Here’s The Simple Way To Create A Competitive Advantage For A Promotion, New Job, Or To Start A Business

Aaron Hoos

Last year I was speaking to a group of people about how to get a competitive advantage. It was a mixed audience of professionals and college students, so I wanted to give them some practical ways that they could create a competitive advantage for themselves.

I ended up telling them this, off the cuff, near the end of the presentation and it was well-received and several people asked me to write it out and send it to them. So I did.

I’m including a version of that same information here. And the truth is, I give this same information to A LOT of people (not just those in that one presentation), and I use it for myself. It always pays off. I encourage you to use it.

This applies to anyone who has a job and wants a promotion, for anyone who wants to get a new job, and for anyone who wants to start a business or grow their business.

The Simple Way To Get A Competitive Advantage

Hey everyone,

For those who are graduating, entering a new educational program, or who aspire to a better job in a few years from now, here is a very effective strategy to give you a competitive advantage no matter what you want to do…

1. Start a blog. You can get them for free from blogging platforms like blogspot.com or wordpress.com (there are others places but those are the best two.) You can also pay for a blogging platform but it’s not necessary for what I’m suggesting.

2. Blog regularly about the job you WANT to have. For example, write about something you learned that could apply to the future job; ask a question and seek out the answer; share some reading you’ve done and research you’ve encountered; etc. If you’re bold, shoot the occasional video, post it on YouTube, and embed it into your blog. If you’re REALLY bold, find the experts in your field and interview them. There’s a lot more you could, too, but let’s keep it simple.

3. Keep at it! :) Keep at it for a couple of years. Plan for 5 years but you may start seeing some benefits from this even sooner. You don’t have to do a ton of work; 20-30 minutes a week is probably enough. (Of course you can do more but you also don’t want to burn out.) There will be times when you won’t want to blog but this strategy really only works when you persist. During this time, amazing things will happen: you’ll accelerate past your peers in your knowledge, you’ll build a small following of people who read your work and respect what you have to say, and you’ll grow a large body of work that may or may not apply to the job you’re doing now… but will most importantly, it will make you an expert for the job you want to have.

Note: you might wonder how you could possibly blog about a topic that you’re not already an expert in, or why others would even read that. But think of it this way: you don’t have to be an expert to start; you’re blogging about your journey of knowledge acquisition… and that’s exactly what other people want to read!

4. Publish. A few months before you start applying for your ideal job, gather together your best blog posts and turn those blog posts into chapters of a book. Then go to CreateSpace.com and publish your book. It doesn’t cost anything. The book will be sold on Amazon (and elsewhere).

5a. Apply for that promotion or job! Now start applying for that job. You will go into your job interview with an unparalleled depth of knowledge about your field, you’ll also have a following of people who view you as an expert, you’ll maybe have interviewed some industry experts too, and you’re the author of a book ABOUT the very topic of the job you’re applying for. Compared to the other applicants, you will be a rock star.

5b. Start that business. You’ll have a body of work already established, proof that you know what you’re talking about. You’ll be a subject matter expert simply by the fact that you’ve spent that long talking about it and exploring what others are saying. You’ll probably have an audience by this point. And, of course, you’ll have your first product — a book.

BONUS: Leverage. Although this is a long-term view and (at times) you will forget why you’re doing it or you will have trouble sticking with it, remember that this gives you many options. You can go into your interview as an expert and demand a potentially higher wage, in some situations you can pick up work on the side before you even get this new position, you’ll have a network of blog followers who you can reach out to when you want to get a job because they may know of an open position, you’ll make a bit of money off of your book, or you may even choose to branch out on your own and start your business in some situations. In short: this will give you a ton of options.

I actually gave similar advice on my blog a couple of times: Want To Start A Business Someday But Not Ready To Quit Your Job? Here’s What To Do, and, Here’s What You Should Do If You Want To Start A Business But Are Stuck In A Job.

So, think about what you want to be doing in 5 years from now, and start the easy, fun task of becoming a thought-leader today! Good luck!

5 Years??? Why So Long?

So, most people who hear this love the idea. It makes sense. It’s painless. It costs nothing but time. There’s a ton of upside and very little downside except for lost time.

