Why You Should Start a Blog (Or Dust off the Old One)

Back in the day, it was called a web log, but writing two words was apparently cumbersome, so in 1997, the term blog was coined. No more Usenet, Compuserve emails, and Bulliten Boards. Blogs really became popular in the 1990s, when new publishing tools made it easy for anyone to publish content. They went mainstream in about 2004. In 2011, Nielson reported more than 156 million blogs in existence.

Why should YOU blog? Here are five reasons.

1. It’s a personal connection to your tribe. Just because you work for a company, or you ARE a company, doesn’t mean you have to be faceless. You can bring personality and humanity to what you do by connecting with people on a blog. A blog is a great place to share your stories, experiences and insights. People really do care about what’s interesting. But you can also connect people, facilitate conversations and build a tribe.

2. It will help you build your platform. Michael Hyatt says a platform is the stage you stand on if you want to be heard, and blogging will help you build a platform. If you write helpful, interesting and quality stuff, readers will find you. You’ll earn the right and obtain permission to speak into their lives. I’ve met friends and clients due to blogging.

3. It will help you connect with other leaders in your field. Blogging doesn’t have to be a one-way street of information. If you work hard, you can create conversations, and those conversations will lead to connections with other leaders. I’ve connected with many people in person who first interacted with something I wrote on the blog. And I’ve gotten to know many people through their writing before ever meeting them in person.

4. Words are powerful and writing is good for you. Throughout history, words have changed the direction of nations. Your blog might not start or end a war, but your words still have the ability to be influential. Capture your thoughts and write them down. And if you want to become a better writer, there’s no better way than by simply writing.

5. It can be a source of income. Through affiliate links and products, it can be a source of income for you.  This will take some work, and you might not get rich, but I bet you could find a good use for a little extra income. Here is a post from Tentblogger about how he became a full time blogger.

Quick list of resources in this post:

Lessons Learned from Michael Hyatt’s Platform Book Launch

Michael Hyatt’s new book Platform, was available on May 1. But he asked me not to buy it until the unofficial book launch, about three weeks later.

Why would an author ask me NOT to buy his book?  It was all a part of the launch plan.

Though I purchased the book and am looking forward to reading it, I’m equally as intrigued by his launch strategy. Here are seven things you could learn from Michael Hyatt and the way he launched the new book.

1. Ask people to do something specific.

On May 1, Hyatt wrote, “I want to ask you to wait until the week of May 21–25, which is the official “launch week.” He goes on to give the specific reason for requesting this specific action. Hyatt didn’t ask people to support the book, talk about it, consider something…he called for a specific action. His request wasn’t vague, it was clear.

Too many times we inform but don’t ask.  We tell people we have a mailing list, but we don’t ask them to sign up.  We tell people they can make a donation, but we don’t ask them to do it.  This isn’t a subtle difference in terminology; it’s an important lesson in clarity.

2. Worthwhile bonuses lead to action.

If you purchased the book during the launch week, you were rewarded with several bonuses, including a six-session video series, a video about writing, two previously available e-books, digital versions of the book, and an audio recording of the book. According to Hyatt, these resources have a value of $375.98. When it comes to offering bonuses, Hyatt got two things right.

First of all, the bonuses were valuable. This wasn’t a free bookmark with the purchase of a book, or a six-page blog post turned PDF. The video and audio resources are arguably MORE valuable than the book itself. If you’re going to give bonuses, make sure they are worth it.

Second, the bonuses were diverse. Some people will greatly appreciate the video series, but as I read through the list, I wanted the audio book. Since I spend a good deal of time in the car, I will listen to this book before I read it. That one bonus made the product more valuable to me.

3. Creating a launch plan is important.

Too many times, we work hard on creating a good product, but but no thought into how to launch or sell it. As Robert Kiyosaki jokes, there’s a reason we talk about best-selling authors and not best-writing authors.

Hyatt and his team created a launch strategy that was both intentional and effective. Tweets throughout the day showed the book climbing up Amazon’s Top 100 list.

