17 Lessons I Learned From Publishing An e-Book

Do You Learn Lessons Executing Simple Tasks?

I released my first e-Book last week, my #40in240 Intrepid mini-MBA project [you can download here]. And as I always do with executing on a project, I learned a series of lessons from the experience. Here they are:

1. It will take longer than you plan to publish the book. Just count on that.

2. It will drive meaningful traffic to your website. So if that’s your main goal, it is worth it. But it is so much more than that…

3. If you go with guest contributors, you get to work with people of your choice. If there is someone you want to get to know, reach out to them. Great way to connect.

4. You will also get solicited by people you don’t know who want to contribute, which expands your network. This is a great way to meet new people.

5. You will agonize over the look and feel of the product. Don’t. It is about shipping the content. As you see from the book cover above, I am a skilled designer [insert eye roll here].

6. This builds a tight knit community around the idea/cause that you are championing. This is how some people start movements.

7. Publishing/editing an e-book will help position you as a thought leader in your chosen space/subject matter of the book. I am NO expert on inspiring young people. But I am better positioned in that space now than before…

8. Want to find a way to build a tribe? Here is one way. Sounds hokey, but I have a kind of bond now with these 40 writers…

9. You will learn so much about the people who contribute, what they think, what moves them.

10. You also learn who is a lot of talk…

11. Publishing an e-book is a great way to build lists. You can require a name and email address to receive the product. I didn’t do it that way, but if you are sharing the right kind of content, it is a good way to get names. Now granted, you won’t get as many sign-ups and downloads, but those that subscribe are meaningful.

12. Your contributors will help share the work. See Willie Jackson here. See James Ball here. See Stephanie Lloyd here. See Kevin Metzger here. See Erik Wolf here. It can be a great way to expand your reach on the internet.

13. I don’t mind saying, but it is cool when people now refer to you as a publisher. Some have called me an author, but I am not going there yet.

14. Publishing the e-book has, in fact, drawn new people to my blog. Both RSS feed and e-newsletter subscriptions jumped after publishing.

15. Offering an e-book as a free download from your business is a really cool marketing tactic. More on this soon!

16. You feel extreme joy when you ship the product at the end of the day.

17. There is no greater feeling of satisfaction than when someone in the target audience comments that the product helped them. Makes it all worth it. I promise.

So that’s what I learned from this way cool project. Please share some things you’ve learned when you published content (whatever shape that takes for you).

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10 Simple Steps To Get Business From Twitter! (Or I Can’t Frickin’ Believe It Is This Easy…)

A heavy majority of those who exist on this planet do NOT believe they can get business opportunities from Twitter. And they would be wrong.

Very wrong.

Here is my ten-step plan to get business opportunities from Twitter. And I know it works, because it happened to me yesterday.

1. Start a blog. Write helpful content.

2. Share this content on Twitter.

3. Build relationships with people on Twitter. (you know, actually talk to people. Here’s how to start conversations on Twitter.)

4. Share the work of others. (key to success: do this more than sharing your own work.) This build trust. Makes you real. Makes people believe in you. I promise!

5. Engage directly with people who are kind enough to share your work.

6. If they respond, build a relationship with them. Be nice. Acknowledge. Learn about them. Care about them.

7. If they send a tweet inviting you to coffee, take the time to meet them and get to know them. This, in the modern world, is the new networking. Sorry folks, but this is how it is done.

8. When you meet, and they talk about their business, L-I-S-T-E-N! And seek to learn more…

9. During conversation, if appropriate and sincere, offer a solution to a need.

10. When they express interest in your solution, shift to a service mentality, work with them to explore it further, and together, discover if what you provide will indeed benefit their organization.

11. (Bonus Tip!) Repeat.

So there. That’s it. Now, the hard part? Doing it.

Those who do it will see returns from a time investment on Twitter. Those who don’t (read: most of you)…won’t.

