Five Reasons to Blog for Business

Five Reasons to Blog for Business

There are some great business blogs out there…instructional, entertaining, thought-provoking, inspiring.  What kind of blog will you do?  You have plenty of professional insights of your own, and there are lots of reasons to share them with us. Build your brand. A blog gives you the space to expand your audience’s perception of your company in a way that social media and many websites do not.  In your blog, you can be more immediate, go in-depth, take side trips, be a little more provocative if that’s your style. Show your expertise. People will come back again and again to a blog that gives them something they can use.  They will buy from—or hire—the person who clearly knows how to add value. Engage your audience. Whether you’re looking for donors and volunteers, testing an idea for a new product or service, or soliciting feedback about your service, you can start a conversation on your blog.  You may get some input you weren’t looking for, but how you handle it will speak volumes about your company. Get a free website. Even if you don’t actually sell anything over the web, and your business is very small with a limited budget, you can give yourself a professional website. There are excellent free tools like WordPress that will let you set up your brand and look bigger than you are.  You will be limited only by your creativity and energy. Earn points with search engines. Google, Yahoo and other search engines reward original content that is refreshed often at popular websites.  You have to think in terms of what the internet surfer is searching for, but don’t write your blog like one big bag of keywords.  If your content is original and engaging, you’ll get noticed. If you are a CEO or own your own company, there are even more reasons to have your own blog.  Read...

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Head to Head: Two CEO Blogs

Head to Head: Two CEO Blogs

Michael Hyatt, the leader of Thomas Nelson Publishing, puts out one of the finest CEO blogs on the internet.  Of course, the blog site is custom-made and well-designed, because he’s got some tech resources at hand.  But what makes this blog worth reading is that Hyatt is willing to be himself in a very public way.  He writes engagingly on a number of well-categorized topics, gives his opinions, asks questions, and isn’t afraid to say when he doesn’t get something.  His blog post on rethinking his Facebook strategy is brilliant: initially, he’s pretty annoyed by the new social media tool, but he knows it’s here to stay and decides how he will use it both professionally and personally.  He also posts articles about leadership, productivity and, while he’s at it, publishing.  Under Miscellany:  “Yesterday was hard.  A business deal stalled.  I didn’t make much progress on several key projects.  I was discouraged.  And toward the end of the day, I learned that a friend had died. I  just wanted to go home, put on my pajamas, and go to bed.”  That’s bravery. By contrast, Bill Marriott’s blog serves up thinly-veiled sales pitches for its hotel properties, without any passion or personality, in an unimaginative design topped off by Bill’s corporate headshot.  CEOs love to say, “Don’t bring me the problem unless you bring me the solution,” so here goes… You’re a big company; spend a little on a nice blog site. If your marketing department designed this blog, revisit the org chart. Take off the tie.  Loosen up a little. Talk about the big picture; save the sale pitch for your main website. Get excited about something.  If you’re not, why would we be? Does either of these blogs increase sales?  Not directly, because a blog isn’t a place to “close the deal.”  It’s a place to get a sense of a company, to decide if its values line up yours. What’s your favorite CEO blog? ...

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We all need a little more Despair.

We all need a little more Despair.

Chances are that you’ve been walking through an office, or even worked in one, where you saw the posters from Successories© that are supposed to be motivational, with headlines like TEAMWORK or ATTITUDE or EXCELLENCE.  There’s nothing as funny as a dead-on parody of something that’s asking for it, and the Demotivators© line at www.despair.com really nails it.  The execution is so good, in fact, that on a galloping horse you wouldn’t even notice the difference.  Satire is protected speech, so nobody gets sued, but surely somebody tried.  After a few decades of downsizing, outsourcing, and sending work offshore, loyalty between employers and employees is largely a fiction.  Cheerleading isn’t what workers crave.  Besides, to quote the masters of parody, “If a pretty poster and a cute saying are all it takes to motivate you, you probably have a very easy job.”  We don’t know too many people with easy jobs nowadays. When it comes to branding, is imitation really the sincerest form of flattery? Yes, if your brand is strong enough that the people who love it still love it, no matter who else doesn’t love it.  Any manager who thinks a poster is enough to make employees happier and more productive still will.  Tina Fey’s scary-good send-ups of Sarah Palin haven’t exactly ruined her ability to make a living, and people who voted for her are liable to do it again. The subhead on the IRRESPONSIBILITY poster is: “No single raindrop believes it is to blame for the flood.”  And it’s not.  For a brand to be meaningful, and for an employee to be motivated, everyone needs to be on...