I would argue that a good launch plan is nearly as important as a good product. If you’ve got something great, but nobody knows about it, you won’t make much of a difference. From reviews, to the bonus offers, to the Platform Launch Team, great thought and care was taken in the launch of this book.

4. Landing pages are different than websites.

Hyatt created a unique landing page for the book and the special offer. Notice the sidebar isn’t the typical blog sidebar – everything is focused on one thing. The typical plugins and popups are disabled, because the goal of the page is to get the reader to do one thing…buy the book.

When you have a product, event or service that you want to emphasize, create a landing page and drive people to one action. If the idea of a landing page is new to you, I highly recommend this free series from CopyBlogger

5. Deadlines drive decisions.

If you want people to take action, you’ve got to give them a deadline. The special bonus offers were available for one week, and the countdown clock in the sidebar is an effective tool to remind us.

Too many times we create offers and campaigns with no deadline. That means people have no incentive to take action now. Instead, they think, “I’ll get to that one day.” Whether it’s a limited time offer or a price increase, a deadline can actually drive decisions.

Here’s an example of deadlines you could use:

  • Parents, sign up your teenagers for student camp. $299 until June 1, then it’s $349.
  • Bring in your donations of gently worn clothes before Sunday, May 16.
  • To receive a tax donation, be sure to postmark your envelope by December 31.
  • Happy Hour is from 4-6 PM.

6. Honest communication trumps hype.

I love that Hyatt clearly explained WHY he is doing this.

“Why am I doing this? Because I want to get Platform on the best sellers list. The best sellers list is tabulated by counting all the books that are sold each week. The book that sells the most is #1, the book that sells the second most is #2, and so on. (I know it’s not a perfect system, but it is what it is.) When a book makes the list, it drives additional visibility. Retailers who initially didn’t stock the book order it. The traditional media becomes more interested in booking the author. People who weren’t aware of the book, suddenly become interested.”

That’s an honest answer and I respect it. I understand exactly what’s going on, and I didn’t feel tricked into making a purchase.  People do like to buy, but nobody wants to be sold.

7. No strategy makes up for bad content.

I haven’t read the book yet (but I will read it and listen to it), but based on the reviews, the book is great. I trust many of the people who provided quotes, including Seth Godin, who said: “A generous book from a man who knows what he’s talking about. Michael Hyatt has built a platform, and you can too.”

Too many times, we launch and market something that isn’t any good in the first place. Michael Hyatt created an excellent launch plan, and it seems to be working.  If the book is as good as the launch plan, I’ll be happy.

One Critique

If I could offer one critique of the process, it would be in the product review department. On the day of the launch, the book had more than seventy five-star reviews on Amazon. I might be inclined to give the book five stars as well, but absolutely NO one, two, three or four star reviews seems odd to me.

While asking for positive feedback is great, some people are skeptical of products that don’t have ANY negative or neutral reviews.

Google’s recent ZMOT report learned that a few honest, mediocre reviews don’t heart…they actually make a product or service appear more authentic. Here’s a post I did about what churches could learn from the ZMOT report.

In the coming weeks, I’ll post some notes from the book and do a Two Minute Book Review.

Technology Tools and How I Use Them (Part 4)

Evernote.  Things.  And Dropbox.  Three tools I use to stay organized and synced.

And like most people, I use email and a calendar program on a daily basis.  These round out my main tech tools.

Email isn’t really advanced technology, and there are many programs you can use. But here are a few things I’ve learned about working with email.

  1. I try to empty my inbox every day. You shouldn’t have a bunch of email awaiting response in your Inbox. Sit down and clean that thing out and empty it every day. I NEVER keep tasks in my email Inbox…if something arrives that I need to do, I create a task in Things and assign it a deadline. Michael Hyatt’s post on this subject is excellent.
  2. I have four or five different email addresses but all of them come to my Mac Mail inbox. I rarely use the Gmail interface or access my email on another computer. The SMTP servers keep my mail folders on my computer indention to the mail folders on my iPhone.
  3. I get Twitter DM alerts in my email Inbox, but not mentions or other social media notifications.

