9 Questions to FOCUS Your Biz + Build a Stronger Brand

Take a fistful of warm spaghetti noodles out of the pot.

Bend your elbow, cock that arm behind your head, and LET ‘ER FLY. Splat against the wall.

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If that sounds unsanitary, it IS…but people do it.

Why?

To test whether the spaghetti is cooked — to see if what they were trying to do has actually worked yet or if they need to keep going. You take a pot, add the ingredients, a little guess work on timing, grab some wet spaghetti, and BOOM. If it sticks to the wall, it’s done.

Y’know…trial and error is messy.

And sadly, nowhere is the “spaghetti wall” method more common than in online business.

You subscribe to half-a-dozen “how to blog” lists. They give you a list of things you SHOULD be doing. Schedule some Facebook posts here. Write 30 days worth of blog posts there. Throw in some Instagram Stories to prove you’re a real person (as if your readers don’t think you’re real…).

Season with excitement! And PASSION! Do #allthethings! And then…

SPLAT.

Did all that hoopla work?

(…Do you even *know?*)

When you’re trying so many different tactics and have no real strategy in mind, your business gets kind of…messy.

Fact: Most bloggers are just throwing spaghetti at the wall, trying EVERYTHING to see what sticks.Click To Tweet

I’ll tell it to you straight:

This year you’ll either FOCUS on working smarter, learning exactly how to move forward as the CEO of your business…or you’ll be scrambling with every other blogger, knocking on closed Facebook group doors, hoping someone will loan you their magic key.

SPOILER ALERT: There is *no* magic key to building a strong business.

The good news?

It’s something you can build if you just roll up your sleeves and get ‘er done.

NOTE: If you haven’t already read about business tactics vs. Strategy or how you don’t really need more traffic, you need this instead , those are recommended reading. Ahem. Pop over to those two posts and come back. You’ll get a LOT more out of this. 😉

So where exactly do you focus energy so you’re not always throwing spaghetti against the business wall?

Right here…

I’ll give you 9 questions — the essential questions for FOCUSING to build a strong brand + business. Your goal is to be able to answer them with a YES! And if you can’t do that yet, you’ll know where exactly where to focus your energy.

Ready? Let’s do it.

ONE. Do you know what makes your blog different from other blogs?

In an overcrowded market that’s shoulder-to-shoulder sameness, you can’t afford to blend in. The internet is BIG, YO. Your reader has choices about where to spend her time. Even if you don’t have a big following yet, you need to know, when you look in the mirror, what makes YOUR business different.

The good news: Once you can pinpoint exactly what makes you different, you’re no longer fighting everyone else for a bigger piece of the pie.

You can simply bake a bigger pie.

Example: Shawn from Abundant Mama® doesn’t run a generic “motherhood” blog. She’s writing for women who want to be “present and intentional” with their families, but also need time for themselves. For the highly-sensitive (HSP) mother who needs to slow down and enjoy life to be the best mother she can be.

Is that every mother?

NO.

And that’s what makes Shawn different.

TWO. Does your READER know what makes your blog different?

That reader of yours? She’s busy. And if you don’t overtly tell her how you’re different within 3-5 seconds of arriving on your website, she’ll never know. And (womp womp…) she’ll go right back to Pinterest, with nary a thought of you again.

Your responsibility, as the captain of your ship, is to make it visibly clear how you’re different from every other blog in your niche.

Example: Look around Shawn’s Abundant Mama site. Her home page. Her About page. The quality and mood of the photos around her blog. Every “Call to Action” is a siren song calling out to one woman — the woman who is her ideal client in the Abundant Mama Project, where the true transformation takes place.

Do your readers understand what you’re about as well as Shawn’s do?

THREE. Do you know exactly what your reader’s problems are, and are you passionate about helping her solve them?

I’m going to give you a little hint here…your reader isn’t here for YOU.

Even if she likes what you do, she’s really there for herself.