But some people will read this and think: “Yikes! Five years is a long time. I want a competitive advantage right now.” Okay, fair enough. I get that. Well, I blog a lot about competitiveness and competitive advantage so just click here and read some of those blog posts.

But my opinion is: Things often take longer than we want them to. A lot of people in jobs may hope to advance by promotion to a better position in 2-3 years but in reality it takes them 3-4, for example. So 5 years might seem like a long time for you to benefit but it will go by in a flash and I think it’s fairly accurate in terms of how long things really take in life.

Fortunately, this plan is laid out in approximately 5 years but I think it can happen sooner — much sooner. I think you’ll start seeing traction in 1-2 years. Even in your immediate job you’ll start seeing things happen as you rise above your coworkers with your expertise. That will likely accelerate your schedule of growth.

Here’s The Sticking Point…

The hardest part will be sticking with it for that long. Five years is a long time. And there will be weeks when you don’t feel like writing. But trust me, your 5-years-from-now self will thank you for it. It will be challenging but you’ll be glad you did.

Here’s How To Take It To The Next Level

Maybe you’re not sure what you want to do in five years. Well, here’s a plan: Pick 2-5 topics and create a blog about each one. Is it more work? Yes. A lot more. But you’ll get the following benefits:

Summary

Five years seems like a long way off. But it will be here in a shot. So roll up your sleeves and get to work on developing your competitive advantage so that, when the future arrives, you’ll be perfectly positioned to benefit.

 


Aaron Hoos, writerAaron Hoos is a writer, strategist, and investor who builds and optimizes profitable sales funnels. He’s the author of several books, including The Sales Funnel Bible.

Why blog? The 4 iterations of my blog and how my thinking about blogging has changed

In just a few weeks I’ll be coming up to the 10 year anniversary of my current business. This anniversary compels me to reflect on a number of factors, including why I do what I do. Among those reflections, I’m thinking about blogs and blogging.

I hear from people “blogging is dead” and “who blogs anymore?” which is funny because I think it demonstrates a naive view of the internet. There are so many sites that use what we might call a blog structure (date-sorted content with the most recent post at the top) — Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Instagram, news websites… these are all blogs in a way. And easily 50% to 75% of my work each month is blogging. Some might think that blogs are dead but I’m writing more blogs now than every before.

WHY I BLOG

I started blogging a decade ago when I started my current business. (I restarted my business after a few year hiatus — my first business started in 1999). Over the past decade, my thinking and practice about blogging has changed. Here are the four iterations:

Iteration #1: Ten years ago, blogging was an easy way to showcase the work I do without a lot of effort and expense. I blogged on Google’s Blogger platform to rapidly start my business and position myself as a freelance writer.

That worked well for a while but after a couple of years I struggled a bit with Blogger. I loved it (and still love it) but my site developed some weird coding issues and although I learned a lot about html and css in the process, I wasn’t able to fix the problem so I shut the blog down and started up a website (not a blog) here at AaronHoos.com.

Iteration #2: The website was okay for a while but I started to miss blogging. I liked the effort of writing a regular blog so in May 2009 I turned my site into a WordPress blog. And in this second iteration of blogging, as my business grew, my thinking about blogging changed. Although I continued to use my blog as a way to showcase some of my work, I did so much less but instead started blogging as a way to share my thinking about different things I was working on — from business strategy to marketing and advertising. It’s fascinating for me to go back and see how I’ve evolved over the years.

Iteration #3: Then, as traffic grew on my site, I started writing for my audience. I created content that I thought my audience would value. Some of it was high quality and high value; some of it wasn’t and admittedly had more SEO purpose than anything else. I was still blogging a bit to showcase my work, and a bit to share my thinking on business and marketing, but I spend a few years writing content that I thought my audience would find helpful or search engines would want to link to.

Iteration #4: A big shift occurred a couple of years ago, prompted by two things. The first prompting was that I realized I only ever blogged about “businessy stuff” and that I worked so hard to keep my business life and my personal life separate… and I realized that was folly, especially as Twitter and Facebook gained prominence. The second prompting was when I started up another website that became the primary place where I earn my income. This site still gets traffic and I still sometimes get hired by someone from this site but this site really became about me and my life and thinking, online. So this fourth iteration has been about expanding what I share about with the recognition that I’m writing my own thoughts and explorations for myself. Regular readers will notice that transition lately as I share stuff from my life, review financial fiction books, blog day-by-day through personal challenges that stretch me, and more.

