I spend an inordinate amount of time speaking with, interviewing, reading, watching and listening to a cornucopia of leading and emerging voices on entrepreneurship, small-business, marketing and behavioral change.
Every year, some established voices get stronger, others weaken and new ones arrive on the scene. Still, much of the recognition for thought-leadership goes to larger “magazine format” or multi-author blogs and larger online versions of print magazines.
I thought it was time to start honoring the individual, often less filtered voices in a more formal way, collect them into one place and share them with the world by creating the first-annual Business Catalyst Awards (BizCats). Collectively, these people provide not only a rich community and valuable insights, they also deliver an extraordinary, real-world, actionable education.
Here were the criteria:
- The BizCats honor leading individual voices who regularly share ideas, tools, strategies, insights and processes that serve as catalysts to the success of entrepreneurs and small businesses over the course of the prior year. Because the focus is individuals, larger “magazine” or multi-author format sites have been excluded. We love the big sites and they offer great value, but this is all about recognizing standout solo voices.
- The nominees were all hand-curated via a blend of my own exposure to them, the input of a small, informal committee of small business, entrepreneurship and marketing experts. There was no public nomination or voting, because frankly it’s become so easy to game things like that (think Mechanical Turk, subscriber lists and calling-in lots of favors from friends), they simply have no value any more.
- There are no numerical rankings, which we all know are worthless beyond bragging rights. Instead, each voice has been given an award for excellence within a specific category.
- Bloggers must have posted at least twice a month. There are, no doubt, great voices out there who post less often, but these awards are about honoring a larger, ongoing commitment to a community.
- If you agree with and appreciate the work that went into selecting the winners, great. If not, that’s fine, too. Shoot me an email if you’d like to introduce someone for me to keep my eye on over the next year as I begin to compile the list for 2013.
Quick disclosure, because I operate in the entrepreneurship, small business and marketing space, I know many of the people on this list personally. Still, nobody makes the cut simply because they have my phone number. For this same reason, I am excluding myself and my blog from consideration for these awards.
The 2012 BizCats:
Top 5 Web Shows
Here are 5 standout small business and entrepreneurship web shows from 2011, along with sample show videos. Notice, too, how different the formats, production value and styles are. Each person owns the way they do it, rather than trying to be the next somebody else. One of the interesting trends I’ve noticed this year, as well, is that expectations about production value are going up. Chase Jarvis’ show is a perfect example of this.
MarieForleo.com – Marie Forleo – Small Business Strategy & Growth. Forleo’s weekly Q&A Tuesday, where she answers reader questions, is a quick shot of small business, often marketing-oriented adrenaline. For a weekly web show format, the comment section is also incredibly active and often full of additional insights.
TheRiseToTheTop.com – David Siteman-Garland – Lifestyle Business Profiles. Siteman-Garland’s interview-driven show expores not only the business strategies, ideas and challenges of online and offline entrepreneurs, but also the lifestyle challenges as well. David is high-energy, with a strong voice and personality, as he says “if you want fluff, go pet a bunny.”
Mixergy.com – Andrew Warner – Tech Founder Profiles. With a strong focus on the tech-industry and online entrepreneurship, Warner interviews the founders of many of the tech-world’s biggest success stories, as well as many other personalities around that community, including top VCs, seed-accelerator founds and more. He is great at asking the questions that make many others cringe, like “exactly how much does the company earn?”
Chase Jarvis LIVE – Chase Jarvis – Creative Business Strategy. Chase is a commercial photographer who bridges the gap between honoring the deep creative jones of your inner artist, but also developing the business, sales and marketing skills needed to not only make great art, but serve a need and generate a real, livable income.
BarefootExecutive.TV – Carrie Wilkerson – Home/micro-business Tips. Working from home with a focus largely on building business online, Wilkerson shares tips and strategies to build a lifestyle-oriented business, often from home or with some degree of flexibility and location independence.
Top 6 Audio Podcasts
Accidental Creative – Todd Henry – Creativity Tools & Profiles – A leading voice in the world of facilitating creativity in business, Henry interviews a wide range of entrepreneurs, creatives and thought leaders with the goal of sharing concrete ideas and takeaways. The profiless and stories are great and often spur ideas that inspire your own creativity and innovation engines.
Small Business Trends Radio – Anita Campbell – Small Business Trends & Profiles – SmallBizTrends.com founder and former general counsel and tech startup founder, Anita Campbell, interviews a wide variety of entrepreneurs, business thought leaders and marketers, sharing tips on operating and growing businesses in the current economy and beyond.
