Thursday, January 28, 2016

Great Content Builds Biz in "Grind It Out" Years

Let’s face it. 2016 hasn’t gotten off to a great start and it’s not likely to be a banner year. Between the global economy, the Fed, the markets, the overvalued dollar, the weather and North Korea acting up again, many are asking for a “re-do.” And it’s only January.

OK. It’s going to be one of those “grind it out” years. One thing that’s cheering us up is the number of you who are using thought leadership content to build your businesses and practices. We’re not talking about selfies, tweets and Vines. We’re talking about relevant, substantive and concise blog posts, mini-articles, videos and eBooks that showcase your expertise, but don’t put your audience to sleep or have them scrambling for the delete key.

How long is enough?

As you might imagine, we get lots of questions about how often to post and how long each post should be. There is no magic number or one-size-fits all solution for business and financial professionals. But the frequency of posting and average length of post may surprise you.

According to research from Orbit Media and Marketing Profs:

·         Three out of five business marketers (59%) consider blogs to be their most valuable channel.
·         Most business bloggers (85%) post at regular intervals—typically 1 to 6 times per week.
·         500 to 1,000 words is the most common length of post (57% agree).

We bet that’s more than you thought. Again, we’re talking about serious business professionals, not celebrity watchers, mass market retailers and cat video enthusiasts.

If you’re new to blogging, start with a once-per week “cadence.” Try to post on the same day each week and keep it to 500 words per post. Don’t worry about which platform or blogging tool to use. Start with the “Publish” tool in LinkedIn and just make sure you have something relevant to say. Always include a photo with your posts--it makes a big difference as an experiment with our longtime client Naylor LLC confirmed.

In these uncertain times, there are still plenty of opportunities, but it won’t be automatic. You’re going to have to earn the business (and keep earning it after you get it). Well-crafted thought leadership content—i.e. informative without being salesy--is one of the best ways to stay top of mind with clients and prospects without being pushy.


Even Bill Gates, a chief architect of the technology revolution, is a big advocate of reading and the written word. “[Reading] is one of the chief ways that I learn, and has been since I was a kid,” he mentioned in a recent NY Times interview.  “I visit interesting places, meet with scientists and watch a lot of lectures online. But reading is still the main way that I both learn new things and test my understanding.” Gates is also a prolific blogger. And what does he blog about in Gates Notes?

The books he’s reading.

Our blog and website has more about this and related topics.

TAGS: Bill Gates, blogging frequency and length of post, thought leadership content

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try Again (200 More Times)

We were going over our web analytics the other day and were surprised to discover that our recent post Your First Draft Sucks—So What was one of the most popular.

If ever there was a time to be making mistakes, procrastinating and not having your thoughts together it would be now. The Holidays are over. Work’s piling up. The weather is pretty crappy in most parts of North America. There’s not much to look forward to except tax season, paying off credit cards and fielding calls from nervous clients as the financial markets drop days after day without a plausible reason.

No one really likes to do tasks over and over again. But that’s how all the great athletes, artists, musicians, actors, and business minds do it. SO why can’t you? We rarely nail it on the first, second or even third try. But each time we rewrite, we’d like to think it’s better—at least less bad. Full Disclosure: This certainly wasn’t the first draft of today’s post.

Pros get it done on low-motivation days

You’re a professional. Your clients trust you to lead the way and be there for them 24/7/365 with words of wisdom, or at least a sympathetic ear. As we mentioned in
last week’s post, basketball great Julius Erving once said, “Being a professional is doing the things you love to do, on the days you don't feel like doing them.”

In this
short video clip Nobel laureate in Economics, Eugene Fama, tells Dimensional Fund Advisors co-CEO, David Booth that it often takes him several hundred drafts to get a paper or presentation right, even when working with his longtime collaborator, Kenneth French.

Fama tells his students, “Don’t give something to me until it’s as good as you think it can be. And then I will try to improve it.” In order to know how people think about things you can’t just read it, argues Fama. Otherwise everyone could do that. “You really have to listen to them. There has to back and forth feedback.”


Clients often ask us what the secret is to writing clear powerful copy under tight deadlines, or how we take mountains of data, notes and audio files and turn it into a short article or post that gets noticed. There is no secret. We just do it over and over and over again, perhaps a little faster and with more purpose than the average person. And when it’s not going well—everyone has days like that—we may know a little earlier in the process when to trash a draft, chuck a headline and start over without torturing ourselves for failing to produce a final draft or X-hundred words before lunchtime.

Celebrate what you accomplished at the end of the day—don’t dwell on what didn’t get done.

Our blog and website has more about this and related topics.


Monday, January 11, 2016

Is Free Time Overrated?

Being a professional is doing the things you love to do, on the days you don't feel like doing them.

The Holidays are over. You’re swamped at work. Bills are piling up and it’s still getting dark by 5pm in most parts of North America. “If only I had a few more hours in the day,” you think to yourself, “I could catch up on everything that didn’t get done last month.”

Nice thought. But, unless you have a magic genie bottle or a highly sophisticated app that lets you manufacture time out of thin air, you’re out of luck and probably “pissing into the wind” as my college track coach used to say.

We’re not workaholics here, but we try to keep our clients out ahead of DOS (dangers, opportunities and threats). Hopefully you got an
early start on your New Year’s resolutions as we recommended last Thanksgiving. Even so, you’re probably feeling a lot like three steps backward for every one step forward. That’s to be expected. Now is the time to dig in not to procrastinate. As Hall of Fame basketball legend, Julius Erving once said,
“Being a professional is doing the things you love to do, on the days you don't feel like doing them.”

In a recent study and related article in the NY Times, Stanford University sociology professor, Christobal Young argues that that time is a “network good.” In other words, its value depends on the number of others who have the same schedule of time available. “It’s not just that we have a shortage of free time; it’s also that our free time, in order to be satisfying, often must align with that of our friends and loved ones.”

The week after I graduated from college, I headed West for some of the best skiing of my life—late May, deep powder, bright sun in Snowbird and Alta, Utah. I literally had the mountains—and Cottonwood Canyon--to myself.  No lift lines. Dirt cheap prices and great conditions. A skier’s paradise, right? Not exactly. Like I said, I literally had the place to myself, and since this was in the days before smartphones and selfies, I had nobody to share the experience with. Most of my friends spent a cold rainy drunken week at the Jersey shore—eight to a room—in a rundown motel, and probably had more fun.

As Young observed, “We face a problem, of coordination. Work-life balance is not something that you can solve on your own.” Same goes for telecommuting, flex-time, job-sharing, etc. We’re freer than ever to work where we want to work, how we want to work and when we want to work. But we’re also expected to be “on call” 24/7/365. There’s no question that workplace flexibility has many benefits. But Young research “suggests that a disadvantage of these efforts is that they may lead us even further from a weekend-like system of coordinated social time. They threaten, ultimately, to exacerbate the decline in civic engagement and social contact known as the ‘bowling alone’ problem.

Or skiing alone.


Work smarter, not harder. But make sure everyone else in your life is on the right page.

Our blog has more as well as the FREE Resources page of our website.

Tags: work life balance, free time over-rated, Julius Erving, Christobal Young