This is something special. I’ve been connected with Lauren Greutman of Lauren Greutman (she used to be “I Am That Lady”) for some years now but actually only met her a couple of times in person. She’s a lovely person and very talented and definitely knows how to make her money work for her.
She co-hosted a local Syracuse TV show for a couple of years called Bridge Street, and still does financial segments for them but she’s literally everywhere. From hanging out with Rachel Ray to Koda and Kathie Lee, she’s literally become the frugal living authority on a national level with her mantra “Take back control of your money, and create a simpler, happier life!” She has two books out, one called The Recovering Spender and the other titled How to Coupon Effectively. Neither of those are affiliate links, so check them out at your leisure. Continue reading Lauren Greutman Interview – Coupons & Budgeting→
I’ve known Scott Gardner since 2003 when we were both on a committee for the Syracuse Chamber. Back then he gave me a brief lesson on how real branding works; of course I didn’t use any of what he told me. He graduated with a BS in Marketing from the State University of New York at Oswego, has an associates degree in advertising art, and he’s been the sole proprietor of Agilé Marketing Services since 2003. I hope you enjoy his responses to my questions about marketing and branding.
1. What’s the difference between marketing you learned in college and marketing in the real world?
I had a different college experience. As I was taking classes in cinematography (making feature films), I needed a job, so I took one with an international cutting and precision tool company. I got a promotion in a few months, and the next thing I knew I was flying across the country to work a trade show. Continue reading Interview – Scott Gardner, Agilé Marketing Services→
I’ve known Brian for quite a few years now, and these days I’m part of the weekly Google Hangout series and the weekly newsletters we put out along with Sheryl Loch; we’ll have an interview with her one day as soon as she gets around to it. He’s been in the blogging and online game for a much longer time than almost anyone I know, and is probably one of the most genuine guys I know online. If you ever see the blooper video Scott Craighead created you’ll know what I mean. Enjoy this interview and learn from it as well:
1. What was the inspiration for Hot Blog Tips?
It was a cool domain name. Seriously, that was the original inspiration. I was collecting domains for some reason and I found HotBlogTips.com was available for registration. I registered it and started a quick blog with the intention to flip it. I sold the blog yet I found it in my lap again a little over a year later. It wasn’t long before Hot Blog Tips became my primary focus and I haven’t looked back since. More on that in question #3 so don’t stop reading.
2. You’ve owned a lot of domains and had content on lots of them. Was there a strategy behind that and is it something you’d ever recommend to anyone else?
Yes and no. The strategy was based in several layers. First, I believed, and still do, that we need several streams of online income. Second, I was playing the AdSense blog game. While I still recommend multiple forms of income, AdSense blogging, at least the way I was going about it, is dead. There is still a lot of money in niche blogging for those willing to learn how to do it right.
Back to the question, was there a strategy behind that; back when I had safe lists, forums and traffic sites, some might call it throwing mud on the walls to see what sticks; others might say it was more like twisting in the wind without focus or direction. With that said, I managed to profit from every one of those. In fact, my partner from eleven years ago still makes a very nice income from those same types of sites today.
3. You mentioned in one of our Hangouts On Air that you gave up blogging at one point but felt compelled to come back to it. Tell us about that.
Sure, when I had several blogs running and began seeing a little income from internet marketing, AdSense blogs and one of my membership sites, I decided to follow the money rather than my passion. I sold a couple of my blogs and focused on generating income. After a year of “work” I found myself spending a lot of time on other blogs wishing I still had my own. I had Hot Blog Tips parked for while by the time Google took a huge bite from my income and I decided to take that as a sign and brought the blog back to life.
4. Why do you think some people get into blogging and only last a month or two while others, like us, can last for years?
I heard a wise man once say because blogging is hard. lol It really is true though, blogging has to get into our blood to make it worth our time and energy. Without the passion, the blog dies a slow death.
The other reason, I think, is that people come into blogging and other forms of online business with unrealistic expectations. They think because it’s online, or they’re doing it from home, that everything will be easy and they won’t have to put in a lot of work. Once they get a taste of late nights trying to drive traffic, creating content, learning SEO and all of the other things required, they go back to barbeques and nightclubs or wherever they spent their time before the notion of online income occurred to them. Just a theory. lol
5. You are one of the most visible people online yet you have a full time job as well. How do you find the time to do it all and does it mean you don’t have any other hobbies?
It’s funny; I just spent the last month on a 30 day challenge just to get enough sleep for a change. 😉 And just this week, I’ve listened to three separate podcasts by Pat Flynn on productivity hoping to get more out of the time I have. So, truthfully, time is something I’m struggling with myself so I’m probably not the best person to ask.
