Why do business absolutely need to have a business blog and maintain it at high standards? One obvious reason is “online visibility” … you have to make sure your business is found and seen on the internet.
The other extremely important reason is that blogs have become one of the most effective methods of shaping popular opinion about your business. Notably, the CEO of every business, small and large, needs to be heard and seen (by his own teams and other business stakeholders) as an authority, a leader with opinion and direction, and as the flag-bearer of a “brand” with intelligence. A successful business blog, written as if from the desk of the CEO, can galvanize internal motivation and external sales, improve a company’s brand image, and transform the business from obscurity into an influential, respected and successful industry leader with a lot of respectable customers.
How does business blogging differ from, say, regular blogging?
The Internet abounds with blogs – some written for personal passion, some written to make blogging itself as business, and some others written to support the marketing of a business’ products and services. Business blogging (the third type above) is different than other two types of blogs, because a business blog acts as a marketing channel (alongside of social media, direct mail, email marketing and other marketing methods).
How intensive a marketing channel your business blog is, depends on the goals you set for it. In the first instance, business blogging should at least help shape your target market’s perception of your business brand and create awareness of your products and services. If you have deeper goals, however, like using your business blog to drive definite traffic numbers of a particular volume and quality to your website, and then convert that traffic to sales, then that objective too needs to be clearly stated.
The last thing that should happen is that a business blog gets neglected or abandoned just because it “failed to live up to expectations”. When the expectations of the blog are not clear, a business blog is expected to be “everything”, which it cannot be … unless you have designed it with deliberate and clever planning to be so.
Why I evangelize “business blogging” for your rise to huge success!
Did you guess that with global companies that use blogs for marketing purposes, the success numbers directly attributable to business blogging are mind-boggling? There is very interesting and insightful data from Hubspot’s “Marketing benchmarks from 7000 businesses” to suggest this. For example:
- Companies that blog are nearly 40% of all companies marketing digitally, and have been seen to have 55% more website visitors.
- Companies with B2C orientation who blog have been found to get 88% more leads every month than those who don’t blog.
- Companies with B2B orientation who blog have been found to get 67% more leads every month than those who don’t blog.
- Among the companies that do blog, those who blog 16-20 or more times per month over two times more traffic than those who blog less than four times per month.
And why do companies who blog – frequently and regularly – succeed so spectacularly? It’s because nearly 70% of their target customers admit they are affected in their purchase decisions by blogs!
Among 4 other critical reasons why you should blog for your business:
- Your blog also provides fodder for social media marketing when you excerpt your posts and publish social updates on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn.
- Your blog repositions you and your personal brand as an unassailable domain authority with a lot of displayed breadth and width in your knowledge repertoire.
- You blog creates free PR … you get visibility and proliferation, and generate opportunities to showcase your strengths at online and offline events.
- Your blog creates a two-way mutually-nurturing conversation with customers … it encourages short and long term interest, engagement, and most importantly, sales.
There are no two ways about, in fact. Without Content Marketing there is no Digital Marketing. And without Blogging there is no Content Marketing. Every case-study of business success online includes an energetic high-quality blog. Every case-study of business failure online includes a lackadaisical or much-neglected blog.
Can business blogging be a viable marketing channel?
There are three key factors here to think about in relation to business blogging:
1. Businesses that don’t blog have next to no chance to be perceived as an authority or to build their brands.
The whole world now revolves around the digital paradigm of communication and brand building. Brands without a digital presence, relying solely on physical marketing, are perceived as fossils of an older thinking that no longer works.
But even within the digital marketing sphere, having a mere business website, however powerful, stunning or even transactional – doesn’t cut it any more … unless you also have a business blog to go along with the website.
A business website is a static information space. It is nothing better than a “brochure-that-also-allows-buying” – if all you have on it are the usual pages like About Us, Our Products & Services, Why We Are Different, Pricing, Place Your Order and Contact Us. Compare this with having a blog attached to your business website. The blog is a dynamic information space. It’s like an authority magazine that your business publishes, that is full of industry information, trends and technology information, opinion and analysis, and how-to articles on diverse aspects of your business than can help educate and engage your target customers.
Care needs to be taken that the blog is designed to support your website and not to repeat what’s already on your website. The way to do this is to make your static web pages more about your business in particular, while your blog is a “magazine” that appeals to the audiences in a wider way with respect to the area of business you are in. For example, one of the earliest expositions of this idea was by John Deere, a company selling agricultural implements. They decided to offer a free magazine to their customers on “smarter farming methods” (they called this magazine “The Furrow”). The idea was to educate customers subtly on better farming so that they would become wiser and more-discerning buyers of better farming implements (i.e. from John Deere!). This is the idea that every business blog should be built on – it should educate customers in diverse ways to become smarter buyers, and naturally reach out for smarter products – like the ones your business offers.