What in the hell are you waiting for? Go…

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[cartoon by @gapingvoid]

Some Fun Things I Wish Restaurants + Bars Would Do With Social Media

This past weekend, I was in San Antonio with a big crew of friends running a local half-marathon.

On Saturday evening (night before the race) a few of us went to a place called Boudro’s Texas Bistro to get some healthy food that would provide energy for us during the race the next morning.

As I typically do (when I remember), I checked into the place on Foursquare.

Nine times out of ten, I never hear anything else from the restaurant. Ever.

But in this case, Boudro’s sent me a tweet the next day, thanked me for our business, and thanked me for checking-in.

Nice.

Sadly, that small action alone makes a restaurant stand out from most. But as I was thinking on this, I realized there is so much more they could (and should) be doing.

Here are some things I wish restaurants and bars would do with social media:

1. Thank me for checking-in on whatever geolocation application I am using (as referenced above). As I said, simple, but still rarely done, at least in my experience.

2. I wish bartenders would be empowered to twitpic patrons sitting at the bar, and while doing so, share a cool story about that customer. As in “This is Dave. He comes here every Sunday to watch his beloved Chicago Bears!” This demonstrates that you care about your customers, and not just about blasting out the latest specials. I mean, really, don’t just use Twitter to promote you….

3. Instead of the usual boring advertisements about specials that I see in newspapers or magazines, place a QR code in the ad, and encourage people to learn more about you in a unique way. Send the user to a special landing page that tells a good story, and offers personalized specials. Stand out… (sure, a majority of people can’t read QR codes yet. but that is changing!)

4. I sure wish waiters could snap a digital pic, and/or collect my email or twitter handle, and send me personalized digital notes after my visit. “Hope you had a good time” or “Gosh, I sure enjoyed serving you” or “I hope you had a great birthday!” I would never forget this, I would tell others about my waiter, and I sure would talk about this experience with others…

4.5. Although not digital, I’ve been to a few restaurants that send me handwritten notes following my visit. Talk about WOW…

5. As part of their daily routine, I wish more restaurants, especially those trying to build a loyal repeat customer base, would collect vital stats about their customers, and occasionally tweet/blog/email/text specific specials to people based on their customer file. For instance, if you know one of your customers graduated from Florida State, and you notice FSU wins a big game, I’d send a personal email, text, tweet, or Facebook message to your customer, and invite her to the restaurant, and say something like “In honor of your big win, come by, and the first drink is on us!”

[You just have to empower and encourage your employees to record these kinds of details in a notebook...]

5.5. Oh, and to answer the common fuss I hear about how hard it is for restaurants + bars to track customers online, just set up a special column in your Twitter management platform, place all customers there, and devote a few minutes a day to monitor what they are saying. Comment appropriately. This is magic, btw…

6. And another idea about geolocation tools like Foursquare… More and more people are checking in at state lines when they are on the road. If I am a restaurant on the other side of the state line, I sure would keep an eye out for people who are checking-in this way. I’d invite them to my restaurant, and offer a “Welcome To Our State” special.

[trust me, if someone is checking in on Foursquare from the road, they probably have the means to check Twitter and get your note...]

7. I would love for a restaurant to blog about cool things their employees (and customers for that matter) are doing to help the community. As in “We love that Jamie, a server with us for six months, volunteers for the United Way. In fact, if you dine with us, and donate a dollar to Jamie’s efforts, we’ll match the donation to the United Way, and give you dessert on the house!”

[btw, this gives you a lot of cool stuff to share on Twitter and Facebook]

8. Use big events to draw people in on Foursquare. For instance, if there is a big event, such as a football game, when people check into the stadium, offer a Foursquare special if they bring the whole family by following the game.

