The Art of the Business

A blog dedicated to artists who are serious about their business.

Blogging to Drive Business October 4, 2010

I first met Rebecca Bolwitt in November of 2008. We sat on a panel at the GVPTA’s Making a Scene Conference with Simon called Marketing Using Web 2.0.

I guess one of the things that really struck me about her was how business-like she was for someone so young. You certainly don’t get to be the Vancouver’s #1 blogger by accident, but she has also taken that fame, and spun it out into a successful business: she live-blogs events, and is a WordPress expert.

Now, she’s written a book. Blogging is one of the more challenging social mediums. First of all, it’s likely the one that you’re going to spend the most time on, if you are really dedicated to it. Secondly, getting your blog set up correctly (I’m going through this process right now!) can be quite technically challenging, and third, finding your voice as a blogger can take some time.

Creating a blog for your business adds another layer: now you have to think about what message it is that you want your readers to get about your blog, and therefore, your company.

For me, the most compelling argument for getting a blog for your company is to allow them to see behind the corporation, and get to know the real people that run the organization. It is also and amazing tool for educating your clientele.

There are 9 chapters in this book:

  1. Why are Blogs so Important?
  2. Leveraging your Blog with Marketing tools
  3. Creating a Blogging Strategy
  4. Blogging Responsibly
  5. Finding Topics to Write About
  6. Who Will Write the Blog?
  7. Getting Eyeballs To Your Blog
  8. Getting Interactive with Multimedia Blogging
  9. Taking Advantage of Web 3.0 Blogs

If you are just starting out on your blogging journey, I highly recommend this book. It’s accessibly written, contains lots of case studies, examples and screenshots, and the resource URLs are very helpful.

I’ve been blogging for two years, and I found some stuff in here that was really helpful, and which I can’t wait to implement into the redesign of my blog.

Blogging to Drive Business: Create and Maintain Valuable Customer Connections by Eric Butow and Rebecca Bolwitt is available at London Drugs and through Amazon.ca for $25.99.

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The E-Myth July 12, 2010

Ah, summer’s here. My schedule is slower, I’m only working a couple of hours a day. After that, I am mostly pool- and park-side with my 7-yr-old son. There are certainly worse ways to spend a summer.

While he’s doing his thing, I’m doing mine: and that often means that I’m catching up on my business book reading. This week, I finally finished The E-Myth. More about that in a sec.

In a not-unrelated segue, I also went to Canadian Tire last week to purchase a chair for my patio. It’s one of those ones that folds up into a little bag, so it comes with me to the pool, the park, or camping. While I was in Canadian Tire, a young, clean looking young woman came up to me and asked me if I’d like to collect a boat-load of extra Canadian Tire money, and if I’d like to continue to collect extra money on all my Canadian Tire purchases. It took me maybe about 5 seconds to realize that she was really trying to sell me a Canadian Tire credit card.

I thanked her, told her I already had all the credit cards I need, and went about my business.

But as I walked away, I felt a mixture of emotions. First, I felt bad for that girl. Bad, because I’ve been in University and had to do crappy sales jobs, too. Bad because she was just doing what she was trained to do, and was probably pretty good at it, but it wasn’t working on me (maybe making me feel bad was a sales tactic? I’d apply for a card out of pity?) I also felt a bit angry, which is how I always feel when I’m being “marketed at” either in person, or by phone.

Back to The E-Myth. There’s some good stuff in there.  For example, I really love how Gerber talks about how you should run your business, not have your business run you, and this little gem: “your business is a means rather than an end, a vehicle to enrich your life rather than one that drains the life you have.” I will probably write more about the parts of the book I really enjoyed at a later date, once I’ve had time to digest it all and implement some of the practices Gerber talks about.

Having said that, it has taken me a long time to get through this book, and here is why: Gerber’s model is based on franchising. The whole goal of any business, he says, should be to franchise, OR to build their business to a place where they can sell it and retire. A great idea in theory, but it feels outdated to me.

In the Chapter 18, he talks about selling methods, and guess what? His system is exactly the system that that young woman at Canadian Tire tried to use on me!

Why doesn’t it work?

