By Shonali Burke
Like many bloggers in the PR and marketing realm, I’ve been in awe of Liz Strauss ever since I became aware of the “name bloggers” in my professional world. When I started my own blogging journey, four years ago, Successful Blog was one of the first to become a regular stop; always for inspiration, and sometimes as I asked myself the question, “Will I ever be able to
I met Liz fleetingly a few years ago, when she spoke at a DC-area event. Our meeting was brief. She was standing outside the event venue and, spying her in a rare moment of solitude, I couldn’t help but go up to her and tell her how much I admired her. She didn’t know me from Eve (probably still doesn’t), but that didn’t stop her from graciously thanking me. Later, she was kind enough to connect with me on various social platforms, even though the benefit was certainly skewed towards me.
As Liz recuperates from her illness, I couldn’t help but think of five lessons small businesses could learn from Liz Strauss.
1. You’re only a stranger once.
This is the tagline of Successful Blog, but is applicable to your business if you approach your customers as people first. Sure, customers come and go. But a successful business will convert first-timers into repeat buyers, and repeat buyers into evangelists. I don’t care how large or small your business is, this is possible and applicable…if you treat them as people first.
How do you start doing this? By using today’s myriad two- and multi-way communication channels to build relationships instead of email lists.
2. Building relationships takes time.
Especially with the number of (how many? I don’t know! Too many to count!) social media/self-help/gurus shilling their wares, I am not surprised at how many small businesses that think the way to use social media is this:
After all, once you have a presence, the rest will fall into place, right?
Connecting – i.e. following/being followed back – on a social network does not automatically translate into a relationship. All that that first connection means is that a door has been (slightly) opened to you; how you now conduct yourself will determine whether that door opens more fully or slams shut in your face.
How do you start doing this? Be a human super-collider. Find out what makes the people you meet, whether they are customers, or prospects, or business professionals you come across at networking events, tick.
3. When you build relationships, your community steps up when you most need it to.
Look at the way this blog has been running for the past several months. Liz’ health situation was announced at the beginning of 2013. The last post I read, as I drafted my own, was dated May 10, 2013. That’s a full five months later.
Had Liz not spent several years genuinely building her community via real relationships, do you think she would have had people like Rosemary O’Neill step up to manage the blog in her absence?
No way, Don Juan.
How do you start doing this? Part of the answer is in #2 above, so first I will say, “Read above, lather, rinse, and repeat.”
4. Educate and empower your community.
The second part of the answer is to educate and empower your community. Tell them, as you engage with them over time, what’s important to you… and why (and if your business is community-centric, chances are it’s what’s important to them too).
How do you start doing this? As you continue to engage with them, find people who can become your de facto or de jure community managers, and empower them with enough know-how – such as your engagement goals and guidelines, and your content needs – so that they can step into the breach if and when they need to.
The great thing about this approach is that you may never need them to fill a void in your absence… but if you do, they are ready and willing to do so.
5. Focus on what works.
A recent Constant Contact survey reported that 66% of small business owners use mobile technology. Continue reading, though, and you’ll see: “… it’s important to note that, of the 34 percent not using any mobile device or solution for their business, a resounding 65 percent have no plans to do so in the future, mainly citing a lack of customer demand.”
I don’t think this 65% of the 34% is necessarily behind the times. Being a small business owner myself, I know the conflicting demands placed on small businesses.
What will you pay attention to? When? How? Who’s going to do it?
It isn’t a question of never paying attention to technological advances, it’s a question of being attuned to the technologies your customers are using or expect, and providing the appropriate platforms, while planning for the future. Just as Liz does here on Successful Blog, by maintaining a framework visitors are familiar with, but by keeping an eye on what’s to come.
How do you start doing this? Stay on top of technological and industry developments. But don’t jump on the bandwagon until your business can sustain and recoup the additional investment… and don’t let anyone pressure you into doing so either.
I’m sure there are many other lessons you have gleaned, on a business level, from Liz’ incredible contribution to the blogosphere and our time. Would you share what you have learned, so that we can salute her collectively?
Thanks for the shout-out, Shonali! I was honored to be able to give back a tiny bit to Liz, who has shown her generosity and kindness to so many over the years. She is the nougaty goodness at the center of this amazing community.
