Meow Wolf & Creativity in Process

As a Creative, there are constant battles raging in my brain.

Battles between the idea and the doubt.

Battles between the imagination and the reality. Reality that seems to laugh at the bizarre machinations of my brain – long before those machinations ever bloom into anything at all.

Battles between the process and the outcome – a battle of implying/deceiving/convincing/etc. that the process cannot have meaning without an end-game.

As if the process is not an end-game in & of itself.

As if we need a guaranteed outcome in order to create at all.

This is a lie.

C.S. Lewis knew it was a lie when he imagined a lamppost & a fawn, wrote Narnia into being, & suddenly Aslan came “bounding in.”

Rainer Maria Rilke knew it was a lie when he told us to live the questions now.

Tolkien learned it was a lie as he feared the chopping down of his “internal tree” and wrote his masterpiece anyway.

Meow Wolf knows it is a lie.

Its very existence is a process. And a creative product. All at once.

Kind of like a life.

We all need more Meow Wolf in our lives.

And more kids. Because Meow-Wolf type creative processes make 100% sense to them, 100% of the time.

Brands I Love: Poo-Pourri

I’ve decided to start a new category on this blog, just featuring a few quick comments on brands that I FLIPPIN’ LOVE!

Top of mind: Poo-Pourri. This brand makes me feel slap happy and fancy all at once.

Poop-Pourri Instagram screenshot from Taco Tuesday boomerang
Screenshot: Poo-Pourri Instagram

One of my biggest pet peeves is designing brand strategies for companies that refuse to embrace what and who they truly are.

Poo-Pourri doesn’t have that problem. They not only embrace their product category (primarily spray to un-stink your potty break before it even begins), they do it with gusto.

And they nail it.

Poop-Pourri Instagram screenshot woman in blue dress throwing rolls of toilet paper
Screenshot: Poo-Pourri Instagram

This brand never takes itself too seriously. They inject highbrow potty humor in everything they do.

Yes, you read that right. I just used “high brow” and “potty humor” in the same sentence. And that combo is their superpower.

Poop-Pourri Instagram screenshot fashionable girl lounging on the toilet in heels
Screenshot: Poo-Pourri Instagram

Here’s their challenge (or what could have been a challenge if their brand brains weren’t so brilliant):

  • They have a product that’s designed for the bathroom – the toilet, in fact. Not a fancy world.
  • They have a high-end product, priced above your typical bathroom deodorizer. (Because it works like magic, probably.)
Poo-Pourri website screenshot from video outlining how product works
Screenshot: Poo-Pourri Homepage

In light of this market, did they choose to be all elegant and fancy?

Or all poo-focused and funny?

Both.

Their solution was to embrace the potty humor, but elevate it to an unexpected level of class.

Poo-Pourri mascot in blue dress holding product on toilet
Screenshot: Poo-Pourri Homepage

The result of this juxtaposition is smartly funny, strikingly unique, and totally lovable. While hitting all the right communicate-value and appeal-to-the-right-audience notes.

I even learned recently that they had a butt sketcher at their market booth this winter. What’s not to love about that?

Get Yo Butt Sketch'd Poo Pourri Booth at Atlanta Market
Photo courtesy of The Home & Garden Shop

Now stand your butt up and applaud these people.

12 Customer Gifts that Outshine Partridges in Pear Trees

This is a guest post from http://www.billmunncoaching.com. A link to the original piece appears at the bottom of this post.

‘Tis the season for getting inundated with fruit baskets, coffee mugs, and drab holiday cards from anyone whose customer list you’ve managed to land yourself on in the past year. In other words, ’tis the season of missed opportunities.

This year, why not wow your customers with something more human, more personal, more valuable than a no-personality, one-size-fits all gift? Why not wow them with your powerful approach and true engagement?

Sure, that might mean an actual gift, bow and all. But it’s also likely to mean a shift in the way you approach your customers in the first place. In that spirit, I’ve collected 12 holiday “gift” ideas – some physical presents, some behavioral treats you can offer up. So before you click Send on that boxed fruitcake, let’s take a look at what your customers really want.

Quick note: this is admittedly a longer post than I typically write, so consider bookmarking the page and reading a handful at a time over the next few days. Or if you have time now, go for broke and take it all in at once.

