Top 10 Surprises of Writing and Blogging

My Top Surprises

I’ve been blogging now for four years. I have done some things right, but many things wrong. If you are thinking of starting a blog, I shared my advice in an earlier post.

Someone recently asked me, “What surprised you most about getting this project going?” At first, I thought about the platform I used, about the wrong advice, about the misunderstanding I had about it all. As I reflected on it further, it was even more basic.

As I think about this list, I realize that these surprises are not only for bloggers but also for authors. See if they ring true for you:


10. How long it takes.

When I first started, oh my word! Everything took so long. I would labor over something. I thought I was a good writer but learned how far I had to go. The formatting, the images…the everything. It just took forever even with some help. Fast forward a few years and all that has changed.

Benefit: I have a greater appreciation for digital content creation and design.


9. How fast you can write and produce.

Sure, I may labor on something for longer than I should, but I don’t need to anymore. I can write posts quickly. What took forever is now routine, easy, and takes little time.

Benefit: I’m now a faster, better, clearer writer. This has been a big benefit at work.


8. How critics emerge.

Who ARE these people? Produce free content, designed to help people whether increasing their productivity in meetings or their creativity, and you want to argue about it? Out of nowhere, people will criticize what you say, what you do, or how it looks. Look closer and you may find that these people are unhappy, unsuccessful, and unfulfilled. Don’t ignore them, but write posts to help encourage them.

Benefit: I now handle critics better than I ever did.


“If you have no critics you’ll likely have no success.” -Malcolm X


7. How easy it is to be discouraged or stop.

I can’t tell you how many times I consider just shutting it all down. Anything worthwhile requires a commitment, so I power through those times.

Benefit: I learned to be self-motivated and find encouragement in the small things.


6. How disciplined you must be.

Everyone has a different process. Some people regularly get up and write a post. That’s not at all what I do. I may write numerous posts on a long international flight and then queue them up. Some of my posts that appear were written some time ago. This blog is not my main job and not my main focus, and I keep everything in perspective. But it has increased my discipline and focus in a way that I never imagined.

Benefit:   No doubt about it. I am more productive, manage my time better, and am more efficient as the result of my blogging experience.


5. How content does not always equal success.

Some people will tell you, “Just keep writing. Eventually, it will all come together.” Maybe that’s true. On the other hand, get crystal clear on your goals. Is it to sell something? Generate traffic? Enhance your career? Use it as a stress outlet? Great content no longer is enough. Your site must be optimized for mobile. You need social media expertise. Your design and branding have to work. And the more like-minded people you are associated with, the better your chances are for success. Great writing is not enough. You need great promotion. And you need social proof.

Benefit: I have become an online networker, met more positive, productive people due to blogging than I ever could in person. Many I now call friends.


“Great writing isn’t enough. You need great promotion.” -Skip Prichard



The Power of Positive Social Proof

Why Is Positive Social Proof Important?

You’re walking down a busy city street and turn the corner only to see a small crowd of people all looking up in the air, at a point across and above the street. What are the odds you’ll be able to stop yourself before looking up to see what they’re all staring it? I know for me, it’s almost impossible…and I’ve tried!

Similarly, in movies and TV shows, it’s easier to laugh along when we hear the show’s laugh-track. I once watched a funny old movie with no laugh-track, and the child I was watching with didn’t know what was funny. We take our cues from others.

It’s the same online. One of the main reasons that people make a choice is because they have “social proof” that others have done so before. It’s a strong motivator.


“The key to successful leadership is influence, not authority.” Ken Blanchard


Whether you are a business, a blogger, or an individual with career aspirations, you should be harnessing the power of positive social proof. The concept is not a new one, but its importance continues to grow both for businesses and individuals.

Wikipedia defines it this way: “Social proof is a psychological phenomenon where people assume the actions of others in an attempt to reflect correct behavior for a given situation.”

Dr. Robert Cialdini’s famous work on persuasion called this phenomenon out as a particularly effective marketing tactic. His book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion is a must-read classic.

We tend to adopt as correct the behavior of others around us.


