Got this one in the email today:
Love your blog! I don’t believe in the community stuff but you always brighten up my day and I would appreciate your advice. I started a blog for my business but my customers are not reading it. How did you get your customers to read yours?
Love that you don’t believe in the community but have no problem contacting me for free advice. That notwithstanding, it’s a good question. I don’t know that I am a good person to answer it, considering that I have not even been able to motivate my clients to read product documentation. Blogwise, it has allowed us to eliminate the advertising budget. So, here goes nothing:
There are a few harsh, ugly pieces of reality you have to come to terms with before you can get yourself in a frame of mind where your can make the kind of a blog that your clients will read much less agree to: You are not interesting. Given an option, your clients would replace you with a robot at best or Microsoft clippy at worst. Nothing about you is authorative or expert, you just fit into the economic tradeoff window between them doing it on their own or outsourcing it to indianinabucket themselves. Given the option of watching you struggle through the third-grader level writing skills or climbing onto their desk in high heels to sweep the dirt collected on their office fan, they would probably choose the latter.
Now that we’ve obliterated any sense of supposed literary expertise and industry insight you’ve deluded yourself into thinking you posses, let’s get back to the basics. Why did the clients hire you in the first place? If you don’t know, ask them. It could be that:
1. I was the cheapest
2. I was the most qualified for their niche / vertical
3. I seemed to address the problems they were having
Now, ask why they are still your clients, could it be that:
1. We rely on you to cut through the clutter of technical jargon
2. You are the most familiar person with our network, one of the family
3. Still the cheapest, and we don’t have to learn how to speak dot
It may seem like I threw in the “cheap” options just to insult you. No way. The amount of businesses that do not consider technology to be the vital core of their business far outnumbers the number of businesses that are willing to spend the immense amount of money required to get it right. In other words, there is a ton of money to be made trying to save people money than to take their money to build a castle they don’t need. Their money is still green, so why be ashamed of that? Why not be proud of the fact that you can make miracles happen on a tight technology budget?
That is called defining your key competence. Once you find your key competence, write about it. Remember that you are not an expert, you are just talking about what you do. It’s all common sense after all, but the lightbulb only goes off once someone shares that common sense with the person that is having a problem and not seeing the common sense solution to it.
Now you have this library of stories on a particular topic, now you are in Google, now you’re starting to establish yourself as someone that has spent more than 2 minutes thinking about what they do. Now you can claim to be an expert. It still doesn’t make you an expert but who is the judge of that? The tons of people that come to your blog and look at your insight of restating the obvious.
Now you’ve got a following. Now even the people that are not your customers are interested in working with you. Now you have your customers following your blog because you didn’t have to force them to come to it, they came to you because of your blog. Keep it up.
What about the ones that don’t want to read your blog? Make them. There are many creative, sneaky or outright weaselish through incompetence ways of doing it: I started posting documentation and tips on my blog because I lost the password to our web site and didn’t want to admit it. When people asked for some info, I sent them to our blog. They read, they subscribed, now they cannot get enough of it.
The overall success comes from balance. Balance of fact and opinion. Of freebies and commercial messages. It takes discipline, it takes time and the results are anything but immediate – but wow, are the results spectacular.