1. BE HUMAN

I am not a robot. You are not a robot. So let’s handle this relationship accordingly.

Perhaps data shows that the best time to call me is before 9 am. I may or may not agree.

Perhaps you’ve discovered that certain approaches or sales tactics work best with the majority of your customers. That may or may not include me.

Perhaps you believe that certain selling points will best resonate with someone in my line of work. That may or may not be true.

At some point, you must turn off what you “know” and tune into what you can learn about me as a person – how I want to work with you, what I want to understand, etc.

When your sales goal is looming and the pressure is high, it can be easy to lose track of this and fall victim to your script. But your script is a tool in achieving the goal. I am the gateway to the goal. And I want to deal with a human being.

2. SPEAK TO MY HIGH ATTRIBUTES, NOT FROM YOURS

For everyone’s sake, it’s important that you tune into your customers’ high attributes and communicate in light of how they’re wired, what they care about – rather than based on what most resonates with you.

Let’s say you’re a natural people person – in the language of attributes, we refer to this as a high Relational. But in your role in medical device sales, you often deal with high Logicians – people who gravitate toward data, facts, and figures more than the emotional factors that many Relationals instinctively see.

So if you talk to me about the emotional impact that your product has on the end user or tell real-life stories from your studies and focus groups, your points may not resonate with these high Logicians. If you focus on the data and results, however, you’re likely to engage them.

But how do you know what your customers’ attributes are? Learn to listen for revelation.

3. APOLOGIZE

When you mess up, say so.

Keep in mind that this is easy to say – even easy to agree with. You might be nodding your head right now. But in the moment when you’ve actually dropped the ball and have the option to either make excuses or take the blame and say “sorry,” you’re likely to find that the latter seems a lot harder.

But it works better.

A humble apology – “I messed up; I’m sorry; I’m doing everything I can to fix it” – goes a long way toward mending damaged bridges. But it also shows me, your customer, your true mettle. An apology provides me with actual evidence of the integrity of the person I’m either working with or considering doing business with.

That’s a powerful gift.

4. I’D RATHER HAVE DINNER WITH MY WIFE

Here’s an actual gift idea:

Instead of inviting me out to some fancy shindig this season – instead of putting on an amicable face and pulling me through your wine-and-dine rigamarole in the new year – why not gift me a dinner out with someone of my choosing (if you’re in an industry that allows it, of course)?

Set it up for me, tell me you’re doing it so that you and I can keep our conversations on track and within my regular working hours, and then tell me to go enjoy myself with someone I truly enjoy. Because let’s be honest: no matter how great our relationship is, there’s probably someone else I’d rather spend my evening with.

Go ahead and put a punctuation mark on the gift by having a special desert sent at the end of the meal in your name, with your well wishes passed on from the server. Your thoughtfulness will not be forgotten.

5. FIX MY PROBLEM, WHETHER OR NOT YOUR PRODUCT IS INVOLVED IN THE FIX

In other words, focus on my issue more than your sales results.

True, this approach might not win you the immediate sale. But it will help you win the relationship, which has much higher long-term value than 1 sale – both for you and your company.

Jon Westenberg provides some interesting evidence on the results of this type of approach with the 2 conflicting selling examples he shares toward the end of this article.

6. CONFORM TO MY PACE, NOT YOURS

We all instinctively understand this issue, because we’ve all been on both sides of it.

Let’s say you need to buy a new cell phone today, but you’re in a huge hurry. You’re slamming a trip to the wireless store in between meetings, you know what you want, and you need to get in, buy the phone, and get out. But unfortunately, Sammy the Snail Salesman greets you at the door with a jolly, “Hello! How are you on this gorgeous day?” You tell him what you want and explain that you’re in a big hurry, but he proceeds to meander in slow motion, chit chat his way through the process, and occasionally throw in something along the lines of, “Now, I know you’re in a bit of a hurry today, but I just want to make absolutely certain that you’ve had a chance to learn about our blah-blah promotion. Let me take a few minutes to tell you about this incredible offer.”

No! Sammy might sell 1 phone that day because you’re out of options, but when you come in with 2 hours to spare and an entire family to set up with new iPads, you’re going to avoid him like the plague. He might have been pleasant, but he didn’t respect your time. He tried to bend you to his.

