Any of this sound familiar…
“10 Sure Fire Ways To Improve Your Google Ranking”, “3 Essentials For Effective Networking”, “7 Simple Steps To Boost Your Sales”, “100 Ways To Promote Your Business Online… For Free!”, “12 Web Site Mistakes To Avoid”, “50 Great Web Sites For Publishing Your Articles”, “Top 10 Secrets Of Search Engine Optimization”, “15 Things You Need To Know About Twitter,”…
Stop! Hold it right there.
A person can overcome addiction in 12 steps, and the world’s largest religion can parse a comprehensive moral code down to only 10 commandments, yet there are 15 things I need to know about Twitter?
All These Numbers Don’t Add Up
Well, actually, they do… and the total keeps growing, ad infinitum. The titles listed above are a modest sampling of real articles found online espousing some type of “quick step” path to success. The internet is rife with would-be blogging bhagwans, pundits and prognosticators, sages and savants outlining the “things you need to know”, the “things you need to do”, as well as the “most important things” in business – often in convenient numeric order.
The numbers are daunting. Many such articles offer useful and worthwhile advice provided by competent professionals with legitimate credentials. Many more don’t. The problem is weeding through the pretenders to find the contenders.
Success Is Not A Mathematical Formula
Entrepreneurs and business owners all have moments of self-doubt along the way, wondering if they could, or should be doing something differently. That’s where these “quick step” articles can drive you bonkers. Keeping pace with them all is impossible. More than likely you’ll be left feeling like there’s more you’re doing wrong than you’re doing right – because you’re darn well not doing everything they say you should be doing. Trying to manage it all can stifle you with the suffocating fear that you’re so far behind the curve you’ll never catch up.
Take a deep breath. Clients and the competition are not passing you by because you aren’t maximizing the 10 best ways to optimize your web site for search engines. Can you improve your online presence? Sure, who couldn’t? Should you? Yes, at some point – because a business must adapt it’s message and methods to remain vital. But, don’t panic because you’re not doing everything some article says you “must” be doing – now. In fact, maybe you shouldn’t be doing any of what that article says at all.
There are no universal formulas for success. What works to improve someone else’s sales might not be what speaks to your particular customer demographic. Perhaps social media web sites like Twitter can help an independent restaurant chain spread the word about happy hour specials, new items, or monthly features – and significantly increase dinner traffic. But, that doesn’t mean Twitter is also a valid marketing approach for a dental practice seeking to attract new patients.
The Good, The Bad, and The Total Waste of Time
The internet is full of terrific resources for entrepreneurs, business owners and professionals looking to connect, share, and learn. Warning: Posting articles online or writing a blog can create the appearance of credibility, but appearances can be deceiving.
Sometimes the author is a hack, and you need to know before you start acting on their advice – because bad advice could be devastating to your business. So, how do you determine who is trustworthy?
Start by thinking for yourself. Don’t simply take everything you read at face value. There are very few gurus or experts, but lots of people playing them online. For instance, if somebody is claiming to be “certified” in something, but they don’t disclose from where they received such accreditation, then, well… you get the point.
Challenge their thinking by commenting on their blog posts or in their Twitter feed, etc. If you politely raise questions or counterpoints, and they respond with invective and personal attack, rather than with thoughtful, reasoned rebuttals, then you know you’ve put a snake oil salesman’s back to the wall, and exposed him as a fraud.
Pay attention to the quality of the information being offered. Anybody can acquire and post a random list of 50 web sites where you can publish articles, but do you have time to visit 50 web sites to see if they offer what you need? Probably not, so what good is the list? Someone posting an article called “50 Great Web Sites For Publishing Your Articles” isn’t trying to help you, they’re merely trying to draw attention to themselves.
On the other hand, a competent, knowledgeable expert in online publishing is going to offer quality rather than quantity. They’ll edit the list down to a manageable overview providing useful facts and information to help you determine if these sites are right for you – and worth the considerable time investment.
Every now and then the so-called “expert advice” in articles is so obvious that it falls under the “no duh” category. For instance, if an article explains why your professional email should read along the lines of, email@example.com, versus, firstname.lastname@example.org, this author is not offering expert advice – because that juicy little business-101 factoid, while relevant, should be self-evident to everyone. The author might have good intentions, but you’re not likely to learn anything in the article that’s going to propel your business to the next level.
Crunching The Numbers
We all need a little guidance along the way, and I’m truly grateful for the wealth of knowledge and experience that is shared online. You can’t follow all the advice out there – and the good news is that you don’t have to. Understanding that, and separating the useful from the useless, will keep you on the path to success – however many steps it takes. Ultimately, success requires effort. Nothing will work if you don't.