1 November 2010
A color photograph of Little Italy, Manhattan ...
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And by extension, so can your business. At least they can, with the right mindset.

Yes, this requires some explanation.

Cities come in all shapes and sizes

I live in a relatively small city. Boston is 20th in the US. Neither huge nor piddly. But compared to New York, or Toronto, or London or other major players, it’s small. If you want something a bit “niche” in Boston — let’s use vegan restaurants as an example — you can look on Yelp or a specialized directory like Happy Cow and discover that there are very few choices (in this case, 2 for Boston proper, 4 more in nearby to not-so-nearby cities and 1 that’s a tea room in Cambridge). However, in a big city like New York, you’ll be wading through pages of Yelp or Happy Cow with listings for actual vegan restaurants in the actual city (52 on Happy Cow). Same thing with, say, Vietnamese restaurants, or non-chain fabric or art supply or book stores, or places to buy Hello Kitty stuff or high heel shoes in men’s sizes for drag queens.

In Boston, you feel like you can know, have eaten at, and have an opinion about all the vegan restaurants pretty easily. You can become expert on the drag queen shoe stores even more quickly. Then there’s nowhere else to go. In a big city like New York, you feel like you’d never be able to fully explore all the places that could serve you niche because there are so many — you can be very choosy. You can narrow down your micro-niche and become an expert there. You can patronize only the best of the best.

You can have faith that more will always pop up, too.

The blogosphere is just like New York

There is great abundance!

A lot of people are afraid to start a blog (or a business, or both) because they feel that what they have to offer already exists out there. They are wary of the competition, or even feel they pale in comparison to those in their space who’ve already made a name for themselves. That’s why this belief  in abundance is so powerful. There is room out there on the web for many many of us as content providers/bloggers/businesses and as consumers. To all practical extents and purposes, the number of citizens in the internet city is infinite. There’s more room on the internet for whatever your business is than there is for vegan restaurants in New York City. There are more micro-niches. There are more opportunities to be the best of the best.

There’s room for another blog on topic X, even if there are good ones out there. Your take on it is different, your style is different. You will appeal to different readers. Not all readers out there are already saturated with your topic. There are new people coming to it every day, with fresh eyes and eager to learn. Not everyone who’s been around the blog-block is enthralled with the choices they have thusfar — many are happy to check out something new. Especially if it’s better, or specifically better for them.

Don’t be intimidated, jump into the fray!

Prime real estate comes pretty cheap

While finding a space in a good location that you can bring up to code for a restaurant in NYC at a price you can afford can be a daunting prospect, internet space is democratizingly easy to come by. And ideas are free.

Of course, having people know about and come to your space is still an issue — which is where appropriate SEO and good marketing come in. But you can do that.

You still have to have the goods

When you’re limited, day-to-day, by geography, you have to work with what you’ve got available to you. Brick and mortar businesses with local clientele survive, thrive or die within the ecosystem in which they live. If you’re a new vegan restaurant in the Boston area, you’re probably going to do pretty well, even if you’re not the greatest — the ecosystem, with all its college students and liberal thinkers, is terribly under-served. But in New York, you’ll be made or broken by virtue of your merits, as there are a lot of choices in the ecosystem. The same is true in the blogosphere and online business world. You do have to be good to stand out. Your content has to be useful, your voice real and compelling.

Infinite Supply and Demand

Perhaps in the future, the online world will come to mirror today’s brick and mortar world more exactly, and there will be more limits, and less room for certain online endeavors. But these are still early, expanding-frontier days, and not all the gold has been panned out of the Californian rivers. You’re not going to “use up” your supply of potential readers/customers. New kids are moving in every day.

I say all this by way of inspiration, really. If you have an idea for a blog or online business, do it! These are the heady days of possibilities. There are no city limits.

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28 October 2010

Breakfast panel on blogging, inviteHey, at least I’m talking about it… even if I do a less than stellar job actually doing it regularly!

I’m speaking on a panel next week called “Smart Business Blogging: The Medium, The Message, The Method and the Bottom Line” being put on by Seltzer (a Boston-based design and branding firm I work with) and being held at Nexus (an educational and green-building/design exhibit space created by The Green Roundtable). Clare McDermott of SoloPortfolio and Aaron Desatnik of Nexus will round out the panel and Rochelle Seltzer of Seltzer will moderate. The talk is on blogging for business — should you or shouldn’t you? Why? How? What about ROI? What do you write about? How do you get readers? What about SEO? How does it fit into your marketing plan and your brand overall? All that good stuff and more — including a free-ranging Q&A with the panelists and audience.

Lots of networking tends to happen at the events in this series, before and after the panel talk. The audience is usually full of small and medium-sized business owners and marketing folks from a breadth of fields — from non-profits to professional services to arts to brick and mortar retail. The B2B and professional services realms seem to always have good representation.

Get more details and RSVP here.

PS: I know it is very early in the morning. But there will be coffee.

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