I have several amazing service provider resources in my life, including an outsourced HR professional that is stellar, a personal trainer that's ripped, and a patent attorney that seems to know how to patent or trademark just about anything with value. I also know the services world intimately well, as I used to run a real estate brokerage as well as a mobile consulting company. I got a lot of press for those companies, including writeups or quotes in The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Washington Biz Journal, CNN, TLC, Newsweek, Discovery, BBC, The Washington Post and others.
That's why it drives me crazy when service providers say things like "blogging my knowledge-base isn't consistent with my business model." So, being true to writing a blog about something when I'm passionate about it, I'm going to make an argument that as a service provider, providing free and full access to the amazing knowledge you have in your head will actually turn you into a superstar vs. killing your business. It will actually allow you to make way more money with way less effort.
First, let me acknowledge that it's a hard argument to accept when your entire livelihood hinges on the knowledge you have in your head. You're not selling any product. You're just selling your time, and your expertise. But the reason I'm right is a fundamental truth about human nature: People love attention. And they want to be around those that have it.
It goes deeper than that, of course. But really, that's what this is about. Either people are attracted to you for some reason, or they're not.
The reasons vary -- in my blog about applying social media, I talked about the Angelina Jolie effect. In a similar vein, I just watched the Never Say Never movie about Justin Bieber in which pre-teenage girls go berserk about him (I know he's only 16 but seriously, it's a very inspiring movie no matter how old you are -- watch it!).
Another reason people might be attracted to you is because of your beautiful mind. You may have domain-specific knowledge that nobody else in the world has. Knowledge that you can command a lot of money for. In fact, as I say in my blog about social media, I argue that the sharing of SME (subject matter expertise) actually forms the foundation of successful social media initiatives.
These concepts form the foundation of my argument: By sharing what you know, you attract people to you. People that have the types of problems you can solve. And because of social media tools like blogging, you can share that knowledge in new ways -- ways that literally didn't exist just 10 years ago -- that are very efficient with your time. And if you're a service provider, you know how valuable your time is, because it's your primary monetizing mechanism.
And so that brings me to the part that's not so obvious: The natural reaction of service providers is that by giving their extremely valuable SME out for free, they will lose the ability to monetize it. Nothing could be further from the truth. The reality is actually the exact opposite: By sharing what you know freely, you attract to you the people that have the problems you can solve instead of you having to go out and find them. And importantly, since everyone's problems are specific to their situations, while your audience may be able to apply some of what you know to their situation, they won't be able to apply it completely to their situation. They will still need you, even if you blog about everything you know. In fact, the more open you are, the larger the audience that will respond to you.
That truth actually creates a virtuous cycle. You blog about something only you know or have figured out, and your audience tries applying it. They may see some benefit from the effort, and yes you lose the ability to monetize on that part. But almost 100% of the time, they either will a) know that you could solve their problem more completely than they can, b) know that they don't have time time to apply the solution themselves, or c) try to not use you, apply the knowledge themselves, fail miserably, and then be even more desperate to retain you.
And the beauty is that you've created a situation akin to the sirens of Greek mythology: Customers come to you because they feel like they already know you from reading your blogs, and they already know you can help them. You don't have to sell them on you and your expertise.
As a service provider, finding new clients is typically very difficult and consumes a large portion of your time -- precious time you could spend monetizing.
However, if you're at the top of your game, it's even worse, because you have a good pipeline of business from existing customers, which feels good, and you have a strong referral base that keeps new customers coming. Pretty good life, right?
But here's the problem: All those customers know that the more people they refer to you, the less attention you'll be able to give them, so they refer cautiously. It's you service providers that are on the top of your game with a strong pipeline that are missing the most by not blogging, because you're missing on an opportunity to catapult yourselves into the stratosphere.
Because your pricing mechanisms must be based on the laws of supply and demand for you to have parity (not be overwhelmed vs. not have any clients), it's only by greatly increasing demand that you can give yourself access to the options that will make you not just rich, but wealthy.
Just look at service-based superstars like Oprah, or motivational speakers like Tony Robbins, or musicians, or movie stars. Their service-providing talents are so in-demand that they can make products out of them. Think about that for a second: Productizing and packaging your expertise. There are plenty of other examples -- writing books, or making audio/DVD programs (think P90X).
Most service providers never get to this point, and many don't care to. That's OK -- believe me, when I write this blog I'm fully aware that I'm doing myself a disservice by encouraging any of you whose services I rely on to spend your time publicizing and then productizing your expertise so you can sit on the beach drinking MaiTais instead of spending time with me.
