Funny thing. I’ve been so busy posting (hopefully) useful and educational content on this blog, that I’ve not so much as got around to writing a proper bio, much less weaving a sales pitch into anything! The marketing man in me is screaming: “Where’s the sales pitch?! Where’s the call-to-action?!” And to a degree, that’s an entirely reasonable question.
Yeah, so I’ll get around to that. But for the time being here’s the really quick summary: I do everything in my power to work with and around my clients to make them wildly successful bloggers and/or online businesses. I have at my disposal programmers, copywriters, designers, SEO people, PR experts, and so forth. To be clear: I am an expert of none of these things (I am formally trained as a graphic designer and Bible scholar – go figure). What I do is act as an expert “bridge” between my clients and the very specific skills and services they need. Some things I do myself, some things I hand off to the crew at Alliance Software, and some things are outsourced. Every client’s needs are different.
But where does it all start? If you’re a blogger of one shape or other, and you were to approach me for a consultation, I’d immediately tell you two things. Firstly, I’d explain that my rate starts at AUD$250/hr (a little less than US$200/hr if I have the exchange rate right). If that works for you then one can assume we both have a good understanding about the seriousness of your blogging and of my consulting services.
The next thing I’d tell you is to fill out my questionnaire… what I call my “30 Questions”.
(Note to other consultants: the “right” client — the kind of client I want to work with — will both be happy with my rate and prepared to take the time to fill out my questionnaire properly. I flush the tyre-kickers out at the very start because I’m not into prostituting my time to the wrong people.)
Alister Cameron’s 30 Questions
I was challenged by one very prominent blogger friend about whether I was giving too much away in publishing these questions here… And after a little reflecting I decided it’s a risk I can afford to take. I figure if a close-to-useless “consultant” takes my questions and makes them the basis of his/her client engagment, the worst that can happen is that the evidence of their incompetence might take a little longer to be revealed. And if a good consultant sees value in my questions, I would consider that “plagiarism” the greatest form of flattery.
So there you go. Following are the generic 30 questions I request a prospective client to complete, in order that, by the time we’re talking on the phone or meeting in person, I have already collected the requisite background information, which I have spent (typically) at least an hour reviewing. (I will have added this analysis to the usual “health checks”: Alexa rank, Technorati rank, Feedburner subscribers, Digg history, search engine ranking for targeted keywords, and so forth.)
My 30 Questions:
- What is the URL of your blog? Are you satisfied with this domain name for your blog (some people are not!)?
- Do you maintain other blogs? (If so, please list their URLs and the “niches” they target.)
- On what blogging platform is it built? (Please provide the admin login details, so I can assess its configuration/plugins/etc.)
- For how long have you been running this site/blog? For how long have you been blogging on a daily (or near-daily basis)?
- Is your blog a stand-alone project, or does it tie into (work alongside) something else (Eg. a commercial business, an online shop, an eBay store, or similar)? Please describe the relationship, as required.
- If your blog must express/reflect the message/brand/values/”voice” of a commercial entity (which may employ you or own your blog), please explain what this means (especially any/all constraints it imposes on you).
- What “niche” does your blog target? (Describe your target reader: their average age, level of internet savvy, buying habits, and/or any other relevant characteristics.)
- What forms of revenue do you presently derive from it? How much do you earn (yes, really)? What is the breakdown across the different revenue streams, if there is more than one? What approaches to making money off your blog have you tried and abandoned? (Please list the ad services – i.e. Adsense, Text Link Ads, etc)
- Do you presently have any joint ventures, affiliations, or other revenue-generating partnerships in place? Any previous ones?
- Have you used a blog consultant/coach before? What was your experience? What worked? What didn’t? Did you receive value for money?
- How much (if any) search engine optimization has been undertaken on your blog (or the domain on which it resides)? What keywords and keyword phrases are being targeted?
- Do you now have (or have you previously had) any other professional consultants/suppliers working on your blog (i.e. graphic designers, writers, illustrators, etc)?
- What are the main competing blogs/websites to yours? (List any outstanding or impressive features of each. If there are peculiar/stand-out reasons for the success of any of them, please explain. Eg, “Rupert Murdoch pumped $100Million into xyzblog.com and bought all the advertising in our entire market for a year!”)
- What stats tracking software/services do you run? (Please provide URLs and logins if reports are hidden from public view.)
- How long, on average, per day/week do you or others spend maintaining the blog and related activities?
- How many authors consistently contribute to your blog? Under what kind of arrangement?
- What are your blogging goals for the year 2007? Please express these goals in terms of a) revenue, b) traffic growth, c) skill development, or d) any other “metric” that is important to you.
- What blogging skills/areas do you feel you are the most mature/confident in? (Try and describe your level of understanding.)
- What blogging skills/areas do you feel you are the least mature/confident in (and most want help with)? (Again, try and describe your level of understanding.)
- Please rate these areas in terms of relative importance to you: a) blog writing technique; b) online new-gathering/researching techniques; c) traffic generation techniques; d) SEO – optimizing your blog for high search engine rankings; e) SMO (social media optimization) – understanding how to grow a larger base of loyal readers from participation with/in social networks, etc.
- What are the high-traffic A-list blogs serving your “target market”?
- What are the high-traffic discussion forums/social networks/online communities serving your “target market”?
- Describe the extent of your participation in the above forums/communities. Are you a guru on first-name basis with the other gurus? Are you a complete unknown? Somewhere in-between?
- To your mind, who (or what) are the outstanding successes at reaching the same “target market” (but perhaps not precisely your competitors)? What impresses you most about them?
- Compared to your competitors and “fellow bloggers” directed at your “niche” or “target market”, how have you created a unique voice for yourself? In marketing terms, the question is “what is your Unique Selling Proposition”? In layman’s terms, “what are you saying/doing/offering that makes you different from other bloggers/websites targeting the same “niche”?
- Reflecting on your previous answer, is it working? Why or why not?
- What are you looking for, from a blog consultant/coach? What type of “engagement” would suit you best?
- Is the focus of your blog (the “niche”) also your passion? Are you just doing this for money (one extreme) or would you do it for the love of it alone (the other extreme)?
- In brief, please write your blogging “story” for me. Highlight the highs and lows, and the key lessons learned. It will help me to hear the victories and frustrations. If you write this as you would a blog post, you are welcome to include web links that point to relevant sites/blogs that I might like to visit, as well as pages on your site. Eg. If you wrote an amazingly popular post at a given time, I’d like to follow the link so I can read it. (This story should not need to take more than the equivalent of one typed foolscap page.)
- Is there anything else you’d like to tell me that’s not been covered above? Last chance!
So you don’t need any help from me?
Great! Pleased to hear it. But maybe using these questions as a way to “audit” your own blogging efforts thus far would be really helpful. I hope that’s the case.
Finally, my 30 Questions are an evolving list. I’ll change them over time. Probably as soon as you lot start commenting here and giving me all sorts of wonderful questions I’ve never thought of, or the same sorts of questions asked in a better, more insightful way. So impress me! What questions would you want a blog consultant to ask you in order that you had occasion to tell him/her some really important stuff? I’d love to keep my list to 30 Questions… if possible
(Note to the easily offended: the title of this post is hard to say out loud because my tongue is firmly planted in my cheek. Try that yourself… comes out all funny.)