“Leadership is an action, not a position.” –Donald McGannon


Positive social proof:


Helps you stand out. Competition isn’t slowing down, isn’t letting up, and isn’t taking a break. If you want your business to get noticed, then social proof is one way to do it. With more sources competing for our attention every day, it’s vital to differentiate your offering from everything else.

Improves your success metrics. Studies show that we are more likely to share something that others are also sharing. We watch what we see others are watching. Visit a new town and you see two restaurants side-by-side. One has an empty lot and the other has a line wrapped around the block. Which one appeals to you?

Builds credibility. Unless you are already an established expert, a bestselling author, or a of host a worldwide talk show, it helps to build credibility. In Nashville, I see many up and coming music artists using quotes from famous musicians. Authors routinely ask for endorsements for book jacket quotes. Businesses include testimonials from others. All of these are ways to differentiate and add credibility.


“The measure of who we are is what we do with what we have.” –Vince Lombardi


YOU Need Social Proof

Some of you may say, “Sure, I can see that building social proof matters for a business. But it’s not something I need to think about.”

Think again.

If you want to increase your chances of promotion, see higher raises, or reduce your chances of getting let go from your organization, you should use some elements of social proof. Do you have a marketing plan for YOU? Today, you must promote yourself.

You don’t need to blatantly self-promote. No one likes an egotistical, self-centered know-it-all. But, if I want the boss to choose me for a new project, how do I keep my name out there? How do I stand out? It may not be a blog, but it may be that you wrote an article in your company newsletter or an industry publication. It may be that you are speaking at a customer event. And there is nothing better than the word of mouth social proof because you delivered a key project or pitched in to help when it wasn’t even your responsibility. When your colleagues are buzzing about your performance, that is the best social proof possible. There are many ways to build your social proof as an individual.


“Intense love does not measure, it just gives.” –Mother Teresa


Your Website Benefits From Social Proof

Recently, one marketer sent me a list of the ways I have used positive social proof on this blog. Here is what she shared (with my explanation).

Shares. On the top of each post, you can see the number of shares. Here’s where I ran into a problem last week. Because I have preferred Twitter to other social media, my Twitter shares are higher than others like LinkedIn or Facebook. Recently, Twitter made a strange, surprising, and I think wrong move by removing counts from everyone’s websites. That turns some posts that were shared by the thousands to showing nothing overnight. Why they did this is answered in a strange post, but I still don’t quite understand it. And, for the record, it alienated a large community of content creators who are now rethinking strategies for Facebook and LinkedIn over Twitter.


Does it matter? Adele recently smashed records with the release of 25, becoming the best-selling album in the US of any single week. Large numbers create even more numbers. What would have happened if just as her sales took off Nielsen made a decision like Twitter and just zeroed out the sales?


“A true measure of your worth includes all the benefits others have gained from your success.” –Cullen Hightower


Awards. These are listed on the right side. I haven’t included all of the kind awards, but I did include many of them. They are a form of social proof.

Lead INSIDE the Box for Efficiency and Effectiveness

How Leaders Can Be More Efficient and Effective

Last year, I was reading the dramatic account of a hard-charging executive who suffered a heart attack. The post was about the need for balance, but it was more than a wake-up call.  What struck me about this post, however, was not the lessons he taught us from his painful experience, not the, “Oh, I hope this doesn’t happen to me” feeling we have when reading these posts, but the name of the hospital he went to. It was here in Dublin, Ohio!


“A leader’s job is to help people move to a position of improved performance.” –Figliuolo / Prince


That meant that one of the people who regularly shares my posts and vice versa lived in my town. Social media amazes me. A quickly dashed off email and the two of us found ourselves in Starbucks where I heard more about his compelling story. I’m still amazed at how Twitter and blogging create opportunities like this one.


“Great leaders think about talent management every day.”–Figliuolo/Prince


Lead INSIDE the Box

20141017 LItB Cover V3Let me introduce you to Mike Figliuolo. Mike is the founder of thoughtLEADERS, LLC, a leadership development firm. He is also the author of One Piece of Paper: The Simple Approach to Powerful, Personal Leadership. His latest book was just released and was co-written with Victor Prince, former COO of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and now a strategy consultant.

