A couple years ago, I remember when a blogger took Scoble on. The blogger invited Scoble to his event and then balked when Scoble requested travel and expenses be paid. Scoble responded online as well, and did a great job of it.
This week has been a tough (but very fun) week. I have Chapters due for my book, I'm completing 2 projects, and I'm still working with prospective customers. I touch a lot of people each week by phone, email, Twitter, Facebook, Plaxo… etc., etc. I've been scolded twice this week by readers who I haven't responded to and one prospect that I underestimated the urgency on.
The prospect was my fault – I should have been tracking the company tightly. The readers are another story, though. I received a call where the lady said,
What is it with you Internet people – you don't answer the phone, don't answer email… don't respond!
I didn't apologize. Instead, I told her the truth. I have at least 20,000 new visitors per month to my blog, perhaps 250 comments (most are SPAM), and well over 100 requests. The requests are not requests for services, though. They're simply readers looking for additional advice or information. I try to handle these via blog posts. I don't always respond. In fact, I don't typically respond.
Here's an email that I just received today on the topic after I wrote my network and asked for their support in the Top 50 Indiana Blogs poll:
I've written multiple messages within your blog and sent you a number of different DM's on Twitter asking for your opinions, ideas and suggestions on different digital marketing strategies and never once have I gotten a response from you. Being understanding, I know that you are a very busy man, with starting your new company and everything, which is why I never took your lack of responses personally (despite the fact that Chris Brogan, Beth Harte, Erik Deckers etc. have always answered questions for me).
That's awesome that Chris, Beth and Erik have been able to keep up like this! I was up until 3AM and only completed reviewing and responding to email. I look forward to Chris, Beth and Erik's advice on how I could possibly keep up with the number of requests that I get.
Yesterday, I was at a regional conference and was flanked by 3 people… one was an associate, one was my Sales coach, and one was a customer. The associate and sales coach joked about me never answering the phone or emails they sent me. I looked at my customer and said, “Do I answer your phone calls and emails?”. “Yes,” he said, “… always… sometimes in the middle of the night! I think you work 24 hours a day.”
At times I believe the web and folks like Chris Anderson have done me and my business a great disservice. My landlord, my creditors, my utility companies, and vendors aren't free. As a result, I can't work for free. I must concentrate on:
- Customers – these are people who pay for my products and services.
- Prospects – these are companies with budget who are ready to become customers.
- Word of Mouth Prospects – these are companies who have been referred to me by my network and my customers who know that a company has budget and are ready to become customers.
- Other Requests – these are everything else… emails, form requests, phone calls, etc. These typically fall off my list because I'm working on 1, 2 and 3.
Am I missing opportunities because of this approach? Perhaps – that's why I'm getting sales coaching here in Indianapolis. I have no idea. All I know is that “other requests” could take me months to review and respond… and I can't afford to spend months doing that.
Readers are not customers. Subscribers are not even customers. That may sound harsh, but readers and subscribers are not paying for their subscription nor the information from this blog. I don't have any service level agreement with readers or subscribers.
This blog is not a profitable enterprise and I'm not an Internet millionaire… far from it. I am working hard, though, to get it profitable. As soon as the blog pays all my bills, I'll be glad to sit around all week answering my readers' and subscribers' requests. Until then… I need to go service my customers.
If you'd like to become a customer, reword your request. I joked with someone last night that I need to change my work voicemail to state, “Press 1 if you have budget!”. So… if you're a reader or subscriber and looking for some free advice, please don't get upset when I don't respond. I truly am busy trying to pay the bills!