Archive for March, 2004

The new frontier

Monday, March 29th, 2004

I’ve said it before. Yes, these are historic times indeed.

I liken our time to the pioneer days of the old west–we all arrive at the base of the Rocky Mountains with our crappy bedraggled covered wagons and worn out horses and moan, “Now, what are we gonna do?!” Nowadays, it’s like this: we all arrive–each of us in one of various states of emotion: some forlornly, some kicking and some breathless with joy–into the ranks of the formerly-employed with our crappy worn-out briefcases and our frazzled corporate selves standing in the shadows of giant mountains everywhere around us marked “No jobs” and “Outsourcing” and “Global competition” and wonder…now what are we gonna do?

This is the worst of times and the best of times–like every generation. Calls for re-prioritizing, calls for letting go, calls for diving into the limitless pools of our own creativity to come up with ‘what we’re gonna do now.’

Every generation has bemoaned the changes it must face. In our case, we have a lot more to bemoan since the speed of change has risen to a murderous pace. But the good is always there, too. We’ll find the way.

And speaking in our true voices will help us guide each other. That’s what blogs are all about.

Employment in the next decade

Friday, March 26th, 2004

Baby boomers start hitting retirement in 2008. Somebody’s got to take care of them, so…

Just out from CNBC quoting the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the top ten job categories likely to grow are listed below (the number is the percent each is expected to have grown from 2000 to 2012)–and 8 of them are in the medical field (2 in technology):

Occupation Medical assistants 59
Network systems and data communications analysts 57
Physician assistants 49
Social and human service assistants 49
Home health aides 48
Medical records and health information technicians 47
Physical therapist aides 46
Computer software engineers, systems software 46
Computer software engineers, applications software 45
Physical therapist assistants 45

I don’t know about you, but as one of those baby boomers who’s about to start straining the Medicare and Social Security systems, I’d like to know I can count on some other way to pay my way if the strain gets too great for them. And building a solid business that attracts loyal customers who pay their bills with a smile is high on my list of to-dos.

So I guess I’ll keep blogging. And if you don’t already have a golden parachute or some other cushy landing apparatus, you might want to think about it, too.

Local search = Time to target your market

Monday, March 22nd, 2004

Both Yahoo and Google have now added local search features. So? you say. Here’s why you should care.

Local search means you can type in the keywords you want (say, “freelance writer”) and a zip code or the name of a city, and the search engine will point you to “local” search results pages–business listings (with maps and directions) that match your keywords and are actually located wherever you specified.

This means that the Internet is going to become an even more valuable means of reaching your potential customers–no matter what business you’re in, whether pizzeria or Fortune 500 corporation. And here is further evidence that the Internet, while it has made instant global communication a reality, has also made the voice of the the small business just as significant as that of the giants.

And, just so, blogging has given the voice of the individual all the power it needs to reach those who want to hear it. It has given us all the power to find the business we need–and the voices we want to hear.

This phenomenon will do nothing less than change the world. Stand back, but don’t miss out.

Caution is okay, but making the leap can be fantastic

Thursday, March 18th, 2004

Boy, the personal blog hosted on Blog-City has been completely unavailable for nearly two weeks (I managed to get one entry out there sometime in the middle of that period). I’m glad they’re back. You know, I think maybe it’s the synergy of working on the two blogs that keeps me motivated.

Well, anyway, I have authored a chapter in a book to be published soon: “Secrets of making the business breakthrough you’ve always wanted”–and I’m very pleased. Heard an interesting comment tonight in the teleconference. John Eggen, owner of Mission Market Publishing and the mastermind of this book project, quoted a recent article in the San Francisco Chronicle that said digital technology is transforming the way we live and work. It then mentioned this idea of virtual doctor visits that’s catching on out there. By that we mean people can log on to the Internet, ask to visit with a doctor and have varying degrees of interaction in which they can get questions answered and receive sound medical advice.

Doctors—not surprisingly–are highly resistant to the idea. “Harrumph!” I can just hear them saying. But here’s the message: once doctors realize how much time they’ll save both themselves and their patients and–no small deal–how much more money they can make using this technique, the concept will catch on like wildfire.

Do you know where I’m going with this? Yes. Those same statements apply to blogging for business. Everybody resists because it’s something new and relatively untested. Nobody wants to look like a fool. And that’s quite understandable. But if you “get it” and invest the proper amount of time and resources into it, I’m telling you, you can’t lose.

