I can still remember the first time I walked into my college’s main library. Before me were six huge floors, each one filled floor-to-ceiling with bookshelves. Looking at all that accumulated knowledge, my heart sank. “Everything important has already been written,” I thought.
I was surprised by my own reaction. Why despair? I didn’t consider myself a writer then, but that moment set me on a long journey to find out what I had to say that was different enough, and special enough, to deserve a place on those shelves, too. I was searching for my niche.
Most writing on niche marketing and niche publishing assumes a professional adult audience, but the search for one’s niche begins far earlier than that. In many ways, it is a continuation of the adolescent drive to find our place in the world, to translate what is inside of us into a unique offering that is valuable to others.
Seen from this perspective, finding your niche is not just about streamlining what you do but about adding back some of those early interests you may have dropped along the way. Here’s how this two-part process works. Continue reading N is for Niche
To be successful, every business needs a compelling message. Call it a tagline, a slogan, or even an argument, your message is what gets people’s attention and keeps them listening to what you have to say.
In a message, every word counts. Unlike mission statements which tend to be long, circuitous sentences that try to say too much, a message has to be on point. Rather than describing what you do, it communicates what you stand for.
But a message is not just words, it is also who you are. This is the critical piece for those of us with wisdom to share: if you don’t embody that wisdom somehow in your physical presence, your work will never truly have the impact you seek. So messages are a two-part process: finding the right words, and then bringing those words into alignment with your actions. Continue reading M is for Message
I have written a lot about the essential tools, work habits, and attitudes for growing a vibrant web presence. Now that this series is reaching its midpoint, I want to write about the moment when all your hard work pays off and you actually start achieving success.
Strange as it may seem, success catches many people off-guard. If you have been striving for years to build your business or brand and attain influence, it can feel very odd to realize that things really are taking off. I have seen many people unable to slow down from their constant striving, and thus project insecurity when they need to transmit confidence. For others, the first whiff of success makes them lose focus and become overconfident, risking all their hard-won momentum just when they need it most.
Why is it important to adjust your outlook when you start to experience success? Because being an influencer, and ultimately a leader, calls for a different set of qualities than just being a successful business owner. Leadership is a long-term play for people interested in shaping the field rather than just winning a game. Making the shift from striver to leader is not difficult, but it does take practice, mindfulness, and a reaffirmation of your core values. Here’s how to get there. Continue reading L is for Leadership
One of my favorite sayings is, “Life is an open-book test.” It is not important that you know everything, either in life or in business. But it is important to know where to find the answers you need. If you have set up your web presence correctly, chances are that even if you don’t know the people personally who could answer your questions, you know how to get in touch with them—through work contacts, mutual friends and associations. This network is the beginning of your knowledge base.
A knowledge base is the network of people you are connected to whose expertise you can draw from, and whose ideas and actions you respect. Most of us make decisions in our careers based on a combination of good and bad advice from the people we know. If we are lucky, we figure out pretty quickly which advice is which, and correct our mistakes before things get out of hand. So the first step in broadening your knowledge base is to take stock of your existing circle of friends and colleagues, and notice which have given consistently good advice. Make a point of thanking these remarkable people for their expertise, and stay in touch with them as best you can.
One of the obvious ways to expand our circle of wise friends is to get to know the people our current wise friends admire and like to hang out with. This is one of the great benefits of actual face-to-face social networking, but it is not always possible. While there is no real substitute for relationships cultivated in person, there are three very good ways that you can use the social web to much the same effect. If you are not yet growing your knowledge base online, here is how to start. Continue reading K is for Knowledge
The most frequent complaint I hear from clients is that they are juggling too many things at once. It is a familiar refrain, though the picture shifts slightly from one profession to another. Meeting with clients, managing projects, marketing, keeping up with billing and bookkeeping—there is too much of everything to do. When time gets tight it’s usually the “new kid on the block” that gets dropped: learning to use that new software, or moving forward with a web presence plan.
But there is a problem with the juggling metaphor: a juggler mostly stays in one place, dealing with the same stream of flying objects for as long as possible. There is no forward progress in juggling, no goal other than duration, and no exit plan except for dropping the balls or throwing them to someone else. So when a client complains about too much juggling, my response is always: Does all that juggling move you toward your long-term goals, or keep you standing still? If your daily routine does not also include actions to help position yourself in a year, two years, or five years from now, then you may as well learn to like it because in the long run nothing is going to change.
Those who are already successful and want to make the leap toward being influential tend to have more difficulty than most in shifting focus. These people typically have a very active Rolodex and have done quite well on the strength of their contacts and experience. They know how to bring in work and have fine-tuned their daily routines to keep that flow going. With strong real-time networking skills and relationships they don’t really need a web presence plan to help them stay successful, but they do if they want to build influence by having their ideas to catch fire in a wider circle. The question is, how?
Continue reading J is for Juggling