Interview with Strategist and Blogging Guru Dave Taylor

I first met Dave Taylor at the Blog Business Summit this past August. He was the first presenter and by my estimates, one of the best (feel free to check out my notes from that particular session).

I’ve kept in touch with Dave since then and his Intuitive Life Business Blog is one of my must-read feeds. Dave is a thoughtful and independent thinker, who is not afraid to challenge the status quo. Look no further than his response to the most recent Forbes’ cover story – Forbes “Attack of the Blogs” is surprisingly accurate.

In this email interview, I covered a variety of things, including asking Dave about the future of blogs and his thoughts about them being a ‘fad’. I also got him to reveal some of his super secret blogging tips. Enjoy.

Dave, you seem to be a jack of all trades and well, a master of many. Your services range from management consulting to technical solutions. What’s your background and how are you able to do so?

I’ve been involved with the technology industry and research community since 1980, so you could say I’m an old-timer in Internet terms. I have a BA in Computer Science, an MS in Educational Computing, and an MBA, I’ve launched four startups, most notably The Internet Mall, Inc., and have been involved with at least a dozen more companies at various stages in their lives. I’ve published 20 books on business and technology subjects, most recently The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Growing Your Business with Google (at http://www.findability.info/) and, coming in December, Let Go To Grow, co-authored with IBM exec Linda Sanford.

Pulling all of that together, I’m a fast, nimble strategic thinker and have a clear vision of where I believe things are heading, so I advise a lot of companies about how they can grow into the future, what opportunities they will see, and how to gain maximal competitive advantage as their own business ecosystem evolves along with the national and global economies. The fact that I can talk with corporate executives along with the IT staff in the trenches proves tremendously useful too, because I have a strong sense of what’s possible, what’s easy, and what’s virtually impossible to achieve without significant struggle.

How does blogging tie into the strategy and marketing of your services?

Blogging is a tremendous tool for communicating with my market segment, for engaging with future clients, and for staying current with the state of the art in business strategies, market communications, and similar. I really don’t see blogging as anything magical, to be honest, but rather view it as the evolution of a toolkit that makes it very easy to engage in an effective and illuminating dialog with my customers and peers.

I approach this from two angles. On my Intuitive Life Business Blog I explore business and management issues, often delving into specifics of blogging and how business blogs can help companies communicate their message to key constituencies, while on my more informal Ask Dave Taylor weblog I field a wide range of questions ranging from the incredibly technical to more high-level business issues, with lots of other curious and interesting Q&A thrown in the mix just for fun.

I don’t believe I would have much credibility as a blogger if I didn’t have at least one solid, credible, highly-respected weblog, but I also really enjoy the discipline of clarifying my own thoughts and having to achieve a level of coherence that allows me to then communicate with my readership. That’s why you’ll see I often write about subjects a week or two after the ‘quick off the mark’ bloggers have written and forgotten about them. I believe that thinking about things rather than reacting to them is underrated.

I’m not sure if you read an article entitled Beware the Fads of the Future by Sean Carton a couple of weeks ago. In it, he classified weblogs as a fad. Are they?

There are always naysayers whenever a new technology or approach arrives in the business community, but if you don’t think of blogging as a unique solution but rather as the next evolutionary step in interactive Web site management, then it’s hard to see where it could be a fad. Clearly even the most critical analyst isn’t going to say that Web sites ‘were good enough’ four or five years ago, so it’s hard to understand what they don’t like about businesses using blogs as a management and communications tool. In any case, no, it’s not a fad, it’s a new way of engaging with your marketplace.

Will every company one day have a blog, thus nullifying the advantages of blogging? Will having a blog eventually become similar to the progression of every company now having its own website?

I believe that the tools that blogs are helping create will become more and more pervasive, creating less differentiation and certainly diluting the meaning of the word ‘blog’, but that’s a mark of success, not failure. In the future, companies will have more engaging and interactive Web sites and make it easier, not harder, for their customers to engage in a dialog with them. Sounds like a better world, if you ask me.