See, there’s something she wants to be/do/feel that motivated her in the first place to click over to your site, to read, to join. The promises you make will convert her from just a casual passer-by on the Internet to a die-hard member of your tribe.

And #protip: NEVER underestimate the power of helping your reader FEEL.

(Especially if you ever plan to be an entrepreneur and sell her a solution that will help move her to those goals. ::wink wink:: 🙂

Example: Carrie Dils creates solutions for freelancers, web designers + developers who are running sub-par businesses. They’re held in check by a lack of confidence, struggling to manage their work load, to keep up with new learning (in the web design world, stuff changes FAST!), and they know they could be earning more with the work they love, living saner lives.

Carrie created a podcast to help her potential clients, then used the feedback + engagement there to create an entire suite of courses to help them achieve their goals.

THEREFORE, Carrie runs a profitable buiness she loves (check!), her clients grow, learn, and achieve their goals (check!) and everybody wins.

FOUR. Do you know what your unique skill set is that qualifies you to help your reader overcome challenges, or achieve what she wants to achieve?

Listen, It’s not about whether you already “feel” like an authority. And it’s CERTAINLY not about you having “arrived.” But baked into your life experience — your journey — the fabric of who you are, there’s a light that will allow you to help your reader.

You don’t have to grow it; it’s already there. You simply have to pinpoint and use your light to build trust. (Note: there’s nothing scammy or woo-woo about it – people simply buy from people they trust.)

Example: See Carrie above? She actually lives what she teaches. She hated the 9-to-5, built her own “side hustle” web development business, and eventually was able to move into her business full-time. Nobody handed her a perfect business. She learned her lessons the hard way — through experience — and because she’s actually been where her clients are now, they can trust her as a leader.

Something in your struggle makes you exactly the right person for your target market to follow. What’s your struggle, and how can you communicate that?

FIVE. Are you trying to appeal to anyone and everyone, or are you focused on a core group of people who look to you for authority and advice?

Here’s where most bloggers go wrong. They try to cast a big, huge net, hoping they’ll catch just *anyone* and instead? They catch no one. Sure, they might get traffic…but those people pop over for a glimpse and then disappear into the ether. Or if they do become subscribers, they lose interest — because there’s another shiny object catching their attention…and you are not it.

On the other hand, if you’re attracting the right people – the right people for YOU, based on the opportunities already in front of you – you can build an entire business around them. A business that doesn’t get tossed around like a dinghy in a hurricane every time Facebook changes its algorithm.

Example: Vanessa from Pre-K Pages has built her business around teachers (That’s a good niche, right?). But not just any teachers. Hundreds of posts, hundreds of products, and a thriving membership site for one specific subset: Pre-K.

If a middle school teacher happens across a post of Vanessa’s, floating around on Pinterest? She probably won’t even click over to read the post.

…Does that bother Vanessa? Nope. Because Vanessa has built her business around a core group of people, and she’s running a profitable business around changing their lives, helping them reach their goals:

And they love her for it.

SIX. What value would people get out of subscribing to your site? Are you communicating that?

Why would your reader take the plunge and join YOUR tribe, instead of the blogger’s next door? (And this has NOTHING to do with giving away a “free ebook.”) (Barf.)

Shake her by the shoulders. Make her see that what you offer is what she has been secretly wanting. She’s waiting for the right opportunity – the right leader to follow. Bring her a dessert tray full of her favorites…and she’s yours.

Example: Vanessa from Pre-K Pages doesn’t just say JOIN MY NEWSLETTERRRR! Instead, she offers…

Teaching smarter, saving time, AND getting your life back? That’s Vanessa’s dessert tray. If you’re a Pre-K teacher who’s overwhelmed and overrun (and hasn’t had time to watch her favorite show since 2011), that’s what makes you shove the mashed potatoes aside and say YES.

SEVEN. Are you writing from a you-centered approach, or a reader-centered approach?

