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Why You Want to Find Your Niche Market and Then Dominate It!

Yesterday I had an interesting, but short, conversation on Twitter where I said, “The key to a successful small business – find a highly specific, targeted niche and dominate it!” And I meant every word.

I work with business owners all the time who aren’t sure about what they want, what they’re doing or where they’re going. Nothing wrong with that at all. After all, unless your expertise is in small business development or marketing, there’s little reason to think you’d have a solid understanding of how to structure and grow a business.

Yet one thing that thatseems to set successful small business owners apart from those who aren’t is their mindset.

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Small Business Advice: Are Your Customers Morons?

I was thinking this morning about what makes a great relationship.

According to James from Audio Mecca, it’s necessary to accept “that the other fellow is not a moron.”

I keep saying again and again that conversation leads to relationship and relationship leads to business. No matter whether we’re talking about clients and customers, referrals and affiliates, partnerships or friends – it all begins with building relationships.

That’s why I find James’ comment so interesting. It’s true! We need to believe that the people we get into conversations with, and ultimately building relationships with, are not idiots. Don’t they have a point? Aren’t their comments, perceptions and ideas important in some way?

If they’re not, why are we in the conversation with them in the first place?

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Social Media Advice: You Are What You Share

I get asked all the time why a business owner should be blogging or engaged in social media.

The answer I give almost always revolves around creating relationships. If you’ve been reading a while, you know one of my favorite statements is people don’t do business with businesses, they do business with people. So relationships become key to business success.

Before the internet, before social media, much of the business world seemed to focus on producing and selling. You’d produce a product or create a service and do everything you could to get people to buy. In other words, marketing was about peddling what you had.

Today, however, [Read more…]

A Key To Great Social Media Relationships

one2one-sm.gifRemember the days when the internet was like listening to news radio? You’d search the dial for news and interesting topics.

Then came talk radio. Now people could call in and add their two cents to the topic discussed by the host. I often think of social media as being like talk radio.

For instance, now people can interact with the ‘hosts’ of blogs; engaging in interesting, lively and informative conversations. Or they can meet each other in Facebook or on StumbleUpon. Yet it goes further than that. Now, rather than just commenting on topics, social sharing and networking sites allow users to have control over what content gets seen – which stories get pushed to the top. It’s really an amazing time. [Read more…]

"I’d Like To Blog, But I Just Can’t Write"

You wouldn’t believe how often I hear statements like this. And from intelligent, engaging and interesting people. People who are professional and well-spoken.

Without a doubt we fear writing. But why? I’ve thought about this questions a bunch over the years. But seldom have I considered writing about it until the lovely April Groves left a comment on my post 3 Easy Steps to Creating a Web-based Business yesterday.

In 3 Easy Steps, I (and Matt Cutts) suggested that the second step to creating a successful online business is to start a blog. Why? Because it helps you engage directly with your target audience. It’s also the easiest way to begin driving traffic to your site and, hence, have the opportunity to grow your business. Here’s what April said:

I completely agree ‘but, I’ll tell you’ When I present the blogging idea to people I know, the writing aspect scares most of them to death. I hear ‘But I can’t write’ more times than I can count. My best counsel is for them to try writing the way they talk. It goes right to the heart of authentic. But, if you have other coaching suggestions to this block, I’d be all ears.

So why do we fear writing so much?

What I find most interesting is how the belief that we ‘can’t write’ is completely and utterly made up. At best, it’s something we took away from our junior high or high school education. Really, the idea we can’t write is thrust upon us because it just happens to be the opinion of our teachers. It’s not ours – unless we believe it.
But are they right? And can it change?

No, they’re not right. And yes, it can change.

I was one of those students who couldn’t write – so said my teachers. While I excelled at science and math, I could never write. Or at least that’s what I was told. And when I look back, they may have been right – at the time. But it certainly didn’t help to be told I couldn’t write each time I got a paper back.

And yet I sit here today with hundreds of blog posts – the great majority of which are written well enough that hundreds of people like you have wanted to engage me in conversation. Each of those posts has brought some value to people’s lives, their blogging and their business. And I don’t care whether I follow traditional writing methods. I care about communicating with you. So as long as I can do that, I know, without a doubt, that I can write.

So what’s the difference between what I’m writing today and what I was doing in school – other than a few decades of life experience, focus and a bit more maturity?

