Punching through blogging barriers to find business benefits

I received the coolest email the other day. One of our {grow} community members, Raman Minhas of the U.K., wrote about his struggle over FOUR YEARS to get any traction for his blog — and then finally, it worked!  I loved his inspirational story because I think it reflects the pattern of emotional turmoil many of us go through as bloggers. See if you agree … 

 By {grow} Community Member Raman Minhas

I would like to share my difficult journey as a blogger.

Hope

Four years ago, I started writing about the industry I worked in, biotech.  I dutifully wrote about commercial issues affecting the business and my frustrations of the complex R&D process (a new drug can take up to 10 years and over $1 billion to develop).

I worked hard to provide insightful posts that I would “push” to my network of around 1,000 email subscribers each month. These folks had not necessarily “opted in” for my blog, but since the unsubscribe rate was always less than 0.5%, I figured it was OK.  It also seemed like a good way to stay in touch. I was getting around 300 hits per month, but there was NO organic growth of my readership no matter how hard I worked.  After a few years, I felt like I was spinning my wheels.

Disenchantment

Without any positive feedback,, the blogging process became wearisome and I came to dread the “time of month” to write.  When I was at a very low point, I was inspired by Mark’s post, “Ten reasons to blog – even if nobody reads it.”  That kept me going for a while but I still wasn’t happy.  I had to find a way to push through these blogging barriers or it could not last. So after a couple of years of struggling, I performed an internal review last summer and decided to re-focus on a more interesting topic, medtech. A subtle change, but I’d previously spent six years as an emergency room MD in the UK and was more comfortable with medtech (devices, diagnostics, IT) than the abstract chemistry of new potential drugs.

Re-focus and renewal

With a clarification of my niche, my focus became much clearer.  I found I could write more easily and many more topics came to mind. Writing finally became enjoyable! Through the medtech theme, I was also able to connect to my interests in entrepreneurship and value investing. This was such a breakthrough. Slowly, the page hits began to grow — perhaps readers gauged more passion and a renewed sense of energy in my content? And the blog was starting to get NOTICED.   I was invited to present at an industry networking event on the use of blogging in our industry. This was a small audience (around 60) but highly relevant. It was a milestone for me!

Finding my voice 

Slowly I was finding my blogging “voice” and with this positive feedback, my confidence grew.  I decided I needed to work on being more consistent and that I needed to grow my engaged network of readers.  As my blogging changed, my audience changed too. I was now getting picked up by important medtech CEOs and investors.  I decided that to grow the blog I needed to write at least weekly. This felt daunting.

Finding the time

Here was another barrier. Would I have the time to keep this up?  Would I have enough to write about? I decided that I needed to make the time and this needed to be central to my business.  My wife and I have been blessed with two wonderful boys: one is 4 yrs old and the other is just 11 weeks old (sleepless nights). But we decided together that I was going to go for it and I learned to make the time and started posting weekly, without much trouble.

Traction 

This new consistency seems to be working. I can see the page views and readership grow!  By the end of last month, the blog got its highest number of monthly hits ever — over 800.  I was energized! And through the first two weeks of this month, I’m on a pace to exceed 1,000 hits.  Along the way, I have also been working on the look and feel of the blog to to reflect the new focus and concerted effort.

Part of my strategy to attract a meaningful and engaged audience was to connect to people on Twitter. Although I’ve been on Twitter since 2010, I had not been very active and only had a handful of followers.  I became a disciple of The Tao of Twitter and it is paying off.  By January I hit 200 followers and my quality Twitter audience has now reached 350 just a few months later.

The Pay-off!

The connections I am making through Twitter and my blog are remarkable. Here are a few of my recent social media victories:

  • Through these social media channels alone I was asked to attend an important two-day conference and moderate a panel on commercializing medtech. This is fantastic exposure for me and my business. Another breakthrough!  To be authentically helpful, I am using my social media channels to give the conference exposure. I’m helping the organizers with sourcing medtech CEOs from my own network for other panels in the conference. It’s a win-win-win for the conference organisers, medtech CEOs, and me.
  • One of my recent posts, “8 Lessons from Medtech Entrepreneurs…” was picked up by another organization and it was put up on the front page of their website as a news item. Hits to my blog went up. It was so successful, they asked if my posts could be a regular feature on their site. Of course, I said yes.  One of the CEOs from a high-profile company commented on one of my posts and subsequently introduced me to one his VC investors (a very influential group within my target audience).
  • Last week I had coffee with another CEO whose company I’d mentioned in a post. This was only our second meeting and we’re already discussing ways of working together. Things NEVER used to move this fast.  It’s as if the blog is a non-invasive, trust-building, relationship booster.
  • At an event in February this year, I met a medtech CEO for 5 just minutes. But we have had the chance to continue to get to know each other through the blog and emails. He emailed me: “Keep the blog coming, I’m an avid follower.” He’s been in the medtech industry for 25 years. Like I’d have ANYTHING to teach him?!

