What We’ve Learned By Helping Companies Create Blogging Teams

Post Author: Jason Terry

TeamMany of you know that we help companies tell their stories through blogging (and social media updates and email newsletters.) We started doing this back in 2009 before anybody had really heard much about it… before it was “cool”.

We knew early on that sharing stories with trusted relationships strengthens your brand, keeps you top of mind and helps you grow your bottom line. We’ve experienced it personally and love helping our clients experience that same rush.

2015 is the year of mainstream company blogging.

We’ve had more opportunities this year than ever before and we see more and more companies (finally) sharing their stories through blogging. Some people are acting like its common sense to do blogging as part of their sales and marketing efforts. We don’t have to explain the concept nearly as much as we used to.

As companies mature in their efforts to tell their stories, the natural progression would be to create a blogging team. There are lots of good reasons to do this. You get perspectives from different areas of your organization. It’s a team building activity. It’s a great way to share the burden of creating useful, interesting content on a weekly basis. It fosters better internal communication. And the list goes on and on…

Here are a just a few of the things we’ve learned helping companies form their blogging teams:

  1. Start small, but be open to the fact that the team could eventually incorporate anyone in your organization. A smaller team will have a better chance of figuring out your voice and learning the ropes of blogging.
  2. It sounds obvious, but take the time to carefully pick the people that get to be involved. Don’t choose based on the fact that they have extra time on their hands. If you allow their names and faces to go along with the blog posts, they will be true representatives of your company and your brand.
  3. Start with Why We Are Doing This, not What We Are Going To Do. Get everyone on the same page about the goals you are trying to accomplish. The people you are trying to reach. The kinds of things you want to talk about. We’ve seen companies tell their staff that they are going to write blog posts without getting initial buy-in. It doesn’t work long term. Getting everyone on the same page and coming up with the plan together will really help during execution.
  4. Hold them accountable. The first couple of months are easy because there are so many stories to tell. As the months go by, you will see people make excuses for why their blog post didn’t get written even though they had an entire month to get it done. Either they are committed to the process or they aren’t.
  5. Don’t keep it a secret. One of our most successful blogging clients sends a staff-wide email with the blogs that will be going out. You want everyone in the company to see what’s going on. It’s hard to quantify how giving the employees a voice helps company cultures thrive.

Does your company have a blogging team? Would you like to hear more from Mic and I on this topic in the form of real world stories? Let me know!

Is Your Blogging Working? The Answer Is Simple (and might involve the Kansas Speedway)

Post author: Jason Terry

Kansas SpeedwayHello friends! I had a conversation recently with a business friend of mine. He wanted to know if his blogging efforts were working. I will start with what I think is the answer, and then do a test to try and prove my point.

The Answer

The answer to whether or not your blogging efforts are working is simple:

Are your peers, clients, friends and family talking about your stories?

Are they talking about the blog post you wrote about how to sell a business? About your recent trip to Honduras? About the company picnic? When they see you at meetings or networking events, do they say things like, “I really liked your blog post about Google not liking you if your website isn’t mobile friendly.”

Woah.  Wait a minute. That’s too simple.

Yes, there are a bunch of people that would respond to this with discussions about specific metrics, sentiment measurement, click tracking and even more technical tracking methods.

I stand by the idea that your goal is to be top of mind with your audience.  The simple proof that this is happening is when they mention what you are writing about in various situations. When you are top of mind, referrals and introductions happen.

Two things have to happen for you to be top of mind with your audience:

1. You have to build your audience.  Connect with friends, clients, vendors and peers through social networks and by collecting their email addresses.

2. You have to tell them authentic stories through blogging and share these stories with your social networks and with email newsletters.

The Test

Kansas SpeedwaySo here’s the test…

The images and video in this blog post are about my wife Trista and I getting to do a couple of laps around the Kansas Speedway last Friday. It was a really fun experience. (Thanks to Trista’s father Mark for giving us the pass!)

We were lucky enough to get the pole position in our group, so we were right behind the emergency vehicles leading the line of about 20 cars.

I was surprised to feel how much of a slope the track has, especially in the curves. Transitioning from the pit area to the track was a little like trying to flip your car. Ok, maybe not that extreme, but I really felt like I was leaning a bit too far left for normal driving!

I wonder how many of you are going to mention this blog post to me? Will you tell me the next time you see me? Will you follow up with your story about loving NASCAR? Will you remind me that you did the extreme driving experience at the Kansas Speedway? Will you comment on the post on our website or “LIKE” or retweet it on our social sites?