It’s interesting to look back over these four iterations to see how I’ve evolved. I would say my blogging quality and quantity has increased while the blog topics have expanded.

What prompted me to even realize these four iterations and then to write this blog post about them was a podcast I heard between Tim Ferriss and Maria Popova (of Brain Pickings) in which they talked about blogging purposes — how Maria writes about what she thinks about and how she writes for an audience of one. I appreciate her authenticity as she puts her thoughts out there and it compelled me to think about why I blog, and that’s when I started to realize the four iterations of my blog.

A lot of my blog is what I’m thinking about. Admittedly, I haven’t always written what I think about; rather, I often wrote for some other purpose (to get clients, to attract an audience) and although there was some benefit to that I feel like this fourth iteration is perhaps the most real version of this blog as an expression of what’s in my brain.

This blog is my brain. It’s where I live. It’s me, online. This blog — for better or worse — is the tree rings of my life. That’s why I blog.

Why do you blog?

The quicksand principle: 12 on-site strategies to draw people deeper into your blog

Quicksand! In cheezy action shows, it was the vilest of naturally occurring killers, slowly drawing people deeper and deeper to their own demise.

In the online world, YouTube is excellent brilliantly devious at applying the principle of quicksand. I’ll start watching one video and an hour later I’ll find myself watching crazy cat videos plumbing the weirdest depths of YouTube.

YouTube has perfected the art of quicksand: Of offering viewers quick and easy ways to access even more content that they might like.

If you own a blog, you should apply the same quicksand principle to your blog. After all, you worked hard to get readers to your website and you don’t want them to click away… you want to draw them deeper into your blog, encouraging them to read more posts. How do you do that?

I’m not talking about putting people onto your site (such as with marketing) or getting previous readers back to your site (such as with autoresponders)… I’m talking only about keeping eyeballs on your site when they land there.

TOOLS AND STRATEGIES TO DRAW PEOPLE IN

Quicksand strategy #1: Back/Forward buttons: Perhaps the most useful default quicksand method is to add a “previous post” and “next post” link on your site, especially if it displays the title of the blog post too. It’s interesting to me how I use this button: When I’m reading a post and get to the bottom, I can always tell how much I liked the post by whether I hit the “previous” button. There are a small handful of blogs that I do that almost always.

Quicksand strategy #2: Search: Adding a search bar on your blog is one way to get people deeper into your site. The assumption is that they go to your site and search for something they’re looking for. In my experience (based on the types of blogs I write for), this isn’t used very often because people usually get to a site for a reason and stay there for a reason… and searching seems to be something they’d likely go back to Google to do. But if someone really loves your content and wants to see what you’ve written about it, they may use your search line.

Quicksand strategy #3: Displaying more posts: This is another simple strategy that is usually cooked as a default into blog platforms: Quite simply, how many blog posts do you display on your blog? On the current version of AaronHoos.com, people see five post excerpts. Depending on the design of your blog, you might display 2-5 full blog posts or as many as a dozen excerpts (and some themes do a great job of encouraging this strategy with how they display blog posts and post excerpts).

Quicksand strategy #4: Categories: These are the high level key ideas in your blog. Mine, for example, are built around business, finance, and real estate — the three topics I write most about — plus a couple of other categories. Whatever you do, AVOID an uncategorized category because that kind of sucks.

Quicksand strategy #5: Tags/Topics/Labels: Tags are another way to label your blog posts (and, in fact, I think they’re sometimes called labels on some blogs). Categories are pretty important and I think WordPress requires all posts to be categories as something, tags are optional. But I like tags a lot. I think people have stopped using them as much but the use of hashtags in social media has a lot of similarity so maybe we’re using tags again. You can present your tags in a few ways — usually at the top or bottom of a post, embedded in your blog copy, and in a tag list or cloud. I’m a big fan of tag clouds — especially the ones that increase the size of the tag text based on the number of posts tagged with that word. Until recently, I used a tag cloud and would probably go back to one again except that I’m blogging a lot with a few tags that are disrupting the user-friendliness of the tag cloud.

