Tag Archive | "Finding"

Bing Open Sources Their Vector Search Algorithm To Make Finding Results Fast

Bing announced they have made their Space Partition Tree And Graph (SPTAG) vector search algorithm open source to help others who want to make it possible to search through billions of pieces of information in milliseconds.


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Finding Flow, The Definition Of A Meaningful Life And How To Discover Your True Purpose

Note From Yaro: This article is from my Change Manifesto series. Entrepreneurs-Journey.com and ChangeManifesto.com are being merged into my one main website, Yaro.blog, the umbrella brand for all my work going forward.  For over a decade I’ve made my living — and a very good one — writing. I’m still surprised to say this. I never […]

The post Finding Flow, The Definition Of A Meaningful Life And How To Discover Your True Purpose appeared first on Yaro.Blog.

Entrepreneurs-Journey.com by Yaro Starak

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eBay’s New AR Feature Makes Finding the Right Shipping Box a Lot Easier

eBay has now made it easier for sellers to ship their items by using augmented reality to pick the right USPS box, the company announced in a Monday press release.

Using Google’s ARCore platform on Android, eBay leverages motion tracking and environmental recognition to help sellers superimpose virtual shipping boxes of various sizes over a physical product.

Aside from accurate sizing, the new AR feature will help sellers quickly compute for actual shipping costs, as well as save time from having to test boxes at the post office.

The new feature can be found in the “Selling” part of your eBay account. To try it, tap on “Will it Fit?” option on your smartphone. You’ll then have to place your item on a flat, non-reflective surface, say a wooden tabletop, for the AR to work.

Next, tap on your item to place the virtual box over it, then aim the smartphone camera around it to map the surrounding area. You can move around the box and look from all angles to see if the product sticks out while adding room for padding. Once you’ve picked the box, you’re now ready to ship out the item.  

Sellers on eBay ship billions of items annually, so any innovation that simplifies the shipping process will likely be well-received.

“By coupling Google’s ARCore platform with premiere AR technology built at eBay, we are continuing to make the selling experience more seamless,” James Meeks, eBay mobile head, pointed out. “This technology is just one example of the types of innovation we’re working on to transform eBay. It demonstrates our continual innovation on behalf our sellers to help them save time and remove barriers.”

However, the AR feature of the updated eBay app is currently only available on a few Android ARCore-compatible devices in the US. There are plans to eventually extend the feature to iOS devices, but no timetable has been set yet.

[Featured image via eBay]

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Practical Tools for Finding Courage and Revealing Your True Voice

"My life has taught me to be more curious than afraid." – Ishi, the last of the Yahi people

In 1911, a man known as “Ishi” (the name just means man in his language), believed to be the last of the Yahi people, emerged from the wilderness after 44 years.

He was taken from Oroville, California to San Francisco by an anthropologist, to work with a group that wanted to learn more about Ishi’s language and culture.

When the train came into the station to take him to San Francisco, Ishi went to stand quietly behind a pillar. Puzzled, the researchers beckoned to him, and Ishi joined them and got on the train.

They asked him about it later, and he said his people had seen the smoky, noisy train snaking through the valley for many years, with faces visible through the windows. The Yahi had always believed it was a demon that ate people.

The researchers asked, if that is what he believed, how could he have possibly gathered the courage to get on board?

Ishi’s response was:

“Well, my life has taught me to be more curious than afraid.”

I first read that story in Pema Chödrön’s book Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living. Ishi’s story is sad and complex, but he struck the people who knew him at the end of his life as being markedly calm, measured, and kind.

His words have never left me — they strike me as being a true motto for a life worth living.

Fast-forward a few decades. Last summer, I was doing an “ask me anything” session in Chicago with Andy Crestodina, and someone asked me:

“Where do you get your courage?”

I genuinely thought it was a funny question. I told her that I don’t think of myself as particularly courageous at all. In fact, I’d say I’m scared most of the time.

But if Ishi, who had survived so much that he outlived all of his people, could be more curious than afraid, I’ve never thought I had much of an excuse for holding back just because something scared me.

Pursue the beautiful and rocky path

When you’re finding the courage to share your authentic voice, I can almost promise you’ll have days when you ask yourself:

What on earth was I thinking?

There will be trolls, creeps, delusional people, and the occasional idiot.

People will question your motives, your competence, your scruples, your beliefs, your body fat composition, and what you’re wearing.

I’m not going to tell you that it doesn’t matter, because that probably won’t help. If you could shrug these things off so easily, you probably wouldn’t have clicked through to read this article.

But I will tell you that courage is a habit, and you can get better at it.

Allow me, a lifelong coward, to share some of the techniques I’ve learned for being more curious than afraid.

Discover the biology of courage

I’ll start with a resource I discovered not too long ago. If you haven’t picked up Kelly McGonigal’s book The Upside of Stress yet, I found it fantastically useful.

It pulls together a lot of research to support a single point: Despite what we believe, stress is not always harmful.

How we think about our stress affects how our bodies react to it. For example, when people perceive stress as a sign that they’re doing something that matters — something hard but rewarding — their stress-related health risks drop dramatically.

