Blogs are everywhere. There are over 60 million blogs just on WordPress, so how can your business blog possibly stand out amongst the crowd? More importantly, how do you do it in such a way that it’s not a waste of time, but is actually helping your business?
Step 1: Find and groom your audience
The internet is a big (and sometimes crazy) place, so yes, there’s an audience out there for just about anything you could put on your blog. But the point isn’t just to get viewers — it’s about getting the right viewers.
- Target your current customers These are the people you already know are willing to buy what you’re selling. They are your base and you need them to be reading your blog, and hopefully what appeals to them will appeal to people with similar interests, aka potential new customers. How you bring them in depends on your business, but online exclusive offers, coupons, early notice of new products, etc. are a good place to start. Just ask them to take a look the personal touch works more often than you might think.
- Use what you know about your current customers to find more like them Data is everything. You should be monitoring your blog stats or whatever data tools you have available to learn as much as you can about your regular readers and use that information to target more people like that. For example, if it turns out people are linking to your posts from another blog, you should consider advertising on that blog.
Step 2: Be the expert in your field
Your blog is (hopefully) different from all the other blogs out there, so there’s no magic formula that’s going to work for you better than anyone else, but sharing your expertise and authority on a subject is always a good bet.
- Product reviews are a great place way to attract views But don’t be afraid to admit that something you sell isn’t perfect. Pushing a product and glazing over shortcomings is a short-term strategy that will backfire in the long run.
- There’s nothing wrong with the occasional wild card If you’re selling high-end audio equipment for convention halls, you may have a pretty strong knowledge base from which to review home stereos, and that’s the kind of personal touch that can keep viewers coming back.
Step 3: Interact and don’t be afraid to show some personality
Product brochures still have their place, but your blog is not a brochure. It’s a two-way street and you should encourage comments and not only respond to them but encourage commenters to respond to each other. Of course, there’s a danger that comments can get out of hand and should be closely watched and moderated, but if you can provide a place where people who buy what you sell are interacting with each other, then you’ve got something special going on.
Also, be yourself online. Nobody likes to read a robotic recitation of the vitals of whatever the product of the month is add a little flair and engage the reader. Try to write like you would talk to a longtime customer.
Step 4: Keep it fresh
A stale blog is worse than no blog at all. If you have a blog that hasn’t been updated in three months, you might be better off taking it down than leaving it up there.
Step 5: Make it look good
It doesn’t matter if you’re selling flower arrangements or toilet handles, your blog should be attractive. That doesn’t mean it has to be “pretty,” but it should be clean, easy to navigate and have engaging pictures and graphics. Most blogging platforms have a wide selection of free templates to install and customize, but if you’re not up to the task yourself, consider hiring a website designer to create a look that incorporates your existing look and feel (color scheme, logo, etc.) in an inviting way.
Step 6: OMG, SEO ASAP
Search Engine Optimization is more than just a scary tech phrase web guys use to get your business — it refers to all the behind-the-scenes tools that help search engines like Google and Bing find and rank your site. The search engines may find you without it, but you really need to have some sort of SEO running on your site to ensure that they not only find you, but they find you quickly and easily.
As a rule, the best way to improve search results is by having other high-quality sites link to yours, so if you have several websites, they should interlink where possible, and encourage your vendors and suppliers to trade link-backs with you.
Step 7: Be social
Facebook isn’t the big mystery it once was, but it’s also not fading away anytime soon. Ditto for Google+ and all the others. Even if you don’t have a presence for your company on one or more of the social platforms, you should assume that your customers/viewers are on there and you should make it as easy as possible for them to post content there with a plug-in that provides sharing buttons on every page and post. It’s also important to provide other ways for people to get to your blog, whether it’s via email subscriptions, RSS feeds, or just pasting excerpts in your outgoing emails.
Your blog is your continuing dialog with your customers: past, present, and future. Imagine your business is an old-timey corner barbershop your blog is the ongoing discussion that keeps people coming back to participate in, and spend money while they’re there.
With a little planning and steady attention, your blog can bring in a great return on a relatively small investment of time and money.
Allison Rice is the Marketing Director for Amsterdam Printing (www.amsterdamprinting.com), one of the nation’s largest providers of promotional products for businesses large and small. Amsterdam specializes in made to order promotional pens and other items such as calendars, bags, and water bottles. Allison regularly contributes to the Small Business Know-How blog, where she provides actionable business tips.