Blogging for business has become a major marketing tool that many HVACR contractors are using to see increased sales and improved rankings in major search engines and social media sites. Yet, for the most part, most contractors 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.
Yes, blogging is just a tool, but here are some facts about blogs you may not know (courtesy of Hubspot ):
• 90% of consumers read blogs.
• Over 70% of consumers read more than five blogs.
• 100% of businesses surveyed that blog more than once per day received customers directly from their blog.
• Businesses that blog are 4 times more likely to be found on the web.
• Businesses with blogs get 55% more traffic on average.
Consumers are increasingly relying on blogs and other social media for input into their buying decisions. Small companies (including contractors) that have a history of regularly blogging for business are reaping the benefits by increasing their customer base and revenue (fyi, we are one of them).
Patience and Perseverance Are Key
You have to be patient when it comes to blogging for your business. It takes time to develop a following and time to move up in the search engine rankings. More importantly, 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 and pain points. Remember, your homeowner customers are typing their problems into Google every day. According to Google, 20% of all searches are brand new, and they won’t find you unless you have an online piece of content that addresses their needs.
But 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. Blogging is an investment and it can be a long-term asset for the business.
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 local HVAC 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 – “the leading regional home comfort services expert” — 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 or eBook. Your ultimate goal is, after all, to convert readers into leads, then into prospects, and finally into customers.
Also, don’t overlook the value of a blog for retention purposes. Blog content, sent to your service maintenance customers through an eNewsletter, can be a great “non-sales” touch on a regular basis.
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.
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, if you create consistent content that solves your customers’ problems, a blog will work for you.
Joe Pulizzi is CEO of SocialTract, the leading blogging and content service designed for service companies. SocialTract is part of the Content Marketing Institute. Joe is also co-author of Get Content Get Customers, which details how companies can publish content to drive revenues. Joe can be reached at [email protected].