Get A LIFE Bloggers!

I hope the headline has captured you and left you wanting more.  When you read this post, please keep in mind that I'm not attempting to discredit the internationally known author and speaker involved...rather I'm trying to make some observations about the fit of blogging into marketing tactics for any business. 

I recently participated on a panel discussion and presentation on heavy equipment GPS monitoring and tracking at the American Rental Association show in Atlanta.  My session immediately followed one on Guerrilla Marketing for the Rental Industry presented by Orvel Ray Wilson.  Mr. Wilson has authored many books and his "hit hard and hit fast and be different" approach is awesome.  His company is called the Guerrilla Group and I recommend you explore what his company could do for your business.  His seminar was by far the best I saw, full of energy, humor, and valuable marketing advice.

The equipment rental industry is somewhat old school...but the perfect playing field to stand out and be different right?  Mr. Wilson's discussion had included only a mention of email marketing...but had zero mention of social media or blogging.  Anytime someone stands in front of me and ignores something that I believe to be incredibly powerful, I feel obligated to discover the big "why".   

I approached and asked the question below and I'm paraphrasing the best I can recall based on notes taken immediately afterward.

The Chat
Doug:  "I didn't hear you mention anything about blogging during your discussion, what role do you believe it plays in the guerrilla marketing equation?"
Mr. Wilson:  "Ahhhh blogging...well I don't blog...basically because I have a life...(chuckling)...I mean there's a million blogs out there and there's a lot of garbage.  You have to know how to write...write editorial copy...and write well....(he got busy and began doing some other tasks).
Doug:  "Interesting...I really wanted to see your take since blogging is a powerful tool for some."

Mr. Wilson was busy cleaning up his laptop, etc. from his speaking session and was interacting with many of the A/V staff so I stopped asking questions and tried to take in what I'd just heard.  Of course, the first thing that fired off in my brain was, "This is going to be a good post for discussion among my readers". 

So I'll leave you with a few observations and questions that are still resonating in my travel fogged head.

The Takeaways

  1. The belief that blogging is something for only good copy writers is a serious miscalculation.  Blogging exposes the writer's true voice and reveals their style, tone, and method doing business very often.  Anyone that reads my blog "already knows me".  They know my positions, my pauses, my emphasis and my passions.   Many of my top 10 marketing blogger friends around the U.S. often use "real language" to communicate their vision/passion/point.   Editorial blogging is typically as boring as "mainstream media" know the media that folks are paying less attention to.  Although many bloggers write well and with clarity, others destroy the English language and its grammar and do just dandy.  Should everyone blog?  I'm sure there are reasons why some shouldn't...but one of those reasons should not purely be the editorial quality of the writing.  Should everyone read blogs or have searches automated to see what folks are saying about them?  Yes.  In fact, Mike McLaughlin who wrote Guerrilla Marketing for Consultantsblogged on this same topic a while ago.  Interesting.  Mike says, "If the purpose of a business blog is to reach your targeted audience, it’s best to know someone out there would want to read your stuff. Any one of us could rattle off a number of industries where blogs are still an oddity, not a fixture."  No and Yes.  How would I have ever known that finding a certain part number for an internal air card on my Dell laptop could help so many people around the world? happened, because I blogged on it.  I had absolutely no idea that anyone would find that valuable...but they did, by the boat load.  In the heavy equipment rental space, I bet there are few blogs if any.  If yours was the first and you blogged with even a modicum of skill in tagging or linking, you'd be found.  Trust me.  Why must the only value in your blog come from your direct industry?  I've achieved higher search engine rankings and first page results on many key topics that I blog about often like customer service and relocation.  In many cases, my more popular blog entries show up well ahead of the company's intended marketing message.  Old school business models may benefit from a blog more than more high tech businesses.  There's more cutting edge technology and marketing taking place in some seemingly old school segments than one would imagine.  GPS technologies and telematics are taking this industry by storm and allowing equipment rental companies to provide an unparalleled level of service. I'd bet that within 90 days, I could place higher than most when searching for "equipment rental" if I put my blogging efforts toward it.
  2. The belief that blogging is relegated to those that don't "have a life", is putting it lightly...ignorant.  AUTHOR'S NOTE:  I received a phone call from someone that knows Mr. Wilson suggesting that his comment about "not having a life" was likely geared towards his own personal schedule...meaning that "He'd not have a life if he were to try and blog". I have updated my post to reflect that I can see this point of view.  I had been quite fair that the comment was probably just a passing commentary lacking much context, but the rest of my post stands on its own and I hope the larger point is still the overriding one)  I'm pretty sure that Mr. Wilson's comment wasn't meant as a direct derogatory commentary on me, Seth Godin, Brad Feld, Tom Peters, Mark Cuban, and Guy Kawasaki.  Likely it was a humorous off the cuff remark that we all make from time to time.  I could list a thousand other blogs written by not so known names but the point holds.  We have a life.  In fact, we've taken on blogging as a means to communicate in an unfiltered way with our customers, potential customers, and casual observers.  We're using our real mojo and experiences in the life-business ecosystem to provide value for others.  We've all simply put a priority on understanding a new technology and new media platform.  It's the platform that our future employees are very familiar with.  It's the platform that can bring thousands of visitors scrambling to see what you think about the business trends and emerging issues.  Undoubtedly, this post will reach Mr. Wilson because of linking and tagging, and will probably be forwarded to him by a blogger with a life. 
  3. At the very least, interpret "blogging" as maintaining automated blog searches and tag searches to find out what people are saying about you when you're sleeping.  Nothing is more powerful than receiving an unsolicited "Thanks" or "Ooops" from the CEO of a company because they were paying attention.  If you're paying attention you have a serious competitive advantage vs. those who aren't.  Leverage that and odds are, you'll do better than "the rest".  Period.

