Getting people to engage and interact with your brand is one of the best ways to build deeper customer connections. And deeper connections almost always lead to more referrals, longer customer relationships, additional selling opportunities, plus much more.
No, we’re not suggesting dinner parties at the office or customer date nights. We’re encouraging you to start a company blog. They’re free. They’re effective. And they’re highly engaging.
A different kind of marketing vehicle
As effective as business blogging is, it’s often overlooked because it doesn’t come with a promise of quick profits. Like most social media, blogging is great at engaging the consumer in a conversation, but not necessarily making a sale.
So why use it? Because when you combine it with a true sales tool like direct mail, the results can be phenomenal. And in an economy like this, you have to approach your target audience from all angles and appeal to their every sensibility if you want to succeed.
If you’re already a personal blogger or regular blog reader, you know what separates the good from the bad. If you’re not, take some time to get acquainted with the quirks of this social media medium before trying to use it as a marketing tool.
Start by visiting the blogs of competitors, columnists and businesses you already support. Then start leaving comments on some of those postings. Once you get a feel for how things work, it’s time to create a blog for your own business.
Online services make it all so easy
Using any of the blogging services, you can have a company blog up and running in less than 30 minutes. Even better, almost all of them are free.
For a side-by-side comparison of all the best blog service providers, see this http://blog-services-review.toptenreviews.com.
What to Write About
Blog about things your readers can use to solve a problem or improve their daily lives, and they’ll not only read them, they’ll forward the postings to friends and family, as well.
Comment on industry trends and news, write reviews and recommendations, offer insights and free advice, feature customer success stories, serve up contests, freebies and special discounts. Just make sure your missives always include something genuinely helpful, interesting or fun.
You’ll be tempted to toot your business horn a lot, but you have to understand that the masses are attracted to blogs precisely because they believe them to be mostly free of blatant marketing and advertising. Spend about 80 percent of your time offering useful comments, insights and information, and 20 percent of your time promoting your own abilities and products (in a humble and honest manner).
Borrow ideas from these exemplary examples
Charles Turner of Turner Realtors does an excellent job blogging about things that matter to his target audience:
The folks at the Only Natural Pet Store tend to post long articles on the company’s blog. But they’ve developed an avid following because the stories are so informative (and their target market is so eager for tips and news.
Worried people won’t be interested in your business, your industry or products enough to want to regularly read a blog about it? With a little imagination, any subject matter can be made interesting. For proof, look no further than the Pecan Store blog.
Encourage feedback (don’t fear it)
To truly engage your readers, you’ve got to encourage feedback from them, not run in fear of it.
People love to share their opinions (in fact, that’s one of the big reasons why social media is so incredibly popular today). Plus, the more involved you get your target audience, the more engaged they’ll feel (and the more likely they’ll be to encourage others to start reading your blog).
Truth be told, the idea of negative feedback is far more threatening than the actual chances of it. According to extensive research on the subject by Keller Fay, approximately 65 percent of word-of-mouth reviews are positive and only about eight percent are negative. “It’s an urban myth that people are more likely to express negatives than positives,” says the company’s CEO, Ed Keller.
Generating a following
Some blogs languish in obscurity while others become Internet sensations. Why? Those that are successful use “push” marketing mediums (like direct mail and email) to “pull” readers into their blogs. Here are some ideas on how you can do the same:
Include “learn more” and “see more” links in your regular direct-mail and email efforts (e.g. “For a more detailed discussion of distressed home sales, see my blog;” “See a virtual tour of this property on my blog.”)
Include a special-offer note in your other marketing efforts (e.g. “loyal readers of my blog always get first crack at our special offers”).
Send a special mailing (or email) promoting a contest that’s only accessible via your blog, then announce the winners on your blog every week.
Give your blog readers something to vote on every week (favorite restaurants, new names for products / services, whatever), promote the voting via your other marketing, then encourage everyone who does vote to return to your blog for the final results.
Use direct mail and email marketing to advertise something of value (a white paper, a free premium, etc.), and make your blog the place to get it.
To keep all those folks coming back for more, try to produce new content for your blog once or twice a week. Don’t have that kind of time? Partner with a like-minded professional or allied business, and take turns creating the content.
Most of the blog services will provide you with up-to-the-minute stats detailing how many visitors your blog is getting, where they’re coming from, which posts are the most popular and more. And if that’s not enough data for you, there’s always Google Analytics.
No matter what the initial results and feedback to your blog, be patient (and persistent). Business blogging is all about building relationships, and those take time to develop.