Five Thoughts for New (and old) Bloggers

I’ve spent a good portion of the weekend restructuring things around here at Technosailor. You can see that the site is much more organized around topics, as you can see from the new Masthead. Each of the verticals have been segregated into five separate blog-like entities.

Desk of the Editor is all of my content. Entrepreneurship, branded Venture Files, will continue to contain Steve Fisher’s content, but will also have contributions from others as appropriate to the topic. Web Marketing is branded Wicked Marketing and is a vertical dedicated to usability and interface design as it pertains to corporate marketing. Tech Policy, a.k.a. SuitCase will officially launch tomorrow with Andrew Feinberg. Finally, Contenido Español is our long time Spanish only content stream edited by Carlos Granier-Phelps. It is being branded Sincronizar, or Synchronize in Spanish.

The front page of the site will undergo some further enhancements that, hopefully, pulls together this content in a snapshot that works well for most readers. Honestly, the current layout which is only a few months old, is not working the way I had hoped. So you’ll continue to see changes over the next weeks.

During the process of reorganizing things, I had to go back through all four years of my archives, a step that kicked me into a significant introspective mode. Where have I come from? Where am I going?

Honestly, much of my content from early years is downright embarrassing. And really, it goes beyond the content. I’ve spent the weekend thinking about the mistakes I’ve made as a blogger and wondering what I would do differently if I could. Keep in mind that my goals for this site were always professional and that I foresaw a day when it would be my only job (I hope that day comes, still!).

Here is my advice for bloggers who wish to do the same thing.

Make Every Word Count

It’s so easy to get into the mindset that no one is reading a blog and this is “my” space and “I’m gonna write what I want to write”. While there is truth in that, content is evergreen. By evergreen, I mean that it will be there for years to come unless you take the wrong, in my opinion, approach and delete archives that you don’t want anymore.

Understand that people always grow and become more mature. You are no different as I am no different. In four years, if you go through the exercise I’ve gone through this weekend, you will look through different eyes than you did when you first wrote.

On the other hand, people who really only want to blog for themselves can use these opportunities for their benefit. It really is interesting to see progression in your own development and feel good about it.

My advice, though, is to make every word count. Even though you have unlimited space and there’s no such thing, to many people, as too many posts, I’d recommend the economy of words.

This takes practice and discipline. Knowing what you want to say and saying it with just enough words to make your point without being so verbose that you might as well divide a post into multiple posts.

Mark Evans used to tell me that if you can say it in 1000 words, you can say it in 500. If you can say it in 500 words, you can say it in 250.

Your blog is valuable space. Make every word count for something.

Attack Ideas, not People

Another bit of low hanging fruit, when it comes to traffic, is attacking people. Everyone likes a good controversy. I’ve done the “Mike Arrington said…” or “Jason Calacanis said…” thing more times than I care. For awhile, I was highly ranked (#3) in Google for the search phrase, “How to be a whore” because I wrote this article about my friend Duncan Riley. Duncan and I have mended the bridge and are friends today, but that is not always the case.

I’d recommend avoiding the attack paradigm altogether. It’s much more efficient, when building of a brand or property, to offer ideas. Offer solutions, offer ideas, innovate. Be a thinker and a leader. By attacking people, not only do you hurt the chances of working with them, but you garner a recommendation that will follow you for a long time.

Plus, you end up singing from their songbook and not your own. Not beneficial if you desire thought leadership or to be considered a subject matter expert.

Take Time Every Day to Soak In the News

Ever had a day when you just react to something that is going on? I have. Too many times. I’ve discovered, however, that a 1am reading of Google Reader, while I’m relaxed (and because I’m an insomniac), is much more conducive to “catching up” than doing a break-neck scan at 9am before the day begins. Why? Because you’re relaxed and much less likely to act irrationally or reactionary. You’re not misreading content because you have work to get started on. You’re soaking in every word that another blogger is writing.

Are you going to get breaking news that way? Probably not. But you have the benefit of multiple opinions from multiple sources during the course of the news day. On this site, we don’t break news anyway so I’m not looking for the benefit of breaking news. We do analysis and in the presence of the multiplicity of opinions, a story is vetted.

Never Hide Your Archives

As I went through my content this weekend, I came across a post where I was announcing my intention to do paid review posts. This idea smacks of PayPerPost and today I do not want to be affiliated with PPP.

In a moment, I almost sent that post back to draft status and unpublished it but I didn’t. The reason I didn’t is because the entire nature of an archive, as embarassing as it is, is a story of your blogging life. Sure, I wish it wasn’t there but it is and there it will stay.