8.5. And if I am a restaurant in an airport, I would sure do the same when people check into the airport.

9. I do think restaurants should have a Facebook page. But if you just use it to promote specials, it will bore people, and it will be meaningless. I also think what you talk about on Facebook should be different than what people find on your Twitter stream. Here, maybe you feature, talk about, and show pics of the special events that occur at your restaurant…

10. I would love to see video blogs from restaurants that serve my favorites foods. You don’t have to share the “secret” recipe, but it would be fun, helpful and informative to see how these places prep their food, get to know their chefs and learn the stories behind the family recipes they use. This would be fun and helpful content, especially for places that advertise healthy dining. In addition to providing unlimited amounts of content for your blog, it also makes it easy to optimize video content for YouTube, yet another powerful way to be found on the internet.

11. And for gosh sakes….if you want people to hang out at your restaurant or coffee shop, please please please have more than one power outlet… And honestly, if you don’t have FREE WI-FI, I have no use for your joint…

So these are just a few ideas. What do you think? Any others?

P.S. btw, I wrote this at a Caribou Coffee shop. And I checked-in on Foursquare. Just so you know…

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[pic taken from boudros.com]

Human Interaction Required

I had an appointment with a client yesterday morning, and I wasn’t sure where the meeting was…

I tapped the address into my car’s GPS, which is a few years old. And the address wasn’t there. I then used my Tom Tom, which is current (or so I thought) and the address didn’t show here either…

So, my third option was to use the GPS Map function on my Blackberry. And while I rarely use my Blackberry for this purpose, fortunately it worked here.

But as I was driving towards my destination (holding the Blackberry in my hand whilst doing so) I got to thinking, as we often do in this case, what would I have done without all that technology? I mean, our founding fathers won Independence without use of a GPS device…surely I could get to a meeting without it.

Well, in this case, I would have spent a few minutes online and gotten directions using Google Maps or Mapquest. Or, even before then, I might have actually had a deeper conversation with the person I was meeting with and get the directions by phone (gasp!).

Seems so horrid to think about actually having to call someone to get directions these days. In fact, sitting here as I type this, I honestly cannot remember the last time I called to get directions. I usually do this by email…and really just to get an address to tap into Tom Tom…

Are we talking to real people enough? The debate over whether social media negatively – or positively – impacts human interaction rages on. But I think there are certain situations where human interaction is critical:

1. Whenever you interact with a customer. Even if they initially reach out to you via the social web, I think you should connect with real conversation if practicable.

2. Touching base with critical people in your network. If someone is important to you, an ally, then it is worth connecting with real conversation as often as you can.

3. Apologies. Of any kind…

4. Any type of communication where you are correcting poor customer service…

5. Or working through someone’s poor customer experience.

6. Seeking/collecting valuable feedback. If someone has something valuable to say, to help you or your business, it is important enough for a real conversation…

7. And obviously time spent with friends and loved ones.

8. If it has just been a while…sometimes time just slips by, and you haven’t spoken to someone important in a while. Make the time…

What do you think? And what did I miss?

Human interaction seems to be harder with all the digital distractions, and the busy lives we all are leading. But it is important to remember that just because Twitter and Facebook exist, those aren’t replacements for human interaction.

A better life is a result. And better business requires it…

[cartoon by @gapingvoid]

65th Check-In | The Publix Foursquare Watch

Using Foursquare, Todd has checked-in to his local Publix 65 times, without hearing so much as a peep. He will blog after every check-in until he gets recognized as a loyal customer. In the meantime, he will offer some ideas free of charge on how they might use Foursquare. Join the Watch!

[Read the entire fourteen-piece series!]

I’ve had a lousy 24 hours, so I am a little more cranky than usual…

I’ve been at this Publix Foursquare Watch for a while now. 35 total check-ins (since the watch started)…14 blog posts. And, I am not proud to report, a growing list of people and blogs that are talking about this little crusade of mine. Just yesterday, I had a gentleman retweet the link to the whole series, which resulted in a handful of further retweets.

And…nothing. Either Publix sees me as a gnat and not worth the trouble, or they just aren’t listening. Which, to be honest, boggles my mind.

Now, I am not saying this because I want Publix to kiss my ass. To be honest, all I want is for my local store to send me a note that says, “Hey Todd, thanks for being a great customer. We appreciate you.”

