Many small business owners have yet to catch on to the true advantage of blogging because they perceive bloggers as self-absorbed. In a recent US News and World Report article, a survey by Warrillow & Co. showed that only about 41 percent of small business owners have an interactive website, and if they do have a website, a blog is not high on the priority list for inclusion.
These statistics show that the small business community is not only small in size but in vision as well. This Web myopia is limiting their reach. And it’s a shame because blogging can be a powerful tool for building your business.
Yet another study showed that half of the businesses surveyed closed sales as a direct result of their blogs. Blogs regularly delivered qualified leads to 70 percent of those business owners.
The ideas and nuggets posted to a blog by a good (or great) thought leader delivers a viral effect. One reader subscribes and then passes along the valuable insight from this blog, and the word spreads. That’s when you turn your blog into a driving force for your business. Here’s a rich opportunity for you to become the thought leader that everyone wants to turn to for creative, thought-provoking ideas to better their own business. Using a blog host like Typepad, Blogger, or WordPress also boosts your search engine optimization, because these sites automatically format your blogs so that keywords and phrases are picked up by search engines. And, of course, the more you update your blog with rich, insightful information, the more you will develop a following with customers and prospects returning more frequently. Ultimately, your blog will drive more traffic to your website and build your brand recognition in the process. The result? More leads, referrals, and sales!
The next question is, “Where do I begin?” The best way to get started is to read blogs that are pertinent to your business as a VAR. You’ll quickly see that blogs are written in conversational tone that delivers practical and insightful information in an easy-to-read manner. Here are a few thoughts on how to drive business through your blog:
– Discuss a practical situation without using ad speak. Using a promotional voice in a blog is a huge turn-off for most readers. Customers want to find relevant, useful information with your own unique experience mixed in. Define a particular problem that you experienced and then explain how you solved it. Better yet, consider what some of your customers’ problems might be, and present the challenge and a solution based on your own experience. This will encourage your customers to keep coming back for more. If you just talk about yourself and your services, it “sounds” like marketing, which should be used in your advertising, not your blogs.
– Promote your blog. OK, so this goes against a bit of what I just said regarding steering clear of ad speak, but if you want people to read your blog, they first have to find you. Add your blog URL to your signature on all emails. Link your blog to your Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn pages. Allow readers to subscribe to the blog via email (with an opt-in option on your website) so they receive your blog every day in their inbox. Blog about other thought leaders when they relate to your topic so that you create an association with that leader (but do this in a thoughtful way so you’re not “using” them). At any opportunity, post a comment on other blogs where potential customers might be searching for similar information. This will send them to you searching for more.
– Create value. Stretch your potential. Mix value in with actual business opportunities. What products do you have that you want to push this month? Offer some insights into the upcoming trends of the industry; then soft sell a particular product’s value for the solutions it provides. Encourage others to get involved in your blog, to ask questions and even answer them. If customers feel they’re getting something of value at no cost, they’ll come back for more.
– Offer something for free. Blogs are a great way to dangle ideas to tempt your readers to provide their email address (i.e,, opt in). Create links in your blog to free white papers and articles or to product samples that you’re willing to give away for a trial, in exchange for their email addresses. Give hints about how this free tool is only a glimpse at the big picture. This helps to create ways of encouraging your customer to buy in to more.
– Become a news source. Read, read, read. What are the latest trends? Who is coming out with the next version of solution provider software? What is the larger economic picture and how do you customers fit into it within their world? By taking facts and news bites that are current and relative to today’s business world, and then offering a localized perspective for your customer, you position yourself again as a thought leader. Customers will return to your blog time after time because they know that you know what’s going on. You will become a trusted business advisor and ultimately garner more business as a result.
There is no question that blogging can become time consuming, almost to the point where it dominates the time dedicated to your marketing mix. But it doesn’t have to. Trying too hard to blog can be just as bad as not posting to your blog at all. If you have something important to say, by all means, say it. But if you find yourself forcing an issue or trying to develop a creative idea that just isn’t there, walk away from the keyboard and try again tomorrow. Remember to use your blog as a business tool, not just a place for white noise.