Franchises and sales strategies are based upon a couple of things: first off, each client should have exactly the same experience. So, if I walk into the Starbucks around the corner from my house, or the one on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, I should basically have the same experience in terms of decor, service, and menu. Our young woman’s sales pitch was based on a script that her bosses know will not work the majority of the time. But based on sheer volume, they figure they can get enough profit, anyway.

What’s missing for me, in both of these scenarios, is the personal touch. The individual, getting-to-know-you stage. I can walk into any Starbucks and order an Americano Misto, and know what I’m going to get. But I won’t know the person behind the counter, like I do at the smaller, independently-owned coffee shop on Commercial Drive that I like to frequent (their coffee is also way better than Starbucks, but that’s another post). If that gal knew me better, she’d know that I am a staunch believer in having only 2 credit cards: one personal, and one business. I’m not her target market.

For me, this book felt outdated, and the tone of it, honestly, was a bit condescending. However, there were some good things in it, as well, and I will devote another post to the things about it liked.

In the mean time, feel free to disagree with me….

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Becoming a better blogger June 25, 2010

Things have been a bit nutty in my life, lately. I like to get up on the weekends, Saturday or Sunday morning, and bang out 2-3 blog posts for the week over my morning coffee. It’s a method that’s worked well for me over the past few months.

Lately, I’ve gotten off track, mostly because my life was quite disrupted by moving house. But the pile of boxes in my living room is shrinking, and I am starting to feel like I have a handle on it, so it’s back to my blogging schedule.

Recently, to get me “back into the swing,” I read a book called Blog Blazers. It’s written by a blogger, Stephane Grenier, and it is, essentially, a book of interviews with top bloggers like Seth Godin and Penelope Trunk. Stephane asked each of the bloggers the same set of questions, and you would be shocked how many of them had exactly the same answers.

I wanted to share some of the commonalities  and tips that I picked up with you.

What makes a successful blog?

For some people, it’s straight-up stats: how many hits you get per day, how many people subscribe to your RSS feed. For some people it’s money, and for others, it’s influence. Truth is, no one can tell you you are a successful blogger. If you set goals for yourself at the beginning, before you start, and you reach those goals, whatever they are, you are a success. For me, success is a slippery critter. Once I reach one goal, I set a new one. And given that most blogs are abandoned within a few months, just keeping it up could be considered to be success.

What should I write about?

Penelope Trunk said it best: “Find a very popular topic and then write at the very edge of that topic. If you write in the centre, that’s where everyone else is and it will be hard to present something that is unique. If you write at the edge and throw in stuff not totally related to your topic area, then both you and your readers will find surprises in that intersection of the new stuff and your topic.”

In addition, make sure you pick a topic that you are, at the very least, passionate about. And that you have some knowledge of. I don’t consider myself to be a social media expert, but I like to do research, and try to stay one step ahead. Also, write for the reader, not for yourself.

This great article on 25 Styles of Blogging is a great place to start if you are stuck.

Make sure you take lots of time to read other blogs in your niche before you begin, and also spend time going through the archives of some of the great blogs for beginners I’ll list below.

How often do I post?

While everyone agrees that, to build an audience, the more posts, the quicker you go up in Google Search rankings, you have to be realistic. Some bloggers said five times a day (!), and others only post once or twice a week. Post at whatever frequency you feel like you can keep up.

How do I make money from my blog?

A lot of the people in this book make a living from blogging, some into 6 figures. But they all agreed that getting into blogging thinking that you are going to become an instant millionaire is a mistake. I have a big problem with blogs that have pop-ups and lots of flashy ads. Many of the bloggers recommended reading John Chow’s blog. But, honestly, it’s such a turn-off to me that I can’t get past the front page. Whether or not you monetize your blog is up to you–there are certainly pros and cons to both sides. For me, I’d rather have my blog be what it is, and if I can sell a couple of e-books, or book a workshop or a publicity gig from it, it’s fully worth it.

The importance of a good headline

Headlines are incredibly important: in our fast-paced world, a catchy headline could draw someone in over all the others. So, think about keywords when writing your headlines, and you might want to wait to write it until you are done writing the post, so that it better reflects the post.

