Although business blogging is a wonderful marketing tool, it's also a real hassle. Blogs are voracious. You can feel like a hamster on a wheel, running desperately fast and wearing yourself out.
Luckily, there are tricks you can use to create content without struggle. Over the years, while blogging for my own and others' blogs, I've learned some tricks. Let's look at five of them.
1. Always Be Noting: Write Notes (Thinking Becomes Enthusiasm)
Everything you do in your business, and every customer interaction can become blog fodder, but only if you get into a "noting" mindset. Start by creating a list of situations which could be helpful for blog content research. For example, talking to customers, reviewing customer and other emails, attending trade shows, and checking out your competitors.
Get into the habit of asking questions. Write down the responses, as soon as a conversation's over.
Writing things down generates enthusiasm. Not only does this make your content livelier, it makes it entertaining.
2. Set Goals for Your Content, and Content Creation Goals for Yourself
What do you want your blog's content to do for you? Create a list of goals for your content. You may want your content to generate leads, show thought leadership in your industry, or cut down on customer service requests. Write your list, and review it at least once a week.
Also, create a couple of blogging goals for content creation. You might set a goal to blog once a week, for example.
3. Big, Little and Fast Content: Test Content Formats
Blogging needn't mean writing. You can post photos, conversations, and short (or long) videos. Alternative forms of content like this can be effective.
You've always got your cell phone camera: use it. You can snap images of your products, your customers, and your physical store if you have one, staff members, your office, the view out of your office window... Anything you like. It's all content, and it all helps.
Google+'s Hangouts are popular with marketers, because it's a no-hassle way to create content, and promote.
Test responses to various forms of content.
4. Love Your Archives: All Content Is Inventory
Blogging has a major challenge: that wonderful content you created last week and last month, not to mention last year, hides away in your archives. With luck, it will attract Web searchers. However, algorithm changes can affect your search results, so that a flood of visits slows to a trickle.
Your blog's content is an asset: it's all inventory. Commit to making the most of it. You can repurpose content in various ways -- present it in other formats: in a newsletter, for example, or by snipping it up for social media posts.
5. Think Like a Magazine Publisher: Create an Editorial Calendar, Get Advertisers
Your blog is a publication, just like a magazine. Take a leaf (pun intended) from magazine publishers, and think of ways you can enhance your content.
A monthly magazine has big cover-worthy articles, which sell the magazine. To emulate this, consider creating a big piece of content once a month, and pushing it as much as you can. You never know, it may go viral.
A magazine also has various sections. You can do this on your blog too. Create an editorial calendar, and then add your monthly content ideas to it.
You might blog responses to customer questions once a month, create a tutorial on using one of your products once a month -- choose the "standard" content you'll create once a month and add it to your calendar.

Do you know whom you just acquired?

Chances are, if you run a business with a strategic plan that includes inorganic growth goals, you don’t.

At least, not well enough.

Research suggests that it is difficult enough for organizations to truly understand the state of mind of their existing customers and employees, let alone those who have just been welcomed aboard.

The good news, however, is that companies who use a disciplined approach to assessing and improving the way employees interact with customers are beating their competition handily. Recent data from Gallup revealed that a study group of 10 companies who are on the leading edge of this management approach outpaced their peers by 26% in gross margin and 85% in sales growth during a recent one-year period.

Companies can gain a significant competitive advantage by applying similar principles to the way they approach mergers and acquisitions. In order to enhance the probability of increased shareholder returns, businesses with expanding global footprints should take proactive steps to further understand employees and key customers whom they’ve recently acquired. While the due diligence process is designed to provide an acquiring company with a wealth of information about its potential future, organizational leaders must examine the areas that are frequently overlooked in the post-deal stages of an acquisition so that they can cash in on the full potential of M&A activities.

Here are a few thoughts to get you started down the right path:

  • How does your newly acquired leadership team think about selecting and positioning employees, managing and motivating them, and accelerating their development?
  • How does that differ from your current approach?
  • Will the culture of your newly acquired company help or hinder your chances of consistently delivering on your brand promise?
  • Do you need to modify or adjust your existing brand promise to the marketplace?

Answering, or even just considering, these questions will help keep you on track and guide some of the important decisions that you make throughout the integration process.

Your New Employees

Since there is so much to accomplish throughout the course of an acquisition, a good place to start with your new employees would be to learn as much about them as possible. You’ll need to gain their trust, and if they see you’ve taken the time to study them, it will accelerate the journey.

Of course, the culture of your newly acquired employees depends on a number of other variables that are more within your span of control than where employees are based. For instance, you need to have a firm grasp on the existing leadership style and management practices of the company you just bought.

Your New Customers

Aligning your troops internally is a necessary first step as you seek to fully understand the perception that your new customers have of your company in the months and years following an acquisition. To get the most out of an acquisition, your teams must capitalize on the synergies that were discussed in the boardroom as the deal was hashed out. Turning ideas into action, though, requires very specific business intelligence at the front lines.

Now What?

So what should leaders do differently? How can you increase your chances of creating value with your mergers and acquisitions? Outline a plan for getting closer to the people you’ve acquired – both employees and customers. Why? Because companies are vying for a competitive advantage, and improved customer service tends to be the differentiator that beats all others – a differentiator that involves your employees and your customers and the interactions they have with one another each day.