“How you think and how you act can transform your experience of stress. When you choose to view your stress response as helpful, you create the biology of courage. And when you choose to connect with others under stress, you can create resilience.”

– Kelly McGonigal, “How to Make Stress Your Friend” (TED talk transcript)

But “embrace your stress” only goes so far. You’ll also want to take some practical measures to neutralize it.

Protect your privacy

One concrete thing you can do is reduce the number of things you need to worry about.

If you’re going to claim a public voice, it just makes sense to be smart about keeping yourself secure. There are sensible actions everyone can take to keep our sanity and protect our privacy.

Before you explore the technical solutions, start by making a commitment to be intentional about how much personal information you share.

Decide how many details you want to share about your family. You can draw this line wherever you feel is best for you — there are plenty of folks with successful online businesses who share pictures of their kids. Just be conscious about it, and be consistent.

Protect your website. Use hosting, themes, and plugins that have a good security reputation. Subscribe to a monitoring service like Sucuri to make sure bad guys aren’t doing anything weird to your site.

Protect your online privacy. It’s always smart to use free, legal privacy protections.

For most of us, trolls aren’t much more than an annoyance. But if you were lying awake at night worrying about burglars, it would make sense to get up and lock the door. These are straightforward measures that can help prevent problems.

When you do encounter trolls, block and report them promptly. Don’t engage with them, and don’t try to convince them to be good people.

At first, you’ll be sorely tempted. You’ll think that if you just calmly explain to them that you are not, in fact, possessed by Satan, surely they’ll see reason.

I can tell you from annoying experience, it doesn’t work. Worse, it’s an invitation to the troll to live rent-free inside your head. Block them so they can’t keep spewing their nonsense at you, report them if it’s an option, and move on to more important things.

If you’d like more thoughts on how to deal with trolls, you might benefit from this podcast episode, in which I compare trolls to flaming bags of poop.

But courage is about more than protecting ourselves against creeps.

Focus on service

You’ve heard it before, but it bears repeating: When you know why you’re doing what you do, you’ll have more courage, more power, and more resilience.

Making a living is a perfectly good place to start. It’s where I started, and it’s still important. I have bills to pay, like anyone else does.

But a life spent just paying the bills becomes a grind.

Business, and especially online-based business, is built on helping people.

When you know who you help, and why it matters, it will give you an energy and resilience that’s hard to describe.

The first time you get a heartfelt message from someone telling you that you meaningfully changed their life, you’ll realize:

This is why I do this.

And, unlike so many things in life, it never gets stale.

Find your people

Are you going to have tough days? Maybe even serious crises of faith?

Sure you will.

Most of those outwardly ultra-confident people you see have moments, or days — or whole years — when they feel afraid and small. Being fearless is not normal, and it’s not beneficial.

The handful of genuinely fearless people are usually fearless because they lack empathy. Their ability to help others is seriously compromised, because trying to help without understanding tends to do more harm than good.

Nothing is better for getting through the rough days than having a crew who understands you.

It might be an official mastermind group, a community of business owners, or just a few friends who get it. Assemble a Council of Allies who are in the same game you are. Lean on one another when the days get tough.

Another thing I learned from McGonigal’s book is that oxytocin, the “cuddle hormone,” is also a stress hormone.

When we’re afraid, we can choose to “Tend and Befriend” — seeking the comfort and company of people we care about — over the more common “Fight or Flight” response.

Not only is Tend and Befriend more comforting, it’s also actually healthier. Here’s another quote from McGonigal’s TED talk:

“… oxytocin doesn’t only act on your brain. It also acts on your body, and one of its main roles in your body is to protect your cardiovascular system from the effects of stress. It’s a natural anti-inflammatory. It also helps your blood vessels stay relaxed during stress. But my favorite effect on the body is actually on the heart. Your heart has receptors for this hormone, and oxytocin helps heart cells regenerate and heal from any stress-induced damage. This stress hormone strengthens your heart.”

Reaching out to your community will not only help you feel better and manage your stress, it actually creates a physiological response that benefits your heart health and keeps your stress on the “healthy” side of the equation.

Live a life worth living

Why put ourselves through it?

Why stand up and speak with a true voice, about something that matters, even when we know that we may have some rocky days because of it?

Because, whether your life is long or short, it’s a good idea to spend it on worthwhile things.

Spend your life creating meaning. Spend it helping other people. Create a satisfying life, not just an easy one.

Take reasonable measures to protect yourself. Remember the rewards of service. And get your crew together to Tend and Befriend on the rocky days. Finally, realize that stress is a sign that you’re doing something you truly care about.

Be more curious than afraid.

How about you? What’s your best tip for finding your courage? Let us know in the comments!

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4 Creative Models for Finding the Right Niche for Your Online Business

how to find and focus on the best niche

If you want your marketing to work, you have to focus.

You have to understand who your message is for, then speak to that person.

And you have to craft your offers to serve that person. Present options that appeal to her, that are in line with what she’s willing to spend, and that will benefit her in ways she cares about.

