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Quit Yer Yarping & Talk Solutions Already – Raise My Bar by Raising Yours

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455244.jpgGreg Swann had a really great point in this week’s Odysseus post regarding being able to answer questions in relation to your value. Hardcore criticism in a blog can do that- “practice you” per se, but does it really? Sure, if the goal post isn’t a transient target. So I wanted to write this to take Greg’s point one step further and I hope, beyond.

I’ve spent a lot of time reading post after post regarding many issues around the blog-o-whatever, and honestly, there isn’t much original thought out there. Most of them are attacks on folks (indirectly of course) that set a comment section on fire. It is a lot of fun to do, and yeah, we’re all guilty of it in some fashion, but not nearly on the level some are doing this.

Writing a post attacking something that people are passionate about is very likely going to get you attention- no names are mentioned, the statements are broad and generalized, and explode much like a verbal pipe bomb. They cut people in so many directions that defending yourself is futile. You’re going to be hit if you’re in the line of fire. How is this a sincere challenge? It isn’t. It no more teaches or instructs, than a swift kick to the face. What is wrong with this method of writing is that there is nothing constructive to gain from it, especially for consumers.

I, for one, am getting really bored of the nameless attacks. I see no real value in educating the ignorant unless the ignorant are willing to hear and understand, and engage realistic solutions. That is what is missing in the blog world and why technology blogs garner so many comments to posts related to How Tos; they’re constructive. They answer a need, a question, and the opportunity to grow in your own interest. I see the overwhelming success of Zillow’s Forums & Wiki and can gather that information is in high demand. Does your blog post answer the demand? Some do. Others do not.

Are you inventing new and innovative technologies for consumers? Are you redesigning a business model from the ground up and offering it up as a solution? Are you spending your day gathering facts that would help another in your profession grow their own business? Are you offering an idea for a product that enhances an industry? Are you evaluating the above for your reader? If your answer is no, then you may want to evaluate whether blogging is for you because flaming the choir is a waste of everyone’s time and energy.

My last thought is this- many flamers hide behind the veil ofblogging for the consumer.” But the consumer doesn’t want chaos, confusion, a verbal fist fight, or anything like that (they have television for that). They want ideas and solutions- they want to be inspired. The Realtors that read you want very much the same. I want to read far out ideas with crazy today solutions- I know I am not alone in my feelings as I’ve had many conversations with peers on this subject.

So, if you’re looking for ideas to write about, here are a few:

  • How do we organize and speak to NAR and be heard in a constructive way?
  • How do you envision your real estate practice in year 2010?
  • Comparing business models and what positives they all have
  • Your idea of your value to the consumer
  • What are the dangers of RE Forums to consumers (ie. fair housing, facts versus opinions)

How to blog and engage rather than incite:

  • Narrow your scope in what you target
  • Use facts to base your point, not rhetoric
  • Accept arguments and use them to build solution
  • Find the middle
  • Offer suggestions in regards to a reader’s personal growth
  • Never make a comparison that is not based in fact
  • Never insult those you claim to be teaching
  • Offer a realistic solution in place of destructive observations
  • Never speak from both ends

Inspirational things consumers are drawn too:

  • Redfin
  • HGTV
  • TLC
  • The Discovery Channel
  • Social Networks & People Talk
  • Technology
  • Innovative ideas

There will be a few readers who may be offended by what I’ve said here and that is unfortunate. My intention is to simply raise the bar, even in my own writing. Anyone can criticize anything, that’s easy, the question really is- do you have what it takes to put up solutions even if they may be torn apart? That’s the post readers will engage every single time and just as hot as a flame job.

What inspires you?

Benn Rosales is the Founder and CEO of The American Genius (AG), national news network for tech and entrepreneurs, proudly celebrating 10 years in publishing, recently ranked as the #5 startup in Austin. Before founding AG, he founded one of the first digital media strategy firms in the nation and also acquired several other firms. His resume prior includes roles at Apple and Kroger Foods, specializing in marketing, communications, and technology integration. He is a recipient of the Statesman Texas Social Media Award and is an Inman Innovator Award winner. He has consulted for numerous startups (both early- and late-stage), has built partnerships and bridges between tech recruiters and the best tech talent in the industry, and is well known for organizing the digital community through popular monthly networking events. Benn does not venture into the spotlight often, rather believes his biggest accomplishments are the talent he recruits, develops, and gives all credit to those he's empowered.

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19 Comments

19 Comments

  1. Drew Meyers

    August 20, 2007 at 10:20 pm

    I totally 100% agree with your point that people want to be inspired — sadly, some people (IMO) don’t ever find true inspiration.

    What inspires me? Helping others educate themselves and improve their business/life in the process. Along the same lines — micro finance, which you’ll see me blogging more about in the future on my own blog.

