Blogging for business has become a major marketing tool that studies have shown contributes to increased sales and improved rankings in major search engines and social media sites. Yet many businesses owners have skipped blogging or abandoned it because they considered it ineffective, too time-consuming or not yielding immediate results.
The fact is blogging for business does take effort on a daily basis. And benefits may not be apparent for as long as six months or more.
But today, there’s no doubt that consumers and businesses alike read and are increasingly relying on blogs and other social media for input into their buying decisions. Companies that have a history of regularly blogging for business are reaping the benefits by increasing their customer base and revenue. For example, my good friend Marcus Sheridan, who sells fiberglass pools in Virginia, has literally become THE most prominent expert in North America on fiberglass pools solely because of his blog (and, in the meantime, business has exploded). But, it took years for Marcus to get to that point.
Patience and Perseverance Are Key
You have to be patient when it comes to blogging for business. It takes time to develop a following and time to move up in the search engine rankings. More important, you have to take the time to listen to what interests your target audience and develop the powerful content that will meet your potential followers' needs. Once you commit to blogging, you have to maintain a regular schedule of new postings, updates and responses to comments in order to sustain your credibility and retain your readers' interest.
Find Your Audience, Listen In and Talk Back
Your first step is to find where your potential readers congregate on social sites like Facebook and LinkedIn. You can search LinkedIn, for example, for groups related to your market, and then join them.
Explore industry-specific forums or other community groups to learn their interests. Do a thorough search on the web for forums that cover topics related to your business. Many Twitter feeds, too, are categorized by interest; follow some for additional ideas, and to develop more contacts. Read what others have to say and add your meaningful comments when appropriate.
Find potential readers on LinkedIn, Facebook and other social sites by uploading your email lists and using them to invite users whose addresses match your contacts to be "friends." Use services like Google Alerts and Google Blog Search to find more outlets. The point is, you want to begin building relationships and learning what interests your audience.
Develop Meaningful Contact
Now that you've got a handle on what interests your potential audience and have established your presence on social media sites and forums, you are ready to launch your own blog. But when blogging for business, you have to be careful that your content is both valuable to your readers and professionally produced.
Your goal is to become regarded as a, "thought leader" in your field — and one that can be counted on to provide a steady stream of information that helps readers solve problems, save money or find better ways of doing things. In short, you're their answer to, "What's in for me?"
The content you produce should be factual and straightforward without an overt sales pitch. It’s certainly OK, however, to nudge readers your way at the end of your piece with an invitation to contact you for additional information, to sign up for your newsletter or to download related content, such as a white paper. Your ultimate goal is, after all, to convert readers into leads, then into prospects, and finally into customers.
Get Help Producing Your Content
You don't have to be a one-man show. In fact, you shouldn't even consider publishing something until at least one other person has read it for content, grammar and clarity. More importantly, call on others in your organization to write blog posts as well. Adding more faces and voices to your company's presence can only increase your appeal.
If finding the time to produce your content is a problem or if you're struggling to find the words, there is plenty of help available through third parties experienced in content marketing tactics.
Let Your Audience Talk to You
One of the most important aspects of blogging for business is to engage your audience by encouraging feedback of all sorts to your postings. Always include a means of commenting on your content or on the remarks of others. Be sure you attach links for sharing, such as through email or social media (more on blog commenting strategy here).
For example, we’ve noticed that a number of our HVAC contractor customers are seeing comments to their blog posts, not on the blogs themselves, but on Facebook where the blogs are distributed. That’s great…but just make sure to comment promptly back to the customer or, at minimum, thank them for their response.
Successful content marketing means involving your audience in the content production process. Their comments may offer additional insights into the topic or may even correct you on points you have made. Don't shy away from negative comments; acknowledge when they are right or gently correct them if they are mistaken. Both positive and negative comments contribute to your process of developing trust and nurturing long-term relationships with your readers.
It will take time and effort, but in the long run you'll surely find it highly rewarding. Remember, blogging is an asset and one post can help bring business in for years after the post is released. Like Marcus Sheridan, who went from nothing to at times over 75,000 visits per month, sometimes a little waiting and persistence is all it takes.
Joe Pulizzi is CEO for SocialTract, the leading blogging/social media service for HVACR Contractors. Joe’s new book, Managing Content Marketing, is now available on Amazon and Kindle. Joe can be reached on Twitter @juntajoe or by email [email protected].