In other words … you need to specialize. You don’t have the budget to blanket the earth in ads that appeal to everyone, and neither do I.

One of the first things people do when thinking about building a business online is rush to identify their “niche.” And that isn’t wrong … but it’s more complicated than it might seem at first.

The word niche doesn’t just mean a focused topic. In biology, niche refers to how each type of organism interacts with all the other organisms in its ecosystem.

It’s how a plant or animal fits into the larger context.

Your topic is part of your niche, of course. But so is your audience. And your positioning. Not to mention your potential partners. And the folks who share your content. And the content platforms you publish on.

A conversation in the comments here on Copyblogger got me thinking about some of the different ways that business owners inhabit their niches.

Early niche sites

Back in the day, creating a “niche website” meant building a compact site around an under-served keyword phrase, pulling out all the SEO stops to get it to rank, then loading it up with affiliate offers.

That was tidy, and some did very well with it, but it doesn’t work today.

Rae Hoffman nailed it years ago, in a post that’s still highly relevant on how to survive the affiliate evolution.

Her post talked about moving toward richer and better content, a better user experience, communicating quality (to both visitors and potential partners), and establishing a credible point of difference.

The problem with the old way of thinking about nicheing is that it focuses on the search, not the searcher. The keyword phrase is the focus, rather than the human being at the keyboard who’s using that phrase to solve a problem.

So, I’d like to look at some more effective models. Let’s take a topic like learning art.

There’s an astonishing amount of free art education on the web, particularly YouTube. You can learn to sketch, paint, sculpt — whatever floats your boat.

It’s tough to make a living teaching art online. But there are many businesses that do exactly that. How? By defining their audiences clearly, focusing their messages and offers, and differentiating themselves. Finding that point of difference.

Keep in mind that art education is a nonzero market. In other words, people interested in learning more about art don’t just watch one video, read one ebook, or join one membership site. They tend to immerse themselves, especially early on in their journeys.

Now let’s take a look at four examples of sites that are doing it well.

1. The mega authority

One way to differentiate is simply to be bigger and more comprehensive than anyone else.

Simply, in this case, doesn’t mean easily.

The site ArtistsNetwork.tv brings dozens of well-known artists and art teachers under one virtual roof, partnering with big publishers of art books to give authors a venue to teach.

artists-network-tv

If you’re the kind of person who has “How to Paint” books on your bookshelf, it’s a good bet that some of those authors have courses on ArtistsNetwork.tv.

The model is: find ultra qualified authorities, publish excellent tutorial content that’s interesting and useful, then use the publishing platform to offer more advanced content at an additional fee.

Of course, there are also individual mega authorities. We all know the name Bob Ross, the “happy little trees” painter whose videos were so weirdly soothing to watch.

Ross actually modeled his painting and his patter on the “happy trees” of his mentor, Bill Alexander, who had a PBS show that I fondly remember watching as a child. Alexander’s family still runs art courses that you can pick up online and also offers supplies, books, and a free membership library.

Authorities can compete with the huge volume of “free” in this topic because they’re … authorities.

Art instruction has the advantage of providing exceptionally appealing content that audiences can see and say, “I want to know how to do that.” These teachers demonstrate superior mastery of their subjects. They’ve won awards and written books, but most importantly, they know how to teach what we want to do.

2. The professional authority

Over on Twitter a couple of weeks ago, Derek Balsley brought my attention to the site The Art of Education.

They’ve partnered with an accredited college to focus on professional development for a very well-defined group of artists — art teachers. The Art of Education offers courses for graduate or undergraduate credit, as well as satisfying ongoing education requirements for teachers.

the-art-of-education

The courses are priced to be highly competitive with courses offered at brick-and-mortar institutions. So even though art teachers aren’t known for their deep pockets, the product makes sense financially for its audience.

Like the other models, The Art of Education offers free authoritative content as well, producing shareable, relevant material that attracts the attention of the customers their business needs.

If you can create content at the right quality, professional development is always a smart play. It’s highly marketable, because it’s something professionals need in order to advance their careers — especially those who need ongoing education to keep their licenses.

For content marketers who make the commitment to the work, it can be a great model.

3. The identity authority

Another serious authority in art education is Bob Davies — a wry, soft-spoken watercolor teacher who built a following on YouTube, then sold his home-filmed DVD series in massive numbers.

Bob and his son Phil founded an art education website similar to ArtistsNetwork.tv — with one key difference that they don’t actually mention in their marketing.

Davies is British. Specifically, Davies is Northern, with a Welsh background. My top analyst for British accents figures him for northwest England, probably somewhere near Liverpool.

Davies’s accent, his delivery, his self-deprecation, and his sense of humor all quietly point back to a strong sense of identity … something Robert Cialdini would identify as Unity.

Bob and Phil run a site called ArtTutor.com. It’s not as big as ArtistsNetwork.tv, but it’s got a much more cohesive identity.

art-tutor

Not all of their students are British, but every teacher I could find on their site is. Most share the Northern background of the founders. Courses include topics like “English Watercolour Landscapes,” “Yorkshire Landscapes,” “Green Landscape,” and, just to break things up, “Isle of Man Line & Wash.”