But even if you don't want to productize your expertise, you have another option (which is still detrimental to me, but here goes): Just raise your rates. The more in-demand you are, the less you have to work to maintain the same income. And who doesn't want more free time?
Bob, you are so right about those being obstacles. I get a lot of people who tell me they need to "practice" first. Well guess what, blogging *is* practice! I have friends who are bloggers that have the worst grammar of anyone I've met, yet they still go for it. And I totally admire that -- the worst thing that will happen is that nobody will read your blog, in which case you're still getting that practice you wanted.
To me, blogging is like putting clothes on. You might not be totally satisfied with the way they look on you, but that doesn't mean you go outside naked. You just hit the gym to get to a point where you are happy. But you keep wearing clothes until you get to that point.
I guess the other thing I'd say is that I have a theory that everyone has some SME of value to share. I mean, we all spend our lives on this earth learning things, and although some of those things may be more valuable than others, there will almost always be an audience niche that can benefit from the content you have in your head. The trick is to get it out of your head and start sharing it in a blog.
Dan, great post. I have a feeling you've covered these in other posts, but the two main obstacles (some self-created) to blogging include (1) a real or perceived doubt about one's writing skills and (2) the time commitment it takes to blog "right."
I don't think there are any easy answers to #1, but in my experience people set the bar too high for their writing--keep it simple, factual and plain English; doesn't have to be a work of art. Regarding #2, I assume you'd make the case that the time investment will pay back in spades because you will be more booked and your average rate will increase.
Brian, your blog is awesome. GetLoans.com is easily the most progressive loan broker's blog I've seen. Anyone out there who's not sure they believe my points should check it out, along with Frank LLosa's real estate blog, FranklyRealty.com.
I'd love to ask others to post blogs here of other progressive service providers.
And Brian -- to your point about it being a valuable reference -- YES!!! I couldn't agree more. In fact, I wrote a blog on that (and I'm referencing it now!): http://go.DanielOdio.com/henryford -- about how Henry Ford would love blogs because they turn answering questions into an assembly line of knowledge that can be tapped into time and again. And not only that -- when you are answering a question in a blog, you can take, say, 3 hours to write a really high quality answer because you know it'll be used over and over again, instead of a rushed answer in an email that you try to answer in 5 or 15 minutes.
I often have people ask me how I have time to blog, and my answer is always that I wouldn't be able to do everything I do if I didn't blog. Blogging allows me to spend time on creating high quality thoughts and content just once, and then share them in efficient ways over and over again.
Thanks for the thoughts, Brian!
Great blog! And all so true. I'm starting to learn that. Although it seems counter-intuitive to give away your SME, all your arguments are right on point.
Another great thing about having a well-developed blog, that a lot of people don't use it for in the service industry, is that it becomes a massive database and reference tool. I cannot even begin to count how many times I have sent someone a link to one of my blogs about something that would've taken me 10 min. to talk to them on the phone about. Instead, I sent them a blog and they learn about it that way. And then they end up forwarding it to a friend.
You are the one that got me pushed forward on blogging... IOU.
There's so much buzz about social media that you're probably sick of hearing it.
But for all the buzz, I always have people asking me, "How can I use it to my benefit?"
To answer that question, I have to explain exactly what social media is (at least, to me), why it's so powerful, and what that means to you. So finally, here's my take on social media, and how you can leverage it in your business, right now.
A definition of social media:
First and most importantly: Social media is not advertising. In fact, people often think of social media like an ad in a telephone book. But that's wrong. You don't place ads in social media. Instead, social media is a tool, like the telephone. In fact, the telephone was an early example of social media. But with social media, it's like you have a telephone that's connected to thousands of phone receivers, instead of just one. And not only that, but social media is asynchronous, meaning you don't have to be talking to those thousands of people at the same time - they can listen to you when they want to. And whenever you remove time from the equation, your message becomes infinitely more powerful, because it lasts forever instead of happening at one point on a timeline (see my related talk at a Georgetown MBA class on the importance of capturing content).
