger that some people will take from this that they should go out with a gimme gimme frame of mind. That’s not what I am talking about. My hope is that you will see that while the impact might not be immediate, the compound effects of networking are significant and long lasting.

Want to know how you can get all these benefits and more?

The live training for Shy Networking is tomorrow, Thursday 17th June, at 2pm Eastern USA time. The Q&A call is the Thursday the week after at the same time. You get the live training, action guides and bonuses (to be revealed) all for $47 if you get in now. Everything is recorded and will be up in the member area with no time limits, so don’t worry if you can’t make it live, or if you miss something. After the first class the price goes up, and again after the Q&A, so get in now for the best price.

We look forward to seeing you in the Shy Networking training – Go ahead and sign up right now!

The #1 Habit of Effective Online Business Owners

  • What would you say is the main habit that is common to all successful online business owners?
  • Is there one thing that if you just applied it would make a massive difference to your own progress?

As a inquisitive student of internet marketing I talk to a lot of people involved in the online business world, friends, gurus, mentors. I’m also a big fan of business biographies and checking out interviews with the experts. In investigating these folks’ strategies, something comes up again and again. The more you look for it, the more it shows up clear as day.

It doesn’t matter who they are, what they do, how they made their profits, or even how they spent them … one approach is fundemental every single time.

From the outside though we get the wrong impression. People try to replicate their success and miss this vital factor, which hampers any progress they would ever make, or worse sets them up for massive failure.

What is this crucial thing?

Why I Switched to the Headway Premium Theme for WordPress

Headway Premium WordPress Theme
The Headway blog theme is now powering chrisg.com and so many people asked me about it that I thought I would write up my thinking behind the decision.

Mostly people were either shocked or congratulated me.

Shock came from the fact a lot of people know me as an advocate for the Thesis Theme from Chris Pearson and Brian Clark. Why would I recommend this theme so much and so often, but then go with their main competitor for my signature blog?

Of course the congratulations came from all the people who are big fans of Headway and like to see people adopting it :)

What I think about Thesis

I am still a huge fan of the Thesis Theme and I am still using it, in my own projects (a whole bunch of existing and some new ones), and client projects.

  • The typography looks great, the best of the premium themes out there.
  • It’s fast, and speed is an important element.
  • As a framework to build upon, it is top-notch. Chris Pearson has put in a great deal of effort “under the hood” and it shows.
  • They have built a fantastic environment for affiliates – Chris Brogan pays his mortgage using it and every other big name out there recommends it.

So why not use it here on this blog?

Why Headway?

I had intented to for quite a while, in fact that was the plan right up until Grant demonstrated the Headway theme for me at SOBCon and blew me away. Had Grant not sat near me in Chicago this site would have been running Thesis right now.

Fact is, while the current incarnation could have been done with Thesis, what I have planned for this site would have required a significant amount of hacking and coding in the form of hooks, CSS and PHP. This site is not going to be a simple blog for much longer, which means I am going to be moving stuff around and testing different things. Tinkering and tweaking ability is a major plus for me.

This is geeky code stuff I could do, given time, but it brought home the feedback I had been getting from certain clients and readers.

You see there are people and businesses that Thesis is ideal for. If you have a designer or know enough CSS/PHP then you are going to completely rock your blog with Thesis, no question.

As Chris Brogan says on his blog Thesis is “a great template/starting point for designers to work from”.

If you don’t want to code or pay someone else to, then I recommend Headway.

What Headway offers is a great theme that you can customise visually. You don’t have to know any of the geek stuff if you don’t want to. Simply drag items around to move them, point and click to change colours, and so on. If you want different pages to have a different look, perhaps different items in the sidebar, you don’t need to add any plugins or know any programming talk.

Yes, it is a powerful system so is not the fastest theme on the block. It also does not look fantastic “out of the box” because the idea is you are buying a solid foundation. You make it yours.

I am going to recommend you try Headway, not just because I get an affiliate commission (I will, not enough to pay my mortgage, but I will) but because I already knew there was a need and now I know Headway is the solution to that need.

Summary

I love Thesis, I am still going to recommend it and use it. But, and it is only a small but (unlike Brogan and Mixalot I prefer small ones) I recommend Thesis to the people who can use it. Headway and Thesis will continue improving and competing, that has to be good news for customers like us, but for now they each fit certain markets better than others.

The combination of WordPress and Headway means anyone can build exactly the site or blog they want without having to know any programming or design code. That’s powerful.

Check out Headway right now and see if you could create something fantastic with it because I can recommend it.

Problogger Book, Now in Second Edition!

I am proud to say the Problogger Book is now in a second edition :)

Well, apparently – Darren and I have yet to see it!

The previous edition was released back in 2008 and this second edition should start rolling out … now! Apparently it will be hitting stores as I write this, and in fact it’s already on Amazon with 34% off.

