Many people have asked questions about how I write my blog entries. Some think that I am simply copying and pasting from my books. Others, ironically, have asked when I’ll publish my blog entries in a book!
I’d like to explain what I’m doing for many of my entries. It starts around 10 pm when the kids are asleep, Boston Legal is recording, and I’m home from playing hockey. (This process starts later if the Olympics are going on–seven hours a day of high definition TV hockey!–or I played in a late game.)
- Look through my books and find a topic that I’d like to blog about–let’s say, building a community.
- Take the subhead/bullets and use them as the starting point for the entry. (I never copy and paste from my book’s manuscript.)
- Spend two to three hours writing the “body” of the entry–that is, the introduction and text in the bullets.
- Send the draft to my buddy Thomas Kang who provides a reality check, makes suggestions, and copyedits.
- Go to iStockphoto to find a picture that illustrates the entry.
The result of this process is an entry like yesterday’s post, “The Art of Building a Community.” To show you how it started, this is the text from the manuscript of The Art of the Start.
Foster a community
In the late 1990s, a group of business people and community leaders started an organization called the Calgary Flames Ambassadors. They were Flames fans who were alarmed by the prospect that their National Hockey League team might move to another city. According to the chairman of the group, Lyle Edwards, “The ambassadors ran around Calgary and twisted arms so that people bought more tickets.”
Circa 2004, the group has fifty members, and they don’t have to help sell tickets anymore. To join the Ambassadors, you have to buy a season ticket and pay $100 Canadian to the Ambassadors organization. That’s right: these evangelists pay for the privilege of proselytizing the Flames by greeting fans at games, promoting community outreach, and conducting social events.
The goal of recruiting evangelists is to build a community around your product or service. Examples of companies that enjoy well-publicized communities include Apple, Harley Davidson, Motley Fool, and Saturn. These communities provide customer service, technical support, and social relationships that make owning a product or service a better experience—as well as twist arms so that more people buy a product, service, or tickets.
Surprisingly, most companies react to the formation of communities after they appear, and their reaction is: “Never heard of them…you mean to say that there are groups of customers who get together because of our product?”This is sub-optimal if not downright stupid. Having seen how some companies have benefited from the spontaneous generation of communities, you should pro-actively cause one to exist:
- Identify and recruit the “thunder lizards” of your product or service. These are the customers who are the most enthusiastic about what you do and who are willing to serve in leadership positions.
- Hire someone who’s sole purpose is to foster a community. This is your internal champion for the needs of the community; he evangelizes evangelists and fights for internal resources. As you achieve success, build a department around this person to institutionalize community support.
- Create a budget for community support. You won’t need much, and the intent is not for you to “buy” a community. But you’ll still need a budget for the community to hold meetings, print and circulate newsletters, and maintain an online presence.
- Integrate the presence of the community into your sales and marketing efforts and your online presence. For example, your Web site should provide information about the community including instructions for joining it.
- Host the community’s efforts. This means letting members use your building to hold meetings as well as digital assistance such as operating an email listserver, online chat, and bulletin board on your Web site.
- Hold a conference. No one loves electronic communication more than I do, but face-to-face meetings are important for communities. At these conferences, community members can meet each other as well as interact with your own employees.
Per dollar, building a community of customers and evangelists is the cheapest method to create and maintain a brand, so don’t screw up by waiting for a community to form on its own.
There are several things to take away from this discussion:
- Hopefully, you think that my blog entry is better than the original book passage; after all, I should have learned something in the last three years.
- I’ve written eight books since 1987. In those twenty or so years, I’ve pretty much covered all the topics that I thought were important–or knew anything about. There’s no way that I can write a blog with only new topics unless I write a different kind of blog–ie, (a) Guy’s rants and raves or (b) Guy acts as your newsbot. Don’t hold your breath…I’m not a 6 o’clock news reporter nor Howard Stern. My goal is to write the equivalent of documentaries or feature stories.
- If you bought the book and see a similar blog entry, then I think you should be thinking: “I’m lucky: I got this years earlier.”
- If you read the blog and are thinking about buying the book, then I think that you should be thinking: “It’s great that I can get all of Guy’s writing in one place–fully indexed and illustrated.” Plus, if you buy the book, you can see the results of my book cover design contest which, all modesty aside, is one of the most clever ideas I ever had.
- There are about 100,000 copies of Art in print. This means a lot of people haven’t read it yet.
Written at: Atherton California, watching Finland beat Italy.