Build a Business from your Blog: Liveblog notes from conference session

Here is another BlogPaws Liveblog session, presented by Mary Anne Shrew of www.BuildBlogBiz.com.
Note: This post originally appeared as a liveblog post on DOGthusiast.com. I wrote these liveblog notes at BlogPaws Conference 2014, an event for professional pet bloggers. The following is a cleaned up (slightly edited) version of the notes from this session.

NOTE: We lost some notes near the beginning of this session due to internet connectivity problems.

Find the slides from this presentation here on Slideshare.

For the nine groupings of the “Business Model You”, refer to this version from Method Kit here and to the Slideshare notes above.

NOTE: We lost some notes near the beginning of this session due to internet connectivity problems.

Build a Business – not just a blog – introduction

What is happening in the blogging community is a lot of maturing. People realize they can start a business and make money. But the question is: HOW.

Most conferences have an unintended theme: hearing about Infrastructure.

Talk about how to stand out in addition to building a business.

What about your dreams

Everyone is here because you love animals in some way or the other. You have heard about blogging, know how to write, advance the cause.

Wouldn’t it be nice to make a living. Problem – if you do a subscription list, it’s slow. Income – hard to earn income as a blogger.

What give today: a way to sort it out, and a way to use it in a flexible way (what you learn). So you can plan for success.

The Business Recipe

Your business is a recipe: it has ingredients, steps to make it happen, an outcome, and a customer.

Your business is exactly the same. The point is, you have a lot of the skills you need but you might not have thought to apply them to your business.

Answer the 9 questions to create your recipe. Three sets of three questions.

  1. Activate your Assets. What assets do you bring to the table. Everything in business is activating your assets.
  2. Connect to customers. You are not a lone ranger. It takes a village to run a business. A lot of the help is free or easily accessible.
  3. Produce a profit. No reason to do this unless you have a profit.

Today walk out with this framework.

Idea Collector

You need to write furiously in each session. You need to write down the ideas that you get. Your time is the most precious time you have as a business owner.

Capture your ideas. The sheet handed out has a column for “Idea” “Application” and “Expected Results”

Graph is great because long form writing is hard to filter through later.

Collect the idea when its fresh in your mind.

Business Model YOU Canvas (“BMY”)

  • Helps you keep track of information.
  • The diagram can be used in commercial usage (Creative Commons).
  • Nine boxes that you fill in: You have assets, customers, and profit boxes.

What is a business model?

  • How you plan to make money. Everyone has their own model. Ie: Blogging
  • Part of a blogging business plan would include monetization.
  • Stage 1: Getting a blog. Stage 2: Monetization. Stage 3: Truly making it into a business.

A business evolves. 

Even though its different at the beginning is fine. It requires work, and it will grow and evolve over times. Fascinating journey, but the most frustrating and difficult things you can do in your life.

What is a model:

  • It is a recipe.
  • The business recipe guides you.
  • You activate your assets: this includes your ability to harness/do certain key tasks. It requires skills (example, baking a cake: measuring mixing, put in oven, bake)
  • Use your skills and resources (example of baking a cake: design, baking skills, ingredient choice/have them, need the tools to put it together)
  • Part of the assets includes the outside help that you get. Find your tribe. You can’t do your blog alone, find people to help you and find people that you can help.
  • Connect to customers. Who are you doing your blog for. Who is the customer? Example: If you are baking a cake, the recipient (age/gender) makes a difference.
  • What is your relationship to the recipent/requestor? What you are going to make, and WHY you are making it – what is your relationship to the audience. Different ways that you work with advertisers and with sponsors.
  • How does the customer know you? It’s not only how you make the content, it’s how you are going to deliver it to the customer.
  • What is going to be the profit out of this? How you help with this: Great content, audience enjoyment, adds to the overall community/tribe.
  • Your value proposition (unique from selling proposition) – the value you bring is the most important thing you need to understand. Doing more with more. Many women have the toughest time asking for what we are worth.
  • There is money for the value that you deliver.
  • What does it cost you. Resources: ingredients, equipment, time.
  • What is your personal benefit. Compliments, appreciation, pride.

Question: How does this work with the business plan?

  • When you are starting a business, conventional wisdom is to start a business plan.
  • Worked with dozens and dozens of small businesses – have not come across one that really needs one at the very beginning.
  • These plans (strategic plans) come later. A strategy is nothing more than a problem you are trying to solve, a plan for solving it with a guiding principle.
  • The business plans never worked at the beginning.
  • So at the beginning, you can have a very high level idea.
  • Then on the granular level: the todo list. Going from business plan to todo list is a nightmare.
  • The Business Model is a great middle layer. You will have thought about the pieces of your business.
  • If you want to monetize: what are your resources, what are your assets. For example: you need contracts.