There's so much buzz about social media that you're probably sick of hearing it. But for all the buzz, I always have people asking me, "How can I use it to my benefit?" To answer that question, I have to explain exactly what social media is (at least, to me), why it's so powerful, and what that means to you. So finally, here's my take on social media, and how you can leverage it in your business, right now. A definition of social media: First and most importantly: Social media is not advertising. In fact, people often think of social media like an ad in a telephone book. But that's wrong. You don't place ads in social media. Instead, social media is a tool, like the telephone. In fact, the telephone was an early example of social media. But with social media, it's like you have a telephone that's connected to thousands of phone receivers, instead of just one. And not only that, but social media is asynchronous, meaning you don't have to be talking to those thousands of people at the same time - they can listen to you when they want to. And whenever you remove time from the equation, your message becomes infinitely more powerful, because it lasts forever instead of happening at one point on a timeline (see my related talk at a Georgetown MBA class on the importance of capturing content). So, my definition of social media is this: A way to transfer knowledge and expertise out of your head, and into the hands of the people that want it when they're making a decision that could be affected by what you know. You must remember that social media is a tool, not an ad. And it requires an investment of your time to be leveraged effectively. In fact, that's the biggest barrier that keeps most people from really using it to their benefit: You have to learn new skills, and you have to dedicate time to utilizing those skills. You can't just buy an ad and be done with it. These barriers are enough to keep most people from using social media effectively. The benefits, however, are enormous. The funny thing about social media is that anyone can do it, because everyone has expertise in something. And at its core, that's all social media is: sharing your expertise with the world in a structured way. The good news is that you can pick & choose certain ways to get involved in social media that are easier and require less of a commitment to get started, and graduate from there as you see results. Here's a list of some options, from easiest to hardest: Start a blog: Back in 2007 I wrote about why Henry Ford would love blogs. I recommend you read that article to understand the benefits of blogging. Your goal should be to become a subject matter expert in the eyes of Google, so when people search for keywords, your name comes up. The narrower your topic, the easier that will be. Difficulty rating: Easy. 2 on a scale of 10 (10 is hardest) Time commitment: Medium. 2 hours per week, minimum. You must build up 100+ blogs before you'll be picked up by Google for your blogging. Tools: Blogger, Typepad, Wordpress Make Videos: The power of videos is often underrated. Here's an example: I made a YouTube real estate video titled "Making successful lowball offers". It's been viewed over 10,000 times (remember what I wrote above about social media being asynchronous and letting people consume your content on their time? 9,000 views is a perfect example.) That video has paid handsome dividends over the years, as clients have contacted me asking me to represent them. Consider, for a moment, the significance of this: Just from making one YouTube video, which took me about an hour to produce, prospective real estate clients contacted me vs. me making cold calls trying to find clients. I call it the "celebrity effect" - just like we all feel that we know Angelina Jolie because we've seen her in the movies, clients felt like they knew me from watching my videos, and more importantly, they knew what knowledge I had that they thought could benefit them. Want some tangible proof? I made this video in 2006, four years ago. And yet, here's an email I received just today from someone who just watched the video: and letting people consume your content on their time? 9,000 views is a perfect example.) That video has paid handsome dividends over the years, as clients have contacted me asking me to represent them. Consider, for a moment, the significance of this: Just from making one YouTube video, which took me about an hour to produce, prospective real estate clients contacted me vs. me making cold calls trying to find clients. I call it the "celebrity effect" - just like we all feel that we know Angelina Jolie because we've seen her in the movies, clients felt like they knew me from watching my videos, and more importantly, they knew what knowledge I had that they thought could benefit them. Want some tangible proof? I made this video in 2006, four years ago. And yet, here's an email I received just today from someone who just watched the video: And he's in Seattle! He's contacting me from Seattle! There must be at least 25,000 real estate agents in Washington state, and yet he's reaching out to me, on the opposite coast of the USA, because the video was so powerful to him. And to reinforce my telephone analogy, it's like I've been on the telephone for over four years, with over 9,000 people, with just this one video alone. Now that's the power of social media. My friend Frank LLosa, also a real estate broker, has done amazing, cutting edge things with videos, as evidenced by his "wheel estate cam". Difficulty rating: Medium. 