Marketing Over Coffee – John Wall & Chris Penn – Small Business Marketing – Run as a conversation between Wall and Penn with the occasional guest like Seth Godin or David Meerman Scott mixed in, the conversation usually focuses on a blend of marketing, PR and with a strong emphasis on tech-driven channels and strategies and frequent left turns into popular topics of the day.
Duct Tape Marketing – John Jantsch – Marketing & Entrepreneur Profiles – An extension of his excellent blog (noted below), this interview-driven audio podcast series focuses on small-business marketing with a healthy mix of online, social media and old-school neighborhood and response marketing. Great for businesses of all sizes, but really focused on smaller business.
Breakthrough Business – Michele Price – This weekly interview-driven show covers a wide variety of topics, from leadership and entrepreneurship to the success mindset and social media. Price attracts a broad array of high-profile guests and the long format allows her to go deeper into issues and conversations that often bridge the gap between personal and business.
I Love Marketing – Dean Jackson & Joe Polish – Response-driven Web Marketing. This popular podcast and web show alternates between audio and video formats, so we thought it safest to add it here under podcasts. From two legends in the world of hardcore, response-driven marketing, this podcast covers ideas, strategies, tactics and interviews around accelerated business growth with a strong bent toward direct-response and it’s online evolution.
Top 22 Single-voice Blogs
AVC.com – Fred Wilson – VC-backed tech-entrepreneurship – Posting daily, well-known venture capitalist and co-founder of Union Square Partners, Fred Wilson, offers a wide variety of thoughts, strategies and conversations around tech-driven, most-often VC-backed entrepreneurship. Fred is also passionate about art and music, though, so don’t be surprised to find him threading those topics into the mix.
WhiteHotTruth.com – Danielle LaPorte – Bringing Soul to Business – An author, speaker, business builder, former Washington think tank guru, LaPorte doesn’t just write about the need to allow your business to be the embodiment of soul, she IS that very embodiment. You can feel it literally coming off the page with a strong, spiritual, poetic, yet clearly business-savvy voice and insights.
SocialTriggers.com – Derek Halpern – Customer Psychology – With an unusual blended expertise in the psychology of action/influence and metric-driven measurement, Halpern reveals common myths and gaping holes in online and traditional marketing funnels and shows how to tweak what you’re doing to inspire higher levels of action and conversion among visitors and customers.
AmyPorterfield.com – Amy Porterfield – Social Media Marketing – A former hardcore event and media marketer for Tony Robbins, Porterfield has since done a deep dive into the world of social media, content and community marketing. She posts with a strong focus on developing content and community as a key spoke in the marketing wheel.
IWillTeachYouToBeRich.com – Ramit Sethi – Behavioral Change & Influence. When Sethi started this hugely popular blog, the focus was contrarian personal finance, but it has since shift gears in a major way, focusing more on the psychology of influence, behavioral change and social dynamics in the world of work. Truth is, it was always about that, but now Sethi is more direct about this.
MariSmith.com – Mari Smith – Relationship Marketing & Facebook – Smith built her reputation as an expert in leveraging Facebook for business-building and marketing. But many of her posts go beyond tactical Facebook advice (which she offers) and explore the more important relationships that drive business and how to tap technology to facilitate them.
Seth Godin’s Blog – Seth Godin – Provoking Change, Embracing Art and Shipping – Acclaimed entrepreneur, author, marketer, thought-leader and provocateur, Godin is constantly prodding you to look at what you’re doing, what you’re assumptions are and whether they’re getting you what you want both in business and in life, then offering ideas to explore. Topics range from business to art to publishing.
Both Side of the Table – Mark Suster – Rapid Growth Strategy – Former tech-entrepreneur and now a VC in Southern California, Suster often writes large, in-depth thought and strategy posts on entrepreneurship that draw from his dual experience as both an entrepreneur who sold two companies and a VC in the business of funding and growing companies.
TaraGentile.com – Tara Gentile – Lifestyle Business Reality Check – Gentile has been making waves in the blogosphere over the last year. She explores many of the issues bootstrap and lifestyle entrepreneurs deal with with a wonderful blend of heart and soul meets pragmatic reality check, while leaving you with both things to think about and things to do.