This is an update of the 1st edition and not a complete rewrite – however there are a few significant updates including:

  • Many many small updates and changes throughout the book. New examples, screenshots, updates of new tools, a few deletions of references to old tools, an update to our stories in the intro etc.
  • A whole chapter on social media and how it impacts and can be used by bloggers – one of the ways things have moved on in the last couple of years!
  • Darren has added a case study chapter that goes through the first 4 years of Digital Photography School (Darren’s main blog – yup, Problogger is NOT his main blog). He goes through how it was launched, how he makes money and how he has grown that massive audience.
  • Bonuses – we’re offering anyone who buys the book a series of bonuses (some interviews with successful bloggers, some extra teaching etc) over time on the Problogger Book site member’s area.

I will update you with news about ebook/Kindle and so on when I have it from Wiley, but the previous edition was available in both digital and print.

Check it out on Amazon, or get more information on the book site now

10 Lessons Comic Books Can Teach Us About Blogging and Content Marketing

comic-books

I nearly called this article “Everything I know about blogging I learned from comic books” but I was afraid too many people would take it literally, ha. In fact, there might be an element of truth to it. My formative reading material was dominated by muscly, spandex-clad guys and gals fighting crime and shooting laser beams out of their eyes. Like most geeks who grew up in the 1980s, I have been heavily influenced by Marvel, 2000AD/Judge Dredd, and to a lesser extend, DC comics.

Other than the odd graphic novel purchase, my interest was put to one side due to time, family, and so on. Recently though, due to the Marvel iPhone app, I have a renewed interest in buying comic books. This has made me look at them with a new perspective and I realised just how much content creators can learn from these publishers, writers and artists. As Stan Lee would say … excelsior!

  1. Excitement & Anticipation – Comics are all about capturing interest, building and maintaining it. When you get to the end of each issue, what is there? That’s right … a cliff-hanger! Want to know what happens next? Look out for the next issue. Fans look forward to the next new comic, they devour it, discuss it, swap it, then look forward to the next. And on and on! Even when re-issuing older archive stuff, like on the iPhone app, they still serialize the content and make you wait. Why? It builds anticipation and means you will buy a piece at a time.Lesson: Build anticipation, tell your audience the great stuff that is coming, drip-feed content, syndicate, and make sure you deliver on those promises.
  2. Visual impact – Half or more of the joy of comics is in the visuals. In fact, you don’t actually need the words a lot of the time to follow the story. Comic book artists are masters at telling a story visually and making everything that much more compelling. Combined with the occasionally really great plot (Dark Knight, Watchmen), this makes the medium really engaging and addictive.Lesson: Don’t rely on a wall of text. Spice up your content with visuals. Rather than try to describe everything, use illustrations and visual guides. This aids learning and consumption, which means your content will be far more successful.
  3. Cross-selling – Comic books are experts at cross-selling. It’s not just in the comic book store or full page ads within the comics, it is actually in the content. One thing lots of people notice when getting more involved in reading comics is buying one series is not enough to get the full story. First there are usually years of back story, inside jokes, plot twists, but then while one plot line is taking place, the rest of the story is unfolding in sister comics, for example “* See Avengers #517?. That is a strong enough pull for many a fan to discover new characters, series, artists, and so-on, but for the truly addicted collector, it never ends.Lesson: Where another piece of content or product is relevant, mention it. Keep adding and creating more relevant content or products while the demand is strong. Predict what people will want, need next and deliver it. Create an environment where a customer can discover more of your great stuff.
  4. Human Drama – The stories in these comics never stay still, and while much of the action is crude (people fighting or spoiling for a fight), they also have the power to move you. We feel involved, we want to know what happens because we care. Although based in science fiction or fantasy, the drama is most importantly human. Peter Parker was a bullied school kid who, yes, got bitten by a radiactive spider, but also had relationship problems, career issues, and suffered loss. The Hulk is profoundly lonely. And so on. The web is now very much social, which is about people. People engage with people, they connect with the person over the brand. Especially important if you are a non-profit, the human-interest story is your key to making connections.Lesson: Bring your content alive, show humanity, connect on a personal level. A lot of the time drama is actually something people in business distance from. We seem to relate drama with emotional instability. But people want and like drama when it is the right kind. Drama might not be your thing, but the point is about discovering ways to lift your content, from adding a simple joke with a surprising punchline through to colorful, lively, engrossing stories.
  5. Longevity – How many characters and storylines can continue decades? Even in Television long-lived stories are rare, but in comics it is pretty much the norm. Superman has been around for generations, in print, radio, TV and film. All the ingredients mentioned here have counted towards that, but in addition they are always moving with the times, changing, evolving, testing, trying new things, but not breaking their core.Lesson: Don’t be afraid to experiment but keep true to what your audience and customers love you for. You will be rewarded with loyalty.
  6. Customer-focus – Following from the last point, these brands still exist because they have the customer in mind with every decision. Yes, there have been times when they have stepped out of line. The fans can be cruel in their vocal reactions sometimes. But these publishers and writers know how to correct their mistakes, know what the audience likes and they give it to them, and because of that are forgiven when their experiments fall flat. Most started out as fans before getting into the industry. They are still fans many of them. Conventions, workshops and meetups allow the industry and fans to get together, plus now more than ever the customers have a voice that can be heard loud and clear.Lesson: Keep in tune with your audience and customers. Know what they are thinking. Let them know you are listening. Deliver what they really want, take chances, and don’t be afraid to surprise your audience (in a good way).
  7. Brand management –  I have mentioned a few times that the comic book publishers really know their audience, but are willing to experiment. A couple of times I also mentioned brands. The characters and series are brands, and they are much-loved (to the point of obsession occasionally) brands at that. This means there is a delicate balance between pushing the boundaries while also staying true.Lesson: Knowing what the brand really means to people is vital, and making sure you stay consistent and do not betray the promises you set up.
  8. Skimming and Sound bites – As well as visuals, these stories are told in sound bites. Unlike a novel, there are very few words used to convey the story, with most of it dialog (even internal dialog). Short, clipped sentences, speech bubbles and information boxes. This means the stories can move fast and get across the information required very briefly. Perfect for distracted, excited, readers. This format also means that it is very repeatable and quotable. Characters develop catch phrases, which means playground word of mouth. Consumption is increased because a reader can get through several comics in one sitting.Lesson: If you want to get your point across quickly and not lose your reader’s interest, make your content into compact and easy to consume. Use lots of quotes, images and sound bites.
  9. Multiple media – As mentioned above, once a character gets a following you can expect to see it everywhere from action figures all the way through to the big screen. The fans watch them, read them and wear them. You can even read the comics on computer, or on your phone.Lesson: Be where your customers are and in the format your customers want. Try video, audio, print, ebooks, long and short formats.
  10. Repurposing – As content owners we often create something then let it rot, even though a lot of what we produce is evergreen. Not so with comics. Initially comics are serialised weekly, fortnightly or monthly, but then there will be collected comics, specials, repeats, graphic novels, re-issues, and as mentioned above, storylines are recycled into other media. You can even subscribe for an all you can eat plan online for $60 a year over at Marvel.com (which I am tempted to do, although I can’t understand why they don’t extend that pricing to the iPhone …).
    Lesson: Be on the look out for how you can repurpose your existing content in new ways. Perhaps republish an article, extract a bonus from a product and sell it, or bundle up content into an ebook?

