Why I Give Away the Good Stuff – What I Learned from Jay Baer at Blog Indiana

Jay Baer’s keynote at Blog Indiana 2012 reminded me why I always give talks about how to be a good blogger. It’s why I write blog posts about blogging technology. It’s why I teach customers to do what I do, so they can do it for themselves.

At his keynote, Jay talked about how Geek Squad shares all kinds of information through their videos, telling you how to remove viruses, or install something, or troubleshoot a problem.

Jay said that Geek Squad shows videos on how to fix computers, because “they make people think they can fix their own computer. Eventually, they need to bring their computer to a real professional.”

Erik Deckers and Jay Baer at Blog Indiana 2012

Me and Jay Baer. He makes me want to buy a used car from him.

What ends up happening is the customer runs into a problem they can’t fix, and so they take their video to the company whose videos they were just watching — with the Geek Squad logo — because they’ve learned to trust them.

If you can help customers out, you’ll earn their trust when they’re ready to buy.

Or, as Jay said, sell them something, and you make a customer today. Help someone, and you’ll make a customer for life.

Jay calls it Friend of Mine Awareness a variation of “frame of mind awareness” (being there when the customer needs a vendor). Frame of mind is the basic principle behind search engines and even the Yellow Pages.

But Friend of Mine Awareness says that if you help people out, you’ll earn their trust when they’re ready to buy. That means you have to be inherently useful. You have to be what Jay calls a YOUtility.

Jay said a lot of companies worry that if they give too much information away, their competitors will learn how to do what they do. Their customers will be able to do the thing themselves.


As Jay said, a list of ingredients doesn’t make you a chef.

If I teach you how to write a blog post, all I’m really giving you is the list of ingredients. I’m not teaching you 24 years of writing experience. I’m not teaching you the insights I can gather based on doing keyword research. I’m not teaching you how to listen for the passion in the CEO’s voice, or to hear the frustration in the customer’s voice, or use the writing style that appeals directly to your customer.

One frequent source of potential clients for our company are people who have heard me speak, or who have read our blog. They decide they want to try it out for themselves, because I’ve shown them how easy it is.

But what happens is that they realize that blogging is harder than they thought. It’s not that they can’t write, or that they don’t know what their company does.

They realized that while they had the ingredients, and I even taught them how to mix them all together, they’re not chefs. They’re not writers. They’re not bloggers.

They’re accountants or operations directors or CEOs or attorneys or VPs of Marketing. They’re not going to take the time to learn it, because they have clients to take care of.

So they realize that if they want to be successful at their job, they need to stop doing the stuff that keeps them from doing their real work. Blogging is one of those things, which means they want to pass it off to the people who can do it well.

The people they trust. And how do they know who to trust?

They trust the guy who told them how to do it in the first place. The guy who gave them the good stuff.

Photo credit: Bob Burchfield of AroundIndy.com

My Keynote Talk at Blog Indiana

Last month, I got to do something I’ve wanted to do for the last four years: give a keynote speech at Blog Indiana. While it wasn’t my first keynote, it was going to be a special one because I had been attending Blog Indiana since it started. In fact, I think I have given more talks than anyone at the history of Blog Indiana, mostly because one year I not only gave two talks, I gave them twice.

But this was going to be the big one, the one I had hoped for when I first started bugging the organizers about it two years earlier.

I also knew I needed something new to talk about. Something that went beyond my typical 10 Secrets for Promoting Your Blog or 10 Ways to Build Your Personal Brand.

Erik Deckers speaking at Blog Indiana 2011

The t-shirt, courtesy of ooShirts, says "Eschew Convoluted Phraseology." It means "avoid big words."

So I decided to focus on writing as my topic, but because I can never get away from 10 Secret Anythings, the topic was 10 Secrets I’ve Learned in 24 Years of Writing.

I’ve spent the last 24 years writing just about anything you can think of: books, newspaper columns, web copy, brochure copy, technical manuals (I hate these with a burning passion, by the way). I’ve written stage plays and radio plays. I’ve even written speeches for a US Congressional campaign.

And in those 24 years, I have learned that it’s the language that’s most important, and how you use it. It hasn’t been the experience, the knowledge of the industry, or whether I have experience with a certain type of writing. It’s whether I have a good grasp of how to use language effectively.

So I talked about important aspects of writing that have defined my own writing career — focusing on one aspect of writing you want to improve, and then doing it everywhere; know when you can, or even should, break the grammar rules; and, not to let your love of your words get in the way of good editing and improvement.

