From the monthly archives:

September 2010

Must Read: 9 great posts from other bloggers

by Peter Osborne on September 25, 2010 · 2 comments

The weather report is calling for rain tomorrow and I’m planning to catch up on some reading.  It seemed to be the perfect time to launch a new feature on Consultant Launch Pad and Bulldog Simplicity (yes, I’m publishing the same content on both blogs because my readerships are different) and offer up a few links to articles that are worth your time but that you may have missed over the past week as you were trying to sell more, spend less, or get more customers to like, know, and trust you.

This is certainly not a new concept and many of you may have favorite bloggers you follow who do the same.  I religiously read the links provided each week by Mitch Joel, John Jantsch, and or Gini Dietrich.  But as tweets fly by at a relentless pace, I’m finding myself clicking Favorites more often and thought I’d share the ones with tips or observations that consultants and/or small business owners could add to their Monday To Do lists in hopes of finding a new client or customer, retaining an existing one, or doing something a little more efficiently or effectively. 

Great Infographics.  Fast Company’s website searches the world looking for cool infographics that explain interesting stuff.  The aforementioned Mitch Joel pointed me toward this site with one from Newsweek magazine that explains what it’s like to be trapped in a Chilean mine, but bookmarking this feature and looking at it on a regular basis could give you ideas for your own customer communications, blogs, or presentations.  Picture an infographic on The History of Pasta for a paper placement in an Italian restaurant.  Would that be cool or what?

Getting Customers to Buy.  Sixteen simple ways to engage with customers and encourage them to buy from you from copywriter/direct marketer Dean Rieck.  I had this one queued up and then Copyblogger suggested the same one in their post today.  Which reinforces the idea that this one is valuable for people trying to figure out how to get their customers or prospects to pay attention.

B2B Marketers Must Think Like Consumers.  One of my favorite quotes of the week came from David Meerman Scott, who tweeted, “Attention B2B marketers: You are never marketing to a business. You are always marketing to people.”  This Forbes article is much longer, very thoughtful, and a terrific complement to David’s 13-word great advice.

Ways That Retailers Can Drive Traffic Using Twitter and Facebook.  Some great tips that also apply to consultants from the always-interesting Rich Brooks.  He wrote this for Social Media Examiner, but his blog is worth a look on a regular basis.

10 Ways to Use Technology to Improve Your Marketing.   Writing for the MarketingProfs Daily Fix Blog (which you should explore from this post), Michael Stibbe starts by saying, “Every day, marketing professionals are looking for a way to do something amazing, to impress their clients, to get the job done faster and to grow their business. Technology isn’t the magic bullet for all your problems but, used well, it can really help.”  Good, quick tips.

Content Lessons Learned From 25 Popular Posts.  Jay Baer is considered an icon in the field of content marketing — what you provide to readers and visitors to your site that they find valuable.  Not only does he offer links to those posts, he takes a look at what they have in common.

Exceeding Delivery Expectations as a Strategic Marketing Process.  I actually tripped over this Duct Tape Marketing post by John Jantsch; somehow I missed it on Friday.  That said, the notion of first setting expectations and then exceeding them applies to consultants and small businesses alike (and big businesses too — one of his examples is Zappo’s).

The Disease Called “Perfection.”  I’m not going to say much about this post by single dad Dan beyond the fact that he started blogging only a few months ago; more than 100,000 people have already looked at this heartfelt post from a few days ago; and you can apply its message to both your business and personal life. 

The Pattern of Business Success.   This actually passed across my screen as I was getting ready to hit the Publish button on this post, but is so cool that I “stopped the presses” to share it with you.  If you’ve ever seen Wordle – a program you see on many blogs that creates word clouds that show the dominant words and phrases in your writing (it’s also great to use on your resume) – you’ll click on this to see what happened when John Spence applied Wordle to his life’s work.  It’s fascinating. 