3 on a scale of 10 (get past your fear of appearing on camera, of thinking you have to make it 'perfect', and of uploading videos to YouTube) Time commitment: Low. 15 minutes+ per video; make as many as you'd like. Tools: social media bag, Kodak Zi8, YouTube, Vimeo Tweet: I have a love/hate relationship with Twitter. I recently nuked my following list because there was too much noise for me to use it effectively. However, it can be a very powerful way to contact people that would otherwise be inaccessible to you. One tip for Twitter newbies - use it to search for content, instead of feeling like you have to use it to create content. For example, do you love Costa Rica? You can see what people are saying about it, right now. Maybe you need a job in Washington DC? You can search for that, too. Difficulty rating: Low. 1 on a scale of 10 Time commitment: High. Getting into the habit of using Twitter can be difficult. Tools: Twitter, CoTweet for business users, TweetDeck and HootSuite for power and mobile users Facebook I'm not much of a Facebook user personally, but many people are. I like to run Facebook through TweetDeck and just keep that open all day. It's a way to get updates on what's happening on Facebook without having to go to the site. Facebook Groups and Fan Pages are a good way to spread the word of whatever your business or cause is, and get people to sign up as fans. I recently did this for AppMakr and with 1410Q, so we'll see how well it works for us. I also run all my tweets through Facebook, so instead of creating content in Facebook directly, when I post a tweet on Twitter, it shows up on Facebook. If you have good tips on how to leverage Facebook, please leave them in the comments below, as I don't have any big ones here. Difficulty rating: Low. 2 on a scale of 10 Time commitment: Varies. You'll get out of it what you put into it. Tools: Facebook LinkedIn I'm not a big LinkedIn fan, mostly because of its limited utility to actually contact people from the tool. It's like a tease to me - you can find many people on LinkedIn, but you can't actually contact them. I much prefer Jigsaw, which I recommend for all salespeople as a powerful secret weapon to be able to contact anyone. Difficulty rating: Low. 2 on a scale of 10 Time commitment: Varies. You'll get out of it what you put into it. Tools: LinkedIn Mobile: Mobile is an emerging part of social media. Many of you know that I co-founded PointAbout, a company that makes high-end custom iPhone and Android applications for brands like The Washington Post, Gannett, Kaplan, Burger King, and Cars.com. We've also launched a service called AppMakr, which lets anyone make their own iPhone app. Most people just refer to mobile in the singular sense, but mobile is actually comprised of three main areas, which we call the "mobile pyramid". Here's a chart we made to describe all three: If you want to get into mobile, you'll have to have a strategy for all three areas. For now, really digging into mobile is an advanced area of social media, although tools like AppMakr are making it much easier. But you'll probably want to save this one for last, as the mobile distribution channel still has a smaller footprint than the web (at least in the US). If you're progressive, though, mobile is a very hot and fast-growing area you should focus on. Difficulty rating: High. 10 on a scale of 10 (or 4 on a scale of 10 with a tool like AppMakr) Time commitment: High up-front, then low ongoing Tools: AppMakr, PointAbout I'm sure many of you will have comments on other tools or approaches to social media, and I'd love to hear them. Please leave your comments below.
I was asked last week by my friend Alex Milak and the great guys at DecisionDesk to write a short blog post on what it means to graduate with a degree in the arts, and how that's helped me in the art world and beyond. I'd highly recommend checking out the resulting blog post because there's lots of quality advice on there if you're thinking of pursuing an arts degree or interested in what it would be like to have a life in the arts. While the blog published a shortened version of what I submitted (thank goodness, because I can be way too long-winded), I figured I should go ahead and share the full version here.
When you're in high school, the next big step that consumes your mind and your wildest dreams (or nightmares) is college. When you're in college, life is awesome because, hey, college. However, at some point, maybe in your junior or senior (or super senior) year, you start realizing that you're one step away from the real world. You're going to need to graduate with something to show for what you've done the last four (or five) years. With a medical or law degree, you can show that you're ready for the next round of school. With a business degree, you can get internships to show that your skills can apply in the real world. With an arts degree…wait, just what can an arts degree get you in the real world?
I hate to break it to you, but when you graduate into the real world with an arts degree you're basically back at square one. You're back in the same talent pool you would be in if you decided to go pro straight out of high school. They don't tell you this when you apply or go through an arts program. When you apply to an arts program that involves an audition, chances are that 90% of the decision on whether or not you are accepted relies on the strength of that audition, grades and extracurriculars be damned. When you apply for a performance job in the real world, that reliance on performance in an audition is going to be more like 99% in most cases*. No one's going to care that you aced three semesters of music history and graduated Summa Cum Laude from Juilliard if you don't fit the part they're looking for.
No matter what your art, just know that it's a ruthless, over-saturated, highly competitive pool of some of the world's top talent you'll be graduating into. However, at some point during my four years of undergraduate and two years of graduate studies, I stumbled upon some incredibly important nuggets of knowledge that have helped me begin to navigate this crazy, unforgiving place we call the “real world." Having the opportunity to learn and apply these skills in a learning environment made going to school more than worth it, believe me.