(I’m teasing them a bit — but if you want to learn to paint or draw, it’s a very good site, with lots of project topics.)

And beyond a question of accents or subject matter for paintings, there’s a point of view that’s highly consistent on ArtTutor — among the founders, the teachers, and the member comments in their forums.

It comes back to that personality of Bob’s … understated, self-deprecating, a bit dry.

I don’t think it’s about geography. It’s about a particular set of outlooks, attitudes, and expressions that art lovers from Northern Britain tend to share.

ArtTutor’s marketing doesn’t say, “This is the art education site for Northern British painters and sketch artists.” They don’t have to. The identity gently infuses the content — both free and paid — in an appealing way.

Although it can be strategic to chase away the ones who aren’t part of your “tribe,” in this case it’s not necessary. The cohesion of group unity makes the site attractive to paying students from all over the world.

If they tried to become more international — if they tried to go head to head with a site like ArtistsNetwork.tv — I think they’d fail. Their site would lose its individual personality and flavor — and personality is crucial if you want to stand out and you aren’t the biggest on the block.

4. The category of one authority

The sites I’ve mentioned have all been big. Well-known teachers, lots of content, lots of money and time to set up.

But big isn’t the only way to go.

Artist Eni Oken has niched down her topic in multiple ways.

She’s a certified Zentangle teacher — a form of meditative drawing that is a tribe unto itself. But even within that specific niche, Eni narrows down her focus to specific subtopics, like shading drawings or specific compositional approaches.

eni-oken-zentangle

Eni runs a popular group on Facebook, where she invests a lot of time and energy. She’s also smart about SEO and ranks for some keyword terms for popular drawing techniques within the Zentangle format.

She funnels her audience attention into an email list to promote her library of ebooks and keeps her eye on the promotion prize with consistent calls to action.

There’s plenty of beautiful art to look at in her content, but you’re never in doubt that she has a business, either.

When you’re willing to make yourself a “star” of your business, differentiation becomes fairly simple.

Eni Oken differentiates by topic and subtopic (she’s the “shading Zentangle teacher”), but that’s just an introduction to the real differentiation — her distinctive artistic style, her teaching approach, and her personality. Those elements come together into “the brand of Eni.”

You don’t have to build your whole business around your personality — that doesn’t have to be your only differentiator. But for those who are willing, adding an element of individual personality — a founder’s newsletter, a blog, a podcast, a vlog — can make a winning difference.

How about you?

What kind of niche do you occupy in your ecosystem?

What’s your topic? How do you approach it? Who do you serve? And what makes you different from the other options?

Drop a comment and let us know!

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The Smart and Simple Framework for Finding the Right Pricing Model for Your Membership Site

don't guess! discover the pricing model that works

Building profitable membership sites is one thing we know a lot about at Rainmaker Digital, and one question we often receive is:

How do you create the right pricing for a membership site, especially one that is just launching?

Even sophisticated online entrepreneurs struggle with that question.

And while there are many ways to optimize your pricing plans once your site is launched, starting with the right foundation will make it easier to improve.

In this post, I will walk you through a basic framework you can use to determine the best pricing models for any type of membership site.

Rule #1

The most important rule you must remember is this:

You are in control of your pricing.

There is no national database of pricing that you have to follow. You are in control of everything when it comes to pricing — so don’t feel like you have to do what everyone else does.

Yes, the “market” does decide if your price is “right.” But you influence the perception of your price through the unique value you offer.

So toss out any preconceived notions of what you have to do and focus on what works for you.

Know your costs

I know what you are thinking right now:

“Damn it, Sean. I am a marketer, not an accountant.”

Don’t worry. You just need a “bare bones” understanding of basic math and a little logic to find your costs, so that your site will “live long and prosper.”

All membership sites share a common set of annual costs, including:

  • Credit card or PayPal fees
  • Hosting costs
  • Platform costs
  • Time spent on customer service
  • Time spent on contributing to the site

You should think of your costs as the money you spend to fulfill the customer’s purchase.

And these costs are different from expenses.

An expense is the money you spend to run your business.

Typical expenses include:

  • Sales and marketing: the money you spend on promoting your products and services, including affiliate commissions, advertising, or content marketing
  • Research and development: the money you spend on building your membership site, developing content for the site, or educating yourself on digital commerce
  • General administration: expenses like your internet connection, rent, or accountant

Expenses are not costs even though you spend money on them.

Why is this distinction important?

Unless you identify your costs, it makes it very hard to determine your profit. Profit is defined as your revenue less your costs and before you pay any expenses.

And as a general rule of thumb, a membership site should generate a profit margin between 90 percent – 75 percent.

Or put another way, for every $ 100 you collect in revenue, your costs should be $ 10 – $ 25, netting you a profit of $ 90 – $ 75 per sale.