What if Sammy had actually started running when you told him you were in a hurry? Grabbed the phone, checked you out, said goodbye?  How good are the chances you’d come back to see him again?

The inverse of this is also true: When you’re making a big purchase and you want to ask questions, discuss possibilities, and take time in considering your options, the pushy sales person will make your skin crawl.

All examples lead to the same moral: the customer’s pace should set your pace.

7. IF YOU’RE DETERMINED TO BUY ME A THING, WHY NOT SOMETHING MEANINGFUL FOR MY KIDS?

…or my spouse, mother, friend, etc.? Someone we’ve discussed and whose need or desire you’re aware of?

Or what about the charity I’m deeply invested in? Rather than making a donation “in my honor” to your company’s favorite charity, why not donate to my favorite cause and show me you’ve been listening?

8. MAKE ME LAUGH, SMILE, OR CARElaughter is the shortest distance between 2 people quote by victor borge

See #1 for the reasoning behind this one

Chances are extremely high that your customers are human beings, not machines, cash dispensers, or data points. And in the language of human beings, a tone of kindness or happiness can go a long way.

In fact, one study showed that “sending a funny, inoffensive cartoon to a person you’re negotiating with generated higher levels of trust – and led to 15 percent larger profits,” as described in Lou Carlozo’s article (which might also convince you to include a pet frog in your offering).

9. FOCUS ON MY PRIORITIES

Do you ask me to play golf because you know I love golf? Or do you ask me because you like to play golf? Have you ever even bothered to ask me? Maybe I like chess.

Are you focused on your sales volume, or on my needs?

10. DON’T MAKE FALSE PROMISES

If you’re in sales, chances are pretty good that you’re familiar with stories of promising more than the company can deliver.

Rule #1, of course: Don’t do this. Set clear, honest, and realistic expectations for what your customer will receive in exchange for his or her investment, and you’ll lay the foundation for a mutually beneficial, long-term relationship.

Rule #2: If you mess up and promise something you can’t follow through on, don’t make excuses, change the story, or point fingers. Instead, see item #3 and apologize.

11. FOLLOW UP

This goes without saying, right? I agree. But take a look at this stat from Scott Tousley’s article: at least 44% of sales people stop following up after the first attempt, but 80% of sales require 5 follow ups.

But following up isn’t just about persistence. After all, there is a fine line between persistence and annoyance. Remember: the goal is to support your customers in easily learning more about your offering when they’re ready. So tell them you’ll follow up in 3 weeks, and give them a chance to request that you instead do so in 4 (or 2!).

Then – and here’s the clincher, folks – actually follow up when you say you willDo that, and you’ll stand out. Because your counterparts aren’t doing it.

12. TAKE TIME FOR CLEAR, PERSONAL COMMUNICATION

For a lot of sales folks, this is a big one. You’ve got a lot on your plate, many clients to juggle. So it’s easy to get in the habit of hitting send on that e-mail before you’ve taken the time to read it over, both for basic written quality and to ensure that it’s really getting your point across. It’s also easy to get over scheduled and convince yourself that you don’t need 5 minutes before our call to review my account, go over the details of our past conversations, and ensure that your communication is relevant and meaningful to my goals.

The power and importance of communication can’t be overstated. It’s a big part of what attributes is all about. It’s a big part of what makes your sales team – and your company – effective. And it’s a big part of your culture, so it’s essential to strong leadership.

Need further persuasion? Take a look at this recent commentary on why communication matters – a lot.

TYING IT UP WITH A BOW

Do you notice a common thread in these “gift” ideas? It’s not a coincidence that we keep coming back to the central theme of shifting focus from yourself and your goals to your customers and what you can do to help and support them.

Sure, there’s an altruism therein that’s in keeping with this season. But it’s also a better and more effective approach to building great and long-lasting customer relationships.

May all your gifting be meaningful.

Click here to view the original post.

Grow Up, Get Young: A Manifesto on Imagination & Creativity

As a child, I played Marker People.

It was a simple game, and one I inevitably played alone. (A bit too out-there for my friends to embrace.)

But who needed friends? Or dolls? Or computers?

In my tiny hands, a box of standard-issue Crayola markers came to life—not as drawing instruments, but as makeshift human figurines. They danced, fought, laughed, fell in love, got married, and exchanged marker caps so the world could see that Mrs. Yellow had chosen Guy Green.

