Business Blogs as Marketing Tools

by Steven Streight
Spyderhost.net
A blog is an online journal. You can think of them as online memos to the public. Like websites, blogs can contain text, photos, audio and video content, but a blog is a streamlined mini-website that the average, non-technical person can easily maintain and update. Readers of blogs can post comments to specific articles, and others can then add comments in response, for threaded, two-way conversations.

As a digital journal, blogs contain posts displayed in reverse chronological order, with the latest entry appearing first, and older posts stored in archives—very similar to email. And blogs are as simple and easy to use as email.

Young people use blogs to express their feelings and connect with peers. Musicians use blogs to distribute mp3s and connect with fans. Businesses use blogs to express their expertise and connect with customers.

Having a blog shows your willingness to inform and interact with customers in a relaxed, “regular guy or gal” manner. When a business has a blog, it sends one extremely clear message to customers: “We value your input, and we think we have some interesting, relevant things to tell you.”

Blogs represent the first time in human history that individuals could publish content to a global audience on a level playing field with large institutions. Blogs can spread destructive negative publicity as well as tremendous positive buzz. You ignore blogging at your own peril.

If your business is not using a blog, you may increasingly be seen as out-of-touch with customers. Potential and current customers, more than you might think, may actually resent you for not making an effort to blog. Business blogs show that you’re eager to present your side of the story and engage in online discussions. Companies without blogs suffer a certain loss of credibility and miss out on valuable customer input.

Business blogs are being used to interact with customers and position companies as thought leaders, innovators and trustworthy vendors. Trust is the rarest commodity on the web. If customers don’t trust you, they won’t pay attention to your ads or your website. So how does one build trust? One way is to be transparent, authentic and passionate in a blog that’s devoted to your customers needs and interests.

Notice that I didn’t say “a blog devoted to your marketing messages, products or company.”

Customers care about solving their problems. They are increasingly immune to sales hype and promotional gimmicks. Singing the praises of your company’s “quality, service and competitive prices” is a guaranteed way to bore and annoy people. But if you start talking about real problems your customers face and share with them tips on how to solve those problems, you’ll establish credibility.

“Yes, these folks really understand my situation and what I’m trying to accomplish!” is what you want your audience to think. Not “wow, these people are really impressed with their own organizational accomplishments and product claims.”

Find a person in your organization, whether the CEO or a sales clerk, who’s excited and knowledgeable about your company, industry and customer needs, and invite them to start blogging. You can have a single author or a team of bloggers who share the writing duties.

“Check out our blog” is a statement that your customers will appreciate, because it means they can approach the boss, owner or representative and actually be heard by posting comments on your blog. Blog comments are often the fastest, surest way of contacting a company. While most of us get too many emails, it’s rare that a business blog accumulates too many comments to sort through.

When it comes to choosing between a provider that’s well-known, transparent and conversational, and a provider who seems mysterious, hard to fathom and resistant to interactions, a blog can be the deciding factor that wins the day and generates both goodwill and increased sales.

18 Things a Blog Can Do For Your Company:

  1. Humanize your company by engaging in personal, intimate conversations with web users.
  2. Drive traffic to ecommerce and corporate websites. Blogs contain what search engines love: frequent, relevant, keyword-rich content.
  3. Respond immediately to negative news stories, positive announcements or emerging trends.
  4. Explain aspects of products you wish were better understood.
  5. Ask customers questions about their problems and describe how your products solve them.
  6. Establish thought leadership and publicize your innovations.
  7. Cause other business bloggers to quote and link to your posts.
  8. Attract media attention to what your company is doing.
  9. Provide evidence that you’re ethical, compassionate and approachable, rather than arrogant, aloof and uncaring.
  10. Demonstrate patience and sympathy with customer complaints.
  11. Show your openness to customer requests, questions and suggestions.
  12. Start intriguing controversies or debates on issues you care about deeply, positioning your company as a champion of good value and consistent integrity.
  13. Learn how to interact with customers and their unpredictable demands and feelings.
  14. Develop your writing, research and debate skills.
  15. Watch customers form a community based on what your products do for them, and more importantly, how people are using your products in creative ways you did not consider.
  16. Survey customers on features and improvements they’d like to see you make to your product line.
  17. Discover bloggers who enjoy your blog and are happy to promote it for you because they find it so valuable.
  18. Become part of the blogosphere and thereby meet potential recruits, suppliers, associates and friends you may have never discovered otherwise. IBI

Comments

Jim Estill, Synnex-Cannada http://www.jimestill.com Tom Peters http://www.tompeters.com Bob Lutz, Vice Chairman, General Motors http://fastlane.gmblogs.com Mark Cuban, Owner, Dallas Mavericks http://www.blogmaverick.com Lester Wunderman http://lesterchroniclesblog.wunderman.com/default.aspx John Dragoon, Sr. VP, CMO, Novell http://www.novell.com/company/blogs/cmo Michael Hyatt http://www.michaelhyatt.com/fromwhereisit Ted Leonis http://ted.aol.com/index.php Bill Marriott http://www.blogs.marriott.com Joel Spolsky http://www.joelonsoftware.com Jason Calacanis, CEO Weblogsinc., Mahalo http://www.calacanis.com Richard Edelman, CEO Edelman Global PR http://www.edelman.com/speak_up/blog Joe Wikert, Publisher, Wiley & Sons http://jwikert.typepad.com/the_average_joe Craig Newmark, Founder, Craig’s List http://www.cnewmark.com Mike Critelli, Executive Chairman, Pitney Bowes http://www.mikecritelli.com Randy Baseler, VP Marketing, Boeing http://boeingblogs.com/randy Dave Armano, Creative VP, Digitas http://darmano.typepad.com/logic_emotion John W. Sherer, CEO, Video Professor http://www.videoprofessor.com Bob Liodice, President & CEO, Association of National Advertisers http://ana.blogs.com CEO Blogs List http://www.thenewpr.com/wiki/pmwiki.php?pagename=Resources.CEOBlogsList

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