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Press 1 If You Have Budget

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:

  1. Customers – these are people who pay for my products and services.
  2. Prospects – these are companies with budget who are ready to become customers.
  3. 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.
  4. 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!

14 Comments

  1. 1

    Excellent point! I was having a similar discussion with a coworker yesterday about the importance of being concise and she just wasn't getting it and complained that I don't return her voicemails quickly. I asked her how quickly I respond to her emails and she admitted quickly. We all have to prioritize our relationships and methods of communication and the mix of the two. Now, if I don't get a personal response to this comment, I'll….understand completely.

  2. 2
  3. 3

    How could I pass up responding to a great comment like that, Nick? You're right – the medium that's most effective is sometimes what we are FORCED to use. I would love to spend all day in meetings and on the phone, but that doesn't pay the bills. Email is very effective in saving me a lot of time throughout the day.

  4. 4

    I guess I look at this blog being 'the freebie'… the entry point into each of our bloggers' sales funnels. If the information on the site doesn't paint the entire picture – I'd love to work with any of my readers to get it to the next level!

  5. 5

    As one of your customers, Doug, I can attest to the fact that you do take care of customers in a timely manner. It's cool that so many folks value your opinion (as well they should), but I think you "give back" plenty with your valuable blog posts. When my company is paying for your services, I expect prompt attention. You never fail to deliver and that's part of why I'll continue recommending you. From a customer's perspective, your priorities are spot-on.

  6. 6

    Sounds like you need to hire me as your personal assistant. Even though I will be answering people that more than likely will never bring you in revenue I will obviously need to be paid for my services 🙂 With the advent of new media/marketing/advertising comes the advent of free advice and services. I will say this however. If you gain some sort of insight or knowledge based on a comment or email I would hope you'd respond to that person. I know you have responded to some of my blog comments in the past so I know you listen and respond when possible. Great points all around.

  7. 7

    Doug I've seen enough freebies done in this medium to understand your gripe so no backlash here. I dont know how anyone could ever fault you for paying the bills. These are the same people who are mad at U2 for selling out by selling the rights to their songs to companies etc.

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  9. 9

    Hi Arik,

    So I'm somehow doing a disservice to the readers of this blog who I've supplied free content to for the last 4 years? Really?

    My blog is definitely a lead generator but with the 30,000 visitors a month, how would you propose that I manage communicating to each that reaches out? Should I use a point system? What's the methodology? What's the magic bullet?

    Looking forward to hearing how to do it.

    Thanks,
    Doug

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  11. 11

    The one thing you are missing, is you are so much fun to tease.. You always get flustered when your friends give you a hard time..

    Seriously, love the post. When you are in a business that is mostly intangible, people seem to feel it is ok to ask for free help, and you are usually pretty generous about sharing. The trick is learning when to say, I would be happy to answer that in a longer meeting. My fee for that is…

  12. 12

    Now you’ve gone and done it Doug! You’ve written another great post. I honestly commend you on your ability to accomplish everything you do get done. I know I’m one of those non-revenue requesters of your time at times and have joked with you about being hard to get a hold of. But I also think (hopefully) I balance that with knowing your time is valuable and not bugging you about it or holding a grudge if you don’t get back with me. Many times I’ve found the lack of response by yourself and others has forced me to dig a little deeper and bang my head against the wall a few more times until I’ve figured something out for myself and that’s a great feeling.

    You and I have similar time schedules and demands put upon us. I try to be as helpful as can to anyone that asks, but I’m coming to the realization that one of the best time management tools I may have at my fingertips is a little more use of the two-letter word, “No”.

    Hopefully I can find the balance in everything and begin saying, “I can’t right now, but let me recommend someone who may be able to for you.”

    • 13

      No “hopefully” @jasonbean:disqus – the partnerships I’ve built in the region are important to me. It’s an extended support network that I lean on and so I expect to ‘pay it back’ often! You’re in there!

      • 14

        And vice-versa sir! Vice-versa! It’s about time for our monthly co-working session at St. Arbucks that doesn’t seem to happen but annually! =)

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