That’s all I am looking for. I don’t care about specials. Or discounts. Or special mayoral privileges.

A friend of mine, who is in a constant battle to be Mayor of her local Publix with her own husband, told me that the manager of her local store did actually acknowledge them when they were in the store one day. So, it can happen. And don’t tell me it has to be a decision/policy that comes down from corporate. It’s a decision to care.

Foursquare causes conversation to happen on the social web. In two ways. From bloggers like me who stir up dust like I am doing on a blog series such as this one. Or two, because people are talking – and buzzing – about a real cool, innovative, clever, action-provoking campaign to reward your Foursquare users and evangelists.

Either way, you, as a company (read: Publix) ought to be listening. Technology and the social web makes it silly easy to set up listening posts and monitoring stations to listen for – and respond to – dialog about your company and brand (good or bad).

Honestly, I just can’t believe no one is listening. What an amazing opportunity lost. [well, not for me. I am learning a heck of lot to teach and educate my clients on what NOT to do]

Todd’s FREE Foursquare Tip For Publix!: Just frickin’ say thanks. Foursquare builds a list of real people that have been to your store. You probably see hundreds, heck, maybe even thousands, of people come through your doors each day. But Foursquare creates a list of bunch of them. Use it to say hello…

What other Foursquare/geolocation ideas do YOU have for Publix?

[back to our regularly scheduled programming - and fun Publix Foursquare tips - with the next post.]

My Intrepid Facebook Experiment, And 10 Hopeful Lessons Learned?

I have long resisted launching a Facebook fan page for Intrepid. The main reason? I just didn’t want to overextend myself and take on too many activities. It is enough to manage this blog…

But that said, I don’t think I am taking full advantage of the Facebook platform, and figured it was time to dive in and explore some possibilities. Couple that with my new MacBook (and built-in webcam) and I had my idea. So here is the new page and lessons (below) I hope to learn:

As I say in the intro video on the fan page, this will be very much an experiment. What do I hope to learn through this?

1. Will people be interested in seeing short videos, and responding to them in some way?

2. This will be a community specific to Facebook. The videos that I make there will ONLY be shown on that platform, and not shared on this blog, or on Twitter. Will this increase the value of the content?

3. Will there be some natural organic growth? I am not going to spend my days spamming and respamming people to join the fan page. I am hoping that if people find value here, they will share it with friends…

4. Will this actually foster some real dialog? This won’t be any fun if all that happens is me posting short videos from time to time…

5. I hope to encourage others to add their own thoughts on being intrepid marketers, and living an intrepid life. But will people actually add their own unique content?

6. Will this activity increase business opportunities? For me, and for those who engage here?

7. Will the activity here inspire new business ideas, or at least inspire new content to write about?

8. How much activity on the page will be the right amount? I don’t have time to post something every day, but hope to find the right amount of content that is informative and helpful to the community, but not too much…or too little.

9. Over time, will people be more interested in the business conversation? Or the dialog about living a more intrepid life?

10. I am curious if having a more active and engaging presence on Facebook brings in some new traffic to the blog itself…

Stay tuned, for I will keep you posted on how all this unfolds. And if you have any ideas/suggestions on ways you’ve learned to increase engagement on Facebook fan pages, please share!

Guerrilla Customer Alienation Tactics!

Doing this causes me angst...

Maybe it is just me, but I hate it when someone tapes a brochure or a flyer to my mailbox…

You clearly know that you are NOT allowed to put it IN my mailbox, so why do you think it is cool to tape it to the outside?

Look, I advocate people to become Intrepid marketers…And I love business people who practice guerrilla tactics! But in my opinion, this isn’t one of them…

This method is just aggravating and frustrating. Interrupting me by making me deal with that flyer and tape (and removing paint from my mailbox) are, in fact, going to remove me from your list of potential customers…

[Disclosure: This post also applies to those who insert business cards into small baggies, along with a rock to weigh it down, and toss it onto the foot of my driveway as you are going down the street...]

