September 27, 2011


stopwatchHere’s a question from a recent email:

Thank you for the feedback. It is appreciated and always welcome. I have taken on a colleague, and we are developing a marketing strategy. I looked at both your sites [personal and business], and they are equally impressive. I am curious - how much time in a given week do you spend on social media and your website, blog etc.? Hope to see you again soon.

I've been reluctant to answer the question of time. You may think the commitment is too high and decide against using social media. That’s the wrong conclusion.

What I do won't be ideal for you but may give you ideas. There are no "right" answers. I haven't searched for online benchmarks either. You might be much faster but the the real value comes when you keep going.


I don’t know web basics like HTML, CSS and Java. I made minor modifications to templates. Most of my time when into creating content. When I was happy with the substance, I hired
My goal is to create a strong positive first impression by exceeding what visitors expect to find (quality and quantity). Big businesses have large engines but keep both feet on the brakes by demanding compliance. They prevent their staff from exuding their personalities and using social media effectively. Those restriction create tremendous opportunities for small business.


My websites are static and take no time to maintain. I mainly built in 2006 and in 2010. Each took months of elapsed time but I wanted solid destinations. Since each site is a wiki (like Wikipedia), content went live instantly, even when incomplete.

An incremental approach might scare you since you're continually shipping  before you’re finished. I found this process liberating and didn't mind making refinements afterwards. Even major elements like navigation changed as I proceeded.


In total, I invest a day per week on online marketing. That may seem like a lot but I switched to a low noise life in 2007. Just cutting out TV and other distractions could save you hours and hours.

Curating (Parrot)

Social media takes 10-15 minutes a day. On average, I post at least one link per day on LinkedIn and/or Twitter. Depending on workload and travel, I may be silent for several days. Most weeks I won't visit Facebook. I don't use Google+ much either. On Twitter, I broadcast but rarely read. You’ll likely have a different mix based on your interests and your target market.

Each comment on a blog or in LinkedIn groups take 5-10 minutes. I'll leave 2-5 comments per week (30-60 minutes in total). I'm strategic about when/where.

Creating (Pundit)

Ongoing blogging takes the most time but also gives the most benefits
  • sharpens thinking
  • hones communication skills
  • proves expertise
Here's how I rationalize that investment. I'm not keen to donate money because I worry about how it'll get spent. Instead, I donate time. Blogging is my way of sharing the best of what I know for free. Readers seem to sense that.

A post runs about 500 words and takes about three hours to prepare. Each week, I write two posts: one here and another at Riscario Insider. That’s about six hours in total.

Here’s the breakdown for one post:
  1. Draft: 15-30 minutes using two productivity enhancing tools
  2. Finding and editing the photo (each post has one): 15 minutes
  3. Polishing: the balance
Some posts flow and others are struggles. If I had training in writing, I might be better and faster. I didn’t use lack of experience as an excuse to do nothing. What about you?


PS How do you allocate your social media time?

September 20, 2011


HELLO my name is ...A household name has marketing power if it's unique and memorable but familiar. A last name might be enough.

In many cases, we’ll likely guess the same person even though others have the same name. Recognition depends on your age and upbringing. I'd have trouble with celebrities in sports and opera. For instance, I first heard of Lamar Odom this month but you may have followed him on Twitter for years.

Let's leave out the concocted names like Bono, Prince and Sting. Those might work for entertainers but deter your business prospects. The following names came from brainstorming.

Last Names

Bogart, Pitt, Daltrey, Bond, Hilfiger, Schiffer, Stallone, Lennon, McQueen, Branson, Harper, Jolie, Gretzky, Willis, Mulroney, Hemingway, Springsteen, Mellencamp, Hitchcock, Dylan, Einstein, Warhol, Timberlake, Feynman, Oppenheimer, Newton, Jobs, Secord, Houdini, Thatcher, Garfunkel, Nicholson, Zappa, Churchill, Wayne, Hope, Redenbacher, Barnum, Rowling, Streep.

First Names

Angelina, Orson, Eddie, Britney, Ringo, Grace, Quentin, Marilyn, Lenny, Elvis, Halle, Orville, Ezra, Rudyard, Julius, Augustus.

I had trouble coming up with more. Maybe that's because the media tends to report last names. “Bob” is much more common than “Newhart”. Since first names get used more often, why isn’t there more diversity in them? We inherit our last names but our parents choose our first or “given” name. An opportunity to stand out gets lost to the pressure to conform.

Today, an unusual name helps you stand out, though weird spellings get annoying. Like Anthonee for Anthony.


Maybe some of the above names were changed from the common ones like “John”.  Some people may only be known locally ... for now. Many of the examples have international recognition. You probably don't need that level of fame.

Your Name

Who knows your name? What connotations are invoked? If you're invisible, you're at a disadvantage.  What does a Google search show? If you're not satisfied with the results, you can start building or augmenting your digital tapestry for free today.

When you search for your business’ name, do your competitors show up first? Could a prospect pick them by mistake? That’s not outlandish. Try remembering the name of movers or financial advisors (especially when they have abbreviated their company names).