I’m going to give it a couple of weeks and will report back with the results.

I Know This for a Fact:

People love you and care about you. Clients appreciate how you help them. Peers associate with you because they want to have a trusted relationship with you.

These people want to support you and encourage you. As a result, they will take an interest in what you’re blogging about, as long as they actually see your blogs. And it doesn’t really matter what you’re talking about as long as it’s your story and something you’re excited to share.

If you aren’t blogging in your organization, it’s time to really think about starting. The results may shock you!

Blogging – What To Do When You Get Writer’s Block

Post author: Jason Terry

Ok, I can’t believe it’s June already.  Where did May go?

I was sitting down to write this week’s blog post and realized I didn’t have an amazing, interesting, earth-shattering story to tell. Not having something to talk about is actually fairly rare for me… there’s usually a lot going on in my world personally and professionally, and when it’s my turn to write a blog post, there’s a story I want to share.

(We help companies form a blogging team so that no one person is responsible for the blog posts every week… it can be overwhelming. Mic and I take turns every other week writing the Blue Gurus blog posts.)

But today I was experiencing writer’s block. So I do what I normally do in this situation and stopped to think about what’s happened in my life over the last couple of weeks.

Here are some of the thoughts that went through my head:

Jason Blogging1) My wife Trista and I went to Mic and Missy’s Prairie Village Art Fair party on Saturday.

It’s an annual event that’s always fun. Great food, clients and friends. And I forgot to take pictures. Dang it!

Networking events, charity events and more are great things to blog about.

2) We launched a redesigned homepage for Blue Gurus with client testimonials and added a few new websites to our portfolio pages.

We’ve got more work to do on the portfolio and services pages, so I better not mention that until it’s ready for prime time.

Giving an update on your team or spotlighting some great work you’ve done for a client is “blogworthy”. (Yep, just made that up.)

3) Trista and I recently celebrated her ability to put up with me over five years of marriage. 

I thought about sharing that our anniversary was May 22nd, but I’ve already gotten a lot of “congrats” through email and Facebook. Oh, and I’m not sure you want to read about how much I love my wife. Sappy.

I think it’s important to share important personal events in your blogging. Getting married? Baby on the way? Fun family trip? Go for it.

4) I took a picture of myself experiencing writer’s block. And noticed the LEGO in the background.

I thought of writing about why people young and old love building with LEGO. I was going to try to tie that to the fact that you should blog about the things you’re passionate about. So I tried to have Trista take a picture of me holding my LEGO Tower Bridge and we just couldn’t get a good shot. Back to square one.

Sometimes, all you have to do is look around your office. See that sports memorabilia on the wall? Or that award you got? Write about it.

5) The sermon Scott Chrostek gave at Church of the Resurrection this weekend was about God and baseball.

I’m not a huge baseball fan, but the sermon was moving. There were a couple of quotes that stuck in my brain. George F. Will said, “Baseball, it is said, is only a game. True. And the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona.” And Wes Westrum said, “Baseball is like church: many attend, but few understand.”

But after considering telling that story, I realized that it’s definitely one of those things you need to be careful talking about… religion and politics. When done right, it can be a powerful message, but it’s prudent to be cautious about going there.

And then I realized…

And then I realized that talking about how I come up with content every other week for our blog might be helpful. Was it?

When I write, I want to challenge you. I want to make you laugh. I want to educate you. I want to encourage you. I want to inspire you.

And this week, I hope you laughed at the picture of me struggling to come up with a good blog post, and learned a little more about what’s going on in my world.

That’s really the point of blogging, right? To allow the people that you’re closest with feel like they just had a conversation with you.

And now you’re all caught up and my blog post for this week is done.  Yay!

Guest Blog Post: Why We Blog At Alterra Bank…By Pam Berneking, President and CEO

Post Author: Mic Johnson

We started working with the incredible team at Alterra Bank in 2012, doing LinkedIn Training for several members of their team and then working with them to execute their monthly blogging strategy.

Recently, Pam Berneking, President and CEO, shared what blogging has meant to Alterra Bank, and was kind enough to allow us to re-post it on our own blog. It’s an excellent story and one we mention often when we talk about the magic that happens when the right leadership and company culture embraces proactive storytelling.

Pam BernekingPost written by Pam Berneking, President and Chief Executive Officer at Alterra Bank | Entrepreneur | Late – blooming cyclist | ISU Cyclone Fan

I’ve been thinking lately about lessons I’ve learned over the past five years. May 1st was the 5th anniversary of Alterra Bank’s founding. It’s amazing to me when I think about all that has happened in such a relatively short period of time.