As kids, we all had our Marker People—imaginative worlds that we could escape to at any time.

But somewhere along the line, we, like sentimental Velveteen Rabbits, became real. Real people with real jobs, real homes, real bills, and real responsibilities.

And in the midst of all that reality, we lost track of the key to our sanity and success: imagination.

I used to watch my nephew explode into the front yard not as an average 4-year-old boy, but as Master Deven, stair-leaping, yahooing sensei-cowboy on a mission with Spider Man.

I remember watching my 8-year-old niece perform concerts, complete with interpretive dance routines, alongside her imaginary triple-platinum band. Her younger brother, standing in the audience, would create swords out of hairbrushes and battle pirate kings and gorillas during the show. (Very diverse fan base.)

My 3-year-old wraps a piece of tape around his finger and then zooms around the house for an hour. Because clearly said finger is now a fighter jet. (What isn’t so clear is why we’ve ever bothered to buy him a toy airplane.)

It’s beautiful.

But it leaves me wondering: When did we stop believing? When did we stop imagining? And why are we surprised at our thirst for anything creative?

It is, after all, imagination that fuels creativity.

When we blur the lines of reality, we allow our minds to stretch and wander; we invite inspiration to strike.

In pursuing a creative career or tackling a creative project (hint: every career and project is creative), we choose to push ourselves beyond familiarity—to think, even live, outside of the box.

Kids are masters of this way of thinking. But not because they read books on creative strategy or attend marketing seminars in droves.

Kids think outside the box because they do not see a box. They see a 4-cornered hat or a baseball diamond or a doodlebug with no legs. But they do not see a box.

Then one day, someone teaches them to color inside the lines.

Someone takes the cap off Mr. Orange and writes the alphabet on wide-ruled paper.

In many ways, the world opens up when we learn these tools. But there is a permanence to such things. Like words on a page, a certain way of communicating and learning is written into malleable minds and cannot ever be erased.

But it can be rewritten in a thousand new and unexpected ways.

Sensory marketing was a hot-button topic at one point, and it plays into the story marketing craze of today.

To succeed, we must evoke the senses—a creative challenge that plagues many grown-ups. Perhaps because, in strategizing brainstorming and managing ideation, we’ve lost something of the world beyond boxes.

So why not grow a little by getting young again? By unleashing the evocative power of your very own imagination? It’s still there. And it wants you to tap in.

Have you ever thought about how sensory-ific your imagination is, at its core? The most visceral memories I have of my childhood are of moments when I was pretending.

I can tell you what it smelled like in the attic as I waited, locked in a tower, for Prince Charming to ride up and save me from my doom.

I can still feel the waves jostling me as I swim across the living room—a.k.a. the world’s most turbid and enormous ocean—to save my stuffed pig from an uncertain death on his distant armchair island.

Perhaps your exploration into imagination won’t involve rescuing stuffed animals or bouncing Marker People around on your desk in makeshift adventures. (I’d prefer you keep your job – for now.)

But you’ll never scratch the surface of what you can dream up if you keep your nose buried in that phone.

Your next great idea is much more likely to crop up during your walk through a field of wildflowers than as you read an article that’s been fed to you via friend X + Facebook algorithm Y.

It’s not lurking in your Instagram feed so much as hiding under that pile of wood in the garage.

And if you don’t know where to find it, just go hang out with a kid for 30 minutes. Not feeding them or bathing them or driving them to school, but truly hanging out with them. Let them lead. And pay attention.

And while you’re at it, let some of that free thinking rub off on you.

It will make your work better. It will make your process better. And it’s likely to make your life better, too.

Because bringing back imagination means feeling and excitement get to move back into reality, where they belong.

To this day, I see a pile of markers and wonder why they are sleeping. I watch my daughter color and am embarrassed at how exposed Mr. Purple must feel without his cap on. The task of drawing should be left to the crayons; markers have feelings and stories and dreams. I know what their voices sound like and how they arrange their furniture.

After years without exercise, the muscle of imagination may have atrophied a bit. But if we flex it and push it, in no time at all, we’ll look around and realize we’re living outside the box.

Or is that a four-cornered hat?

 

 

Note:

The first draft of this post originally appeared on the Canright Communications blog a lifetime ago.

