Monthly Archives: December 2018

CMSWire’s Top 10 Office 365 and SharePoint Articles of 2018

CMSWire's Top 10 Office 365 and SharePoint Articles of 2018

You cannot talk about Office 365, SharePoint and Microsoft collaboration without talking about them in the context of the wider market. Over the year, this has manifested itself as a competition between Microsoft and just about everyone else.

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2018 Contributors of the Year: Sam Marshall

2018 Contributors of the Year: Sam Marshall

When he's not advising a client about how to improve their digital workplace, you can usually find Sam Marshall on a bicycle. Or eating yak cheese pizza. Or delivering a conference session about SharePoint intranets. Many of these interests come together in his monthly columns on the site, where

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CMSWire’s Top 10 Data Privacy Articles of 2018

CMSWire's Top 10 Data Privacy Articles of 2018

It was a pivotal year for data privacy. Companies small, large and gargantuan prepared for new legislation emanating from the US and Europe in the form of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 (CCPA) and the ePrivacy Directive (ePR).

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Talent and a Team for Our Times

At this time of year, we all have a tendency to look back and assess the past 12 months. So, I’d like to take the opportunity to touch on something my thoughts have increasingly been returning to in the latter half of 2018.

Talent

I’m referring to talent that runs towards the cerebral, analytical, and smoothly efficient. You know, the kind of talent not usually profiled in glossy online business magazines or ever considered eligible for company awards. Yet this kind of talent often has an arguably larger, yet quieter, and more difficult to measure impact on our business world than most others. Unfortunately, the business world seems to have a sparse supply of the kind of patience it takes to consider, assess, and celebrate value generation at the level played by people in the roles I’m thinking of.

Let’s highlight one such area where roles like this live.

Customer Programs

Forward-thinking, customer-centric high-tech companies pay close attention to the customer and the digital signals they emit, and endeavor to anticipate and proactively execute programs that address their needs. Such companies all possess people whose job it is to own and govern customer engagement and customer service processes. These people operate under a charter that typically says that the work they do must result in a downstream service that:

  • Delivers faster and more consistently accurate results
  • Includes meaningful outcomes that positively impact the customer’s business.
Thou Shalt Heed thy Customers’ Feedback

For example, these people often face the challenge of coming up with ways for ensuring that processes:

  • Respectfully gauge customer feedback
  • Improve the experience that customers have while using the firm’s products and services,
  • Push content to customers is relevant and timely for where they are in their journey with the product.

The underlying philosophy revolves around this pertinent fact: If a customer has a more frictionless experience with the product or service, they will then be more inclined to make more use of it in an effort to derive more value from it for their business.

More value derived typically equates to a subscription renewal.

Charlie Brown Syndrome

People in customer programs are largely unsung heroes. While they are responsible for designing and building the process infrastructure that enables the organization to run at scale, they themselves are not directly attached to the firm’s products, its revenue, nor (interestingly enough) its customers. Their work, therefore, remains largely unseen. However, just as all great physical structures need the support of walls, pillars, beams, and other forces of strength that defy gravity, strong business processes also require support from the streamlined, efficient use of people, data, computing power, and other assets.

In other words, though the work of customer programs is hugely important, due to an almost intentional and necessary byproduct of design, it is vastly under-noticed. Still, do not feel guilty if you haven’t recognized the people designing these programs for their efforts. Ask yourself: When was the last time someone looked at a grandly-lit building and gave thought, let alone credit, to the electricians and the interior designers? If any role at all came to mind, it was likely that of the architect. The same holds true for those individuals who design, build, and administer processes utilized by customer-facing organizations like sales, marketing, and customer success.

Thou Shalt Traverse the Digital Frontier

Customer programs people tend to be passionately interested in the work they do, and too few of them realize they should proudly view it as being symbolic of what it means to work on the digital frontier. If you know how customer-centric companies operate, you also acknowledge that there is an elegant and delicate beauty associated with the consumption of customer information and its conversion into process behaviors that benefit those very same customers. The work these people do involves helping to demonstrate how to move digital transformation successfully from the conceptual realm of strategy to the very real realm of tactics. This capability to move from strategy to tactics will become even more important in the months and years ahead.

"By 2023, 95% of entities will have incorporated new digital KPI sets—focusing on product/service innovation rates data capitalization, and employee experience—to navigate the digital economy."

- IDC, from FutureScape: Worldwide Digital Transformation 2019 Predictions Nov, 2018

So, If You Think You’ve Had Your Fill of KPIs, Just Wait a Couple of Years

All measurements and metrics will eventually chiefly concern the impact upon customers and vendors. The more digitized our companies become, the more digitization opportunities will present themselves. Even this blog post stands as an example. Sure, for right now, we are concerning ourselves with opens and click throughs, but we can imagine a day when even more scrutiny and tracking becomes possible through linked digitized processes across organizations and into the customer realm. At that point, my boss might be able to ask the ultimate business question:

Is that thought leadership blog thing you are doing on the side a valuable use of your time and our money?  