We had a clear vision for this company when we started.

We intended then, as now, to build the World’s Greatest Bank. An audacious goal to be sure, but one that we felt we could achieve by focusing on adding value back into the relationship between banks and entrepreneurs.

We believed we could create an environment for the best bankers in Kansas City to build careers and thrive. And we were confident that those two goals would create value for our stakeholders and sustainability for our company.

After five years, I’m pleased to say that our instincts were correct and that we’ve met or exceeded nearly every goal we had for our company.

We’ve done a few things along the way that have had far more impact than I could’ve ever imagined. One of those is our approach to what you’re reading right now…our blog…which we call our Better Banking Blog.

Alterra BlogI had a vague idea that a blog might be good for our company. I assumed I would write profound things about business and banking topics, but the well quickly ran dry. So we struggled to get our blog effort off the ground. We were missing the connection to our culture, our mission, and our vision.

If it was going to work, it needed to reflect our company and resonate with our voice.

So we changed it up. We brought in a coach to help us execute and take our blog to the next level….Mic Johnson at Blue Gurus. We decided to invite others to write about whatever moved them. Mic nurtured the aspiring writers in our group and handled all of the technical aspects of getting this done for us every month.

He encouraged us to write about what we cared about and to stop worrying about whether the topic would be of interest to our readers. He assured us this would work.

Honestly, I was skeptical. My first few posts were dry, hard to write and not very interesting, even to me. Then I had a breakthrough. I wrote about my passion for Bruce Springsteen. Very personal, very “non-banky.” The response was overwhelmingly positive.

So why do we blog? How has the Better Banking Blog helped make Alterra an even better bank?

Connections: With our clients, our community and our internal team. When we share topics we care about, we build those connections in a meaningful, authentic and personal way.

Culture: The Alterra blog took on momentum when we allowed the effort to reflect who we are as a company. In turn, each post reinforces the uniqueness of our culture.

Recruiting: Blogging helps us recruit the right people. We learn that prospective employees feel they know our company and our people by reading our blog. And that helps tremendously as we try to find the perfect fit for every position we fill.

Retention: It’s true that having a voice can be more meaningful than having a vote. Writing a blog is one way for us to engage the voices and points of view from our diverse and talented team.

Leadership: On a personal note, my participation in the blog has allowed me to be more approachable to our team at Alterra. They know more about me as a person and that’s helped knock down some of the traditional barriers that often surround other CEOs.

We’ve made many good decisions over the past five years, but one of the best has been the decision to start our blog and allow it to evolve to what it is today.

I’m more excited than ever for new stories to be told and new voices to emerge as we write the next chapter of the Alterra Bank story.

Member_FDIC_logo equal-housing-lender

I’m Selling Common Sense.

Post Author: Mic Johnson

I’ve been racking my brain trying to figure out something that has driven me crazy ever since I started working with Blue Gurus 5+ years ago.

Over the years we’ve had way too many sales calls to count where we explain the 3 things we do for clients…Blogging, On-site WordPress Web Development, and LinkedIn Training.

They always understand it. They always agree with it. They always admit that they know they should be doing it. And then they do….nothing.

I often tell people “I feel like I’m selling common sense.”  Here’s why:

Read more

The Power Of Awesome

Post Author: Mic Johnson

I wrote a blog post in January 2014 called “The #1 Secret To Get Real ROI From Blogging.” In that article I talk about all of the ROI that came from meeting my friend Carol Bush, who I’d never met or even heard of until May 2013, when she sent me an email with the subject line “We Need Help.”

This is a story about the power of quality relationships…which is how smart business is done, friendships are made, and AWESOME happens. Carol had been reading the Blue Gurus blog for over a year before she ever reached out to ask for help. Since then our relationship has blossomed and the “ROI” for both of us has been more than we ever could have imagined. Carol has become a brand advocate for Blue Gurus…and vice versa.

Recently Jason emailed Carol thanking her for a referral. Shortly after Carol responded back to both of us with the email below. It’s an amazing feeling when someone pours their heart and enthusiasm out in a way that is so genuine and enthusiastic that you just can’t help but smile.

I wanted to share Carol’s email with our readers. I’m hopeful that it will inspire you…to reach out to someone…to try something new…to get outside of your comfort zone…to be someone who enthusiastically helps others. If you do, and you do it consistently, you too will feel….