We recently got together to talk about this book, Lead Inside the Box: How Smart Leaders Guide Their Teams to Exceptional Results.

Mike and Victor have built a powerful framework designed to help leaders be more efficient and more effective at the same time. It starts with the recognition that we, as leaders, are often overworked and not as effective as we could be.

  • Where am I spending my time?
  • With whom?
  • Am I treating each person the same when different approaches would create better results?


“Your leadership success hinges upon your ability to get people to perform well.” –Figliuolo/Prince


If I understand the “box” and apply the techniques correctly, I can be more proactive, more thoughtful, and more impactful with my team members.

20150410 Leadership Matrix

How to Build A Customer Driven Growth Engine

Customer Culture

Not too long ago, I spoke with Jeanne Bliss about the 7 Inhibitors to Customer Driven Growth.  Jeanne’s new book Chief Customer Officer 2.0: How to Build Your Customer-Driven Growth Engine is a success roadmap for leaders wanting to build a customer-focused organization.

Jeanne also answered my questions about how to establish a customer culture, social media strategy, leadership, earning the right to grow, and establishing a sense of urgency:


Establishing a Customer Centric Culture

“Culture is the action, not the words.” How do you connect corporate aspirations with employees’ actions?

For customer-driven work to be transformative and stick, it must be more than a customer manifesto. Commitment to customer-driven growth is proven with action and choices. To engender this culture, people need examples. They need proof.


“Culture is the action, not the words.” -Jeanne Bliss


Customer culture is talked about by many leaders but misunderstood by most organizations. “Commitment” to customers must be attached to deliberate operational behavior, such as, “We will go to market only after these 12 customer requirements are met” or “Every launch must meet these five conditions, which the field requires for success. We won’t launch without them, no exceptions.”  People inside organizations need to see the commitment translated to actions that they will feel proud to follow and emulate.

Moving well past words, a deliberate and united set of leadership actions and behaviors practiced in unison is required.

One of the first activities we often undertake to unite leaders is to employ the journey framework to build an operational “code of conduct.”


codeofconduct (1)


How to Market Above the Noise

Above the Noise


Does Your Marketing Matter?

What makes some messages stand out above the noise?


Marketers everywhere have been busy in the past several years keeping up with mobile, new technology, and the fundamental changes in a social media world. Though the pace is increasing, it is also important to review the basics of marketing to ensure that what you do matters. Linda J. Popky, in her new book, MARKETING ABOVE THE NOISE: Achieve Strategic Advantage with Marketing that Matters goes back to basics and offers an approach that combines timeless principles with today’s technology. Linda is the president of Leverage2Market Associates, a firm that helps transform organizations through powerful marketing performance.


“Asking for input and not using it is wasteful and dangerous.” –Linda Popky


The Promise of Social Media

How has social media changed the way companies interact with individuals? What are companies doing well? What are they not doing well?

The good news is that social media opens the possibility for powerful real-time communications and conversations between companies and their audiences—including customers, prospects, employees, and the local community. The bad news is that social media also raises expectations amongst those audiences, while creating distraction and noise that often makes it harder to be heard.

The result is many organizations do not use these channels effectively. The key point about a conversation is that it’s two way. It’s not a monologue of marketing or sales messages from a company to customers. And it’s not an opportunity to bombard them with information that doesn’t fit the audience.


“Successful organizations analyze external forces.” –Linda Popky


More and more companies are using social media to engage with their customers, and they’re learning to listen effectively. However, they also need to bring back what they learn to the right groups in the organization to effect change. Too often this is still lip service.

For example, several months ago, I had a very negative experience with a major national retail chain. I tweeted about this and almost immediately received a response and apology from their Twitter customer care manager. The problem was they assured me I’d be hearing from headquarters soon to resolve the issue. Not only didn’t that happen, but the Twitter customer care manager moved on and left me hanging—a huge missed opportunity on their part, which is indicative of how much room there is for improvement.


Timeless Marketing Truths