Am I Your Go-To Guy? (a self-awakening)

One advantage of having a coach who is also a client is that her testimonials not only flatter me, they make me think.

Here’s what Christy Strauch, author of Passion, Plan, Profit: Twelve Simple Steps to Convert Your Passion into a Solid Business, said about me and my work:

I think Jon knows better than anyone how to help businesses use the Internet as a powerful marketing tool. Wherever you are in the process of developing your Internet presence, Jon can tell you exactly what you should do next. He will enable you to take advantage of the latest (sometimes bewildering) array of tools, from blogs to Twitter, from Facebook and LinkedIn to YouTube videos. From my experience, Jon is the guy to call if you want to market your business more effectively; and, as a bonus, because of his openness, you will learn from a real visionary every step of the way.

What stopped me in my tracks about this statement was the “Jon knows better than anyone.” It’s a strong statement, and when it came on the heels of another flattering statement by another client, Rick Weinstein of Life Insurance Services for Charitable Giving, I had to self-reflect further:

The go-to point player for the Cleveland Cavs is LeBron James. Simply stated, Jon Leland is the go-to player if you are a profit-seeking entrepreneur who wants to leverage the power of e-commerce. Better yet, Jon is a people’s person. He’s no nonsense and a master communicator. I view Jon as a life-long partner, not a vendor; and I am pleased to wholeheartedly recommend him.

LeBron James! Yikes. I was humbled and inspired at the same time. And, I’m not just tooting my own horn because together these quotes added up to a personal wake up call. Thanks to my willingness to listen to my clients, I realized that I have not been positioning myself well given the levels of my expertise and experience.

I honestly know that I am able to be that “go-to guy.” I am so much more than just a website designer/developer. I am someone who can tell virtually any client of any size company what they should be doing next with regard to their web presence and their internet marketing. But, unfortunately, up to now (at least recently), that is not how I’ve been telling my story. Hello? Mr. Leland calling Mr. Leland. Wake up!

So, yes, we do websites, but I also want you to know that these days we’ve evolved ourselves into WordPress experts. As a result, we offer a carefully evolved approach to using WordPress as a CMS (content management system). We’re calling this custom “cocktail” of plug-ins and configurations, “We Do WordPress Right!” But most people, even some of our clients, don’t know that yet.

Furthermore, we have initiated a brand new set of internet marketing packages which include support for blogging and social media marketing. (Please contact us to receive a confidential copy of these offerings and get the “go-to guy” on your virtual team. 😎 )

I’m done with just being a website designer who also does internet marketing. It’s time for me to re-own my expertise as someone who has honestly been on the cutting edge of new media all the way back to the early ’70’s—before the term “new media” was invented—when founding a narrowcast radio network was “new media.” (Read more about the other new media/new marketing innovations I’ve been involved with for literally decades in my online bio.)

I hope my “self-awakening” is inspiring to you as well. Have you been under-selling yourself? What story should you be telling about yourself that you have not been telling?

And, of course, if I can be your “go-to guy” that helps you build a truly successful web presence, I’d be delighted.

My apologies for the shameless self-promotion, but I needed to say this “out loud.” Thanks for listening.

WordPress Websites Under Attack

I’m glad to see the comments on the post below about the maintenance and other issues involved in running a WordPress website. Unfortunately, just now, these challenges have increased as a result of idiot hackers who are violating WordPress websites to insert “black hat” permalinks. How lame and what a nuisance, and more evidence of my old saying, “It’s always more complicated than you think it is.”

If you are responsible for a WordPress website, heads up and here’s a good article with links to other useful articles: “Old WordPress Versions Under Attack” by Lorelle on WordPress. More useful information is in Andy Sowards post.

We were working on service level agreements this week that we plan to propose to our ComBridges clients in order to cover this kind of maintenance service. In the meantime, if you are a ComBridges client, we’ll let you know if your site is in need of service and any additional costs that may be involved.