An example of membership site costs

Let’s say that for a year, you estimate your costs as follows:

  • $ 12,000 on credit card fees
  • $ 1,500 for your Rainmaker Platform site (includes hosting)
  • $ 6,500 for a part-time assistant to handle customer service questions
  • $ 80,000 for you to manage and contribute to the membership site

Based on these items, your total costs are $ 100,000 per year, before you pay for any expenses. And if your costs are 10 percent – 25 percent of your total revenue, your target revenue is between $ 400,000 and $ 1,000,000 per year.

Your profit will be between $ 300,000 and $ 900,000 per year.

membership site profit example

That’s a lot of money, but don’t get too excited yet.

You will still need to pay for your affiliate commissions, advertising, and any other expenses you incur to operate your business — and that comes out of your profit.

Now that we have covered your costs, let’s get to work on pricing your different membership categories and offers.

Create an anchor offer

An anchor offer is the most expensive membership type you sell.

For example, your anchor offer could include telephone consulting, personalized daily emails, and/or exclusive access to webinars, conferences, or other high-touch events.

Basically, it is the offer you would give to someone that includes everything you would ever want to provide to a person willing to pay you a huge premium.

The good news is that very few people, if anyone, will buy it because it is so expensive!

So, why create it?

By creating a very high-priced offer, you anchor the expectations of website visitors for your lower-priced offerings. Your goal with your anchor offer is to create an emotional desire for it, knowing that most people can’t afford it.

Luxury brands use this tactic all the time.

Buying a luxury car? The most expensive ones are in the showroom. Want a deluxe coffee maker? They show you the $ 5,000 model first, before they show you the $ 500 one.

When you create your anchor offer, you set the expectation of quality in the mind of your customer, even though they will probably buy your lower-priced membership.

Next, create two lower-priced offers

Once you’ve defined and priced your anchor product, you can create two other offers or categories for your members.

Why just two? To avoid analysis paralysis.

The first offer you need to create is the lowest price for a membership to your site — ideally between 10 percent and 25 perfect of the price for your anchor offer.

This low-priced offer should meet the basic needs and wants of your customer, including some, but not all, of the features and attributes of the anchor offer.

The second membership category is the mid-tier offer that is priced between the low price and your expensive anchor offer. It should have more benefits and features than your low-priced offer and is generally priced between 30 percent and 49 percent of your anchor offer.

So, let’s say your anchor offer is priced at $ 97 per month, and you want your lowest-priced offer at 20 percent and your mid-tier offer at 40 percent.

Your lowest price will be $ 19 per month and your mid-tier price will be $ 39 per month.

Pretty easy, right?

But now comes the real question …

Can you afford your customers?

We started this article with a basic discussion about costs, but we did not determine if those costs are sufficient to run your membership site.

This is where a little math and a basic rule of thumb can help.

In general, the average revenue per member you will receive from a membership site will be between your lowest-priced offer and your mid-tier offer.

For example, if your lowest price is $ 19/month and your mid-tier price is $ 39/month, then your average revenue per member will be around $ 29/month.

Let’s look back on our costs. We identified $ 100,000 of costs per year and we want to target $ 400,000 per year in revenue. That means that every month we need to generate $ 33,333 in revenue ($ 400,000/12 months).

If the average revenue per customer is $ 29/month, then we just need to divide our target monthly revenue ($ 33,333) by the average monthly revenue per customer ($ 29) to find the number of customers you need:

$ 33,333 / $ 29 = 1,149 customers per month

Now you want to ask yourself:

Does your $ 100,000 in annual costs allow you to support 1,149 members per month?

If the answer is “yes,” then you are good to go.

If the answer is “no,” then you either need to increase your pricing or lower your costs.

Get all the details in this SlideShare presentation

Your head might be spinning right about now, but we want to make it easy for you.

Here’s a SlideShare deck that breaks down all of the information above:

Learn about profitable membership sites each week

We have a new podcast called Members Only that helps you not only develop the pricing model for your membership site but also gives you the tactics and techniques you need to grow a profitable online business.

Every week, Jessica Frick and I provide an entertaining format to discuss the challenges online entrepreneurs face with ideas that you can implement to improve your own site.

So, if you are serious about running and growing a profitable membership site, we hope that you will tune in.

And since the show is free, we know the price is right.

Subscribe Now to Listen

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The Art of Finding Ideas

for better or worse, a writer is working all the time

Every writer who has ever lived has lusted after ideas.

Where are they, how do I get them, and how do I keep them coming?

If you’ve been writing long enough, you know that — like Solomon — there is nothing new under the sun.

Try as you might to sweat them out of your head or pull them gently from the stars above, there are no new ideas.

So, relax.

But the page is not going to write itself, is it? Where then do we turn for ideas that work, ideas that move, ideas that persuade?

In short, we “steal” them.

The moment you free yourself from The Cult of Originality, you realize that original ideas do not come from within.

They are given to us, from without.

A writer should not look inside, but outside, at external sources, stories, events, and emotions.

If you’re offended that I’d suggest you “steal” ideas, please get over it. You’re already a thief — you just don’t know it.

Here are two of the most significant idea repositories on Earth …

1. The modern media is a torrent of ideas

In this information age, you have absolutely no reason to “draw a blank.”

