Friday, 17 January 2014
Allison Rice [Guest]
You've Got A Blog For Your Business - Now What?
Having a blog for your business can be a great tool for driving new business, retaining customers and finding new markets, but it won't do it all by itself. Like any tool, it needs to be used properly to ensure the best results, and if it's not used properly, it can create more problems than solutions.
Embrace Your Expertise
You are the expert at what you do. There may or may not be people out there who know more about your products than you do, but you know more about it than your customers, and that's the message your blog should reinforce. Your customers expect you to have the latest information on your industry and know about the history and trends, so they will come to you when they want to know those things.
Find New Customers
A blog can be a great way to bring in new customers. With most businesses, there's no shortage of competition, either online or in traditional brick & mortar stores, so you've got to find a way to stand out, even if (and especially if) you're selling exactly the same thing at the same price as your competitors. In traditional brick & mortar stores, the way you would do that is to build relationships, know your customers by name when they come in the door, and always be able to answer their questions.
Your online storefront is really no different and your blog is the avenue to make those connections, but it allows you to reach out and find people and pull them into your store in a way that the traditional storefront never could.
Retain Your Existing Customers
A good blog post can make a real connection with your audience. Think about it like that great conversation with someone you've just met where you clearly connect and you just know that you'll be good friends. If you provide good information in an engaging way, they'll come back for more. And the more they come back to your website, the more likely they are to spend money with you than with your competition.
Promote Your Blog From Within
Of course, none of the above advice means a thing if nobody is reading your blog. If you have an active blog, you have to be actively promoting it - all the time. There should be links on the front page of your website. There should be links in every communication you send. Every order confirmation, every shipping notification... everything should encourage readers to connect with your blog, where your most up-to-date content is posted.
Promote Your Blog Everywhere Else
Speaking of advertising, it's worth considering, even if it's for a short run when you are launching or re-launching your blog. And unlike traditional print, display, or TV advertising, you'll be able to tell exactly how effective your ads have been with a report that lets you know how many people saw it, how many people clicked on it, and how many of them actually visited your site.
Social media is quickly becoming the backbone of the internet. Fewer and fewer people don't begin their day by checking their Facebook and Twitter accounts, so you need to be sure that your content is easily shareable across all platforms, and then encourage people to share it. You and your employees should be regularly posting your content to social media, but you can also offer incentives or even host contests to encourage your customers to share your content as well.
The only thing worse than a blog with no information is a blog with outdated information. If you are going to have a blog, you have to commit to keeping it fresh. That doesn't necessarily mean updating it daily, but depending on your business model and how often the information you are sharing your expertise on changes, you need to keep up with your industry. If you're still featuring a post on Model 22 and your customers know that Model 23 has been on the market for a month, nobody's going to trust your expertise.
If there's one thing the Internet provides more of than information, it's opinions. So if you're featuring product reviews on your website, your reviews should be honest and not just sing the praises of products you sell and bash those of your competitors. Lying about a product might seem like a good idea, but in the end, it will hurt your credibility and you'll lose more in repeat business than you will gain in first-time purchases. If a product you sell has flaws, chances are your customers have already read about those flaws elsewhere; your blog is your opportunity to explain why those flaws are overstated, or inconsequential.
In the end, the success of your blog and its effectiveness in promoting your business will come down to how much effort you put into it and how useful the content is, but none of that matters if you don't invest some effort and time into pushing views. But if you can put together the right mix of interesting content and good marketing, your blog can be the cornerstone of a very successful business.
Allison Rice, Director of Marketing for Amsterdam Printing, has extensive experience in sales and marketing. Allison is focused on providing quality marketing materials to small, mid-size and large businesses. She regularly contributes to the Small Business Know-How blog.