As far as my calendar, I use the simple iCal program that came with my MacBook Air. It does everything I need to do. Here are a few things I do:

  1. I have several calendars, but I see them all in one place. I have a personal calendar and several work calendars. I share all of these calendars with my wife and she shares her calendar with me and iCloud keeps everything in sync.
  2. I put birthdays on my calendar with a 4 day notification if I want to send that person a hand-written birthday card.

Evernote.  Things.  Dropbox.  Email.  And a calendar.  Those are the five workflow tools that keep things simple and organized for me.

Stuff I Starred

Here’s my semi-weekly Friday recap of stuff I starred in Google reader, clipped into Evernote, or favorited on Twitter.

  • 27% of Americans didn’t read a single book last year. If you want a big leg up on 27% of the competition in the job market, go read a book. (via @kennysilva)
  • Likability is the most important quality in a pastor. If people don’t like you it doesn’t matter how good you preach. – Junior Hill (via @sidekickceo)
  • Warren Bird from #leadnet says that the average person in the world is 29, makes just over $10,000 a year and doesn’t have Internet access.
  • “A horse is prepared for the day of battle but victory comes from the Lord.” Proverbs 31:21
  • Michael Hyatt talks about the value of paying for coaching and learning.  I believe this.
  • Modern Reject asks “who is your pastor” and notes that we have confused the office of pastor with the ministry of pastor.  Brilliant.
  • Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard. – Tim Tebow.  (I still don’t like him because he’s a Gator.)
  • When a person is down in the world, an ounce of help is better than a pound of preaching. -Edward Bulwer-Lytton.  I know I’ve needed this over the last 8 months.
  • Your budget is a theological statement. It says what you value. – Alan Hirsch
  • 232 sand dollars.
  • I’m becoming more and more convinced that churches want volunteers and not leaders.  Empowering leaders means you have to give up control.

Yes, But

Earlier this week, Michael Hyatt wrote an excellent post entitled Five Reasons You Need to Get Better at Saying No.  After letting my schedule get out of control, I implemented many of the principles he discussed in the post.  It absolutely made me a more focused leader.  Over time, I became intentionally inaccessible to the people I was trying to lead.

While I agree with Michael’s thoughts, based on my own personal experiences and perhaps only for my benefit, I offer this addition.

Sometimes, I need to lead with a Yes, but…

  • Yes, I would love to meet you so you could pick my brain about church planting, but can you please send me some questions in advance.
  • Yes, I would love to talk to you, but can you make an appointment.
  • Yes, but today is a day that I’ve reserved for my family, so can it wait until Monday?

“Yes, but” might not be the best leadership principle, but it might be good for your soul.  Automatically defaulting to “no” might be the best for your schedule, but it might not be the default position that God wants you to take.  I wonder how many interruptions were really divine appointments that my rigid rules and double-doored office hindered.

I know I want my default answer to be “yes” when God asks.  I know I want my default answer to be “yes” when my kids need something.  I’m not trying to be super-spiritual, and I’m not suggesting that you use God as an excuse. I AM saying that sometimes, other people priorities SHOULD take precedence over your own.

I suppose the million dollar question is, “Is this a divine appointment or a God-opportunity that doesn’t fit into my mold, or is this legitimately a distraction from what God has called me to do?”

Please understand, I am not talking about taking on extra responsibilities or shunning your family. A stressed leader completely managed or overwhelmed with his or her schedule will not be effective over the long haul.

In my leadership, as my default answer became no, I found myself more and more isolated from the very people I was trying to serve.  “Those people over there are really more equipped to handle that need,” really meant that I didn’t want to adjust my schedule to help. For me, leading with a no because a guard door to my soul.  This may not be an issue for you, but it was for me.