You are the company you keep, online and offline
Finding a peer group that inspires and supports you is very important to the success of just about anything you do. If you find yourself frustrated or unmotivated, and can’t seem to make an internal change to remedy the situation, look around you.
Who are you spending time with? What blogs do you read? What books, magazines? Who do you go to the gym with?
If you want to take everything up several notches, seek out people who are successful doing what you aspire to do, and connect with them.
Action steps for today
Overhaul your blog reading.
Unsubscribe to the “debbie downer” blogger who is spinning wheels complaining about things, and find new writers who fill your brain with useful and inspiring content. Take a spin through Technorati or just Google “blog” and “keyword.” Better yet, just decrease the number of blogs you’re reading every day and start writing more!
Overhaul your offline friends.
It’s admirable that you want to help others, but make sure your mix of friends includes people who are taking action, going places, full of energy and happiness. Minimize your time with the “takers.” Be proactive about finding live events and local meetups that get you going. Check out Meetup.com for some possibilities.
Overhaul your online friends.
First, recognize who is a friend and who is a distant connection, just looking for a “like.” Find groups of connections who are helping each other, who aren’t looking over your virtual shoulder for someone more important to come along. Keep an eye out for up-and-comers you can grow with. Why not start a Triberr group among folks you admire and want to support?
Consider aligning yourself with a built-in peer support group like SOBCon. It’s just one example of an event that is also a year-round community. By taking the leap and extending yourself, you get a launching pad for your dreams. And who knows, someone out there may need YOU as a peer! Heck, you’re amazing.
Are you taking steps to surround yourself with the right peer group?
By Andy Crestodina
Since the beginning, this blog has helped more than a million visitors learn hundreds of important lessons. You, the readers and writers, have shared your experiences and techniques through more than 1000 posts and nearly 100,000 comments.
In this post, we’ll look back the 1000+ posts on Successful Blog and review. All of these, of course, were written by our beloved Liz. Some of these were instant classics. Others were their own mini-viral events. Each is an example of great writing on relevant topics.
So here they are, the top 15 posts in the history of this website…
“You don’t need to get a life, you’ve already got one.“
“It seems that we have the same secret reasons for not leaving our calling card. We want to leave our thoughts, but things get between us and that comment box.”
“Wonders, wishes, and waiting without commitment are a whole lot of nothing happening.“
“An interview or a client presentation is a test. It’s like an oral exam in which the subject is you.”
“Imagine you just landed on this planet. You’d have a passel of questions and a totally beginner’s view. The key is not to fix things, but to find new reactions to what you encounter.”
“Every person is struggling to find a meaning that makes sense. It’s not about money. It’s not about volume of work. It’s about meeting a self-defined goal of becoming a writer.”
“Focus on the speaker and the value of the speaker’s words. That guarantees your response will be graceful, respectful, and not about you.”
“How do you pack all of that promise into four or five simple words that will resonate with the folks you want to reach?”
“Corporations, small businesses, every one of us could learn a lot from how Conan said good-bye. His words were the careful words of a leader delivered from the heart in a difficult situation.”
“The funny thing about humility is the second you think you have it, you don’t.”
“Writing communicates through across the world, through time, to people I have never met. It captures ideas, inventions, and information. It’s worth it to be even a tiny part of that.”
“An online community isn’t built or befriended, it’s connected by offering and accepting. Community is affinity, identity, and kinship that make room for ideas, thoughts, and solutions.“
“What are the traits that creative folks have in common? Are we all creative? Is there anyone who’s not? Can I boost my creativity? Am I a creative freak?”
“This is not a rant, simply a set of observations which are quite similar to the challenges of any communication-based, people-centered endeavor.“
“Ever talked with a guy who’s passionate about his life? He doesn’t give one kind of energy during the hours of 8 to 5 and another when play time arrives. His moments are filled with enthusiasm and determination for being part of everything that he does.”
We hope you enjoyed this round-up. Hopefully, this was a discovery of some of the great posts you missed. Or perhaps it was a rediscovery of posts you read and loved. So many classics.
Feel free to reshare the greats. Better yet, leave a comment and tell us which of these you loved most …or perhaps which of your favorites we left out!keep looking »