Well, that’s it for this week.  This is the stuff I liked and, more important, stuff that I thought you’d like.  Please feel free to post links to things you liked in the comments or tell me what kind of posts you’d be interested in seeing.  My commitment to you is that I’m going to look for some more obscure bloggers for next week; it’s not difficult to find good stuff from the people included here.  But I also suspect that many of you aren’t all that familiar with some of these people, so introducing you isn’t such a bad thing either.

Have a great week!

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Between the CARD Act, the Durbin Amendment, and other federal legislation, banks' profit margins are crumbling and business cards could help restore some of that profitability.

A struggling consultant friend of mine told me the other day that he’s fallen behind on paying some of his business expenses so he’s decided to put more things on his business credit card because paying 30+ days late isn’t going to hurt him all that much.  It’s an approach he says he’s taking on his personal credit cards without having to worry about huge rate increases.

He’s wrong.

Business credit cards are exempt from the CARD Act (the shorter name for the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure Act) that was signed into law last year.  That means business-card issuers can do the things they can’t do with your personal card — increase the interest rate on your existing balance, jack up your rate to the 30% range after just one late payment, charge high fees for irresponsible behavior, and apply payments to the balance with the lowest rate first.  And that could put you in an even bigger world of hurt.

Now do you understand why card issuers mailed 45 million business credit card offers in the first quarter, up 256% from the first quarter of 2009 (vs. only29% for all credit-card solicitations )?  It sure as heck wasn’t because they saw an early end to the recession and suddenly decided lending to small businesses was a safe thing to do.  To be fair, some issuers (Bank of America is one example) say that’ll apply the consumer rules to their business cards, but they don’t have to…although Sen. Charles Schumer of NY is raising holy hell over the marketing increase and is charging the banks with pushing unprotected business cards to consumers (including retirees) under the guise of a business card.

Now what does this mean for you.  Well, you certainly should be using separate cards for business and personal use because it makes tax time much simpler.  And business cards often come with higher credit limits (a big help with cash flow, particularly with the grace period); better rewards; and better record-keeping.  But business cards often come with higher interest rates, higher annual fees on those better rewards, repration a whole lot easier. 

You don’t necessarily need to get a business card.  You could earmark a personal card — which does come with those CARD Act protections — for business use.

Keep in mind that the CARD Act and subsequent legislation targeting checking and deposit accounts are hammering the banks’ bottom lines and costing them billions in annual revenue.  There’s no assurance — absent additional legislative action — that the banks that are voluntarily complying with the CARD Act on their business-card side will continue to do so.

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Beefing up the Blogroll on Steroids

by Peter Osborne on September 19, 2010 · 0 comments

More tools for your toolkit

Just a quick post on a Sunday night to talk about a streamlined vision for Consultant Launch Pad.  We’re changing the description of this site to be Tips, Links and Advice for early-stage consultants (and experienced ones too).  If it doesn’t fall into one of those three categories, we probably won’t include it.  The first step in this direction: I’ve nearly doubled the number of links in our Blogroll on Steroids this weekend — we’re over 70 now — and expect to add a lot more over the next few weeks (the goal is 100 by the end of September–each of them with a description of the writer or the site or blog’s goals).  Our reason:  We want to provide the consultants, freelancers, and small-business owners who visit this site with a quick look in a centralized place at people who consistently offer high-quality advice and resources for this growing audience.

I see this site as part aggregator (providing you with links to a variety of sites dedicated to helping consultants and small businesses) and part new content (blog postings and resources like e-books, checklists, and the like) with some advice added in (although the Forum has been a lot less popular to date than we expected).  Look for more short posts chock full of bullets you can use right away in your day-to-day efforts to grow and strengthen your consulting business.

I’m Tweeting as @consultantlaunc and doing a substantive amount of Retweeting of articles I hope interest you — or would interest consultants you know.  If you’re not on Twitter, you ought to consider it.  It’s a great place for finding a lot of great discussion on topics of interest to consultants and small-business owners — more than you might think.  You can also start looking for a post to start next weekend with a compilation of the best of the web’s postings on consultant- and small business-related issues.

Good luck.  We’re all in this together.  Let me know if you have suggestions on ways we can make the site more useful for you.

