I am constantly talking to business people, with companies large and small, and I often give them the same advice about Internet marketing, and search marketing in particular: Tell what you know so your customers can learn from your expertise. You can put that expertise on Web pages, on a blog, in tweets, in a YouTube video, a podcast--I don't really care how you do it, but do it. Too often, the response is something like, "But I don't have anything to say." I suspect that you do have something to say, but you are just not giving yourself permission to say it.
Now, don't get me wrong. I realize that you might not be a world class expert, but you are probably an expert in something or else you wouldn't be in business. You at least know more than your customers about it, don't you? If a customer asked you a question, would you be struck mute because you aren't a world expert? Or would you give them your best answer, knowing that it might not be THE best answer in the world, but it will be better than what your customer knows now?
Image by DavidErickson via Flickr
Of course you'd answer the question. So why can't you put that same answer out on the Internet?
I think that you don't give yourself permission. I think that you are intimidated by the Web. I think that you are fearful that someone will say you are wrong. I think that you don't want to have the answer out there in public. I think you are scared.
And honestly, you can stay in your store behind the counter and answer the questions privately of anyone who walks in. You can answer the phone and help one customer. You can respond to e-mail questions and be relatively secure that your expertise will not be subjected to any public scrutiny. But you are selling yourself short.
Whenever a customer asks a question, it is something that other people probably want to know. And you can decide to put it out there, or not. If you put it out there, a few things happen. First, you help people that have the same problem. Second, you attract attention to yourself as knowledgeable in the field, perhaps bringing you more sales.
But it's the third thing that might happen that gets us all hung up. Someone might criticize us. Or (horrors!) even prove us wrong about what we said. And after we get over the awful, excruciating, humiliation of that embarrassment, guess what? We have learned something.
We can graciously thank the other person for correcting us. We can then answer that question better for all of our customers from now on. And, every time that happens, we become even more of an expert. Maybe even a world-class expert.
So, it's up to you. You can excuse yourself from the Web and from social media by claiming you have nothing to say. Or you can put yourself out there, helping people with what expertise you have and learning from others when you fall short.
If you do, your customers will be helped, your business will grow, and so will your expertise. You just have to get over your fears. Not completely. Just enough to do it.
Mike is an expert in search marketing, search technology, social media, publishing, text analytics, and web metrics, who regularly makes speaking appearances.
Mike's previous appearances include Text Analytics World, Rutgers Business School, SEMRush webinar, ClickZ Live.
Mike also founded and writes for Biznology, is the co-author of Outside-In Marketing (with James Mathewson) and the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (now in its 3rd edition, and sole author of Do It Wrong Quickly, named by the Miami Herald as one of the 11 best business books of 2007.
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