With that said, I do manage to keep the ball rolling and that’s with 12 hour days, five days a week driving a truck locally. I spend most of the time that’s left at home on the computer when I’m not with family. It’s all about making the time to do what we enjoy and I enjoy blogging. I’ve never been one to go to the bars, watch sports with the boys or sit at a friend’s house for hours on end so my “personal” life doesn’t really get in the way of blogging. Outside of family, blogging and social media is my personal life. How sad is that? Lol I have no other hobbies to speak of but I do find time to ride my bike when weather permits and read a little each day.
6. Since I mentioned our weekly Google Hangouts On Air, what made you think about the idea and how surprised were you that Sheryl and I decided to come along for the ride?
I’m not sure where the idea came from, really. I think I mentioned it to Sheryl, or maybe it was even her idea; I have no idea. lol Surprised? Not really but I’m very surprised how well we work together and how long it’s lasted. It’s taking a while to build that momentum but I think it’s been a fun ride at the same time.
I also think some of the benefits that slowly grow from that type of partnership would be tough for many people to see so I have to give you and Sheryl a lot of credit. I have no doubt that the videos have helped grow our overall online influence. That influence can go a long way, depending if and how we use it. I have an image I created a while back and haven’t used yet but it reads, “Authority + Trust = Influence”. The videos allow people to see what’s behind the blogger and see they can trust us and that we know what we’re talking about [cough] most of the time. With three of us working at the same goal, the word is spread much more quickly than if we go it alone. I know I got a little off topic there but that’s just what I do. 😉
7. You’ve often said you just want to be helpful to people. This is a strange way to ask this question but with all the spam we both get and the few comments our videos get, do you think people appreciate either the videos or the blog posts from most of us?
You know, I really do. We do get comments from others that say a post or video has helped but, for the most part, I think people tend to take the information and run. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t helpful or unappreciated. I’ve been guilty of that myself in the past. Now that I’ve been doing this for so long, I try to comment and let the author/speaker know it helped but I can remember a time when that would have never occurred to me. Even a how-to video on replacing a toilet wax ring or getting my car’s brakes back together, I wouldn’t have left a comment in the past. We search YouTube, find the answer and put it to use. Very few are going to think to hit the like button, much less leave a comment.
8. What is your process for writing blog posts and do you think it’s something that could work for other people?
My process… I need one of those. lol My mind works pretty crazy sometimes. It usually starts with an idea when I have no way to act on it, like driving a tractor trailer down the interstate. That’s generally a bad time to start drafting a blog post. I’ll wait until I get home and start a post draft, often with nothing but the title. That’s my way of not forgetting the post “idea” I had. Later on, I’ll go in and break my thoughts into chunks, add subtitles, find an image and start working on things like keyword research, speling <- (see that) and fact checking or research. I might publish it right away, I might save it until we record a hangout on the topic or it might sit forever if I’m not satisfied with it.
9. Time to bring this question up; do you think, if you decided to dedicate your life to it full time, that you could make a sustainable living at blogging, or being online in general?
Absolutely. If time wasn’t an issue and I could spend my days learning, networking and blogging, I’d make more money than trucking ever will. I still expect that that to happen, just at a slower pace.
So why don’t I do it already, right? That’s a question I ask myself often. I can say it’s a $150,000 mortgage, supporting five people, all of the years I’ve invested with the company I work for, and on and on. What it all boils down to is I’m just chicken. I know I could do it but I also know I’d probably risk losing everything I have by the time I could generate enough to replace my income. At this stage in my life (I’m very old), I’ll just take my time and keep what I have on the way. Like I said, chicken.
10. Let’s see how good your marketing skills are. Tell people why they should be watching our Hangouts On Air every Sunday and why they should be reading your blog.
I’ll do one better than that, I’ll let one of our readers tell you.
Seriously, between the three of us, we have over twenty years of blogging under our belts and none of us are too shy or selfish to offer our advice. We might not be the prettiest people on YouTube but we are entertaining and very informative. There’s truly not that many groups like ours that can say that.
And, of course, there’s our secret weapon – Sheryl Loch. You’ve said this before, Sheryl teaches some of the most useful things when it comes to video than anyone else we know. I’m just blown away at how up to date and knowledgeable she is when it comes to YouTube and Google Plus.
I’ll conclude with this… I’ve known both you and Sheryl for a long time and I can’t think of anyone else I trust and respect more. I also know my intentions are sincere so, the best reason for anyone to watch is we are trustworthy. We go out of our way to help others, at our expense, because we care. No one has to read in between the lines trying to see our ulterior motive because there isn’t one.