The essence of guerrilla marketing for me is doing what isn't normally done, doing it cheap(er), doing it different.  Blogging is the pinnacle of cheap, different, and REAL.  It's worth an hour long workshop to understand the basics.  Then, if the CEO can't seem to put a coherent thought together, then find someone in the organization who can or hire someone. 

I think next year, you'll see a seminar by Doug called, "Social Media and the Heavy Equipment Rental Industry:  How To Get A Life Through Blogging!".   I invite your commentary.

Feed Pruning - Required for Growth

I've gotten into the habit of pruning my feeds (eliminating those that bother me, annoy me, provide too much information that's repetitive), etc.once every couple of weeks.  This topic was brought up at the latest blog workshop put on by Mike Sansone.

Someone asked about "accumulating many feeds and overload of information".  I proudly proclaimed that I subscribe to (or have created) over 175 feeds and that it doesn't take me long to get through them daily.  Between skimming headlines and doing quick scans, I can see what's important to me.  Then, over time, as I find that day after day I'm skipping a feed, I cut it.  Here's some tips.

  1. Don't OD on National, International, or other headline news feeds.  The same junk usually pops up in 50 places 50X per day.  Be selective.
  2. Do subscribe to feeds that you find in your areas of interest.  As you read them through the weeks, you'll know if the relevance is still there.  If not, cut them.    I used to have all the 'buzz" blogs on technology only to find that they were meaningless to me.
  3. Refine your feeds that you create.  My search for "Midwest New Business" provided nothing but junk.  I had to refine the language and ultimate some I've had to delete entirely.

Trimming the fat will help you maintain focus and be more effective in your connectedness and conversation continuations...say that three times!  Have a wonderful day.   

The Long & Short of Posting

There are many that recommend as a general rule that "shorter posts" are best for the reader the chance to "get in and get out".  That's probably a good basic guideline.  However, I believe that the length of your posts is automatically determined by the voice of your blog, the topics you cover, your personality, and the skill with which you lay out the prose.  Maybe folks hit my posts and say, "here we go again" and move on.  I'm not so sure I'll ever know.  But my writing style lends itself to deeper explanations and more words, whether I'm talking about steak or branding.  Ooops...this is a short post! 

Blog Wars: The Sundance Channel Documentary

I just watched the movie Blog Wars, a 2006 documentary chronicling the power of bloggers in the Lieberman - Lamont Senate race in Connecticut.  After watching it, I'm pretty sure that any outsider could easily dismiss bloggers as digital vigilantes exacting mob lynchings of their enemies. 