You Say Tomato, I Say Content Marketing

A lot of my clients ask for help with their social-media efforts. And inevitably, we end up talking about content marketing.

7 tomatoesOr we launch a project to build out an e-mail marketing program. And…we end up talking content strategy.

Or they say e-book, and I say content upgrade. They say info graphic, I say content magnet. They say blog, I say content hub.

They say…anything. And I say…content.

You get the picture.

So, here’s the point: to-may-to, to-mah-to. It’s not the terms we use that matter (although they do – but give me a minute before I go there). It’s the concept that matters.

And the concept is this: communicate.

Communicate well.

Communicate strategically.

Communicate consistently.

(But don’t look to libbycortez.com as your role model on that last one.)

The Problem

Unfortunately, all the different ways that you or I might refer to a “piece of content” actually just get in the way of the real point of our conversation. So the fact that we use different terminology to describe this content thing really can matter (a lot) if we let it confuse our ability to think about – and stay tuned into – the big picture.

I’m guilty of this too – all full of “content marketing blah blah” mumbo jumbo when explaining things. So I’m quitting those words. Cold turkey. (Or I’m going to try, at least.)

The fact is, the terminology that marketers often use is usually overly ambiguous, misleading, or at worst, seemingly made to sound smart (which never really turns out smart at all).

To better understand – on a gut level – why this matters, allow me to take you into my personal experience as an over communicator who is married to a not-so-much-into-this-communication-thing communicator.

In my home life, I’m often guilty of using too many words to explain my point. And inevitably, after one of these over-complicated rants, I step off my soap box to find my husband’s eyes glazed over. He’ll try to summarize, and I’ll realize that my point was completely lost on him. All those fancy words just got in the way. (Honey, all I really want is for you to pick up your shoes. And maybe bring home flowers every once in a while.)

It’s the word trap. And it snatches the real message right out from under our feet.

The Small Business’s Word Trap: Starting with Tactics

Here’s what I hear businesses do a lot: “I need a new e-mail newsletter template.” (You can fill in that last part with anything – website, brochure, logo, you name it.)

But here’s the question: Are you sure that a newsletter template is really what you need? What’s the goal? No, no, not the goal of the template. If you approach it that way, you’ll end up trying to justify the reasons for the deliverable you’ve chosen, rather than getting back to the point.

What’s the business goal you started with? The one that took you down that first rabbit hole & ended you up in a place where you felt like you needed a new newsletter template?

Hint: the most frequent answer to this is something like “Jake from sales saw that one of our competitors had a great newsletter template and thought this could really help us attract new clients.”

I love sales people. (Yes! I’m a marketer and I’m saying it! Amazing!) And they need support materials. They need to be heard. And often, we need to just zip it and give them what they feel they need to succeed.

But it’s also important to note that for as many times as I’ve heard this type of reasoning, I have never, in 14 years of doing this, seen a single company list “pleasing Jake from sales” as one of its top 3 business goals.

The fact is, everyone (including Jake) probably wants something like more effective outbound communications, stronger branding, more consistent contact with prospects, etc. But instead, he brings up a template because the sight of someone else’s helped him realize something was missing in his toolkit. Nobody stops and gets alignment around why he thinks a new template would be important, so they never get to the heart of what Jake sees as a necessary area of improvement, and suddenly the term “newsletter template” becomes the thing, when it’s really not the issue at all.

And there you have it. Another small business gets confused into leading with a tactic, because they honed in on a specific word – a thing they needed – and lost track of overall goals.

Now, a new newsletter template might be exactly the right next step toward attracting more interest, establishing your brand, re-engaging your audience, whatever. Or (more often) it might be 1 of 60 different things you could do to achieve your goal – 12 of them better options for your current situation than updating your newsletter template.

Since most small businesses can’t do all 60 things at once, it’s important to stay laser-focused on your goal and make a smart choice from that list of 12.

To avoid this trap, just start with strategy.

  1. Goal first
  2. Roadmap to goal next
  3. Tools and tactics needed to travel roadmap last

Use this framework to make the best choice you can, and you’re off to the races.

The Marketer’s Word Trap: Getting too complicated too fast.

On the other hand, here’s what I see marketers do when talking to small businesses: “You need to design an algorithm to A/B test your landing page to optimize conversation rates for increased ROI.”

Oh, can it.

