It was December of 2007. As a ‘pool guy’ during Christmas season, I was sitting at home, feeling the need to get something accomplished despite the seasonality of my business. I had been in the fiberglass swimming pool industry for about 6 years and knew it was time for a change.
Opinion Takes Form
You see, up to that point in the industry, no one had produced content to teach consumers how to buy, install, or own a fiberglass swimming pool. And as I looked around the country, all I could see were salespersons that were pitching their products, yet rarely giving consumers an ounce of value. With the information age in full effect, I decided it was time to put my thoughts to pen. It was time to write. It was time to teach. And it was certainly time to share my opinions.
So before I ever even knew what a ‘blog’ was, I sat down at my kitchen table and commenced typing everything I’d been teaching consumers in the home about fiberglass swimming pools for the previous 6 years. I spoke of the right and the wrong ways to do things. I mentioned the good, the bad, and the ugly of the industry. And I even, based on the hundreds of swimming pools my company had installed up to that point, came up with the first consumer review/ratings system for fiberglass pool manufacturers—the ‘Big Boys’ of the industry.
After 3 days and 50 or so pages, the eBook was complete. About a month later, my first ‘educational’ site was live, and ‘Pool School’ was born.
The site was a simple one, as you’ll see if you go there today. Its main purpose was to sell my little eBook . Little did I know it would change my life in many, many ways.
The Attacks Begin
Within days of releasing the book, almost every fiberglass manufacturer (most of which I’d never spoken to previously) in the country contacted me directly. Some praised the eBook. Others angrily questioned its statements. But be rest assured, everyone had an opinion….and it was the talk of the industry.
But the commotion didn’t stop there. A few weeks later I received 2 different letters from attorneys representing manufacturers that were ready to sue if I didn’t remove their names from my eBook.
The Power of Opinionated Content
For the first time in my life, I was catching a glimpse of the power of content. But not just the power of content per se, but the power of content with an opinion.
Without going into too many details, that simple eBook, and my subsequent blog which was started months later, has taught me incredible lessons about life, opinions, boldness, and guts.
Heck, I was once even sued for 5 million dollars. Can you believe that? Yep, all in the name of content.
But here I am today, unscathed, and a better man for the trials I’ve faced over these past four years. And what have been the results of such an opinionated and educational focus? Here’s the quick version:
1. As most already know, my swimming pool blog is the most popular website in the entire swimming pool industry. Companies that do 50 million dollars a year in sales don’t hold a stick to the amount of traffic we get on our site. Just to give you one example, we once published an article called Top 5 Fiberglass Pool Problems and Solutions. A gutsy article to say it in the least, it was read a meager 35,000 times in 2010.
2. Our company has been branded as the premier fiberglass swimming pool construction company in the country. This has lead to major respect from consumers in our area and around the globe. In fact, during the summer, I typically receive 10 or more emails a day from consumers from all over the world asking questions and looking for solutions to their swimming pool problems.
3. My little eBook, at almost no expense to me, has sold well over 1000 copies, and sales go up each and every year.
4. We sell pools….and lots of them. 🙂
But there is one reason why all this happens folks—It’s because we take a stand with everything. We don’t believe much in gray. For us, there is almost always a right and wrong way to do things, black and white, if you will.
Are You Willing to Take a Stand?
I cite this example because every great blog—whether it’s run by an individual, a small business, or a corporation—needs to be willing to take a stand with their content. We do not live in a world where fence sitters get rewarded on the web. Only the ones with guts and audacity stand out.
Mr. Brown and Race
This past weekend, Danny Brown wrote an article entitled “Social Media—It’s Not Just For White Folks”. Catchy title? Heck yeah it was. The article was even better. Most bloggers would have shied away from this topic, but Danny, after reading Jay Baer’s excellent article on the same matter, had the guts to tackle an issue most people are scared to death of—Race. Well done Danny, well done.
A Movement is Born
Most of you by this point have heard me talk about Hubpsot. But what has caused Hubspot’s popularity to explode to the point where they are now getting 32 million dollar investments from Google? Well, although you may hear many reasons for such a telling investment, the main reason, in my opinion, goes back to the company founders, Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah, who took a hard-line opinion and approach to old-school (outbound) marketing from the beginning. Their thoughts? Well, to put it in a nut shell, Outbound marketing sucks and Inbound Marketing is the future….plain and simple.
Did Brian and Dharmesh get their fair share of criticism with this bold paradigm? Darn right they did, but behind these strong words has grown an entire industry and movement (inbound marketing) that has only begun to see its own potential.
So that’s our challenge folks. Let’s not be fence sitters with the things we write. Have an opinion. Draw a line in the sand. Call a spade and spade. Will you upset a few people along the way? Of course you will, but this is how movements are started and fans—true fans—are created.
So be bold. Be audacious. And most of all, Have Guts.
Do you feel that having a strong opinion is a key to blogging success? Why or why not? Also, what prevents you from being more opinionated with your writings (if it’s something you struggle with)? Finally, take a moment to think about some opinionated bloggers you’ve noticed on the web. Who are they (throw a link in if you’d like)? What makes them unique?
As always, your stellar comments make this blog rock, so let’s get this week started right folks!!
As a side note, I wanted to list a few examples of some ‘gutsy’ bloggers. There are tons more, but I’ll let you add the rest:
Tristan at Blogging Bookshelf always has an opinion. In fact, he currently is showing a guest post from Tito Phillips that rips quite a few ‘blogging habits’. Whether you agree with them or not, I give them both props.
JK Allen at Hustler’s Notebook has guts. Just read his article on ‘Why Being a Hustler is NOT for Everyone‘
Elise at Elise’s Review is one of the gutsiest ladies on the web. Whether she’s ripping Facebook for being stupid, or simply delving out witty insight on social media, that girl brings it.
John Falchetto, an Expat Life Coach, always has something to say. Anyone that will stand face to face with Tim Ferriss has guts in my book.
Gini at Spin Sucks seems to write by this code: Have an opinion or go home. Of course, with a blog entitled Spin Sucks, would you expect anything less?
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