Visibility breeds familiarity and familiarity breeds business. There’s a lot in a name.


PS Consider more distinct names for your future children and pets. A domain name makes an unexpected gift!

September 13, 2011


banana peel 500x315
It’s 9/13 today. We don’t expect bad things to happen but that doesn’t stop bad luck.

What precautions have you taken to keep your business running should disaster strike?

The interruption might be caused by
  • fire or water damage
  • illness, disability or death (yours of a key employee's)
  • earthquake, hurricane or tornado
  • an extended power outage or gasoline shortage
  • an ice storm
  • shutdown of airspace
  • computer viruses
  • website shutdown
  • extended outage in your Internet or phone service
  • theft or burglary
  • a banana peel
So much could go wrong. The risks and probabilities vary. As a start, you can brainstorm and then prioritize. Aren't some vulnerabilities worth tackling now while you can? That's insurance.


You'll get some understanding from your clients if a calamity is widespread. Say, the northeast power outage on Aug 14, 2003 that affected 55 million (where where you?). Your clients could easily have been affected too.

Don’t expect much sympathy if: only your firm is affected, your clients are severely impacted and they have lawyers.

A Formal Plan

You might even want to develop a formal business resumption plan. The process has merits since you'll uncover vulnerabilities you previously overlooked or deferred addressing.

In the corporate world, I was part of the disaster recovery planning team for years. There were offsite facilities in alternate locations, copies of the plans on USB drives and updated contact lists. I even got the ultimate sign of seriousness — a golf shirt.

Your precautions may not need to be as elaborate or involve clothing giveaways. Simple actions like locking a drawer with client files might be a start. Maybe you need an automated online backup of your key files. Set and forget.

False Economy

Sometimes attempts at cost savings get in the way. If all your employees use the same mobile phone provider, what happens if there's a major disaster and you can’t reach your family or 911? That's what happened on 9/11. The main carriers, Bell and Rogers, were overloaded where I was. Yet my Fido was working fine. Now that Rogers owns Fido, there's more vulnerability.

Again, there are limits to what you can do but that's a poor excuse for inertia.


Once you've taken actions or developed plans, get a marketing advantage. Communicate a summary of your plan so that clients and prospects know the kind of precautions you’re taking. That transparency builds confidence. Maybe you moderate expectations by pointing out limitations as warranties do.

Side Benefits

Planning helps you sell your business for a premium. The potential buyers see your level of preparation. Planning also helps you take extended vacations in peace.


PS As you become great at planning, you can share the why and how with your clients and prospects. That's beneficial to them and great marketing.

September 6, 2011


own this monthBusinesses celebrate special days such as their anniversary or hold “client appreciation” events. Maybe you do too.

Consider owning a special month instead.


Celebrating the anniversary or birthday of your business is boring and predictable. Why would a client or prospect really care? Besides, special sales or free giveaways look self-serving since you win from additional revenue.

You're really celebrating yourself. It's your party and they can buy if they want to, buy if they want to. Are your customers aching for another shopping opportunity?

Why not celebrate a cause bigger than your company and longer than a day?


This is Life Insurance Awareness Month (LIAM). We’ll use that as a case study.

Lamar Odom of the LA Lakers is the celebrity ambassador. Last year's was actress Leslie Bibb. They share their own personal stories to get others thinking about their own situations. Information makes the ideal gift for influence. You show liking for others and your authority (expertise). Giving invokes reciprocity.

LIAM looks well thought-out:
  • extendable: e.g., May is Disability Insurance Awareness Month (DIAM)
  • low key: focused on awareness, not time-is-running-out while-quantities-last selling
  • inexpensive: the gift is online information that’s shared via social media
  • month-long: not an expensive one-day, weather-dependent event
  • repeatable: as a regular annual event, planning is easier
  • not too often: annual works but quarterly would get annoying
LIAM can be made more vibrant and spreadable by
  • publishing the videos in HD (no extra cost)
  • making the videos embeddable (no extra cost)
  • archiving content from previous years (no extra cost)
Consider those elements in your initiatives. You get more benefits at no extra cost.


LIAM has the advantage of being run by LIFE, a nonprofit organization with support from the insurance industry. You can own your month with your own resources. Put information on your website. Add an intriguing PS to your emails (such as the one at the bottom of this post). Post relevant links via social media. Have a special issue of your newsletter.

What about content? You’ll find lots of linkable items online. Creating some of your own changes you from a parrot to a pundit.

You can share the month. Maybe you participate in a campaign your industry is promoting (as I am with LIAM). You can also piggyback on a bigger event such as Small Business Week by having your own Small Business Month.

The Right Month

Life Insurance Awareness Month is low key and nonthreatening. Who can argue against increasing awareness? There's no request to make donations, provide contact information or Like on Facebook. Instead, you get education and the opportunity to buy.

September is highly symbolic. This is back-to-school time. Routines return. Business gets back to business. September is also the anniversary of 9/11, a reminder that the unexpected happens.

Which month is right for your business?


PS (example) September ‘11 is LIAM. Are you ready?