Ever.

What used to take days and weeks to research and learn, can take us mere moments.

In fact, the only problem we have now is one of finding trusted curators. We need to develop self-discipline and discernment in seeking out correct information from reliable sources.

There is no drought of ideas.

Brian Clark once wrote:

“You have more computing power in your pocket than it took to send men to the moon. What are you doing with it?”

Indeed.

Are you wasting it or harnessing it? You don’t need to go to the moon; the crossroads will do just fine.

Research. Read. Compile.

Product manuals, literature, interviews, talk radio, podcasts, magazines, newspapers, television, Twitter, Google Trends, movies, Wikipedia, and on and on and on …

It’s all there, right in your pocket, waiting to be compiled and analysed. And it’s actually more than you’ll ever need.

So use it. Don’t let it use you.

2. People will give you exactly what you’re looking for

Ideas are walking around everywhere out there.

Eugene Schwartz once told a story about a copywriting job he was working on.

He met with the client and asked him to start talking about the product. They ended up sitting together for four hours — the client talking, and Schwartz simply listening and taking notes.

Later that night, while he was waiting for his wife to get ready for a night out in Manhattan, Schwartz sat down and wrote the ad.

The entire ad.

He said about 70 percent of the finished copy was composed of his client’s own words.

The headline itself was a phrase the client had hit on, word for word.

He waited two weeks, mailed the ad to the client, and they both made a lot of money.

You might think this was some kind of dirty trick on Schwartz’s part, but you’d be wrong.

Schwartz knew how to write a powerful direct response ad. The client didn’t.

Schwartz was smart enough to know that the client knew (in this case) his own product better than he ever could, and simply translated that knowledge and passion onto paper.

The ideas were sitting in the client’s head and Schwartz knew exactly what to do with them.

It goes further …

For better or worse, a writer is working all the time.

Phone calls with friends, the plumber, your spouse, your child, your boss, your client, your neighbor — they are all constantly giving you ideas.

They are all constantly telling you what they — and the entire world — truly want.

It’s all grist for the mill.

All you need to do is … listen.

Steal this post

Eugene Schwartz summed this up for me perfectly:

“You don’t have to have great ideas if you can hear great ideas.”

I stole this post from him, and he stole it from many others.

Listen more. Talk less.

Read less. Read better.

The Art of Finding Ideas is then … the act of going out and finding ideas.

Originality? That’ll come from using your own voice, and your voice develops from writing more. And more. And more.

Where have you been getting your ideas?

Editor’s note: This post was originally published on October 18, 2011.

Image source: Jamie Street via Unsplash.

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11 Insights on Finding a Writing Voice Readers Take Seriously [SlideShare]

11 famous authors help you find your writing voice

This is the trap we typically fall into online:

We survey the landscape, note what our contemporaries and competitors are doing, and do likewise. We might put a small spin on what we see, but we largely end up saying something mild and meaningless to avoid criticism. God forbid if we upset the applecart.

Poppycock. Online, you must upset the applecart. Particularly if your livelihood is on the line.

As my friend Joanna Wiebe said, the attention and sales go to the people who “say something of consequence.” That convinces people to take you seriously.

And I’m not talking about being sensational here. Don’t say something controversial for the sake of controversy.

Instead, dig deep during your research to uncover the hook — the one idea that takes a risk and stands out. The angle, words, or voice in your content marketing that make people take a second look. Even if it is shocking.

And speaking of voice, make sure you are comfortable in your own skin. Own up to your quirks and what makes you unique — indulge in those quirks.

Listen. The tension between blending in to avoid criticism and standing out as a writer is not new. It’s something we have struggled with for ages, and thoughtful writers have been encouraging other writers to be bold.

So, to remind you that you are not alone in this conflict and help inspire you on your journey to find your own unique writing voice, here are 11 insights from authors who ultimately took risks and said things of consequence.

Don’t forget to grab your free PDF featuring these 11 author insights as printable mini posters. And scroll through our SlideShare presentation at the end of this article.

1. Stop listening to the enemy in your head

Finding-Your-Voice-1

Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is doing something in the face of fear. We all doubt our abilities — no matter the amount of experience we have.

Every time I sit down to write an article (including when I wrote this article), I think to myself, “This is not going to work. How in the world am I going to pull this together?”

You would think after writing hundreds of articles I wouldn’t need to fight that self-doubt. But I do. And so will you. The key is to fight it. And win.

2. Celebrate your overactive mind

Finding-Your-Voice-2

Remarkable writers live in their minds. They get lost in their thoughts and miss the greeting given by an acquaintance passing on the street.

But don’t let anyone tell you that’s inappropriate. Your imagination is a gift.

And your job is to translate what you see or hear in your mind onto the page.

3. Take risks to grow as a writer

Finding-Your-Voice-3

Certainly the more you challenge yourself, the more you will fail. But at least you will be failing forward.

Learn from your mistakes, recognize your weaknesses, and enhance your strengths.

This process can only happen when you throw yourself into the unknown.