Ever met a person who only talked about herself all the time? I did. In high school. Boring as hell. She opened her mouth and then it was all #charliebrownsteacher and mwa-mwa-mwa-mwa because EVERY SINGLE THING boiled down to HER.

This is the opposite of charisma, friend. If you want your reader to feel known — loved — SEEN? Take the spotlight off yourself and put it on her.

(The irony is, this actually bounces the spotlight back to you.)

Example: Rachel from Feast and Farm does an incredible job of bringing charisma to her readers. In every blog post, every page, every call-to-action (Subscribe!), she takes the spotlight off herself and puts it squarely back on the reader.

But how much does this reader-centered approach actually help?

Here’s a screen shot of Rachel’s Google Analytics, and how many people were coming to her site before + in the months after Blog Smarter, when she changed to a reader-centered focus, stopped acting like a blogger, and started running a business.

Now, clearly page views are only part of the story, and only part of her results are directly a result of a reader-focus. (In the months since then, Rachel’s traffic has gone way up, well beyond this!) Rachel and I will be talking about the other things that have contributed to her success in an upcoming podcast episode (soon!).

For now, though, take a look at some of the love notes she’s gotten from readers of her blog…

Do YOU get comments like these? If not, it’s a sign you may not be reader-centered, or you’re simply failing to connect with your readers. Either way, to build a strong business + brand, this is an incredibly important place to focus your energy.

You’ll be building trust as well as building authority. And that brings us to…

EIGHT. Do you have a product for sale that can help people learn the things you know…and also build your authority on your blog topic?

Most bloggers think you have to BE an authority to sell a product. When in fact…just by having a product for sale, you demonstrate your authority…and more people want to follow you. It doesn’t have to be big. It doesn’t have to be fancy. But when you push out an offering to the world, your readers sit up and notice…because NOW you’re someone to follow.

(And the money on the side? Is a beautiful side benefit.)

Example: When Nancy from Do Small Things With Love came through the Blog Smarter program a year ago, she KNEW she was writing for mothers. (That’s a niche, right?) She had this nagging feeling, though, that it was still too broad.

(She was right.)

But just a month after graduating from Blog Smarter, Nancy got brave, created and released a product just for Catholic mothers. And it sold like gangbusters.

Focus Your Business

The money isn’t entirely the point (although that’s what we ultimately DO in business, right?). The point is, releasing a product for her smaller, more targeted niche helped build her confidence AND her authority. So now, one year later, Nancy has taken the plunge and is exclusively serving Catholic women.

And she’s not apologizing for bringing FOCUS to her biz through her products.

Now, these 8 questions to focus + build a strong brand for your biz have all been important, but the REAL magic juice is in question #9:

NINE. Are you building real relationships with your readers and with other bloggers, or are you just “broadcasting” stuff via social media without getting to know people?

This probably seems like it should be one of those “simple” things where you just nod your headand move on. But THIS. (This!) Is the key to all 8 of the first questions. It’s not sexy, because it’s not a shortcut or a magic pill. But every minute you spend talking directly to your reader – if you ask the right questions and listen and read between the lines of what they say – is money in the bank. Because that’s where your entire brand comes from.

Your brand — and a strong, sustainable business — is born from connection. (See the 3 essential skills for an entrepreneur for more on this.)

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So if these things are important, WHY is every blah-blah-Blogger so obsessed with “quick tricks” to get more page views, more Pinterest shares, more blog posts, a prettier blog design, etc?

These are tactics, friend, not strategy. And if you choose to use those “quick tricks” to artificially drive up your numbers, you’re making a very specific choice about how long-term SUSTAINABLE your business is.

What do I mean?

It’s not that tactics don’t work. Tactics can work very well.

You do need to write blog posts from time to time, you do need to have ways of bringing in fresh faces. And yes, you do probably need to have multiple streams of income if you’re going to make a profit.