If you’re in a line of work where you just talk to marketers all day, then fine, use all the jargon you want.

But if you’re reading this blog post, that’s probably not you. My point is not that A/B testing your landing pages for better conversion is a bad idea. My point is that you don’t need to talk the talk to walk the walk.

So if you’re working with non-marketers – if you’re trying to help individuals, start-ups, ministries, small businesses, I’ve-got-a-dream chasers, or anyone outside of the marketing trenches – then keep them focused on communication, not jargon.

And if you want to talk to yourself and your marketing buddies about conversion metrics all evening long, go for it.

Just try not to bog them down – or bog yourself down, for that matter. Communication isn’t really that complicated. In fact, it’s best when it’s simple.

And P.S. Try to have a little fun in the process. It’ll show.

Writing in Rythm: 5 Tips to Help Your Words Sing

Part of my job is to make words sing. Words on blogs, websites, you name it. Usually, this means taking other people’s writing, chopping it up,  juggling it around, and tossing it back on the page (or screen, more often) so it sounds its very best.

The meaning of the message doesn’t change in this process. But the power of the message is amplified, because the language  is supporting the point rather than getting in its way.

This is a creative process, which means that the word “process” is somewhat inappropriate to begin with, because the path to perfect is never quite the same. Sometimes it involves a lot of standing up, sitting down, lounging on the floor with my roving white board, or walking in circles around my office. Sometimes it requires help from my wardrobe of very silly thinking hats. And sometimes – most of the time, thankfully – it just flows.

“Flows?” you ask. “Now that sounds good. (After all, my thinking-hat wardrobe is a bit outdated.) So how do you get to the flow zone?”

Enter my 5 (rather unconventional) writing tips:

1. Write without thinking

Squeezing an orangeWhen the idea hits you, sit down and crank until you squeeze every drop out of it.

Don’t think about grammar, punctuation, organization – don’t even worry about whether it makes sense. Just get the thought down stream-of-consciousness style, without letting yourself get in your own way.

In fact, I’ve been known to close my eyes as I’m writing out a juicy thought, so that nothing – not even the words I’m drafting – can distract me from getting the idea expressed.

2. Outline

Yes, this is step #2. Because it involves thinking about how you will express your idea, and we never want that pesky how question to get in the way at the outset.

But once you’ve got the concept scribbled down, outlining is a powerful instrument in the writer’s symphony for 2 main reasons:

  1. It creates a framework for the thoughts you want to communicate, so you can define a clear structure & hit all your key points
  2. It gives you a box to play in, so you’re less likely to meander off topic

Yes, there are times when an outline might come first – like when you’re writing under deadline rather than impulse. But even in those cases, you might find yourself suddenly inspired as you get your notes structured, at which point you should stop outlining and return to step #1, stat.

3. Copy, Paste, Write, Erase

At this point, you’ll probably be looking at

  • A big chunk of inspired mishmash that’s as brilliant as it is disjointed, and
  • An outline that draws attention to all the stuff you still need to write

So roll your sleeves up.

First, copy and paste pieces of your mishmash throughout the outline, wherever each thought fits best.

Then, fill in the holes.

Now run through the whole thing and find ways to tie your thoughts together. This could happen very organically, but in some places, you might need to get creative. Don’t be afraid to tie in some of those good, old-fashioned transitions you got schooled on in 11th grade.

The categories you created in outlining might become your section headers, but a lot could change as you flesh things out (and think about SEO, wherever necessary). Go with your gut.

And if you’re ever hesitant about a revision you’re making, just keep both (or all 16) versions until you get to the right one. You’ll know when you’re there.

Remember, in the world of business writing, the goal is not beauty. It’s copy that’s clear and compelling. So don’t try to be F. Scott Fitzgerald. Make your writing simple and concrete, so that the message gets the attention rather than the words.

Once you have everything down, it’s time to read back through and start erasing stuff. Probably lots of stuff.

4. Go away.

Now walk away. This is one of the most important steps in the whole process, 2nd only to tip #5, below.

Set down that piece of paper. Close your computer. Go to lunch. Call a friend. Practice cartwheels in the backyard. Whatever it takes to get you away from what you just wrote for an hour, an afternoon, a day if you’re lucky.

The point is to try to forget about it completely, and come back with fresh eyes. You’ll be amazed at what you see.