Quicksand strategy #6: Date-based organization: You see this on some blogs. This is where the dates are listed down a blog’s sidebar and when you click on the date, it expands to reveals the blog posts for that date. On some blogs this is appropriate if you’ve been blogging for a while because it adds a layer of credibility to demonstrate how consistent you are. But I’m not convinced of its usefulness otherwise. In most cases, what are users there to do? Rarely will someone look for dated information; I think most readers are on your blog for topical information. Unless you write news or very date-centric content, this certainly is a way to draw people in but I’m not sure how effective it is.

Quicksand strategy #7: Recently posted/most popular/most commented: This is a power strategy that is really several strategies but I’m lumping them together because the functionality is the same and the user-experience is the same: These lists are derived from data gathered from the blog post (such as the date or how often it’s clicked) and displays it in a widget, usually on a sidebar list. I’ve listed three but there are way more… most shared and most mentioned are two more I’ve seen.

Quicksand strategy #8: See also: This often appears at the bottom of a blog post and lists similar articles (usually based on information drawn from categories or tags). I like using this tool when I’m on other people’s blogs, except I don’t like that this functionality is now often being co-opted for click-through advertising, which I think diminishes the value of the blog.

Quicksand strategy #9: In-text links: This is where you write a blog post and then link to previous blog posts whenever you mention something relevant in the copy (as I did earlier when I talked about avoiding the miscellaneous category and then I linked to a previous post about that topic). This needs to be done intentionally and it can be quite effective.

Quicksand strategy #10: View all posts by: This is usually used when you have a blog that hosts numerous authors, so each author’s name is clickable, giving readers the ability to view all posts by a specific author.

Quicksand strategy #11: Your own groupings: This is a strategy I need to do more with. I really like it and I think it’s effectively. Basically, you group together similar blog posts and link to each of them from a single landing page. Then this landing page gets a link in different places (such as your sidebar or your menus or whatever). Think of it as a table of contents built around a series of blog posts that may or may not have been intentionally related when you first wrote them. It’s a great way to quickly pull together content that might not immediately seem related, or to pull together content into a strategic topic. For example, I might do that about sales funnels on my website. (I fully intend to, just haven’t got around to it yet). I like this strategy because it creates so much control over what you present (plus you can add more text on the landing page, which can add further context for the links). And as an added bonus, this method can become a powerful tool in search engines to help attract readers.

Quicksand strategy #12: Link lists in popular posts: In some ways, this is a mash-up of two of the strategies above — see also strategy plus the your own groupings strategy. Start with some of your most popular blog posts and then add a list of related content to the bottom of that post. That way, people who land on that post will see the list and may be drawn deeper into your site.

HOW TO USE THESE STRATEGIES TO PULL PEOPLE DEEPER

These are tools and strategies to add some eyeball glue to your website. Although they won’t all work in every situation, the more you use, the better. People will have different experiences on your blog and they’ll pay attention to different things. One person might click through a link embedded in a sentence, another person might click through a “See more” link, and another person might click a tag. Each user users these tools/strategies because they want something specific from your site.

And one more key point: I wish it goes without saying but I’m going to say it anyway: you need to make sure you post great content on your site! As you build a library of great content, link back to it regularly from your future content to encourage people to read more.

Accountants: Is your blog putting your website visitors to sleep?

Accountants play a vital role for businesses and individuals who need to make sense of their financial situation. If you’re an accountant, people need your financial guidance and insight. And you need to use online marketing to position yourself as a skilled and competent professional.

Unfortunately, when it comes to online marketing, you have a distinct challenge that many other professionals do not have: Online marketing (such as articles and blogs and Facebook posts) uses content to help attract potential customers and to position you as the expert service provider. But what kind of content should you include in your marketing?

How to read a balance sheet? No, potential customers don’t want to know that. (In fact, that’s the reason they’re looking for an accountant in the first place… so they don’t have to read balance sheets!).

How to perform financial analysis? No, that would make someone fall asleep at the best of times! (And again, why would someone read about it if they were thinking of hiring you anyway?)

Changes to the tax code? No way! Who would want to read that at all? (Accountants only read it because they have to… no accountant wants to write about it too!)

As important as an accountant’s work is, it can be extremely difficult to talk about it in your online marketing.

So, how do you create compelling online content to help people see how valuable you are without just writing about stuff that they don’t want to read about anyway?