You’ve branded your main blog and professional services as The Intuitive Life. Why? What does that mean?

No deep secret. I’ve called my consulting firm Intuitive Systems since the day I formed it in the late 1980s, so when I spun off a separate business and management blog, it seemed natural to call it ‘The Intuitive Life’.

Anyone who visits The Intuitive Life will see that you write on multiple blogs. Unlike many people who have more than one blog, you regularly post to all of them with rather thoughtful and fresh ideas. How do you do it? Where do you get your fodder from? Do you have a specific method or schedule that you follow throughout the week?

I wonder about that some times myself. There are days when I feel like I could just sit in front of the computer and pound out dozens of articles on a variety of topics, and other days when the proverbial well is dry. My inspiration comes from reading about 175 different RSS feeds (including all the major news sources and wire services), regularly reading the Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek, Wired and the New York Times, along with participating in a dozen or more active business discussion lists and attending as many business mixers and networking events I can fit into my schedule.

With my Ask Dave Taylor site, I receive 10-20 questions a day from readers, so it’s usually more an issue of picking out the best to answer than having to make up any entries of my own. And thank goodness for that!

In terms of my methodology, I don’t really have one. I have so much experience as a professional writer that I can just sit down and type and within 5-10 minutes usually have a draft posting ready to go. Then I’ll read through it a half-dozen times to clean up grammatical issues and clarify my points, add any relevant or useful links to external sites, and flip back and forth between ‘preview’ and ‘edit’ until I’m happy with the entry. Then I press ‘save’ and away it goes’

What are three Dave Taylor super secret tips to blogging success?

Let’s see:

  1. Stay focused on your topic ’ ideally on issues that your customers are interested in knowing more about or problems they seek to solve.

  2. Write clearly and have an opinion or some analysis of what you’re talking about. People want to know what you think, not just have links to other sites.

  3. Don’t ignore grammar and spelling. Clarity and credibility are just as much an element of conveying your thoughts in a professional manner as is having something smart to say in the first place.

What are the three biggest mistakes that bloggers ’ both personal and professional – make on a regular basis?

Another quantification, eh? Let’s try this again:

  1. Wandering too far afield from your topic: if you’re writing a business weblog, don’t inject commentary about your politics, religious beliefs or similar. Personal bloggers don’t have that issue, but really, there are precious few people in the world whom I care enough about to want to read about their latest dining experience or their fight with their significant other.

  2. Making things up, spreading innuendo, or criticizing people or companies based on gossip or unfounded rumors. It’s not professional, it’s not nice and it doesn’t reflect well on your own efforts.

  3. Not giving credit where it’s due. If you read something and that sparks an idea, be generous with your credit and always link back to your sources. Indeed, that’s a very blogosphere-friendly technique anyway that’ll pay dividends.

What is it that excites Dave Taylor when he wakes up in the morning?

My children, my wife, and my family life overall. I enjoy what I do professionally, but most days I’d rather play with my kids and hang out than go into my office. But I blog about that too, on my parenting weblog: http://www.APparenting.com/

What are you mainly working on these days and what projects do you have in the pipeline?

With the success of my Growing Your Business with Google book, I’m spending a lot of brain cycles thinking about my next book, a more strategic work that captures my vision of the future of business and how marketplaces are evolving. ‘Nuf said for now, but stay tuned as I flesh out my ideas on my weblog.

I also work with a lot of different entrepreneurial clients, ranging from realtors to inventors, startups to established, well-funded medical companies, helping them achieve clarity in their business vision and then coach them on the most effective methods of communicating their core values to their marketplace.

Somewhere in that mix, I do a lot of public speaking, ranging from presentations on blogging and findability to various business and community groups to guest lecturing in college classrooms to running workshops and speaking at conferences. I’m a consistently highly rated speaker and enjoy helping others share my vision of the future of business.

And, well, lots of other irons in the proverbial fire, but you get the basic picture, I think.

Finally, thanks for interviewing me. Great questions, and I hope we provoke readers into some thoughtful and entertaining responses.