But if you just randomly try all these different things people tell you to do without building the foundation for a strong business *first,* you’re just throwing spaghetti at the wall. You MAY work your sweet patootie off, but… 

  • What if those tricks stop working?
  • What if Pinterest stops sending you traffic?
  • What if Google starts making you PAY to send people to your site?

…What then, Sherlock?

Hmn…that makes you think, doesn’t it?

But that brings up another question:

Don’t some people build successful businesses without knowing the answers to these questions?

Yes and no. Again, the problem is, if you’re using a spaghetti-wall approach in business and get lots of traffic, or somehow get tons of subscribers without any real direction, you never know why it’s happening. You can’t focus on “next steps” in your business, because you have no idea what got you there in the first place!

And yes, God forbid Pinterest changes its algorithm and stops sending you as much traffic (It’s happened to some of my coaching clients before they came to me, friends, and it’s NOT PRETTY).

If you’ve been using a spaghetti-wall approach to this point, now you’re really stuck. You simply don’t know what to do (other than “try harder”) because your business has no focus. No foundation.

But let’s fix all that, shall we?

Action: Your task as an entrepreneur…

Go through each of the questions above and take notes. Brainstorm each point. If you get stuck? Hit me up in the comments below. I actually do read them and reply.

And if you want me to walk you step by step through answering all 9 of these questions — if you want guided help to focus + build a strong brand foundation for your business, converting readers to subscribers and subscribers to buyers — then get on the waiting list NOW for my Blog Smarter program. Enrollment opens just twice a year, and it’s coming up in just a few weeks.

And if not?

Take a planning retreat. Escape to Starbucks, grab an iced vanilla chai latte (or three) and answer the questions on your own!

Any progress you can make on this list is forward movement in your business.

And it beats the heck out of throwing spaghetti at the wall.

This year you’ll either FOCUS on working smarter, learning exactly how to move forward as the CEO of your business...or you'll be scrambling with every other blogger.

Leave a Comment:

10 comments
Heather says

I just wanted to send a big ol’ Thank you to you Jeni! Before going through Blog smarter, I seriously couldn’t answer one of these questions. After Blog Smarter, yes my pageviews increased, I started making some $ with my blog, but most importantly the engagement with the blog has been transformed. It’s been an amazing journey. Now I’m working on my first product and can’t wait to see what happens next 🙂 For anyone on the fence about this program, it will be the best investment in your future of your blog/business. And no Jeni didn’t pay me in Starbucks lattes to leave this comment 😉

Reply
    Jeni B. says

    You’re the lady who did all the hard work to get to this point, Heather. Cheering you on! xo

    Reply
Susan Wingate says

What a GREAT post. Thanks for the ideas. I will be implementing them on my own for a while and see what happens. Thank you! -Susan.

Reply
    Jeni B. says

    Thanks, Susan. Cheering you on as you continue building your biz…

    Reply
Jen @ Girl in the Garage says

Reading through this reminded me of so many of the amazingly helpful things I learned in the Blog Smarter program. So many gold nuggets in this post Jeni. (I kept thinking Amen, Amen as I was reading!)

Reply
    Jeni B. says

    Everybody can use a reminder now and then, hmn? Thanks, Jen 😉

    Reply
Jennifer says

I went through the Blog Smarter program last year. And honestly, it’s taken me since then, and going back over the lessons to really “get it.” And I would have been clueless about why I even needed to be able to say “Yes” to the questions in this post. Today though, my answers are a hearty “Yes!” to each question above. It did take a year to get to the “Yes!” point, but everything is clicking now 🙂
Trust the process

Reply
    Jeni B. says

    Thanks for weighing in with your experience, Jennifer! Your site’s looking gorgeous these days. 🙂

    Reply
Fiona Killough says

Jeni, can I just say that I’m loving all that I’m learning from your emails?! I signed up a week ago and I am so, so glad that I did. Thank you!

Reply
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