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Why bartering is a really bad idea.

Why bartering is a really bad idea.

Trade your massage therapist for an hour of counseling?  Do the books for the guy who cuts the grass around your building?  Exchange legal advice for a new website?  At first blush, bartering professional services may seem like a smart idea: no cash required, and Uncle Sam is none the wiser.  Here are some reasons it can be a very bad idea. People value what they pay for. There have been numerous marketing research studies showing that people will often be more apt to buy something at a higher price than the identical product at a lower price.  If you want to get rid of an old sofa, you could donate it to a nonprofit that will come get it, or (depending on your zip code), you could put it at the edge of your yard.  Don’t put a “FREE” sign on it or it may sit there; put a price on it, and it will disappear right away.  See more about this weird psychology at the “Getting Rid of Things” blog. If something is free, there’s a reason, and it’s usually not a good reason. You’re worth more than that. Engaging in long-term, habitual bartering is an admission that you don’t really know what you’re worth and don’t have enough confidence in the value of your work to charge for it.  You may not have “hard” costs to cover, like materials or the salaries of other people, but you put a lot of time (and perhaps some very expensive education) into gaining your professional skills. Bartering puts you at a disadvantage. It’s hard to hold a vendor’s feet to the fire on the quality or timeliness of work if you’re not writing them a check.   Bartering sets up a squishy, unmeasurable situation with not enough consequences for a bad job.  You may think you’re getting the long end of the stick, but you may need the stick for other reasons. Uncle Sam does care. You’re supposed to report bartering situations on your tax return.  According to Kevin Harris CPA, “Contrary to popular opinion, bartering is considered by the IRS to be taxable income.  To report such a transaction, each party should invoice for their goods or services, based on normal billing practices.  Each party would then recognize income related to the goods or services given, and recognize expense related to the goods and services received.  It may be true that bartering is difficult to trace; in an audit, the IRS will look at your overall operations.  Any goods or services you are making use of, without supporting documents to show how they were obtained, can lead to questions about bartering.”  For more tax info on the subject, go...

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What's in it for me?

What's in it for me?

Five Classic Advertising Mistakes Business Owners Make. If you watch TV very early or very late, you’ll see lots of local ads done on the cheap.  You’ll also see all the worst advertising mistakes, probably in one commercial break.  These blunders also appear in print, radio, online advertising and social media; they’re just so glaring on the tube.  Drumroll, please… #5:  Putting your employees in your commercials. We assume that if you fix air conditioners, cash checks or change tires, you have people working for you.  Lining up your staff in front of the camera firing-squad-style makes them—and us—uncomfortable. #4:  Putting yourself in your commercials. Face-time is grand and lots of business owners are willing to pay for it, convincing themselves the reason they’re doing it is that people want to know the guy in charge.  I have no idea who runs things at Amazon or whether he or she is good-looking; I just want my stuff. #3:  Putting your kids in your commercials. We know you think they’re cute, but puppies are cuter and there’s something creepy about having your children pimping furniture and hot tubs.  This one is as annoying as letting your kids record your outgoing voice mail message. #2:  Handing over control of your brand. The local TV station will whip you up a commercial as part of the package.  The newspaper will typeset your ad at no charge.  Your nephew will build you a website for a bunch of iTunes credits.  It’s like handing your baby to a complete stranger. #1:  Not answering the question, “What’s in it for me?” We’ve all seen the “Million Dollar Real Estate Salesman” and “Top Car Dealer in the State” ads.  The implication is that if a lot of people want it, I’ll want it, but making you successful is not my goal.  Tell me how you can make me stronger, sexier, richer, smarter or skinnier.  Find out what I want and tell me about that. What’s your favorite bad...

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