So, let’s assume that you have carefully and thoughtfully identified my house as a real target for your business (and not just drove down my street and paid your mother-in-law to tape collateral to people’s mailboxes). Here are some other ways I’d reach out to these households:

1. There is this thing called the U.S. Postal Service. Create some really good direct mail – that articulates a simple message – solves a problem/fulfills a need – contains a very simple call to action. Direct mail, done right, targeted well, still works…

2. But if an extensive direct response mail program is not in your budget, break down your mailing list into smaller universes (get real guerrilla – down to the street), and send them handwritten notes, and insert a business card. The handwritten note BLOWS PEOPLE AWAY. “Hey Todd, I was on your street the other day, and noticed your roof might have some hail damage…would love 5 minutes to show you what I mean…”

3. Target a specific street, ID the right households, and snap a digital shot of the house. Go back to your office, and use a service like SendOutCards, and send me a personalized note using the photo of my home…

4. Knock on my door. Actually make an effort to chat with me. If I am not at home, leave a handwritten note on a piece of your collateral. I have NEVER had a small business service person knock on my door before (just candidates, religious folks, and the kid next door who’s mother wasn’t home yet…and she wanted to watch TV…).

5. Use social media to connect with me. Build groups (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn) around tight geographical locations. Build a little community around a location. Yes, it is doable. It just takes a little thinking, a little creativity, and a wee bit of effort… But that’s got to be a better use of your time than driving down random streets tossing rocks out your car window…

6. Form a neighborhood mastermind association. If you fix and install roofs, form a little group in a targeted geographical area, network with other home improvement specialists, invite (by both direct mail and social media) area households to participate in a group discussion on ways to fix and improve their home. See who shows up. Might be a neat way to build some new relationships, land some new business, and get people talking…

Just a few ideas. Trust me, I appreciate that small businesses, operating on tight budgets, are looking for ways to get attention. I just don’t think being a nuisance, and taping something to my mailbox, is the best way to get it.

Think of some creative ways to connect with people. Yeah, you might be able to “reach” more households with the drive-by taped collateral strategy, but methinks you are far better off focusing on creative ways to connect with a more highly targeted audience…

What do you think?

We All Have A Story To Tell

We’ve all driven down the highway and seen that billboard that proclaims: Nobody Reads This.

That concept crossed my mind last Friday when we were conducting a seminar for a large client. The purpose of the presentation? To begin to teach a sales force of a large multi-million dollar company what’s possible by fundamentally changing their sales process. How? By incorporating the magic of the social web into their daily lives.

What was amazing to me was how many folks in the room were not on Twitter, Facebook, or even LinkedIn. Really. A room full of sales reps, and only TWO on LinkedIn. Most of them had never read a blog.

But you could see the lights coming on as the day progressed, as they began to see and understand what’s possible.

You see, early in the session, a few doubters had two thoughts in their mind: One, there is nothing out there of value to me – spending time out on the social web isn’t worth my time. And two, not a soul – not one person – gives a damn about anything I have to say…

As the day progressed and we talked about concepts of sharing the work of others, how to search for and find content that matters, and how to take action on information that you find, they began to see it: Just as I (the sales rep) can learn to find the nuggets of valuable content out on the web…there will be people who will search for, find, and care about what I contribute.

It is like the billboard, there is an audience…more than you might imagine. There is someone out there who will care about what you have to say. It might be a small tribe, but that may be all that matters to sell into – and matter to – your marketplace.

We all have a story to tell. There are people who want to hear your story, share it, learn from it, and take their own action as a result.

This idea really clicked for me a while back when I heard Gary Vaynerchuk talk about how important it was to even have just ONE follower. Even if it is one person, what you say matters. And it might have deep impact on their life. And that makes it worthwhile.

So get to it. Start telling the story you’ve got to tell. Right now…

[photo from tumblr]

Does Your “YES TO ALL” Social Media Mentality Really Serve You Well?

I feed the status stream of all my LinkedIn connections into my RSS reader. It is a great way to monitor what’s going on with the people I care about on LinkedIn.