  2. B. R.

    August 20, 2007 at 10:27 pm

    That’s awesome, you may lose me at micro finance, but I swear I’m a fan of everything else you ever write!

    Thanks for coming by!

  3. Drew Meyers

    August 20, 2007 at 10:53 pm

    Microfinance is just empowering entrepreneurs around the world to bring themselves out of poverty through entrepreneurship. Sustainable change — rather than just granting money which will not change anything in the long term.

    Check out Kiva.org. I think you’ll love the concept.

  4. B. R.

    August 21, 2007 at 8:19 am

    Drew, yes, I’ve seen this and I think it’s awesome. It is a really cool alternitive to charity, very interactive, I love it.

    There was something going here in the states much the same, only the loans were larger and there was a profit opportunity. I wasn’t that impressed, but the concept was really neat.

    Way to promote a solution…

  5. Jay Thompson

    August 21, 2007 at 2:59 pm

    This is the best post I’ve seen in a long time.

    What inspires me? I like to learn, and help others learn. Granted, some (maybe much) of what I post doesn’t do that. But I also on occasion just lay myself out there. I want my readers (particularly prospective client readers) to get to know me. Sometimes that entails writing something completely off-topic or frivolous….

  6. April Groves

    August 22, 2007 at 3:50 am

    Big Dittos and thanks for the mention.

    I am not an internet firestarter and it is not on my to do list. I much prefer your approach of engaging, helping, and raising.

    I am inspired by “Yes I can and you can too!” people. Those who go big. Those who do it scared. Those who do it just because it’s right. Those who do it for somebody else.

    I am inspired by my husband and my kids. They embody the fullness of life – that is inspiring!

  7. Lisa Dunn

    August 23, 2007 at 7:16 am

    I think I have a problem. I’m an inspriration junkie. There are *lots* of things I feel passionate about, and when I’m passionate I’m inspired to act. Makes for a busy day!

    I’m inspired by Realtor’s stories about how they try to right the wrongs that are done to our customers. We do this by educating through our blogs, right?

    I’m inspried by my 84 year old clients who look at every day as a new possibility, have a sense of personal responsibility, have a sense of earning what you receive, use their manners, and take the time to share their wisdom with me.

  8. B. R.

    August 23, 2007 at 12:03 pm

    Lisa, you’re so right. You seem to have great perspective in your business and why you’re so successful. There is sometimss a shortage of real human interest stories around the re.net. To me, that is where a Realtors real value is displayed is when they demonstrate just how far they go for their clients. Getting hung up on the politics of real estate just erodes our overall value to the consumer.

  9. Michael Price

    August 27, 2007 at 1:00 am

    I am inspired by humility and patience in blogging. It’s not hard to tell if a post or comment has been thoughtfully crafted. It’s even easier to tell if a post was written in haste without checking the facts. Knee jerk reactions are everywhere. Too many people seem to be willing to vilify people and companies without the courtesy of placing themselves in that person’s position for even a millisecond.

    Forming an opinion is easy. Framing an opinion only takes a little more effort.

    I am inspired by passionate thinkers, even those I do not agree with, as long as their passion is genuine. A little grace and humility can go a long way. As you stated we are all “guilty of it in some fashion” and I will certainly admit to my share. It’s the repeat offenders I have to take issue with. Forming an opinion without a complete frame of reference and then launching an attack gets old after a while. When the offender doesn’t take the time to interject a little humility and grace, credibility weakens.

  10. B. R.

    August 27, 2007 at 11:46 am

    Well said Michael, I totally agree.

  11. Erik Hersman

    August 27, 2007 at 12:51 pm

    Excellent post!

    Consistently adding value to the conversation through blogging is a long-term strategy that is more difficult to master than just opening a flame war. The payoffs are in being book marked and returned to for a long time to come.

  12. Rebecca Levinson

    August 27, 2007 at 2:25 pm

    This was a refreshing post, as I was getting a bit discouraged over the past week, reading over some of the banter between bloggers bent on getting readership through dagger directed insults disguised as bravado and insight. I prefer the bloggers who look to gain readership through insightful inquiry and educated observation.

  13. Rory Siems

    September 14, 2007 at 10:15 am

    Downside: I have kept my blog mostly vanilla in nature. My ratio for controversy must hover around 1:150. The penalty/result for that is

    No comments or reactions are made.
    Straight facts can sometimes play as boring and lacking value.

    Look at some of the most successful blogs that are outside the real estate space, how many of those straddle “the middle”? None.

    I agree with Jay, part of the purpose of my blog is to let potential clients know who I am. I think that if I continue to keep it too conservative that it may come off as robotic which defeats the purpose even moreso.

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Business Marketing

The secret to crafting consistently high-converting emails?

