Want to know something that drives me crazy? A lot of the advice you’re getting about how to grow your business and how to grow your blog is old. Really old.
Old advice lurks at conferences, in online courses and in blog posts your favorite bloggers write. It means well and is offered by smart people – sometimes whole panels of them.
This has been a pet peeve of mine for years, and I’m in good company. Last week it came up on the Marketing Over Coffee podcast, on a business coach training call I was in, and just the other day Shenee Howard’s posted about it on Facebook.
What’s the big deal? A lot of people groan about how new freelancers and coaches claim the title “expert” before they have the experience to back that up. The thing is we're all pretty savvy! Those people are easy to sniff out. But how do you figure if well-meaning advice from people you look up to is just plain wrong?
You need to learn if you want to protect yourself from damage and avoid the traps that block smart bloggers and business owners from the success they want.
Wait, why are blogging experts giving out old information?
Learning a skill, building a blog, and making your way to conferences takes time. It takes time to cultivate a reputation and to be invited to speak at events, and during that time a lot can change.
Things change fast.
When Google changes its algorithm, your website can lose hold of its search engine placement overnight. When social media sites add new features and adjust their search, your referrals or viral growth can evaporate. Tactics can have “best before” dates on them, and need adjustment as they become more widely used.
For bloggers and professionals, the problem is that after your blog or website reaches a traffic tipping point, everything is a little easier – but it also gets fuzzier. With a popular blog or business, crafted with skill, consistency and care over time, you have more invested fans who are ready to receive your work. But in practical terms, while you’re doing a lot right, you also have a larger margin for error that doesn’t sink your business. And with more people exploring your website at any one time, you have a built-in higher chance to succeed.
Most of us never get there, and we look up to the people who do.
But when you don’t have to be as strategic or precise to get people to take action, you feel like you’re great at it. So you might drift away from reading up, tracking and adjusting your performance and keeping your skills sharp. And soon enough, you’re selling online courses or are speaking, teaching blunt techniques that may work alright for you, but that aren’t going to change things your readers and students.
“There is nothing quite as effective, when it comes to shutting down alternative viewpoints, as being convinced you are right.” – Ed Catmull in Creativity Inc.
And of course, this happens. We all have blind spots, and most of us fell for doing the work of what we love. We didn’t fall for A/B testing the specifics of how we present our work.
(Though if you did, we should be friends.)
So how do you win?
I think you the key is being open but critical, testing things out on your own, and seeing what the person's track record is. Do other people hire them for their results? Are they curious and engaged? Do they walk their talk? Ever mention training or research on social media? I'm betting you have a great radar for this already.
And I'm not special! I'm subject to all of this, too. I’ve been blogging on a weekly basis since 1998 and started my current site in 2008.
That means that in internet time, I’m a fossil.
And I ran the day-to-day operations as an owner of a business partnership for the last five years. In internet business time, I’m a relic!
Especially when the majority of microbusinesses fail within their first three and a half years, with more women leaving their fields than men in America. (from most recent global entrepreneurship monitor)
By my argument, you should be suspicious of me! And being critical about the advice you take in is amazing, so test for yourself if the “big picture” of my advice rings true for you.
To win online you need two ingredients: passionate curiosity and the scientific method.
Curious bloggers are on the lookout for answers. They dabble, read up, and listen to people’s opinions on the pieces that make up the digital world they’re in. (Content marketing! SEO! Email marketing! Business strategy! Social media!)
Curious business owners are committed to learning and are excited by new ideas. They’re interested in how things work, why people make decisions, and why X+Y=Z for their work and websites. They don’t have all the answers, but they work hard to choose curiosity over fear in their work.
Science-minded bloggers look for patterns. They look in their income, in their traffic, and create theories about how to maximize or direct that attention in a measurable way. They research and test, and then reassess and test again.
Science-minded business owners aren’t paralyzed by trying to avoid mistakes. They know that any results they get from their adjustments are a good one. Any information they get from running an experiment (from looking at email open rates, to launching a new product) can be used to refine your approach, so while it still hurts when things go wrong, it doesn’t play with their self-worth.
What I want to do – through this blog, creating courses and if you bump into me at coffee – is to teach you the principles that can help you build a strong and flexible online world for now and the future. I want to show you how to create a healthy business from a little online presence, and how to streamline your products or services, so you don't have to give your whole life over to your business to earn a living.
And truly, if doesn’t sound like what you want, or where you want to go? You should take a minute and unsubscribe from my feed or my newsletter because you’re not going to find what you’re looking for with me.
What do you say, are you in?