QuickSprout – Neil Patel – Online & Social Marketing – Patel often focuses in on the opportunity for businesses, both online and offline, to leverage social platforms and technologies to gather intelligence and build more effective brands, models and marketing engines. Lots of great tactical information to be found with an always fresh perspective on how to approach things.
Unicorn Free – Amy Hoy – Humane Entrepreneurship – A contrary voice in the world of tech-entrepreneurship, Hoy shares a blend of personality laden (read “often NSFW) posts about building business slowly, methodically and decidedly un-start-up-like, without VC simply because, gulp, you love to do what you do and you can be paid well to do it without killing yourself or giving up a part of your dream.
Productive Flourishing – Charlie Gilkey – Sanity for Creative Entrepreneurs – Charlie started out sharing his unique synthesis of productivity strategies and tools for micro-entrepreneurs with a decided creatie bent, but his writing has evolved to more deeply explore and offer highly-actionable insights that expand beyond productivity and offer a dynamic framework for getting ideas out of your head and into the real-world.
Escape From Cubicle Nation – Pam Slim – Career Evolution & Bootstrapped Startup Strategy – Slim brings a certain sense of grounded, real-world spirituality to the process of exploring and then building a business around a deep interest, with a strong emphasis on doing the personal work needed to align what you build with who you are.
DuctTapeMarketing.com – John Jantsch – Small Business Marketing – With a strong focus on measurable marketing for small businesses, especially referral-driven lead generation, Jantsch does a great job of bringing practical tips and strategies into a mix with easily-accesible technology that often tends toward the productivity and management side of entrepreneurship as well.
Art of Nonconformity – Chris Guillebeau – Purpose-driven, Location-independent Entrepreneurship – Known by many for his quest to visit every country in the world in 5 years, Guillebeau has also built an extraordinary, location independent business while traveling the world. He shares his business insights along with notes about travel hacking on his blog. A great resource for those looking to build a location-independent, purpose-driven business.
Creativity Unbound – Edward Boches – Former Chief Creative Officer and current Chief Innovation Office at legendary Mullen creative agency in Boston, Boches writes about the evolving face of entrepreneurship, branding, advertising and the creative process. Often taking positions counter the industry, his posts are filled with insights about the shift in marketing from messaging to engaging, interacting and delighting.
ConversationAgent.com – Valeria Maltoni – Maltoni is a seasoned business strategist who has worked with companies of all sizes, though her insights are relevant to everyone from startups to global leaders. She brings a direct, often provocative viewpoint that raises questions, deconstructs popular business happenings and really makes you think.
Terry Starbucker.com – Terry St. Marie – Practical leadership – Living a double-life for years, former COO of a large cable-company, Terry St. Marie, operated under the online alias of Starbucker and became known as the co-founder of SOBCon. Then his company was sold last year, freeing him to focus his energies on writing about small business, entrepreneurship and leading with heart. Great, simple reminders and strategies.
ChrisBrogan.com – Chris Brogan – Social Media & Small Business Strategy – Over the last 3 years, Brogan’s evolved from being a leading voice in social media to becoming an advocate and solution provider for small businesses. You can see this both in his blog focus and in his work as the founder of Human Business Works, especially local mom and pop operations.
Successful-Blog.com – Liz Strauss – The Human Side of Business – With a long history in brick and mortar business and publishing, Strauss offers a blend of business wisdom with a strong emphasis on relationship building, purpose and simultaneously honoring what’s great in life. She’s also the co-founder of SOBCon, along with Terry St. Marie.
Smart Passive Income – Pat Flynn – While Flynn’s blog and podcast are ostensibly about generating a variety of business engines online, he shares ideas, specific tactics and insights that benefit entrepreneurs and small businesses across the board. He also reveals the details of his revenue every month, so you can get a very real sense of how each approach is working.
TheSalesLion.com – Marcus Sheridan – Blogging for Business – Marcus write with a very easy-going, conversational style and a focus on online community-building for the specific purpose of creating a channel that will help drive business. I also love that, like me, he comes from brick and mortar entrepreneurship, and brings that sensibility to his insights.
That does it for the 2011 BizCats. And, now a challenge. Follow as many of these voices as is practical for you for the next 30 days. The small business, marketing and entrepreneurship education they deliver collectively is really quite extraordinary.
And, if you’d like to bring other voices to the attention of the community, feel free to share away in the comments. We’ll keep a list to follow and consider for next year’s BizCats.
Here’s to a year of wonder, growth, compassion, service and, yes, profit, impact and success!
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