First off, a blog is just a tool, nothing more, nothing less. That said, it can be a powerful tool to:
• Position your company as the leading home comfort provider in your region
• Position yourself as a credible thought leader
• Become the center of your online marketing and social media
• Communicate regularly with your customers and prospects
• Make sure you are found for the right keywords in search engines
• Develop earned media from customers and industry influencers (think of this like online word of mouth marketing)
But realistically, blogs are not for every contractor. Blogs are pointless to use unless:
• You blog consistently. Every piece of content is a promise to your customers. If you start and stop blogging, it’s not a great sign to customers. They’ll stop paying attention.
• You don’t talk about yourself. Your customers (aka readers) don’t care about you…they care about themselves. They will spread around great content that positively affects their lives, their careers or makes them think. That latest blog post about you winning an award doesn’t mean much to anyone except you. Don’t get me wrong, that kind of information is great when customers are at the final stages of their decision-making process, but for the most part, your customers just don’t care about how great you are.
• You keep search in mind. We work with a number of contractors on their blogs, and the analytics don’t lie: the majority of traffic to blogs comes from search engines. Every blog post should have a main keyword as the focus…one that solves a problem for your customers and something that your customers are actually looking for.
• You think about a call to action. About 80% of the people who find your blog will never be back. That means that each post should have a goal to do something (download a toolkit, a white paper, direct to other relevant posts, etc.). What we really want are engaged visitors (an engaged visitor is a customer or prospect that views at least three pages or more in one sitting). Engaged visitors are a good sign that customers are getting something out of your content, and actually want more. Research from the Custom Content Council tells us that if a customer engages in our content in some way, they are 67% more likely to buy from us.
• You share. Telling important stories is only one part of it. In order to make the whole thing work, you need others to share your content as well. That means you have to share pieces of information from around the web as well. Think of yourself as a publisher and your customer as the reader.
We’ve tried to take these into consideration at the Content Marketing Institute (parent company for SocialTract), but don’t take our word for it…just look at blogs such as Copyblogger.com or Social Media Examiner. These are individuals who focused on real customer challenges through their blogs and now have multi-million dollar businesses. You read that correctly…they started their entire business with a blog and now are a full-fledge business. They started by giving their customers regular informational gifts through their blogs.
Thinking like a publisher is the mindset you need to take before you even start a blog. After all, the majority of marketing going on today is, in fact, publishing. Who knew? If you are not ready to take on this kind of thinking as part of your overall marketing plan, a blog is definitely NOT 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 , which runs the largest international content marketing event, Content Marketing World (Sept 6-8, 2011). Joe is also co-author of Get Content Get Customers, which details how companies can publish content to drive revenues. He will be speaking at HVAC Comfortech in Indianapolis this year. Joe can be reached at [email protected].