Maybe one day I’ll go through some kind of exit where my content here is analyzed very closely. I fully anticipate posts like that and others like it will hurt me. Yet, I cannot hide my archives.

Never Think More Highly of Yourself Than You Ought

Today I can brag. Three years ago, not so much. :) I say that cautiously and some will think I’m contradicting myself. Today, I can brag but I have to do it in the humility of knowing that I have a very long way to go. This site is not the mega property I’d like it to be, but it is getting there. It does not have the highest subscription numbers, though all feeds combined are in the neighborhood of 2000 subscribers. It does not have the traffic I want, but it does have significant traffic.

It’s okay to brag if you have something tangible to brag about. Three years ago, I bragged and had no substance to back my bragging up.

Let me tell you a quick stoy about my friend Marshall Kirkpatrick who writes over at Read Write Web. Last November, while in Vegas at Blog World Expo, Marshall and I were at a party at the Wynn thrown by the fabulous Steph Agresta.

As the guests cycled out, Marshall and I were talking outside and he, in his very laid back Oregonian way said, “From one asshole trying to figure things out to another, take this however you want. Maybe you should just not be so aggressively ‘out there’”.

Initially, I was stunned but his comment has stuck with me to this day. Marshall and I were even laughing about it the other week.

See, none of us have really figured this stuff out yet. Some of us brag more than we ought. Maybe I do. However, if you’ve got nothing to brag about then don’t. Plain and simple. No one will think any less of you for not bragging, and if you genuinely have something to brag about then you won’t need to because people will take notice.

Five ideas I’ve picked up in my weekend of introspection. Feel free to add your own lessons in comments.

The Difference Between Designers and Marketers

A reader of this blog, recently, inquired about the difference between Designers and Marketers. I took some time to think about it and came to so many conclusions that it was Wicked Marketing entry worthy. This won’t be as snarky as my usual posts, but then again I’ve been known to surprise myself now and then.

The most basic definition of a Marketer is someone who promotes or exchanges goods or services for money. A Marketer is also known as a promoter, but in the very rare occasion a Marketing is also responsible for Public Relations (something entirely different, but yet the same). A Designer, on the other hand, is someone who creates or makes original print and web marketing materials, artwork and the like.

While the two work hand in hand on most projects very rarely are they the same person. A strong Marketer will have at least a working knowledge of the limitations of design. Marketers are responsible for creating, executing and tracking the marketing strategy and tactics a particular project or campaign. Marketers are also responsible for understanding their clients’ needs, consistency of message, target audience and demographics, establishing milestones and creating, or outsourcing the creation, of the text content that is to be used on whatever piece, or pieces, is needed. When they have a concept in mind, they generally create thumbnail sketches or rough drawings of what the pieces they need will be to best communicate the ideas to the Designer who bring them to reality. Last but not least, marketers are also responsible for defining a strategy for and tracking the Return On Investment (ROI) to show the effectiveness of the marketing piece or campaign. First and foremost, Marketers are strategists, tactical analysts and sales people. A Marketer, for the purposes of defining the name, could be a person, team of like minded individuals or firm (larger than a team of like minded individuals, but smaller than a football team).

A strong Designer will have at least a working knowledge of marketing strategies, branding, the psychology of what sells or attracts and the different between how to design for print work or web. The Designer will translate the ideas created by the Marketer and the client to a visual medium. The Designer may suggest alternative marketing pieces, offer multiple variations of the initial design for choices, and suggest alternative mediums to assist in marketing the client (namely to their own benefit). Designers are responsible for creating the deliverables (marketing pieces), providing the pieces in formats for use on multiple platforms (if needed) and working with the Marketer to provide the best possible avenue to produce and create the designed items. A Designer needs to understand the clients budget restraints, voice, target market, avenues of use, and be able to communicate any questions, comments, concerns or ideas directly to the client. First and foremost, Designers are creative people. That means they are one part artist, one part mind reader and one part fortune teller. A Designer, for the purposes of defining the name, could be a person, a group of freelancers, a studio or a firm.

So now that we’ve outline, roughly, what they are; let’s go over how they work together. Generally a client will either source out their Marketer and/or Designer. If they have found their Designer first, hopefully, the Designer will suggest that the client uses a Marketer to come up with the strategy and allow the Designer to do what they do best”¦design. The Marketer will work with the client to determine their desired outcome, target audience, understand past marketing attempts, create a scope of work as defined (or limited by) a budget, and create the overall message. The Marketer will present a few rough ideas to the client for their selection or find one they feel strongly will best represent the client and run with it. The Marketer will then bring in the Designer to meet with the client, get a feel for the visual personality of the strategy and answer any questions the Designer may have regarding past work(s) the client has created.