I even dropped the F-bomb in my talk to illustrate how words that represent the worst of what we do — like killing and torture — too casually, as in “my feet are killing me” and “traffic was torture today,” but the word that describes how the best thing we do — make other humans — is an awful word that is horrible to say.

I even had a special t-shirt made for the occasion, thanks to the generosity of ooShirts, who gave me a couple shirts as part of their promotion. So I got a writing related shirt that said “Eschew convoluted phraseology,” which is the ironic — some might say snotty — way of saying “avoid big words.” I also got a second one to give away, which Brooke Randolph won by being chosen by random after sending out a special tweet.

I had a great time speaking, and have finally achieved my goal of giving the keynote at my favorite conference. Thank you to everyone who was there, and for the kind words during and after the talk. And special thanks to Shawn Plew and Noah Coffey for allowing me to speak.

The Difficulties of Writing With Nonsexist Language

I was called a sexist because of a single tweet.

At a blogging session at Blog Indiana, I said, “If you’re opposed to ghost blogging, then let the woman who answers your phone introduce herself to every caller.”

I actually hesitated for a moment. What was a less sexist way of asking this? I knew there was a potential for trouble, and there was an easy way out of it, but I wasn’t a big fan of the solution, so I skipped it.

Then I followed it up with “If you’re against ghost blogging, let your copywriter sign her name to your brochure” to balance things out.

Sure enough, I got called out by Mary Long (@lawfirmPRwriter): “or how about “the PERSON who answers your phone shouldn’t introduce themselves?” Not all writers are men/women are secretaries.”

Yes, absolutely. Not all women are secretaries (actually, they’re administrative assistants now, as I’ve been reminded many times), but Mary’s solution is the one I was trying to avoid.

Now, I loathe the “he/she solution.” As in “If you’re against ghost blogging, let the man/woman who answers the phone introduce himself/herself.” That’s just ugly.

Or, I could be a little more generic and use “themselves,” but it’s actually wrong. And since I just got done giving a keynote about the importance of language and writing, I didn’t want to abuse the language, even though I had just advocated the overthrow of the “don’t end your sentences with a preposition” rule.

The problem is if I talk about the one person who answers the phone, I can’t use the plural themselves.

Plus I’ve been admonished by our editor on No Bullshit Social Media not to do that, so I hesitate doing it now.

So I fell back on what I usually try to do, and balance it out. I’ll use the male pronoun sometimes, but because I know better, I balance it out by using the female pronoun and possessive at other times.

And if I do something like “the woman who answers your phones,” I’ll follow it up with “let the copywriter sign her name.”

I don’t always have the space, especially on Twitter, to be completely nonsexist or inclusive in my language. And I don’t want to be as politically correct as I had to be in the 1990s, filling every grad school paper with he/she and him/her.

I have to be satisfied with being nonsexist over my entire body of work, and making sure that I balance the hes and the shes. I make sure that I don’t always talk about nurses as being women or doctors as being men. It’s not a perfect solution, and it requires the reader to read more of my work than a single 140 character remark, but it’s the best solution I’ve found.

It can be a real struggle and I would know what solution other writers have found. How do you solve the sexist language question? Have you found a workable solution? Do you have any suggestions?

John Uhri’s Sketch Notes From My Blog Indiana 2010 Presentation

I always love it when John Uhri (@y0mbo) comes to my talks at a conference, because he always creates awesome sketch notes for me. It’s actually very flattering and a great ego boost, so I wanted to show off the notes he did for me at Blog Indiana 2010.

Sketch notes from my 11 Tips for Blog Promotion presentation at Blog Indiana 2010

I talked about 11 blog promotion tips to a rather full house. I was a little nervous before I talked, but then again, I’m always nervous before I give a talk. I worry that everyone has heard what I’m about to say, but it’s too late to go in and actually make any changes to the deck. I start having a Stuart Smalley panic attack: “Oh God, everyone’s going to see through me, and label me a failure. I’m going to die homeless and penniless and 30 pounds overweight.”

But then I gave the presentation and rocked it — even if I do say so myself — and lots of people told me they were hearing brand new stuff. (This was especially heartening, since those were the people who I thought would say I didn’t have anything new to offer.)

John says these sketch notes actually help him understand the presentation better than just taking notes, because it forces him to understand it enough to be able to come up with an image or visual cue about what it is. (Last year, he included a sketch of Peter Griffin because I made a reference to the It’s In My Raccoon Wounds” line from a Family Guy episode.)

Here are all of John’s sketch notes form Blog Indiana 2010.