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LinkedIn headlines: Don’t waste the real estate

by Peter Osborne on September 13, 2010 · 0 comments

This is the fourth (and final) part of a multi-part series on making changes to your job-seeker (or full-time job) LinkedIn profile to reflect your decision to consult or seek project work.  The entire series can be found here.

Find a way to make your LinkedIn Professional Headline truly memorable

Reporters spend most of their time writing the leads to their stories. People selling their homes make sure the front yard looks great.  The last thing you do before going on a job interview or date is check to make sure there’s no spots on your shirt or tie or foreign objects stuck in your teeth. 

So why do so many people write awful headlines for their LinkedIn profiles?

This series started after I helped JibberJobber.com founder Jason Alba with responses to his posting, LinkedIn Professional Headlines: Yours Probably Sucks.  Go ahead and take a look.  We had about 40 people ask for help and you’ll get an idea of whether I can help you.  I guess I’m sad that Jason stole the best headline for this post subject, but I think mine works too. 

You have 120 characters to get someone’s attention with your headline.  Who’s going to see it?  Your connections.  Your connections’ connections.  And their connections.  And people who search using keywords that can be found within your Profile.  And prospective clients (or employers).  You get the idea.

I took a quick look at my Connections’ headlines.  What did I find?

  • Company names that tell me nothing.  These are the consultants who just assume some combination of letters and numbers, last names paired with the phrase Consulting Group or some such name, and the Something Group are going to lead to click-throughs.  They’re not.
  • Job titles and company name. These are the employed people who are either deliriously happy with their current situation or don’t realize that if someone wants to find people who work at Bank of America, she is far more likely to use the Advanced Search option.  This group includes the people who don’t realize that there is no Central HR Agency that dictates consistency over the responsibilities of an SVP, Senior Marketing Manager, Director, Vice President, General Manager, or any of a myriad of ambiguous titles so your title doesn’t help you all that much.
  • Name. Ask me for a FREE something.  OK, I cheated here.  I don’t think any of my Connections did this, but there are lots and lots of people who jump right to the offer on their (Not So) Professional Headlines. 

Guys, everyone is a Marketer.  Pretty much everyone is in Business Development.  That doesn’t tell me what you do.  That doesn’t tell me what value you bring.  That doesn’t cause me to click on your name among the 10 names on any given page of Search Results.  Plug the word “Marketer” into the LinkedIn search engine and you’ll get 57,000 results (which is actually less than I would have guessed).

Most of your headlines just take up space.  Or to extend the metaphor of my headline, they are vacant lots that don’t help you one iota.  Here are some tips to get people to open your Profile so they can find the real you (if you’ve done something to beef up the Summary and other sections inside):

  • Tell me why I should care about you.  Let’s face it.  You’re on LinkedIn to either find a job (a new one or a better one), find clients, or find someone who can help your business be more successful.  You want dates? Go to Facebook.  You want to build relationships? Probably Twitter.  Your LinkedIn profile better tell people who you are, what you’ve done, and what value you’re going to bring a reader.  If it doesn’t, then you’re wasting your time and the reader’s.
  • Answer the Question Readers are Asking.  If you can do this in your headline you’re ahead of the game.  The questions include What Do You Do? What Makes Your Unique? What Problem Do You Solve? Why Should I Do Business With You?
  • Grab someone’s attention.  Use strong verbs. Differentiate yourself. Get them to want to read more.
  • Keep it tight.  Remember, you have 120 characters.  That’s about the amount of space you get for a Twitter message that you’re hoping gets retweeted.  Make it quick. That’s a decent amount of space, actually You don’t have to tell the whole story.  You just have to pique someone’s curiosity.  A lot of you only use 20-30 characters.  That’s like my son finishing a 60-minute math test in 15 minutes.  Good results rarely come from that,
  • Test different approaches.  Come up with a few headlines and replace them every week or so.  Then keep an eye on the Who’s Viewed My Profile section of your front page.  There are two metrics — Number of Views and Number of Times You’ve Shown Up in Search Results.  Higher numbers won’t necessarily lead to lots of calls, but it gives you a better chance.  See if you get comments from people who know you.

