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Home » Random

What I’ve learnt from a year of blogging

Many people write their reviews and outline their plans for the  year in the first week of January. In fact the blogosphere is awash with them. However, I read today that 78% of people fail to achieve thier goals for the year. So the very fact that people share them doesn’t necessarily mean that they are going to achieve them.  So, I thought I’d do something a little bit different and work out what I can do and sustain and consequently lead to a successful outcome by the end of 2011.  Which is why this post is published on 1st February.

So, rather than publish a list of goals the first week in January, I have spent the month of January thinking about what I’ve  learnt over the last year, what I can build on and what I need to develop over the next 12 months to take myself and my business to the next level. 

12 Months In Review

All about relationships

Whilst it is true that this blog has been up and running for more than a year, I’ve only been blogging seriously for 12 months.  In that time I must have read at least 500+ blogs and posted 100’s of comments. Over the last 12 months I’ve learned an awful lot and my business has improved as a result. I’ve met some really great people, some of whom it’s fair to say I now count as friends.

The Big Red Tomato Company operates as a physical business. The majority of our income is derived from working directly with clients face to face, often for several months at a time either as consultants, project managers or by providing interim support.

What has struck me the most over the last 12 months is that there is very little difference between a physical business and an online business. They are both about building sustainable relationships over the long term.   Networking and relationship building is as important online as it is in a bricks and mortar business, just the tools for carrying out maybe slightly different.  Use of social media such as Linkedin, Twitter and Facebook as well as the voice here on the blog help to build those relationships.

I heard a Chris Ducker from Virtual Business Lifestyle  talking about revenue from  various traffic sources. Chris stated that Twitter had brought in approximately $30k of revenue, for his business, whereas he could attribute next to nothing from Facebook. I must say, I concur with that finding. Twitter accounts for about 8% of my total site traffic according to Google Analytics compared to 4% from Facebook and certainly sources of online revenues are much higher from Twitter followers.     I would be interested to know what other bricks and mortar businesses think about this – what have you founds? please let me know in the comments section below.  

The old marketing adage “it’s all in the list” is certainly true and my list has grown over the last year, thanks mainly to a free copy of Seth Godin’s The Idea Virus .  (You can get one yourself by clicking the link or entering your details on the right hand side bar).  

The most significant increase in email sign ups came about  with the installation of PopupDomination  – a really great premium plugin which really does do what it says on the tin and increased email newsletter ‘sign ups’ by at least 300%.   It basically works with a ‘popup’ appearing after a set amount of time.  Whilst I’m personally not a fan of these things, research shows that it doesn’t necessarily put people off visiting your site. 

After the site redesign/retweak in December I decided not to turn it back on when the site went live, for 2 reasons 1) I didn’t feel that it reflected the brand of The Big Red Tomato Company and 2) I didn’t feel that it was condusive to building relationships.   The Big Red Tomato Company is   here to make a sustainable living from working with businesses over a period of time.  We don’t want transactional relationships, we want sustained relationships.   People are giving us thier email addresses because they want to grow their business and trusting us to help grow their business takes time. So, whilst we might be signing up fewer email subscribers as a result, we know that people are doing so because they want to build a relationship and hopefully,  these subscribers will decide to buy our services or our products when the time is right for them.  

Whilst I know my metrics have increased a lot over the last year, I don’t know exactly by how much as I didn’t note down my p starting figures.  Which is a mistake I will be addressing this year (see below).

The Big Red Tomato Alexa Rankings (a measure of site popularity) have dropped c3m positions (ie improved!) and we are now seeing 25% of our traffic coming from Google search.

Site Design and store front

Before January 2010 my site was really my own version of – recording my own personal notes on the books I’d read or the experiences that I’d picked up. In a way, it was my own virtual notebook. I had  the vague notion that this stuff may be useful to some  people – maybe the clients that I’d worked with as an ongoing resource.  But I hadn’t really thought about it as a ‘go to resource’  for business advice.   Having said that I also recognised that it was my Corporate ‘shop window’ and I thought that a nice shop front would attract me more visitors and demonstrate to potential clients that I was a serious business.  And it did.

Iniitally, I had very little traffic. Which wasn’t really a problem as it was just for me right?

But then I started thinking why I am spending time on all this?

A Blog Is Not A Business

As a consultant, I think a lot about  relative value of things and where time is best spent. One of my favourite sayings is that “you need to be working on your business and not in your business“.  However, it’s very tempting  to think that spending time tweaking your site or writing blog posts or even guest posts is working on your business.  This is not the case. If you intend to make money from your blog you need to figure out exactly how it’s going to make money for you. 

Maybe this is from the sale of physical products, maybe it’s from the sale of affiliate products or maybe it’s from the sale of added value services such as consulting. Either way, you need to figure out how you’re going to make money from our blog.

At best your blog is a marketing tool. Just like adverts for the iPhone are. But having a great iPhone advert would be a complete waste of time without a product to sell.

For The Big Red Tomato Company, our blog is our marketing tool and was designed to help us stand out from the crowd and build our profile. Which has worked, as I’ve met some really useful contacts and I’ve been asked to speak at conferences and have been asked to collaborate on a number of projects.

Pillar/Evergreen Content

I few weeks ago I heard an interview with Tim Ferriss where he was talking about his own blog where he stated that his goal is for the articles on his site to be more valuable a year from now than they are today. Basically they become more valuable as more people comment on them add anecdotes, discuss aspects of the post with their experiences.  I think that this is a very laudable aim and one that I intend to follow (20 Days to Build a Better Business  – being a prime example where people try things and confirm that they work).

My Big Goals for 2011

These are the 4 main goals


Major Goal#1 : For Online Income to Equate to 10% of Total Turnover – This will be achieved by creation of products and services which meet the needs of visitors to the site and the continuation of the one hour consulting service.   Email marketing and some affiliate marketing on it’s own will not be enough – product reviews and online line products will be developed to supplement affiliate income. There will be no hard selling.

Major Goal#2: Site load times, SEO and email newsletter – One of the things that really bugs me is the site load time, I know I use a lot of images on the site, but most of those are served directly from other sources such as Flickr. I am on the search for a new UK based hosting company offering faster load times and up time.  SEO is a bit of a black art to some extent and I understand bits of it, however, I will be investigating that all posts are optimised for search, but written for


Major Goal#2 : To write a book –This will be achieved by the re-purposing of some existing content and the creation of new content to write a 30,000 business growth advice book.

Major Goal#3 : To speak at a major industry conference – To establish Matthew Needham as  a leading expert on business growth advice, cost reduction and value management.


Major Goal#4 : No work at weekends – with the birth of baby BRT last year, my goal is to ensure that weekends are 100% family time.

Major Goal#5 : Loose 4kg in weight –No one could accuse me of being fat or overweight for that matter (I’m 6’4 and weigh approx 87kg) loss of weight is not the goal in itself, but rather the outcome from undertaking the following; increased strength and fitness training – working out at least twice a week, get back to running on a regular basis (improving speed and stamina – possible completion of a 10km race if no adverse affects to my knee) – diet improvements, with the objective of a 2% body fat reduction.

I started writing this post on 27th January 2010 and as at this date,  these are my baseline success measures for 2011 to be achieved by 31/12/11: 

Alex Ranking now 248,494   target: <100,000

Facebook Fans now 105 target >300

Newsletter 162 target >500

RSS Subscribers now 272 target >1000

Twitter followers now 3,350 target > 10,000

Income from online sources 1% of BRT Turnover – target > 10%

Weight loss: 87kg  target  83kg