The bloggers, toting video cameras, would hound Lieberman asking tough and some might say volatile questions hoping to fluster him into saying something improper knowing that minutes later...the VLOG (video blog) would be up and linked to by thousands of supporters of the cause.

Revolution No matter the color of the sword you fall on: red or blue, the power of blogs in elections is undeniable.  Some accredit Bush's Ohio victory in 2004 to evangelical right bloggers getting people out to vote.  In the Lieberman/Lamont race, the bloggers got behind Lamont (even though they admittedly didn't care for him all that much) to prove a point, and they did.  Lamont emerged victorious from the primary that was targeted. 

2008 may prove to be the most digitally influenced election yet.  I'm not so sure this kind of blogging is undesirable really.  If you feel like many (especially twenty and thirty-somethings) do that politicians from both parties aren't even listening anymore, blogging may be the flintlock of the digital revolutionary militia.

Wiki - Collaboration Acceptance

Zane Safrit, CEO of Conference Calls Unlimited, posted about his company's time line for acceptance of wiki technology.  It's taken them over a year.  As a principal at a small dynamic company, I can relate.  While I use Central Desktop vs. Basecamp, I know what his company is up against.  He says,

"We have a fairly small company. Even so, open and efficient communication is critical. We don't have the inertia that carries a large corporation forward. We also don't have any hiding spots for malcontents, non producers, rear-guard experts or those who can't cooperate and collaborate. We can't tolerate feifdoms, kingdoms of secrets and jealously guarded expertise. Wikis, the requirement to use them, helped flush all that out into the open and show how open and honest and constructive interactions made everyone's lives smoother."

Very accurate.  In my business, it took some authoritative top down management to break up the "fall back information silos" that cropped up when something didn't go exactly to plan or there was a feature that someone wanted but it didn't exist...even if it was a "two percenter" (a feature that only 2% of the human population would ever even dream up and thus can be jettisoned as unreasonable and not economically viable to ask for or even look for in another package).

I posted a short time ago on my case study in which I was going to use wikis to make a company's actual corporate web site easier to update and maintain.  I think I've taken the wiki idea to its extreme...literally replacing corporate web page and content management infrastructure with wiki pages that are instantly editable by the designated person(s).  I achieved the goal in my case which was to stir the pot and cause a bit of short term trauma to get my point across.  It worked, and the pages are still live. 

Personal vs. Business: A blogging conundrum

I blend personal experiences, business bits, and other things I'm interested in (ethanol) on this blog.  Some like to separate those things out into separate blogs...not me.  Time will only allow me to maintain 1 feed, 1 set of widgets, etc.  Besides, my blog is a tool for me to communicate with the world at large and share my Moments of Clarity wherever they show up in my life.  This blog gives readers an indication of who I am, what makes me tick, and what it would be like to sit down and have a conversation with me...whether it's business or just because. 

Today Fred Wilson posted a cool piece on what blogging means to him.  Fred is the real deal and he shows his readers what his life is like as A VC (A venture capitalist and rather good one at that) by blending personal, business, music, and other things that fancy him into blog topics. 

Fred says, "At first, I really didn’t know what to write about. So I wrote about the things I was passionate about; my work, my family, music, politics, new york city."

Exactly.  Share your passions...contribute!...and if others find them interesting...well...they'll read what you have to say. 

Domain Mapping

With the help of Mike Sansone, I was able to map my blog domain to my main company URL for The Mitchell Group, LLC.  Of course, I toiled about starting over in Technorati and wish I'd have understood some of these technical issues regarding consolidation of links and traffic some time ago...but it's done.

I'm taking the approach of having my corporate presence...BE THE BLOG.  I've generated more traffic and more first page google results for my name and various topics I post on frequently than I would have ever imagined.  And...all the while, my "corporate site" sits there and collects web dust.  After all, why do people want me to work with them/for them? It's not because my website is so brilliantly constructed that they can't say no.  (most have never seen it)

Rather they have a sense of who I am and what I can do...and the way in which I'll probably communicate with them...because of this blog.  I'm migrating some of the typical corporate stuff over and making design tweaks but it's live and official now.