I have learned a lot along the way.  Patiently and steadily build rapport and trust with your readers.  Write about your passions. It takes time to find your blogging “voice.”  Authentic helpfulness and reciprocity go a long way.

It took me four years, but it is finally working. I have so much yet to learn but I wanted to encourage you to stick with it, have courage and continue to push yourself.  If I had quit years ago, I would not be realizing these fantastic benefits today.

Raman Minhas is a medtech enthusiast, working with entrepreneurial companies. He also invests in medtech stocks, using a value based approach, and blogs at Medtech Value Investor.

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  • Congratulations for sticking with it Raman.
    You’ve done what most people don’t do, you kept showing up.
    It pays off in the end.

    Mark it must be amazing to know that this is the difference you make.

  • Thank You!
    I am going through the same journey.
    Billy

  • Raman, this is a great and inspirational story. It goes along with my “bulldog” theory of success, paraphrased from a former mentor: “He who holds on longest wins” By digging in and holding on for dear life you learn to clarify your goals and focus. Just as in my favorite hobby (nature photography), sharpness of focus is the most important factor in achieving any measure of success. So you have combined determination with ever-increasing sharpness of focus. Wonderful! And best of luck for the future.

  • Thanks, Bernadette, a very kind comment.

    Mark’s post REALLY kept me going on a few occassions. I was also energized by feedback from old contacts. Even a simple “I read your blog” from re-connecting with old contacts would be a boost. I realised blogging is a great way to “be in people’s minds, but not their faces”

  • Good luck, Billy! Finding insights and friends here amongst the Grow community has been a big help.

  • Thank-you so much, Alice. I love your analogy. And agree, focus is so important! It’s a recurring theme in several of my recent blog posts for medtech entrepreneurs.

    This week I read “The Dip” by Seth Godin. Previously I had always thought never giving up was a key success factor. But I learned that it’s more important to know when to quit (the “cul-de-sacs”) and when to push through the pain of the “dips”. I may have been in a cul-de-sac a little too long 🙂

  • Well done Raman, I blog in a pretty niche area as well (vacuum Cleaner related) and your story is truly inspirational. I am going to burn your your words in my brain (not literally folks) to keep me inspired in those times frustration. Also thumbs up to mark for giving you yet another opportunity to spread your word and inspire others.

  • Thanks, Mr Vacuum!

    Two thoughts: Firstly, if it’s a tightly defined niche you have a better chance of dominating it (my biggest mistake for years was going too wide). Second, think vacuums are not exciting? Tell that to UK inventor extraordinaire and billionaire, James Dyson!

  • Allen Roberts

    It must be a pretty common story. I have been blogging for a number of years, almost 800 posts to date on topics that “my patch” manufacturing SME’s, largely in and around the food industry in Australia may find of interest. I get somewhere between 3 & 400 hits a month, pretty steady, but little feedback, and no business that I know of has evolved, and not a lot of Australian subscribers.
    However, much to my surprise, it is not a chore, not a challenge to find topics, but a journey that is creative, and addictive. When I miss a day, I feel somehow let down.
    The irony is I started this to build business, to create a brand for my consulting activities, but now I do it for myself, as a place to record my thoughts, and be creative. If someone else benefits, great, but I certainly do.

  • Yes, the “know when to hold ’em,know when to fold ’em” strategy. I agree, you do have to let go sometimes. I guess I was placing my analogy on the backdrop of the right thing to do at the right time. There are a few goals I have given up once I realized they were not right for me. Thanks for pointing that out.

  • Thanks, Allen, great comment. If it’s any help, I can categorically say in 4 years, only ONE piece of consulting work has come directly through the blog – and this through someone I already knew. I’ve never been lucky enough to have someone find me and ask for a project (we live in hope!).

