If so, you are my kind of people.
From the beginning, Pushing Social was meant to be a business. Each stage of this blog’s growth was crafted to build a brand, cultivate a community of buyers, and deliver valuable content.
I’m proud of the results. Pushing Social is my full-time gig and I want to share with you a few thoughts you may find useful.
Begin With The End in Mind
Ever since I read Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People I’ve followed the rule – “Begin with the End in Mind.” Goals are powerful tools. A crystal clear, well-thought out goal is as important as capital and customers. Without a goal, any situation will do and most times we tend to slip back to our default situation – working for someone else.
Back in April of 2010, I opened up my text editor and wrote down my goal for Pushing Social in vivid detail. I described what I wanted, what I would feel, and how my own business would operate. I kept writing until I had exhausted every detail. To this day, I can tell you what is in that document word-for-word.
My goals were: Offer a unique marketing consulting service to small and medium-sized businesses. Write and publish my own book. Specifically, I wanted to see my name on a book in the business section of Barnes and Nobel. Last, I wanted to offer my services without the dead-end salesmanship I had seen throughout my career.
Set a Realistic Timeline
We live in a microwave, instant-on, culture. It’s easy to believe that anything can happen immediately. While this is the case for some, the rest of us have to be realistic about our goals. In my case, I had three small kids and a stay-at-home wife. Quitting my job and riding off into the sunset would be irresponsible and naive.
After deciding on my goal, I gave myself three years to achieve it. Three years seems like a long time but it took into account the time needed to discover my voice, refine my vision, build an audience, and create the systems needed to market my business.
I figured that it would take me at least a year of steady work to create the trust needed to sell a product. I also knew that book publishers like to see a success story before they take a risk on publishing a new author’s book. Thankfully, I was able to partner with Mark Schaefer who lent Pushing Social the credibility needed to convince McGraw-Hill to take a chance. But, I still needed to have a real, feisty and growing audience.
Realistic timelines also allow you to be methodical in achieving your goal. You have time to experiment, fail, recover, and try again. Time gave me a margin of error that was critical to building Pushing Social
Describe the Ideal Customer
My ideal reader and client is a scrappy, ambitious, hot-headed, people-pleaser who wanted to run their own show. They give their absolute best and will fight for what they believe. They love to make people smile and intuitively know that being a people pleaser (in the good sense) is the key to success.
I went to iStockphoto and found a photo of my ideal reader and client. I printed it off, folded it into a square and slipped it into my wallet. Whenever I opened my wallet to by coffee or gas, I say my goal – that feisty Pushing Social reader.
Everything I did from that point was tied to attracting my ideal reader.
- I chose an optimistic and ambitious tone for my content. I never celebrated mediocre expectations, wishy-washy goals, or defeatist logic.
I picked topics that encouraged readers to take action. I’m not a navel gazer. I hate judging other people’s success. These are distractions in my book and I didn’t want Pushing Social to be a tool for anything but charging hard toward a concrete goal.
I selected red as my action color. Red is edgy, ambitious, and oh-so-in your face. I figured that my reader’s were bulls in a china shop and couldn’t resist taking a run at a red cape. I was right.
Build A Reader-Focused Editorial Calendar
Research time. I joined forums. I paid $47 a month for access to a private forum that was filled with my kind of reader. I found the forum’s search bar and typed in “How to ?” (this phrase exactly) which gave me a list of posts containing questions from the audience. I recorded every question and wrote out my answers.
I used the same process for Quora, Yahoo Answers, Amazon, and LinkedIn.
I also searched the top blogs in my niche looking for unanswered and frequent reader questions. All of this research was used to build a 52 week editorial calendar.
Developing the calendar was important because I was able to prove that I had enough content for the long term. It was reassuring to know that my blog wouldn’t die because I ran out of things to say.
The editorial calendar also served as a worksheet for evaluating my audience’s response to certain topics. After 6 months, I went back to my editorial calendar and compared posts with blog traffic, time spent on page, and bounce rates. This information helped me drill down to 3 specific needs that I could use for potential products, services, and “Expert Products”.
Build a Community of Buyers
Your community’s intent is important. You need a reader community composed of buyers if you want your blog to be a full-time job. There isn’t a fancy way around this reality.
Unfortunately this is where many well-meaning bloggers stumble. They believe that “free stuff” will attract an audience of buyers.
In the end, they find that there are three types of prospects – investors, testers, and collectors. Investors want to exchange money for expertise. Testers want proof before they invest. Collectors look for free offers. Investors and testers don’t mind relevant marketing. Collectors are offended by all marketing. Don’t waste time trying to woo the Collectors, focus on the buyers and testers.
It’s logical to assume that you should never offer free resources. That would be the wrong assumption. I knew that my full-time business would need 10-12 buying clients. People who were serious about marketing their business. I offered free information but made it clear that this was out of the norm. I targeted complimentary services and information at “testers”, folks who had been burned in the past but were willing to invest after doing a little due diligence.
Lately, It’s become fashionable to demonize bloggers who are building businesses. They are portrayed as inauthentic, greedy or morally suspect. Pay these voices no mind. It’s reasonable to accept compensation for your expertise. Just make sure you are delivering tangible value.
Most business assumptions are wrong. Almost all marketing assumptions are wrong. After 15 years working as a professional marketer, I’ve learned to question my assumptions and rely on face-to-face customer feedback.
Before I opened the doors of Pushing Social “The Business”, I interviewed 24 business owners. I asked them what they wanted from a marketing coach. I learned that potential clients wanted something radically different from what I thought. This research saved me months of hand wringing and thousands of dollars.
In the end, the business owners helped me create services that the market wanted. I learned a valuable lesson – The goal is to build a business not prove to the market place you are right. You only have a business when you are satisfying customer demand.
Sell Something Before You Jump
I was hired by my first client before I listed a single service on Pushing Social. After ‘identifying demand”, I went back to the 24 business owners and said, will you buy this. Almost half of this group said yes. The next day, I was in business – full time.
I remind clients that if you can sell one, it’s likely that you can sell two, three, four, and so on. The hardest and most valuable sell is the first one.
Before you jump, get real world validation that you aren’t smoking crack. A signed project or cash in the register is hard to dispute. If you can, try to keep your day job and leave once it’s impossible to do both or you’ve replaced your income primary income.
Be prepared to change your plan. I’ve adjusted every aspect of this blog based on feedback from readers and clients. I would be back in a cubicle if I insisted on stubbornly staying the course. Remember that your goal is a business with paying clients that you love. Keep an open mind about how you get there.