The answer is a combination of two elements that accountants can easily include in every blog:

Value – What you do for your clients. This is the benefit that people get by working with you.
Personality – Who you are. This is the “voice” of your content.

When you combine these two elements in your content marketing, you communicate in a way that attracts potential clients without boring them to death with information that they don’t need to know. Here’s how to incorporate personality and value into your work.

HOW TO INCLUDE VALUE IN YOUR CONTENT MARKETING

The first thing you need to do is figure out what to say.

Forget the in’s and out’s of what you do for a living. Don’t blog about that. After all, no one is really interested in reading about tax code. Rather, they’re interested in knowing that you know the tax code enough to help them.

So, create content that shows your value to your clients. Show case studies of people whose businesses have succeeded because they worked with you. Instead of talking about how to read financial statements, talk about what to do with the business insight gained from financial statements. Talk about what to do with tax returns to make more money. Outline strategies to help people retire early.

In other words, don’t talk about your work. Talk about how people can benefit from what you do and talk about specific things that people can do for themselves after they’ve used your services.

HOW TO INCLUDE PERSONALITY IN YOUR CONTENT MARKETING

Now that you know what you want to say, figure out how you are going to say it.

Start by listing the various qualities that make up your personality. What do people think of when they think of you? What are some things that you like, which can become a sort-of signature for you? For example: Are you funny? Thoughtful? Happy-go-lucky? Enthusiastic? Energetic? Do you like classic cars? Do you like to cook? Are you an avid book collector? Do you like a certain sport?

There are things about you that make you uniquely you. Unfortunately, most clients and potential clients are too busy seeing the spreadsheets to the see person behind them. You can change that around and become more magnetic by letting your personality shine through.

As an example, just watch a cooking show. The ingredients that these chefs cook with, and the dishes they create, look good but could be duplicated by other expert chefs. The reason these chefs have a following and their own show is because of their personality!

Be true to yourself (don’t make up a rock-n-roll personality if it’s not you). Figure out what makes up your personality and then make sure that it shines through in all of your online marketing: Tie in elements of your personality in all of your blogs and articles and Facebook postings and tweets and newsletters and special reports.

Accountant marketing with blogs and articles doesn’t have to bore your clients. Instead, your online content marketing can be highly valuable to them (while at the same time displaying your unique and compelling personality), which helps to position you as an expert that they will want to hire.

Should you accept guest posts on your blog?

With increasing frequency, I’m getting requests from people who are asking if they can write a guest post for my blog.

I thank them for the offer but tell them no. Yet, I’m a big proponent of posting guests posts and I write them all the time to promote my biz and my clients’ businesses.

So why the hypocrisy?

Actually, I have a very good reason for it.

Blogs serve many overlapping purposes for businesses. Sometimes they promote the business or the industry, educate or sell, act as an information or news portal, and so much more. Additionally, businesses present their blog in many different ways — as a voice of one person (or multiple people), as a voice of the business, as a neutral collecting point of information, etc.

Every blog is some combination of these.

In my business, my blog at AaronHoos.com is intended to promote my writing biz by presenting my portfolio of work, and my blog is my voice.

Compare this to a blog owned by a corporation that has a team of bloggers who are researching content and posting without any specific individual signing their name to their content.

And compare this yet again to a blog owned by a blogger who wants to archive news for a particular industry.

My blog really only works with my voice because I’m presenting my business to my prospective clients. Other peoples’ voices on my blog might provide an interesting perspective but it doesn’t serve the purpose of my blog.

But a corporation with multiple bloggers, or an industry-specific news blog, each have a need for additional content that can be contributed by a guest blogger without diminishing the brand. In those cases, accepting guest posts is entirely appropriate.

SO SHOULD YOUR BLOG ACCEPT GUEST POSTS?

My opinion is:

  • If your own voice adds value to your blog (i.e. because of your opinion or a demonstration of your skills), and if it’s that voice that gets you business then it doesn’t benefit you to accept guest blog posts.
  • If your blog’s content is really what drives readership (rather than your specific voice) then accept guest blog posts.

I’m sure that I’ll think of a hundred exceptions to this rule as soon as I publish this post but if you’re trying to figure out your guest blog posting strategy, this is the place to start.