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Email may seem too old to be effective but surprisingly it’s not, so how can you get the most out of your email marketing? Try these tips.

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Email marketing

Email marketing might seem archaic in comparison to modern mediums like social media, blogging, and podcasting; however, it actually remains one of the highest converting options marketers and small businesses have at their disposal.

But Why Email?

Hopefully you believe in email as an effective marketing channel, but in case you have doubts, let’s hit the reset button. Here’s why email marketing is worth investing in:

  • Email is one of the few marketing channels that you have total control over. Unlike a social media audience, which can disappear if the platform decides you violate their terms, you own your email list.
  • Email is considered very personal. When someone gives you access to their inbox, they’re telling you that you can send them messages.
  • From a pure analytics perspective, email gives you the ability to track behaviors, study what works, and get familiar with the techniques that don’t.
  • The ROI of email marketing is incredibly high. It can deliver as much as $44 in value for every $1 spent.

5 Tips for High-Converting Emails

If you’ve been using email, but haven’t gotten the results you’d like to, it’s probably because you’re using it ineffectively.

Here are a few very practical tips for high-converting emails that generate results:

  1. Write Better Subject LinesThink about email marketing from the side of the recipient. (Considering that you probably receive hundreds of emails per week, this isn’t hard to do.) What’s going to make you engage with an email? It’s the subject line, right?

    If you’re going to focus a large portion of your time and energy on one element of email marketing, subject lines should be it.

    The best subject lines are the ones that convey a sense of urgency or curiosity, present an offer, personalize to the recipient, are relevant and timely, feature name recognition, or reference cool stories.

  2. Nail the IntroNever take for granted the fact that someone will open your email, and read to the second paragraph. Some will – but most will scan the first couple of lines, and then make a decision on how to proceed.

    It’s critically important that you get the intro right. You have maybe five seconds to hook people in, and get them excited. This is not a time to slowly build up. Give your best stuff away first!

  3. Use VideoEmail might be personal, but individual emails aren’t necessarily viewed as special. That’s because people get so many of them on a daily basis.

    According to Blue Water Marketing, “The average person receives more than 84 emails each day! So how do you separate your emails from everyone else? Embed videos in your emails can increase your conversion rates by over 21 percent!”

    This speaks to a larger trend of making emails visually stimulating. The more you use compelling visuals, the more engaging and memorable the content will be.

  4. Keep Eyes MovingThe goal is to keep people engaging with your email content throughout. While it’ll inevitably happen with a certain percentage of recipients, you want to prevent people from dropping off as they read.

    One of the best ways to keep sustained engagement is to keep eyes effortlessly moving down the page with short and succinct copy.

    One-liners, small paragraphs, and lots of spacing signal a degree of approachability and simplicity. Use this style as much as you can.

  5. Don’t Ask Too MuchIt can be difficult to convey everything you want to say in a single email, but it’s important that you stay as focused as possible – particularly when it comes to CTAs and requests.

    Always stick to one CTA per email. Never ask multiple questions or present different offers. (It’ll just overwhelm and confuse.) You can present the same CTA in multiple places – like at the beginning, middle, and end of the email – but it needs to be the same call. That’s how you keep people focused and on-task.

Give Your Email Marketing Strategy a Makeover

Most businesses have some sort of email lists. Few businesses leverage these lists as well as they should. Hopefully this article has provided you with some practical and actionable tips that can be used to boost engagement and produce more conversions. Give them a try and see what sticks.

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Business Marketing

What entreprenuers can learn about branding from trendy startups

(BUSINESS MARKETING) What’s the secret of focused startup branding, and how can you apply it to large enterprises?

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A set of wine from Craft Hugo, showing off pleasing branding in labels.

Think of your favorite brand. Is it the product they offer or the branding that you love? Exactly – brand ethos reigns supreme, especially with those trendy, aesthetically-pleasing startups (I never thought Glossier had good makeup, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t visit their website once or twice a month).

So let’s break it down.

Co-founder of Red Antler – a company that assists startups in creating successful branding – Emily Heyward believes in a few branding truths.

Firstly, you have to make sure not to market your brand as a single product or experience. Doing so, she says, will pigeonhole you and thus truncate your ability to expand and offer new products and services (she gives MailChimp, known almost exclusively for email marketing, as an example).

What Heyward does say to do is instead market an idea. For example, the brand Casper (one of Antler’s clients) markets itself as a sleep company instead of a mattress company. By doing this, they kept the door open to eventually offer other products, like pillows and bedding.

Heyward states that this “power of focus” is a way to survive – with countless other startups offering the same product or service, you have to position your company as offering something beyond the product. Provide a problem your customer didn’t know they had and offer an innovative solution through your product.

Ever used Slack, the app-based messenger? There were other messengers out there, so focus of Slack’s branding is that regular messaging is boring and that their app makes it more fun. And customers eat it up.