5. Read out loud

If you want your writing to sing, you absolutely must read it out loud.

Even if you have no musical training whatsoever, you can probably tell that something’s not quite right when you hear a singer who’s way off key or listen to a band whose drummer gets out of rhythm.

Same with writing. If you speak the language that you’re writing in with absolute fluency, then your ear will hear things that are out of “tune.” So read out loud. And try to detach your eyes and mouth from your ears when you do so – try to listen to the words in the air as if you were hearing them from another source.

It sounds trickier than it is. But if you don’t think you’re up to it, just record your voice as you read, and then tune in. You’ll learn fast enough.

Your ears won’t lie. Just listen for the music.

How Often Should You Blog? The Answer is 3 Questions.

If anyone has ever told you how often to post to your blog, this goes out to you: Did this person know about your business? Or were they schooling you without any knowledge of what you do, basing their answer solely on some omnipotent bloggish brilliance?

If it’s the former, then their input is likely to be valuable—well intentioned at the very least.

But if they told you how often you should post without any background on your goals, audience, offering, etc., please ignore them. They have absolutely no idea what they’re talking about.

I don’t mean to get rant-y here, but I listen to small businesses stress out about this too often. (“Someone told me that I need to be publishing at least once a day. Is that true? I don’t know if I can do it every day. Does it even makes sense for me to blog if I can’t keep up with that?”)

Most of the time, this stress happens because

  1. You read something online, or
  2. You talked to someone who wanted to sound clever—or who truly believed he had a magic answer

Blog Post FrequencyBut there are no magic numbers in the mysterious realm of blog-post frequency. (And there’s really nothing mysterious about it.)

Here’s a hint: there are people who can help you make a smart decision about how often to post to your blog, and these people won’t start with answers. They’ll start with questions. And you should, too.

3 Questions to Ask in Deciding How Often to Post

This isn’t about blogging best practices. It’s about how often you should post to your blog. And the answer is different for every person and every business.

So start here:

  1. Blog goals: what are the top 3 things you hope your blog will accomplish?
  2. Blog audience: who do you hope to engage with your blog?
  3. Blog team: how many hours per week can your content team dedicate to blogging?

1. Blog Goals

In all my years of working on marketing strategy, I’ve never seen a case where the end goal is page visits. More often, there’s a bigger objective driving this.

So, if you think you want page views, ask yourself why. What will those visits accomplish for you?

Do you think they’ll grow your audience? Then your goal is audience development.

Do you think they’ll help position you as a thought leader? Then your goal is to become a thought leader.

Do you think they’ll help you sell more advertising on your blog? Then your goal is about revenue generation—which, inevitably, isn’t really about revenue, but about what that revenue will help you accomplish.

You get the picture.

2. Blog Audience

If you’re like most of my clients, you don’t just want transient eyeballs on your blog. You’re looking for engagement.

So keep in mind that people don’t engage when they’re annoyed. And in today’s world of information overload, you don’t even have to be very annoying to become annoying.

To avoid this, start by thinking less about what you want and more about what your audience wants. Then (and this is important), compare what your audience wants to what’s realistic for them.

So, say you’re targeting CIOs, and you’re focusing your blog on emerging technology because you know your audience loves learning about this subject. You have enough material there to post every hour. But as much as your CIO is sincerely interested in your topic, she doesn’t have a lot of time.

So when she chooses to follow your blog, how often can she actually tolerate your notices appearing in her inbox? At what point do you start to feel like a chore? At what point does the extent of her engagement become delete, delete, delete, unsubscribe?

That’s the outside edge of your magic number.

3. Blog Team

I’m all for jumping in head first. But when it comes to blogging, the last thing you want to do is bite off more than you can chew.

If you’ve ever visited a blog that had 10 entries in March of 2009, 3 in September of that year, and none since, you know the impression it left on you.

Don’t be that blog. Be honest with yourself, and get specific. Most of us are small businesses, after all. Our resources aren’t endless.

So look at the start-to-finish time it takes to craft, refine, and publish a new post. Compare that to the amount of time each member of your blog team (even if it’s just you) can realistically invest in the effort on an ongoing basis.

Then, create a schedule and start building that backlog. If it’s too frequent for you to maintain, you’ll sense it pretty quickly. Again, tweak and test. And find your pace.