And then we might see something resembling an accurate answer because of empirical evidence showing a relationship between collected metrics about the blog and its influence on a customer’s willingness to buy or their eventual decision to renew. You can almost compare digitization to when electric lighting was invented and rolled out to the masses. Its ability to illuminate darkness created entire new ways of living and that’s probably how you should think of digitization in business.

Applying Human Intelligence to Determine What to Do Next

To adapt and exploit digital at the level being discussed here requires a high degree of human intelligence and empathy, both in equal measure. It might seem ironic to outside observers, but we are witnessing that the more digitized a customer engagement model becomes, the more critical it is that the humans operating behind it do so from a solid base of empathy. And therein lies the trick. A particular talent that exists within every human on the planet will prove to be the most important for the people who work in these kinds of customer program roles. It’s also likely the most difficult talent to develop and make appropriate for those kinds of roles. It factors critically into the process of selecting a team, though.

Temperament

How we come across to others is obviously important in business settings. The aim of business conversations should be to achieve outcomes that allow both individuals to walk away thinking that their time was usefully spent and that some aspect of their respective business responsibilities was positively impacted. If one person’s temperament is off-putting, dismissive, or cold, then the odds that both sides feel the time was usefully spent are probably pretty low. If both sides exhibit negative emotions, then the odds on the conversation lasting longer than two minutes are near zero. Ill- temperament does not accomplish much in the world of customer engagement process design. In fact, it is counter-productive and will more likely result in a fatally-flawed process design that reflects the ill-temperament of the person who created it. And customers would definitely feel this ill temperament coming through.

Remoteness Doesn’t Always Mean an Absence of Intimacy

All the time, you hear stories about how technology, or more specifically AI and machine learning, will kill scores and scores of jobs. While there will certainly be disruption, consider the activities of the people who work in customer program roles. Ask them what they think about when designing a process for customer engagement at scale. What do they think the customer needs at any particular point? How exactly do they know what the customer needs? And how did they find that out? How do they assess after the process has been in production whether how they went about understanding customer needs was helpful or not?

While there are mechanisms for soliciting customer feedback at scale, the people in customer program roles have to iteratively build a level of customer sensitivity into their processes at the outset that leverage:

  • Empathy
  • An intelligent, light-handed application of technology
  • An intense and authentic desire to make an impact

AI can’t do all that. Only people with the right temperament can articulate a human touch through technology—a touch that customers would appreciate and respond well to even if they never meet or even know the names of the people who designed the process in the first place.

Listening to your customers helps you improve their experience. Find out how by reading “Go Further with Customer Experience Optimization.”

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CMSWire’s Top 10 Digital Marketing Articles of 2018

CMSWire's Top 10 Digital Marketing Articles of 2018

The readership numbers in 2018 tell us you cared deeply about marketing technology trends, learning more about Instagram marketing and how marketing could be impacted by privacy laws. It was a telling year for digital marketing. For starters, we saw one of the biggest acquisitions in this space when Adobe acquired Marketo for $4.75 billion in September.

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How to Start a Blog When You’re Not an Expert: 11 Ways to Make it Work

The post How to Start a Blog When You’re Not an Expert: 11 Ways to Make it Work appeared first on ProBlogger.

Starting a Blog When You're Not an Expert

Is it okay to blog about a topic you’re not an expert on?

Definitely.

I wasn’t an expert blogger when I started ProBlogger, or an expert photographer when I started Digital Photography School. Even now I don’t consider myself an expert, especially with photography.

When I started ProBlogger in 2004 I’d been blogging for a couple of years, but hadn’t been making money from blogging for very long (less than a year). I wasn’t a professional, full-time blogger by any means, and never claimed to be one.

It was the same with Digital Photography School. I wasn’t, and never claimed to be, a photography expert.

But it didn’t matter. In fact, my lack of expertise helped me to make those blogs a success.

Why a Lack of Expertise Might Work in Your Favour

Some experts are great at talking to beginners. But a complete beginner may find it hard to connect with an expert who’s had years of experience or is seen as a ‘guru’ in their area.

If you’re still relatively new to your topic area, you’ll remember what it was like to be a beginner.

You’ll know what it feels like to be starting out, and be able to explain things in ways beginners can easily understand.

You can position yourself as someone who gets what it’s like to be in your readers’ shoes. And as you learn new things, you can share what you learn with your readers.

Three Key Things to Do When You’re Not an Expert

If you decide to blog about a topic you’re not yet an expert in, or even one you’ve just started learning about, it’s important to:

#1: Be Transparent and Ethical

Be upfront about who you are and what experience you have. That might mean telling your story so far in a blog post or on your About page, which I did in the early days of both ProBlogger and Digital Photography School.

There’s nothing worse than reading a blog by someone who claims they’re an expert (or at least implies it) but isn’t. It usually comes across in the writing, but even if it doesn’t it can have a serious impact when readers later find out the truth.

#2: Think Carefully About the Types of Post You Create

These days on ProBlogger we publish a lot of tutorials that are quite authoritative. They build on years of testing and experimenting, talking with people and gathering ideas.