4. Allow yourself to be vulnerable

Finding-Your-Voice-4

How open you are about your struggles depends upon how comfortable you are talking about yourself. I’m honestly not very comfortable talking about my challenges.

I debated sharing that entry above about my insecurities six times before I decided it was okay to share, because it supported what I was saying.

Find your comfort level, and then share. You will draw people in, and they will warm up to you and your work.

5. Embrace your flair

Finding-Your-Voice-5

Need I say more?

6. Resist adding to the echo chamber

Finding-Your-Voice-6

When it comes to creating content, go beyond what everyone else is saying.

In fact, try to go 10 times beyond what other people are saying.

People send me links to articles they’ve written all the time. I look at every single one of them.

And I read the ones where the person has added an original thought to the conversation, rather than repeated what’s already been said.

7. Hit publish to correct your ignorances

Finding-Your-Voice-7

I love the Internet as a writer because I can hit publish and within 24 hours people will respond.

Often, I will share ideas that I know are premature — or I feel are not correct — so that a reader’s objective point of view can help me see what I’m missing.

However, you will only grow from this feedback if you are humble.

8. Write to explore yourself and the world around you

Finding-Your-Voice-8

One of the reasons I find new social situations awkward (and can come across as shy or stuck-up) is because I’m often reluctant to open my mouth and commit to a position until I’ve thought it through. The last thing I want is to sound dumb.

So I do most of my thinking on paper. This is how I process my own feelings and experiences in the world.

Don’t be ashamed if this is how you are as well. It’s yet another trait of remarkable writers.

9. Pay attention to those nagging ideas

Finding-Your-Voice-9

Great ideas have a tendency to keep coming back. This is one of the reasons I’m not quick to whip out a notebook every time I have an idea.

I trust the process. I trust (and my suspicions have been confirmed by experience) that truly great ideas will stick around and make themselves known.

So if you have an idea that will not go away, it’s probably time to commit it to paper.

10. Don’t let perfectionism ruin your life

Finding-Your-Voice-10

There will never be an ideal place to write. An ideal time. An ideal topic to write about.

Nor will you be able to match what you see in your head to what you put on the page. It will be messy. But hard work will make it beautiful.

You just have to know when to abandon it.

11. Regret nothing

Finding-Your-Voice-11

This quote from Mitch Albom is the culmination of everything I’ve been saying up to this point.

When we refuse to say things of consequence, we ultimately hide in the shadows, filled with shame and regret — full of should’ve, could’ve, and would’ve.

That’s a bad place to be.

Vow to be a writer who people take seriously

copyblogger-writing-voice-insights

Click to download our free 11 Insights on Finding a Writing Voice Readers Take Seriously PDF (5.5 MB). Print your favorite words of wisdom and keep them handy while you work.

Being a person of consequence starts by saying things of consequence. Yes, you’ll be taking a risk, but you also take a risk when you blend in — you risk obscurity and financial failure.

The last thing we need are more rank-and-file writers.

So, do me a favor: Vow to be a writer who people take seriously. A writer who says things of consequence. Who, in spite of fear and risk, wants to push the conversation to uncomfortable, but unique, original, and evocative levels.

Vow to be a writer people can’t ignore. You’ll be in good company.

Now check out these 11 author insights in our SlideShare presentation below!

About the author

Demian Farnworth

Demian Farnworth is Chief Content Writer for Rainmaker Digital. Subscribe to his podcast Rough Draft

The post 11 Insights on Finding a Writing Voice Readers Take Seriously [SlideShare] appeared first on Copyblogger.


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Content Marketing: Finding the Goldilocks zone in your blogging

As a writer and editor, I often think about where the Goldilocks zone exists on a blog. Finding the ideal zone where the conditions of voice and benefit exist in just the right amounts so an audience can flourish is not easy. Read on to learn more about two key elements to consider when searching for the Goldilocks zone on your company blog.
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Five Steps to Finding (the Right) Guest-Blogging Opportunities

Posted by MackenzieFogelson

Guest blogging isn’t just a link building tactic (that has been spammed and abused). It’s an excellent way to build your credibility, your community, and your customer base.

But you have to be strategic about it and put some quality effort into it.

When you guest blog, you’ve been provided the opportunity to leverage someone else’s audience, someone else’s brand, and someone else’s established forum.

That means, if you’re doing it right, guest blogging should be some of your best work. Think of it as a speaking engagement. You wouldn’t get up in front of a group of people unprepared. You would take the time to carefully craft your message in order to make the biggest impact on your audience.

And when you’re putting in all of that hard work, you don’t just want to guest blog anywhere. You want to strategically put your effort into blogs that are a match for your values, philosophies, and company. Because ultimately, you’re using guest blogging as a tactic to attract customers to your business.

Finding a guest-blogging match


So let’s say you want to use guest blogging as a tactic for your business development and community building efforts. How would you find those opportunities?

How about these five simple steps:

[1] Determine goals and key performance indicators (KPIs)

Success in anything, but especially in guest blogging, starts with identifying goals. What are you trying to accomplish? What are you expecting to gain from it? And, also very significant: How will you measure success?