There’s one other compelling reason you need to go these lengths to get your customers. We now are in the knowledge-economy where customers want to consume knowledge of high quality from sellers – as a way to evaluate the seller, as well as to use the seller’s knowledge as a shortcut to beating the Internet information overload. Customers, in today’s paradigm of buying, look to buy both your products and business, and also your knowledge – because your knowledge can help them speedily educate themselves and steer their way through the maze of information that they otherwise have to research and analyze on their own. If your blog is a great go-to-info-resource in your domain area of products and services, that’s nine-tenths of marketing achieved!
2. To be viable a blog has to attract traffic and also have the mechanisms to convert traffic to sales.
A business blog that is merely informational, and does not have a mechanism to build a subscriber base that it can then focus on converting to sales, is not worth maintaining. To be able to build visibility and engage interest, but to not have any system on the blog to harvest potential customers and then bring them back, again and again, to the blog to read the latest pieces you have written, is like having half-a-blog. Repeated touches of prospects is what enables conversion of prospects into customers. Your blog can be used to convert prospects to customers, if it beckons repeated visits from your subscriber base whom you can “remind” frequently!
A serious business blog, therefore, has to have an opt-in form to capture email addresses of those interested in more information from the company – and the blog has to be supported by an email autoresponder campaign that repeatedly informs subscribers when new blog articles are posted – so that the company remains high on the prospects’ minds, and invites repeated visits back to the blog, till prospects are ready for purchase.
There are typically eight points on the customer buying cycle as shown in the diagram below:
A business blog has to ensure that it has a substantial number of articles that address all these 8 areas of customers’ needs that emanate as customers proceeds along their buying cycles.If your blog is able to first induce customer prospects to sign up to your subscriber list to begin a relationship … and if your blog is then able to gently support and encourage prospects to proceed along their buying cycles keeping the relationship with you intact (i.e. where prospects start relying on your blog as their Number #1 supportive resource throughout the buying cycle) … your business blog can be truly viable asset that can be measured for its return on investment (ROI).
3. The success or failure of your business blog depends entirely on volume and frequency of blogging.
You have to set milestones for the total number of posts you have on your blog – 100, 200, 400, 1000, 10,000 and so on. But it’s not just the quantity of blog posts alone but the “eternal freshness” of your blog.
Writing 15 posts one month, nothing at all the next month, and then trying to publish 40 posts the next month is not really a smart way of doing things. A certain number of blog posts have to be created and published to a set time schedule – like, say, 3 posts per day x 5 times per week … or one post daily … or 10 posts per week … or whatever timetable you want to set and then follow.
Research clearly shows that as the number of posts on your site increases, and increases with a definite regularity in your publishing schedule, there is a kind of compounding effect on the traction of your blog.
When you have, say 200 posts and you have a certain traction level, you’ll find that when you hit 400 posts the traction is not just twice what it was before, it can be three, four or even ten times more, depending on your particular market and the quality of your content and your audience interest level in your topic of specialization.
Seriously steady and persevering business bloggers who maintain a schedule of at least 15 posts a month (posts of really strong quality, depth and substance) can hope to see some definite breakthroughs towards their goals in the 6-12 month time-span. Many experts vouch for this 6-12 month time frame. So you could set that as a benchmark for yourself too.
Include “influencers” as part of your business blog targets
“Influencers” are all those kinds of people who you believe have some clout with your target markets, and who can influence opinion towards your brand and blog. Don’t make the mistake of seeing influencers as just the “big people on the Internet”. You can have an army of “micro-influencers” working for you if you focus on locating those among your potential audiences who are vocal online and have “sway” over others.
A lot of business bloggers forget that they need to treat their influencers as a separate target audience and have enough fodder on their blogs that influencers can consume and will then want to “share” with their networks. Good quality influencers will value research-based information and serious trends analyses. Don’t treat them as “affiliate marketers” just pushing customers towards you for a commission. Treat them as partners who will send intelligent purchase-supportive inputs to your prospective customers, adding to your own information dissemination.
Influencers are a force-multiplier. Think hard about what you want your brand’s advocates to look like, and how they should sound to your target audiences, to make them and your brand look good. Then make room on your business blog to incorporate the kinds of articles that will keep your influencers interested, participative and inspired to spread the word.