As part of a university module, I recently launched myself into researching the benefits of blogging for a business. As an aspiring writer and future small business in my own right, I was intrigued as to whether the plus points for this source of marketing outweighed the drawbacks.
What the professionals say…
The number one reason for any company to start a business blog is the hope that it will increase traffic to their website.
So how do people normally find your website?
Typing your name/web address into an internet search engine is one way, but this implies that your audience already knows that your business already exists, so really you are not attracting anyone new. More likely they will find you by searching the terms that define your website.
Paid adverts can guide people towards your site, but social media is becoming a more effective tool for driving users to follow a direct link. A blog is a persuasive, useful add-on to this type of marketing which can deliver more compelling information concerning your product. Once an audience has clicked through to read your blog on your website, they are more likely to stay on your site and explore the content. This could convert into wider recognition and future sales, which is your main aim.
How else does a blog help your website?
Sites are constantly scanned for activity, so new content is a big plus with the search engines. A higher ranking on the net makes your site more visible to a potential client. So each blog is one more opportunity be found, which is one more opportunity to drive traffic to your website and one more chance than you had before.
Blogging also gives you a chance to post consistently on social media sites with interesting and relevant content. A like on a social media post is good, a share is better, a comment is great, but a click through is the best result of all as you have engaged your audience. This is the first step in creating a bond with your user, however, it is a delicate game playing in a social arena and new online relationships need to be nurtured to gain results.
How do you convert your online customer relationship into a lead?
A call to action is a good solution and the offer of exclusive information, free products/samples, seminars etc., is the best way to tempt a new viewer and future customer to give you their email address. Once you have this you have a subscriber, which means that you can now legitimately keep your potential customer up to date with your product/news. It also means you have the start of a mailing list, an invaluable asset, with the long-term aim of a sale and hopefully a personal recommendation.
The long term benefit of a blog is that it continues ranking in cyberspace, which means it could continue to gain leads for days, weeks, months, and even years and lead to many more new relationships over time.
What should make up the content of your blog?
Anything that could be helpful to your audience is a good place to start as it establishes your authority. If there are any questions you have asked tutors, peers or professionals that have helped you, then pass this on. Give feedback on something you have read, somewhere you have visited or attended, your information could be useful to others.
If you have a new idea for a book or article, writing a blog about it can also be a useful method of gauging market reaction to an idea, without sinking precious time and money into a project that may be dead in the water.
What do the businesses say?
So armed with all the information from the professionals who recommend blogging, I spoke to a number of companies from the south-west who use a variety of different formats to market themselves.
Many use social media effectively and are aware of the benefits to business. The best of these focus on ‘crafting the stories and imagery to define brands, grow followings and improve performance’.
Their blogging strategies identify all the right buzzwords: authoritative standpoint; SEO rankings; increased visibility etc., however, their methods differ greatly. Those who really understand the power of the blog have developed creative approaches which are usually generated from seeing past the obvious delivery platforms. They are using podcasts, prose, poetry and much more to engage their readers.
It is clear that the rules of writing contribute heavily towards the best blog posts and that the better the skill of the writer the better the blog. This is easy when you are a writer yourself but for those who have no such talent within their business investing in the right person to create the right tone of voice or create the right content is not always seen to be cost effective. Undoubtedly those who do, create a better following as ‘consumers choose what they see and hear, so in order to reach them you need to offer them great media content that they can engage with and enjoy on a regular basis.’
From talking to the business owners the biggest common mistake is the creation of content which is solely business orientated, focused on the work they undertake. Many who fall into this trap, found their blog stats soon dwindled due to a lack of fresh content. Diversity and storytelling achieve the most followers which in turn drive visits to their websites. The reader clearly wants a reward for their attention, entertainment or information.
Some of the companies I spoke to realised they should make more use of their blogs to raise their profile and to elevate their website rankings, but declared a lack of enthusiasm by their staff and a lack of time in the working day to write the content.
So what is the answer? Is a blog good for business?
It is quite clear from talking to both sides of the fence that blogging is not a ‘wham bam thank you ma’am’ process. It is a gentle dance of familiarity and trust to convince the reader that a product is worthy of investment. This is not an easy task and takes writing talent.
Transforming content into an engaging and effective marketing tool really makes a difference. So if you’ve got it flaunt it and use it as best you can to promote yourself and your craft. If you haven’t then outsourced, but either way, be prepared for the long haul as any worthy relationship takes commitment and requires a long-term time investment. These are your keys to marketing success via a blog.