Hope to be a bit more often with the contributions, now. Thanks for putting up with the dry spells…

Technology turns altruistic

Monday, March 15th, 2004

Search engine optimization has become the new darling of the web marketing world. Indeed, it can be extremely powerful–and blogs are getting more and more attention as they tend to appear at the top of many keyword phrase searches.

Another testament to the power of the blog format. In a blog you give honest, fresh, straightforward content that’s relevant for others’ needs but quite personal in its tone. There just isn’t a more powerful combination in marketing.

And I give hats off to the developers of search engine technology who have created the technological equivalent of looking somebody in the eye–you can tell a lot about a person from their eyes–or their blogs. This great combination of blog content and search technology is helping people painlessly find and use the information and the emotional content they need to be better at their businesses.

Businesses are born of our best creative energies and maintained by the sweat of our brows to provide a living for us and our families. I can hardly think of a more worthy cause than to help people succeed at their most important goals…

Business blogs are good business

Friday, March 12th, 2004

Excuse this little aside first…

Just re-read my entry on that less-than-perfect portable computer table. I’m using the thing–though only for short periods of time because of the height–but, man, it sure is better than what I was doing before. But I was struck upon reading my rant. Seemed like perhaps the only thing that makes a writer a writer is that he or she is willing to take the time and make the effort to translate stuff–the “stuff” we all have going on in our heads–into words on paper. And then sit around and hope someone enjoys reading it…

And last night I got a massage and discovered the damage I’m doing to my shoulders by reaching and raising my arms to type for even the one or two hours a day I’ve done in the last week. Very painful. Gotta find a way to lower that table…

Anyway, the business at hand today is an article by David Pogue sent out by email from the NYTimes online. Pogue interviewed Joe Trippi, Howard Dean’s campaign manager, about how they’ve been using modern technology (including Meetup and blogs) to run the race. With the numbers of people “meeting up” skyrocketing from 400 to 200,000 in a relatively short time, he calls this “just the beginning of real empowerment of people.” He believes that the Internet is the instrument that will change the perceptions of many Americans that one person can’t make a difference.

Now can you think of a more powerful testament to the power of blogging? Your voice, on issues important to everyone interested in your type of business, delivered in a personal way and made available instantly, no charge, sharing the knowledge and experience you’ve gained from your many years in business… Even if you’re a kid and haven’t been around long, sharing your enthusiasm as you learn can be extremely attractive to others. Don’t we all love to peer into the minds (and lives) of other people? People Magazine is one of the most popular publications in the world–last stats I could find on the web (March, 2000) show it Number 11 at three and a half million (Number 1 was Readers’ Digest at twelve and a half–and what does Readers’ Digest feature? Personal stories about people).

We’re bombarded with information. It’s just too much, no matter how quick a reader you are. If we can find someone who will “talk” to us in a friendly but knowledgeable way about the things we care about, we’re likely to be delighted–and stick with that person as a source for filtering the overwhelming amount of information out there.

A blog is the voice by which you attract the right people to you and your business.

Search engine optimization agrees: blogging for business is powerful

Tuesday, March 9th, 2004

New buzzwords: first is localize. Sometimes when you search for something on the Internet, you want to find a place to get that product or service that you can actually get to without mortgaging the children’s college education fund–no airplane reservations necessary. Now many of us meet that goal by typing a city name in with our key phrases. But apparently the search engine wars are giving points to those sites that offer an option to narrow your search by geographic area. Okay. Makes sense.

Second buzzword: personalize. The web is a huge place. You don’t mind it when your search results are relevant to your personal preferences, do you? The grocery stores started this trend a long time ago with their “bonus cards” that give you extra discounts if you let them scan it–and reveal every last item you buy so marketers can target you with direct mail coupons and other offers. I guess I’m willing to sacrifice some privacy (what little we have anymore) in return for receiving offers about stuff I might actually be interested in…

Anyway, the point is that website marketers now have a new goal, according to an article by Jim Hedger in WebProNews article on search engine optimization: they must add “highly specific elements” to make sites more useful to individual searchers. Here’s the good part: such features include newsletters, local-promotions and blogs to offer the kind of personalized attention that keeps viewers coming back–and “keep the client’s website in the minds of search engine users.”

Hedger writes: “The big three [search engines Google, Yahoo, MSN] are using these and other features to try to undercut each other’s level of service offerings, including blogging, news aggregators, email and instant-messaging, and a whole host of tool-bars.” It’s going like gangbusters, he says. Look for the next big thing in information retrieval at any moment.

The case for blogging is daily being made by more and more professionals in all areas. But it seems important to point out: if you do it for the sole purpose of making more money, you risk wasting your effort. But if you’re smart about it and you also do it from your heart, I guarantee you: you will make more money.