As is traditional, I stopped at #10 🙂 Were or are you a comics fan? Which? What have I missed? Do you agree or disagree with any items? Does this give you any ideas? Please share your thoughts in the comments …

And the winner is …

It’s time to announce the winner of the Social Media Success Summit 2010 competition! We had hundreds of people enter, and there was an enormous amount of excitement and buzz around the competition. I hope you enjoyed it. To everyone who did not win, well there is always next year! (The competition was viewed 5,764 […]

What do you want to know?

I was interviewed late last night for an American radio show where I was asked where I get my product ideas from.

My answer was that I am not any kind of bright spark when it comes to this stuff, so I do the easiest thing, which is to ask. I ask my community what they need help with.

  • The Authority Blogger Course came from coaching clients struggling to get known and attract an engaged audience of people who wanted to buy from them.
  • My Guest Posting Guide came from clients wanting to know the quickest, easiest and most effective way to get quality links, traffic and exposure.
  • The Mojo Marketing Action Plan live course came directly out of client’s pressing needs and frustrations, and our talking to clients about what would help them get unstuck.
  • A lot of my most recent social media thinking has come out of the work I have been doing with the GOSO folks and their world of auto dealerships.
  • We surveyed our audiences to build the Social Media Success Summit lineup, plus you will see in my Social Media Success Summit competition I come straight out and ask what your biggest challenge is as your competition entry!

It’s as simple as that, if you want to know what you can help your community with, the simplest way is to ask them.

So … this is a long way of getting to the point … what do you need to know? Is there something I do that you would like to know?

Are there things you are struggling with in your business?

If I could write, build or present something that would help you get unstuck or boost your progress, what would that thing look like?

Please let me know, in the comments, email or contact form.

PS.

If you haven’t already entered the Social Media Success Summit competition you will want to get on that quick, plus remember if you buy a ticket before Thursday you get 50% off. Remember you can buy your ticket now and still enter the competition as prize winners can opt to either get their ticket refunded or give their spare to someone else, even as a their own competition prize.