Your AssetsWrite them down. Talk to your tribe, exchange canvasses and get some feedback. The canvas is the Business Model canvas where you fill out the items in the 9 different boxes. (Note: Will endeavor to find a link to this if it’s provided).

Problem: FocusPomodoro technique – google this. Very hard to estimate. Often we would make an estimate and then quadruple it — doesn’t work well. What he does is set windows of 25 minutes. Can you sit down for 25 minutes and focus. The key is to have a timer – and for that time you do absolutely nothing else.

What else is this Business Model good for

Think through ideas. 
What is it going to look like if I add this advertiser for my business. Challenge: go to any website. Can you figure out someones business idea from the website. The site should answer most of the questions. Go to the website – does it demo the value you provide.
Solve problems
Where is this problem. Get rid of the distractions, and focus on the issue.
What if…?
Say: what if I add advertising? what if I add sponsors.

Tips for the BMY recipe

It’s easier to start by listing your assets.

One answer may change the others.

The recipe is designed to be flexible, and so you don’t go too far down in the weeds.

The only right answers are the ones that work for you.

BMY: The 9 Questions

  • Why even have a business model? If you are a blogging for business, you need to think like a business owner.
  • Now what is in your head is more important than what your hands can do. It’s because most of what your hands can do can be automated with machines.
  • So: You are competing for attention.
  • Last year at this time there were 2200 members. This year: 3575 members. 50% increase almost in the past year.
  • Successful bloggers over time adjusted the recipe to fit them and their audience.
  • Competition: aware of it, but don’t worry about it. If you focus on your competition then you are letting them define your business. Good to know what’s out there, but do not obsess over it. You need to up your game, and do it for yourself and your customers, not your competitors.
  • Co-competition. Ie: all bloggers. Technically you are competing, but you need to cooperate – this is a wise thing.
  • When you become a business,  you will be ahead of a vast majority of the other bloggers out there. Not many bloggers make the commitment. It is more work, but it can be done. (Using the 9 box canvas will help).
  • It will make you more appealing to your customers/readers.

1) What you do.

What are the physical and/or mental activities you perform on behalf of your customers.

2) Who you are. Interests, abilities, and skills (photos, art, writing, etc). Being a business owner is an acquired skill.

Also – personality. Style of interaction with others. Does your personality come across on the website.

What do you have: Knowledge – but you need to write to your audience. Passion, etc.

3) Who supports you. Come up with a defn of what a pro blogger is. Who supports you in this role? Goal to reach, set standards, credibility, dependability. Learning tool.

Accountability partner – she has a call twice a month, and discuss a couple things you want to accomplish by the next call. Then the next call you check in. It’s you talking to you, but having a non-judgmental listener. Should never tell each other what to do unless advice is specifically solicited.

Connect to customers

  • Whom you help?
  • Who pays you directly to receive a benefit. Benefit is free or pay.
  • Who receives a benefit at no cost and is subsidized by paying customers?
  • How do you interact? Personal face-to-face, blog, email, social media, text, single transaction or ongoing, focus on more customers or keeping the ones you have?
  • How do they know you or find you?

Produce a profit

  • How you help: what jobs are customers hiring you to perform. They don’t want you to just deliver, but to deliver something great (as bloggers: leads, sales, etc for your sponsor).
  • What benefits do customers gain as a result of that job? Sponsors are getting access to people they don’t otherwise have access to. For you: pets get better care, pets get adopted, and so on.
  • What you get: fees, royalties, commissions, free products, and satisfaction/recognition/contribution of running a great business

Summary

Your time is the most precious time you have as a business owner.

Capture your ideas. The sheet handed out has a column for “Idea” “Application” and “Expected Results”

Graph is great because long form writing is hard to filter through later.

Collect the idea when its fresh in your mind.

  • Figure out what your assets are
  • Activate your assets
  • Find someone who supports your business – doesn’t have to be a spouse or significant other. Go to a chamber meeting locally, for example.
  • Repeat: “I am a professional pet blogger”

Author Jen deHaan

Jen deHaan is a freelance graphic and web designer, fascinated with great layout and usability. She has been working in the software industry since 2001, and has held positions with Macromedia, Adobe, and Motorola. Jen has written and contributed to over 20 print publications on web design that have been published by Peachpit, Adobe Press, and Wiley. She is also a professional pet blogger at DOGthusiast, and owns a small business called Stylish Canine.

More posts by Jen deHaan

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