Complaining…sorry

Monday, March 8th, 2004

Oh, the business of doing business. While I don’t normally talk much about b-to-c business, this is a story I need to vent about.

In the expectation that I would no longer have to balance my laptop on a precarious procession of platforms in order to work out here in the living room, some weeks ago (after wasting an hour evaluating a cheap version at the local Office Max–only to have them tell me after I waited in line that they had no stock for the ticket I had pulled) I scoured the Internet for quite a while and finally purchased what looked like a sturdy good-quality portable computer stand for my laptop. The thing was delivered the night before I went out of town, so it sat there til I returned.

Tonight I finally just finished effort number 2 of putting it together (effort number 1, conducted the day after I returned from vacation, had to be aborted since the first shipment arrived with a seriously defective part that would have left me with a computer listing 45 degrees to the left) and discovered that its lowest height is WAY too high for long-term typing. Did I miscalculate this badly when I ordered or is this another quality control issue on their part? When you say the height ranges from 28″ to 60″, did you forget to include the 4 inches the base occupies? Who owns a chair that would be high enough to fit this lowest setting? No one I know.

Sigh. After this much work, do you think I’ll take it apart again (I am alerted by their badly copied hand-typed-looking warning that if I don’t package it up carefully when I attempt to return it, they will not be responsible for replacing it…) and send it back? Probably not. Is the strain I’m feeling from reaching up and out to get to the keys going to cause ergonomically-inspired injury? You bet. Will I take the time to write letters of complaint and try to get some satisfaction? Not soon, that’s for sure. It’s 10:30 and I just spent an hour putting it together. I ain’t about to spend another one taking it apart and packaging it to meet their standards.

At least not tonight. I discovered when I read the packing that this is a set of woman-owned businesses–and one of them has Trinity in its name, which makes me think it may even be affiliated with a religion. I gotta tell ya they need to do better than this. If we have any hope of competing with China, we can’t be messing with quality standards this way.

We’ll see what my decision is after I work on this sucker a couple of days and my muscles start screaming.

Blog for business–Content is king

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2004

How many years have you been hearing that now? Several at least. The phrase originally referred to the fact that although design is nice and can help convey a very professional image, people do not come to websites for pretty pictures. They come for information. And if you don’t deliver that, no amount of pretty stuff is going to turn your website into a powerful sales tool.

Now that familiar phrase “Content is king” has taken on new meaning. With the advent of blogs for business and the evolving algorithms by which search engines identify sites as relevant for keywords and phrases, content has become even important. Not just in a qualitative way–do you have it–but also in a quantitative way–how much of it do you deliver. Search engines look for how much fresh, meaningful content your site contains that relates to the words users type in.

If you don’t blog, how often do you change, update or add content on your site? Chances are, not that often. A blog is a perfect way to do so with a minimum of stress. If you can’t imagine how to do that yourself, consult a professional for help.

Or buy a good book on the subject. My own, Blog for Business: How to Attract Loyal, Profitable Clients–and Hold onto Them–is due out second quarter this year. Watch this site for updates.

Refreshments here

Monday, March 1st, 2004

Rest changes one’s perspective slightly. Real rest, mind you. Not the 3-days-at-the-ski-lodge variety. The at-least-one-week-totally-away-from-all-business-related-stuff kind. Talked to a client today who said, you sound so relaxed you might even be horizontal. I said, yeah, I feel pretty darn calm.

What a nice way to start off a busy week. Immediately after I finally turned the computer on (it was a fight to end the rest time) discovered my DSL was out–no access to the Internet. After a couple of hours of troubleshooting, got in and discovered my associate had been unable to access my email. One thousand six hundred and thirty-eight emails sitting on my host server–and the delete function there wouldn’t work. Had to download all 1638 of them and spend my Sunday afternoon-into-evening culling out the meaningful ones and deleting the rest.

Then when I tried to put together the rolling computer table I bought a couple of weeks earlier (that had arrived the day before I had to leave), I discovered that one of the major pieces was bent seriously out of shape. The thing–after 90 minutes of working to set it up–was unusable. Sigh.

That’s okay. Some great clients are ready to go with more projects. And I’m able to get started helping with a cool volunteer project for a worthy cause.

I’ve discovered I shouldn’t underestimate the power of rest to provide new strength and calm in the face of the usual “stuff.” Hey, it’s almost 11 o’clock and Barry White is singing on the radio. I’ll be back to normal soon. ” ))