    However, I always viewed blogging as a vital strand to having a on-line presence, and most importantly one that bolsters your offline presence. So, in meetings/ conferences there’s usually something relevant in the blog that I’ve written about (I’m only up to 60 articles so far, so well done you for 800!) – So I tell people about it and send a link after. This has been a really effective way to build credibility with new AND existing clients.

    A lot depends on your business model – mine is consulting/ project work with up to 3 clients at any one time. These usually involve retainers over several months or more, and some element of success fee. So, even if only ONE client converts a year, and the blog was partly helpful in doing this (credibility, profile building, reciprocity), the whole effort was worthwhile. Such a low barrier takes the pressure off – then I can just write about what’s interesting.

    And a big thanks to Mark for this – I used to worry that I’d never have enough traffic to sell much “product” or use adsense, etc. I still don’t. But seeing that someone as successful as Mark works on projects/ consulting (and doesn’t do adsense) – it gave me enough confidence to push on with the same approach. You only need one person where you have an impact.

    Finally, the most important thing – Congratulations! You’ve reached blogging Zen – you love to blog just for itself. That seems to be when you find your “voice”.

    (Sorry for the long reply – you just hit on a few key points I understand).

  • Once again, your spot on, Alice! Thanks.

  • I’ve had a year of blogging. I’ve had a lot of great experiences. I’ve found my way. The voice we should embrace is the one we are unsure of how it will be received. But, I’ve decided, based upon what I heard and was able to say at SoSlam to go ahead. It would seem that there are a lot of people who would like to hear what I have to say. Coupled with what the years have shown me I’m about to let go and see what really happens next.
    Best of times to you for your future. Billy

  • Anonymous

    Very inspirational Raman! thank you for sharing – I especially like this bit: It’s as if the blog is a non-invasive, trust-building, relationship booster.
    Thats exactly my experience too, the amazing power of the social web!

  • Wow! 4 years! Kudos to you for sticking it out and Im so excited to read this happy ending! Im coming up on year 1 and I have a hard time pushing through sometimes. I find myself doing other things when I should be working on my blog and ultimately, my dream. Thanks so much for sharing this story with us!

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  • Thanks, Tony! Great to find others here with similar experiences.

  • Thank-you Christina, very kind. It feels more like a “happy beginning”, rather than a happy ending! Wish I had found {grow} sooner than last year – would have made the earlier years easier, and probably faster progress too.

  • So true, Billy. Looking back I can’t believe this, but after my internal review, it took me 4 months to actually formally change my focus to medtech (i.e. renamed blog, changed LinkedIn and Twitter profiles). I was still scared to move away from what I knew (even though it wasn’t working). So glad I did – eventually!

  • Thanks, Mark, for giving me the opportunity to guest post. Learning so much from {grow} and your community. And today, hit my target of over 1000 hits in a month – a full week before the end of the month!

  • Good to meet up with you here.

  • Shel Horowitz

    Raman, I love your story. I try to blog an average of 3x/week, but because I don’t take my own advice to focus, my audience is somewhat scattered. But I became a writer because I’m intersted in everything, and I describe my blog as covering “the isntersections of marketing, media, politics, environment, and ethics.”

    Keeping up the number posts is easy, because some of them are very brief comments and links to something I found interesting. So I’m only doing one or two in-deepth posts in a typical week, yet still showing the search engines that my blog is active.

    One thing I *have* found very helpful in growing my blog audience: using tools like the WordPress Twitter plugin and Networked Blogs to automatically post every new blog entryy to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. (would love to find a tool to do this on Google+). You can see my blog at http://greenandprofitable.com/shels-blog

  • Thanks, Shel. Funnily enough, while on a train today, I came across another diverse blog from Australia which has 1.4 million annual hits:
    http://www.neeravbhatt.com/
    It can be done! Maybe the key is to find a voice which resonates across multiple sectors? Or find multiple niches you get excited about? Good luck.

  • Ah yes MR Dyson is indeed an interesting man. His products always get the most views when I am uploading how to videos on youtube. They also give me about 50% of my turnover in our service department. Not because they are a bad machine just because there is so many that are sold and a lot of people don’t look after the stuff they own.

  • Awesome ways for be a better blogger, im learning so much of your tips, in my case, the time is a heavy barrier, but i need to avoid this obstacle for increase my sales and earnings, thanks for share this information

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