The Power of Awesome.
Read more

3 Ways That Blogging Will Help You Grow Your Business and Increase Your Reputation

Hi friends!  It’s Jason this week talking about how important blogging is for your business and reputation.

I use the word “blogging” a lot in this post.  It’s a common term to describe the process of telling stories.  I know we’d agree that growing your business and reputation is driven by relationships and keeping those relationships engaged.  Creating relationships and maintaining relationships happens all day long.  Coffees, lunches, chamber events, social outings, sales calls, and interviews are just a few of the ways that we connect with people as we do business.

When we connect, we end up telling each other stories.  We laugh.  We cry.  We joke.  We’re shocked.  We’re amazed.  These emotional responses to stories are what build relationships and keep those relationships alive.

If I had to choose the most important thing that has helped me succeed in business, it would be that I really care about my relationships with people.  About making a positive difference in their lives.  And staying engaged with them through storytelling.

Here are 3 ways that blogging will help your business grow and increase your reputation

1) Blogging Will Get You More Referrals

Blogging - ReferralsMake a list of all the new clients you’ve earned in 2014.  Next to each name write down how you got that client.  For many businesses, new business is found through a referral from a peer or existing client.  Someone told them they should talk to you.  And they did.  And you impressed them somehow.  They believed that you would do what you said you would do for the price that you quoted.

I hope you agree that a big part of that belief comes from the trust they have in their friend that referred them to you.  Their friend wouldn’t have referred you in the first place if they didn’t trust you or have personal experience with you successfully delivering for them previously.

If a major portion of your new business is from referrals, it makes complete sense that you should do all you can to stay top of mind with your referral partners.  Coffees, lunches, golf tournaments and networking events are great ways to stay top of mind, but they do take time.  And the focus in these types of situations is usually on one person or just a few people.

With blogging, social media and email newsletters, you can tell your story on your website and get that story in front of people throughout the week.  It super charges your efforts to stay top of mind with people that will refer you business.  There is no question that it works… we have been helping companies do this successfully for years.

2) Blogging Will Strengthen Relationships With Your Current Clients

How often do you talk to your current clients?  Monthly when invoices go out?  Coffee at policy renewal time?  Lunch during the holidays to say thank you?  Whether you are a small business with dozens of clients or a larger business with hundreds of clients, it is a challenge to stay in touch with them.  You still need to fit in the coffees and lunches, but you could dramatically increase the number of times you “touch” a client throughout the year by blogging.

By telling your stories every week, you will end up letting your customers know all about you and your company.  They get to virtually meet your new team members when you write a profile blog post about them.  They get to see that you completed a great project for someone that they know.  (They might even realize that there is a product or service you have that they want when you tell that story!)  They get to learn something new or relevant when you talk about a topic in your industry.

The result is that you can stay in touch with your clients by blogging and getting the word out through social media and email.  It will reinforce their relationship with you and remind them why they chose to do business with you in the first place.

3) Blogging Can Impress Potential Customers And Help Close The Deal

I’m not sure if you have competition for your products or services, but most companies do.  Let’s say you’re an insurance company, a bank or an IT support company.  You have competition.  And the real truth may be that you and your competition are all selling the same thing.  You broker the same insurance policies.  You have checking and savings accounts with competitive rates.  You provide great IT support and keep networks up and running.

When you are selling basically the same product or service, the buying decision is definitely influenced by relationship.  They want to work with someone they trust.  Someone that is going to be there for them.  Someone that they like.

Blogging - Close The DealIf they have three proposals in front of them offering basically the same services for the same price, who are they going to choose?  If they do their homework, they will check out your LinkedIn profiles.  One person has no picture and 40 connections.  The next person has a great picture but the summary sounds like a resume and doesn’t feel “human”.  Your profile has a great picture, you have a couple hundred connections, and your summary tells a personal story of your professional journey.  The natural reaction is that they will trust you more than the other people.  They will have started to lean towards you because you seem like you have it together, work with a bunch of people and took the time to show that off professionally.

Next, they will check out your website.  The first person’s website looks like it was created in 1997 and the copyright at the bottom of the site proves it.  The next person has a beautiful website, but it is basically their sales brochure on the web.  Your website is beautiful as well, but you have the most recent blog posts on your home page.  They tell real stories about your clients, your people and what you care about.  They get a feel for you and your company because of these stories.  This reinforces their feelings that you are a good company that can deliver, and that can definitely help close the deal.

Conclusion

There are so many other ways blogging can help your business grow.  It can improve internal communication and ultimately make your team even more proud to work at your company.  It can  help you hire better people that check out your website during the hiring process.  It can prove that you and your team are subject matter experts in your field.  It can show people that you are a company made up of good people that will be able to help them.