Top blogs to read for beginning bloggers

Resolutions:

All right, you’re all witnesses. I’ve been blogging now at Art of the Biz since October of 2008, and for a year before that as a guest on The Next Stage Magazine. Reading this book gave me lots of great ideas that I need to implement to improve my blog. So here are my goals:

  • to migrate my blog from WordPress-hosted to self-hosted (I have a meeting with my webdesigner set up!)
  • to integrate more images, and to chunk my posts more. I realize that I have been lazy in that respect, and it sometimes makes my blog hard to read.
  • to integrate more mixed media (vlogs, podcasts) into my blog, so that it’s not all straight text.
  • to implement more strategies to grow my readership (after I’ve moved to self-hosted)
  • More value-added stuff: contests and giveaways.

What’s your best blogging tip?

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Blogging for Dummies April 23, 2010

A long, long time ago, in September of 2008, when I was just getting started with blogging and podcasting, I wrote a post called Welcome to the Blogosphere. The topic of that post was an interview with Shane Birley and Susannah Gardner, the authors of Blogging for Dummies: The Second Edition.

Well, time goes by, and 230 posts and two and a half years later, I caught up with Shane and Susie again, who have just published Blogging for Dummies: The Third Edition.


We chatted about how the Blogosphere has changed in the past two years, and about how social media is now a huge part of blogging. We also talked about WordPress versus Blogger, and how quickly things change on the ‘net.

Shane and Susie leave us with three blogging tips:

  1. Schedule time to write
  2. Define for yourself what success looks like and set goals
  3. How to use other forms of social media to increase your blog readership (like e-newsletters)

I won’t give away any more, you’ll just have to listen….

Blogging for Dummies Interview

Blogging for Dummies, The Third Edition, is available at all major bookstores, Amazon.ca, or from http://www.bloggingfordummiesbook.com

Follow Shane on Twitter: @shanebee

Follow Susie on Twitter: @supersusie

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Free Beginner’s Guide to Twitter March 12, 2010

I was watching the news this morning, and caught two interesting pieces. First, there was the story about this gal, Sarah Killen, whom Conan O’Brian chose at random to be the one person he follows. Overnight, this 19-year-old from Michigan has become famous. She started with 3 followers,  now has more than 24,000, and has been donated a brand-new mac for her to twitter on, and someone is making her a wedding dress, because her and her fiance are going through a bit of a tough time.

This was followed by a banter segment between the hosts, one of which was a regular twitterer, the other of which was clearly not. Perhaps the second host could benefit from Dave Charest’s new free Twitter Guide.

Dave is a guy like me, only he’s a guy and he lives in the states. We have kids the same age, we both have been actors, and we are both interested in helping artists to become better business people.

Dave comes from a copywriting background, so he’s pretty serious about making things as dead simple and easy to understand as possible. And this guide does exaclty that. It breaks things down into managable chunks, and  there’s lots of white space and screenshots, so it’s easy to read. Even though it is a guide for beginners,  it goes beyond the basics into things like how to set up a twitter search to monitor your brand.

Oh, and it’s free. Hello!

If you’re already on Twitter, and have gotten the hang of it, Dave is working on something for you a bit down the road. But if you are still trying to figure out the whole crazy ‘Twitter Cocktail Party,’ then this guide will help you along.

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A Whole New Mind January 31, 2010

Filed under: book review — Rebecca Coleman @ 11:44 pm
Tags: , ,

I have a running list of books that people have recommended that I read. My friend Trilby Jeeves suggested I read Daniel Pink’s A Whole New Mind, and boy, was I glad I did.

We all know that our brains are comprised of two hemispheres: the left, and the right. The left is responsible for reasoning and deduction, and the right is responsible for emotions, empathy and creativity.

Ever since grade 3, it has been clear to me that I am right-brain dominant. Math has always been my nemesis, and even now, in the day-to-day operation of my business, my Excel spreadsheets come from a place of needing to be in control, rather than a pure joy of numbers and order. I love words, reading, writing and acting, and to be spontaneous and creative.

Here’s the thing about being predominantly right-brained: the kinds of careers that suit us right-brainers; artists and nurses, for example, tend to be of the lesser-paying and (to many) less-prestigious professions, like, say lawyers, accountants, or Bill Gates.