Last year I did a series on black individuals and businesses online called Black Web Friday. In the second post of the series I highlighted a site called Izania, which is a black business networking website created by Roger Madison, whom I originally met on Ryze. Last week was the 45th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and I had hoped to have this post ready by that date but it didn’t work out. So, one week later, I’m proud to share this interview with Roger that I hope you read because I think it’s important; at least it is to me.
1. Tell us a little bit about your site.
iZania.com was envisioned to be an online community to connect Black entrepreneurs, professionals, and consumers and help us to act in our self-interests and descendants of Africa.
2. What was your motivation for creating this site, where did the name come from, and how has it changed over time?
The motivation was inspired by the three years we spent living in South Africa from 1995 to 1998 – immediately following the transition to a democratic government. Nelson Mandela was a great inspiration in his expression of the “Spirit of Ubuntu.” Based in the South African philosophy of Ubuntu, (“I am what I am because of who we all are“) and the idea of consensus building, the concept perceives society as a community to which all individuals belong and is built on close relationships and group interactions. The community is held together by a feeling of mutual security and harmony. In this way, we hold to the traditional African values.
The word “iZania” is derived from a combination of Internet and Azania, which means the people of Africa. So, iZania means connecting the people of Africa via the Internet.
3. Do you get the same type and volume of activity that you did when you first started?
Our online activity has changed with the evolution of access to the Internet. We now derive our traffic from a number of sources – Our weekly newsletter, social networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn), and our online group marketing initiative at iZania Market (www.izaniamarket.com). Initially, all of our traffic was based on visits to our main site. We have grown to more than 9,000 subscribers.
4. Last year I did a series called Black Web Friday because I was of the opinion that black Americans are not only under-represented online but that most people, including each other, don’t know about them. What’s your thought on my perception?
Black people are definitely laggards in adopting online engagement. This has a lot to do with income and access. The rapid expansion of smart devices has changed that a lot. Some studies indicate that Blacks are more active users of smart devices as their primary access to the Internet. By definition, this defines the type of activity – texting, FB updates, YouTube videos, Pinterest, Instagram. These types of activities are reactive, shallow, impulsive. Black businesses don’t use many of the online business tools to leverage their success – marketing analytics, financial management, customer retention and acquisition, supplier management. Additionally, they need to use the same channels to reach consumers that the consumers are using. This will help them to become better known.
5. Do you think your site prospers or is held back somewhat by the niche you’ve created?
We have chosen to focus specifically on helping Black-owned businesses succeed – first by connecting them to Black consumers, and leveraging their success to compete in the mainstream marketplace. However, by defining our niche – not a supporter of minority business, but Black-owned businesses – we realize that we are self-limiting. In spite of this, we are committed to helping our people because we need more help. We believe we can succeed by helping other Black-owned businesses succeed. We have had only modest success in ten years as an online community.
6. Do you see a lot of engagement on your site? Do a lot of people find ways to end up working with each other?
We really don’t see much engagement at our site. However, the most active and fruitful engagement that we have participated in with members of our community happens away from the site. The online connection serves primarily as a means of introduction. The hard work of producing results comes in activity out of the public view.
7. I’ve never had the opportunity to go, but have you ever been to the Blogging While Brown conference? If so, what did you think, and do you believe conferences like this are important?
I have never attended this conference. Any conference can be important if it provides value for those who attend. Whenever people of like-minded interests can provide value for one another, it is a good thing.
8. What more do you think has to be done to highlight black Americans online so that, when people and organizations like CNN are putting together lists of top bloggers, more black people are included on them?
Major news outlets and cable stations serve the larger mainstream market, and occasionally capture stories of special interest from various interest groups. Bloggers who can cross all boundaries in generating content of interest to a wider audience will be more successful. Black bloggers must earn their way up to the top of those lists by focusing on what their audience is focusing on.
9. I wrote one of the first articles on iZania many years ago; how many articles do you think your site now has, as well as how many blogs do you think people have and actually write on your site?
There have been thousands of articles over our ten year history. Our challenge is quality. We chose not to monitor and filter except for gross violations of the interests of our members. We now have a problem where some “bloggers” simply post content they have copied from somewhere else. We don’t get as much original content and valuable input from serious thinkers. We are beginning to do some selective filtering and deleting content that is clearly not authored by the poster.
10. Take some time to tell us what you see coming for Izania.
We are planning a major revision of our website to include converting all of our content to a “responsive web page” so that our content is more easily viewed on mobile devices. We will also do a major revision of our content – eliminating content that is no longer relevant. We have conducted regular surveys of our members to gain insights into what is most important. We want to become a more effective virtual facilitator for transforming the efforts of Black people – economically, socially, educationally, politically – to affect positive outcomes in our communities.