Scanning it this morning, I noticed one of my connections was newly connected to about 25 people. As in, there was a repeated batch of “[insert name] is now connected to [insert name].”

I have to assume that my connection got into LinkedIn last night, saw that he had a bunch of connection invites, and accepted the invitations all at once…

Let me preface this by saying that the social web, and all that that implies, is utilized differently by EACH PERSON. What works for one, may not be comfortable, or effective, for another… And that’s ok.

But I don’t think the example I cited above is the most effective way. Did my connection really even know who he was accepting into his LinkedIn network? Or was he just trying to drive up his numbers and/or not be rude to those who invited him? How many of you [I know I have] have accepted invitations to large batches of invites, and then immediately looked at your follower count to see what the new number was?

[whatever. you know you have...]

This is the mentality that I think gets people in trouble. And by trouble I mean, they invest time and work into the social web, but don’t ever really see any meaningful value from it…other than driving up raw numbers of connections on various networks that at the end of the day doesn’t mean anything.

See, I think you should think through every one of those invites. Who is this person? Why are they trying to connect to me? What do they want/need from me? What can I benefit from connecting to them? Who do they know? How are THEIR connections relevant to me? How can I serve these people today? How can I bring value into their world?

The social web and all its various tools are simply means to collect information. Information that you can then use to take a meaningful action. That action could be simply to say “hello” and “how can I help you today?” But that’s a meaningful and important action…

Now, combine these deliberate actions, and apply them steadily over time! [and I don't mean 30 days, I mean years] That’s when you begin to see where this can have meaning in forging deeper connections with real people, increasing prospects to your business, strengthening your personal brand, etc…

So, the next time you log into LinkedIn or Facebook or Foursquare and see a pile of invites waiting for action, don’t just blindly click yes to all. Go through them slowly, carefully, deliberately, and think about what the connection means, and how you can take an immediate action that benefits the both of you…

What do you think?

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[cartoon by @gapingvoid]

Look For The Off Broadway Gems…

OK. I am like you. I subscribe to all the A-List bloggers too. You know, the ones who get 4,000 retweets for every post they publish. And for the most part, it is well deserved.

The content you find there is often stellar material. And worth reading. These are the people headlining most conferences, getting published, featured in all the hot interviews…

Like I said, well deserved.

But what is the really cool part about the social web? Finding thousands of blogs that are mostly under the radar. Trust me, there is great content out there. Pure gold. Thought-provoking content. New angles on well-discussed subjects. Humor. Sass. And yeah, world-changing ideas too…

It just seems most of us aren’t finding it.

Funny thing is, I scan about 250 blogs per day on my RSS reader, and a heavy majority of those are blogs flying under the radar. On average, most of them get about five retweets per post. This is a shame. I sometimes think we believe that content without a lot of retweets isn’t worthy of sharing.

Or, do we perhaps NOT share great a post because we don’t want to be one of just a small handful of folks sharing the content? I wonder if this happens. I sometimes catch myself thinking that. I promise to stop.

I also wonder if we are more likely to share the content of people NOT in our direct geographical space. Most of my retweets come from people who live far away from me. Or does it just seem that way? Do you observe this? Are locals less likely to share content because they perceive fellow locals as competition? I don’t know. I wonder about it though.

But I promise to make a much more concerted effort to share the little gems that don’t get much attention. Some believe the best art produced on Broadway is OFF of it. And that’s true. I have seen some “Off Broadway” plays – and they are in fact, outstanding.

Sure, it is cool to see the big famous productions. Those rarely disappoint. And it is fun to see the stars.

But sometimes “Off Broadway” gives you that fresh, new perspective you need. And there can be a lot of joy in discovering new talent, the future stars.

They can change the world too…

So join me. Make it a goal to share one new “Off Broadway” blog each week. Help bring fresh content, new ideas, new talent, to the front of the stage. We will all benefit!

[cartoon by @gapingvoid]