But the world is changing. Work that used to be only done here in North America or in Europe is now being outsourced to well-educated people in emerging countries, like India, because it is way, way cheaper. Also, technology is getting so good, that a computer can often do work that took many brains to do, faster and with less error. Finally, we live in a land of plenty–most people now have enough money to fulfill the lower levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy–food, shelter, safety. It’s for these reasons, Pink says, that the sun is setting on the day of the left-brainer.

It is no longer good enough to be technically adept. My favorite example that Pink uses is that of Doctors. They go to school for many years, and learn how to diagnose and treat medical ailments. This is an incredibly left-brained profession. But think about doctors that you have had interacted with in the past. Which did you prefer: the ones that treated you (even if they were right) in a perfunctory manner, or ones that treated you with empathy, knew your name, and spent a little more time?

Pink doesn’t advocate that doctors give up their professions and become clowns. But what he does maintain is that people who were previously doing really well in left-brained professions need to incorporate some right-brained traits into their jobs to make them better and to be able to survive in this heavily-competitive market.

Pink talks about six new right-brained “senses”: design, story, symphony, empathy, play and meaning. What I love the most about his book is the “portfolio” section that follows each of the chapters on the above topics. It gives you great, specific, and tangible ideas to help yourself to get better in each of these areas.

One of the things that Trilby does is teach people (even corporate, left-brained people) a specific kind of clowning called bouffon. That is an incredible way for a right-brained person to make a living in this new, conceptual age.
UPDATE: I just learned that Trilby has also written a blog post on the book: click here to read it.

Whether you are predominantly right-brained, or predominantly left-brained, this is a great book, and I’m certain you will find it helpful and empowering.

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Getting Things Done December 9, 2009

Filed under: book review,Planning — Rebecca Coleman @ 7:41 am
Tags: ,

If you’re anything like me, you probably often feel that there is never enough time in the day. Between the day-to-day duties of running my own business, taking care of my son, shopping/cooking/laundry/cleaning, spending time with friends and working on the future of my business, well, there’s just never enough time to get it all done.

I think I manage my time pretty well. But I always feel like there’s room for improvement. So I turned to David Allen’s Getting Things Done.

What’s interesting about this book is that it’s not about time management. It’s about developing systems to make your time more efficiently spent.

I don’t know if this has happened to you before, but in the past, there have been times when I would check my email, and see something that maybe didn’t need to be taken care of right away, and thought, “I’ll do that later.” Then, a week later, while driving somewhere in the car, I’d suddenly remember that I’d forgotten to deal with it and panic!

David Allen helps you to create a system for dealing with your “stuff”, be it physical (pieces of paper, whatever), mental. or virtual (email). The joy of having this kind of system in place is what he calls “closing loops.” What that means, is, you can feel less stress, because you aren’t always going around thinking, “what is it that I forgot to do?” Allan’s system allows you to forget, knowing that you’re covered.

Here are a couple of tips I found particularly useful:

1. When dealing with your “stuff”, if a task can be completed in less than 2 minutes, just do it. If it can’t, file it away in a folder to be dealt with later, then go back and check that file at a prescribed time every week.

2. I now get my email in box to zero every Friday. I spend a couple of hours Friday morning going through every email in my in box. If I’ve dealt with them, I delete them, or if it’s important and I need to keep them, I file them in the appropriate file. If it’s something I’ve forgotten to deal with, this is where it gets done.

3. We often deal with large projects the wrong way. We look at what we want the end result to be, and then often feel  overwhelmed, because we don’t know where to start. So, instead of writing to-do lists like “get car fixed” or “Michael’s birthday party”, ask yourself this question: “what is the first next thing I need to do to move this project along?” That might be, “call the mechanic and make an appointment” or “ask Michael’s teacher for a list of all the kids in his class.” This way, you are making progress, moving things along. You’re unstuck, which is what being overwhelmed tends to feel like.

I haven’t yet had time to put all of Allen’s suggestions into practice, as some of it takes quite a bit of time to get through. I am putting aside time over the next two weeks to get through it. Perhaps there will be a part two to this blog post….

I highly recommend this book.

Click here for David Allen’s website.

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