How can this logic apply to mid-to-large enterprises? How can you focus on one specific thing?

Again, placing emphasis on brand over products is essential – what is it about what you offer that makes your customers’ lives better? It’s more cerebral than material. You’re selling a better life.

Another thing to remember is that customers are intrigued by the idea of new experiences, even if the product or service being offered is itself not new. Try not to use dated language that’s colored by a customers’ preexisting feelings. Instead, find an exciting alternative – chat solutions are desperately trying move away from the word “chat”, which can bring to mind an annoying, tedious process, even though that is in fact what they offer.

Broadening the idea of focused brand ethos to a large company can be difficult. By following these tips and tricks from startups, your company can develop a successful brand ethos that extends beyond your best product or service.

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Business Marketing

The rise of influencer marketing and its effect on digital marketing

(BUSINESS MARKETING) More businesses are planning to invest a larger part of their marketing budgets on more relatable, branded content and influencer marketing.

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Influencer speaking to camera for marketing segment.

The digital age has created more savvy consumers, and the barrage of advertising on top of the plenitude of content online can be a lot. Many consumers have learned to hide ads or they simply scroll past them to their content of choice. Most business owners know that digital marketing is a crucial part of any ad strategy, and branded content and influencer marketing continues to grow in the market, because consumers see that it’s different from traditional advertising.

Hardly anything stayed the same in 2020, and traditional advertising also has shifted. Advertiser Perceptions reported on the trend for 2021, based on a survey from late 2020.

“More than half of advertisers using paid branded content and influencers say doing so is more critical than it was a year ago. Throughout the second half of 2020, 32% increased spending on branded content and 25% spent more to back influencers. They’re now putting 20% of their digital budgets into the complementary practices, which is more than they put into any other digital channel (paid search is 14%, display 13%, paid social 12%, digital video 12%).”

The benefits of branded and influencer content are that you are speaking to the consumer where they already are, when you choose an influencer. The people who follow their accounts are more likely to trust that the influencer would only share something they like or use themselves. The best matches are when the influencer marketing fits nicely into the kind of content, the voice, and any specialties they already deal with.

The word “influencer” as well as the concept rubs some people the wrong way. Marketers see the value, though, as influencer marketing can be effective if done well, and the cost to hire them is often less than a traditional ad campaign. If I want to know about food in a city, I’ll follow the hashtags until I find a local food blogger or micro-influencer whose style I like. Then I’ll seek out those restaurants when I visit. Sure, some of the meals are comped, but the truth is that food bloggers and influencers like to share their food recommendations. I have been influenced this way more than once, and not only for food. I am not alone in this, either, which is why it’s an important part of a marketing strategy.

In influencer marketing, the content creator is then given free rein to create within their own style, voice, and persona. They need to connect with their audience in an authentic, familiar way without creating a dissonance for their followers between their public page(s) and the brand. The level of trust is fairly high with influencer marketing, and many influencers realize that promoting something crappy or something outside of their area of expertise or recognition hurts everyone involved.

The power of storytelling comes into play here, as with all good advertising. Branded content is specifically all about the story, often the story of the business’s philosophy or some lifestyle aspect that goes with the brand’s vibe–or is so off that it goes viral. Some branded campaigns join into or build off of conversations already happening in the wider world. The purpose is to have people engage with the brand, with the content, build awareness, encourage conversations, sharing, comments, all with the long term goal of fostering a positive image of the brand so that down the line, they will become consumers.

Think of 2004 Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign, based on a study showing that around 2% of women saw themselves as beautiful. The widely studied, award-winning campaign featured women of all backgrounds and body types, without airbrushing and Photoshopping them into a narrow vision of “beauty.” While some people hated it, many loved it and applauded the brand for treading into traditionally uncharted waters. Among haters, fans, and people who weren’t sure what to think, the Dove Real Beauty branded content campaign generated conversations. The campaign also encouraged women to feel good about themselves and lift up other women. One could argue that the campaign you could argue that the Real Beauty campaign was a forerunner to the currently popular body positivity movement, which started gaining traction around 2012. Dove increased sales by at least $1.5 billion in the first ten years the branded content campaign ran.

The goal of branded content is to raise awareness of the brand, but the path from point A (creating the content) to point B (brand awareness, ultimately leading to better sales) is not a straight line. Brands are paying attention to grabbing attention, aka building brand awareness via more upper funnel marketing than lower funnel.

One thing that marketers are looking for now, however, is almost eliminating the funnel. With the mind-boggling increase in e-commerce since the beginning of the pandemic, clickable sales capability becomes important in any kind of marketing, including influencer and branded content. It pays to listen to customers, to find an influencer who meshes with your brand’s purpose, and to create thoughtful branded content that isn’t out of line with your core product or service.

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