Here’s a strategy that can take your blog from Deadsville to being a bustle of activity, connect you with key hubs and influencers in your scene, build your credibility and trust with your people – and ultimately get you more of the kinds of perfect clients you’re wanting.
You’ve likely already heard of my dear friend Alex Baisley and his work around helping people create a wonderful, eclectic and sustainable lifestyle. He’s brilliant. So, when he started raving about a woman named Heather Gray . . . I paid attention.
And then, as strange things in life occur, I found myself in Brooklyn (close to where she lives) a few months later, sitting next to her at a beautiful little vegan and amazing food restaurant/cafe. And she told me a bit about her work in helping people to slow down, get really clear about what they want and then craft a lifestyle out of that.
And one of the marketing and community building ideas she had, had to do with her blog. It’s one of the most practical and innovative ideas I’ve heard in a while. So I thought I’d interview her for you and let her explain it herself.
What is the Soul Filled Cafe?
The Soul-filled Cafe is a guest blog event series hosted at my website soulfilledlife.com/the-cafe
I launched the guest blog events as a way to feature other coaches and cool people I know to share their expertise with like-minded others. By inviting them to be available to answer questions through out the day, there expertise really shines and the post gains depth.
I also quickly realized that these blog events made a great way for other coaches to interact with each other. So I see the “cafe” as a virtual place where “experts gather, share and connect. “ It’s a departure from the “Dear Abby” type of expert posts, where the expert knows everything and you are invited to come with your issues and ask questions anonymously. This is a “virtual cafe” where you have a conversation and get to know the expert and share yourself as well. Building a coaching business (or any solo-venture) can involve a lot of time alone, talking with a mentor or working with clients, so a great benefit is that this creates a nice virtual hang out to meet other experts and get great information.
What’s the structure? How does it work?
I post an article or video from a guest expert at my blog in the morning and for an entire day people are invited to “stop by” and ask questions, share comments and interact with the guest and each other (all via the blog comment section).
Where did you come up with the idea?
In January 2010, Sarah Robinson of Escaping Mediocrity (www.escaping-mediocrity.com) hosted a month long blog series with a different guest every day. There was tons of interaction at her blog, and each guest would pour out great information through the questions from the blog which helped to bring the article they had shared to life. I loved it!
Borrowing her idea, I hosted my first “guest blog event” with Cherry Norris (The Hollywood Dating Director, hollywooddatingdirector.com) in February 2010, which was perfect for Valentine’s Day. She was great about “experimenting” with me. I use google analytics to track the stats at my website, and there was a nice spike of traffic on the day of Cherry’s guest blog.
I know a lot of cool people, so through out 2010 I continued to host a new expert once a month, and they were called “Guest Blog Events” (very exciting name).
In November, I hosted Alex Baisley, from the Big Dream Program and he has a magical way with words. During the blog conversation that day, he commented that he was excited to be hanging out at the “Soul-filled Cafe” The name stuck!
In 2011 I have been playing around with more regular spots. In February I hosted a week long event called “Rejuvenate Love” with back to back days of experts. And starting this month (April) I am hosting weekly guest events.
The whole thing has become very streamlined, so it’s gotten easier to implement. And it’s become a great place to invite cool people I meet to be spotlighted.
What’s the response to it been?
It’s been great! As I mentioned I get spikes of traffic to the blog on the day of these events (200-500 visits on that one day). So there are lots of people who “stop by.”
However, only a fraction of the people that “stop by” actually submit a question or comment. I think there is a “getting comfortable factor” with communicating or sharing yourself through a blog. I hope I am helping to break down people’s barriers and that they will go on and share themselves at other blogs. I know for myself, the more I comment at blogs, the more fun it is.
To help with this I’ve been starting to “educate” a bit when people sign up for the Soul-filled Cafe updates. I share how to use “disqus” (the comment system) and recommend that they register, with their name and photo so we “see” them and encourage them to share about themselves and interact with the other commenters. Just like you were at a real “cafe” hanging out with cool people. :)
The response from the experts has been really nice too. Without exception, everyone has said that the experience has been both fun and informative. I’m always floored by how generous they are with sharing amazing information via the blog conversation and I love seeing them in their zone of expertise helping others. Such a gift.
This seems like a brilliant idea on how to use a blog. What are the three biggest mistakes you see most people make with their blogging?
#1 Not blogging. I have some clients and peers who are “shy” about getting a blog going. And they are wonderful writers with wonderful ideas — so it’s not that — but it’s a fear of being “seen.” (Funny thing is once you get into it, then you switch to, “how can I get more people to see this?!”)
#2 Blogging ONLY because someone told you it’s good marketing. Great recipe for a boring blog. I’ve seen blogs that feel more like a string of articles or uninspired posts. Maybe google likes them, but if people are not “hanging out” and really reading it, it feels yucky to me.
#3 Not being creative with blogging. Some people don’t like to “write” and they think, well I won’t blog. But your blog could be video posts, or if you enjoy taking photos you could do a “photo” a day post, or you can highlight other people and stuff you like. So many ways to create fun, regular content. Get creative! And make sure it’s something you love doing (because you’ll want to do it regularly.)
What are your three biggest things you’ve learned about blogging?
#1 It is good marketing (just don’t have that be the only motivation.) Without a blog, my website would be dead in the water. I can’t imagine not having one now.
#2 Just get started! When I look back over the content I’ve created, mostly over the last 3 years, I see how it has helped me to articulate my core message. So just get started! There will be gold even in those first posts.
#3 Don’t be a lone wolf. Add the energy of others into your blog. Either invite people to post on your blog, interview someone, or post at other people’s blog. 1+1 = 10 when it comes to blogging. I’ve definitely experienced that.
What has been the impact of the SFC on your business and income?
The only way I can answer that is with the goolge analytics. It has created 10x’s the traffic to Soulfilledlife.com which has led to at least doubling my list size, which has led to new clients. It’s also led to some fun JV projects and some new income streams that way.
How does the SFC fit into your bigger marketing picture?
It’s become a big part of my free content piece. It also brings new communities to soulfilledlife.com via the experts. And then there is the “who knows who” factor: people respond to you because someone they like is at your blog.
If someone else wanted to start using this model – what would be your three most important pieces of advice?
1) Start by reaching out to the people you know will say yes. People you know well and people who just like you already.
2) Don’t have the guest post be about “selling anything” My intention is always to create a great experience for people out of the day and learning opportunity. I see the events as a “touch” point for the guest. I know that new people will discover them and want more (and people from their community find out about my business too. A win/ win) It also makes the guest event fun and spontaneous too. Wonderful conversations have happened out of my blog, simply by coming from a place of “giving.” And as a result more people know and trust me and the guest.
3) Don’t aim for just the “Big Names” There are so many people doing cool things that have expertise to share. I find that those who may have a smaller followings can be some of the best guests, because of the enthusiasm they bring to the event.
What’s the next level of this going to be for you?
Right now the Soulfilled Cafe lives at a page and a string of posts.
What I am working on is creating some branding and a separate website for it (though linked to Soufilledlife.com). My vision is to have some sponsorships and a “cafe” shop where I could feature products from the experts. I recently registered “soulfilledcafe.com” –actually it was funny, the day I went to register it, my hosting service informed me it was “free” — I still have no idea why, but I thought it was a cool sign.
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