When Jane approached our Smart Man Online for today's interview, she had no idea of the treat in store for her readers. Dane Carlson from the Business Opportunities Weblog is an entrepreneur with a sharp mind full of deep thoughts...although, he can be playful, also. We read his blog on a regular basis, and are never disappointed. Dane's posts offer advice on how to start a new business, what kinds of pitfalls there are, where to go for the best information on turning your endeavor into a success, and much more. One of the things we like about Dane is his consist desire to provide quality links on his blog -- links he's explored and added because he trusts the information on them. As a resource to finding the right information for the right problem, Dane Carlson is definitely one of the go-to people on the Web. Find out what he thinks about using Sex to sell...
Lip-sticking: Your blog is full of terrific marketing information, both for the neophyte and the established business owner. How do you find the time to locate and write about all these great gems, day after day?
Dane: Web logging, like anything, gets easier with practice. I've been keeping a public weblog since November 1999 and it's getting easier every day. Blogging marks the beginning and end of my day. An RSS/Atom reader does wonders for my blogging productivity, too. (I currently use Bloglines, which is a web-based application, but tons of different ones are available.) I subscribe to, as of this moment, 413 feeds -- about a quarter of which are what I would classify as business bloggers. The rest are hard to classify and run the gamut from tech to food.
I can usually skim all of my subscribed feeds in about the time it takes to drink a very large cup of coffee, so I'm able to quickly stay on top of the trends and discussions in the blogosphere.
I regularly check the business sections of the major news websites -- the big east coast papers have always got something interesting to post -- but for the stories of real entrepreneurs, Google News and the hundreds of local newspapers it polls are my inspiration and primary source.
Lip-sticking: We love your post from September 16th, Entrepreneurs Over 50, where you talk about those over 50 starting businesses. As a young man familiar with the intricacies of having your own business, and of using the Internet to build that business, what kind of advice can you give to these intelligent folks, who may not have your tech-savvy background to help them get going?
Dane: If you're going to be online, it doesn't make sense NOT to have a weblog.
For example, let's say that I have an apple tree that's ripe and ready to be picked and you're an apple harvester. If I type "apple harvesting" into Google, what am I going to find? If you've got a five-page static website that you paid someone $1500 to build, I'm not going to find you unless I type in an exact phrase from your website. And since the web design firm you hired to construct your site knew absolutely nothing about apple harvesting, your site will be exactly that: a site who's owner knows nothing about apples. But you do know something, and you've got a lifetime of experience and stories to
share. If you had a weblog full of tidbits, stories and links about apple harvesting, Google would point to you every time.
Lip-sticking: Your blog post
"Sex Sells Everywhere, Even on Ebay" shows a picture of a big breasted woman. Was this a blatant attempt to entice YOUR blog viewers? Or were you just reporting? (We agree with you, by the way. Sex sells everything. So do babies. Which one do you think works better, sex or babies?)
Dane: I do occasionally like to post mildly titillating content on my weblog, but I don't do it very often because my mother occasionally reads my site, and I expect that my son, if he's anything like his old man, will, when he starts reading, go through and read my entire weblog from start to finish. I don't want to post anything there that I'd be concerned about him reading when he's 8.
Lip-sticking: You may have noticed on Lip-sticking's blog that Jane does not have a true pic of herself. She has posted a caricature drawn a year or so ago. You, however, have your smiling face right there for the world to see. And a nice face it is! How important do you think it is to have your true picture on your blog, and/or on your Web site?
Dane: I've always said that having my face on my weblog gets me more readers. (That may or may not be true, but it's fun to say.) I think that people see my face there and subconsciously realize that the site is not put together by some nameless and faceless legion of cubicle workers, but by a real live flesh-and-blood individual. Your caricature has the same sort of effect.
Lip-sticking: No one gets away without answering one question on shopping online. As a man, do you find the convenience of online shopping outweighs the fun of going to the mall? Maybe we should rephrase that: do you shop online? If you do, why do you do it, and what kinds of things do you buy?
Dane: I definitely shop online -- I'm addicted to checking an item's reviews on Amazon. Though I live within a dozen miles of three major chain bookstores, I don't think I've bought a book from one of them in a few years. Sure, I like to go in and browse through the aisles, and occasionally I'll pick up a title and flip through it a bit, but I almost always end up writing down the title and looking it up later on Amazon, if only to check the reviews.
But whether I'm shopping online, or in a real brick and mortar establishment, I'm acutely aware of the actual sales experience. For me it's a very emotionally moving experience when someone does capitalism just right. Two examples: There's an independent liquor store -- just around the block from my
house -- that is like no other I have ever been in. I like to stop there for a soda from their fountain because it's friendly, clean, well stocked, and doesn't have the fortress-like feel of most convenience stores. There's almost always more than one clerk behind the counter, and they've got customer service skills that would put employees at the most upscale retail establishments to shame. Now, I assume that
at least one of the "clerks" is actually the proprietor, but I've been in the store with more than thirty construction workers lined up to purchase their post-workday beverages and the store just runs so smoothly. The experience is like no other convenience store I've ever seen. If the place is ever empty, I'm going to take a moment and thank the storeowner.
When I'm shopping online I have the same sort of response when a company does ecommerce just right. Exactly like in brick and mortar businesses, the most important elements of a great online shop are: personality, service and products. A great example of this is Bigha. Bigha has a very unique product, but most companies would go about selling it all wrong. The Bigha site's real strength is its personality. Take the Meet Us page, for instance. Do you have any doubt after reading it that if you chose to purchase one of their bicycles that they'll put as much love into the manufacturing and shipping process as you will into riding it?
The other big part of a successful online store is customer service. One of the best ways to serve your customers online is to answer ALL of their questions on your website. Bigha does this fantastically.
Take a look through the entire Start Exploring tab to see what I mean.
Lip-sticking: We're going to give you a tough question now because we think you can handle it. Of all the blogs you read and link to, which 3 are your favorites? Be honest. We expect you to be true to your readership.meaning, we expect you will pick the 3 that benefit your readers the most. However, if you have 3 you just really like, let us know. Our readers are waiting.
Dane: I change favorite weblogs like I change my socks, but three websites that I've recently been discovering loads of neat ideas from are:
Lip-sticking: Tell our readers what you think of blogging in general. Is it better than e-mail, better than direct marketing, better than telemarketing.or, is it another form of marketing, useful for some things and not others? Maybe you could list a few of the pros and cons.
Dane: As I've mentioned already, I love blogging! But, you are right that there's at least one situation where a blog might not be the best idea:
If you run a website that you don't want to rank well in the search engines, it would be better if you didn't blog. Because of how search engines like Google work, frequent updates and new inbound links
denote an authoritative site. Since Google automatically assumes that when someone's searching for something they want to hear from the authority on the subject, they're very likely to point to a weblog
post on the subject -- especially if that blog is generally related to the topic of the search query.
There you have it, dear readers. A testimonial to blogging, to the customer experience, and to being aware that someday our interviewee's eight year old son may read his blog -- which tempers some of his content. Jane thinks more celebrities should think about that before they do the outrageous things they do! But, that gets us off of the point...Dane Carlson has our sincere thanks for participating in this interview. It's all for you, dear readers. Perhaps you should click on over to Dane's blog and thank him personally.
What's not to like about that?