But in the early days my teaching posts focused very much on the beginner, and were generally based on something I’d experimented with. And the rest of my posts didn’t require particular expertise. (I’ll talk about them in a moment.)

Be very careful writing about topics where misguided advice could have a detrimental effect on your readers’ lives. This includes areas such as legal advice, financial advice, and physical or mental health.

I’m sure the last thing you want is to ruin someone’s life. But that’s a potential consequence of giving poor advice in these critical areas. You also run the risk of getting sued or destroying your own reputation.

#3: Keep Actively Learning About Your Topic

While you might not be an expert yet, you can and should keep learning about your topic area. Even if you don’t ever get to the level where people would consider you an ‘expert’, you’ll still be learning things you can share with your readers.

When readers see you’re enthusiastic about your topic and moving forward yourself, it helps them to be enthusiastic too. It can build anticipation and momentum, and help them connect with you and your blog.

What Kind of Content Should You Create?

If you’re not creating tutorials or ‘how to’ posts, what sort of content can you create as a non-expert?

#1: Write About What You’ve Done or Seen

I listen to Rob Bell, a podcaster who teaches public speaking. He suggests that if you’re asked to do a talk on something you’re not an expert in you should start by asking yourself, “What can I be witness to?”

What have you seen or experienced? What involvement have you had with your topic on a personal level? Start with your experience of that.

#2 Write About Your Mistakes or Failures

I did this a lot in the early days of ProBlogger. I wrote about things I tried that didn’t quite work out, and about what I’d do differently the next time.

This type of post can really resonate with readers because it’s honest and authentic, and genuinely useful in teaching them what not to do.

#3: Write About Your Successes

Share what you’ve done that’s gone well, like a case study. You might want to talk about how you’d tweak it next time or build on it.

This is a good way to do teaching content by basing it on your own experience. For instance, fairly early in the life of ProBlogger I wrote a series of posts on how to monetize your blog using Adsense. It included posts on how I started out, where I positioned my ads, how I changed the size of my ads, and so on.

#4: Write About What Others Are Doing

A great way to share what other people are doing is to write a case study. I used to do this a lot of ProBlogger, and we still do it occasionally.

These days, we normally involve the person we’re doing a case study on. But in the past I’d just write about what I saw people doing: how they’d redesigned their blog, what I liked about it, how I might improve it, and so on.

#5: Interview People for Your Blog

This can be tricky in the early days of your blog when you haven’t built up a profile. But it’s still possible. Listen to episode 172 of the podcast to hear how Michael Stelzner from Social Media Examiner built his blog based on video interviews with experts.

Whether you do text, audio or video interviews, this type of content can build your credibility, drive traffic, and help you network in your industry.

#6: Run Guest Posts on Your Blog

This is something you probably won’t want to try when you’re just starting out. But once your blog is more established you could open it up for guest posters, or even hire someone to write for your blog.

Digital Photography School began with just me writing posts aimed at beginners. These days we’ve got professional photographers writing on more advanced topics so we can fill the blog with expert content.

#7: Write About News and Developments

In the early days of ProBlogger I’d write an article every couple of weeks that covered a development in blogging, or maybe a new tool or controversy in the industry.

But I didn’t just report what had happened. I wanted to interpret it for my audience in some way (“What does this mean for us?”) This could also work for a discussion post (which we’ll come to in a moment).

#8: Create Curated Content

“Curated” content is when you link to and quote from someone else’s content. (Never copy it or present it as your own.)

If another blogger has written a great article, pull out a short relevant quote, link readers to the entire article, and add some of your own thoughts. Tell readers what you liked, and maybe add something to the article (e.g. if it has ten reasons or ten tips, come up with an eleventh).

#9: Embed Content into Your Posts

As well as linking to and quoting from other people’s content, you can include their content by embedding it. The most obvious examples here are YouTube videos and tweets.

Again, these let you bring other people’s voices and expertise onto your blog. Using curated and embedded content is also a great way to build a relationship with the influencers in your niche.

#10: Write a Research Post

This is a bit like writing an essay on a particular topic. You go away and learn from lots of different sources, then create something that brings together what you’ve learned, quoting from and crediting your sources.

You’ll learn more yourself (which will get you closer to that ‘expert’ status), and you can share what you’ve learned in an authentic way. It helps your readers to see you as more authoritative and knowledgeable.

#11: Write a Discussion Post

We publish a discussion post every week on Digital Photography School. And it doesn’t take any expertise at all. (If you have only a few readers you may need to wait till you’ve built up a larger audience.)

With a discussion post, you ask a key question: something you want to know the answer to, or that will prompt a bit of a debate. This gives your readers a chance to participate and engage. You could even take some of the best comments and use them in a future post.

You can have a blog that covers a topic area you’re not an expert in. Just make sure you’re transparent, and be careful about the type of content you create.

Keep actively learning, and keep sharing what you learn with your readers. If you have any suggestions for other types of content that work really well on a non-expert blog, share them with us in the comments.

Image Credit: unsplash-logoRita Morais

The post How to Start a Blog When You’re Not an Expert: 11 Ways to Make it Work appeared first on ProBlogger.