Here are a few next steps for you to consider:

  1. The Basics – Don’t stop doing the essential blocking and tackling. Continue guiding each of your teams through the appropriate steps before, during, and after a major deal is closed. Ensure that you thoroughly review employee lists and customer lists. Cascade the proper communication to your organization, welcome the new company, and set the tone for the future.
  2. The Culture – Identify what uniquely defines each set of employees – both legacy and acquired. Learn about the nuances that make your best teams tick, and find out what the managers of those teams do differently. Seek out best practices from your acquired company that you never even knew existed. Make your combined culture about your brand promise, and as a leader, serve as a role model by making every interaction – big or small – meaningful to your people.
  3. The Market – Talk with sales teams, both legacy and acquired, about the similarities and differences of customers’ needs. Find out how they go to market to serve their customers. For instance if you're selling widgets, figure out the types of problems your widget solves for your customers. If you happen to sell information, be a broker of wisdom like The WordPress Millionaire and develop a trusted advisor relationship with the market you serve.
  4. The journey - Create a client history map for those key customers who will expect you to know what they’ve been though, especially those who have been loyal to the acquired company for decades.
  5. The Truth – Obtain candid feedback from your employees and your customers about the health of the relationships that exist internally and externally. Determine what’s needed on an ongoing basis to improve customer service, and pinpoint the areas where action is required to make immediate fixes as well as long-term transformational adjustments.
  6. The Change – Architect a change plan. Work with your M&A teams to map out the tasks that are currently being performed by each function within your organization when a deal closes, and determine which functions need more long-term assistance (e.g., Human Resources and Sales & Marketing). Define your organization’s current state of understanding when it comes to your acquired employees and customers. Then, clearly lay out a roadmap to chart your desired future state.

As you compete for your share of today’s growth markets, the importance of getting this right is greater than ever before. Thinking carefully about the implications that mergers and acquisitions have on the customer service equation will surely factor into today’s Darwinian principles of business.

Decide today how you’d like to answer the same question 12 months from now: “Do you know whom you just acquired?” Your employees and your customers will appreciate it almost as much as your shareholders.

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I've come across many business owners who believe that any type of effective lead-generation tool costs money. To the surprise of many, you don't have to spend a dime to generate leads online.

One of the best free tools for lead generation is other industry blogs. When you are active on industry blogs with a high readership, you are able to showcase your industry expertise and gain exposure to other industry professionals, your target audience, and other markets. No need to purchase ad space on blogs. Simply follow my easy, step-by-step Undercover Lead Extractor Process that shows you how to use other industry blogs as lead-generation tools, and increase exposure-today.

See below for easily digestible steps to extracting leads online:

Step 1: Uncover and Discover: Figure out where your target audience plays online; specifically, what blogs does your target market read? If you have trouble thinking of blogs your audience might be reading, then first decide what magazines they'd be reading. This will help you to understand what information your audience is looking for. Then, search for blogs that provide similar content to these magazines.
Whenever you come across a blog that appears relevant to your audience, read through some of the blog posts and comments. If it appears that the blog author is publishing valuable content that is constantly generating comments from members of your target audience and other industry professionals, you've found a great blog to be present on.
You want to come up with a list of approximately five great blogs to be active on.

Step 2: Track:When you have your list of five blogs, follow the blog authors on social media sites (many times, bloggers will have social media contact information on their blog sidebar). Read through the content these authors publish on social media platforms to get a deeper insight into the context of their conversations, and to observe how their followers react to their content on these social networking sites.

Step 3: Observe:For about a week or so, read the posts published on each of the five blogs. This will help you familiarize yourself with the topic of conversation and the context in which the conversation is occurring. Jumping into a random discussion is not a good way to impress bloggers and blog followers.
To ensure that you stay up-to-date with newly published posts, subscribe to the RSS feed of each blog, or subscribe for updates via email.

Step 4: Take Action:It's now time to start commenting! But before you do so, familiarize yourself with a few commenting dos and don'ts:
Do add value and expertise to the conversation.
Don't provide a generic comment to any post. This often appears spam-like and illustrates that you don't have expertise in the subject being discussed. Not a good impression to make on your target audience and other professionals in your industry.

Do give positive feedback.

Don't be a Debbie-Downer, even if you disagree with what the author or commenter is saying. Rather, offer constructive criticism, and be respectful of other opinions.

Do pique the interest of the author and other viewers. Authors and / or blog readers who are intrigued by your comment may want to visit your blog and comment.

Don't take someone else's comment and put it in your own words for an easy way out. Provide a unique insight into the conversation, and offer your own opinion.

**The mother-of-all don’ts: DO NOT promote your company in a blatant manner, and don't place links to your marketing materials in your comments. Comments that are promotional and contain links are often marked as spam.
When you begin to comment and offer valuable opinions and advice, you're gaining exposure and increasing your chances of getting the blog readers into your sales funnel.

Step 5: Go the Distance: Don't stop now. Once you've established yourself as a frequent commenter and the blogger is familiar with you and your expertise, ask the blogger if he or she would be willing to write a guest blog for your blog. If he or she is willing, they will most likely promote their guest appearance to their blog readers, subsequently driving targeted traffic to your blog.