From there the Designer goes away to that magical land called creation and waits for their respective Muse to hand down a few ideas. Mine tends to wait till the last possible second and then overload me with more choices than I can possibly present. Those ideas are then turned into rough drafts to present to the client. Notice I didn’t say finished works? The Marketer presents the ideas to the client who then has to choose one, or two. The designer gets any notes and feedback on the selection, returns to the land of creation and brings back a more polished product. This process could repeat several times. We’ll fast forward as thought they hit the proverbial home run on the first try.

The client signs off on the designs and the Marketer and Design begin their process of finding the best possible avenue to have the piece(s) created. Once done, the Designer steps out of the picture, tips his/her hat to the client and waits in the wings for the next piece, revision or what have you. The Marketer takes over at that point and, depending on the strategy, distributes to piece to the client or out to the avenues they determine them to go. After the run of the piece, the Marketer will look at the overall success of the project/campaign and report back to the customer with suggestions, improvements, or a finished report.

Please note I said “œGenerally” when this example started. Marketers and Designers are fickle people and the route that a project could take varies depending on both the Marketer and the Designer. The example was, in my opinion, the simplest route that a project could go without going into too much explanation. I only have so much space for text you know. Besides, I’m pretty sure you don’t want to get bored reading this.

Good Marketers and Designers are the mad scientists of their industry. They create pieces that sometimes won’t see the light of day for sometimes close to six months. When they create these pieces they have to look into the future and feel confident that these strategies and designs will still be relevant and appealing as they are when they created them.

What you need to understand, as I close this extremely long entry out, is that both Marketing and Design is subjective. Not everyone will like every concept or idea. These things are organic and can often take a life of their own. As a Marketer or Designer, you’re trying to get as many people you’ve never met to connect with something strongly enough for them to remember it firmly enough to tell other people about it, pull out their hard earned cash to pay for it and simply just engage them in such a way these pieces stand out in their day to day lives. Marketing and Design are not two things you should go lightly into assuming everyone can do. You’re bound to spend a lot of money on things that bring you very little if you do.

In closing, the difference between a Marketer and a Designer is vast, but ultimately you should feel confident in both enough to trust your business, project or event will be a success”¦whatever you decide that to be. I’d love to hear the experiences you’ve had with the Marketers and Designers in your past. I’d also like to know that you found this entry informative and educational. Drop me a line.

But this worked four years ago?

I was sitting at the mall waiting for my niece to get out of a certain store that had huge round mouse ears, I watched a gaggle of tween-age girls walk by in outfits that I hadn’t seen, and honestly hoped never to again, since 1988. The leggin’s, oversized sweaters and neon bracelets in the hundreds made me think about marketing and design. Because let me be honest”¦everything does.

With that story out of the way, let’s get this entry rolling. I hate to burst your bubble right out the gate, but marketing trends are much like fashion trends. While as all trends do, often enough, come back around”¦ the revival of an old trend tends to be the very thing you hoped would never again see the light of day.

I love when I meet someone who hands me a piece of marketing material or directs me to a website that clearly hasn’t been updated in years. The design is outdated, the content is so old the addendum explanation ultimately could be it’s own piece, and more times than not the reason for this is that some head honcho, maybe even you, was really, really proud of it”¦a long time ago in a marketing plan/budget far, far away.

The reality is that today’s buyer is getting younger and younger. These potential clients are becoming savier to the lack of time or effort you put into your whatever it is. They really don’t want you to dust off the remaining brochure from four years ago you somehow still have and parade it around at a networking function. They want the latest and greatest.

I hate to regurgitate other people’s ideas. Rather than do that take a look at Kim T. Gordon’s The Hottest Marketing Trends for 2008. I agree with her points of engaging your customer, integrating your off-line and online campaigns and following your customers. The one trend that would seem obvious through her suggestions, but is missing is a trend to actively create new/fresh content. All of the trends that she mentions rely completely on having new information to share with each of these trends.

You’d be surprised how many business owners, marketing managers and sales people get stuck in the trend of repeating and regurgitating half a decade old pitches, gimmicks and what not without realizing that their clients see them as tired and old. The widget may work, the sales person may be able to sell sugar to a diabetic, and customer service staff may be the best in the world, but if your customer can’t get beyond the feeling of “œI heard it” or “œbeen there, done that and just had the same thing better pitched by your competitor ten minutes ago” then the new trend you’ll see is a lack of revenue.

What trends do you see today that should have stayed dead and buried? Do you know business owners or marketing managers that are still clinging onto that shred of hope that this could be the year for dusting off that tried, but not true piece? What new emerging trend do you see having legs in the future?