Over the past few weeks I have been back out on the road seeing clients, giving social media training and attending the odd conference. It's given me time to really think about where SEO Andy is and why it's become a main-stay of my life and a part of the life of everyone who reads it. The answer came to me whilst listening to one of my favourite podcasts, Smart Passive Income - if you haven't listened give it a try, it wont be for everyone but honestly it's great.
And the answer is...
I Have an Unfair Advantage
In the podcast, hosted by Pat Flynn, there is a lot of talk about the history of the people he interviews and experiences that have changed their lives and helped them to hugely grow their businesses. From this I got to thinking about where I am in life, as Head of Digital Marketing for RedStar - having ran my own business for years before this, and how this affects what I do and who I am. This is something I further had a chance to think about and talk about in an article I wrote offering advice to young people getting into the digital jobs world for The Apprentice Academy. So what are these unfair advantages I have?
1. How I Communicate With People I Know
We all have a rolodex (a contact list for our younger readers) of random folk we've met at conferences, via social media, in a pub or just randomly know through some bizarre quirk of fate. My contact list has numerous experts in various fields, from the obvious marketing industry to industrial machine designers and educational specialists. But having this list isn't enough, its what I do with the list that matters.
I don't just randomly email 50 of them using a mail client about everything I do, indeed I rarely ever discuss the clients I am working with with these people. Instead, I build a relationship with these good people. Take for example Paul Boag, a digital strategy leader. I've known Paul for a while via the Boagworld Podcast (another must listen) and we've built up a relationship which is built on helping each other. For example I write for his blog sometimes, this helps me to reach a new audience and he gets free content which I willingly promote. If I need advice on something I think Paul will know about, I ask him - and amazingly enough he replies. The friendship we've built means that we can both help each other in one way or another, and of course that we can have a good natter over a beer sometimes.
This kind of relationship is something I use with all of my clients too, its what I call a partnership of cooperation - it's mutually awesome.
2. Who I Am
Each year I watch Dragons Den (in the USA you have a similar thing called Shark Tank), I am astounded by some of the ideas but even more so by some of the people behind the "invention". To me a back story which shows determination, an ability to see the bigger picture, an ability to progress and growth yourself, and more... well now that is something worth investing in. It's also something which clients love and buy into, they want your experience to help them - but history is nothing if not boring, right?
Wrong, if you tell your story in the right way you instantly increase your chances of a sale or even just keeping someone's attention. Stories are an incredible marketing tool, people remember them and these become part of potential sales as they become lodged in the persons mind. You don't have to have an amazing story, you just need to want to tell your story and become a storyteller - the connection you build with your audience will be deeper than before. It's what I do, it's what Paul Boag does and it is of course what Pay Flynn does too.
Of course though, your stories should always be true, the world is a small place and if you lie you will get found out, and well good luck getting your story to stick after that!
3. How I Work
Look I don't work 9 to 5. I don't really think anyone should be who is really invested in what they do. When I worked for myself, like many freelancers, I worked all hours and it worked - month after month this blog grew, month after month my clients grew. Today at RedStar my work ethic is pretty much the same, I work all hours my job asks of me - I work evenings (sometimes into the early hours) and weekends, I answer emails as soon as I see them and honestly I need to say it is worth it. We are now looking to expand the RedStar Digital Marketing team and predictions I've made show huge growth going on from that point.
I hustle in the right way, I work hard and play hard. I work insane amounts to ensure the best results.
4. Research, Build, Measure and Respond
We all build things, every business builds and offers something. But not all businesses research, or measure and respond with their offerings. This can lead to many issues across the board and ultimately is why most businesses will fail at the end of the day.
I've read lots and lots of books about business, and start up's and how entrepreneurs become successful. Almost all of them have a different approach to business and their product, again just take a look at Dragons Den or Shark Tank - so many fail because they don't research (they don't know the market), they don't measure (they don't know where there money is or how people are responding) and they don't respond (they simply don't change what they are doing based on the research and measuring they've done). They Fail. It Sucks.
But, as I wrote about earlier this year, if you embrace failure and big data your business will succeed. I have a quote that I love, by the former CEO of Netscape...
Basically it means what it says. Data, any data, is better than no data at all. Google is as big as it is and as successful as it is because it tests EVERYTHING, literally everything. That send button in Gmail or the "search" button on the Google homepage, everything from size and colour to the hove response will have been tested thousands of times again and again to ensure that the user gets the best result. Should it be red or blue, should it have a larger padding, should it be nearer that other box? all of these and more factors will have been tested and will be in testing right now. Nothing is left to chance, data is everything.
This is how I work, it's what I do every day, the old adage "measure twice cut once" is as true offline as it is online. Constant testing and continual tweaking is how I ensure that all of my clients get the most from their websites and their audiences. Slowly Slowly Catchy Monkey.
5. Expertise & Specialisation
It's not just my skills and my experience that sets me apart from the crowd, there are many other Digital Marketers who can (in theory) do what I do. Indeed, anyone can do what I do if they wanted - just as they could your job or your friends jobs, nothing is impossible ... well maybe eating the Himalayas... But what sets me apart from others is that can specialise quickly in a segment of a market.
I write blogs based on my research and experience, If I have a client in a specific niche I talk about the niche in my blog, I talk to the client about it and offer advice pretty much for free. My specialisation in niches such as marketing of jewellery stores, or in the art industry means that I can offer more than my competition can. It's this specialist knowledge in niches that means other websites will talk about what you say and make you an authority in that niche market. The jewellery article I wrote, linked above, was used as a reference guide for this post on an industry specific blog. It's the same with many other blogs on this site and it's why I happily give away my content. I want to share my specialist knowledge with you and everyone else.
Why do I specialise and cut off markets, I hear you ask.
The answer is simple, I don't cut them off. I purposely become a specialist in a niche market segment to help a client, this in turn will help other clients too, but more than this it means that I can talk about it and show that I am a digital marketing expert with authority - this means that many businesses (inside and outside of those niche markets) will come to me and the place I work for help, guidance, advice and digital marketing services. I give away my secret sauce, knowing that everyday it helps people - this makes me happy.
6. Giving My Knowledge Away - BONUS
Yes I can count, but we all like something extra for free.
The final reason that I have an advantage over you is that I am not afraid to talk about what I know and how it can help people. Many businesses in digital marketing and seo run away from writing blogs which will help other businesses who could be their clients, or indeed a competitor. Indeed I often get a few snarky comments about "trade secrets" from marketers who ought to know by now everything is available on the internet anyway!
But I don't just give it away because it bring me business, that is a tangential reason but actually I give away my content and release its as creative commons (see footer for info) because it makes me happy to know that I am helping others. I like knowing that I've made a positive difference to a business even if its just in a small way. Honestly, the feedback I get encourages me so much because its always positive in nature and it's great to know that my work is appreciated.
That fact means that I will work harder to make more of a difference, it means that the 5 reasons I have an unfair advantage will grow and grow. It's unfair but hey, get your own unfair advantage!
Don't Have These Advantages?
Ultimately the advantages I have I've built up over time, they are who I am, how I act and how I work. I like being around those who share these or complementary attributes. If you don't have all of the above it's not a problem, as long as your set of advantages works for you - if you are struggling to get from A to B in work and personal life it maybe worth investing some effort in trying to attain an advantage such as the above. The easiest is how you communicate with people, formality sucks in networking!