I think it’s relaxing and letting go of how I was taught to write. Forget the 5 paragraph model. Forget sentence structure and grammar (for the most part) and just write. Just get the words out from your mind. Let them move through your arms and dance you fingers on the keyboard just like they move up from your throat to create symphony between the tongue, larynx and lips when you speak (okay, so I went a little overboard). The point is – let go, and just write.

And for God’s sake, forget that you were ever told you can’t write. Because you can! With the blog – if you can speak, if you can communicate thoughts and ideas, you can write. And you can certainly blog.

I agree with April – write like you speak. Think about writing as a conversation and write that way. All of us can speak at least well enough to be understood in a conversation. So treat blogging like it’s a conversation. And remember that you, the blogger, get to start each conversation, you get to choose the topic and the way of looking at the topic. Then, invite the world to respond.

People care much more about what you want to communicate, what you want to share and how valuable it is to them then they do having beautiful, flowing prose. If you can write like that (communicatrix, I’m thinking of you), great. But if not, just ‘talk’ with people through your keyboard. They’ll learn far more about who you are, how you see things and how you can help them with their problems.

And that’s what leads to sales.

So what do you think…can you write (you should know the answer by now)? What was the biggest thing that you feel hurt your confidence in your writing? And how did you overcome it? I’d love to hear…and so would the people April talks with.

Life Has Just One Constant…

leaves.jpgAs far back as I can remember I've wanted to make a difference in people's lives. When I was 3 years old, I told my parents I was going to be a firefighter so I could “make people's houses not burn down.” Around 10 I decided I wanted to be a doctor so I could help sick kids. By the time I was on my way to college, I was set on being a surgeon.

Boy does life have a funny way of turning out.

I made it to medical school. My freshman year at Purdue opened my eyes to the wonders of alternative medicine and I was off on a new direction. Two years at university were enough for me. So I set out to learn everything I could about alternative ways of healing.

What followed was an amazing ten year adventure that ultimately opened my eyes to the wonders of our own bodies. At the same time I got to study all sorts of healing modalities – some very profound, others a bit of quackery.

Yet through much of my studies I was supporting myself as a website developer. Until finally, one day, I felt I had enough knowledge to hang out my shingle as an alternative healing practitioner. It was great, in the beginning. I used all that I had learned to help people overcome all sorts of ailments – some physical, others emotional or mental, and even some that were more spiritual in nature.

Yet, for some reason, it just wasn’t a good fit. It wasn’t until I closed my practice that I realized that healing, at least in a formal setting, more medical setting, just wasn’t in my heart. So, having gotten married and expecting our first daughter, I returned to web design full time. The secret, though, is that I never really stopped building websites – even when I was working with clients in my healing practice.

The next year or so had its joys, its challenges, its hurdles – and its moments of profound growth.

So one day I was sitting back waiting for a client to phone when I began thinking of my journey. I thought, “How did a kid who wanted to be a doctor to help people end up being a web designer and business developer?”

But when I thought about it, the answer was simple…I followed the signs.

That’s right. There were signs all along the way. I just had to learn how to read them. And while it may seem odd that I’d compare being a doctor to what I do now, I easily see the path I’ve chosen as the right one.

Think about it. If I’d finished at the university and gone off to medical school to become a surgeon, I would have never had the life I had in my twenties – backpacking, mountaineering, kayaking – for months at a time. I also wouldn’t have had the freedom to learn so much about how the body heals naturally, with foods and herbs and how our emotional, mental and, to some degree, spiritual states play enormous roles in our health, vitality and the quality of life. The 18 year-old boy who went to Purdue had no idea of that. But the man, 20 years later, sees life, health, family, and business with a sense of oneness – how every piece of life works together like a orchestra, playing the symphony of our life.

And, if I’d gone to medical school, it’s unlikely I’d be here today, writing this blog post on a system I’d likely know little about. What’s more, I’d not have the opportunity I do now to affect countless people, in every part of the globe, with little conversations that can help them in some way. But now I do.

Just like with every turn in my life, I’d never have guessed where I was going. Yet I do trust, with great faith, the next step. And while I can’t see with any clarity where it will lead me, I do know it’ll be an adventure. And I know I’d not be true to myself without striding out to explore where the path leads.

Charles Darwin once wrote, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”

For me change is inevitable. After struggling with it early in life, I now embrace it. I know it’s the only thing that’s true constant in my outer life. And I know it’s something I can’t control. What I can have some say over is how I respond to the changes life puts before me.

What about you? How well do you handle change? In your life? In your relationships? In your business? Let’s talk about it and maybe learn something from each other.

(note: image Melting Pot from Lorrie McClanahan on Flickr)