Thanks for spreading the word (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) so that everyone becomes aware of this issue as quickly as possible.

And putting this aside, Happy Labor Day weekend to you all!

The Truth About WordPress

by Sallie Goetsch of the Podcast Asylum and Jon Leland of ComBridges

istock_000006783097xsmall2Recently, in a WordPress group on LinkedIn, the question was asked “Is WordPress the answer to all our prayers?” The writer was extending the conversation about his own blog post which objected vehemently to crazy claims that complete novices could build “killer websites” in minutes if they just used WordPress. It seems that the world of technology is filled with these kinds of false promises and unrealistic expectations.

For those of us who have hand-coded HTML back before tools like Dreamweaver were invented, and who have experimented and had learning experiences with creating web pages in a wide variety of ways, WordPress is an important new platform for website development. Compared to anything we’ve seen before, WordPress is amazingly simple and intuitive, especially given its array of powerful features. It lets you change your design without affecting your content, it has great built-in SEO (search engine optimization) features, and it’s free.

WordPress also has advantages over competing website publishing systems like Drupal and Joomla. For one thing, you can use easy offline editors (like Windows Live Writer and Ecto) to update content on WordPress sites. WordPress also began as a blogging platform, and as a result, it’s “natural” for WordPress websites to include blogs. For many website designers, even those who have never learned Java, never learned Flash, never learned PHP, and don’t know a single programming language, WordPress does answer many prayers.

But, that’s very different from saying that anyone can use WordPress to design and implement a sophisticated website. If you try to take advantage of WordPress’ full capabilities as a content management system without knowing anything about HTML, CSS, or PHP — or about WordPress itself — you are simply asking for trouble. Yes, you can set up a basic blog using WordPress.com without knowing much, but to really make WordPress (or any other new software) sit up and do tricks, you have to put some time into learning how to use it. (More advanced users download WordPress from WordPress.org. The supply of tricks available at WordPress.com is limited.)

When you think about it, most people only know how to use the most basic features of the software that they use every day. They treat Microsoft Word like a glorified typewriter and don’t even know most of its tools and options exist, much less how to use them. They pay hundreds of dollars for Photoshop and only use the functions they could have gotten for free with Picasa. (Photoshop is so sophisticated that even advanced users can spend hours studying DVD tutorials to learn new things.)

So why should WordPress be any different? It’s not, but people get excited and apparently WordPress’ many benefits give birth to irrationally exuberant expectations. Either that, or there are some people out there who think that because WordPress is easy for them, it must seem that easy to everyone else.

For example, if you hear that there are 5,000 free plugins that extend WordPress’ platform, and hundreds of free themes in the theme repository, shouldn’t you expect that just looking through them and testing them to see which ones would be best for you might take quite some time? And then there’s the fact that new versions of WordPress come out a lot more often than new versions of Photoshop. So you have to stay up to date, by doing things like attending meetups and Wordcamps, reading blogs, watching videos, listening to podcasts, or even reading books. (There are several good books on WordPress, but it is hard for print books to keep up with the rapid developments in the platform and its plugins.)

Because WordPress is a web-based platform, it’s much easier for geographically dispersed teams to collaborate on websites. But due to its popularity, WordPress sites are also open to server hacks and blog spam attacks–as ComBridges discovered first hand recently.

While it doesn’t necessarily take a programmer to learn WordPress, if you want to create a sophisticated WordPress site, skills like PHP will come in handy. And, if you want to learn your way around, study the WordPress Codex and be sure to allow some time to learn important fundamentals such as, for example, which plugins make it easier to use WordPress as a CMS (content management system). For professional website developers like us, that’s part of our job.

Even though WordPress is easy enough for Sallie’s hairdresser to update, Sallie was the one to create the site, and had to provide more than one tutorial on posting to the blog and editing pages.

WordPress deserves to be praised for many reasons, but exaggerated claims about its ease of use for the complete novice does everyone a disservice. Let’s practice a little expectation management, people.