Let’s say I’m looking for blogging opportunities. There are three things that I would like to accomplish:

  1. Become part of new communities and build relationships with people outside of SEO. (Not that there’s anything wrong with SEOs. It’s just an example, folks. Carry on).

  2. Attract business that is a match for Mack Web’s culture and values.

  3. Find new information sources (blogs) where I can learn, teach the team, and better serve our clients.



I would measure success in connections made, qualified leads generated, and new quality blogs to read.

[2] Define your audience by developing personas


In order to determine the right guest-blogging opportunities, you’ve got to identify your target audience. One way to do that is to develop personas. This will help you define the specific people you want to attract to your community and your company through your guest-blogging efforts.

For example, if I’m looking to attract people who are curious about social media marketing, possibly community building, and how that can help them build their business, one of my personas may look like this:

Name: Joanna

Title: CMO

Company: A small SaaS startup

Desires: Rapid growth, increased revenue generation

Goals: Drive ROI through social and community building



Having an understanding of who you’re targeting will assist you in filtering guest-blogging prospects later.

[3] Find some targets in your niche 


Now that you’ve figured out who in general you want to target, you’ll want to actually find the specific people that you want to reach out to for guest-blogging opportunities. You can start by looking for influential people and then determining whether they have blogs to which you could contribute.

Using myself as an example, I would go to Followerwonk and do some searching. I’m going to start with the phrase “social media marketing” and then sort the results by Social Authority.

After sifting through just the first page of results, I recognize Jeff Bullas as a possible guest blogging target. He’s not the CMO I’m looking to attract, but I’d be willing to bet there are CMOs that read his blog. So let’s work with him as a possible target in the social media marketing niche.

[4] Qualify the source


Once you’ve found some possible targets in your niche, you’ll want to do a little legwork to make sure they’re the right fit. You may want to keep track of this stuff in a spreadsheet so that you can organize and filter your results later.

There may be bunch of things that you investigate with these opportunities, but if you’re trying to do this quickly, try some of these:

1. Check for a blog

Clearly you cannot guest blog for someone who does not in fact have a blog, so that’s step number one.

On Jeff Bullas’s blog, I can conduct a simple search for [guest post]:

By clicking on these results, it’s clear that he allows guest submissions (and, in fact, that he allows them quite frequently). So if this ends up being a good fit for me, I may have a greater chance of getting a spot.

2. Check for domain authority and link profile


You’ll want to make sure that you’re putting all of the hard work of your quality content on a blog that has strong credibility.

You can type the URL of the blog into Open Site Explorer to check their domain authority and link profile. You will certainly be earning a link from this blog, so even if it is nofollow, you want to ensure that you’re being associated with a quality site. Not that a low DA is always an indication of a poor blog; some are just new and haven’t yet built their authority. You just want to make sure you’re building trust and not hurting your reputation, your brand, or your own link profile. In addition to DA, then, you’ll want to check their profile:

At a quick glance, Jeff Bullas’s link profile looks pretty swell; he’s earned links from some reputable places. I would say he passes the domain authority and link profile check.

Just make sure when you’re qualifying blogs that are not as established or well known that you’re picky about this stuff so that you don’t pay for it later. You want to be associated with high quality, so that’s what you’re looking for.



3. Check for engagement

You also want to make sure you’ve qualified this guest-blogging opportunity on the social side. What kind of engagement does the blog get? What does its community look like? What is its reach?

Looking at both Jeff Bullas’s posts, and especially at his guest authors’ posts, you can see that there’s quite a bit of engagement. Not only do they get shared, but they even elicit comments:


Another way to look for engagement is to search for the URL of the guest blog post in Twitter. This will allow you to investigate the people who have actually tweeted this guest blogger’s post:

Chances are many of the same people who read and tweet these posts are the same ones that may read or share mine (if I were given the opportunity, of course). Based on who is tweeting these posts, I can determine whether that audience is a match for the persona I’ve defined.

[5] Check yes or no

Once you’ve worked through each of the steps above, you’re probably ready to make a decision about the guest-blogging opportunity that’s in front of you. But before you check “yes” or “no” (and ask for the opportunity), I’d highly recommend asking yourself one final question:

Is this guest blogging opportunity a culture and value fit for your business?

Ultimately, if your guest blogging is a success, you will attract customers from this blog to your website and blog. So, most importantly, you’ve got to make sure the people who are part of this community are in alignment with your brand.

Go read the entries on the blog. Is the content of good quality? Do the posts resonate with your philosophies? Are the other contributors to this blog reputable? Would you hang out with them? If you were to guest on this blog, would it speak well of your brand?

 Are you going to want any of their readers as your customers? Would you spend time with their community?

Just some important things to think about before you spend a whole lot of time on guest blogging. Make sure it’s a match for your business.

Time well spent

Guest blogging is a really powerful way to connect with people, build relationships, and find qualified leads for your business. If you take the time to strategically seek and qualify the right opportunities, it will be time well spent.

Have you had success in finding quality guest blogging opportunities? Share your successes and techniques in the comments below.

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