Have you seen headlines that you thought were particularly effective?  Would you like me to provide you with feedback on yours.  Use the Comment box below.

P.S.  The advice I’m providing will help you beef up your LinkedIn profile without outside help.  But if you don’t want to spend the time or realize that this is not something you’re particularly good at, I will be happy to take you on as a client.  Just drop me an e-mail or you can go to a page that will enable you to learn more and even sign up then and there.

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LinkedIn Summary: Let prospects qualify themselves

by Peter Osborne on September 11, 2010 · 0 comments

This is the third of a multi-part series on making changes to your job-seeker (or full-time job) LinkedIn profile to reflect your decision to consult or seek project work.  The entire series can be found here.

So who are you?  What value do you bring?

This is the time to ask yourself a few questions:

  • Who do I want to read my new LinkedIn profile?
  • What’s my elevator speech?
  • What are the 3-5 things that I want to be known for (these will tie to your keywords later)?
  • What type of business do I most want to do?
  • Why should people do business with me?

Once you’ve answered these questions, you can go ahead and start writing your Summary (and frankly, if you’ve stumbled across this post as a job seeker, this advice works for you too).  Time to date myself a bit here, but as they sang in the play/movie Godspell, this is not the time “to put your light under a bushel because you’ll miss something kind of crucial.”  Boring is best left elsewhere.  Stand out.

Explain your basic approach to work.  Talk about the methodologies you use.  As you surf the web, you’re going to find that more and more people are sharing their templates and checklists and many of the tools they use in their businesses.  It’s a question of confidence.  Give away your tools and let people know that what they really need are your implementation skills.  Remember, you don’t need every visitor to your website (or your LinkedIn profile) to buy from you.  You want buzz.  You want people talking about you or linking to you from their blogs or their Twitter feeds.

Let people know what you’re looking for and what kind of client or problem constitutes a “good fit” for your services.  Is your sweet spot someone who’s struggling to stay in business, someone who has a solid foundation but needs help growing, or someone who’s just getting started?  Do you offer creativity to numbers people, or analytics to creative types?  Would you prefer to work with someone close to home, or is your consultancy regional or national.  Let people know.  Don’t waste their time.

Consider creating a SWOT analysis for your consultancy before you write your consultant or freelancer LinkedIn profile.  What are your Strengths?  What are your Weaknesses?  Where are your best Opportunities?  And where will Threats to your business come from?  When you’re done, ask someone you trust to look at the document and give you honest feedback.  Then go write your Profile, leveraging those Strengths and targeting the Opportunities.

Then sit down and think about how you would find someone with your skill sets on Google or Bing.  What keywords would you use?  What combination of keywords?  Before you write, plug those keywords into the LinkedIn Search engine.  Have those keywords at your side.  Look for ways to include them in your Summary, in your Headline (which we’ll talk about in the final post of this series), in your Specialities, and in your Experience (which should closely mirror a Challenge-Action-Results format).

A few words of caution regarding keywords.  First, don’t just jam them in.  You need a flow.  Remember, you want the readers who find you to “hear your voice” when they read your profile.  Second, if you identify keywords that you think your target client would actually use to find someone like you, plug those in.  Then look at the people on the first page of the Search Results and see how many times they use those terms in their profile.  That will give you a target number.  You don’t have to be first, but you do want to be on Page 1 or 2.

The Summary doesn’t have to be long, but it should be focused and aggressive and “authentic.”  If you’ve done it the right way, you should see growth in the number of people who look at your Profile and while you may get fewer calls, the callers will be more ready to buy.

P.S.  The advice I’m providing will help you beef up your LinkedIn profile without outside help.  But if you don’t want to spend the time or realize that this is not something you’re particularly good at, I will be happy to take you on as a client.  Just drop me an e-mail or you can go to a page that will enable you to learn more and even sign up then and there.

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