There is no question that blogging is here to stay.  If you aren’t doing it, I hope this gets you thinking about why you should be doing it.  If you need help, give us a call.  That’s what we do for companies all over Kansas City.

You Don’t Lose Weight By Thinking About Going To The Gym

Post Author: Mic Johnson

I’ve been talking to Jason, people in my peer advisory group, and others about something that’s been bothering me for the better part of 2014.

I’m hoping anyone that reads this post will take a minute to try to help me out. Perhaps your experiences can give me some perspective I don’t currently have.

First, let me quickly provide a little background. Blue Gurus does three things for companies in Kansas City:

1. Content Marketing for companies that need an accountability partner to help them successfully execute a monthly blogging strategy.

2. On-site web development where most of our projects are done in 2-4 full day sessions at our clients’ offices. (Yes, we actually come TO your office and build it there!)

3. LinkedIn Training for companies that want to better utilize LinkedIn for sales and sharing content.

ThinkingAboutWorkingOutMost people would agree that all of those things are essential (dare I say…critical?) for companies in today’s business world.

You want to share the stories about your business, your products and services, your people, and more.

You want a professional, easy-to-navigate web site.

And you want a professional LinkedIn profile that accurately represents who you are, what you do, and what you’ve accomplished in your career.

Can we all agree on that?

Ok, Now On To What’s Been Bothering Me

Throughout the better part of 2014 both Jason and I have had countless conversations with decision makers in Kansas City who know they need a new web site, who know they need help with LinkedIn, and who know that their company should be blogging.

We tell them what we do, how we do it, and how quickly we can get it all done. In fact, we’ve partnered with several businesses who had poor web sites, poor LinkedIn profiles, and no blogging strategy and had them cranking on all three in just a couple of months.

We explain this to every single prospect we talk to. It all makes complete sense to them. They get excited about it. They know it’s absolutely the right thing to do.

And then they go back to their office, get busy, and end up doing…..you guessed it…..

ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.

You Don’t Lose Weight By Thinking About Going To The Gym

I’ve used this analogy a lot lately to describe this phenomenon we’ve seen in 2014. Even though we all know it would be totally awesome, you don’t lose weight by thinking about going to the gym.

You only lose weight when you make the effort consistently to get up each day, get some cardio and weights in, and stay committed to it (and eating healthier of course) over the long haul. And some people do this by hiring a personal trainer. That’s very similar to how we work.

So here’s the deal….

1. Very few people are going to learn about all of the cool things that you, your team, and your company do unless you start REGULARLY sharing your stories.

2. Your web site won’t ever look better and be easier to navigate if you keep ignoring it, wait for it to go down, or wait for a client or prospect to tell you how bad it is.

3. Your LinkedIn profile won’t get better until you spend some time getting trained on what makes a good profile and learn how to more effectively use LinkedIn.

We’ve had people that have gone through painful web site projects in the past that describe the experience with Blue Gurus as “FUN”, and “EASY”, and “SIMPLE”.

We’ve had people go through LinkedIn training say “OH, I DIDN’T KNOW YOU COULD DO THAT. IT ALL MAKES SENSE. I’M DEFINITELY GOING TO USE LINKEDIN MORE!”

We’ve had blogging clients say “THIS IS ONE OF THE BEST BUSINESS DECISIONS WE’VE EVER MADE.”

It’s not nearly as hard and painful as you think it is. And we’re here to help.

Email (mic@bluegurus.com) or call me (913-645-6650) today. Let’s work together to lose the dead business weight you’ve been carrying around for far too long.

Stop Being the Best Kept Secret In Kansas City. Start Telling Your Stories.

Post written by Jason Terry, Entrepreneur | Social Coach | Web Developer | Scuba Instructor | Guitar Player | Cruise Traveler | Lego Collector

If you’re like many of the companies we meet, you’ve been around for a long time. You have a good team. You have a good product or service. You have a bunch of great customers. You sponsor a charity. And you have a few company events each year where you get to spend quality personal time with the people you work with.

But Guess What?  Nobody Knows It… But They Would Care If They Did.

You see, we believe that the people that stay connected to us really do care about our success.  Being there for us when we’re having a hard time.  Celebrating with us when we have a big win or something amazing happens.  They want to know what is going on with us.  That’s just one reason why Facebook owns so many eyeballs.

It plugs into that raw human emotion of wanting to feel like you belong. Read more